Labels We Love – RCA

Delibes / Sylvia and Coppelia / Rignold – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Leo Delibes (1836-1891) 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND. This record was thoroughly enjoyed by its previous owner and I know why: it’s great! This title is also extremely rare for some reason. One of the top five Vics. Look for a clean one; you won’t be disappointed. 

[This is a very old commentary so take it for what it’s worth.]

Sonny Rollins – The Bridge

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The Bridge

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout
  • The 1962 sound is wonderfully Tubey Magical, full-bodied and solid, the bass note-like and clear
  • The brilliant Ray Hall was able to engineer this Demo Disc quality recording using nothing but tubes back in 1962, and it’s glorious to hear that sound in 2019 on modern hi-rez equipment
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The interplay between Rollins and Jim Hall [on guitar] is consistently impressive, making this a near-classic and a very successful comeback.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good an 1962 All Tube Analog recording can be, this killer copy will do the trick.

This pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This IS the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of this album, but those of us who possess a working turntable and a good collection of vintage vinyl could care less.

The reproduction of the sax is just right — played good and loud it’s almost as if you’re hearing the real instrument and not just a recording. That’s why we call it a Hot Stamper – it has that sound! (more…)

David Bowie – Lodger

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  • A KILLER copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • This copy was doing it all right — bigger, richer, more full-bodied, more present, better bass and the list goes on
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Lodger is the most accessible of the three Berlin-era records David Bowie made with Brian Eno, simply because there are no instrumentals and there are a handful of concise pop songs. Nevertheless, Lodger is still gnarled and twisted avant pop… It might not stretch the boundaries of rock like Low and Heroes, but it arguably utilizes those ideas in a more effective fashion.” — All Music

White Hot Stampers for Lodger — this wasn’t easy, folks! We’ve been trying to find a great sounding copies of Lodger for years and this is only the second time we’ve ever managed to get a big shootout going, which should tell you just how tough it is to get a killer copy of this album. (more…)

David Bowie – Scary Monsters – Our Shootout Winner from 2018

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

This British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

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

The sound is rich, spacious and sweet with a HUGE soundstage. Drop the needle on Changes and check out how dynamic it is. Side one is where the most popular material for this album is found (Changes, Life On Mars, Oh! You Pretty Things) so this copy definitely a great way to go on Hunky Dory.

Pressings of this record typically suffer from one major shortcoming: a severe lack of presence in the midrange. Bowie sounds like he has a blanket over his head on 90% of the copies you might run into, import and dometic. I always just kind of expected to hear it that way for the rest of my life. Now I know better. Both sides of this copy show you the Hunky Dory that you always dreamed could exist, must exist, but somehow has proved elusive in the real world. (more…)

Chet Atkins – The Atkins-Travis Traveling Show

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

Somewhat better than Hot Stamper sound for this Chet Atkins record from 1974, recorded at the legendary (especially for audiophiles who appreciate naturalness) Nashville RCA Studios. There’s plenty of Tubey Magic on both sides of this pressing, just a bit more than ideal in fact, as it can get a little thick at times. But the sound of these two pickers pickin’ away is positively JUMPIN’ out of the speakers, with that live-in-the-studio sound we love here at Better Records. We grade both sides A+ to A++. The sound was essentially the same on both sides, the differences not worth mentioning.

The music is just as fun and entertaining as you would expect from these two Old Pros. (more…)

David Bowie’s Young Americans – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The average RCA copy of this album is bright, grainy and hard to some degree, like most RCA pressings I come across. If you’ve been stuck with an average copy, you’re not going to believe how smooth and sweet the best ones sound. 

This is one of my favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect.

Both sides here are AGAIG — As Good As It Gets, Master Tape Sound. The overall sound is open, spacious, and transparent with lots of DEEP bass. You can easily pick out all the background vocals, and Bowie’s voice sounds just right. The strings have amazing amounts of texture — you can really hear the sound of the rosin on the bow. The highs are silky sweet and the bottom end is punchy and powerful. You won’t believe how superb the cymbal crashes sound — you’re right there in the room with these guys! (more…)

David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World

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  • This UK RCA copy is out of this world with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Big space, breathy vocals, grungy guitars and the Tubey Magic is luscious throughout
  • Pretty darn quiet throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • As it says on the back of the jacket, “Many thanks to our engineer Ken (Scott, one of our favorites).”

Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides. The sound is rich and full, just the way the Brits like it. The heavy compression that both Bowie and Scott favor works its magic at every turn, adding fatness and richness and lovely harmonics to the guitars and the drums.  (more…)

David Bowie’s Low – Another Bowie Art Rock Masterpiece

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  • This outstanding copy of Low boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from beginning to end
  • Huge amounts of studio space can be heard on this copy, along with the Tubey Magical richness only the best Brit copies can offer
  • These British pressings (not originals by the way) play about as quietly as records from the era ever do 
  • 5 stars on Allmusic for this groundbreaking album recorded with Eno — “Low is a dense, challenging album that confirmed his place at rock’s cutting edge…”

I’ve said it on the site numerous times: I spent a good portion of the ’70s playing Art Rock records like Taking Tiger Mountain, Siren, Crime Of The Century, Deceptive Bends and scores of others. I remember being blown away when Low came out, and with this shootout we had a blast hearing just how good a killer Hot Stamper pressing can sound on the much more highly-evolved stereo system (equipment, room, set-up, tweaks, electricity, etc.) we have today.  (more…)

Stockhausen / Noda – Zyklus & Eclogue on Direct to Disc (Reviewed in 2011)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This RCA 45 RPM Direct-to-Disc fulfills the promise of both the direct to disc recording medium AND the 45 RPM cutting speed so much in vogue these days. As with the Virtuoso Guitar record we listed today, the sound is simply SUPERB — open, dynamic and distortion free. This is a real DEMO DISC, no doubt about it.

I’ve known this record had top quality sound for decades; we started way back in 1987 selling these kinds of audiophile pressings and this one was clearly a Top Title even back then. I’m happy to say that, unlike most of the audiophile pressings we used to sell, this title has actually gotten BETTER with time.  (more…)