Records that Sound Best on the Right Domestic Pressing

Queen – The Game – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Two SUPERB SIDES with side one beating all comers to achieve White Hot Stamper status! Throughout this copy you get solid bass, tubey magic, breathy vocals and BIG BOLD sound!

But watch out: this side one kicks it up to a whole ‘nother level, with BIGGER energy, BIGGER bass and even more PRESENT and breathy vocals from Mr. Mercury. This is without a doubt some of the best sound we have ever heard for Queen, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

When reading the above it’s best to keep this in mind: The Game may be the BEST SOUNDING record Queen ever made. The Dirty Little Secret of Queen’s recorded output is that they are mostly pretty mediocre, and often downright dreadful.

Do you see a lot of them going up on the site? No? Well, there’s a reason for that. As much as people love Queen, we just can’t seem to find pressings that do their music justice. Take A Night at the Opera for example. Is this a good sounding record? I’ve played twenty of them over the last ten years — imports, domestics, the DCC, the MoFi – and NONE of them sounding particularly good to me. Don’t rely on your memory. Pull out your own copy and listen closely; you should hear the distortion and smearing and transistory grain that’s there on all the copies I’ve played. It’s a record that’s trying to sound good but just doesn’t, so far anyway. Hope springs eternal.

[This is no longer true, the Hot Stampers were discovered a few years back!] (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD. This vintage London Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely 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 the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Roxy Music – Siren – The Atco Pressings Can Be Killer

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  • You’ll find insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides of this early pressing of Roxy’s Art Rock classic from 1975
  • The sound here is incredibly rich and full-bodied with a ton of bottom end weight, much less grain, and much more Tubey Magic than every other copy we played it against
  • Some of Bryan Ferry’s strongest and most consistent songwriting – Love Is The Drug, End of the Line, Sentimental Fool and more
  • 5 stars: “Abandoning the intoxicating blend of art rock and glam-pop that distinguished Stranded and Country Life, Roxy Music concentrates on Bryan Ferry’s suave, charming crooner persona for the elegantly modern Siren.”

Siren is one of our favorite Roxy albums, right up there with the first album and well ahead of the commercially appealing Avalon. After reading a rave review in Rolling Stone of the album back in 1975 I took the plunge, bought a copy at my local Tower Records and instantly fell in love with it.

As is my wont, I then proceeded to work my way through their earlier catalog, which was quite an adventure. It takes scores of plays to understand where the band is coming from on the early albums and what it is they’re trying to do. Now I listen to each of the first five releases on a regular basis. Even after more than thirty years the band’s music never seems to get old. That seems to be true of a lot of the records from the era that we offer on our site. Otherwise, how could we charge so much money for them?

Imports? Not So Fast

The British and German copies of Siren are clearly made from dubbed tapes and sound smeary, small and lifeless.

To be fair, Siren has never impressed us as an exceptionally good sounding recording. Like other middle period Roxy, records such as Country Life and Manifesto (the albums just before and after), it simply does not have Demo Disc analog sound the way For Your Pleasure, Stranded or the eponymous first album do (the latter two being the best sounding in their catalog).

One would be tempted to assume that the import pressings of Siren would be better sounding, the way the imports of the first four Roxy albums are clearly better sounding. There has never been a domestic Hot Stamper pressing of any of those titles and, since we never buy them or play them, there probably never will be.

But in the case of Siren it’s the imports that are made from dubs. It may be a British band, recorded in British studios with a British producer, but the British pressed LPs are clearly made from sub-generation tapes, whereas the domestic copies sound like they’re made from the real masters.

Go Figure. And another thing: when it comes to records, never assume.

The typical domestic pressing is flat, bass-shy and opaque, sounding more like compressed cardboard than analog vinyl. Unsurprisingly, the CD, whether imported or produced domestically, is clean and clear and tonally correct but lacks the warmth and richness of the better vinyl pressings. (more…)

Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus

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  • With Double Plus (A++) grades, or close to them, on all four sides, this copy of Waiting for Columbus is outstanding from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the best sounding live rock and roll sound you will ever hear outside of a concert venue
  • One of our all-time favorite live recordings and their single best release – a true Masterpiece
  • 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.”

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…)

Tom Jones – What’s New Pussycat?

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  • A killer early pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • These sides are doing everything right — big, full-bodied, clean and clear with wonderfully present vocals and a solid bottom end
  • We guarantee you’ve never heard the Burt Bacharach/Hal David penned title track sound better than it does here!  

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Electric Light Orchestra – On the Third Day – The British Imports Are Made from Dubs

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Sonic Grade: F

It’s obvious, or should be, that the Brit vinyl is made from sub-generation copy tapes. The imports sound like someone threw a blanket over your speakers. We know this because we had a bunch of them cleaned up for our shootout many years ago and they all sucked.

We tend to buy Electric Light Orchestra records on import vinyl; those are the ones that often sound the best. Many of the domestic pressings sound 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. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Presence – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

A STUNNING side two (where Nobody’s Fault But Mine can be found, one of the best Zep rockers of all time and the best reason to own this album), with MASSIVE room-filling size and rock ENERGY like you will not believe. How did they manage to get such rock and roll power into these grooves, the way they did on Zep II and IV? We can’t even imagine, but it’s there all right.

We heard it for ourselves. (Yes, we had the volume cranked and yes, it was a THRILL.)

We just finished a big shootout for this album and were reminded just how hard this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are all KILLER on a White Hot copy like this one. This copy has TONS of energy, surprising dynamics, lots of WHOMP down low and big punchy drums throughout. That’s EXACTLY the kind of sound we love here at Better Records. (more…)

Tom Petty – Hard Promises – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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The best copy we’ve heard in years, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides — “The Waiting” sounds superb. You get incredible energy and presence, full extension up top and real weight down low. Many copies can get thin and edgy — especially on the vocals — but not this one.

This pressing had sound on BOTH sides we never expected to hear on Hard Promises, an album that’s typically bright, thin, edgy, pinched and gritty — radio friendly, maybe, but not especially audiophile friendly.

We hate that sound but we are happy to report that some copies manage to avoid it, and this is one of them. Is that richer, fuller sound the sound of what’s on the master tape or did the mastering engineer “fix” it? We’ll never know, now will we? What we can know is the sound of the pressings we actually have to play, so let’s get right to it. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.  

A knockout Top Copy, with a side one so jaw-droppingly amazing that we awarded it the rare Four Plus (A++++) grade. The sound is incredibly rich, full-bodied and open with excellent clarity — you will be FLOORED.

Please note that we do not have a graphic for the above chart to indicate the Four Plus grade, since we award it so rarely. Our rating system usually only goes to three pluses, but this side one was so amazing we had to give it a fourth!

This is a superb recording, and on a pressing like this it is true Demo Disc material! Not too many of our Hot Stamper titles are going to ROCK you the way this one does. We put it in a class with Led Zep II, Sticky Fingers, Nevermind, and Back In Black — elite company to say the least!

If you’re a fan of BIG DRUMS in a BIG ROOM, with jump-out-of-the-speakers practically direct-to-disc sound quality, this is the album for you. The opening track on side one has drums that put to shame 99% of the rock drum kits ever recorded. The same is true of I Know I’m Losing You on side two. It just doesn’t get any better for rock drumming, musically or sonically. Micky Waller is brilliant throughout. Kenney Jones, who only plays on the showstopping “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, is clearly out of his mind).

Some of the best rock bass ever recorded can be found here too — punchy, note-like and solid as a rock. If you have the system for it you are going to have a great time playing this one for your friends, audiophiles or otherwise. (more…)

Van Morrison – A Sense Of Wonder

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides of this early pressing of Morrison’s album from 1985 
  • This is probably the last domestically pressed record he made that still has the kind of sound we look for in a Hot Stamper
  • “Over the years, Morrison has gathered around him a band that plays, like the best jazz ensembles, with effortless empathy. The group follows him through all his moods and meanderings, from the lilting cadences of “Tore Down à la Rimbaud” and “Ancient of Days” to the stately auguring of “Let the Slave” and the airy, triumphal shimmer of “A New Kind of Man.” A Sense of Wonder is serenely uplifting. With astonishing commitment and profound belief, Van Morrison continues to push forward into the mystic.”

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