Records that Are Good for Testing Harshness and Shrillness

Steely Dan / The Royal Scam – Listening in Depth

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Reviews and Commentaries for The Royal Scam

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We really went overboard with the track commentary for this one. This should make it easy for you to compare what we say about the sound of these songs with what they sound like to you on your system, using the copy you own or, better yet, one of our Hot Stampers. 

If you end up with one of our Hot Stampers, listen carefully for the effects we describe below. This is a very tough record to reproduce — everything has to be working in tip-top form to even begin to get this complicated music sounding the way it should — but if you’ve done your homework and gotten your system really cooking, you are in for the time of your Steely Dan life. (more…)

Steely Dan / The Royal Scam

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  • Stunning sound from start to finish: Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it on both sides
  • This is a killer Shootout Winning copy of The Dan’s hard-rockin’ classic from 1976 – HERE is the right sound for this music
  • These two sides give you what you need for The Royal Scam – rich, meaty, with powerful rhythmic energy and not too bright
  • “Drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie lashes out the rolling grooves on most of the nine tracks, establishing the album’s anxious feel, and Larry Carlton’s jaw-dropping guitar work provides a running commentary to Fagen’s strangulated vocals… These are not the sort of Steely Dan songs favored by smooth-jazz stations.”

The best copies of Steely Dan’s brilliant effort from 1976 — so different from the album before, Katy Lied, as well as the album to follow, Aja — manage to combine richness and smoothness with transparency and clarity, a tough combination to find on The Royal Scam. (more…)

Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

More on the Subject of Tubes in Audio

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What to listen for on this album? That’s easy: The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness.

We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI the way they did back in the ’70s. Harry Pearson loved many of their recordings, but I sure didn’t.  To this day, some of the records on the TAS List seem to me better suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the ’70s than the modern systems of today.

I chalk it up — as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles tend to make about the sound of records, my own judgments included — to the four basics:

  • the limitations of the equipment,
  • bad setups,
  • bad rooms, and
  • poor record cleaning

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s such as McIntosh, Marantz, etc. — I myself had an Audio Research SP3-A1 and a D-75a, later a D-76a — the flaws heard on most copies of this record wouldn’t be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing them on the much more revealing systems that exist today.

Today’s modern systems, painstakingly set up and tweaked through trial and error, in heavily treated rooms, using only records that have been subjected to the most advanced cleaning technologies — these are what make it possible to know what your records really sound like. 

The more revealing, more accurate systems of today are in fact what make it possible for us to do our job.

We used to not do it as well, and we talk about it in our Live and Learn section.

You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like. They should sound amazing on your system and in your room, and we stand behind that claim with a 100% Money Back Guarantee. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record is correct. All you need to do is play it back properly.

With each improvement you make in your system, the kinds of high quality pressings we sell — we call them Hot Stampers — will continue to reveal better and better sound in their grooves.

This is not true for the Modern Heavy Vinyl reissue. The better a system gets, the more the faults of those pressings come to light.  This typically sad story is one that is all too common with our customers. (more…)

Kansas – Leftoverture

 

  • Just the second Triple Triple (A+++) Shootout Winning copy to hit the site since 2011 – this copy is a KNOCKOUT
  • Both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) with real Prog Rock Energy and a huge punchy bottom end
  • Carry On My Wayward Son on this Triple Plus side one is guaranteed to blow your mind – the spaciousness and the amount of bass on this side are off the charts
  • “Undoubtedly their finest album, Leftoverture warrants Kansas a spot right alongside Boston and Styx as one of the fresh new American bands who combine hard-driving group instrumentation with short, tight melody lines…” Rolling Stone

Clearly Kansas’s most consistent and engaging album, their true masterpiece by our lights, a copy as good as this will show you the awesome ENERGY the band brought to their music.

On the hottest of our Hot Stampers the recording is a glorious example of the Big Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Wall to wall and floor to ceiling barely begins to do it justice. Like so many of the great rock recordings we offer, when you play one of our Hot Stampers the sound commands your attention. (more…)

Kansas – Point of Know Return

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More Prog Rock

  • An outstanding pression of Point of No Return, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big and solid guitars and keyboards, with great bass, full vocals, and tons of Tubey Magic – this the way to hear the band
  • Our Hot Stamper here manages to combine this kind of high-rez, extended top with natural, balanced tonality – this one really gets it right
  • 4 Stars: “This is the definitive Kansas recording … their interplay and superior musicianship make this both an essential classic rock and progressive rock recording.”

Drop the needle on Dust in the Wind — here the guitars and vocals are full-bodied and natural, qualities unfortunately in short supply on the typical pressing. (more…)

The Pretenders – Get Close – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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Get Close has long been a personal favorite of mine. Side one starts off with a bang with My Baby, one of the best tracks this band ever recorded. Of course at this point it’s hard to call The Pretenders a band as it is pretty much Chrissie Hynde’s show. She continues to mature as a songwriter, and the arrangements and production value are excellent as well, with heavy hitters such as Steve Lillywhite, Bob Clearmountain and Jimmy Iovine involved. 

We have a link to the left entitled Women Who Rock. It would look better with Chrissie Hynde’s picture instead of some Lillith Fair type in a granny dress, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is that no other woman on earth can rock the way Chrissie Hynde can, and this album, along with Learning to Crawl, is all the proof anyone would ever need. (more…)

Wes Montgomery – Goin’ Out of My Head

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

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  • Incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this early stereo copy blew the competition away with its size, Tubey Magical richness and vibrant jazz energy 
  • Once again Oliver Nelson’s Big Band arrangements take the music to another level – the guy’s a genius
  • “…it’s a classic big-band album, with smart charts by Nelson and stolen moments of Montgomery’s guitar grandeur and romantic truth scattered throughout.”

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is on both sides. Since this is one of Wes’s better albums, hearing these sides was a THRILL for us and we’re hoping it will be as big a thrill for you too.

Everything that’s good about this era of RVG’s recordings, Wes’s music and those glorious Oliver Nelson arrangements is here. For my part let me just say that this is clearly the best sound I have ever heard for Goin’ Out of My Head. (more…)

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow – We Found a Good Sounding Orange Label Pressing

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Surrealistic Pillow

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This QUIET orange label (!) pressing has surprisingly good sound, some of the best sound we have ever heard for that more-often-than-not dismal second label in fact. It actually beat a few of our black label originals, with more tubey magic and less distortion and harshness than we expect from these later pressings.  (more…)

Duke Ellington – Ellington ’66

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Ellington ’66

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  • Insanely good shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout and the first copy to ever hit the site!
  • This Grammy award winning title features Ellington performing some of the biggest pop hits of the day: Red Roses For a Blue Lady, I Want to Hold Your Hand, All My Loving, and more 

The album won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance – Large Group or Soloist with Large Group. (more…)

Jimmy Smith – Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf

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More Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and one of the better copies from our most recent shootout
  • If you dig Oliver’s Nelson’s swingin’ BIG BRASS as much as we do you are in for a treat with this stereo pressing
  • The best sides have the kind of analog richness, warmth, and smoothness that make listening to records so involving 
  • Slaughter On Tenth Avenue is the monster track leading off here, and it swings the way Walk on the Wild Side does – like crazy, man!

This is some of the BEST SOUND we have ever heard for any RVG recording of Jimmy Smith with arrangements by Oliver Nelson (Claus Ogerman also took on some of the arranging duties; his work with Antonio Carlos Jobim is superb in all respects). (more…)