- An original M&K Real Time pressing with stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
- Tubier, more present, and more alive than practically all other copies, with more of that “jumpin’ right out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (The Real Thing being An Old Record) ever has
- “. . . this album features a true all-star lineup. Each artist solos in this heartfelt tribute session. . . one of those rare albums that you can enjoy over and over without losing your smile.”
Record Collecting for Audiophiles
Thelma Houston – Dynamic Vocals Like These Need Really Big Speakers
Hot Stamper Pressings of Direct-to-Disc Recordings Available Now
Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recording
Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings, this album actually contains real music worth listening to — but only when the pressing lets the energy of the musicians through, in concert, of course, with reasonably high fidelity to the sound of their instruments.
Brass without bite is boring.
Drummers who drum too delicately will put you to sleep.
But the focus of this commentary is on dynamic vocals.
To Know You Is to Love You has the potential to come right at you in a shockingly powerful way. This lady gets LOUD.
It sounds like there is virtually no compression on Ms Houston’s vocals whatsoever. There has to be a limiter of some kind, but when she starts to really belt it out, you will not believe how powerfully she can sing. Might just give you goosebumps.
Don’t Misunderstand on side two has an equally dynamic vocal and is probably my favorite track on the album.
The loudest choruses of Got to Get You into My Life / I’ve Got the Music in Me are a tough test for any system as well.
This could easily be the most dynamic vocal album you have ever heard. It’s right up there at the top for us too.
A Big Speaker Record
Let’s face it, this is a Big Speaker record. It requires a pair of speakers that can play cleanly at something approaching live music levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.
It demands to be played loud. It simply cannot come to life the way the producers, engineers and artists involved intended if you set it at the volume most audiophiles are comfortable with.
This is also the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Systems driving Big Dynamic Speakers. You need a lot of piston area to bring the dynamics of this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.
For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so.) To tell you the truth, the Big Sound is the only sound I enjoy. Anything less is just not for me.
More Records that Are Good for Testing Dynamics
More Records that Are Good for Testing Energy
More Records that Are Good for Testing Big, Clear and Lively Choruses
More Commentaries and Advice on Equipment
Prokofiev / Lt. Kije (45 RPM)
More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
More Orchestral Spectacular Recordings
- With INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this Japanese import copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other recording of Lt. Kije you’ve heard – and it plays as quietly as any copy ever will (and far better than most)
- This wonderful LP boasts our favorite performance for this popular 20th century work
- Big, clear, present and transparent, with a HUGE bottom end, you better believe that this is some Demo Disc sound
- When the brass is the way it is here – rich and clear, not thin and shrill – you have yourself a top quality DG pressing
- Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
*NOTE: There is a mark that plays 18 times (10 moderate, 8 light) at the start of side 1. There is also a mark that plays 7 times at a moderate level at the end of side 2.
This Japanese 45 RPM remastering of our favorite recording of Prokofiev’s wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to these. Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can’t recommend the record any more highly.
Once the needle has dropped you will quickly forget about the sound and simply find yourself in the presence of some of the greatest musicians of their generation captured on some of the greatest analog recordings of all time.
This pressing fulfills the promise of the 45 RPM cutting speed so much in vogue these days. We had a pile of these 45s to play through. When we came upon this one halfway through our shootout, it was so big, so clear, so dynamic, so energetic, so extended on the top and bottom, we almost could not believe what we were hearing, especially compared to the others copies we played. There are very few records with dynamics that can compare with these.
The bass drum (drums?) here must be heard to be believed. We know of no Golden Age recording with as believable a presentation of the instrument as this. The drum is clearly and precisely located at the back of the stage. Even better, it’s as huge and powerful and room-filling as it would have been had you attended the session yourself. That’s our idea of hi-fidelity here at Better Records! Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can’t recommend the record any more highly.
Letter of the Week – “I can’t listen to 99 percent of my audiophile or Japanese pressings…”
More of the Music of The Crusaders
Reviews and Commentaries for Japanese Pressings
One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:
Now, meaning in the past year…
I can’t listen to 99 percent of my audiophile or Japanese pressings…
I hear how wrong they sound…
I, of course, have since replaced just about all and 999 out of 1000 sound better than the average copy.
Why did I think a Japanese pressing was better? My god, all my Crusader Japan pressings next to plain old original releases nooooo comparison.
Btw, can’t believe your customers don’t want Southern Comfort, Crusaders 1 and Crusaders 2… all are unreal powerful double LPs.. and many in their catalogue almost equal to those… Crusaders: the best of the best.
Andy, we tried to do shootouts for some of their records a few years back and were underwhelmed by the sound, the music, or both. I’m afraid you will have to do your own shootouts for now.
And of course we’ve long been of the opinion that Japanese pressings mostly suck. Maybe one out of fifty is great, and those odds do not make them an attractive proposition for audiophiles.
You know what we know: vintage pressings — when you find good ones — will beat anything and everything you can throw at them.
Are You a Soundphile?
More of the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Reviews and Commentaries for the music of Joseph Haydn
More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound
About 30 years ago I got hold of a Japanese pressing of Marriner conducting The Toy Symphony and was blown away by the quality of the sound. When listing the record for sale, I raved:
“DEMO QUALITY SOUND! This is the best sounding Toy Symphony you will ever hear!”
Now we know definitely that this is clearly not true.
We did the shootout in 2022 and found out that the best of the original EMI pressings are even better, a classic case of Live and Learn.
I believe I had at least one or two UK EMI pressings to play against the Japanese ones, but all the details of how I came to this conclusion — a proto-shootout, carried out long before I knew how to do a real one — are lost to the mists of time.
My stereo was dramatically less revealing back then, I had not learned how to clean records properly, and those two facts, combined with the underdeveloped listening skills that go with them, helped me to arrive at the wrong conclusion.
No, the Japanese pressing, specifically targeted to audiophiles, or “soundphiles” if you like, is not superior to a properly mastered and pressed UK LP.
If you have more than a handful of Japanese pressings in your collection, you can be sure that there is still plenty of room for improvement in your audio system.
An advanced system — the kind we are using today in our shootouts, and didn’t exist back then — will quickly reveal the shortcomings of these formerly desirable pressings.
The Japanese pressings of this album are still good sounding, just not as good sounding as the real thing. For that reason we would not consider them Stone Age Audio records. Perhaps Bronze Age Audio records is a better way to think about them.
Our Review from Many Years Ago
I discovered how good this Japanese EMI Soundphile Series recording is almost 20 years ago [that would have been in the early 90s]. In that time I can say that I think I may have run across at most two other copies. This is a tough one to find!
But it’s worth the effort, because all the little toys that play along with the music just JUMP out of the speakers. The recording is so transparent and the toys are so well miked it’s like hearing this work for the first time, or live.
This album can easily become a favorite Demo Disc — it has that kind of “you-are-there” sound. This recording was made at Abbey Road in 1976 under the direction of the two Christophers. Perhaps that accounts for the quality of the recording.
The Eine Kleine on side two is also very nice, although I wouldn’t say it’s world class the way The Toy Symphony is.
Piano Works of Debussy & Ravel – This Is How to Make a Good Audiophile Record
Reviews and Commentaries for Albums Mastered by Robert Ludwig
A lovely solo piano recording from Athena, which is certainly not a label we have ever associated with good sound. Just the opposite in fact.
But they did a great job on this album (or at least I thought so many years ago when I last played it. For purposes of this commentary, let’s assume the sound still holds up).
This is how to make a good audiophile record.
Yes, there is such a thing. They may be rare but they do exist. We have quite a few of them for sale as a matter of fact.
Take a good tape, hire someone who knows his way around a normal-speed cutting lathe (with 5800+ credits on Discogs, I would hope he knows what he’s doing) as well as classical music (he cut a huge number of records for Nonesuch back in the day), press it on good vinyl and let the audiophiles of the world enjoy it.
The Connoisseur Society original may in fact be better, but where are you going to find one?
Robert, Bernie and Doug – An Honest Comparison
In another listing for an audiophile record that Robert Ludwig cut, we noted:
I suspect that if Ludwig hadn’t stopped cutting records years ago, we would not be complaining nearly as much about the questionable sound of the modern Heavy Vinyl pressings currently inundating the market.
Bernie and Doug really started letting the record lovers of the world down, beginning as far back as the ’90s. See here and here.
The muddy messes Doug Sax cut for Analogue Productions and the awful Living Stereo records Bernie cut for Classic Records were sad chapters in both men’s body of work. Here are two of the All Time Greats. Their fall was precipitous and painful for those of us who never gave up on analog.
In those dark days, they were mastering one bad record after another, all of them so unlike the amazing sounding records they had been making by the score in the ’70s and well into the ’80s.
We have nothing personal against either one of them, of course. We just haven’t liked the sound of very many of the records they’ve mastered for the last thirty years, and we have never been shy about saying so.
Dave Grusin – Discovered Again!
- This Sheffield Direct to Disc pressing boasts outstanding sound from first note to last
- After critically listening to this record good and loud, I have to award the album The Greatest Direct to Disc Recording of All Time
- The songs, the players, the arrangements, the sound – this is a record that will reward hundreds of plays for decades to come
- Side one of this copy is OUT of polarity, one of the few we found that way, and not a copy you should be if you can’t switch
- “Everything about this project is just right from the gentle contemporary feel of the music to the superb sound of the [album] itself.”
We are on record as being big fans of this album. Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings, Discovered Again actually contains real music worth listening to. During our all-day shootout, the more we played the record, the more we appreciated it. These are top quality players totally in the groove on this material. When it’s played well, and the sound is as good as it is here, there’s nothing dated about this kind of jazz. Hey, what can we say — it works.
Aaron Copland on Reference Records
Exceptional Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now
Sonic Grade: F
An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and another Reference Record reviewed and found wanting.
In all the years I was selling audiophile records, one of the labels whose appeal escaped me almost entirely was Reference Records.
Back then, when I would hear one of their orchestral or classical recordings, I was always left thinking, “Why do audiophiles like these records?”
I was confused, because at that time, back in the ’80s, I had simply not developed the listening skills that today make it so easy to recognize the faults of their recordings.
I thought other audiophiles must be hearing something I wasn’t.
I could not put my finger on what I didn’t like about them, but now, having worked full time (and then some!) for more than twenty years to develop better critical listening skills, the shortcomings of their records, or, to be more accurate, the shortcomings of this particular copy of this particular title, took no time at all to work out.
My transcribed notes for RR-22:
- Lean tonality
- No real weight
- No Tubey Magic
- Blurry imaging when loud
- No real depth
- Bright tonal balance
Does this sound like what you are looking for in an audiophile record?
Shouldn’t you be looking for audiophile quality sound?
Well, you sure won’t find it here.
This link will take you to some other exceptionally bad records that, like this one, were marketed to audiophiles for their putatively superior sound. On today’s modern systems , it should be obvious that they have nothing of the kind and that, in fact, the opposite is true.
 Regarding modern stereo systems:
When I first got started in audio in the early- to mid-’70s, the following important elements of the modern stereo system did not exist:
- Stand-alone phono stages.
- Modern cabling and power cords.
- Vibration controlling platforms for turntables and equipment.
- Synchronous Drive Systems for turntable motors.
- Carbon fiber mats for turntable platters.
- Highly adjustable tonearms (for VTA, etc.) with extremely delicate adjustments and precision bearings.
- Modern record cleaning machines and fluids.
- And there wasn’t much in the way of innovative room treatments like the Hallographs we use.
On our current playback system, this Reference Record is nothing but a joke, a joke played on a much-too-credulous audiophile public by the ridiculously inept and misguided engineers and producers who worked for Reference Records.
This is a reference for something? For what? As I wrote about another one of their awful releases, If This Is Your Idea of a Reference Record, You Are in Real Trouble.
It would be hard to imagine that anyone who has ever heard a good vintage classical recording — here are some of our favorites — could ever confuse this piece of audiophile trash with actual hi-fidelity orchestral sound.
Lincoln Mayorga – The Missing Linc (Volume II)
More Lincoln Mayorga
More Direct-to-Disc Recordings
- This Sheffield Direct to Disc recording has INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Guaranteed to be dramatically richer, fuller and more Tubey Magical than any other copy you have heard, with especially punchy drums and rosiny-textured strings
- The bass on side one extends all the way into WHOMP land for that big bass drum at the end of “Limehouse Blues” – what a sound!
- The top end is also key to the better pressings – lots of string harmonics and bells and other high frequency stuff gets lost on most copies, but not this one, it’s all here
- The Audiophile “Sgt. Pepper” of its day, a record that was so much better than anything else you’d ever heard it made you rethink the possibilities (and they did the same thing with Volume III two years later)
- If you’re a Sheffield Labs fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1972 is clearly one of their best
- The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
This is definitely not your typical Sheffield pressing. Some of them are aggressive, many of them are dull and lack the spark of live music, some of them have wonky bass or are lacking in the lowest octave — they are prey to every fault that befalls other pressings.
Which shouldn’t be too surprising. Records are records. Pressing variations exist for every album ever made. If you haven’t noticed that yet, start playing multiple copies of the same album while listening carefully and critically.
If your stereo is any good at all, it should not take you long to notice how different one record sounds from another.
Just listen to the texture on the saxophone on “Limehouse Blues” — you can really hear the leading edge transients of the brass that are so important to the sound of those instruments. Track after track, the sound gets surprisingly more open and airy. The harpsichord has such great presence it jumps out of the speakers. Side Two had the best bass ever — extending all the way into WHOMP land.
I was selling audio equipment (Audio Research, Fulton speakers) back in the ’70s and this was a favorite demo disc in our store. The bass drum at the end of track two would shake the foundation with a big speaker like the Fulton J.
Every bit as amazing to me was the string quartet on side 2. You could actually hear the musicians breathing and turning the pages on their music stands, just as if you were actually in their “living presence.”
This is one of the albums that made me realize how good audio in the home could really be. In a way this was the Audiophile “Sgt. Pepper” of its day, a record that was so much better than anything else you’d ever heard it made you rethink the possibilities.
The L.A. 4 / Going Home
- A vintage East Wind 33 RPM Japanese import pressing with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them from start to finish
- A top album in both rarity and demand – you’d be hard pressed to find another copy with this kind of transparency, clarity, presence, and sound (assuming you could find one)
- This is one of the best sounding copies with all 7 tracks we have ever played
- Lee Herschberg recorded these sessions direct to disc – he’s the guy behind the most amazing piano trio recording I have ever heard, a little album called The Three
- The star of this record is Shelly Manne, who really plays up a storm
- This 33 RPM version features all seven of the original tracks – “Greensleeves” and “Django” were omitted from the shorter 45 RPM pressing