Records that Are Good for Testing Midrange Congestion

The Pretenders – Learning To Crawl

More of The Pretenders

More Women Who Rock

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  • A superb pressing of the band’s third studio album with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It takes years to get a shootout for this album going – three to five is my best guess, so get while the gettin’s good if you’re a fan of the most muscular rock album this band ever recorded
  • Both sides of this (very specific) German pressing were richer, clearer and more energetic than virtually any of the others we played
  • With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band, this is first and foremost a guitar rock record – his brilliant, jangly, grungy riffs drive every song
  • 5 stars: “Three albums into her recording career, Chrissie Hynde found herself having to put the past to bed and carve out a new beginning for herself with Learning to Crawl, but she pulled it off with a striking mixture of courage, strength, and great rock & roll; with the exception of the instant-classic debut album, it’s the Pretenders’ finest work.”

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Eagles / Desperado – The Absolute Sound Was Half Right

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

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  • This STUNNING copy of the band’s sophomore release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This vintage pressing has huge amounts of Tubey Magic, a strong bass foundation, and plenty of space around the guitars and voices – man, that is our sound!
  • This is the second-best sounding Eagles record of all time, no doubt thanks to their brilliant engineer and producer, Glyn Johns
  • “A solid country-rock classic… the music stands the test of time, especially when Desperado is heard in its entirety, from start to finish.”

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.

This vintage Asylum pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Desperado Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • 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 1973
  • 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 space of the studio

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.

What to Listen For on Desperado

Too many instruments and voices jammed into too little space in the upper midrange during the loudest passages. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression, there will be too many elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space in the upper area of the midrange, causing congestion and a loss of clarity.

With the smoother, more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich; above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments and vocals (lead and backing) comfortably, without having to pile them up one on top of another as is so often the case with densely mixed pop recordings. On the better copies, the upper midrange does not get overwhelmed and congested with too many elements fighting for too little space.

What We’re Listening For on Desperado

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt —Glyn Johns in this case — would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

A True Super Disc (Second Only to the First Album in that Respect)

Of course, the best sound on an Eagles record is found on the first album. For whatever reason, that record was left off the TAS Super Disc list, even though we feel that both musically and sonically it beats this one by a bit.

On the TAS Super Disc List, Harry Pearson recommends the British SYL pressings for this album. SYL pressings can sound very good; we’ve previously found one that rated a Double Plus on both sides. But our champions for both sides were both domestic, both this time and last time. (more…)

An Extraordinary Recording of the Carmen Fantasie – This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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This London Whiteback LP has DEMO DISC sound like you will not believe, especially on side two, which earned our coveted A Triple Plus rating. The sound is warm, sweet and transparent; in short, absolutely GORGEOUS. We call it AGAIG — As Good As It Gets!

As this is one of the Greatest Violin Showpiece Albums of All Time, it is certainly a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophle’s collection. (If you’re on our site and taking the time to read this, that probably means you.) Ruggiero Ricci is superb throughout.

And side one was just a step below the second side in terms of sound quality, with very solid A++ sound. To find two sides of this caliber, on quiet vinyl no less, is no mean feat. You could easily go through ten copies without finding one as consistently good sounding as this one.

A True Demo Disc, Or Was It?

Ricci’s playing of the Bizet-Sarasate Carmen Fantasie is OUT OF THIS WORLD. There is no greater perforrmance on record in my opinion, and few works that have as much Audiophile Appeal.

Which is why I’ve had a copy of this record in my own collection for about fifteen years marked “My Demo Disc”. But this copy KILLED it. How could that be?

It just goes to show: No matter how good a particular copy of a record may sound to you, when you clean and play enough of them you will almost always find one that’s better, and often surprisingly better. Shootouts are the only way to find these kinds of records. Nothing else works. If you’re not doing shootouts (or buying the winners of shootouts from us) you simply don’t have top quality copies in your collection, except in the rare instances where you just got lucky. In the world of records luck can only take you so far. The rest of the journey requires effort. (more…)

Bob Seger – Night Moves – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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  • A KILLER vintage pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout for Bob Seger’s breakthrough album (the 8th time’s the charm)
  • A big step up over every other copy we heard – richer, fuller, more dynamic, more lively and just plain more fun
  • Knock the album if you like, but there’s no denying it’s one of Seger’s best and certainly a ’70s classic – every song’s a hit, and deservedly so
  • 5 stars: “One of the universally acknowledged high points of late-’70s rock & roll. And, because of his passion and craft, it remains a thoroughly terrific record years later.”

It’s not easy to find good pressings of this album — it took us plenty of fruitless shootouts before we figured anything out. Most copies out there are thin and dry, which is no way to hear these classic ’70s tracks. We brought in copy after copy that made us think, “I swear this sounds better on the radio!”

Finally, after pulling together a ton of copies from different eras, we started to realize that there were indeed vinyl pressings of Night Moves that sounded right… but they are few and far between, the exception and not the rule so to speak. This copy is one of the better ones we played in our most recent shootout, no question about it.

Knock this album if you like, but there’s no denying it’s one of Seger’s best and certainly a ’70s classic. It may not have the audiophile appeal of Tea For The Tillerman, but it’s a blast when it sounds this good. (more…)

Joe Walsh – The Best of…

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  • An outstanding copy of Walsh’s first compilation album, with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side one matched to a Hot Stamper side two 
  • With sound close to our Shootout Winner on side one, Turn To Stone and Rocky Mountain Way are amazing here
  • We expected to hear dubby, sub-generation tape copy sound, but instead we discovered that these tracks – on the right pressings, natch – sound pretty darn close to the ones on the albums they originally came from
  • The perfect sampler for a casual Joe Walsh fan, featuring songs from his tenure with the James Gang along with some of his best known solo tracks

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Joe Walsh – The Smoker You Drink…

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  • Walsh’s sophomore release finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • This copy has rich, warm guitars and tight, punchy bass, there’s real weight to the bottom end, and Joe’s vocals sound exactly right to our ears
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get features some of the most remembered Joe Walsh tracks, but it’s not just these that make the album a success. Each of the nine tracks is a song to be proud of. This is a superb album by anyone’s standards.”

We grew quite fond of this music once we heard it sound this good. If you’re already a fan of the album, I bet you’ll get a real thrill out of hearing this copy. (more…)

Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends – Here’s an Audio Exercise You Can Do at Home

Musically side two is one of the strongest in the entire Simon and Garfunkel oeuvre (if you’ll pardon my French). Each of the five songs could hold its own as a potential hit on the radio, and no filler to be found whatsoever. How many albums from 1968 can make that claim?

The estimable ROY HALEE handled the engineering duties. Not the most ‘natural” sounding record he ever made, but that’s clearly not what he or the duo were going for. The three of them would obviously take their sound much farther in that direction with the Grammy winning Bridge Over Troubled Water from 1970.

The bigger production songs on this album have a tendency to get congested on even the best pressings, which is not uncommon for Four Track recordings from the ’60s. Those of you with properly set up high-dollar front ends should have less of a problem than some. $3000 cartridges can usually deal with this kind of complex information better than $300 ones.

But not always. Expensive does not always mean better, since painstaking and exacting set up is so essential to proper playback.

The Wrecking Crew provided top quality backup, with Hal Blaine on drums and percussion, Joe Osborn on bass and Larry Knechtel on piano and keyboards.


In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Bookends Theme
Save the Life of My Child
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Joe Walsh – So What

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, this copy is practically as good as it gets
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • Includes a couple of classic tracks, notably Welcome to the Club and a remake of Turn to Stone
  • You’ll hear most of the Eagles playing on this one, produced and engineered by the redoubtable Bill Szymczyk
  • “So What sees Walsh in top form as a guitarist. Most of the nine tracks feature solos of unquestionable quality in his usual rock style.”

We were impressed with how rich and punchy this copy sounded after hearing dozens of dry, thin, lifeless pressings over the years. Once we had heard at least one copy sound good we proceeded to gather up every LP we could get our hands on and make this shootout happen.

Unfortunately, most of what we ended up playing had the kind of mediocre sound we had been suffering through for decades. The best copies had real energy, surprising dynamics, and lots of that ’70s Tubey Magic we love so much and never tire of talking about. (It’s also a sound that you will have a very hard time finding on most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days, as you doubtless know.)

The best pressings have (relatively; this is still Joe Walsh album we’re talking about) rich, warm guitars and vocals, supported by tight, punchy bass. Most copies were far less energetic and dynamic than this one. Excellent transparency as well.

All in all, this is pretty much as good as it gets for Joe Walsh in 1974. The very next year he would become an Eagle and help those boys knock it out of the park with Hotel California. (more…)

Joe Walsh – But Seriously, Folks…

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

Triple Plus sound, a rarity for this really fun album! Most copies have a tendency to be gritty, thin, and/or edgy — a quality you may recognize from the typical Eagles pressing — but this one is rich, full and smooth in all the right ways.

Life’s Been Good is the big hit here, and it sounds excellent, but there are plenty of other great songs here. It’s one of the more solid rock albums from 1978 to hit our table in a while. Check out the Allmusic review linked above, they rave about the album (4 1/2 stars) and even compare it to Pet Sounds! (more…)

Joe Walsh – But Seriously, Folks…

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  • This solo effort boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A hard album to find with sound like this AND quiet surfaces, but here one is@
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an undiscerning record buying public
  • 4 1/2 stars: “As far as studio albums go, But Seriously Folks is Joe Walsh’s most insightful and melodic… The album’s introspective outlook glides through rejuvenation (‘Tomorrow,’ ‘Over and Over’), recapturing the simple pleasures of the past (‘Indian Summer’), mid-career indecision, and a melancholy instrumental.”

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