Labels We Love – Parlophone/Apple

Paul McCartney – Wild Life – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Wild Life

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

This Apple UK Import LP has TWO outstanding sides! We were not all that familiar with the album going into this shootout, but after spending the day listening to copies like these we found ourselves LOVING IT!

Let’s face it: finding good sounding McCartney records with the exception of the first album is practically impossible. From Ram on it’s slim pickings, even on import. Most of those later albums sound like cassettes; they’re as dead as the proverbial doornail. They bore us to tears.

Wild Life stood up and showed us that there’s more good sound to be found after McCartney’s debut. Band On The Run on the right imports can sound quite good, but I would say without hesitation that the best copies of Wild Life kill it in the sonics department.

If you want the ultimate nexus of music and sound for McCartney, a Hot Stamper of the first album is the way to go. Expect to pay (us anyway) at least $500 for such a record, which is neither here nor there. This album is MUCH BETTER sounding than we ever suspected, and it’s much better music than we were led to believe by the critics. If you aren’t happy with it we will give you your money back. (more…)

The Beatles – Help – Germans Versus Brits

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Help. 

We’ve heard some excellent German pressings before, but this time [circa 2011] nothing could match up to our best Brit copies. What the best British copies have is more of the TUBEY MAGIC that can typically be heard on early pressings, due no doubt to the fact that they are mastered with tube equipment.

One reason we were so crazy about the German pressings is how amazingly clean and clear they can be. I can’t tell you how many distorted Brit copies we’ve played of this album over the years.

Some of the old cutting equipment clearly adds its own layer of distortion to the distortion that already exists on the tape for many of these Imports. A clean, clear, super low distortion Brit copy like this one is certainly the exception and NOT the rule. (more…)

The Beatles – Let It Be – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a MIND-BLOWING A++++ SIDE ONE for this White Hot Stamper 2-pack! At its best, this album has the real power of live music, but it takes a special pressing to make it happen. Both of these copies had one stunning side and one that just didn’t impress us, so we’ve paired them up to give you incredible sound for the entire album!

So many copies of Let It Be lack the kind of energy and transparency that you need to bring this music to life, but these killer sides did EVERYTHING we were looking for. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks!

Side One

A++++ — nothing else in our shootout came close! Super spacious with serious immediacy and presence, this one knocked us out from the moment we dropped the needle. This level of clarity and transparency is typically accompanied by a hard, thin midrange, but you won’t hear anything like that here! The mids are just as rich and Tubey Magical as we could ask for (and we ask for a lot!). Absolutely stunning!

Side Two

A+++, easily the best side two in our shootout. Big and clear, rich and full-bodied, with tons of presence and detail, this is exactly the way we want this music to sound. White Hot Stamper material, all the way!

Boring? Not This Copy!

We just finished another big shootout for this great album, and it still surprises me how BORING the average British copy is. (Of course, the German pressings and the domestic copies are even worse, but you probably already knew that.)

You’ve got to do a lot of work to find a copy of Let It Be that doesn’t sound murky, sleepy, thick and/or veiled. We went through a massive stack of nothing but British imports and only a select few were FUN and INVOLVING enough to merit the Hot Stamper designation.

The Beatles: Rock Band

On a copy like this the natural rock n’ roll energy of a song such as Dig A Pony will blow you away. There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ — just the sound of the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out. It’s a thrill that you don’t really get from the more psychedelic albums like Sgt. Pepper’s or Magical Mystery Tour. (more…)

The Beatles – Please Please Me – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series, this time for The Beatles’ amazing debut from 1963, Please Please Me.

The first Beatles record is nothing short of amazing. It captures more of the live sound of these four guys playing together as a rock and roll band than any record they ever made afterwards. (Let It Be gets some of that live quality too and makes a great bookend for the group.)

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

I Saw Her Standing There

Like any of the boys’ most radio ready singles, this song tends to be a bit bright. If this track sounds at all dull, there’s probably no hope for the rest of this side.

Misery

This track should sound lively and punchy. The best copies have excellent bass definition and superb clarity, allowing you to appreciate how the wonderful bounce of the rhythm section really energizes the song.

Anna (Go to Him)

Does it get any better? This is the real Beatles magic baby!

Chains

Note that the vocals on this track are not as well recorded as they are on the track above. As a rule they’re a bit edgier and not as transparent.

Go back and forth between the two songs a number of times and we think you will hear exactly what we mean. Although this difference is more audible on the better copies, it should still be noticeable on any Hot Stamper pressing.

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Paul McCartney – McCartney

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McCartney

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  • This copy of McCartney’s Apple debut boasts killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Both sides are big and rich, with plenty of low end, strong midrange presence and the kind of spatiality that will fill your entire listening room
  • Record Collector highlighted “Every Night”, “Junk,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” as songs that “still sound absolutely effortless and demonstrate the man’s natural genius with a melody.”
  • A Top 100 pick and Paul McCartney’s One and Only Masterpiece – a Must Own when it sounds this good!

*NOTE: A mark makes three very light ticks at the end of track four, Every Night.

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. The music jumps right out of the speakers and fills up the room. (more…)

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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

We are calling this White Hot Stamper 2-pack set THE ULTIMATE SGT. PEPPERS EXPERIENCE. These two sides give you EVERYTHING you could ask for from this album. Side one earned the rare Four Plus A++++ grade and side two was a killer A+++; both sides play a very quiet Mint Minus throughout. The sound is so big and rich throughout that we would be very surprised, shocked even, if you’ve ever imagined that Sgt. Pepper could sound this powerful and REAL.

We defy any original to step into the ring with a copy like this. One thing we can tell you: it would not be a fair fight. The cutting equipment to make a record this good did not exist in 1967. (more…)

Badfinger – Straight Up – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate the album.

The best sides have the kind of PRESENCE in the midrange that most copies can’t begin to reproduce. The sound on the right pressings just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies are supposed to (but rarely) do.  (more…)

Mary Hopkin – Post Card

Mary Hopkin – Post Card

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

This British original pressing has a White Hot side two and a nearly White Hot side one. Side two is unbelievably huge and open in a way that no other side of any copy could touch. It’s taken us close to ten years to find enough clean copies with which to do this shootout. Engineered by Ken Scott, Donovan’s “Lord of the Reedy River” is simply amazing on this copy.    (more…)

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

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All Things Must Pass

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

To say that this one has been a long time coming would be an understatement! FINALLY, an incredible sounding copy of All Things Must Pass. Stunning shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on all six sides (!).  

It’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the nicer boxes we’ve come across for this title. It’s the thicker box which has stood the test of time a little better than the narrower version. Those are usually in pretty poor shape and we should know because we have a bunch of problematical boxes sitting right here. (more…)

The Beatles – Please Please Me – Which Is More 3-Dimensional, Mono or Twin Track?

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With all due respect to Sir George Martin, we’ve played a number of mono pressings of this album in the past twenty or so years and have never been particularly impressed with any of them. The monos jam all the voices and instruments together in the middle, stacking them one in front of the other, and lots of musical information gets mashed together and simply disappears in the congestion. 

But is Twin Track stereo any better? Yes, when you do it the way Norman Smith did on Please Please Me.

Twin Track stereo (which is actually not very much like two-track stereo, I’m sure Wikipedia must have a listing for it if you’re interested) is like two mono tracks running simultaneously. It allows the completely separate voices to occupy one channel and the completely separate instruments to occupy another with no leakage between them.

On some stereos it may seem as though the musicians and the singers are not playing together the way they would if one were hearing them in mono. They are in fact recorded on two separate mono tracks, the instruments appearing in the left channel and the singers in the right, separated as much as is physically possible.

Stuck in their individual stereo speakers, so far apart from one another, the members of the band don’t even seem to be playing together in the same room.

That’s on some stereos, and by some stereos I mean stereos that need improvement. Here’s why. (more…)