Labels We Love – Warners

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

Get your Money For Nothing and your chicks for free on this White Hot Stamper, sure to be the best sounding copy you’ve ever heard of this ’80s classic! Here’s a knockout pressing that finished right up at the top for BOTH sides. We played a ton of copies this week; most of them sounded like CDs, but not this one! I can’t explain why this copy has such warm, sweet, analog sound, but it sure blew me away. The huge three-dimensional soundfield on both sides allows you to hear right INTO the music. 

Of course no two copies sound alike, but there are some fairly consistent traits to both the British copies and the American ones. The best Brit imports are very rich, warm, and sweet, but most of them are dead and veiled. The Hot Stamper domestic copies (mastered by Robert Ludwig) have more meat on the bones down low and rock like you wouldn’t believe. We’re calling this one a draw — there are amazing domestic pressings and amazing import pressings, but the average copy of either is hardly worth the vinyl it was pressed on.

Surprisingly Analog Master Tape Sound

Both sides of this bad boy are SUPERB. Drop the needle on So Far Away — it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet incredibly rich and full-bodied. The bottom end really delivers the goods — it is punchy and meaty with lots of deep, tight bass. The vocals are Right On The Money — breathy and full with lots of texture and ambience. The 3-D quality to the soundfield here is something that you just won’t hear on most copies. The overall sound is lively, dynamic, and very natural. (more…)

Bonnie Raitt – Streetlights – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

Our first Hot Stamper shootout for Bonnie Raitt’s classic fourth album yielded a surprisingly good copy, this one, with practically unbeatable (nearly) White Hot Stamper sound on side two, backed with a Super Hot side one that easily put most of the other copies we played to shame. The first three songs on side one — That Song About the Midway, Rainy Day Man, Angel from Montgomery — represent some of the strongest material Bonnie ever got to work with, and they alone would serve to qualify this as a Must Own Bonnie Raitt album.  (more…)

The Everly Brothers – The Very Best of the Everly Brothers – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

This compilation contains some real Warners recordings (from after 1960, when they signed with the label) mixed with some re-recordings of their best classic Cadence material, to make an album with as many hits and great songs as a single album can hold.  

In stereo, on the original WB Gold Label, with really quiet vinyl — this is the one!

It took us about five years to find the records for this shootout. Not sure when the next one will be, but we’re pretty sure it won’t be any time soon.

Side Two

A++, lots of tubes in the 1964 mastering chain mean this one is likely to be rich and sweet, and sure enough it is. This is clearly the right sound for this music, although there is occasional evident smear and honk in the midrange. Great energy though.

Side One

A+ to A++. The sound varies quite a bit from track to track. Some songs are too thin and clean, others fare better with this EQ. Overall this side should sound good on tubier systems. Good energy and a solid bottom end are pluses here. (more…)

Van Halen – Diver Down


  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this copy of Van Halen’s fifth studio album 
  • Surprisingly big, lively, open, rich and present with real extension both up top and down low – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This album put the band’s hard-rocking spin on a number of covers, including “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” “Dancing in the Street,” and Where Have All The Good Times Gone!”
  • “…this is undoubtedly the work of a finely honed band who has only grown tighter and heavier since their debut… it’s one of Van Halen’s best records, one that’s just pure joy to hear. Like the debut, it’s a great showcase for all the group’s strengths…”


Van Halen – 5150


  • Sammy Hagar’s Van Halen debut finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but lively and full are harder to come by on this record – this pressing has it all 
  • “Van Hagar” hit the ground running with this new incarnation, including “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “Love Walks In” and “Dreams”
  • 4 stars: “… on 5150… they had the songs and the desire to party, so those good intentions and slow tunes don’t slow the album down; they give it variety and help make the album a pretty impressive opening act for Van Halen Mach II.”


Little Feat – Time Loves A Hero


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

On the better copies the title track has Demonstration Quality Sound – the soundstage is huge and the multi-tracked vocal parts are energetic, clear and free from congestion and distortion. If your copy doesn’t blow your mind on this song, try one of ours.

The next track, Rocket in My Pocket, kicks off with a big, fat drum sound that’s present and punchy on the better copies. The album finishes with the controversial jazz-rock fusion of Day at the Dog Races, a song the band used to open their live act with in order to get in the groove. If the band wants to stretch out a bit, we don’t have a problem with it.

On side two Old Folks’ Boogie rocks with the best of them; it’s a must for any Greatest Hits compilation. Red Streamliner has a strong Doobies vibe, which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about that band. (We’re big fans.) (more…)

Ry Cooder – Into the Purple Valley – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TUBEY MAGICAL A+++ MASTER TAPE SOUND (and relatively quiet vinyl) ON BOTH SIDES. All of the elements you could ask for from this kind of music are here: superb clarity; amazing richness and warmth; correct tonality; serious energy and immediacy; texture to the vocals and so on. I don’t think you could do anything to these songs to make them sound any better.

We’ve become pretty big Ry Cooder fans here at Better Records, and an amazing pressing like this one will show you exactly why. We played a big stack of these this week, and you’re going to have a very difficult time finding a copy that can keep up with this one!

This copy was Right On The Money from top to bottom and from start to finish. It’s got the kind of presence and energy needed to bring these old songs to life. Most copies we played suffered from an overly clean quality, lacking richness and warmth almost entirely. Not this one though — it’s full of that old analog tubey magic, the kind that keeps guys like you and me digging in bins and spinning dusty old records instead of going digital.

There’s A Good Reason Audiophiles Love Ry

Ry’s music holds special appeal to us audiophiles, as he’s always throwing instruments into the mix that you hardly ever hear on your standard rock album. I wish I could tell you everything he plays on this album, but I’d just be guessing if I tried. (Wikipedia credits him for guitar, bass, and mandolin, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that there’s more to it than that.) This I can tell you — when the man picks up an instrument, he can sure play the heck out of it, and it’s an audiophile’s treat to hear how naturally he incorporates these sounds into his songs. (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town – MoFi Debunked


Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

I comment below about the ridiculous sound of the MoFi pressing. When you have a recording that is already plenty bright, adding more top end and taking out more lower midrange is the last thing in the world you should be doing. Since that is standard operating procedure for MoFi (and other Half-Speed mastering outfits), that’s exactly the approach they ended up taking.

The sound that Emmylou and her producers were going for here is clean, detailed and low distortion, which is exactly what the best pressings, the “hottest stampers”, deliver.

Those of you who have had the opportunity to play the Mobile Fidelity pressing of this record should know what a disaster it is.

Is brighter better? Apparently Mobile Fidelity thinks so. And they did the same thing to Gordon Lightfoot’s album. His voice sounds so phony on the MoFi that you’d swear it’s a bad CD. But it’s not a bad CD. It’s an expensive audiophile record! (more…)

Bonnie Raitt – Home Plate – Our Shootout Winner from 2008


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

This original WB Palm Tree label LP has THE BEST SIDE ONE we have ever heard here at Better Records. “A Triple Plus” sound means you’re probably hearing the album better than they did when they played back the master tape in the control room. (Studio monitors being what they are.) Since this is one of my three favorite Bonnie Raitt albums — the others being Sweet Forgiveness and Nine Lives — and quite possibly the best sounding album she ever made, it goes without saying that this is THE Must Own Bonnie Raitt Hot Stamper Pressing of All Time.

What about the Capitol albums she recorded with Don Was? (more…)

Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones


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

TWO STUNNING A+++ SIDES! This is an excellent recording, but you’d never know that listening to the average pressing. This copy is a big step up from the average pressing with real fullness and weight, plus SIZE and ENERGY that must be heard to be believed!

The sound throughout is A+++, absolutely As Good As It Gets! Big and lively with real dynamics and ambience, this just destroys the typical pressing in every way. You don’t often hear this kind of size and energy coupled with rich, balanced tonality, but this side keeps everything in perfect proportion. White Hot Stamper material, all the way! (more…)