Records that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

The Who – Who Are You

More of The Who

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds remotely as good as this vintage UK import – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has the Glyn Johns BIG, BOLD sound we demand from this famous producer/engineer
  • Forget the domestic pressings, forget the DD Labs 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 British pressing is the only way to go
  • The title song sounds great on this superb copy – the dynamic power of the recording comes through loud and clear
  • If you’re a fan of The Who, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this album from 1978 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the 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


Big, tubey and rockin’, this copy has The Who sound we know from Who’s Next so well. Huge and pacious, with lovely three-dimensional depth, the sound has that patented Live in the Studio quality that Johns’ practically trademarked. Breathy vocals and great life and presence to every instrument — this is the way to hear it!

Forget the domestic pressings, forget the DD Labs 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 British pressing is the only way to go.

This copy has the Glyn Johns Who Sound we demand from one of the most famous producer/artist collaborations in the history of rock music. (I would argue that Johns’ work with the Stones is even more legendary.)

This is certainly not the equal of the beyond brilliant Who’s Next — what is? It’s an undisputed Masterpiece — but the best songs here are certainly in that league. The title track is one I used to demo my system with twenty years ago and, with a copy like this, would be happy to again.

What The Best Sides Of Who Are You Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1978
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For On Who Are You

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

New Song
Had Enough
905
Sister Disco
Music Must Change

Side Two

Trick of the Light
Guitar and Pen
Love Is Coming Down
Who Are You

Griel Marcus on Who Are You

And then there is “Who Are You,” a far stronger single than “Squeeze Box,” the hit from 1975’s The Who by Numbers, and a song that, stretched out over more than six minutes on the LP version, is far more moving than “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the band’s certified Seventies masterpiece. The dynamics are much more subtle this time — and all the smugness is gone.

“Who Are You” was spun out of the night that Townshend, already drunk after hours of financial haggling, half-recognized two members of the Sex Pistols in a bar: that is, he thought either Steve Jones or Paul Cook was Johnny Rotten. Corrected, he felt even more confused: Why can’t I see straight? Cook and Jones, supposedly arrogant young punks working out their rock & roll Oedipal complex, were thrilled to meet Townshend and horrified at what he had to tell them: the Who were finished, used up, wasted. The incident left Townshend passed out in a Soho street, which is where the song begins. Townshend (in the voice of Roger Daltrey) wakes up with one enormous question: Who are you? It’s addressed to Cook and Jones (Who are these upstarts, who would never have played a note had not Townshend picked up a guitar more than a decade back?); to the cop who, recognizing Townshend, sends him home without a bust (Who are the fans?); to himself (What does it mean to be a rocker? What kind of wreck has the life made him?); and, finally, to anyone who’s listening. “Whooooooo/Are you?” hums the chorus. “I really want to know!” Daltrey shouts back, echoing Donovan’s “What Goes On,” but while Donovan communicated hippie certainty that all things would come, Daltrey is desperate, sure of nothing.

Heart – Little Queen

  • An original Portrait pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • “Barracuda” and “Love Alive” are bar none two of Heart’s best songs and they are guaranteed to blow your mind
  • It’s the rare copy that has the powerful dynamics, deep bass, punchy drums and meaty guitars like you get here
  • A Rock and Pop Top 100 album with Demo Disc sound on a very special pressing such as this – it will rock your world
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After acquiring a substantial following with Dreamboat Annie, Heart solidified its niche in the hard rock and arena rock worlds with the equally impressive Little Queen.”

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. “Love Alive” and “Barracuda” on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power your system is capable of. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the pressing that will truly show it off.

There are plenty of commentaries that discuss the sound of this recording and what it can really do when you get hold of a good pressing… and have the system that can play it… and turn up the volume good and loud. We proudly present here a copy with the kind of Big Sound that we think backs up every claim we make.

We’re huge Heart fans here at Better Records, and we’re not ashamed to say so. These ladies can really rock, and on the right pressing their music can and will sound absolutely amazing. Here’s a copy that will allow you to hear that magic at home — the sound is super punchy with incredible energy and wonderful clarity. You’ll have a very hard time finding another copy that rocks any harder than this one.

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Bad Company – Self-Titled

More Bad Company

More Rock Classics

  • This vintage UK Island pressing of Bad Company’s ’70s classic debut boasts outstanding sound from first note to last
  • Both sides are huge, present, punchy, lively, and solid as a rock – this is some of engineer Ron Nevison’s cleanest work
  • Here you will find none of the glossy artificiality you might hear on so many of the rock records we sell — there’s nothing wrong with that sound, mind you, but this recording captures much more of what the real instruments sound like in the studio
  • A member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100, and a Must Own Classic Rock title from 1974
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Bad Company’s 1974 self-titled release stands as one of the most important and accomplished debut hard rock albums from the ’70s … it was one of the most successful steps in the continuing evolution of rock & roll.”
  • If you’re a Classic Rock fan, then Bad Company’s killer debut album from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This one’s got what you’re looking for from this kind of Classic Rock album — clarity, punchy bass, big drums, and lots of energy. The guitars sound right: grungy and distorted with loads of tubey richness.

You’re going to want to play this one good and loud to let it REALLY ROCK!

And, if you’re playing it good and loud, you’ll feel like you’re in the room with the boys as they kick out the jams. “Ready For Love” sounds great here — shocking clarity, tons of ambience, and silky sweet highs. The overall sound on both sides is lively, full-bodied, and transparent with Tubey Magical guitars and good weight to the bottom end.

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AC/DC – Back In Black

More AC/DC

 More Top 100 Rock and Pop Titles

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, this Back In Black ROCKS like nothing you’ve heard
  • Both sides play with exceptionally (and unusually) quiet surfaces for a Robert Ludwig original
  • RL is the king on this title, which means the conventional wisdom is right for once!
  • It’s been years since we got hold of a copy that sounds this good and plays this quietly – it’s one of only a handful to hit the site with both sides graded Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Top 100, and if you turn it up good and loud, one of the biggest, boldest, hardest rockin’ records ever made
  • 5 stars: “… tawdry celebration of sex is what made AC/DC different from all other metal bands — there was no sword & sorcery, no darkness, just a rowdy party, and they never held a bigger, better party than they did on Back in Black.”
  • Robert Ludwig used humungous amounts of tube compression on Back in Black, and we’re glad he did. All that compression is at least partly responsible for it being a Rock Demo Disc of the highest order.

You probably never thought you’d ever use an AC/DC LP as a Demo Disc, but this copy will have you reconsidering that notion — it’s ALIVE with Rock and Roll Power Chords like nothing you have ever heard.

For Riff Rock you just can’t do much better than Back In Black. AMG gives it 5 Stars and rightfully so. Musically it’s got everything you’d want from this genre of heavy rock — a tight, punchy rhythm section; raging guitar riffs; and deliciously decadent lyrics screamed to perfection.

What took us by surprise was how amazing this music sounds on the right copy. You’ve probably heard these songs a million times, but we bet you haven’t heard them sound like this. This is the kind of record that you’ll want to keep turning up. The louder you play it, the better it gets — but only if you’ve got a pressing that rocks like this one.

The transparency and clarity are shocking — we heard texture on the guitars and room around the drums that simply weren’t to be found on most copies, plus tons of lovely analog reverb and natural studio ambience.

And of course the bottom end is big, beefy, and rock-solid, just the way we like it. I ask you, what album from 1980 sounds better than Back in Black?

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Helen Humes – A Forgotten Jazz Vocal Classic

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

Reviews of Some of Our Favorite Albums by Female Vocalists

  • This vintage Contemporary pressing is close to the best we have ever heard, with stunning Nearly Master Tape sound from start to finish, just shy of our Shootout Winner – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Both of these sides are amazingly Tubey Magical, yet incredibly clean and clear — something you can’t get from the tube-mastered originals
  • Helen’s voice is PERFECTION — breathy, full, and sweet; and the orchestra sounds JUST RIGHT — just listen to the nice bite of the brass
  • 5 stars: “One of the high points of Helen Humes’ career, this Contemporary set features superior songs, superb backup, and very suitable and swinging arrangements by Marty Paich. Humes’ versions of ‘If I Could Be With You,’ ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy,’ and ‘Million Dollar Secret,’ in particular, are definitive… This classic release is essential and shows just how appealing a singer Helen Humes could be.”

This vintage Contemporary 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.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Songs I Like To Sing! Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1961
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Later Pressings Have The Real Sound

We prefer later pressings of this album to the Black Label originals, which sound tube mastered and have a bit of echo added to them. The later pressings offer superior clarity and resolution. I wouldn’t say one is necessarily better than the other, but this seems to be the more accurate reproduction of what happened in the recording session, and I know this is the one I would rather listen to.

Without a doubt it’s one of my all time favorite jazz albums. The amazing Marty Paich (Art Pepper Plus Eleven) did the arrangements for this group of top musicians, which includes Art PepperBen WebsterBarney KesselShelly ManneJack Sheldon and Leroy Vinnegar, just to name the ones whose work I know well. Does it get any better?

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Kansas – Leftoverture

  • This early Kirshner pressing was doing just about everything right, with both sides earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout – the sound is big, full and lively with real Prog Rock Energy and a huge, punchy bottom end
  • 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
  • “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

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.

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Creedence Clearwater Revival – Pendulum

More Creedence Clearwater Revival

More Roots Rock LPs

  • This early Fantasy stereo pressing boast a KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of that “you-are-there-immediacy” of ANALOG that set the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else you care to name
  • Those of you who are familiar with this record will not be surprised to learn that these shootouts are TOUGH – very few copies are any better than mediocre
  • 4 stars: “John Fogerty spent time polishing the production, bringing in keyboards, horns, even a vocal choir. His songs became self-consciously serious and tighter, working with the aesthetic of the rock underground — Pendulum was constructed as a proper album, contrasting dramatically with CCR’s previous records, all throwbacks to joyous early rock records where covers sat nicely next to hits and overlooked gems tucked away at the end of the second side.”

This copy will surely beat any pressing you put it up against. This will be especially true if you put it up against the Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl from years back, which will sound thick, opaque, airless and congested next to a properly mastered Fantasy pressing (deep groove or otherwise) such as this one. (more…)

Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus

More Little Feat

Reviews and Commentaries for Waiting for Columbus

  • A killer copy of Waiting For Columbus with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on the first THREE sides, and excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on the fourth – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the best sounding live rock and roll sound you will ever hear outside of a concert venue
  • If you want to understand the unique appeal of the band, there’s no better place to start than right here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “There’s much to savor on Waiting For Columbus, one of the great live albums of its era, thanks to rich performances that prove Little Feat were one of the great live bands of their time.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Waiting for Columbus is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

This is an amazingly well-recorded concert, and what’s more, the versions the band does of their earlier material are much better than the studio album versions of those same songs in every case.

Fat Man In A Bathtub on this album is out of this world, but you could easily say that about a dozen or more of the tracks on this double album. Which simply means that you will have a very hard time listening to any of the studio versions of these songs once you’ve heard them performed with the kind of energy, enthusiasm and technical virtuosity Little Feat brought to this live show. (I saw them twice with Lowell and they were amazing both times.) (more…)

The Doors – Morrison Hotel

More of The Doors

  • A wonderful early pressing of this hard-rockin’ Doors album, with top quality sound from start to finish
  • Rich, big and full-bodied, with clarity and energy to spare, this is the way you want to hear the Doors’ Bluesy Rock
  • Roadhouse Blues, Waiting For The Sun and Maggie McGill are KILLER on this pressing – all you Doors fans are gonna flip
  • Circus Magazine praised it as “possibly the best album yet from the Doors” and “Good hard, evil rock, and one of the best albums released this decade.”
  • If you’re a fan of Jim and the boys, this classic from 1970 deserves a place in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

A great many pressings are neither rich nor present enough to get Jim Morrison’s voice to sound the way it should. He’s The Lizard King, not The Frog Prince for crying out loud. When he doesn’t sound present, big, powerful, and borderline scary, what’s the point?

Not to worry. On these sides he sounds just fine. Just listen to him screaming his head off on “Roadhouse Blues” and projecting the power of his rich baritone on “Blue Sunday.” Nobody did it any better.

All the other elements are really working too — real weight to the piano, amazing punch to the bottom end, lovely texture to the guitars and so on. The sound is clean and clear but not overly so; you still get all the Tubey Magic you need.

The sound of the organ on “Blue Sunday” is really something, check it out. Where has that sound gone?

It’s hard to find clean Doors records at all these days, we find a small handful each year — not nearly enough to do these shootouts as often as we would like.

Both sides here have the deep, powerful bottom end this music absolutely demands. You’ve got to hand it to Bruce Botnick — he knows how to get real rock-’em, sock-’em bottom end onto a piece of magnetic tape.

And sometimes that bottom end whomp actually makes it onto the record, as is the case here, making for one helluva Demo Disc for Bass (if you have speakers big enough to play it, of course.)

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Bloomfield-Kooper-Stills – Super Session

More Al Kooper

More Stephen Stills

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Super Session sound this good
  • Engineered by Roy Halee, the man behind one of the best sounding rock records of all time (the self-titled Blood, Sweat and Tears album), the analog sound here is especially dynamic and spacious
  • For fans of BS&T’s first album (and everybody else), Super Session is a Must Own
  • “Season of the Witch” is crazy good sounding on this vintage Columbia 360 pressing
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This is one of those albums that seems to get better with age… This is a super session indeed.”
  • If you’re a fan of any or all of these guys, this vintage pressing of their 1968 classic belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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