Records that Sound Best on the Right Domestic Pressing

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

Get your Money For Nothing and your chicks for free on this White Hot Stamper, sure to be the best sounding copy you’ve ever heard of this ’80s classic! Here’s a knockout pressing that finished right up at the top for BOTH sides. We played a ton of copies this week; most of them sounded like CDs, but not this one! I can’t explain why this copy has such warm, sweet, analog sound, but it sure blew me away. The huge three-dimensional soundfield on both sides allows you to hear right INTO the music. 

Of course no two copies sound alike, but there are some fairly consistent traits to both the British copies and the American ones. The best Brit imports are very rich, warm, and sweet, but most of them are dead and veiled. The Hot Stamper domestic copies (mastered by Robert Ludwig) have more meat on the bones down low and rock like you wouldn’t believe. We’re calling this one a draw — there are amazing domestic pressings and amazing import pressings, but the average copy of either is hardly worth the vinyl it was pressed on.

Surprisingly Analog Master Tape Sound

Both sides of this bad boy are SUPERB. Drop the needle on So Far Away — it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet incredibly rich and full-bodied. The bottom end really delivers the goods — it is punchy and meaty with lots of deep, tight bass. The vocals are Right On The Money — breathy and full with lots of texture and ambience. The 3-D quality to the soundfield here is something that you just won’t hear on most copies. The overall sound is lively, dynamic, and very natural. (more…)

Paul McCartney – McCartney – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This stunning 2-pack of McCartney’s solo debut has AMAZING A+++ SOUND FROM START TO FINISH! It’s been AGES since we’ve heard a copy like this. Both sides have the kind of clarity, transparency and immediacy you need for this album to sound its best. Those qualities let you hear all the detail, nuance, and texture to the instruments that you just don’t get on the average pressing.

Both of the copies in this 2-pack have one amazing side and one side that just didn’t meet our standards, so we combined them to give you excellent sound for the entire album.

We recently finished another challenging shootout for this Better Records favorite and were thrilled to come up with a copy like this. It’s always been tough to find great sound and quiet vinyl for this album, and this time around was a NIGHTMARE. Most copies just don’t deliver, and most of the ones that do don’t pass our stringent condition check.

The presence and immediacy of this copy on both sides are OFF THE CHARTS! The sound is HUGE — wide, open, and SUPER transparent. There’s tons of ambience, lots of breath to the vocals, real depth to the soundfield and INCREDIBLE amounts of energy.

You don’t find many copies with this much Tubey Magic. Paul’s vocals are rich and full bodied, and the acoustic guitars are warm and sweet. The bass is tight and punchy, just the way we like it. If this copy sounded any better, my head might explode. (more…)

Bee Gees et al. – Saturday Night Fever

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

This copy of the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack has truly killer sound throughout, and that ain’t no jive talkin’! We collected a bunch of these and put them through the shootout process and were delighted to find out that some of the material on here can sound wonderful on the best pressings.

Like any compilation, some songs are going to sound better than others. The good news here is that most of the tracks you’d hope to be impressive actually are: Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love and Disco Inferno are among the better sounding songs here.

Compared to every other copy we played — on all four sides mind you — these sides are richer, fuller and livelier. They’re also more open and transparent, with notably improved clarity, less smear, and better bass.

Find your favorite song on here, drop the needle, and see if the dramatically improved sound doesn’t bring back some special memories, and maybe even inspire you to bust a move! (more…)

David Bowie – Let’s Dance

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

With Let’s Dance the name of the game is ENERGY, and boy does this copy have it! Both sides have the deep, punchy bass and sweet, extended highs that Bowie’s music needs to come ALIVE. With that big bass and smooth top end this is one record you can turn up GOOD and LOUD without fear of fatique. On a big pair of dynamic speakers you will really get your money’s worth from the best Hot Stamper pressings. 

Compression? No Thank You!

Most copies we came across during our extensive shootout were painfully compressed and thin. Sure, they could convey some of the enormous energy of this recording, but the highs always ended up being brittle and edgy. Subsequently the vocals would lose presence and the whole operation turned smeary. When this happens, tracks like “Modern Love” turn the joy of the music into boredom and even outright misery.

But the good ones boggle the mind, they practically defy understanding. How did they get that much punchy note-like bass onto a piece of vinyl, not to mention all those silky sweet highs? (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Undercover

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

Engineered by Chris Kimsey, if you know his work from Some Girls, Tattoo You, Frampton Comes Alive and the like, then you should have a good idea of what this album sounds like on the better copies such as this one.   (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Presence – The Drums and Cymbals Are Key to the Best Pressings

 


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  • A stunning sounding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two; you’ll hear massive amounts of Zeppelin Rock and Roll energy on this copy
  • This is all the power, dynamics, whomp, and presence (pun only slightly intended) you could hope for
  • Featuring a stripped down, harder rock sound, Presence really benefits from the killer bottom end found on this pressing
  • “Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute Tea for One.”

See all of our Led Zeppelin albums in stock

We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how hard this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are all KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one. After cleaning and playing a pile of copies we are pleased to report that the best of them are full of The Real Zep Magic. The average LP may not be much of a thrill but our Hot Stampers sure are, with all the energy, dynamics, whomp, and presence (pun only slightly intended) you could hope for.

That is EXACTLY the kind of sound we love here at Better Records. (more…)

Bee Gees – Spirits Having Flown – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

We sat down with a big stack of pressings recently and only found a few that really had their mojo workin’. This copy was one of the best we heard, earning an A+++ grade on side one — where the best songs are found — and performing quite well on side two also (A+ to A++). The energy factor is off the charts on side one, and that’s exactly what this music needs to really come to life. You are going to be surprised how rich and full-bodied this album can sound when you have a great copy like this.

Variety is the spice of life, and since we can’t play Neil Young records every week we decided to take this disco classic for a spin. We were very impressed with the better pressings, but most copies we played bored us to tears. Most copies are just too thin and dry to take seriously, and even the richer and fuller ones usually lacked too much in the way of life or immediacy. (more…)

Bee Gees et al. – Saturday Night Fever

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  • Double Plus (A++) sound, or close to it, on all four of these outstanding sides
  • There’s real Bee Gees vocal magic here – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love, More Than a Woman, Jive Talkin’, and even A Fifth of Beethoven all sound great
  • It’s no walk in the park to find a copy with sound this good and exceptionally quiet vinyl, but here it is
  • 5 stars: “Saturday Night Fever is virtually indispensable as a Bee Gees album, not just for the presence of an array of songs that were hits in their own right but because it offered the Gibb brothers as composers as well as artists…”

This copy of the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack has wonderful sound throughout, and that ain’t no jive talkin’! We collected a bunch of these and after putting them through the shootout process we were delighted to find out that some of the material on here can sound amazingly good on the best pressings.

Like any compilation, some songs are going to sound better than others. The good news here is that most of the tracks you’d hope to be impressive actually are: Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love and Disco Inferno are among the better sounding songs on the album, and there are plenty more where those came from. (more…)

Humble Pie – Rock On – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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Rock On

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

This record is the very definition of TUBEY MAGIC. The sound is so rich and sweet it will make you want to take all your CDs and dump them in the trash, if you haven’t done so already.  

This is the sound WE LOVE here at Better Records, assuming the pressing in question still maintains some degree of presence, immediacy and transparency. Records like this can easily get thick and muddy; think of the typically dull Who’s Next or Sticky Fingers and you’ll know exactly what I mean. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs and Englishmen – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This original A&M 2 LP pressing has FOUR EXCELLENT SIDES, including a shootout-winning A+++ SIDE TWO!

We did not give out a lot of top grades on this record — Super Hot is WAY better than most of what we heard (which to be honest was just not very good, a subject we discuss below). Overall this is the best copy to ever hit the site, boasting plenty of soulful rock and roll energy.

Biggest Problems

(Other than noisy, scratched up vinyl of course.)

Well, for one thing, if you get the wrong stampers on this record, you will discover, as we did, that it’s clearly been mastered from a badly made dub. The “cassette-like” sound quality will not be hard to recognize. If you have stumbled onto one of those pressings, give up on it and try your luck elsewhere, making sure to note the bad stampers.

Most copies have a tendency to sound smeary and congested. Listen for good transients and not too much compression. Most copies are opaque, as well as dull up top; try to find the ones with some degree of transparency and as much top end extension as you can (the percussion will be helped most of all by the extended top).

And of course you need to find a copy that rocks, as this is a definitely a Rock Concert, although what it most reminds me of is Ray Charles doing a choice set of modern classics, mixing it up by off-handedly mixing in a few of his own. See how they all fit together? That’s how the pros do it. (The main pro in this case is Leon Russell, the mastermind of the whole operation. He clearly knows what he is doing.) (more…)