Records that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Neil Young – Time Fades Away

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  • A stunning vintage pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Front Row Center sound on both sides
  • A huge step up from every other copy we played in our shootout – full-bodied, smooth and musical, the classic sound of Neil Young at his performing peak
  • Never released on CD, this is one of the toughest Neil Young albums to find in the bins, especially with sound like this
  • 4 stars: “Time Fades Away ranks with the bravest and most painfully honest albums of his career — like the tequila Young was drinking on that tour, it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised by its powerful effects.”

Unlike most “live” albums this one was made direct to tape, with no fixes or overdubs, and on the best pressings that warts-and-all approach really pays off. There’s good weight, real openness, and the tonality on these better copies is both rich and sweet. This kind of sound can put you right in the front row.

Finding a copy like this is no walk in the park. The stamper numbers are all over the map, providing little if any guidance. Also, since the album didn’t sell all that well and was never released on CD, there just aren’t that many clean copies floating around. Complicating matters even further, the eight songs here were recorded at seven different shows, so the sound, of course, varies a bit from track to track. It took a long time and a lot of work to make sense of it all, but you Neil Young fanatics are going to get a thrill out of the sound on a Hot Stamper copy — guaranteed. (more…)

Jimi Hendrix – The Jimi Hendrix Concerts

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  • A very good copy of this great Hendrix double live album, full of great songs and Hot Stamper sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides
  • A great sounding live Hendrix album with outstanding material (most of his best tunes – check the track list!)
  • 4 stars: “With top-notch performances, consistently inspired solos, and excellent sound, this is probably the best introduction to Hendrix’s live recordings.”

This live album, taken from concerts recorded from 1968 to 1970, is wonderful sounding on the best tracks. If you’re in the market for live Hendrix on a Hot Stamper, you’ll be hard-pressed to do any better.

The bass on this recording is huge, which is exactly what this kind of music needs most. At the levels we were playing this album, it really came to life. That’s the true test of a good live rock record — the louder you play it the better it sounds!

Stephen Cook writes “With top-notch performances, consistently inspired solos, and excellent sound, this is probably the best introduction to Hendrix’s live recordings.” We agree on all three points completely — but only when you hear it on the right pressing. 

Sonically, this recording has the key elements that a good live album needs: correct tonality, powerful dynamics, and Rock and Roll ENERGY. (more…)

Caldera – Carnavalito! Louder Is Better

Records You Can Buy that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Carnavalito is a track that really comes ALIVE when you Crank Up the Volume. I played it FULL BLAST on two different occasions for audiophile friends of mine just to show them what happens when a Big Speaker Stereo meets a Large Scale Recording with absolutely AMAZING audiophile quality sound — BIG and BOLD, wall to wall and then some!

It’s my favorite track not only for the album as a whole but for the band’s entire recorded output. It just doesn’t get any better than this if you have the system for it.

Hearing the megawatt energy in the section when the soprano saxophonist jumps in, right into an ongoing orgy of wild percussion, who then proceeds to blow his brains out — now that is a thrill beyond belief. Played REALLY LOUD it’s about the closest to The Real Thing, the Live Event, that you will ever hear in your living room. (Unless you have a very large living room and lots of latin jazz musician friends.)

Even a year ago there was no way I could get that music to play that LOUD, that CLEANLY, and that tonally CORRECT, from the deepest bass to the highest highs, with the wild swings in dynamics that the recording captures so well. The Audio Revolution Is Alive and Well and making progress all the time. It’s never too late to join in the fun.

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Whomp Factor on Little Queen – Testing with Love Alive – Parts One and Two

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Heart’s Little Queen has long been a favorite Test Disc. It works especially well as a test for something we here at Better Records like to call Whomp — the energy found at the low end of the frequency spectrum. Some call it slam, we prefer whomp.

The commentary is here to help guide you as you make changes to your system, insuring that you end up with more whomp without sacrificing equally important qualities found in the midrange and top end of your system.

Reality Check Parts One and Two

Take the song Love Alive.

The beginning section is chock full of lovely and quite subtle details (such as the autoharp and tabla) that seem to lose their magic on most systems. The autoharp is rich and chimey, and the tabla has some real low end extension. The recorders and flutes that join them are breathy and sweet, while the acoustic guitars heard throughout display all the tubey-magical harmonic richness found on our favorite Hot Stamper recordings, from the Eagles first album to Teaser and the Firecat. These qualities easily get lost in the sauce if you’re listening to the average copy, or the typical audiophile stereo. That’s Part One of the test — the opening. (more…)

Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

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  • This early Black Label Shootout Winning pressing boasts stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • The only real rock album this band ever made actually ROCKS on this pressing, and that’s what makes listening to vinyl of the highest quality FUN
  • Only 8 tracks (so the band can stretch out). and every one is guaranteed to sound better than you have ever heard it
  • 5 stars: “Smart, conflicted bands from Weezer to the Eels owe Steely Dan big time… because on Countdown to Ecstasy, the band was human, not just brainy. Like Exile on Main Street, this is a record where Steely Dan let slip their extraordinary mask of sarcasm, and could not disguise the joy in these excellent songs, or the fact that they were having a blast playing them.”

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The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta

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  • This import pressing is a monster, with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them, and playing about as quietly as these imports ever do
  • Forget the domestic pressings, forget the Nautilus half-speed, forget whatever lame reissues have come or will come down the pike — if you want to hear this album right, a Hot Stamper import pressing is the only way to go
  • This album is an absolute classic — it leads off with Don’t Stand So Close To Me and never lets up
  • 5 Stars: “Zenyatta contains perhaps the quintessential new wave anthem, the haunting ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’… Zenyatta Mondatta remains one of the finest rock albums of all time.”

Finally, a killer copy of Zenyatta Mondatta worthy of the White Hot Stamper designation!

It is brutally difficult to find great copies of this album, which explains why only a handful have gone up since 2006. And given our expanded resources and refined shootout process, not to mention the expertise we’ve gained in the thousands of hours of listening we’ve done since that time, I have to believe that this is one of the best sounding copies we’ve ever found. Police fans, this is the ONE.

This copy was doing pretty much everything we wanted. The vocals are present, the bass is well-defined, the guitars have harmonic texture, and the drums are punchy and lively. I don’t think you could find a better sounding version of this album no matter how hard you tried.

As for the music, the album is an absolute classic — it leads off with Don’t Stand So Close To Me and never lets up. (more…)

Bad Company – Straight Shooter

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  • This outstanding pressing of Straight Shooter boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • If you’re playing this one good and loud you’ll feel like you’re in the room with the boys as they kick out these classic riff-driven jams
  • Take it from us, it is not easy to find a copy that’s as right as this one, with the weight, balance and energy this music needs to rock
  • 4 stars: “Vocalist and songwriter Paul Rodgers wrote two acoustic-based rock ballads that would live on forever in the annals of great rock history: ‘Shooting Star’ and the Grammy-winning ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love.'”

The sophomore jinx is nowhere to be found on this album. In fact, you could make a pretty good case that this is actually a better album than their debut. The best pressings of this Bad Company classic have ROCK ENERGY that cannot be beat. (more…)

U2 – The Joshua Tree

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  • An outstanding pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big and rich, with correct tonality from top to bottom, strong bass and plenty of space – this copy sounded just right to us
  • Stunning sound for the album’s biggest hits, including With Or Without You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and Where the Streets Have No Name
  • 5 stars: “With the uniformly excellent songs… the result is a powerful, uncompromising record that became a hit due to its vision and its melody. Never before have U2’s big messages sounded so direct and personal”

The soundstage is huge, and the overall quality of the recording is big and bold. Most copies of this album are either thin, shrill and aggressive — like most U2 albums — or thick and veiled. This one is smooth and natural sounding, with the added benefit of some deep punchy bass! (more…)

Kansas – Leftoverture

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  • Just the second Triple Triple (A+++) Shootout Winning copy to hit the site since 2011 – this copy is a KNOCKOUT
  • Both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) with real Prog Rock Energy and a huge punchy bottom end
  • Carry On My Wayward Son on this Triple Plus side one is guaranteed to blow your mind – the spaciousness and the amount of bass on this side are off the charts
  • “Undoubtedly their finest album, Leftoverture warrants Kansas a spot right alongside Boston and Styx as one of the fresh new American bands who combine hard-driving group instrumentation with short, tight melody lines…” Rolling Stone

Clearly Kansas’s most consistent and engaging album, their true masterpiece by our lights, a copy as good as this will show you the awesome ENERGY the band brought to their music.

On the hottest of our Hot Stampers the recording is a glorious example of the Big Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Wall to wall and floor to ceiling barely begins to do it justice. Like so many of the great rock recordings we offer, when you play one of our Hot Stampers the sound commands your attention. (more…)

Ringo Starr – Ringo

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  • A KILLER copy with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades for sound and pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl
  • Another Richard Perry production that sounds great – big and rich – thanks to excellent engineering skills of Bill Schnee, who you may remember from the credits of some of Sheffield’s better direct to disc recordings
  • The big hits are here and they sound fantastic: Photograph, You’re Sixteen, Oh My My and many, many more
  • “Ringo’s best and most consistent new studio album, Ringo represented both the drummer/singer’s most dramatic comeback and his commercial peak.”

Like Nilsson Schmilsson – an amazing Richard Perry production with much the same amazing sound – the bad copies are really just awful — veiled, smeary, compressed, rolled off up top and leaned out down low. It’s a big studio pop production with a lot going on; when it doesn’t work it really doesn’t work. Thankfully, on some copies it does, and this is one of those.

If you’ve tried killer Hot Stamper pressings of any of our favorite Richard Perry productions — No Secrets, Nilsson Schmilsson, Son of Schmilsson and Breakaway come to mind — you know the sound of this album.

Bill Schnee did some of the engineering. You probably know his name from the famous Sheffield Direct to Disc recordings he made there. If you like your records will lots of bottom end, richness, Tubey Magic and powerful dynamics, he’s the guy that can get that sound on tape, and Doug Sax, the mastering engineer for the album, is the guy that can get that sound onto disc. They made a great team. (more…)