Labels We Love – EMI/Harvest

Set-up Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Turntable Setup Advice

More Advice on Adjusting Anti-skate

I once adjusted my anti-skate while playing this very album, at the time dialing it in to a “T”. Over the years I’ve found that the best test for fine anti-skate adjustment is massed strings, and not just at the end of a side but right at the beginning too.

When you have all the rosiny texture, the high-end harmonic extension, the least shrillness and the widest and deepest staging, you are there, assuming that tracking weight, azimuth and VTA are correct as well.

Four variables to mess with is admittedly a bitch, but having the right record to test with is absolutely critical as well. Maybe we should call it five variables.

And if I only had one record to bring to someone’s house in order to evaluate their equipment, this would certainly be a top choice. If you can make this record sound the way it should, your stereo is cookin’. If you are having problems, this record will show them to you in short order. (more…)

Deep Purple – Fireball

More Deep Purple

More British Blues Rock

  • Fireball returns to the site on this KILLER original Harvest UK import with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • This LP was simply bigger, richer and clearer, with more Tubey Magic, less smear and less congestion than the other vintage pressings we played
  • One of Ian Gillian’s favorite albums, “… it was really the beginning of tremendous possibilities of expression.”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of Deep Purple’s four indispensable albums (the others being In Rock, Machine Head, and Burn), 1971’s Fireball saw the band broadening out from the no-holds-barred hard rock direction of the previous year’s cacophonous In Rock.”

This vintage Harvest pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely 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. (more…)

Queen – A Day At the Races

More Queen

Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses


  • This UK import copy of the band’s fifth studio album has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Forget the domestic pressings — they may be cut at Sterling, but they never sound like these shockingly good British LPs
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • Problems in the vinyl is sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around it if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “A Day at the Races is a bit tighter than its predecessor… its sleek, streamlined finish is the biggest indication that Queen has entered a new phase, where they’re globe-conquering titans instead of underdogs on the make.”

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Pink Floyd / Meddle – Way Back in 2007 We Discovered the Hottest Stampers of Them All

Reviews and Commentaries for Meddle

Reviews and Commentaries for Pink Floyd

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

This review from 2007 describes our experience of having stumbled upon the right stampers for Meddle. To this day, only precisely these stampers have won the many shootouts we’ve done for the album over the ensuing years, probably a dozen shootouts or more. These stampers are also very hard to find, which is why you have not seen a copy of Meddle hit the site in a while.

To see more albums with one set of stampers that consistently win shootouts, click here.

This Harvest Green Label British Import pressing has a side one that goes FAR beyond anything we’ve ever heard for this album. We had no choice but to award this side one the very rare A with FOUR pluses A++++. We’ve never given any side of any other Pink Floyd record such a high grade, so you can be sure that you’ve never heard them sound this amazing!

We’ve been buying up every clean copy we can find with good stampers since we found our last White Hot Meddle back in March. Unfortunately, most of them left us a bit cold. Most copies just don’t have the kind of magic that we know is on the tape. Beyond that, many of them are too noisy to sell — even the minty looking ones. 

The Best Side One Ever

Side one here is OFF THE CHARTS, OUT OF THIS WORLD, DEMO DISC QUALITY. Everything you’ve ever wanted in a Pink Floyd album is here in generous quantities — transparency, breathy vocals, HUGE bass, warmth, richness, ambience, and depth to the soundfield. A copy like this allows you to hear INTO the music in a way that would never be possible with a lesser pressing. The presence and immediacy are staggering, and the bass is going to blow your mind. There’s TONS of life and energy, and the highs are silky beyond belief. This is tubey magical analog at its best, folks — it’s an A++++ side without doubt. (more…)

Holst – The Planets / Previn

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Planets

  • With outstanding sonic grades on both sides, this early EMI pressing is guaranteed to be the best copy of Holst’s Magnum Opus, The Planets, you have ever played
  • Orchestral power like practically no other music on vinyl you may have heard, and Previn’s and the LSO’s performances are without peer in our estimation
  • These sides are rich, clear and dynamic, with weighty brass, and the kind of dynamic power that lefts the energy level right into space
  • A TAS List Super Disc, with a performance that’s as spectacular as the recording by the two Christophers
  • More of our Favorite Orchestral Performances with Top Quality sound

These sides have some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, and that’s saying something considering the scores of recordings we have played of this famous and famously well-loved piece.

Fortunately for audiophiles who love The Planets but are disappointed by most performances, a group that includes us to be sure, the amazing sound found on this copy is coupled with a superb performance.

As you might imagine, on a big system this would make for a powerful listening experience, which is exactly the experience we ourselves had during our recent shootout. This copy actually deserves its place on the TAS List.

Both sides earned strong grades for their powerful energy and orchestral excitement, especially from the brass section, a subject we discuss at length below. (more…)

Mozart / Haydn – The Best Toy Symphony on Vinyl

More of the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • An early EMI UK import pressing with STUNNING Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The amazingly well recorded Toy Symphony on side two (which is fairly quiet by the way) is the real reason to own this record – you will be shocked at how realistic the toys sound, and how spaciously they are arrayed in the soundfield
  • These sides are clear, full-bodied and present, with plenty of live venue space around the players, the unmistakable sonic hallmark of the properly mastered, properly pressed vintage analog LP
  • The first pressing of the album I ever played, back in about 1995, was on the Japanese Soundphile Series, and it blew my mind at the time
  • Fast forward 25 plus years and now we know that, as good as the Japanese pressing can be, the real EMI can be even better.  That’s what shootouts are for, right?

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Paganini – Violin Concertos 1 & 2 / Menuhin

The Music of Paganini Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Paganini

  • Two of the truly great virtuoso/romantic violin concertos, boasting superb 1961 EMI Golden Age Analog Sound
  • The complete first Violin Concerto on this vintage LP has killer sound, right up there with our Shootout Winner from the last go around
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than most others
  • The best balance of orchestra and soloist we know of for both works, with sound to rival the greatest concerto recordings we’ve played

Another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, in this case 1961, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40 years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today.)

This combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on this wonderful copy.

The sound of the best copies is transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way. (more…)

Saint-Saens / Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”) / Fremaux

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • For the first time in over a year, one of Saint-Saens’ greatest masterpieces returns to Better Records with truly STUNNING Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Clear and transparent and natural – your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all
  • What this copy did better than practically any other was show us just how rich, smooth and Tubey Magical 1973 EMI sound could be
  • “The whole work is a magnificent and fantastical symphonic machine that’s an apotheosis of the orchestral technology of the late 19th century.”
  • TAS List Super Discs with Hot Stampers
  • Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Discs

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Queen / Jazz – Rockin’ Out with Fat Bottomed Girls

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Queen

Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

There is a tendency in the recording to be a little “hot” tonally on the vocals and snare. The better copies like this one keep it under control, with the lesser copies getting much too lean and gritty to play loudly. What good is a raver like Fat Bottomed Girls if you can’t turn it up and really rock out with it? 

Roy Thomas Baker is back on the scene here for Jazz, his first production with the band since 1975’s A Night at the Opera, and the last time he would work with Freddie and the boys.

On side one check out the low harmony vocal on the first track. The big kick drum is also a treat. RTB loves his bass, that’s for sure.

Both sides should have an open, extended top end and a solid, rich bottom. Our best copies were big and clear with plenty of rock bottom end and Whomp Factor.

We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that dramatically changes levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many its songs, especially the anthemic Fat Bottomed Girls. Mustapha, the first track on side one, has a huge finish as well. It can take a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically every rock album you own is.

The sad fact of the matter is that most mixes for rock and pop recordings are just too safe. The engineers and producers believe that the mixes have to be safe for the average (read: crap) stereo to play the record.

We like it when music gets loud. It gets loud in live performance — why shouldn’t most of that wonderful energy make it to the record?

News of the World is incredibly dynamic and powerful in this respect, our pick for the best recording by the band, but Jazz on its best cuts is not very far behind it.

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Paul McCartney and Wings – Red Rose Speedway

More Paul McCartney / More of The Beatles

  • This early British EMI pressing has excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • 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 UK pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • 4 stars: “…every bit as insular as the lo-fi records of the early ’90s, but considerably more artful, since it was, after all, designed by one of the great pop composers of the century. …McCartney’s little flourishes are intoxicating — not just the melodies, but the facile production and offhand invention.”
  • If you’re a fan of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles output, this release from 1973 probably belongs in your collection.

We have not had particularly good luck with the domestic pressings we’ve tried. The Brits are the only ones that, to our ears, seem to be made from the real tape. (more…)