A List of Albums We’re Obsessed With

Holst and Previn – A Planets for the Ages

More on The Planets

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

xxx

  • After a lengthy shootout hiatus we proudly present the best side two of this album to hit the site since 2013
  • Out Of This World sound on side two, where it earned a Four Plus sonic grade for its MINDBLOWING orchestral power
  • Side one earned a seriously good grade of Double Plus (A++) – it’s rich, clear and dynamic, with weighty brass
  • A TAS List Super Disc, with a performance by Previn and the LSO that’s as spectacular as the sound
  • This copy has some condition issues – those of you looking for a quiet copy will have to wait for the next shootout in 2018 or thereabouts

This copy has a side two that is so off the charts we ended up giving it Four Pluses. A Four Plus copy has to meet a standard higher than our regular top grade, and we define that standard as “better than we ever imagined any copy could ever sound.” (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu

xxxxx

  • A stunning Shootout Winning copy that is guaranteed to blow your mind – Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The sound is HUGE — lively, present and rich in a way that nothing you’ve heard can compete with
  • One of our all time favorite albums at Better Records and one that almost never sounds THIS good
  • 5 stars: “…this variety made Déjà Vu a rich musical banquet for the most serious and personal listeners, while mass audiences reveled in the glorious harmonies and the thundering electric guitars…”

If you play this copy at serious levels and have the kind of full range system that’s both loud and clean like live music, we guarantee you will be nothing less than gobsmacked at the size and power of the music on this album, the band’s inarguable masterpiece.

Both sides here are super high-resolution, tonally perfect, Tubey Magical and ALIVE. The vocals are silky and sweet with very little strain or grain (a very common problem in the loudest choruses). The highs are extended, the bass is deep and punchy, and the overall clarity is breathtaking.

Just listen to the guitars during the solos — you can really hear the sound of the pick hitting the strings. The rhythm guitars sound meaty and chunky like the best sounding copies of Zuma and After The Gold Rush. (more…)

What We Think We Know about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Masterpiece: Deja Vu

Hot Stampers of Deja Vu

Letters and Commentaries for Deja Vu

xxxxx

DEJA VU is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Deja Vu. Here are some albums on our site you can buy with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

(more…)

What We Think We Know about Elvis Costello’s Groundbreaking Debut from 1977

Hot Stampers of My Aim Is True

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

  • This STUNNING copy of Costello’s debut album earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides
  • The sound is lively, punchy, and powerful – with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have
  • A massive step up sonically from most domestic pressings, early or otherwise, and guaranteed to handily beat the imports as well
  • 5 stars: “A phenomenal debut, capturing a songwriter and musician whose words were as rich and clever as his music.”

Yes, it’s lively and has that driving punk rock bass, but what sets this copy apart from the average pressing is the top end — it’s silky and smooth. As a consequence, the vocals end up being more present and transparent than we’re used to, with almost none of the grit and spit so common to most of the copies anyone is ever likely to come across. (more…)

What We Think We Know about The Doors’ Soft Parade Album

xxxxx

This vintage Doors pressing (either on the Elektra Gold or Big Red E Label, nothing else will do) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely reproduce.

Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

What the best sides of The Soft Parade have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

A New Test

A test we found helpful on side two was the quality of the strings on Wishful Sinful. Man, they can really get shrieky and shrill on some copies. The best side two’s like this one have them sounding high-rez, rosiny and (almost) smooth.

No two copies of an album will get those strings to sound the same. If you don’t believe us just pull out two copies and listen for yourself. You may be in for quite a shock. You can adjust your VTA (you can and should) until you find the maximum resolution, most body, most harmonic extension, as well as the most correct tonality on the strings, but after you do, you will still never get two different pressings to sound the same. (more…)

What We Think We Know about Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here Album from 1975

Hot Stampers of Wish You Were Here

Letters and Commentaries for Wish You Were Here

 

xxxxx

 

This is the perfect example of everything we look for in a recording here at Better Records: it’s dynamic, present, transparent, rich, full-bodied, super low-distortion, sweet — good copies of this record have exactly what we need to make us audiophiles forget what our stereos are doing and focus instead on what the musicians are doing.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the album, Pink Floyd managed to record one of the most amazing sounding records in the history of rock music. The song Wish You Were Here starts out with radio noise and other sound effects, then suddenly an acoustic guitar appears, floating in the middle of your living room between the speakers, clear as a bell and as real as you have ever heard. It’s obviously an “effect,” but for us audiophiles it’s pure ear candy.   

On a copy like this one, it’s MAGICAL.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.

Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean British original copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of original pressings of Classic Rock albums.

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience. (more…)

What We Think We Know about Joni Mitchell’s Brilliant “Blue” from 1970

xxxxxxxxxx

Everything you always wanted to know about the best sounding pressings, and some that are not so good sounding, of

Blue

For vintage pressings with the ultimate in audiophile sound, check out our website, Better Records.

The Three – The Three

xxxxx

  • A true Demo Disc of this wonderful recording, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
  • My favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
  • 4 Stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio

If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), these 33 RPM pressings are the best way to go. The music is so good that I personally would not want to live with less than the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later). (more…)

Brian Eno’s Masterpiece – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

xxx

  • TRIPLE TRIPLE (A+++) – it’s been ages since we’ve heard a copy that sounds as amazing as this one
  • Superb Demo Disc sound on both A+++ sides, huge and open like you will not believe
  • The superb clarity and transparency here let you appreciate all of Eno’s mastery — amazing texture and detail
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, a Top 100 title, and without a doubt Eno’s Masterpiece
  • Highest Recommendation from your friends at Better Records. This is an album we think you will love!

TWO SUPERB SIDES on this Killer White Hot Stamper pressing of Brian Eno’s MASTERPIECE — one of my All Time Favorite Albums, a real Demo Disc of twisted pop. This British Sunray original pressing takes the sound to a level BEYOND all others. This copy has deep, punchy bass that exceeded my wildest expectations, energy like I couldn’t believe, and a wonderful smoothness that you just don’t get on most copies.

If you have a big speaker and the kind of high quality playback that is capable of unraveling the most complicated musical creations, with all the weight and power of live music, this is the record that will make all your audio effort and expense worthwhile. That’s the kind of stereo I’ve been working on for thirty years and this album just plain KILLS over here.

Art Rock

That being said, it may not be the kind of thing most music loving audiophiles will be able to make much sense of if they have no history with this kind of Art Rock from the ’70s. I grew up on Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, The Talking Heads, Ambrosia, Supertramp, Yes and the like, bands that wanted to play rock music but felt shackled by the chains of the conventional pop song. This was and still is my favorite kind of music.

When it comes to the genre, I put this album right at the top of the heap along with several other landmark albums from the period: More Songs About Buildings and Food, Roxy Music’s first, Sheet Music, Crime of the Century, Ambrosia’s first two releases, The Yes Album, Fragile and perhaps a handful of others, no more than that. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Heart Like a Wheel

 

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.

Heart Like a Wheel

and click on this link to the

Classic Tracks

entry for the album to read about it in real  depth

xxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Heart Like a Wheel.

A key test on either side was to listen to all the multi-tracked guitars and see how easy it was to separate each of them out in the mix. Most of the time they are just one big jangly blur. The best copies let you hear how many guitars there are and what each of them is doing.

Pay special attention to Andrew Gold’s Abbey Road-ish guitars heard throughout the album. He is all over this record, playing piano, guitar, percussion and singing in the background. If anybody deserves credit besides Linda for the success of HLAW, it’s Andrew Gold. (more…)