Moderately Helpful Title-Specific Advice

The Original Pressings of Beatles Albums Are the Best, Right?

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Beatles Available Now

Records that Sound Better on the Right Reissue

(excluding The Beatles)

beatles help label

Nope. We think it’s just another Record Myth.

Back in 2005 we compared the MFSL pressing of Help to a British Parlophone LP and were — mistakenly, as you may have already surmised — impressed by the MoFi.

Mobile Fidelity did a GREAT JOB with Help!. Help! is a famously dull sounding record. I don’t know of a single original pressing that has the top end mastered properly. Mobile Fidelity restored the highs that are missing from most copies.

The source of the error in our commentary above is in this sentence, see if you can spot it:

I don’t know of a single original pressing that has the top end mastered properly.

Did you figure it out? If you’ve spent much time on our site of course you did.

Original pressing?

Is that the standard?

Why?

Who said so? Where is it written?

Cut It Right

The domestic original Capitol pressings are awful and the original British import pressings of Help NEVER have any real top end. The Yellow and Black Parlophone pressings have many wonderful qualities, Tubey Magic for days being one of the most pleasurable, but frequency extension up top is not among them. Neither is tight, articulate bass. The old tube cutting systems just didn’t have what it takes to cut the highs and lows well.

The middle may be glorious, but the rest of the frequency spectrum is a mess.

Stop the Presses

In 2021 we found an exception to that rule.

And here is the one record we have always preferred on the Yellow and Black label.

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What We Think We Know about Pink Floyd’s Amazing Wish You Were Here Album from 1975

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Wish You Were Here

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We have added some moderately helpful Title Specific advice at the bottom of the listing for those of you want to find your own Hot Stamper pressing.

This is the perfect example of everything we look for in a recording here at Better Records: it’s dynamic, present, transparent, rich, full-bodied, super low-distortion, sweet — good copies of this record have exactly what we need to make us audiophiles forget what our stereos are doing and focus instead on what the musicians are doing.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the album, Pink Floyd managed to record one of the most amazing sounding records in the history of rock music. The song Wish You Were Here starts out with radio noise and other sound effects, then suddenly an acoustic guitar appears, floating in the middle of your living room between the speakers, clear as a bell and as real as you have ever heard. It’s obviously an “effect,” but for us audiophiles it’s pure ear candy.   

The Seventies – What a Decade!

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Yes and far too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

Big Production Tubey Magical British Prog Rock just doesn’t get much better than Wish You Were Here.

A Big Speaker Record

Let’s face it, 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 if you play it at moderate levels.

This is also the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Systems driving Big Dynamic Speakers. You need a lot of piston area to bring the dynamics of this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.

For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so.) To tell you the truth, the Big Sound is the only sound that I can enjoy. Anything less is just not for me.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.

Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean British original copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of original pressings of Classic Rock albums.

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience. (more…)

Doc Watson – Home Again

More Doc Watson

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Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Here is the in-the-room performance intimacy that will surely bring Doc’s music to life in a way you’ve never heard before
  • If you own the veiled, opaque, recessed, ambience-challenged Cisco remaster, you are in for a treat – our Hot Stamper is none of those things!
  • “[H]is most affecting folk-style record, with unexpectedly warm vocals matched to the quiet virtuosity of his playing. [The album] features Watson performing lively, achingly beautiful renditions of popular folk standards. All are played with very imposing dexterity by Watson, joined by his son Merle and Russ Savakus on upright bass.

This vintage Vanguard stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, tubey sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). (more…)

Country Joe and The Fish / I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin-To-Die – This Reissue Wins Our Shootouts

More Country Joe & The Fish

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it – As Good As It Gets in our experience – on both sides of this copy of the band’s sophomore release
  • The best pressings with this label (you’ll find out when the record arrives!) are the biggest, most open, most clear, and the least compressed, which makes them especially energetic and fun
  • Finding clean copies of Country Joe’s albums is no walk in the park, but here’s one, and it sounds great too
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Country Joe & the Fish’s second album, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die”, is quite similar to their first in its organ-heavy psychedelia with Eastern-influenced melodic lines…”

Some copies we played had more Tubey Magical sound, but that quality comes at a price. Those pressings tend to be crude, with gritty vocals and a noticeable lack of transparency and space.

In other words, they sound pretty much like an old record.

This pressing, on the other hand, gives you much more of what sounds to me like the Master Tape, with less of the bad mastering equipment and bad vinyl coming between you and the music.

We have added some moderately helpful Title Specific advice at the bottom of the listing for those of you want to find your own Hot Stamper pressing

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The Yes Album – What a Recording!

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Yes Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Yes Album

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At its best, this album is a Big Speaker Prog-Rock opus with tremendous power and dynamic range, but it takes a special pressing like this one to really bring it to life. 

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it.

With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers!

Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head. (more…)

Pink Floyd / Animals – About Ten Years Ago We Discovered the Hottest Stampers of Them All

More Pink Floyd

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

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More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

  • An outstanding vintage UK copy with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too (for the most part)
  • The best sounding pressing are British reissues, a discovery we made about ten years ago — nothing can touch them
  • For those who appreciate the concept, nothing we have played to date can touch them, but tomorrow we could find a stamper with even better sound – who can say what tomorrow may bring?
  • Forget the dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl and the domestic pressings too – only these Brits have the Tubey Magical Midrange that this Pink Floyd album needs
  • “Of all of the classic-era Pink Floyd albums, Animals is the strangest and darkest, a record that’s hard to initially embrace yet winds up yielding as many rewards as its equally nihilistic successor, The Wall. Animals is all extended pieces, yet it never drifts — it slowly, ominously works its way toward its destination. For an album that so clearly is Waters’, David Gilmour’s guitar dominates thoroughly …it surges with bold blues-rock guitar lines and hypnotic space rock textures.”

As of 2021, Animals sounds better to us this way:

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

On the Right Import Pressing 

On the Right Reissue Pressing

If you are interested, click on the link below for:

More Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice (more…)

Mike Oldfield / Tubular Bells – A Record We May Never Shootout Again

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to do another shootout for them. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.

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  • This British Virgin LP has an incredible Triple Plus (A+++) side one backed with an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The space, the richness and the clarity all combine to make this a powerful listening experience
  • It’s incredibly hard to find good sounding copies of this record – this is only the second White Hot copy to hit the site in a long time
  • “Mike Oldfield’s groundbreaking album Tubular Bells is arguably the finest conglomeration of off-centered instruments concerted together to form a single, unique piece. A variety of instruments are combined to create an excitable multitude of rhythms, tones, pitches, and harmonies that all fuse neatly into each other, resulting in an astounding plethora of music.”

These sides sounds good from top to bottom — the top end extension brings out the harmonics in the bells, and the deep bass really brings the organ to life. Many copies are smeary and veiled, but this one has no such problems.

There is a lot going on here, and unless you have a clear and transparent copy like this one it just turns into a mess. This one has all the presence and space required to bring this music to life, with no attendant sacrifice in richness or Tubey Magic.

What makes this copy better than the others we played? An extended top end; spaciousness and transparency; richness and fullness, and so much more.

Many copies were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two excellent sides such as these. (more…)

Traffic – The Best of Traffic

More Steve Winwood

More Traffic

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or those who wish to find their own Hot Stamper pressings of the album, we say more power to you. Our helpful advice can be found at the bottom of the listing,

  • Best of Traffic finally returns to the site with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on this Pink Label Island pressing – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows and clear, open, extended highs that let this 1969 release come alive
  • This amazing compilation boasts superb sound, often better than the very same tracks on many of the original British releases
  • Top 100 and 4 stars: “The entire second side of the LP, comprising ‘Medicated Goo,’ ‘Forty Thousand Headmen,’ ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ ‘Shanghai Noodle Factory,’ and ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy,’ was the kind of progressive rock that would define Traffic and give it its place in the rock pantheon.”

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Elvis Presley / Elvis Is Back! – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

More Elvis Presley

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For those who wish to find their own Hot Stamper pressings of the album, we say more power to you. Our helpful advice can be found at the bottom of the listing,

What a great Elvis album. Fever is the killer jam on the first side and the material throughout is of very high quality.

Finding clean real Elvis records — not those crappy compilations and vault-leftovers, but real Elvis albums from his golden period when he was the true King of Pop (sorry Michael) — has never been a walk in the park. We do the best we can.

Fortunately there are some reissues from the ’60s and ’70s that have the potential for excellent sound. This is no doubt one of them. The originals we see are pretty much a lost cause; they’re practically always scratched and full of groove damage. We’d be lucky to find one clean one every five years. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Meddle

More Meddle

More Pink Floyd

More Recordings by Robin Black

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Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • An outstanding British copy of this shockingly well recorded album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • These sides have presence, size and space we guarantee you have never heard on this album in all your born days
  • An audiophile Demonstration Quality Recording on a par with Dark Side of the Moon, which is really saying something!
  • A mark plays during the opening “pinging” on side two, but find me a good sounding copy with a quiet intro for side two and I will eat it
  • 4 1/2 stars:”Pink Floyd were nothing if not masters of texture, and Meddle is one of their greatest excursions into little details, pointing the way to the measured brilliance of Dark Side of the Moon and the entire Roger Waters era.”

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