Records that Sound Best Like This

Milt Jackson & Wes Montgomery / Bags Meets Wes!

More Wes Montgomery

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

These two guys were made for each other; they have the same musical sensibilities.

Credit must also go to Wynton Kelly; his every solo is a thing of beauty. The three principals here are at the tops of their games and the sound will have you drooling. Good luck finding a more involving and enjoyable jazz record with this kind of sound — they just aren’t out there. That’s why, even with some surface problems, we think you are getting your money’s worth and more with this one.

If you’re a jazz fan, this Must Own Title from 1962 belongs in your collection

The complete list of titles from 1962 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.


This is an Older Jazz Review.

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Helpful Advice on Cleaning Your Records

Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

What We’ve Learned from Record Experiments 

James Taylor – Self-Titled

More James Taylor

More Debut Recordings of Interest

  • An early UK Apple pressing of James Taylor’s debut LP with excellent sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Big, rich and solid on both sides, with a more relaxed, musical quality, as well as the clarity that was missing from most other copies we played
  • Listen for Paul McCartney on bass and an uncredited George Harrison providing backing vocals on “Carolina In My Mind”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The absolute conviction that runs throughout this music takes the listener into its confidence and with equal measures of wit, candor, and sophistication, James Taylor created a minor masterpiece…”

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The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street

  • This is Exile raw and real the way it should be – full-bodied and punchy with great vocal presence and plenty of grungy rock and roll energy
  • 5 stars: “Few other albums, let alone double albums, have been so rich and masterful as Exile on Main St., and it stands not only as one of the Stones’ best records, but sets a remarkably high standard for all of hard rock.”
  • If you’re a Classic Rock fan, this Must Own Classic from 1972 surely belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

All four sides here have the kind of bass, energy, and presence that is essential for this music to rock the way it wants to. A copy like this conveys the emotional power of The Stones’ performances in a way that most pressings simply fail to do.

This shootout is always a struggle, an uphill battle all the way. You’d have to find, clean and play a ton of copies to come up with four sides that can do this music justice. We’re sure that Stones fans and Hot Stamper die-hards are going to be very pleased with this copy.

This vintage Artisan mastered pressing (the only ones that have any hope of sounding good) 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…)

Rush – A Farewell To Kings

More Rush

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than anything else around, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an unsuspecting record buying public
  • 4 stars: “On 1977’s A Farewell to Kings it quickly becomes apparent that Rush had improved their songwriting and strengthened their focus and musical approach… [it] successfully built on the promise of their breakthrough 2112, and helped broaden Rush’s audience on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.”

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Simply Red – The Best Import Pressings Have Explosive Dynamics

More of the Music of Simply Red

More Debut Albums of Interest

I actually used to demonstrate my stereo with “Sad Old Red.” At one point the sound really explodes, an effect which has always had a strong appeal for me. That’s what live music does and that’s what I want my stereo to do.

For thirty [now 45+] years I’ve avoided little boxes and screens and gone straight for the big dynamic speaker systems that can really show you the life that’s hiding in your recordings.

That’s what the Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary is all about — unlocking all the energy and excitement that a good LP has to offer.

Holding Back the Years” also boasts superb sound. It may be the best track the band ever recorded, and it’s probably the one most everyone knows, but there are many here that are nearly as good. The cover of The Talking Heads’ “Heaven” (from Fear of Music) is out of this world.

I still remember standing in a record store — I think it was Tower; I lived in San Diego at the time and went there often — when I heard a song I could not quite place. Eventually I realized it was “Heaven” from Fear of Music, but it wasn’t The Talking Heads singing it.

I bought the album, one I knew next to nothing about, on the spot. Any band that wants to cover The Talking Heads is a band with taste, and once I got the album home I knew this band had plenty of talent too.

This is a BIG SPEAKER recording. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It demands to be played LOUD. It simply cannot come to life the way the producers, engineers and artists involved intended for it to if you play it at moderate levels.

For the longest time our motto has been “Records for Audiophiles, Not Audiophile Records,” and we see no reason to change it.  If anything, the current spate of manufacturers of Heavy Vinyl pressings are making records that get worse sounding by the day. Many of the most egregious offenders can be found here.

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Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love

More Kate Bush

More Art Rock

  • An original UK import pressing with seriously good sound from start to finish
  • Guaranteed to be a huge improvement over anything you’ve heard, this Brit is big, lively, and full-bodied with excellent presence – Kate’s wonderfully breathy vocals really soar
  • The domestic pressings are clearly made from dubs and should have no business taking up space in any serious audiophile record collection (but you may have noticed that we have a habit of saying that about a lot of records)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…from the minutiae of each song to the broad sweeping arc of the two suites, all heavily ornamented with layered instrumentation, makes this record wonderfully overpowering as a piece of pop music.”
  • If you’re a fan of the Ms Bush, her Magnum Opus from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Jeff Beck – Truth

More Jeff Beck

More Rod Stewart

  • An excellent reissue LP with Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Easily – and by a wide margin – the best sounding record Jeff Beck ever made – thanks Ken Scott!
  • This pressing embodies the Big Rock Sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records (particularly on side two)
  • Really fun music – it’s a blast to hear Rod Stewart fronting such a heavy rock band
  • 5 stars: “…almost as groundbreaking and influential a record as the first Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Who albums.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


This is a SHOCKINGLY good sounding pressing of Truth, Beck’s As-Heavy-As-I-Can-Make-It Rock debut, the kind of record that would define Classic Rock for the next forty plus years.

The soundstage is absolutely HUGE, while the presence and transparency of this copy go way beyond most pressings. Great rock and roll energy too of course — without that you have nothing on this album.

Note how spacious, big, full-bodied and DYNAMIC both sides are. That’s why they’re Super Hot. I am pleased to report that the whomp factor on these sides was nothing short of MASSIVE. With tons of bass these sides have what it takes to make the music ROCK. (more…)

Bach / Suites for Solo Cello – Reviewed in 2010

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Classical Records on Mercury 

EXCELLENT CELLO REPRODUCTION and MOSTLY QUIET VINYL on side one, where you get Bach’s entire Suite No. 2 for Unaccompanied Cello. Side two has excellent sound as well but the vinyl is noisy so take this one at a bargain price and hear how wonderful a cello can sound when recorded and mastered for maximum effect, live in your listening room!

The sound of Starker’s cello here is HUMONGOUS — it’ll fill up your room, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. Click on the link to see other recordings with oversized images.

It’s also tonally correct from top to bottom, a quality we heard on none of the Mercury Heavy Vinyl Reissues, some of the worst sound we had heard from Speakers Corner up to that time, but very much in keeping with overly rich, overly smooth sound of the Heavy Vinyl records being made today. We despise that sound and want nothing to do with it.

Two Mercury recordings of Starker’s are currently on the TAS List, SR 90303 and SR 90392. I suppose we could order them up, audition them and list their many sonic shortcomings, since we do have nice copies of both albums in the backroom, just not enough to do a shootout, but there are so many other good pressings to play, why go out of way to play another second- or third-rate Heavy Vinyl pressing?

(By the way, we have a new link for audiophile pressings that are tonally correct but are wrong in other ways (as they usually are). You can assume that our Hot Stamper pressings are tonally correct for the most part, as correct tonality is fairly key to high quality sound. Not essential, but important nevertheless.

The cutting is super low distortion on this later label copy as well. This copy will show you why these Starker Mercury records are so highly prized.

Starker’s records are legendary for their sound, not to mention Starker’s way with this music. If anybody can make Bach’s solo cello pieces capture your interest, Starker can. (more…)

Led Zeppelin / Self-Titled

More Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin I

  • A truly excellent import of Zep’s amazing debut with outstanding sound from first note to last – quiet vinyl too
  • Arguably the biggest, clearest and most Tubey Magical Zeppelin album ever recorded, thanks to the engineering genius of Glyn Johns (and production genius of Jimmy Page, who paid for the whole thing out of his own pocket)
  • Just look at the track list – the lucky owner of this LP will be hearing those songs come to life like never before
  • The band’s first album is a permanent member of our Top 100 and a Big Speaker Demo Disc like you will not believe
  • 5 stars: “Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme… But the key to the group’s attack was subtlety: it wasn’t just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos.”

For the real Led Zep magic, you just can’t do much better than their debut — and here’s a copy that really shows you why. From the opening chords of “Good Times Bad Times” to the wild ending of “How Many More Times” (“times” start the album and end it, too, it seems) this copy will have you rockin’ out!

Both sides have THE BIG ZEP SOUND. Right from the start we noticed how clean the cymbals sounded and how well-defined the bass was, after hearing way too many copies with smeared cymbals and blubbery bass.

When you have a tight, punchy copy like this one, “Good Times Bad Times” does what it is supposed to do — it REALLY ROCKS! With this much life, it’s lightyears ahead of the typically dull, dead, boring copy. The drum sound is PERFECTION.

Drop the needle on “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” to hear how amazing Robert Plant’s voice sounds. It’s breathy and full-bodied with in-the-room presence. The overall sound is warm, rich, sweet, and very analog, with energy to spare. “Dazed and Confused” sounds JUST RIGHT — you’re gonna flip out over all the ambience!

Communication Breakdown is crazy good — the sound of Jimmy Page’s guitar during the solo is so good.

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Carly Simon – Anticipation

More Carly Simon

  • This outstanding early pressing boasts solid sound from start to finish
  • Produced by Mr. Paul Samwell-Smith and engineered by Mike Bobak, the same team that worked their magic on this classic, Anticipation blends Carly’s lilting vocals with lush, harmonically detailed acoustic guitars and BIG punchy drums
  • Brimming with favorites such as Anticipation, Legend In Your Own Time and I’ve Got To Have You, this is clearly one of her most consistent albums
  • “Carly Simon’s second album found her extending the gutsy persona she had established on her debut album… a frankly passionate person whose vulnerability was a source of strength, not weakness, a valuable feminist trait and one Simon would pursue in her later work.”

The acoustic guitars sound particularly good on this copy, with just the right balance of pluck and body. The vocals are breathy and full-bodied with extraordinary immediacy. The tonality from top to bottom is Right On The Money. I don’t think you could find a much better sounding copy of this album no matter how hard you tried. We went through plenty to find this one, I can tell you that.

The Big Sound We Love

Drop the needle on Legend In Your Own Time for some of the best sound and music on the album. The overall sound is open and transparent, with real depth to the soundfield and lots of separation between the instruments.

The one word that comes to mind is BIG — this record gives you The Big Sound that Carly was no doubt going for.

If Those Guitars Sound Familiar…

When you hear the incredibly lush, highly detailed acoustic guitars on this record, you won’t be surprised to find out that the album was produced by Mr. Paul Samwell-Smith, who handles the same duties on Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat. You’ll hear his signature sound all over this album, particularly on the track I’ve Got To Have You.

That’s not to say that we’d put this recording on the same level with those audiophile knockouts, but the richness and the sweetness of the midrange on the best copies is exactly what you’d expect from the team of Samwell-Smith and Carly Simon.

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