Labels We Love – Atlantic/Atco

Buffalo Springfield – Again – Extracting the Midrange Magic

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So many copies of this album sound so bad and play so poorly that most audiophiles have given up by now and written it off as a lost cause.

But we didn’t. We kept at it. Our main motivation? The music.

Extracting the midrange magic from a album like this should be the goal of every right-thinking audiophile. Who cares what’s on the TAS Super Disc List? I want to play the music that I love, not because it sounds good, but because I love it. And if the only way to find good sounding copies of typically poorly-mastered, beat-to-death records such as this one is to go through a big pile of them, well then, I guess that’s what we’ll have to do. (more…)

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

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  • An outstanding copy with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound – this is clearly the right sound for this guitar-fueled heavy rock
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout, the sound is big, full, lively and spacious with hard-rockin’ energy to spare
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… as lean and mean as the original lineup ever got… this is a high-voltage, brutal record, filled with “Bad Boy Boogie… It has a bit of a bluesier edge than other AC/DC records, but this is truly the sound of the band reaching its peak… it’s sweaty, dirty, nasty rock, music that is played to the last call and beyond, and they’ve rarely done that kind of rock better than they did here.”

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AC/DC – Back In Black

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  • With Double Plus (A++) sonic grades or close to them on both sides, this Back in Black ROCKS like nothing you’ve heard 
  • Side one plays exceptionally well for a Robert Ludwig original, which is absolutely the only way to go on the album
  • Top 100, and if you turn it up good and loud, one of the biggest, boldest, hardest rockin’ records ever made
  • 5 stars: “… tawdry celebration of sex is what made AC/DC different from all other metal bands — there was no sword & sorcery, no darkness, just a rowdy party, and they never held a bigger, better party than they did on Back in Black.”

You probably never thought you’d ever use an AC/DC LP as a Demo Disc, but this copy will have you reconsidering that notion — it’s ALIVE with Rock and Roll Power Chords like nothing you have ever heard.

For Riff Rock you just can’t do much better than Back In Black. AMG gives it 5 stars and rightfully so. Musically it’s got everything you’d want from this genre of heavy rock — a tight, punchy rhythm section; raging guitar riffs; and deliciously decadent lyrics screamed to perfection.

What took us by surprise was how amazing this music sounds on the right copy. You’ve probably heard these songs a million times, but we bet you haven’t heard them sound like this. This is the kind of record that you’ll want to keep turning up. The louder you play it, the better it gets — but only if you’ve got a pressing that rocks like this one.

The transparency and clarity are shocking — we heard texture on the guitars and room around the drums that simply weren’t to be found on most copies, plus tons of lovely analog reverb and natural studio ambience.

And of course the bottom end is big, beefy, and rock-solid, just the way we like it. I ask you, what album from 1980 sounds better than Back in Black? (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Presence

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  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard anything like the massive amounts of Zeppelin Rock and Roll energy that are on this copy
  • Here is a pressing with the power, the dynamic contrasts, the low end whomp, as well as the in-the-room midrange presence (pun only slightly intended) you’ve been waiting for
  • Featuring a stripped down, harder rock sound, Presence really benefits from the killer bottom end found on this early LP
  • “Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute Tea for One.”

We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how HARD this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one. (more…)

J. Geils Band – Bloodshot

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  • A stunning pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from the first note to the last – this copy was rockin’ like no other
  • Both of these sides are incredibly big, full-bodied, spacious and present with plenty of extension on both ends
  • Credit Bill Szymczyk for the punchy, huge and energetic sound he produced and engineered
  • 4 stars: “The band sounds tighter, meaner, and funkier than on their first two releases… the first Geils album to stake a claim on the major leagues of rock & roll.”

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You Too Can Get an Old Buffalo Springfield Record to Sound This Good

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Not long ago we found a White Hot Stamper pressing of Last Time Around that really blew our minds. We were surprised to hear some of the breathiest, silkiest vocals we’ve ever heard on ANY Buffalo Springfield album, with startling presence and immediacy to boot! Side two had BY FAR the most energy and life of any side of any copy we’ve ever played. Man, does it ROCK.

Even as recently as 2010 we would not have expected to find that kind of sound on a vintage ’60s pop/rock album. We know better now.

When you get hold of the right copy and know how to clean it and play it right, these vintage pressings (well, the White Hot ones anyway) are a damn sight better than the vast majority of audiophiles think they are. How is such apparently never-before-possible sound being heard now, 45 years after the record came out? Our answer can be found below. 

The kind of MIDRANGE MAGIC found on this pressing let us hear into the music in a way we (and you too I’m guessing) never imagined was possible.

Most copies have no bass, no real top, and are compressed so badly they sound more like cardboard than vinyl. But not this copy — it breaks the mold, revealing to the world (well, our world anyway, the world at Better Records) that those badly recorded Buffalo Springfield records from the ’60s weren’t so badly recorded after all. (more…)

The Allman Brothers – Idlewild South

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  • A STUNNING ‘Triple Triple’ (A+++) copy with the kind of energy, body and punch this music needs
  • Easily the group’s best sounding studio recording and especially impressive on a copy like this
  • Cue up Midnight Rider or In Memory Of Elizabeth Read to hear the Allman Brothers magic in these grooves
  • 5 stars “The best studio album in the group’s history, electric blues with an acoustic texture, virtuoso lead, slide, and organ playing, and a killer selection of songs, including “Midnight Rider,” “Revival,” “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”…”

Drop the needle on Midnight Rider or In Memory Of Elizabeth Read to hear what this copy can do. You get lots of extension both up top and down low that make the overall sound far more engaging and musical than what you’d hear on most copies. (more…)

The Allman Brothers – The Allman Brothers

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  • An excellent copy of the band’s debut, with seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides and reasonably quiet vinyl, especially on side one
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This might be the best debut album ever delivered by an American blues band, a bold, powerful, hard-edged, soulful essay in electric blues with a native Southern ambience. There isn’t a bad song here, and only the fact that the group did even better the next time out keeps this from getting the highest possible rating.”

This album has some of the ABB’s very best music and on a copy like this, sonics, but man is it tough to find a good one. We’ve been picking these up for years and the fact that it took us until 2016 to get any copy at all on the site should tell you something.

Here’s a perfect example of an album that’s so mediocre on the average pressing that we had practically given up hope of hearing the record sound good. But we’re not ones to run away from a challenge, so we kept picking up copies, figuring out a few things in the process. Eventually, we made real progress and today we can proudly post a copy that’s beyond worthy of Hot Stamper status. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same

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  • Superb sound for this soundtrack album with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides
  • Clean, clear and open with a strong bass foundation and plenty of live rock and roll energy
  • An incredibly tough album to find with the right sound and surfaces
  • Packed with Zep classics, including The Song Remains The Same, Dazed and Confused, Stairway to Heaven, and more

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 30 light to moderate intermittent pops during the first half of Track 4, Rain Song. On side four, a mark makes 6 light ticks, followed by 7 moderate pops near the middle of Track 2, Whole Lotta Love.

It’s rare that we come across a copy that sounds this good. Most of the copies we’ve played sound like bad, second-generation bootleg cassettes. We still pick them up every time we see them — hey, it’s Zep, man — but we weren’t sure we’d ever hear a decent copy. We dropped the needle on this one and were pretty darn impressed with how hard it rocked.

It’s got the big sound that you look for on a Zep LP — great bass, huge drums, and immediacy to the vocals. The sound is silky up top, punchy down low, and very transparent.

Turn this one way up and you might just find yourself right in the middle of a killer live Zep concert.

The only song here that didn’t totally blow our minds was the version of Dazed and Confused, which sounded a bit compressed during the big jam. Other than that, all the big hits (Rock And Roll, The Rain Song, No Quarter, Stairway, etc.) sound Right On The Money. (more…)

Average White Band – Cut The Cake

More Average White Band 

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We’ve always been big fans of their AWB album, but it was only recently that we discovered how good Cut The Cake can sound on the right pressing. Most of the copies we’ve heard over the years have sounded flat and dry, but we got a hold of a hot one here! All Music Guide calls it “one of their finest, most engaging albums” and when it sounds this good, we sure aren’t going to argue!

Check out the title track and School Boy Crush for some funky fun with great sound! (more…)