Labels We Love – Parlophone/Apple

What We Listen For: The Spirit and Enthusiasm of the Musicians

More Revolver

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This discussion, brought about by a Hot Stamper shootout we conducted for Revolver many years ago (2007!), touches on many issues near and dear to us here at Better Records: pressing variations, system upgrades, dead wax secrets, and the quality we prize most in a recording: LIFE, or, if you prefer, energy.

At the end of the commentary we of course take the opportunity to bash the MoFi pressing of the album, a regular feature of our Beatles Hot Stamper shootouts. We’re not saying the MoFi Beatles records are bad; in the overall scheme of things they are mostly pretty decent. What we are saying is that, with our help, you can do a helluva lot better. Our help doesn’t come cheap, as anyone on our mailing list will tell you. You may have to pay a lot, but we think you get what you pay for, and we gladly back up that claim with a 100% money back guarantee for every Hot Stamper pressing we sell.

The Story of Revolver, Dateline October 2007

White Hot Stampers for Revolver are finally HERE! Let the celebrations begin! Seriously, this is a very special day for us here at Better Records. The Toughest Nut to Crack in the Beatles’ catalog has officially been cracked. Yowza!

Presenting the first TRULY AWESOME copy of Revolver to ever make it to the site. There’s a good reason why Hot Stamper shootouts for practically every other Beatles album have already been done, most of them many times over, and it is simply this: finding good sounding copies of Revolver is almost IMPOSSIBLE. The typical British Parlophone or Apple pressing, as well as every German, Japanese and domestic LP we’ve played in the last year or two just plain sucked. Where was the analog magic we heard in the albums before and after, the rapturously wonderful sound that’s all over our Hot Stamper Rubber Souls and Sgt. Peppers? How could Revolver go so horribly off the rails for no apparent reason? (more…)

The Beatles – Beatles For Sale

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a side one that’s right up there with it, this copy is nearly as good as it gets – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • I’m A Loser, Baby’s In Black, Rock And Roll Music, I’ll Follow The Sun. Eight Days A Week, Words Of Love, Every Little Thing, I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party, What You’re Doing and 4 more – 14 tracks in all (!)
  • An underrated Beatles album – Allmusic gives it Five Big Stars and we like it every bit as much as they do
  • Superb energy and presence – the band is RIGHT THERE and full of the LIFE the best Beatles pressings always have

Beatles For Sale is a criminally underappreciated album, and a killer copy like this will show you exactly why. The startling presence and immediacy of the sound here allow the emotional qualities of these lovely songs to work some real Beatles vocal magic.

There is one important trait that all the best copies have in common: wonderful midrange warmth and sweetness. It’s the single most important factor in bringing out The Beatles’ individual voices and harmonies. Of the first five albums, from Please Please Me to Help, For Sale is clearly the most natural and Tubey Magical. (For those of you keeping score at home, With the Beatles is clearly the worst, with A Hard Day’s Night not far behind.)

When comparing pressings of this record, the copies that get their voices to sound present, while at the same time warm, smooth, and sweet, especially during the harmonies and in the loudest choruses, are always the best. All the other instruments seem to fall in line when the vocals are correct. This is an old truism — it’s all about the midrange — but in the case of an early Beatles album such as For Sale, it really is true. (more…)

Mary Hopkin – Post Card

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  • KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it for both sides of this original Apple import pressing
  • These sides were doing everything right — clean, clear and full-bodied with wonderfully breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • Engineered by Ken Scott, Donovan’s “Lord of the Reedy River” is simply amazing on this copy
  • “Paul McCartney produced this debut album of twee but pretty, romantic pop-folk… the highlights are Donovan’s “Lord of the Reedy River” and “The Honeymoon Song,” which McCartney himself had sung with the Beatles way back in 1963 on the BBC…” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

The domestic pressings can sound very good but they can’t sound like this Brit original! This is clearly the master tape; all veils have been lifted, and the ambience and transparency of the soundstage are sublime on both sides. (more…)

How Can Anybody Not Hear What’s Wrong with Old Pressings Like These?

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New Paradigms and Old

It is our strongly held belief that if your equipment (regardless of cost) or your critical listening skills do not allow you to hear the kinds of sonic differences among pressings we describe, then whether you are just getting started in audio or are a self-identified audio expert writing for the most prestigious magazines and websites, you still have a very long way to go in this hobby.

Purveyors of the old paradigms — original is better, money buys good sound — may eventually find their approach to records and equipment unsatisfactory (when it isn’t just plain wrong), but they will only do so if they start to rely more on empirical findings and less on convenient theories and received wisdom.

A reviewer we all know well is clearly stuck in the Old Paradigm, illustrated perfectly by this comment: (more…)

The Beatles – Past Masters Volumes 1 & 2 – Digital Remastering at its Worst

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Sonic Grade: F

The ’90s import pressings of this album are bright and aggressive and very digital sounding, but if you want better sounding versions of these songs you’re gonna have to buy lots of pressings of the band’s albums and singles and EPs in order to find good sounding versions of them (which I did back in the ’80s and it took years to do it).

These are all the songs that aren’t on the original 13 British albums, so for those of you with the MoFi Beatles box, these 2 LPs give you all the tracks you don’t have.  

This was written so long ago that we actually refer to the MoFi Beatles Box as something and audiophile would own.

No serious audiophile who loves The Beatles should have the MoFi Box Set or Past Masters in his collection.

Badfinger – No Dice

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  • KILLER sound for this original Apple pressing with both sides earning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades; only the second copy to ever hit the site!
  • Both of these sides are rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet still super clean and clear; the bass is right on the money and the energy level is off the charts
  • “… boasting old-fashioned rockers, catchy pop tunes, and acoustic ballads… the heart of the album lies in Ham’s work.. He proves that songcraft is what separates great power-pop from good, and it’s what makes No Dice a superb pop record.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

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John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band

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  • Incredible sound for this early UK pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, an excellent way to hear these amazing songs
  • Working Man’s Hero, Love, Mother — these are immortal Lennon tracks, all with stunning sound on these White Hot sides
  • 5 stars: “It’s an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon’s catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.”

Incredible sound for this John Lennon classic! I would be hard pressed to tell you whether this or Imagine is his best sounding recording, because on the very best copies they can both be killer. Our first White Hot copy only made it to the site in 2016 — it took us a long time to find the right pressings of this album, and then years more to get enough in stock to do a major shootout. As you can imagine, clean early UK pressings of Lennon’s albums are hard to come by and pricey when you find them. (more…)

The Abbey Road Remix on Vinyl

BREAKING NEWS

The half-speed mastered remixed Abbey Road has to be one of the worst sounding Beatles records we have ever had the displeasure to play. Hard to imagine you could make Abbey Road sound any worse. It’s absolutely disgraceful.

I will be writing more about its specific shortcomings down the road, but for now let this serve as a warning that you are throwing your money away if you buy this newly remixed LP.

Badfinger – Straight Up – The British 2 LP Digital Remaster Is Ridiculously Bad (As Was the Whole Series)

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing.

This British 2 LP reissue was digitally remastered and contains alternate mixes of 6 songs on the 2nd record.

The whole series was awful sounding and should be avoided completely.

John Lennon – Rock ‘N’ Roll

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are doing practically everything right — rich, full-bodied, present and spacious with plenty of extension on both ends
  • “Rock ‘n’ Roll, in fact, stands as a peak in his post-Imagine catalog: an album that catches him with nothing to prove and no need to try… Today, Rock ‘n’ Roll sounds fresher than the rock & roll that inspired it in the first place. Imagine that.” – All Music, 4 Stars

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