Records that Sound Best on the Right Domestic Pressing

Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees – We Knew the Best Pressings Were Domestic as Far Back as 2005

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

In 2005, after doing a big shootout with a British original, Japanese pressings and domestic pressings, I was shocked to find that I actually think my Hot Stamper domestic pressing gets the sound of this side [two] better than any of the others. The Brit is silky smooth, but it’s a little too smooth and doesn’t rock on this song the way the domestic copy does.   

I was also shocked to note that the American original seems to be made not from a dub but rather from a real master tape. The tell tale signs of a sub-generation tape are inaudible. 

The domestic copy I am discussing here has the same stampers as a White Label Promo that I sold a while back. Most domestic copies of Bare Trees are not very good and don’t sound like this one. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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

This is in fact one of the better sounding “later period” (1976) Stones records we’ve played, if we’re talking about the better copies, like this one. The best pressings are big, open, dynamic and full-bodied, with exceptionally lively percussion. As always, credit goes to the recording engineers, Glyn Johns et al., as well as Lee Hulko at Sterling, the original mastering engineer (who’s cut about as many good sounding records as anyone we can think of).  

Hand of Fate is our favorite on side one, sounding like an unreleased track from Exile on Main Street. I’m guessing Glyn Johns had a lot to do with that one sounding as meaty and raw as it does. Following Hot Stuff, it balances that one’s bright, clear sound nicely, making it easy to separate the real winners from the also-rans. (more…)

Electric Light Orchestra – Out Of The Blue

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

Did you know that most pressings are half-speed mastered by none of than MoFi’s very own Stan Ricker? 

The followup to their masterpiece, A New World Record, there are of course plenty of hits on this one too, Turn to Stone and Mr. Blue Sky among them. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Aqualung

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  • This wonderful copy of Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album earned oustanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides 
  • The sound is excellent from start to finish – big, punchy, present, tubey and bursting with Rock and Roll energy
  • A Better Records Top 100 title that still floors us on the better copies, with sound that will jump right out of your speakers
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the most astonishing progressions in rock history… the degree to which Tull upped the ante here is remarkable… Varied but cohesive, Aqualung is widely regarded as Tull’s finest hour.”

Folks, for hard-rockin’, Tubey Magical, ’70s Arty Proggy Rock in ANALOG, it just does not get much better than Aqualung. You need the right pressing to bring it to life though, and this one is certainly up to the task. (more…)

Bee Gees – Trafalgar

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  • An outstanding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound form start to finish – the first to ever hit the site!
  • The code has finally been cracked – this specific early Atco domestic pressing showed us a huge, rich, Tubey Magical Trafalgar we had no idea could even exist, mostly because all the British LPs we had on hand for the shootout were a joke next to it
  • The lead single “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” was the first Bee Gees’ No. 1 single in the United States
  • 4 stars – “Trafalgar remains one of the Bee Gees’ most critically acclaimed albums and can be found within the pages of 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die.”

This vintage Atco pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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…)

Derek and the Dominos – Layla

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  • With a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides two, three and four, this copy delivers top quality sound for this famously difficult recording – exceptionally quiet vinyl too! 
  • Some of our favorite Clapton songs are here: Bell Bottom Blues, Tell The Truth, Little Wing, Layla and Have You Ever Loved A Woman?
  • One of the most difficult albums to find audiophile sound for, but a lot easier for us now that we know what pressings can actually sound good
  • Clapton’s greatest album: “But what really makes Layla such a powerful record is that Clapton, ignoring the traditions that occasionally painted him into a corner, simply tears through these songs with burning, intense emotion.”

Outstanding sound for all four sides of this classic album. Unless you plan on playing a very big pile of copies you will be hard-pressed to find a copy with sound like this. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet on London

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  • A killer vintage copy of this exceptionally well-recorded Stones album from ’69, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Clear, rich and lively throughout – the Tubey Magic of the best pressings is what has them sounding the way they should
  • One of a select group of Rolling Stones Must Own records which we prize above all others – Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed round out the trio
  • 5 stars: “Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: ‘Street Fighting Man’… was one of their most innovative singles, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’… was an image-defining epic.”

Good pressings are certainly not easy to come by — this kind of rich, full-bodied, musical sound is the exception, not the rule. And there’s actual space and extension up top as well, something you certainly don’t hear on most pressings. This is a fantastic album, and excellent sides like these give it the kind of sound it deserves.

Raw Rock & Roll Sound

Of course, Hot Stamper Sound still only gets you what’s on the tape. In this case, it’s some rude, crude, dirty rock & roll. That’s clearly what the Stones were going for here. In terms of audiophile appeal, Tea For The Tillerman this ain’t. Nor does it want to be!

What sets the best copies apart from the pack is a fuller, richer tonal balance, which is achieved mostly by having plenty of bass and lower midrange energy. The copies that are bass shy — most of them, that is to say — tend to bring out more of that midrangy shortcoming. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Test for Proper Tonal Balance

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

One note on how to tell if you have a tonally balanced copy, at least on side two. Maggie May has multi-overdubbed, close-miked mandolins that should have strong midrange presence and an especially extended, harmonically correct top end. As soon as that song ends, a very sweet, smooth guitar opens the next track, Mandolin Wind. The two songs lean towards opposite ends of the tonal balance spectrum, but on a good copy, both of them sound right. One’s a little darker, one’s a little brighter, but they should both be right if your system is tonally balanced.    (more…)

Roxy Music – Siren

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

Siren is one of our favorite Roxy albums, right up there with the first album and well ahead of the commercially appealing Avalon. After reading a rave review in Rolling Stone of the album back in 1975 I took the plunge, bought a copy at my local Tower Records and instantly fell in love with it. As is my wont, I then proceeded to work my way through their earlier catalog, which was quite an adventure. It takes scores of plays to understand where the band is coming from on the early albums and what it is they’re trying to do. Now I listen to each of the first five releases on a regular basis.

Somehow they never seem to get old, even after more than thirty years.

Of all the Roxy albums (with the exception of Avalon) this is probably the best way “in” to the band’s music. The earlier albums are more raucous, the later ones more rhythmically driven — Siren catches them at their peak, with, as other reviewers have noted, all good songs and no bad ones. (more…)

Bryan Ferry – The Bride Stripped Bare

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

It’s been years since I last played this album, and I’m happy, ecstatic even, to report that it sounds far better than I remember it sounding. In the old days I recall it as somewhat dry, flat and transistory. Now it’s BIG and BOLD, revealing a band that’s on fire in the studio. 

This White Hot side two had by far the most energy of any side we played, showing us just what a monster rocker this album can be when it’s mastered and pressed right. The reviews were mixed when the album was released in 1978 but time has been kind to it — after hearing the killer copies I would rank it up at the top with the best of Ferry’s and Roxy’s work.

The first three tracks are uptempo barn burners sure to get you out of any funk you may find yourself in, day or night. (more…)