Records that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street

  • This is Exile raw and real the way it should be – full-bodied and punchy with great presence and energy
  • Fairly quiet vinyl for this Stones album – here is a copy that plays very close to Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on all four sides
  • 5 stars: “Few other albums, let alone double albums, have been so rich and masterful as Exile on Main St., and it stands not only as one of the Stones’ best records, but sets a remarkably high standard for all of hard rock.”
  • If you’re a Classic Rock fan, this Must Own Classic from 1972 surely belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

All four sides here have the kind of bass, energy, and presence that is essential for this music to rock the way it wants to. A copy like this conveys the emotional power of The Stones’ performances in a way that most pressings simply fail to do.

This shootout is always a struggle, an uphill battle all the way. You’d have to find, clean and play a ton of copies to come up with four sides that can do this music justice. We’re sure that Stones fans and Hot Stamper die-hards are going to be very pleased with this copy.

This vintage Artisan mastered pressing (the only ones that have any hope of sounding good) 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…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

More Led Zeppelin

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

  • Insane Rock and Roll ENERGY like nothing you have ever heard – the sound is exceptionally full-bodied, smooth and solid, making it possible to get the volume up good and high where it belongs
  • Here are the Rock and Roll Classics that reign supreme to this very day – Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway to Heaven, When the Levee Breaks, every one sounding better than you’ve ever heard them or your money back
  • 5 stars: “Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1971 is clearly one of their best, and one of their best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

It is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you when you play this copy at the listening levels it was meant to be heard at.

You’d better be ready to rock, because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will make you want to. Zep IV demands loud levels, but practically any copy will punish you mercilessly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels.

I never met John Bonham, and it’s probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel more than a little disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels many audiophiles prefer. The term “hi-fidelity” loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where exactly is the fidelity?

How on earth is a speaker system like this one going to reproduce the 22 inch (or more!) kick drum of John Bonham?

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Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna

Albums with Stevie Nicks Performing

  • This STUNNING pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Both sides are punchy, big and clear, with plenty of hard rockin’ energy – exactly what you would expect from the team of Shelly Yakus and Jimmy Iovine
  • Two of her biggest hits are here (and they still hold up): Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around and Leather And Lace
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equally engaging are less exposed tracks like the haunting ‘After the Glitter Fades.’ Hit producer Jimmy Iovine wisely avoids over-producing, and keeps things sounding organic on this striking debut.”

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics.

Bella Donna may not reach those exalted heights, but it’s still quite good, especially for 1981. As the decade wore on things went south very quickly, sonically and musically, so we must be thankful that this record came out early in the decade and not much later.

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Gerry Rafferty / City To City – Listen for the Huge Chorus of The Ark

Listen to the chorus on the first track, The Ark. On the best copies, it really gets loud without becoming harsh or shrill. So many popular albums have choruses (and guitar solos) that are no louder, and sometimes not even as loud, as the verses, which rob the songs of any real drama or power. This recording has the potential to give you a dramatic, powerful, loud chorus and it’s a thrill when you find a pressing that delivers on that promise.

(One way we know to listen for these volume changes is that we actually play our records good and loud. When a dynamic recording such as this comes along, we have to watch our levels, otherwise, the chorus will overwhelm the system and room. When playing this copy, be sure to set the level for the chorus of the first track. Everything should play just fine once that setting is correct, as the artist intended.)

The double-tracked vocals on Whatever’s Written in Your Heart are a good test for resolution and Tubey Magic. There should clearly be two voices heard without having to sacrifice the wonderful richness of the better copies for the clarity that makes hearing both voices possible.

Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

Albums with Choruses that Are Good for Testing

More Gerry Rafferty

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The Turn Up Your Volume Test – Bonnie Raitt’s Home Plate

This is a classic case of a record that really starts to work when the levels are up. It’s so free from distortion and phony processing it wants to be played loud, and that’s the level this music works at. It’s the level it was no doubt mixed at, and that mix sounds pretty flat at moderate levels. If you want to hear the real rockin’ Bonnie Raitt you gots to turn it up!

Like a lot of the best recordings from the mid-’70s, the production and recording quality are clean and clear, and we mean that in a good way. There is very little processing to the sound of anything here; drums sound like drums, guitars like guitars, and Bonnie sings without the aid of autotuning –– because she can sing on-key, and beautifully. Her vocals kill on every song. (Her dad had a pretty good set of pipes too.)

Reviews and Commentaries for Records that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

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The Who – Quadrophenia

More of The Who

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

  • 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.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1973 is clearly one of their best, and one of their best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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.

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Van Halen – 1984

More Van Halen

More Rock Classics

  • 1984 finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • These sides have the kind of BIG, full-bodied sound that lets this rockin’ band come to life exactly the way you want them to
  • Nothing phony here – the sound is natural and balanced, with meaty guitars and big punchy drums
  • Plenty of hits: “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher,” “Jump,” and you won’t believe how good they sound on this copy
  • 5 stars: “It’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s instrumental prowess as a band… the best showcase for their songwriting, just their flat-out best album overall.”
  • If you’re a fan of Van Halen when Diamond Dave was still the front man, a killer copy of their album from 1984 belongs in your collection

Want to hear three of the best songs these guys ever did — “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher”– sound incredible? We recently had a chance to shoot out a bunch of these, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you that far too many copies were unimpressive. Most just do not have the weight on the bottom end that this music needs to work.

Turn your nose up if you like, but this music is Classic Rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but the band on this album definitely knows how to rock. The All Music Guide gives this one 5 Big Stars, and I’m sure that plenty of audiophiles feel just as strongly about it. (more…)

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name…

More David Crosby

More Hippie Folk Rock

  • The ultimate Hippie Folk Rock Demo Disc – both sides are shockingly transparent, with huge amounts of bass, silky highs, in-the-room vocals and TONS of Tubey Magic
  • 4 1/2 stars: ” If I Could Only Remember My Name is a shambolic masterpiece, meandering but transcendentally so, full of frayed threads. Not only is it among the finest splinter albums out of the CSNY diaspora, it is one of the defining moments of hungover spirituality from the era.”
  • If you’re an audiophile, this is a Demo Disc from 1971 that no record collection comprising Top Quality Recordings should be without
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

Here it is, folks… a TRUE ROCK DEMO DISC! A White Hot Stamper copy such as this will show you why we’ve long considered it one of the All Time Top Ten Rock Albums for Sound and Music. You will not believe how Tubey Magical and three-dimensional this album can be when you have a pressing with this kind of sound. The harmonic complexity and extension on the acoustic guitars are absolutely stunning!

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording? (We do applaud his decision not to add the Classic pressing of this title to the list, the way he did with so many other Classic pressings that have no business on anything called a Super Disc list.)

You Don’t Have to Be High to Hear It

When you drop the needle on this record, all barriers between you and the musicians are removed. You’ll feel as though you’re sitting at the studio console while Crosby and his no-doubt-stoned-out-of-their-minds Bay Area pals (mostly Jefferson Airplaners and Grateful Deads, see list below) are laying down this emotionally powerful, heartfelt music.

The overall sound is warm, sweet, rich, and full-bodied… that’s some real ANALOG Tubey Magic, baby! And the best part is, you don’t have to be high to hear it. You just need a good stereo and the right pressing. (more…)

Marshall Crenshaw / Mary Jean & 9 Others – A Desert Island Disc

This is my favorite roots rock record of all time. I love the album and have played it many, many hundreds of times. It starts off with the driving This Is Easy and never lets up until the very last song, a beautiful ballad, “They Never Will Know.”

The All Music Guide had this to say about MC’s first 3 albums: “…an irresistible combination of masterful pop and vibrant, timeless rock & roll.” They weren’t that impressed with this album, but I cannot for the life of me understand why.

I think this is the album where Marshall got it all together: his best songs, his best production, his most tightly knit band, his best guitar solos — the best the guy had to offer is right here.

How does somebody play the same record 100’s of times? I have it on tape in my car, backed with one of my favorite Bonnie Raitt albums, Nine Lives. I can sing along with every song and know every guitar lick by heart. This music may sound simple on the surface, but it has the essence of great popular music. The songs are both heartfelt and catchy, with the kinds of hooks that remind me of the early Beatles.

If you like Buddy Holly, or any of the people that have been influenced by him to produce straight ahead rock and roll, you should like this.

If you have the kind of “delicate” stereo that can’t play loud, hasn’t much bass, or can’t move much air, this is not the record for you. This record is supposed to ROCK. If you don’t have a big system that can do that, you’re wasting your time trying to get this record to do what it wants to do.

It’s not a particularly good sounding record, which is why you have never seen a Hot Stamper pressing of it on our site. But the music is so good we think you can get past the sound and just enjoy the songs for what they are: great.

Hot Stamper Pressings of Roots Rock LPs

Reviews and Commentaries for Roots Rock LPs

Copland / Billy The Kid / Rodeo – Johanos

More Classical Masterpieces

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
  • “To the ultimate delight of audiences Copland managed to weave musical complexity with popular style.”
  • If you’re a fan of orchestral showpieces such as these, this is a recording from 1967 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This vintage Turnabout 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…)