Records that Are Good for Testing Tubey Magic

Sinatra – Swingin’ in ’61 with the Help of Billy May

Of the five records Sinatra released in 1961 (Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session!!!; Come Swing with Me!; Ring-a-Ding-Ding!; Swing Along with Me; and I Remember Tommy), this is clearly one of our favorites. (And by the way, what’s with all the exclamation marks?)

Billy May deserves much of the credit for the “swing” that’s all over the album. His band is jumpin’, and on the best pressings — such as this one — the sound conveys the energy with virtually none of the grit and hardness you hear on so many of Sinatra’s other albums (Sinatra at the Sands comes immediately to mind, but there are far too many others).

This is 1961, and tubes and ribbon mics are in charge of the live-in-the-studio proceedings. With a vintage original pressing such as this one, you hear the kind of sound they heard.

And if you play the record at ear-splitting levels you will hear even more of that sound. Can you imagine how loud this band was playing?

We were especially impressed with the large dynamic swings of the arrangements. And the fact that the best pressings never get aggressive even during their most dynamic passages.

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David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name…

More David Crosby

More Hippie Folk Rock

  • The ultimate Hippie Folk Rock Demo Disc – both sides are shockingly transparent, with huge amounts of bass, silky highs, in-the-room vocals and TONS of Tubey Magic
  • 4 1/2 stars: ” If I Could Only Remember My Name is a shambolic masterpiece, meandering but transcendentally so, full of frayed threads. Not only is it among the finest splinter albums out of the CSNY diaspora, it is one of the defining moments of hungover spirituality from the era.”
  • If you’re an audiophile, this is a Demo Disc from 1971 that no record collection comprising Top Quality Recordings should be without
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

Here it is, folks… a TRUE ROCK DEMO DISC! A White Hot Stamper copy such as this will show you why we’ve long considered it one of the All Time Top Ten Rock Albums for Sound and Music. You will not believe how Tubey Magical and three-dimensional this album can be when you have a pressing with this kind of sound. The harmonic complexity and extension on the acoustic guitars are absolutely stunning!

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording? (We do applaud his decision not to add the Classic pressing of this title to the list, the way he did with so many other Classic pressings that have no business on anything called a Super Disc list.)

You Don’t Have to Be High to Hear It

When you drop the needle on this record, all barriers between you and the musicians are removed. You’ll feel as though you’re sitting at the studio console while Crosby and his no-doubt-stoned-out-of-their-minds Bay Area pals (mostly Jefferson Airplaners and Grateful Deads, see list below) are laying down this emotionally powerful, heartfelt music.

The overall sound is warm, sweet, rich, and full-bodied… that’s some real ANALOG Tubey Magic, baby! And the best part is, you don’t have to be high to hear it. You just need a good stereo and the right pressing. (more…)

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

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 Jethro Tull

Reviews and Commentaries for Thick as a Brick

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Bryan Ferry – Let’s Stick Together

More Bryan Ferry

  • A KILLER pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • For material and sound I consider this to be the best of Bryan Ferry’s solo albums – it’s a blast from start to finish
  • The energy, presence, bass, and dynamic power (love that horn section!) place it well above his other side projects
  • 4 Stars: “The title track itself scored Ferry a deserved British hit single, with great sax work from Chris Mercer and Mel Collins and a driving, full band performance. Ferry’s delivery is one of his best, right down to the yelps, and the whole thing chugs with post-glam power.”

We shot out a number of other imports and this killer copy is As Good As It Gets. The presence, bass, and dynamics place it head and shoulders above the competition. It has what we like to call Master Tape Sound — right in every way.

As for material, he covers some early Roxy songs (brilliantly I might add); Beatles and Everly Bros. tunes; and even old R&B tracks like ‘Shame, Shame, Shame’. Every song on this album is good, and I don’t think that can be said for any of his other solo projects. Five stars in my book. (more…)

Dean Martin – Dream With Dean

Reviews and Commentaries for Dean Martin

One of Our Favorite Titles from 1964

  • This hard-to-find Dean Martin Classic of relaxed, intimate vocals returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • One of our all-time favorite male vocal LPs – the sound on both sides is both warm and natural, with excellent presence and transparency
  • The early stereo tri-color label pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile condition these days, but here’s one, and it is a knockout
  • “It sounds as if they tracked the album in one afternoon, and it is not only a very pleasant listening experience, it shows what a tremendous vocalist Dean Martin truly was.”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 3 light ticks, followed by 2 moderate pops in the middle of track 3, Hands Across the Table. A second mark makes 11 light ticks one-quarter inch before the end of track 4, Smile.

An outstanding copy of the classic Dream With Dean!

This is my favorite Dean Martin record of all time; just Dean and a jazz guitar quartet (including no less than Contemporary favorites Barney Kessel and Red Mitchell) behind him doing standards. On the best copies the immediacy is absolutely mind-blowing. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Frank Sinatra records that sound like this.

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Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

More Roxy Music 

More Brian Eno

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this UK copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for over ten years – here is one of the better copies we have to show for our effort
  • 5 Stars: “… another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting.”

Spacious, dynamic, present, with HUGE MEATY BASS and tons of energy, the sound is every bit as good as the music. (At least on this copy it is. That’s precisely what Hot Stampers are all about.)

Strictly in terms of recording quality, For Your Pleasure is on the same plane as the other best sounding record the band ever made, their self-titled debut.

Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album and this one are the only two with the kind of dynamic, energetic, powerful sound that Roxy’s other records simply cannot show us (with the exception of Country Life, was is powerful but a bit too aggressive).

The super-tubey keyboards that anchor practically every song on the first two albums are only found there. If you want to know what Tubey Magic sounds like in 1972-73, play one of our better Hot Stamper Roxy albums.

Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums that few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to. I love the band’s later albums, but none of them sound like these two. The closest one can get is Stranded, their third, but it’s still a bit of a step down. (more…)

Bizet / L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites – Dry Strings on One Side, Fine on the Other

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

More music conducted by Ernest Ansermet

xxxxx

My notes for side two on a copy we recently auditioned read:

Could use more tubes.

Strings could be a bit smoother.

Needs a bit more weight down low.

My notes for side one:

Side one had all of this and more!

Some Common Issues with Londons

Many London and Decca pressings lack weight down low, thinning out the sound and washing out the lower strings.

On some sides of some copies the strings are dry, lacking Tubey Magic. This is decidedly not our sound, although it can easily be heard on many London pressings, the kind we’ve played by the hundreds over the years.

If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange that so many moving coils have these days, you will not notice this tonality issue nearly as much as we do.

Our 17Dx is ruler flat and quite unforgiving in this regard. It makes our shootouts much easier, but brings out the flaws in all but the best pressings, exactly the job we require it to do.

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.

Can we really be hearing all these things that nobody else seems to be hearing? Things like:

If audiophiles and audiophile reviewers are hearing these things on the records they review, in magazines and audiophile forums, why aren’t they discussing them? (Of course, they may in fact be discussing the hell out of them. I rarely read anything they write. But I don’t think they are discussing these things much. If they are, and you read them, please shoot me a link so that I can be a part of the discussion.) (more…)

Cat Stevens / Teaser & The Firecat – A Top Ten Title

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • If you want to know what the best stampers for this album are, you are more than welcome to buy this copy and read them for yourself
  • This British Island Pink Rim pressing has sides that will rock your world with their size, richness, clarity and ENERGY, the likes of which you may have never experienced on vinyl
  • A Brilliant Classic Folk Rock recording – the right pressings offer Demo Disc Quality sound and then some
  • AMG 5 Stars and a Top 10 album – in some ways it’s surely the Best Sounding record Cat Stevens ever made
  • Tuesday’s Dead, Morning Has Broken, Bitterblue, Moonshadow, Peace Train – and that’s just side two! What side of any album has five songs of such quality?

In 1971 Cat Stevens released what we consider to be one of the Ten Best Sounding Rock and Pop Albums in the history of recorded media: Teaser and The Firecat.

Before I get further into the sound of this record, let me preface my remarks by saying this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made two records which belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folky pop, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.

When you hear The Wind, Changes IV, or If I Laugh on this copy, you will be convinced, as I am, that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world. I don’t know of ANY other album that has more LIFE and MUSICAL ENERGY than this one. (more…)

Dire Straits Debut from 1977 – Energy Is the Key to the Best Pressings

Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

Hot Stampers of the First Album Available Now

What separates the best copies from the merely good ones? In a word, ENERGY. The best copies make this band sound like they are on fire, ready to go head to head with the world, fiercely proud of the new sound they’ve created.

The not-so-good copies make Dire Straits sound the way Dire Straits usually does — laid back and well under control, perhaps even a bit bored with the whole affair. The best copies show you a band that wants to rock with the best of them, and can.

Back in 2007 or thereabouts we wrote about this subject after playing a particularly lively copy of Revolver:

At the risk of being definitive about things that are better left ill-defined, I would say that the Number One quality we look for in a pressing is that element of Life or Energy. We can put up with many shortcomings, including even some tonality problems, but when a record fails to convey the spirit and enthusiasm of the musicians, it’s pretty much over.

Water Of Love and Sultans of Swing on a Hot Stamper copy have the kind of Demo Disc sound that will have your audiophile friends drooling and turning green with envy. We can’t all afford $100,000 turntables, but when you have a record that sounds this good, you don’t need one! This record makes it sound like you have 100k in your rig, whether you do or not. (more…)

Eagles – Self-Titled

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

  • A truly outstanding early pressing, earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • This is as quiet as they come, folks – no marks play, and the vinyl is often quieter than Mint Minus Minus, exceptional for this title
  • You will be floored by the huge, rich, Tubey Magical guitars exploding out from your speakers on Take It Easy
  • One of the Best Sounding Rock Records Ever Made, a member of our Top Ten and without a doubt Glyn Johns’ engineering (and producing) Masterpiece
  • A Top 100 Tubey Magical Demo Disc that is guaranteed to blow your mind on a pressing that sounds as good as this one does

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


It will not take the lucky owner of this record long to recognize what we’ve known for years: the Eagles first album is clearly and inarguably one of the Best Sounding Rock Recordings Ever Made. Almost all the qualities we look for on this album can be found on this very copy.

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johnsmasterpiece — rock records simply do not sound any better in our experience. It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile pressing pale in comparison. Everything you could ask for as an audiophile is here, and more.

We’ve been up on our soapbox for years telling people how amazing this record can be, and here’s a copy that backs up our position from start to finish. (more…)