Labels We Love – Track

The Who – Quadrophenia

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A Member of the Prestigious None Rocks Harder Club

  • If you want to hear this music EXPLODE out of the speakers and come to life the way The Who wanted you to hear it. this record will do the trick
  • The sound here is so BIG, rich, and powerful it will surely make you rethink the recording itself
  • 5 stars: “Some of Townshend’s most direct, heartfelt writing is contained here, and production-wise it’s a tour de force, with some of the most imaginative use of synthesizers on a rock record.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1973 is clearly one of their best, and one of their best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We removed this title from our Top 100 List a while back because it has become too difficult to get hold of clean UK copies. Who’s Next is even more difficult, but for some reason we left that one on the list, go figure (it is the better album).

The other Who album that still makes the cut and always will is Tommy. That is one amazing sounding record, when you find a good one on the UK Track label. (Nothing else can touch it, of course, but if you don’t want to pay the big bucks we charge, find one of these for cheap.)

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The Who – Tommy

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Reviews and Commentaries for Tommy

  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl – they don’t come our way with audiophile quality surfaces like these very often, almost never in fact
  • Our early Black Label British Track pressing here has the rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that has the power to immerse you in the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy named Tommy
  • Top 100, and clearly our pick for the best sounding album The Who ever made – when you play a copy that sounds as good as this one we think you’ll have no problem seeing our point
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Townshend’s ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music.”

I know of no other Who album with such consistently good sound — song to song, not copy to copy, of course. Just about every song on here can sound wonderful on the right pressing. If you’re lucky enough to get a Hot Stamper copy, you’re going to be blown away by the Tubey Magical Guitars, the rock-solid bottom end, the jumpin’-out-of-the-speakers presence and dynamics, and the silky vocals and top end.

Usually the best we can give you for The Who is “Big and Rockin,” but on Tommy, we can give you ’60s analog magic that will all but disappear in the decades to follow.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.

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The Who / Quadrophenia – What to Listen For

More of the Music of The Who

More Records We Only Offer on Imported Vinyl

On the best copies the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS. The highs are silky sweet, the bottom end is meaty, the drums are punchy and the vocals are present and tonally correct. The piano has real weight, the synths float breathily in the air, and there’s wonderful three-dimensional depth to the soundfield. 

There’s a POWER to the sound that the average copy only hints at. The crashing guitar chords that are the hallmark of The Who Sound often lack the weight of the real thing; they don’t punch you in the gut the way Townsend no doubt wanted them to.

Moon’s drums need to blast away like cannons. This is the quintessential Who sound. Everybody who’s ever seen them live knows it. I saw them back in the day when Moon was still behind his kit and it’s a sound I’ll never forget. 

Most copies don’t have nearly this much Tubey Magic — you aren’t going to believe all the richness, sweetness, and warmth here. The clarity and transparency are superb in their own right, and the impressive dynamic range really allows this copy to communicate the explosive energy of The Who at their peak..

As with any Who album, this is obviously not your typical Audiophile Demo Disc. We don’t imagine you’ll be enjoying this one with wine, cigars, and polite conversation. This one is for turning up loud and rockin’ out — in other words, it’s our kind of record!

Turn It Up

Now if you want to play this record at 70 db, little of our commentary about the power of this recording will make much sense. There are some dumb ideas floating out there in Audiophile land, but playing your records quietly in order to hear them better has to be one of the dumbest. Anybody who plays a record like Quadrophenia at moderate levels should be taken out in the street and hosed down. How do you think Townsend went deaf, by playing his music too softly? He played his music LOUD because that’s the way he wanted you to hear it. Moon beats the hell out of his drums because he likes the sound of drums beaten HARD.

If you don’t have the stereo to play this record right, don’t make excuses and don’t make up bizarre theories about volume levels in the home. You’re not fooling anybody with those kinds of rationalizations. If your speaker distorts that’s your problem, pal. Don’t lay that trip on me.

Some of us have done our homework and take pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve been challenging ourselves and our systems with records like Zep II and Aqualung and Quadrophenia for thirty years. We know how good these records can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them at good loud levels. If you’re not going to play this Hard Rockin’ Record right, better to save your money for the kinds of records that sound fine at moderate levels. This is not one of them.


Further Reading

We’ve identified a number of Demo Discs for Bass on the site, and there are surely many more to come.

Whomp is a quality of the bottom end we look for here at Better Records. If you have speakers that move a lot of air down low and like to play your music loud, you know what whomp is all about.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.

The Who – Live At Leeds

More of The Who

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • A hard-rockin’ copy – this British Track pressing boasts powerful DEMO DISC sound on both sides
  • The recording is huge and lively with startling dynamics and in-the-room-presence like nothing you’ve heard
  • Drums so solid, punchy and present they put to shame 99% of the rock records on the planet
  • Cited as the best live rock recording of all time by The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, the BBC Q magazine, and Rolling Stone. In 2003, it was ranked number 170 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Get ready to rock out, as this is one of the BEST SOUNDING live albums ever recorded. “Young Man Blues” on a copy such as this has drums that are so solid, punchy and present they positively put to shame the drum sound on 99 out of 100 rock records! Keith Moon lives on!

The bass is AMAZING on this record. Present vocals and clear guitars in both channels are key to the best copies such as this one. Most pressings do not get the guitars to jump out of the speakers the way the best can. Few copies get the highest highs and the lowest lows but this one had it going on from top to bottom.

The seven minute long “Magic Bus” that finishes out the side is The Who at their best. Rock fans will have a hard time finding a better sounding Who pressing than this one, on either side.

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Who’s Next… to Remaster the Album? Our Audiophile LP Overview

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Reviews and Commentaries for Who’s Next

The following was written in the early 2000s. Some additional commentary has been added.

Who’s Next has been remastered for audiophiles many, many times, more often than not quite badly in our opinion.

To be fair, we should point out that our opinion has changed quite a few times over the course of the last twenty years.

This then is our story.

MCA MASTERPHILE

Back in the days when I was foolishly in the thrall of half-speed mastered audiophile pressings, I thought that the MCA Masterphile was king. That was probably the mid to late ’80s.

BRITISH TRACK LABEL ORIGINALS

By the early ’90s I had discovered how good the Black Label Original British Track pressings could be and started preferring those. A bit murky but Tubey Magical, full and rich, precisely the way a good British Rock recording (Faces, Jethro Tull) should be.

JAPANESE AND GERMAN

Of course by then I had played numerous Japanese and German pressings, none of which sounded right to my ears, then or now. The Japanese did what they like to do to most of the records they master, from whatever dub tapes are sent to them: they brighten up the sound.

When I had much darker, less-revealing system, the Japanese pressing did better than most of the other pressings I played.

But it was wrong, and the better my stereo got the more wrong it sounded. This process comes under the general heading of Audio Progress 

MCA HEAVY VINYL

In 1995 the MCA Heavy Vinyl version came out, mastered by Kevin Gray. I quite liked it at the time but no longer do; it’s brightened up, opaque, airless and much of the fine detail of the recording is missing, all due to the crude cutting system Kevin employed at the time. It’s also notoriously badly pressed, resulting in stitches in the vinyl that are audible on practically every copy. (more…)

What Do You Hear on the Best Hot Stamper Pressings of Quadrophenia?

More of the Music of The Who

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

They just plain ROCKED HARDER than the other copies we played. Yes, they’re bigger. Yes, they have more weight and whomp down low. Yes, they are smoother and more natural up top.

But what really sets them apart is their tremendous ENERGY. The music explodes out of the speakers and comes to life on the best copies of Quadrophenia like few records you have ever heard. When we find that kind of power and energy on a record, all other things being equal, we have a name for them: White Hot Stampers.

It’s what you’re paying for — and what you get — for the kind of money we charge.

Dynamics and Energy

The sine qua non of rock records is that they rock. The rock records that earn the highest grades here at Better Records are usually the ones that have the most energy and power. Transparency, Presence, Clarity, Tubey Magic, Sweetness and other favorites of the audiophile community are very important qualities in a record, but all of them pale in comparison to raw power when it comes to rock and roll.

For us a transparent, sweet, lifeless record is just no fun, hence our disdain for Heavy Vinyl, which in our experience almost always lacks energy, along with lots of other things of course.

We like the Big Speaker sound.

This means the sound must be dynamic, immediate and full-range. Small speakers, screens and their ilk can do some nice things, but they can’t move air very well, so for us they fail to convey the true sense of the power, the “liveness”, of a recording the way dynamic drivers can (assuming of course the drivers are big enough and you have enough of them).

Room treatments play a vitally important role here of course. Untreated or poorly treated listening rooms constantly fight the speakers’ efforts to play louder without distortion. The room is the bottleneck, yet because the problem is not correctly identified, nothing is done to solve it. (I was heavily into audio for twenty years before I figured this out.)

Some of us have done our homework and take pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve been challenging ourselves and our systems with records like Zep II and Aqualung and Quadrophenia for thirty years. We know how good those records can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them at good loud levels.

If you’re not going to play this Hard Rockin’ Record good and loud, better to save your money for the kinds of records that sound fine at moderate levels. This is not one of them.


RECORDS THAT ARE GOOD FOR TESTING

More Records in the None Rocks Harder Club

More Records that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Records that Are Good for Testing Bass and Whomp 

Records that Are Good for Testing Bass Definition 

Records that Are Good for Testing Energy 

The Who / Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy – Their Must Own Singles Compilation

More of The Who

  • Both sides of this British Track original are Super Hot and rockin’
  • Superb energy and punch, with mostly rich, natural tonality — a top quality side one
  • Magic Bus on side two sounds great – big down low, smooth up top, tubey and fun
  • “…condensing their highlights to just the singles is an electrifying experience.”

Much of this material is not available on album so this compilation is essential for true Who fans. As is often the case with these compilations the tracks vary quite a bit in sound quality. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Just listen to “I Can’t Explain” on side one — the sound is Right On The Money! Rich and clear, with good top end extension, there aren’t many sides out there that get as much right as this one.

On side two check out the Tubey Magic on “Pinball Wizard”! (more…)

The Who – Odds & Sods

More of The Who

xxxxx

Wow — an original Black Label Track British Import pressing that plays QUIET and sounds about as good as any compilation of this material can hope to sound. We had about a half-dozen copies to compare against each other and none of them were as good as this one. I really doubt you can do much better. Like any comp the sound ranges from track to track, but relative to the other copies we played we award this one a conservative overall sonic grade of A+ to A++. The vinyl plays Mint Minus or better. 

Those of you who follow the site won’t be surprised to learn that some of the best sound on here is found on the tracks that Glyn Johns worked on.

This one comes in the original cool cover that’s die-cut to appear ripped. The later covers fake the effect. (more…)

Which Album by The Who Has the Best Sound?

We Think It’s This One

I don’t know of another Who album with such consistently good sound — song to song, not copy to copy, of course. Just about every song on here can sound wonderful on the right pressing. If you’re lucky enough to get a Hot Stamper copy, you’re going to be blown away by the Tubey Magical Guitars, the rock-solid bottom end, the jumpin’-out-of-the-speakers presence and dynamics, and the silky vocals and top end. Usually the best we can give you for The Who is “Big and Rockin,” but on Tommy, we can give you ’60s analog magic like you will rarely hear in the decades to follow.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.

What do high grades give you for this album? Silky, sweet vocals; huge weight to the bottom end; “you are there” immediacy; BIG drums, off the charts rock and roll energy, and shocking clarity and transparency.

No other Who album has all these things in such abundance.

More of The Who

Reviews and Commentaries for Tommy

The Tubey Magic Top Ten

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The Who / Direct Hits – Not Bad on Track, Awful on Classic Heavy Vinyl

More of The Who

xxxxx

This is a very nice looking original Track Black Label British Import LP. As anyone who knows the Who’s back catalog can attest, most of these songs were poorly recorded. Like all compilations, the sound here varies from track to track. Side two definitely has the better sound.

We guarantee that this pressing sounds better than the Classic reissue, which was so bad we never carried it.

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