Records that Sound Best on the Right Reissue Pressing

David Bowie – Pin-Ups

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

  • A stunning copy of this Classic Bowie album from 1973 with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides have phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic, thanks to the engineering of Ken Scott
  • The bottom end is huge, as would be expected from anything Ken recorded, and if you don’t believe me, check out Baby You’re a Rich Man off MMT
  • A really fun listen, with Bowie running through covers of his favorite Sixties hits in true Demo Disc sound
  • Turns out he’s a great interpreter, turning in passionate versions of songs by The Who, Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds and more

The music on this album is wonderful. Bowie puts a unique spin on tracks originally played by The Who, The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd and other British rockers. It’s a fun, intriguing album that stands up well to repeated plays. Bryan Ferry did the same thing in 1973 with some of his favorite pop songs. Oddly enough both albums entered the charts on the very same day in November of that year.

The sound is lively and full-bodied with nice transparency throughout. Bowie’s voice sounds correct and the bottom end is huge, as would be expected from anything Ken Scott recorded, and if you don’t believe me check out Baby You’re a Rich Man off MMT.

The bass here is deep and not nearly as sloppy as on most copies. Listen to the vocals, which sound just right and have lots of texture to them. The harmonica on I Wish You Would is AMAZING. When has a harmonica ever sounded so rich and full? You’ll also want to check out the sax solo on Sorrow, which just plain ROCKS.

So what were some of the worst copies we heard? One was a British Original, believe it or not. They tend to be dull, thick, and lifeless — not a good match for this punky, energetic material. There are some very good sounding Brit originals but, having said that, to date they have never won a shootout.

On the other side, many of the other copies we heard were bright and grainy. It’s tough to find a copy that strikes the right balance, but this copy sure did. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Benefit

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  • A superb copy of the band’s third studio album, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound is big and rich, yet still wonderfully clean, clear and open with fantastic energy – you will not believe all the space and ambiance here
  • Huge, rich, tubey and solid, the best track on the album – To Cry You a Song – rocks like you will not believe
  • “Benefit forms the perfect bridge between the rolling, tumbling Tull of old and the tightly braided riffs and prickly lyrics presented by Aqualung.” Record Collector

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Roy Orbison – Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits

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

You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this Monument stereo pressing. The amazingly talented Bill Porter recorded many of Orbison’s classic songs from the early ’60s that are found on this compilation. Only a copy this good shows you how phenomenal these timeless songs can sound – rich, open, clear, solid and musical.

If you think that buying original pressings of an album like this one is the way to find the best sound, you are sorely mistaken. The originals and most reissues on the Monument label are mostly dreadful sounding.

The monos sound bad and the originals sound bad, which means that all the conventional wisdom of record collectors and audiophiles alike has failed to produce the desired result: a good sounding pressing of the album. What’s a mother to do?

Well, you could do what we did: try them all! If you keep at it long enough eventually you will run into the right pressing, and then you can focus on getting a large enough batch which will allow you to find one that sounds great and plays quietly.

Or you could just buy this one. We already did all that other stuff and this is the pressing that resulted from our labors. (more…)

Is the Original Better? Not on this Supertramp Album It Ain’t

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This is an older listing that illustrates how We Was Wrong when we thought the best domestic copies were not competitive with the A&M Half-Speed or better British pressings.

We touch on other much-loved themes in this commentary, such as the myth that the original pressing is going to be better than a reissue or later stamper. On this album that is definitely not the case.

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including an A+++ SIDE ONE! It’s not the A&M Half Speed, and it’s not a British pressing either. It’s domestic folks, your standard plain-as-day A&M pressing, and we’re as shocked as you are. Hearing this copy (as well as an amazing Brit; they can be every bit as good, in their own way of course) was a THRILL, a thrill that’s a step up in “thrillingness” over our previous favorite pressing, the Half Speed.
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Originals vs. Reissues

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The letter below sheds some light on a vitally important mastering issue: specifically the answer to the question, Which are better sounding, originals or reissues? The letter finishes this way.

Incidentally, just a couple of days ago I conducted my own shootout between the Red Label “Mingus Ah Um” I bought from you a few weeks back and my pristine, Six Eye White Label Promo original. To my surprise, you were absolutely right about the greater clarity of the former (starting with the snare drum on the first track).

If I had to choose between them when selecting half a dozen “desert island” LPs (and “Mingus Ah Um” would definitely be one), the Red Label version would be the pick. Much obliged for the edification.

We of course could not agree more. We wrote back:

Once you hear the sound of “old school mastering” and get to know it, you can recognize it for what it does right and what it too often does wrong. Then, and only then, can you appreciate what is really happening when switching from newer to older pressings, what is being gained and what is being lost. It’s the kind of Home Audio Exercise we constantly talk about on the site. And there’s a good reason for that.

As we never tire of saying, hearing is surely believing. (more…)

Sibelius / Finlandia / Mackerras – Reviewed in 2015

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A shocking Stereo Treasury sleeper with a superb Shaded-Dog-beating side one. Side one is nearly White Hot – it’s exceptionally transparent and dynamic. Real Demo Disc sound and music on side one – spectacular works played with feeling.

This is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The 1960 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1970, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.

One of the quietest pressings we played in our shootout, if not the quietest.

Side One

More spacious than practically any other copy we heard thanks to an extended, correct top end.

This side was also very dynamic, and it gets loud in the right way, never harsh or screechy.

Correct from top to bottom, and there are not many records we can say that about. So natural in every way.

The brass is HUGE and POWERFUL on this side. Not many recordings capture the brass this well. (Ansermet on London comes to mind of course but many of his performances leave much to be desired. Here Mackerras is on top of his game with performances that are definitive.)

The brass is big and clear and weighty, just the way it should be, as that is precisely the sound you hear in the concert hall, especially that part about being clear: live music is more than anything else completely clear. We should all strive for that sound in our reproduction of orchestral music.

Side Two

Good clarity and top extension, with full-bodied, textured strings. Gets a little hot at its loudest but manages to stay under control and enjoyable throughout.

The opening track on side two, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, is one of my favorite pieces of orchestral music. Mackerras and the London Proms make it magical.

Two Things

You can be pretty sure of two things when you hear a record of this quality: one, the original probably won’t sound as good, likely having been cut on cruder equipment.

And two, no modern recutting of the tapes (by the likes of Speakers Corner for example, but you can substitute any company you care to name) could begin to capture this kind of naturalistic orchestral sound.

I have never heard a Heavy Vinyl pressing begin to do what this record is doing. The Decca we have here may be a budget reissue pressing, but it was mastered by real Decca engineers (a few different ones in fact), pressed in England on high quality vinyl, and made from fairly fresh tapes (nine years old, not fifty years old!), then mastered about as well as a record can be mastered.

The sound is, above all, REAL and BELIEVABLE.

The brass has weight, the top extends beautifully for those glorious cymbal crashes, the hall is huge and the staging very three-dimensional — there is little to fault in the sound on either side. (more…)

Count Basie – Basie Plays Hefti – Original Versus Reissue

The original pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. It’s (probably) just another Record Myth.

Basie was recording like a madman back in the late ’50s and even all through the ’60s. In 1958, the year of this release, he put out seven (7!) albums on the Roulette label. We’ve played quite a number of them over the years and found relatively few with audiophile quality sound.

Including the original Roulette pressing of this very title. We’ve only heard a few, and had only one for our shootout, but it was awful enough to make us swear off buying more, especially considering the prices vintage jazz albums are going for these days.

Hard and sour brass, no real top or bottom, it’s the sound of a poorly mastered Old Jazz Record, fine for the consoles of the day, not so good on today’s advanced stereo systems. Emus seems to be the only way to go.

Don’t buy into that record collecting / audiophile canard that the originals are better. (more…)

Benny Carter – Swingin’ the ’20s

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  • With superb sides rating Double Plus (A++) or BETTER, this Contemporary pressing was one of the best we played in our shootout
  • These excellent sides are so much bigger and more open, with more bass and energy – the saxes and trumpets are immediate and lively
  • Mr. Earl Hines himself showed up, a man who knows this music like nobody’s business – Leroy Vinnegar and Shelly Manne round out the quartet
  • “Great musicians produce great results, and most of the LP’s tracks were done in one or two takes. The result is ‘a spontaneous, swinging record of what happened’ when Carter met Hines ‘for the first time. . . .'”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1959 All Tube Analog recording can sound, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

David Bowie – Diamond Dogs

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – this UK pressing will show you a Diamond Dogs you had no idea existed, yet here it is
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout (especially on the first side) – the sound is big, full, lively and spacious with hard-rockin’ energy to spare
  • It’s ridiculously tough to find even passable sound for this album – we guarantee you’ll be blown away by this pressing
  • Great songs including the title track, Rebel Rebel, 1984, Sweet Thing, Big Brother, Rock & Roll With Me and more

The sound on this UK pressing is Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and spacious — you’ll need a lot of luck and a good-sized pile of records to find a copy that sounds like this one.

1984 (a favorite of ours on David Live) sounds great here. In addition to singing, the man handles sax, Mellotron, and Moog duties on the album, and, most surprisingly, plays practically all of the electric guitar parts.

Bowie easily qualifies as one of the handful of artists to produce an immensely enjoyable and meaningful body of work throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s, music that holds up to this day. The music on his albums, so multi-faceted and multi-layered, will surely reward the listener who takes the time to dive deep into the complex sounds he recorded.

Repeated plays are the order of the day. The more critically you listen, the more you will discover within the exceedingly dense mixes favored by the man, his producers (Tony Visconti among them) and engineers (our favorite being Ken Scott). And the better your stereo gets the more you can appreciate the care and effort that went into the production of his recordings. (more…)

The Three – The Three

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  • A true Demo Disc of this wonderful recording, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
  • My favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
  • 4 Stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio

If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), these 33 RPM pressings are the best way to go. The music is so good that I personally would not want to live with less than the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later). (more…)