Labels We Love – Reprise

Sinatra At The Sands – My Introduction to Audiophile Sound

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  • This superb 2 LP set boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides! 
  • Truly one of the greatest live albums of all time, recorded late at night in the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas
  • This is Basie and Sinatra in their natural habitat and in their prime, putting on the show of a lifetime – quiet vinyl too
  • “Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra … the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s.” – AMG

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people front row center. This two disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — fronting one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. (more…)

Audiophile Wire Testing with Jethro Tull and His Friend Aqualung

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… who seems to have a rather nasty bronchial condition…

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Like Heart’s Little Queen album, Aqualung presents us with a Demo Disc / Test Disc that really puts a stereo through its paces, assuming it’s the kind of stereo that’s designed to play an album like Aqualung.

Not many audiophile systems I’ve run across over the years were capable of reproducing the Big Rock Sound this album requires, but perhaps you have one and would like to use the album to test some of your tweaks and components. I used it to show me how bad sounding some of the audiophile wire I was testing really was.

Here’s what I wrote:

A quick note about some wire testing I was doing a while back. My favorite wire testing record at the time (2007)? None other than Aqualung!

Part One

Here’s why: Big Whomp Factor. Take the whomp out of Aqualung and the music simply doesn’t work, at all. To rock you need whomp, and much of Aqualung wants to rock.
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Donald Fagen – Morph The Cat – Heavy Vinyl Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

Hopelessly murky, muddy, opaque, ambience-free sound, and so artificial. I honestly cannot make any sense of it. Pure sludge. This is someone’s idea of analog? It sure ain’t mine.

Music for robots?  And Kamikiriad from 1993 was musically every bit as bad.

Why waste vinyl on crap like this?

 

 

Listening in Depth to Neil Young – Harvest

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Listening in Depth

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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 Harvest.

Many copies we played would work for the heavy songs and then fall short on the softer numbers. Others had gorgeous sound on the country-tinged numbers but couldn’t deliever any whomp for the rockers. Only a select group of copies could hold their own in all of the styles and engage us from start to finish; we’re pleased to present those exceptional pressings as the Hot Stamper copies of Harvest that so many of you have been begging for.

Harvest is undeniably one of the most beloved albums in all of classic rock. We get letters all the time from customers hoping to get their hands on Hot Stamper copies, but we’ll never have the supply to keep up with the demand. It’s a tough nut to crack, because a Hot Stamper Harvest has to get so many things right — the lovely pedal steel guitar on Out On The Weekend, the LSO on A Man Needs A Maid and There’s A World (engineered by Glyn Johns), Neil’s grungy electric guitar on Alabama, and so much more.


In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Out on the Weekend

We love the sound of the drums on Neil Young records — think of the punchy kick drum on After The Gold Rush and the punchy thwack of the snare on Zuma. On the best copies, this song should have the kind of BIG, BOLD Neil Young drum sound we’ve fallen in love with. The pedal steel guitar sounds out of this world on our Hot Stampers. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Softly, As I Leave You – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • With an insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two, this early stereo pressing was the best copy we played in our most recent shootout
  • Big, rich and natural, the new material on this album was recorded in 1964, with Sinatra’s voice in very fine form
  • About as quiet as we can find them — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “The highlight of the record was the hit title song, which featured a subdued but forceful and steady backbeat. The rhythm itself was indicative of Sinatra’s effort to accept the new popular music.”

See all of our Frank Sinatra albums in stock

This original Reprise LP has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. It gives you the sense that Frank Sinatra is right in front of you. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Joni Mitchell – Blue

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Listening in Depth

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The main reason it’s so difficult to find a good sounding pressing of this record is that most copies have a tendency towards hardness, shrillness and aggressiveness. There is a great deal of mid- to high-frequency information in this recording, and the problems arise when you take all that energy and try to stamp it into a piece of domestic vinyl.

If the vinyl wasn’t good on the day they pressed the record, it doesn’t matter how good the mastering is. The result is grain and grunge. Since Joni pushes her voice hard into her higher registers on many of these songs it’s often enough to make you leave the room. At the very least you would have to turn down the volume.

That’s on the copies that are mastered right! The copies that are mastered with thin and aggressive sound to start with can only get worse. Those are the rule, not the exception.

Breathy Vocals and Hot Stampers

The best copies bring out the breathy quality to Joni’s voice, and she never sounds strained. They are sweet and open, with good bass foundation and transparency throughout the frequency range.

The best pressings (and our better playback equipment) have revealed nuances to this recording — and of course the performances of all the players along with it — that made us fall in love with the music all over again. Of all the tough nuts to crack, this was the toughest, yet somehow copies emerged from our shootouts that made it easy to appreciate the sonic merits of Blue and ignore its shortcomings.

Hot Stampers have a way of doing that. You forget it’s a record; it’s now just Music. The right record and the right playback will bring this music to life in a way that you cannot imagine until you hear it. That is our guarantee on Blue — better than you ever thought possible or your money back. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – My Kind of Broadway – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • This killer copy has a Triple Plus (A+++) side one backed with a Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two
  • Superb Tubey Magical mid-’60s Sinatra sound which was recorded in various sessions from 1961 to 1965
  • The sound on this original Reprise is richer, fuller and, importantly, SMOOTHER than most of the other pressings we played
  • Allmusic: “When Sinatra delivers, as he does on the show-stopper “Luck Be a Lady,” the results are pretty spectacular…”

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The knock on this album is that with nine different arrangers and tracks recorded in different years, consistency is not its strong suit.

But is that really fair? Allmusic complained about the performances and arrangements but we certainly wouldn’t call any track here second rate. Most of the album strikes us as Sinatra at his best. (more…)

Dean Martin – Dream With Dean – Watch Out for Hard and Honky Vocals

Dean Martin – Dream With Dean

 

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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.

Dream with Dean is great for finding any traces of “honk” in your midrange. Getting Deano’s baritone to sound tubey and rich, to get the sound that Bing Crosby could get just by opening his mouth, is not all that easy on some systems, mine included. Correctly set VTA is critical in this regard, but pretty much everything must be working at its best for Dean to sound as intimate and natural as we know he can on the best pressings.
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Ben Webster – The Warm Moods

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Ben Webster – The Warm Moods

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

Amazing sound and wonderful music on this lovely Ben Webster and Strings album recorded in 1961! I don’t think you could find a better sounding album of this kind of music. This is calm, relaxed jazz performed expertly by Webster backed by a small orchestra capably conducted by Johnny Richards.

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The sound is TOP NOTCH. We’ve managed to acquire a number of these specific pressings over the years and this copy just could not be beat. It won our shootout hands down with its amazing transparency and remarkable separation between instruments. In addition, most copies we played weren’t nearly this rich or full-bodied.

Drop the needle on any of these great ballads and appreciate how relaxed, natural, balanced and warm the sound is. This is going to be a record you come back to over and over I imagine. It’s hard for me to picture this record ever getting old with such wonderful combination of material, performance, and sonics.

It’s not easy to find good sounding Ben Webster records in clean condition, so this is the perfect choice to add to your Hot Stamper jazz collection.

Please note – the labels on this pressing are reversed. The side one label appears on side two and vice versa.

Listening in Depth to Bare Trees, a Classic Fleetwood Mac Album from 1972

 

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Listening in Depth

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This period of Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House (1970) through Mystery to Me (1973) — both are records I would take to my Desert Island — has always been my favorite of the band. I grew up on this stuff, and I can tell you from personal experience, having played a dozen copies of Bare Trees practically all day at some pretty serious levels, it is a positive THRILL to hear it sound so good. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better than rockin’ out to the song Bare Trees.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Child of Mine

A real rocker from Danny Kirwan. If the electric piano is rich on your copy and you have some top end and space you are probably off to a very good start.

The Ghost
Homeward Bound
Sunny Side of Heaven

A wonderfully poignant, even melancholy instrumental track by Bob Welch. Not sure if that’s him on guitar but the playing is beautiful. The high point of side one. (more…)