Record Lists of Various Kinds

What We Think We Know about Peter Gabriel’s Brilliant So Album from 1986

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Hot Stamper Pressings of So Available Now

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Here is a copy of So with the Big and Bold Peter Gabriel sound we love. If you want your Art Rock to actually rock (as well as be arty), this is the copy for you.

It’s not a perfect recording by any means, but when it sounds this good you can just forget its shortcomings and marvel at how consistently good the material and the production are.

No Mean Feat

It’s exceptionally hard to find good sounding copies of this album, as you can read about below. With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren’t worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin.

We did a shootout years ago that taught us a few things. The most surprising finding? The Brit copy I had in my own collection sucked — how about that! As a rule, I like the Brit pressings best for PG, but that rule got broken after playing all these domestic copies, some of which really sound good, clearly better than the average Brit.

Recording Issues

This is a digital recording, and most of the time it is BRIGHT, SPITTY and GRAINY like a typical digital recording, which plays right into our prejudices. After hearing a bad copy, what audiophile wouldn’t conclude that all copies will have these bad qualities? After all, it’s digital. It can’t be fixed simply by putting it on vinyl.

Ah, but that’s where logic breaks down. Proper mastering can ameliorate many if not most of a recording’s shortcomings. When we say Hot Stampers, we are talking about high-quality mastering doing exactly that.

Mass Produced Plastic Problems

But of course the mastering is only one part of the puzzle. I have multiple copies with the same stampers. Some of them are terrible, some of them are wonderful — you just can’t rely on the numbers to guide you with a piece of mass-produced plastic like this. You have no choice but to play the record to know what it sounds like. (And that’s a good thing. Keeps you honest. There’s no “cheating” when you have nothing to go by but the sound.)

This album sold in the millions. They stamped it out until the metalwork was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Those badly pressed copies are not going to have any high-frequency extension, which leaves them with all the harsh upper mids sticking out of the mix to peel the paint in your living room and make your ears bleed. (more…)

Paul McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece

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The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

In our experience, the real McCartney Magic is only found on the best domestic Apple pressings. We’ve never heard an import that did much for us, and the later CBS issues are hardly worth the vinyl they’re pressed on.

This album, like Unplugged and Band on the Run (and not a whole lot else) is SUPERB from start to finish. At the end of side two you want MORE. I wish I could say that about the rest of his discography.

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Al Di Meola et al. – Friday Night in San Francisco on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D?

The Speakers Corner remastered Heavy Vinyl pressing of this famous jazz album has two big strikes against it from the get go. It’s both congested and hard.

When these guys are hell-bent on one-upping each other right off of the stage, even our best Hot Stamper pressings struggle with clarity, transparency and harmonic sweetness

Do you really want to add all the problems of the modern remastered heavy vinyl pressing to a  tape that has no small share of its own?

Congested and hard is the kind of sound Speakers Corner should be quite familiar with by now. You can hear it on plenty of their mostly mediocre pressings. Sourced from a digital tape of the master? Maybe, but who cares what tape was used to make this dog?

It’s a loser and should be avoided at any price.

Our Hot Stamper pressings of this very album will be dramatically more transparent, open, harmonically-correct, resolving of musical information, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are the most obvious areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short, if our experience with hundreds of them over the last few decades has any bearing.

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Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

More Led Zeppelin

More Rock Classics

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  • Physical Graffiti finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides of this killer double album
  • Transparency, the other side of the Tubey Magical Richness coin, is key to the better pressings of this album, as well as many of our other favorite demo discs
  • Of course the main attributes that set the best copies apart from the also-rans are size, energy, weight, vocal presence and an overall freedom from grit and grain, and we guarantee that this copy will do better in all of these areas than any you have ever heard
  • 5 stars: ” Physical Graffiti captures the whole experience of Led Zeppelin at the top of their game better than any of their other albums.”

*NOTE: On side three, the intro to Track One, In The Light, plays Mint Minus Minus, but the rest of the side is quieter.

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume .

If you’ve been waiting for a seriously powerful Kashmir Experience, today is your lucky day. (more…)

The Definitive Vinyl Version? – Perhaps There Is a Third Way

More Joni Mitchell

Reviews and Commentaries for Blue

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The letter you see reproduced down below got me to thinking.

If I had to choose one record that separates the men from the boys, the stereos that really work from the phony, lifeless audiophile systems you might read about in the magazines or hear at an audio show, Blue would make a darn good choice.

The problem there is that you have to be one serious record collector to have a great copy of Blue. But good pressings are out there, if you can clean and play them properly. This is why we created the Blue Game. It can be done, and we can help you get there, but most of the work has to be done by you.

Naturally we are happy to do the shootouts for you and charge you the pretty penny the winners command, but for those of you who want to find out what’s wrong with the new Blue and don’t want to buy a Hot Stamper from us, there is a third way: Blue, The Game.

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The Recordings of Weather Report – These Three Didn’t Make the Grade

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These are just some of the Weather Report recordings we’ve auditioned over the years and found wanting. Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your audiophile collection.

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced

More Jimi Hendrix

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  • This one will blow you away with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two — exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is dramatically bigger, cleaner, livelier and more present than you’ll hear on any other copy
  • Stunning sound for Purple Haze, Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary, Fire and Foxy Lady
  • No matter what version you’ve been playing, we guarantee you’ll be blown away by the energy and punch on this import
  • 5 stars: “One of the most stunning debuts in rock history, and one of the definitive albums of the psychedelic era.”

It is no easy task trying to find good copies of this album (or any Hendrix album, really). This one is absolutely killer. The bottom end is big and weighty, the top is open and transparent, and there’s plenty of rich, full tubey magic. Good luck finding this kind of sound for Are You Experienced on your own — it took us DECADES! (more…)

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

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

More Turntable Setup Advice

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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…)

Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo

More Devo

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  • Devo’s superb debut finally returns to the site after more than a year, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing is head and shoulders above the pack, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands
  • Tons of great songs on here, including Uncontrollable Urge, Jocko Homo, Too Much Paranoias, and their killer cover of The Stones’ Satisfaction
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A seminal touchstone in the development of American new wave… had a conceptual unity that bolstered the consistent songwriting, making it an essential document of one of new wave’s most influential bands.”

Let the Devolution begin! 

While Devo’s music may never sound as rich, warm, and tubey as the typical classic rock album, that certainly doesn’t mean we need to accept completely anemic, sterile sound for this album. It took a big stack of copies, but here’s one that made us sit up straight, pay attention and enjoy!

Tons of great songs here, including Uncontrollable Urge, Jocko Homo, Too Much Paranoias, and their killer cover of The Stones’ Satisfaction. (more…)

Jackson Browne – Hold Out

More Jackson Browne

More Singer-Songwriter Albums

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  • Jackson Browne’s sixth album finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Big, rich, energetic, with tons of Analog Tubey Magic, this early pressing has exactly the right sound for this music
  • “An exploration of the pull of work. stardom and bittersweet expectations.” – Rolling Stone

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side two, the first one-eighth inch of Track 1, Of Missing Persons, is moderately ticky.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Jackson Browne music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


We had a huge stack of copies but most of them left us entirely cold. A mediocre copy of The Pretender is still a decent sounding record, but the average pressing of this one is just not going to get the job done. We suffered through some of the blandest records to hit the table in ages in the shootout, but I’m pleased to report that a small group of copies actually managed to impress.

So many copies we played were just thick and veiled, keeping Jackson’s vocals in the speakers stuck in a cloudy haze. Most of our copies lacked texture entirely, which really sucked the life out of the music. It’s a good thing this album sold so well in its day, because it took a TON of copies to find a few that actually sounded like the Jackson Browne we know and love from The Pretender, Late For The Sky and the wonderful first album. (more…)