Labels We Love – Atlantic/Atco

Led Zeppelin – Coda – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

TWO GREAT SIDES and QUIET VINYL on this Swan Song pressing, one of the few good sounding copies we’ve ever played. We just sat down with the dozen-plus copies of Coda that made it through our preliminary round and only found a few that were worth writing home around. Most copies are too dry, grainy, and/or dull to get excited about, but this one is a MONSTER.

The best material on here — We’re Gonna Groove, Poor Tom, and the great live take of I Can’t Quit You Baby, just to name a few of our favorites — sounds darn good.

Of course, this probably isn’t — and shouldn’t be — anyone’s favorite Zep album. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. Drop the needle on the smoldering version of I Can’t Quit You Baby and I’m pretty sure you’ll be a happy man. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – IV – With This Copy You Better Be Ready to Rock

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

We did a massive shootout in 2012 for Zep’s beloved fourth album and this British pressing earned a nearly perfect score with some of the BIGGEST, BOLDEST, HARDEST Rockin’ sound we have ever heard on the album. Without a doubt this is the best sounding IV side two we’ve ever played, with the biggest bottom of them all.

When the Levee Breaks, a problematical track on even the best copies, finally sounds the way you’ve always heard it in your head — relentless and so powerful it’s downright scary.

But the best copies are so good, and so much fun, that it was definitely worth the trouble. Because the best copies ROCK, and it is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you.

Let’s get right to why this copy is SO DAMN GOOD.

Side Two

The biggest, boldest, most dynamic, punchiest and liveliest of them all. Zero smear, live-in-your-listening-room presence, with a beautifully extended and amazingly natural and correct top end, nothing could touch this one.

Note that the vocals for the first track are always somewhat edgy on even the best copies. After playing scores and scores of copies, having adjusted the VTA every which way we could, no copy did not have at least some edge on Plant’s vocal. We’re pretty sure by now it’s that way on the tape. Our job is to find the copy that reproduces it as accurately as possible. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Undercover

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More Undercover

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Engineered by Chris Kimsey, if you know his work from Some Girls, Tattoo You, Frampton Comes Alive and the like, then you should have a good idea of what this album sounds like on the better copies such as this one.   (more…)

John Lewis – The Wonderful World Of Jazz – Reviewed in 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is an OUTSTANDING Jazz LP that I used to sell by the dozens. Those days are gone, and now it’s very hard to find this title. A Top Recommendation from Better Records.   (more…)

Hall and Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Abandoned Luncheonette

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, is full of TUBEY MAGIC, and has consistently good music, look no further. Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track pop recording this is about as good as it gets (AGAIG as we like to say). It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth most of the time — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE.   

This copy was our shootout winner with A Double Plus sound on side one (no copy rated higher) and A++ to A+++ sound on side two. We did hear one copy with a better side two that really knocked us out, which we called A+++, and since no side one could match it, we kept our highest grade for side one at A++ just to be stay on the safe side.

Most copies lack the top end extension that makes the sound sweet, opens it up and puts air around every instrument. It makes the high hat silky, not spitty or gritty. It lets you hear all the harmonics of the guitars and mandolins that feature so prominently in the mixes. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – III – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

It is INCREDIBLY difficult to find knockout copies of Zep III — of the dozen-plus copies we auditioned, this British Import Plum & Orange pressing was the only one with two superb sides, with an AGAIG A+++ side two and a side one that’s just half a step behind at A++ – A+++. Folks, when I tell you that it is no mean feat to find a decent copy of this album, I am not joking around.

Side one here is STUNNING. It’s really full-bodied with substantial weight to the bottom end. The bass is tight, punchy, and easier to follow than on any other copy we’ve heard. Just listen to John Paul Jones tearing it up during Immigrant Song — on most copies he’s just a deep rumble, but here you can appreciate the notes he is playing. It really kicks up the excitement factor of one of the hardest-rockin’ songs these guys ever did.

The overall sound is unbelievably lively — we’ve never heard a copy that rocked so hard! It’s just a bit on the bright side at times, but that little bit of extra top end seems to give this copy the ENERGY and PRESENCE that were missing from almost every other pressing we played. Drop the needle on Since I’ve Been Loving You and turn it up loud. Zep will be right there between your speakers, and your jaw will be on the floor!

Side two is EVEN MORE AMAZING — in fact, it’s OUT OF THIS WORLD! You are not going to believe how lively and dynamic it is. Drop the needle on Tangerine for a taste of rich, sweet, Master Tape Sound. The acoustic guitars are lush and delicate, the bass is deep and well-defined, and the vocals are completely natural and free from any bad mastering or phony EQ. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. 

Zep fans, rejoice — PHYSICAL GRAFFITI HOT STAMPERS ARE HERE! We thought this day might never come. As you probably know by now, most copies of this album just plain suck!

After making some improvements in our evaluation process (minor tweaks to the room and the stereo, plus some new steps in our cleaning process) and — let’s face it — some seriously good luck, we’ve finally been able to track down a few killer copies of Zep’s monster double album.

If you’ve been waiting for The Ultimate Kashmir Experience, today is your lucky day.

Though we’ve known forever that many of you were eager for them, we just weren’t sure we’d ever have Hot Stampers for Physical Graffiti. There are a number of factors at play here. First off, you’ve gotta have a whole lot of copies around to do a shootout, and clean copies of this album sure ain’t cheap. When we’re doing a shootout for a title like The Stranger, Toto IV, or even Rumours, we can afford to pick up any nice-looking copy we see without breaking the bank. Not so with this one — minty copies don’t come cheap, and most of them sound so bad that it ain’t worth the risk. (more…)

Ornette Coleman – Ornette On Tenor

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  • A KILLER sounding Atlantic pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Both sides here are super rich and Tubey Magical yet still clean and clear with tons of energy and plenty of extension on both ends
  • “It’s an understatement to say that Ornette Coleman’s stint with Atlantic altered the jazz world forever, and Ornette on Tenor was the last of his six LPs (not counting outtakes compilations) for the label, wrapping up one of the most controversial and free-thinking series of recordings in jazz history… far ahead of its time.” – All Music

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Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2014

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame. 

It’s hard to imagine any copy beating this one! The vinyl is Mint Minus throughout, and the sound is INSANELY GOOD! The chances of finding these surfaces with this sound — we’ll let you do the math. If you’re a fan of this album – and who isn’t – this is the copy you want. Side one blew our minds and earned a grade of A++++!

  • A truly stunning copy, with top grades and exceptionally quiet vinyl
  • We gave side one here a Four Plus grade, going way beyond what we were expecting – the soundstage is absolutely huge
  • Triple Plus sound for side two, incredible in its own right with super high resolution and plenty sweet, rich Tubey Magic
  • A 5 star album in the AMG, and a true classic 

More A++++ Hot Stamper Pressings. (more…)

Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna

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  • Insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound from beginning to end for what is surely Ms Nicks’ best solo album
  • Both sides are big and clear, with plenty of rockin’ energy as would be expected from the team of Yakus and Iovine
  • Two of her biggest hits are here (and they still hold up): Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around & Leather And Lace
  • AMG raves: “Equally engaging are less exposed tracks like the haunting “After the Glitter Fades.” Hit producer Jimmy Iovine wisely avoids over-producing, and keeps things sounding organic on this striking debut.”

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics. (more…)