Records that Sound Best on the Right Import Pressing

Saint-Saens / Symphony #3 / Mehta – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Symphony #3 / Mehta

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This British London pressing is the winner of our recent shootout. We had three London pressings, all the same stamper numbers if I recall correctly, and this is the only copy to have Super Hot Stamper sound on either side. Side one is actually quite nice, with lovely texture to the strings. The sound is transparent and natural, two qualities that are in short supply on most of the recordings Mehta did with the L.A. Phil. in our experience.

We pulled out all the copies of this famous work we could find in the backroom and most of them were just awful. This is not an easy work to record, incorporating as it does an organ with a large orchestra. (I saw the work performed back in 2009 and it was magical. There is nothing like the sound of violins playing high over the organ notes below.) (more…)

Bonnie Raitt – Luck of the Draw – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Luck of the Draw

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

Here’s the first (Super) Hot Stamper copy of Luck Of The Draw to ever hit the site! What took us so long? It’s simple, most copies out there just plain don’t deliver, and for a long time we weren’t sure we’d ever have a copy that would be a clear enough winner over the DCC pressing to merit Hot Stamper status.

Well folks, it may have taken YEARS but we’ve finally found a Hot Copy — this one rates A++ on side one and A+ to A++ on side two. We think you’ll have a very hard time finding a better sounding pressing of this album no matter what you do, and of course we guarantee it will handily beat the pants off the DCC or your money back. (more…)

Paul McCartney – Wild Life – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Wild Life

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

This Apple UK Import LP has TWO outstanding sides! We were not all that familiar with the album going into this shootout, but after spending the day listening to copies like these we found ourselves LOVING IT!

Let’s face it: finding good sounding McCartney records with the exception of the first album is practically impossible. From Ram on it’s slim pickings, even on import. Most of those later albums sound like cassettes; they’re as dead as the proverbial doornail. They bore us to tears.

Wild Life stood up and showed us that there’s more good sound to be found after McCartney’s debut. Band On The Run on the right imports can sound quite good, but I would say without hesitation that the best copies of Wild Life kill it in the sonics department.

If you want the ultimate nexus of music and sound for McCartney, a Hot Stamper of the first album is the way to go. Expect to pay (us anyway) at least $500 for such a record, which is neither here nor there. This album is MUCH BETTER sounding than we ever suspected, and it’s much better music than we were led to believe by the critics. If you aren’t happy with it we will give you your money back. (more…)

Spandau Ballet – True

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Spandau Ballet – True

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  • Surprisingly rich and natural – dare we say Analog? – sound throughout – both sides came out on top, with Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful Brit Pop album, an import pressing like this one is the only way to go 
  • “… a set of tunes aimed squarely at the charts. The one that succeeded most spectacularly, of course, was the title cut, a glossily-updated Motown-style ballad that became one of the decade’s biggest hits — aided by a video that cast singer Tony Hadley as a young Frank Sinatra, crooning about the sound of his soul.

Forget the dubby domestic pressings. Like so many British bands on the Chrysalis label, when it came time to master the album for our domestic market, not theirs, the people in charge (whoever they may have been) took the easy way out and simply ordered up a dub of the tape to send across the pond.

Too many wonderful albums by highly accomplished bands had their records ruined by sub-generation masters. (Ruined for audiophiles. The general public couldn’t care less.) (more…)

Paganini / Violin Concertos 1 & 2 / Menuhin – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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Violin Concerto 1 & 2 / Menuhin

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of recording, in this case 1961, with the benefit of more modern mastering from the ’70s, a combination that works wonders on this title, as you will hear from both of these White Hot sides.

The sound is so transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic, that we knew we had our shootout winner with this copy.

It simply could not be beat: no other copy excelled in so many areas of reproduction whilst striking the ideal balance between soloist and orchestra. (more…)

King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Larks’ Tongues In Aspic

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

For King Crimson, it doesn’t get much better than this original Island SUNRAY Label British Import LP. It sounds great in all aspects — quiet, TRANSPARENT, DYNAMIC and full of energy. The sound JUMPS right out of the speakers practically the instant the needle hits the groove. (You better watch your volume knob if you value your equipment!) 

Like any KC record, this album alternates its soft parts and its heavy parts. The soft parts sound oh so sweet and delicate, each intricacy revealed to perfection by the out-of-this-world recording quality, while the heavy parts sound big and bold, augmented by Fripp’s meaty, fuzzed-out guitar and Bill Bruford’s savage percussion.

What’s uncanny about this pressing is how the softness and heaviness play off each other, transitioning into one another, without losing a thing. With most prog rock records, once the bombast starts kicking in, all the intricacies of the midrange and top end get washed out. But when this pressing’s rockin’, the subtle contribution of the mellotron in the background can still clearly be recognized, floating above the clouds, tying everything together, with all of Bill Bruford’s intricate percussion effects along for the ride. (more…)

Cream – Wheels Of Fire – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

It wasn’t easy, but we’ve cracked one of the toughest nuts around — WHITE HOT STAMPERS FOR WHEELS OF FIRE! Sides one, two, and three on this RSO British LP have SUPERB SOUND AND QUIET VINYL! We’ve never heard White Room sound nearly as amazing as it does here — you aren’t going to believe all the WHOMP! (more…)

Crowded House – Temple of Low Men

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Temple of Low Men

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

This British import pressing came right out of my collection. I would love to be able to keep an album as good as this one in my collection, but when would I ever find time to play it? Those days are gone. We play records all day long, five days a week. Weekends we do other things now.

Both sides are smooth and very analog sounding, and both are quiet, The big sound of a Tchad Blake recording with a Bob Clearmountain mix.

Musically both sides have some of the band’s best material. A few of our favorite tracks would be: I Feel Possessed and Into Temptation on side one, Love This Life and Better Be Home Soon on side two.  (more…)

Elton John – Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy

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

This British DJM pressing has TWO INCREDIBLE SIDES — A++ for the first and A+++ for the second! We finally gathered up enough reasonably clean copies to get this shootout going, which was no mean feat itself. Most of the copies we played were grainy, murky, veiled or lifeless, but this one gave us a Captain Fantastic we could really get into. The sound is lively, dynamic, and tubey magical throughout. The clarity, transparency, and immediacy are all superb.  

Side one is rich, full-bodied and warm with a BIG three-dimensional soundfield. Elton’s piano has real weight which allows the dynamics of his performace to really come through. The overall sound is dramatically more open and spacious than on most of the copies we played.

Side two is even better, with excellent presence, astonishing clarity, and tons of energy. Listen to all that ambience around the vocals and then try to find it on a typical copy — good luck!

The domestic copies we played were an absolute joke, and most of our import copies weren’t all that much better. Of course, the import copies all suffered from significant surface noise — something we expected from that DJM vinyl. This one plays about Mint Minus Minus throughout, though there are moments on side two where it is a bit noisier than that. Those of you who can’t live with this kind of this are advised to pass, but if you want to hear this album sound truly amazing, I don’t know what other option you have. (more…)

Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This Charisma double LP was the uncontested winner of our shootout, earning a whopping 12 PLUSES across all four sides! In fact, this is BY FAR the best we’ve ever heard this album sound. After our last shootout — in which no side earned a top grade — we had almost given up hope of finding a true White Hot Stamper copy. Well, folks, our perseverance has finally paid off and this copy is the proof! When you find a killer pressing this complex, theatrical music really WORKS. 

No other copy in our shootout came close to this one. The bass, which can lack weight on the typical copies, is big and solid throughout, and the vocals are present and rich with great ambience. Bigger and more present, richer and fuller, with more space and transparency, this copy is absolutely As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) for this album!

This recording is always going to have a few issues. Certain tracks — particular the more rocking, guitar-heavy material — are ALWAYS going to get a little hard in the midrange, but on a good copy the issue is much less apparent and doesn’t get in the way of the music. And the more open, spacious keyboard and acoustic -driven songs which comprise the bulk of the album can sound really wonderful! (more…)