Our Top Ten Rock and Pop List

Blood, Sweat and Tears – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2009

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

In my opinion this is the BEST SOUNDING rock record ever made. I may be biased by the fact that I like the music so much; nevertheless, on a big stereo a Hot Stamper pressing like the one is nothing less than ASTOUNDING. It has the power of LIVE MUSIC. You don’t find that on a record too often, practically never in fact. I put this record at the top of The Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time List for good reason — it’s in a class of its own.

Our last big shootout was back in early 2008. Since we never tire of discussing the Revolutionary Changes in Audio that have occurred over the last quite eventful year (really more like five quite eventul years) , we here provide you with yet another link to that commentary. Suffice to say, this record, like most good records, got a whole lot better.

(Some records do not, but that’s another story for another day.) We noted some new qualities to the sound that we would like to discuss; they’re what separated the men from the boys this time around. Note that we have left the exhaustive Track by Track Commentary from the last shootout in the listing. It took a long time to write it, and the vast majority of it is still true. We might quibble with some of it, but for the most part we think you will get a lot of out it, so there it will stay.

A Milestone

As I’ve noted before, this record is a milestone in the history of popular music. Not only is it The Most Successful Fusion of Rock and Jazz Ever. It’s also One of the Finest Recordings of Popular Music Ever. The sound is nothing short of amazing. Just the drums alone are enough to win awards: the kick drum has real kick, the snare is, in my opinion, the best rock snare ever recorded, the cymbals shimmer like real cymbals; almost everything is right with this record. Especially the music.

What We Learned This Time Around

All the best qualities of the best copies stayed the same; this is to be expected. If records you know well over a long period of time suddenly start to sound different, you can be pretty sure that you’ve made an audiophile error in your system somewhere. You need to find it and figure out how to fix it as fast as possible, although as a rule this process can turn out to be very time consuiming and difficult. The first place I would look is to any changes in wire, whether speaker, interconnect or power cord. It has been my experience that this is where most of the bad sound in audiophile systems comes from. Much commentary to that effect can be found in The Better Blog. (more…)

The Best Sounding Record on the Site?

 The Original Soundtrack

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On any given day a White Hot side one of The Original Soundtrack could very well be the best sounding record on the site.

“On any given day” being a day when we don’t have a hot German copy of Dark Side of the Moon to offer, or a killer Eagles first album, or a top copy of the self-titled BS&T, or an RL Zep II, or a White Hot Teaser and the Firecat. Most days we don’t have such records on the site, and on those days this 10cc album is a recording Tour De Force that would be bigger, bolder, more dynamic, and more powerful than anything we could throw against it.
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Eagles – Listening in Depth

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More Eagles – Eagles

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy or copies of The Eagles amazingly well recorded first album.

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better! It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile Record pale in comparison. EVERYTHING you could ask for as an audiophile is all here and more.  

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better! It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile Record pale in comparison. EVERYTHING you could ask for as an audiophile is all here and more. When you drop the needle on Train Leaves Here This Morning, the opener for side two, the immediate impression you will get is “WOW”. The sound is as BIG and BOLD as any outside of the live event. The sweetness and the tubey magical quality of the vocals are virtually without equal. It’s my favorite track on the album and it KILLS on this copy!

A Top Ten Title

You may have seen our Top 100 list of the best sounding rock records elsewhere on the site. If we were to pick out a Top Ten from that list, this record would have made the cut. (more…)

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

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  • A huge and powerful UK pressing of Supertramp’s Masterpiece, offering outstanding Double Plus (A++) quality sound or BETTER on both sides
  • Ken Scott engineered this one to have Cinerama-sized height, width and depth to rival the best albums you’ve ever heard
  • Clearly their Magnum Opus, a great leap forward and a permanent member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 Album List – fairly QUIET vinyl too
  • “The tuneful, tightly played songs, pristine clarity of sound, and myriad imaginative sound effects, helped create an album that Sounds magazine likened to ‘Genesis, The Beach Boys… a smattering of [Pink] Floyd.'”

This is engineer Ken Scott’s (and the band’s) MASTERPIECE, but the average copy sure can’t get your blood pumping the way this one will. We’ve long recognized that Crime of the Century is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock recordings, a member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 list right from the get go. We admit to being overly impressed with the MoFi back in the ’80s and the Speakers Corner pressing in the ’00s. Our Hot Stamper pressings are guaranteed to handily beat either one and any domestic or import pressing you care to put to the test as well.

When you hear the guitars come jumping out of your speakers on School or Bloody Well Right you can be sure that you’re playing a very special pressing of a very special recording indeed. (Yes, you need both. That’s why we’re here.) (more…)

Elton John’s and Bernie Taupin’s Co-Masterpiece – Tumbleweed Connection

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More Tumbleweed Connection

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this Elton John classic
  • The overall sound here is incredibly big, rich, spacious and dynamic with plenty of presence and bottom end weight
  • An incredible recording and longtime member of our Top 100 — our pick for Elton’s very best music and sound
  • 5 stars: “….their most ambitious record to date… A loose concept album about the American West… draws from country and blues in equal measures…”

Superb Music and Sound 

This has to be one of the best sounding rock records of all time — certainly worthy of a Top Ten spot on our Top 100 list. Engineered by Robin Geoffrey Cable at Trident, there is no other Elton John recording that is as big and powerful as Tumbleweed. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Debut

 

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Listening in Depth

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The Brit copies may take top honors for side one (“sweetness, openness, tubey magic, correct tonality, presence without aggressiveness, well-defined note-like bass, extended airy highs”) but the Hot Stamper Cotillion copies KILL on side two. They really ROCK, with greater dynamic contrasts and seriously prodigious bass, some of the best ever committed to vinyl.

The Brits tend to be a bit too “pretty” sounding. They’re too polite for this bombastic music. This music needs the whomp down below and lots of jump factor to work its magic.

The Brits are super-low distortion, with a more open, sweeter sound, especially up top, but the power of the music is just not as powerful as it can be on these very special Cotillions.

This Cotillion on side one is a rare gem indeed, one of the best domestics we’ve ever heard. It’s not quite as smooth and sweet as some, but it’s every bit as good in most other areas, and better in the bass. The Cotillion pressings of this album have bass that puts 99% of all the rock records in the world to shame. (And 100% of the half-speed mastered records!)

This is a case where, to get the ultimate sound, you not only need two copies, you need two copies made in different countries!

Not Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

The organ that opens side two is always going to break up a tiny bit. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. In fact, if it DOESN’T break up for you, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that either your copy or your stereo is too smooth. We played somewhere between two and three dozen copies this week, and you just can’t find a hot copy without at least a hint of distortion on the organ. (more…)

Expanding Space Itself on The Dark Side of the Moon

Dark Side of the Moon

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Recently we played a copy with all the presence, all the richness, all the size and all the energy we ever hoped to hear from a top quality pressing of Dark Side of the Moon. It did it ALL and then some. The raging guitar solos (there are three of them) on Money seemed to somehow expand the system itself, making it bigger and more powerful than I have ever heard. Even our best copies of Blood Sweat and Tears have never managed to create such a huge space with that kind of raw power. This copy broke through all the barriers, taking the system to an entirely new level of sound.

Take the clocks on Time. There are whirring mechanisms that can be heard deep in the soundstage on this copy that I’ve never heard as clearly before. On most copies you can’t even tell they are there. Talk about transparency — I bet you’ve NEVER heard so many chimes so clearly and cleanly, with such little distortion on this track. (more…)

Led Zeppelin II – None Rocks Harder

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.

Led Zeppelin II

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It’s official: we’re inaugurating a Top Ten Best Sounding Rock / Pop Album List, and the first member to be inducted is none other than our old favorite, Led Zeppelin II.

It’s also yet another in a very long line of records that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. We’re convinced Zep II has to be the hardest rocking album of all time. The best copies — often with the same stampers as the not-as-good copies by the way — have a LIFE and a POWER to them that simply cannot be found on other records.

Hence the Top Ten title designation.

And I certainly have never heard a CD or Heavy Vinyl pressing that sounded remotely as good as one of our Hot Stampers. I doubt that I ever will. As long as we have records like this, what difference does it make?

Turn It Up!

The best copies of Zep II have the kind of rock and roll firepower that’s guaranteed to bring any system to its knees. I can tell you with no sense of shame whatsoever that I do not have a system powerful enough to play this record at the levels I was listening to it at in one of our shootouts a while back. When the big bass comes in, hell yeah it distorts. It would have distorted worse at any concert the band ever played. Did people walk out, or ask the band to turn down the volume? No way. The volume IS the sound.

That’s what the album is trying to prove. This recording is a statement by the band that they can fuse so much sonic power into a piece of vinyl that no matter what stereo you own, no matter how big the speakers, no matter how many watts you think you have, it’s not enough. And never will be.

Distortion? What Distortion?
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