Records that Sound Best on the Right Domestic Pressing

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River

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  • Insanely good CCR sound, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • An essential, Must Own for every Classic Rock collection, this LP includes some of the band’s biggest hits: Green River and Bad Moon Rising, Lodi, Wrote a Song for Everyone and plenty more
  • 5 stars “If anything, CCR’s third album Green River represents the full flower of their classic sound initially essayed on its predecessor, Bayou Country. One of the differences between the two albums is that Green River is tighter, with none of the five-minute-plus jams that filled out both their debut and Bayou Country, but the true key to its success is a peak in John Fogerty’s creativity.”

This copy is bigger, livelier, richer, more spacious, more relaxed and just plain more musically involving than every other pressing we played in our recent shootout. (more…)

Peter Gabriel – Security

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  • A stunning copy of Security with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • One of the most important records in the Peter Gabriel canon, original and influential on so many levels
  • With the benefit of today’s technology, on a copy this good you hear into the soundfield in a way never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of multi-tracked choruses
  • “Security remains a powerful listen, one of the better records in Gabriel’s catalog, proving that he is becoming a master of tone, style, and substance…”

Man does this album sound better than I remember it from back in the ’80s when I first played it. Stereos have come a long way since then, along with a host of other things that help records sound better, such as cleaning fluids, room treatments and all the rest. Now you can really hear INTO the soundfield in a way that simply was never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of PG’s multi-tracked choruses. On the best pressings, both sides are huge, and the music jumps out of the speakers. The balance is perfection. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Nice ‘N’ Easy

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  • An outstanding pressing of Nice ‘N’ Easy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for Capitol from this era too
  • The reproduction of Sinatra’s voice is exactly what you would expect from a Hot Stamper – he sounds rich, smooth, tonally correct and above all REAL
  • Take this one home and play it against whatever audiophile pressings you own – it’s guaranteed to SMOKE any and all versions you may have in your collection, or your money back
  • 5 stars: “… a breezy collection of mid-tempo numbers arranged by Nelson Riddle. Nice ‘N’ Easy doesn’t have a touch of brooding sorrow — it rolls along steadily, charming everyone in its path.”

Definitely one of the most fun Sinatra albums, especially when it sounds like this!

It’s tough to find great sound for this album — most copies are pretty mediocre and the MoFi is nothing special. 

The immediacy of the vocals on this copy is nothing short of stunning. You get real weight down low, serious energy, a fully extended top end, and tons of that old-time analog tubey magic.

Tubey Magic Is Key

The best copies have the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even 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 Frank and 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 Nice ‘N’ Easy 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 1960
  • 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.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the strings from becoming shrill) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we heard them all.

And we know a fair bit about the man’s recordings at this point. As of today, we’ve done commentaries for more than 21 different Sinatra shootouts, and that’s not counting at least another ten titles that either bombed or were sold off years ago.

What We’re Listening For on Nice ‘N’ Easy

  • 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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Nice ‘N’ Easy
That Old Feeling
How Deep Is The Ocean
I’ve Got A Crush On You
You Go To My Head
Fools Rush In

Side Two

Nevertheless
She’s Funny That Way
Try A Little Tenderness
Embraceable You
Mam’selle
Dream

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Breaking slightly from his pattern of a swing album following the release of ballads set, Frank Sinatra followed No One Cares with Nice ‘N’ Easy, a breezy collection of mid-tempo numbers arranged by Nelson Riddle. Not only is it the lightest set that he recorded for Capitol, it is the one with the loosest theme… Nice ‘N’ Easy doesn’t have a touch of brooding sorrow — it rolls along steadily, charming everyone in its path.

Paul McCartney and Wings – Wings at the Speed of Sound

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  • An incredible pressing of Wings’ follow-up to Venus and Mars, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • This copy has a “cinematic” quality – it’s just plain bigger, with more depth to the soundfield, and stronger dynamics
  • The big hits, Let ‘Em In and Silly Love Songs, as well as minor gems, such as Beware My Love, are musical here with good body and a smoother top end
  • Allmusic: “A full-band effort, where everybody gets a chance to sing, and even contribute a song.”

The better copies such as this one had the qualities that really make the songs come to life and give you a taste of the old McCartney magic. (more…)

Eric Clapton – There’s One In Every Crowd

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Balanced, musical and full throughout – this pressing is a big step up from many of the other copies we played
  • 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
  • The sound and music here are very similar to 461 Ocean Boulevard, so if you’re a fan of that title, you’ll find much to like here

It is tough to find copies of There’s One In Every Crowd that aren’t murky, overly smooth and/or lifeless. If you’re a fan of this music and want to hear it come to life, this copy can do it! (more…)

Queen – The Game

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to last
  • Some of the best sound Queen achieved in the studio, thanks to talented engineer Rienhold Mack
  • Plenty of hits here, including Another One Bites The Dust and Crazy Little Thing Called Love, which both sound amazing on this Super Hot Stamper
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the striking difference with this album is that it finds Queen turning decidedly, decisively pop, and it’s a grand, state-of-the-art circa 1980 pop album that still stands as one of the band’s most enjoyable records.”

Throughout this copy, you get solid bass, Tubey Magic, breathy vocals and BIG BOLD sound.

Compared to most of the copies we played, these sides have more energy, bigger bass and even more present and breathy vocals. This is without a doubt some of the best sound we have ever heard for Queen, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

The quality of bass on this record is often superb. The best copies were Demo Discs in that regard.) You have probably never heard Queen sound this good. 

Take it from us, the guys who play nothing but vintage vinyl all day: not many Queen records sound as good as The Game. (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…)

David Bowie / Let’s Dance – Energy Is Key

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on

what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Let’s Dance.

Here are some albums on our site you can buy

with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

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Side One

Modern Love

This track has a tendency to be a bit brighter than those that follow. To find out if your Let’s Dance is killer, see how the title track sounds.

China Girl
Let’s Dance

The best sounding track on the album and one of the handful of best sounding Bowie tracks ever recorded. With a truly Hot Stamper copy, try as you might you will be very hard pressed to find better sound. Demo Disc Quality doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Without You

Side Two

Ricochet
Criminal World
Cat People (Putting Out Fire)

The best sound and music on side two. A top Bowie track.

Shake It (more…)

Electric Light Orchestra – On the Third Day

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  • This outstanding copy of the band’s third studio album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • This domestic LP is proof that the master tape used to cut the album in 1973 was right here in the good old U.S. of A.
  • “Electric Light Orchestra’s third album showed a marked advancement, with a fuller, more cohesive sound from the band as a whole and major improvements in Jeff Lynne’s singing and songwriting.”
  • “The ELO’s blending of rock drums, pop violins, a semiclassical feel in the sweep of these same violins, the midrange colors of the cello, and a vocal blend that reminds one of the Beatles in their sophisticated studio days, makes up all the key elements in their music.”

Once you’ve played a good domestic pressing, it’s obvious that the Brit vinyl is made from sub-generation copy tapes. The imports make it sound like someone threw a blanket over your speakers.

We know this because we had a bunch of them cleaned up for our first big shootout in 2010 and they all sucked. We always buy Electric Light Orchestra records on import vinyl; those are the ones that sound the best, the domestic pressings time and again sounding as though they were mastered from dub tapes.

But On The Third Day is proof that this is not always the case, just as Siren proves that the best Roxy Music albums are not always British. Live and learn I guess. (more…)

Hundreds of RCA Living Stereo Albums Reviewed

RCA Living Stereo Albums Available Now

 

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RCA Living Stereo Recordings

We’ve Auditioned (200+ Strong)

Chet’s later remixed and re-recorded version, released in 1961, seems to have the better sound overall, but the difference in the best sounding original pressing and the best sounding later version would probably not be obvious to most listeners without the two versions playing side by side.

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for pointing out to us with his TAS List what a great record this is, although I’m pretty sure anybody playing this album would have no trouble telling after a minute or two that this copy is very special indeed. (more…)