Records that Are Good for Testing Side to Side Differences

Gregg Allman – Laid Back

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More Allman Brothers

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  • An astounding “Triple Triple” (A+++) copy that blew away every other pressing in our recent shootout
  • We were surprised at how well recorded the album is, dramatically better than the Allman Brothers album from the same year, Brothers and Sisters
  • Full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with especially smooth, present vocals – this is the sound we love at Better Records
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Recorded in the same year as the Brothers and Sisters album, this solo debut release is a beautiful amalgam of R&B, folk, and gospel sounds, with the best singing on any of Gregg Allman’s solo releases.”

(more…)

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

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Reviews and Commentaries for Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Debut

Folks, this is ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest. You ain’t never gonna play a CD that sounds like this as long as you live. I don’t mean to rain on your parade but let’s face it, digital media are pretty much incapable of reproducing this kind of sound. There are nice sounding CDs in the world but there aren’t any that sound like this, not in my experience anyway. If you are thinking that someday a better digital system is going to come along and save you the trouble and expense of having to find and acquire these expensive original pressings, think again. Ain’t gonna happen. This is the kind of record that shows you what’s wrong with your BEST sounding CDs. (Let’s not even talk about the average ones in our collections; the less said the better.)

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

The Barbarian
Take a Pebble

Superb sound! Big, spacious and effortlessly alive!

Knife Edge

Again, some of the best sound to be found on any ELP album. We much prefer the tracks with vocals as opposed to the heavy keyboard ones. This is PROG at its best, right up there with Yes’s and King Crimson’s biggest and boldest musical statements. When it’s good, it’s REALLY GOOD. (Conversely, of course, when it’s bad, it’s pretty bad. Played Relayer lately?)

Side Two

The Three Fates: Clotho/Lachesis/Atropos

This is a super tough test for side two. It’s guaranteed to bring even the biggest and best systems to their knees. The organ is HUGE, so big and powerful it has a tendency to break up a bit in the loudest parts, either from groove damage or the inability of the cutting system to properly transfer the enormous amounts of bass that exist on the master tape onto the cutting acetate. You need plenty of amplifier cutting power and not every mastering chain had it.

Tank
Lucky Man

My favorite ELP track, sounding about as good as it gets. You need the right Cotillion copy for the ultimate sound; the better bass brings Palmer’s kick drum to life, not to mention the synthesizer solo.

Listen also to the electric guitar solo in the left channel. On the best copies it really comes to life and rocks out. If it lays back in the mix you do not have a Hot Stamper for side two, I can assure you of that!

By the way, this track is cut a bit low compared to the two that precede it. It needs click or two on the volume knob to work its magic. (more…)

Holst / The Planets – Blockbuster Sound

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

Reviews and Commentaries for The Planets

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This 2-pack boasts White Hot Stamper sound on side two for the Mehta Planets. Yes, it IS possible. Side two shows you what this record is actually capable of — big WHOMP, no SMEAR, super SPACIOUS, DYNAMIC, with an EXTENDED top. It beat every London pressing we threw at it, coming out on top for our recent shootout. Folks, we 100% guarantee that whatever pressing you have of this performance, this copy will trounce it.

But side one of this London original British pressing was awful. We wrote it off as NFG after about a minute; that’s all we could take of the bright, hard-sounding brass of War.

Can you imagine sound this bad from a TAS List Super Disc record? We can, we played it. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker!

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  • Cocker’s sophomore release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than these?
  • How’s this for a track listing: Dear Landlord; Bird on the Wire; She Came in Through the Bathroom Window; Something; Delta Lady; Darling Be Home Soon – and there’s more
  • 4 stars: “Cocker mixed elements of late-’60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set.”

*NOTE: Side two Track Four, Hello, Little Friend, is slightly noisier, on the low end of Mint Minus Minus.

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you hear it on a White Hot Stamper copy it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless music.

This album is a ton of fun, with Cocker and his band putting their spin on some of the best songs of the era. You need energy, space and full, rich, Tubey Magical sound if this music is going to sound right, and on those counts these copies deliver. (more…)

Jethro Tull / Thick As A Brick – A Top Test for System Accuracy

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From 2009 to 2010 this was our single go-to record for testing and tweaking the system.

Although we now use an amazing copy of Bob and Ray (the big band version of The Song of the Volga Boatmen located therein has to be the toughest test we know of bar none), we could easily go back to using TAAB. It’s absolutely ruthless when it comes to the slightest hint of artificiality in the sound of the system.

Since the biggest problem every audiophile is always fighting is artificiality (and, more often than not, losing, if I may be that cynical about most audiophile systems, our customers’ systems excluded of course), TAAB is one of the best recordings one could ever find to test and tune with. 

  • The better copies are shockingly dynamic. At about the three minute mark the band joins in the fun and really starts rocking. Set your volume for as loud as your system can play that section. The rest of the music, including the very quietest parts, will then play correctly for all of side one. For side two the same volume setting should be fine.
  • The recording can have exceptionally solid, deep punchy bass (just check out Barrie “Barriemore” Barlow’s drumming, especially his kick and floor toms. The guy is on fire).
  • The midrange is usually transparent and the top end sweet and extended on the better pressings.
  • The recording was made in 1972, so there’s still plenty of Tubey Magic to be heard on the acoustic guitars and flutes.
  • The best copies can be as huge, wide and tall as any rock record you’ve ever heard, with sound that comes jumping out of your speakers right into your listening room.
  • Unlike practically any album recorded during the ’80s or later, the overall tonal balance, as well as the timbre of virtually every instrument in the soundfield, is correct on the best copies.

That kind of accuracy practically disappeared from records about thirty years ago, which explains why so many of the LPs we offer as Hot Stampers were produced in the ’70s. That’s when many of the highest fidelity recordings were made. In truth this very record is a superlative example of the sound the best producers, engineers, and studios were able to capture on analog tape during that time.

Which is a long way of saying that the better copies of Thick As A Brick have pretty much EVERYTHING that we love about vinyl here at Better Records.

Furthermore, I can guarantee you there is no CD on the planet that will ever be able to do this recording justice. Our Hot Stamper pressings – even the lowest-graded ones – have a kind of ANALOG MAGIC that just can’t be captured on one of them there silvery discs. (more…)

John Klemmer / Straight from the Heart – Listening for the Tubey Magic Track by Track

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Hot Stamper Audiophile Records with Surprisingly Good Sound

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Straight from the Heart. Here are more albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

The best copies give you dynamics and immediacy like you have rarely heard outside of the live event.

Hell, this record IS live; it’s live in the studio. It’s a direct to disc recording, what else could it be?

There is simply nothing getting in the way of the music. If you have the system for it, you can recreate the live sound of this session in a way that few other recordings allow you to do.

This copy had one quality not heard on most of the others: Tubey Magic. The sound is rich and full-bodied, practically free of grit and grain – this is the kind of sound one hears occasionally on the best tube equipment and practically nowhere else. Of course this is an all-transistor affair, but tubey sound is what ended up on the record, so go figure.

Many copies were slightly lean, making the sax a bit aggressive in places. The killer copies fill out the horn sound, giving it the needed weight and body that the real instrument would have, without adding a euphonically artificial richness that the real instrument wouldn’t. (more…)

Bizet – L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites – Ansermet

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

More music conducted by Ernest Ansermet

  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one mated to a nearly as good side two, this pressing has the best sounding Carmen Suite we have ever heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is the best sounding and quietest Carmen Suite to ever make it to the site, and it was worth the wait – the sound of this vintage Blueback is absolutely breathtaking
  • If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good ’60s All Tube Analog can be, this killer copy should be just the record to do it
  • Recorded in 1961 using the amazing Decca Tree mic setup, it’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording

This is High Fidelity Audiophile Gold, with an orchestra that sounds so real it will take your breath away. The Golden Age tapes have clearly been mastered brilliantly onto this vintage London Blueback vinyl.

No doubt you have run into something like this in our classical listings:

This London is energetic, dynamic, spacious, transparent, rich and sweet. James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these 1961 sessions in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology,

We were impressed with the fact that this pressing excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, allowing the listener to inhabit the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way. (more…)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer / Self-Titled – Out of This World Sound on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

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  • This vintage Island Pink Rim import pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • Spacious, rich and dynamic, with especially smooth, present vocals – this is what we love about Eddie Offord’s work here
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD that sounds this good as long as you live
  • Lucky Man and Take A Pebble on this copy have Demo Disc Quality Sound like you won’t believe
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album… [which] showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly …there isn’t much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here.”

If you’ve got the system to play this one loud enough, with the low end weight and energy it requires, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. This is bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels, it actually will rock your world.

This UK Island pink rim import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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. (more…)

Holst / The Planets – Dutch Versus Brit

What to Listen For – Side to Side Differences

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

More Recordings conducted by Zubin Mehta

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This 2-pack boasts White Hot Stamper sound on side two for the Mehta Planets. Yes, it IS possible. Side two shows you what this record is actually capable of — big WHOMP, no SMEAR, super SPACIOUS, DYNAMIC, with an EXTENDED top. It beat every London pressing we threw at it, coming out on top for our recent shootout. Folks, we 100% guarantee that whatever pressing you have of this performance, this copy will trounce it.

But side one of this London original British pressing was awful. We wrote it off as NFG after about a minute; that’s all we could take of the bright, hard-sounding brass of War.

Can you imagine sound this bad from a TAS List Super Disc record? We can, we played it.

If you collect Super Discs based on their catalog numbers and labels and preferred countries of manufacture, you are in big trouble when it comes time to play the damn things. That approach doesn’t work for sound and never did.

If your stereo is workin’ right this is not news to you. The proof? The first disc in this 2-pack is Dutch. It earned a Super Hot grade in our blind test, beating every British copy we played against it save one. Side two however was recessed, dark and lifeless. Another NFG side, but the perfect complement to our White Hot British side two!

Hot Stampers are the only way to get this problematical recording to come to life, to convey the real power of Holst’s music. The typical copy of this record is dull, two-dimensional, smeary, veiled, opaque and compressed. If you were never impressed with the sound of HP’s favorite — a member of the Top Twelve TAS Super Disc List — this might just be the copy that will change your mind. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Grumiaux

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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This Super Hot side one (coupled with an A+ side two) gives you a TOP performance with very good to excellent sound from first note to last. All of which makes this a Must Own copy of the work, surely the most well-known and beloved violin concerto in the classical repertoire.

Grumiaux displays wonderful energy to his playing throughout the recording. What a performance! And the vinyl is lovely, especially on side one.

Side One

A++, big, rich, sweet and smooth — above all the sound on this side is natural and energetic. Slightly dark with a touch of smear, this is very close to the best we heard.

Side Two

A+, Big and lively, but there is some smear to the sound and the violin can get a little screechy in parts. (more…)