Records that Sound Best on the Right Import Pressing

Mott The Hoople – Mott

xxxxx

  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides, this copy will blow the doors off anything you’ve played
  • Both of these sides are rich and musical, solid down low, with Tubey Magic for days – forget the dubby domestic pressings, this is the sound you want for Mott
  • Bill Price engineered in 1973 – he’s the man behind The Clash’s Best Sounding Album, London Calling
  • AMG raves “This sounds better, looser, than All the Young Dudes, as the band jives through “All the Way From Memphis” and “Honaloochie Boogie,” beats the living hell outta “Violence,” swaggers on “Whizz Kid,” and simply drives it home on “Drivin’ Sister.”

This CBS Orange Label early British LP has the big British Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Phenomenally rich and sweet, with meaty bass and a smooth top, it’s the kind of sound you find on the best Ken Scott recordings from the early ’70s.

Bill Price engineered this one as he did for many of Mott’s albums. His claim to fame in these parts is London Calling, but his credits run into the hundreds for classic rock records starting in the ’60s right through to the ’80s.

We were surprised (although we shouldn’t be by now) that so many copies were slightly thin and dry. The first track on side one, the big hit All the Way From Memphis, tends to have a problem in that area more than the tracks that follow. (more…)

John Mayall with Eric Clapton – Blues Breakers

xxxxx

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

DRAMATICALLY SUPERIOR to the typical pressing, the MOFI Gold CD and every other version that I know of. This is it folks! They cut this one right. It sounds the way you always wished it would sound. We’ve been searching for these for years — everyone wants a great copy, but they are TOUGH to come by. 

This copy is guaranteed to be clearly superior to virtually all imports, all domestic pressings, whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl they’re making these days — in short, any version of this music on any format that you’ve ever played. This is it folks. They cut this one right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to know it. Blues Breakers finally sounds the way you always wanted it to sound.

We’ve been searching for copies of Bluesbreakers for years — everyone wants a great copy of this Five Star Classic, the only album John Mayall ever made that we would consider a Must Own. After many, many years of experimentation and dozens of copies purchased we’ve finally discovered the British pressings that deliver the best sound we’ve ever heard for this music.

But they don’t come easy and they sure don’t come cheap, so don’t expect the floodgates to open with White Hot Stamper after White Hot Stamper hitting the site. One was it and it will be a year or two at the very least before we have a big enough stack of copies with which to do a shootout fo find another.

Until then this is a great copy that belongs in your collection, and it’s QUIET. (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

xxxxx

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 as a label the way they did back the day. 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 limitations of the equipment, bad setups, bad rooms and poor record cleaning. 

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — 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 are possible today.

Working in unfathomably complicated and unpredictable combination, 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. 

These are what make it possible for us to do our job. You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like on your system and in your room. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record will be yours to enjoy for as long as you live. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Through The Past Darkly – Reviewed in 2010

xxxxx

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

This is a Decca In The Box Blue Label LP with EXCELLENT SOUND! Some of the tracks here sound WONDERFUL, but even more surprisingly, none of them sound bad the way so many Stones compilations often do. Virtually nowhere on this record can you find shrill, thin, edgy, typical compilation Stones sound. Playing songs like ‘She’s a Rainbow’ or ‘Dandelion’ on this album is so refreshing and enjoyable because they really sound the way you want to hear those songs. They have that rich and sweet analog quality that’s usually lost on later and/or digital versions.

The best sounding tracks on side one are track two; track three (silky vocals and deep bass); track five (big sound — a bit bright but ALIVE and tons of fun); and track six.

The best sounding tracks on side two are track two (as good as it gets); track four (the same); and track six, with plenty of cowbell. Side two is characterized by perfect top to bottom tonality and lots of energy.

“The U.K. version of this album was a bit odder yet more rewarding than its American counterpart. Apart from the superior sound, the major difference lies in the range of songs…” – AMG (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

xxxxx

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

This White Hot Stamper pressing (on BOTH sides!) contains one of my favorite performances of the Classical Symphony, and it also carries the distinction of having the best combination of sonics and performance that we have ever heard on vinyl. (There is a recording by Previn and the LA Phil from 1986 with a performance To Die For; unfortunately it comes with the kind of mid-’80s tear-your-head-off-digital shrillness that makes the CD medium the worn out joke we analog lovers know it to be.) 

The First Symphony happens to be one of my favorite classical works of all time, right up there with The Planets and Pictures at an Exhibition. I wouldn’t want to go to a desert island without all three.

This WHS pressing has exceptional transparency and dynamics, allowing the energy and precision of the performance to shine through. Truly a sublime recording that belongs in any music collection, whether you’re a fan of classical music or not.

If I had to choose one piece of classical music that I would never want to live without, it would have to be the Prokofiev’s First Symphony found on this very side one. It’s a work of such joy that I’ve never failed to be uplifted by it — except when the performance is too slow, which it often is.

This is a difficult piece to pull off. Most of the time either the orchestra is not up to the task or the conductor misunderstands the work. Previn has a spritely take on the piece, which is precisely what it needs and, every bit as important, the London Symphony has the chops to bring his vision to life.

What to Listen for

The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label to the extent that they did back the day. I chock it up, as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles make about the sound of records, to limited equipment, bad rooms and poor record cleaning (not to mention underdeveloped critical listening skills. Woops, I guess I just mentioned them.).

If you had Old School vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I had an Audio Research D-75a and later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record would not be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing the record on a much more revealing modern system.

Which is the only kind of system that can tell you what’s really on the record. That’s the kind of stereo we need to do our job; you, of course, have the option of hearing it any way you like on your system. Here is what we heard on this copy. (more…)

Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets

xxxxx

  • KILLER sound from start to finish for this Island import pressing with both sides finishing top of the class — Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The sound here is clean, clear, present and dynamic yet still super rich and musical with lots of Tubey Magic
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on both sides
  • 5 stars on Allmusic: “Eno’s solo debut, Here Come the Warm Jets, is a spirited, experimental collection of unabashed pop songs… Avant-garde yet very accessible, Here Come the Warm Jets still sounds exciting, forward-looking, and densely detailed, revealing more intricacies with every play.”

A great pressing of one of our favorite albums! These are not easy to come by, so we don’t get to shoot these out as often as we’d like. This is not your typical audiophile-friendly rock album, to be sure. There are lots of weird sounds, out-of-tune instruments and other Eno craziness. We’re big Eno fans here — Taking Tiger Mountain and Before And After Science are other big favorites here. If you’ve got a taste for avant-garde art rock, this album should be right up your alley. (more…)

Traffic – Mr. Fantasy

xxxxx

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

This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best.

We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG.

Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault.

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

Arnold / English, Scottish and Cornish Dances

xxxxx

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

This SUPER RARE Lyrita-mastered title is a member of HP’s famous TAS Super Disc list. It includes Eight English Dances, Four Scottish Dances and Four Cornish Dances.

The sound is uncolored and natural, with a mid-hall perspective, and very little multi-miking to be heard, all to the good. 

  • The rare and highly regarded TAS List Heavyweight, Lyrita mastered as per HP’s preference
  • Full, spacious, with a HUGE hall and amazing clarity
  • Super Hot on both sides, you had better watch your levels – this copy is extremely dynamic
  • Quiet vinyl too, Mint Minus on both sides.

It’s extremely fast, dynamic and clear, in those respects very much like live music. The top end is right and the overall sound balanced.

The woodwinds on the second track of side two are especially lovely.

The Pentangle – Pentangling – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

xxxxx

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

STUNNING BRITISH FOLK SOUND! If you’re a fan of this kind of music, you will be bowled over by the sound on this Transatlantic pressing. The sound is full of that good ol’ British tubey analog magic that you just won’t find on any CD ever made. The top end is extended and silky sweet, and the soundfield is big and open. The title track is DEMO DISC QUALITY.

The sound is full of that good ol’ British tubey analog magic that you just won’t find on any CD ever made. The top end is extended and silky sweet, and the soundfield big and open.

When I was selling audio equipment back in the ’70s this was one of our Demo Discs. The song Pentangling has beautifully recorded drums and string bass. Also the vocals are excellent. The first track, I’ve Got A Feeling, is lovely as well.

The true foundation of the music is provided by two legendary guitar heavyweights, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. With Jacqui McShee’s almost unbearably sweet vocals soaring above them, this album presents the classic 1969 lineup at its best, with superior sonics to boot. (more…)

The Moody Blues – Seventh Sojourn – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

xxxxx

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

This Super Hot Stamper side two was among THE BEST sounding side twos we’ve played. We did not find any copy with better sound on side two, and because no side of any copy really blew our minds, we did not award our Triple Plus grade to either side of any of them.

We had a bunch of British and Dutch imports to play, and we did hear some good sound, just not the kind of good sound we’ve heard on earlier albums. If you like this album we’re pretty sure you will have a hard time finding a copy that sounds even remotely this good. Most of them are much much worse. Dreadful in fact. (more…)