Records that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Styx – Pieces Of Eight

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  • A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • Here is the kind of sound we want on our ELP, Yes and Queen-like multi-layered Proggy Pop Rock – big, full-bodied and lively
  • 4 stars: “Styx’s feisty, straightforward brand of album rock is represented best by ‘Blue Collar Man,’ an invigorating keyboard and guitar rush… reaching number 21, with the frolicking romp of ‘Renegade’ edging in at number 16 only six months later… the rest of the album includes tracks that rekindle some of Styx’s early progressive rock sound, only cleaner. Tracks like ‘Sing for the Day,’ ‘Lords of the Ring,’ and ‘Aku-Aku’ all contain slightly more complex instrumental foundations…”

Who likes their Wall of Sound small and closed-in? Certainly not Big Speaker guys like us. By all accounts this band wanted their records to sound good, or at least as good as their contemporaries (and the bands that inspired them, name-checked above). There’s no shortage of production polish here and on the best pressings, the sound really works. (more…)

Tears For Fears – The Seeds Of Love

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  • A superb vintage UK copy of the band’s masterpiece, boasting Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard, and on this record that is saying a LOT
  • A tough record to find in audiophile playing condition – copies without audible marks were not easy to come by
  • The band’s Magnum Opus, a Colossal Production to rival the greatest Prog, Psych and Art Rock recordings of all time (Whew!)
  • 4 stars: “Thanks to the duo’s uncompromising stubbornness, expansive creative vision, and Dave Bascombe’s final production, The Seeds of Love has dated better than either of its predecessors and is inarguably Tears for Fears’ masterpiece.”

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The Who – Quadrophenia

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  • Quadrophenia is back! This superb early UK pressing has a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side four mated to three Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) others, which guarantees this copy is going to blow your mind
  • If you want to hear this music EXPLODE out of the speakers and come to life the way The Who wanted you to hear it. this record will do the trick
  • The sound here is so BIG, rich, and powerful it will surely make you rethink the recording itself
  • 5 stars: “Some of Townshend’s most direct, heartfelt writing is contained here, and production-wise it’s a tour de force, with some of the most imaginative use of synthesizers on a rock record.”

We recently removed this title from our Top 100 List because it has become so difficult to get hold of clean UK copies nowadays. Who’s Next is even more difficult, but for some reason we left that one on the list, go figure.

Our Current Rock & Pop Top 100 List

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George Michael – Faith

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  • Outstanding sound for this George Michael classic – both sides earned Double Plus (A++) sonic grades
  • The domestic pressings are a dubby joke next to these British originals – finally, here is the size, clarity and Tubey Magic you’ve always wanted this music to have
  • With six (6!) Top Ten hits, this album is chock full of brilliantly produced and passionately performed material
  • 5 stars: “A superbly crafted mainstream pop/rock masterpiece, Faith made George Michael an international solo star… All of it adds up to one of the finest pop albums of the ’80s, setting a high-water mark that Michael was only able to reach in isolated moments afterward.”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 10 light ticks during the intro to Track 1, Hard Day.

This vintage import Epic pressing 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…)

Elton John / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – A Heavy Vinyl Winner!

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Sonic Grade: B (or better)

[I think these are the labels for the copy we played, It came out around 2000-2005. It’s not Speakers Corner, Simply Vinyl or Back to Black. Those are labels best avoided in our experience.]

Hey, they really did a good job with this one. We are going to listen to it again at a later date to see if our initial impressions were correct [I guess by now it should be clear that we are never going to do that, sorry], but it sure sounded good to us when we played it recently during our big GYBR shootout. 

I’m guessing no domestic copy can beat it, and certainly no audiophile half-speed mastered pressing can hold a candle to it. Those records are pretty awful. (more…)

Richard & Linda Thompsonn – Shoot Out The Lights

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More Demo Discs for Bass

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  • You’ll find superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides of this copy of the Thompsons’ final album – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Without a doubt this is the best record Richard and Linda Thompson ever made – for sound and music
  • DYNAMIC, huge, lively, powerful and musical – a real Demo Disk – both sides here are guaranteed to rock your world
  • A Top 100 album, and clearly Thompson’s Masterpiece of Grungy Guitar Rock
  • 5 stars: “Shoot Out The Lights found them rallying their strengths to the bitter end; it’s often been cited as Richard Thompson’s greatest work, and it’s difficult for anyone who has heard his body of work to argue the point.”

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Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland

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  • An outstanding copy of Electric Ladyland with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides
  • Big, clear, tubey, sweet ANALOG sound – we played it good and loud and it was ROCKIN’!
  • Probably the best-recorded of Hendrix’s studio albums – huge studio space and Tubey Magical richness are key to the best sound
  • 5 stars: “…not only one of the best rock albums of the era, but also Hendrix’s original musical vision at its absolute apex.”

*NOTE: On side four, a mark makes 10 moderate to loud pops at the beginning of Track 1, Still Raining, Still Dreaming.

Some of Jimi’s best songs can be found here, including Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Child (Slight Return) and his incendiary cover of Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower. All four sides have truly killer sound, big and full-bodied with a MUCH better low end than you’ll find on most. You get enough energy and weight to make the rock songs really ROCK, and enough clarity and transparency to bring out the more spacey, psychedelic elements that Jimi and Eddie Kramer worked so hard on.

Ready to go on a trip? You’ve come to the right place. While the sound is not Demo Quality on every track, the acid-drenched soundscapes created by Jimi and producer Eddie Kramer are certainly going to be exciting to the kind of audiophile who still digs Classic Rock. Unfortunately, most copies are missing a lot of the magic — the space, the tubes, the ambience, the size, the weight. (more…)

The James Gang – Rides Again

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  • James Gang’s sophomore release finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • Full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with especially smooth, present vocals – this is the sound we love at Better Records
  • The group’s highest rated record and, as they say on the cover, this album is “Made Loud To Be Played Loud,” especially on a pressing this good
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With their second album Rides Again, the James Gang came into their own. Under the direction of guitarist Joe Walsh, the group — now featuring bassist Dale Peters — began incorporating keyboards into their hard rock, which helped open up their musical horizons.”

This shootout produced little in the way of audiophile quality pressings. Most of what we played was just too noisy to sell. We had a devil of a time finding copies that played as quiet as the grades you see here.

It will be the best sound you have ever heard for the band’s second album, we guarantee it.

The powerfully energetic chorus on Funk #49, the first track on the album and longtime Classic Rock Radio staple, really gets big and loud on this copy. You can be sure that it doesn’t sound that way unless you have one of these very special pressings, the kind with real richness and weight to the sound (depending on the grades of course; not every copy we sell does everything we want it to).

By the way, if you hear some Poco influence pop up of the album, note that Rusty Young guests on Pedal Steel. (more…)

Neil Young / Rust Never Sleeps – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A great (A++) side one backed with an AMAZING (A+++) side two, this is without a doubt one of the very best sounding copies of Rust Never Sleeps we have ever had the privilege of playing here at Better Records. Side two simply cannot be beat. Drop the needle on Powderfinger to hear the Crazy Horse sound at its best — the raging guitars, the big meaty bottom end, and the kind of immediacy that puts Neil Young and his band of misfits right in your listening room. 

Tubey Magic in 1979? Yes, analog was still alive and well then — both sides of this copy prove it. The disastrously synthesized ’80s were on their way but thankfully they hadn’t gotten here yet.

This is a live recording with minimal overdubs. Crazy Horse is of course widely recognized to be one of the all time killer concert acts of its day, so it’s a bit of a shame that most of the copies we played this week made us want to go to sleep. The not-so-Hot copies failed in a number of ways: thin guitars or vocals, overly dry or edgy sound, and insufficient presence, just to name a few. It was the rare copy that made us forget we were listening to a record and allowed us to really get into the music.

Needless to say we had this record playing very very loud. Twenty db less than at the live event, sure, at least, but very very loud for a 18×20 living room in the suburbs. (more…)

Two of Robin Black’s Engineering Masterpieces

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Albums Engineered by Robin Black

Recordings with Exceptionally Tubey Magical Guitars

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Thick As A Brick is quite possibly the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever made. It’s dynamic; has really solid, deep punchy bass; transparency and sweetness in the midrange; Tubey Magical acoustic guitars and flutes; in other words, the record has EVERYTHING that we go crazy for here at Better Records. I can guarantee you there is no CD on the planet that could ever do this recording justice. The Hot Stamper pressings have a kind of MAGIC that just can’t be captured on one of them there silvery discs.

We play quite a few original British and domestic copies of this record when we do these shootouts and let me tell you, the sound and the music are so good I can’t get enough of it. Until about 2007 this was the undiscovered gem (by me, anyway) in the Tull catalog. The pressings I had heard up until then were nothing special, and of course the average pressing of this album is exactly that: no great shakes. But with the advent of better record cleaning fluids and much better tables, phono stages and the like, some copies of Thick As A Brick have shown themselves to be AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUNDING. Even the All Music Guide could hear how well-engineered it was.

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