Records that Sound Best on the Right Domestic Pressing

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of AC/DC

  • Once again the phenomenally talented Robert Ludwig gets the Rock and Roll Power from the tape onto the vinyl like no one else can
  • For Those About To Rock has wall to wall sound and in-the-room presence like you will not believe
  • “AC/DC are the real thing, perhaps the purest major practitioners of hot and snotty rock since Led Zeppelin lumbered off the boards. Other groups, from Van Halen to REO Speedwagon, may base their music on similar elements, but they inevitably emerge from the studio sounding cleaned up and rather too eager for AOR airplay. AC/DC, from the start, have always left the rough edges in. The rough edges are the point, much as they were part of the point of, say, Little Richard in the Fifties or the Rolling Stones in the mid-Sixties.” – Rolling Stone
  • If you’re a fan of these hard-rockin’ Ausssies, this classic from 1977 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1981 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

From the moment the title track began, we knew we were in for a real treat. The transparency and clarity are shocking — we heard texture on the guitars and room around the drums that simply weren’t to be found elsewhere, plus tons of echo and ambience. The vocals simply could not be any better — they’re breathy and full-bodied with loads of texture.

The bottom end is Right On The Money — big, beefy, and rock-solid.

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.

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U2 – October

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  • Outstanding sound throughout with both sides rating a strong Double Plus (A++) for their big, bold sound
  • Balanced, musical and full throughout – this pressing is a big step up from many of the other originals that we played
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl, with each side playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “… when U2 marry the message, melody, and sound together, as on “Gloria,” “I Threw a Brick Through a Window,” and “I Fall Down,” the results are thoroughly impressive.”
  • If you’re a U2 fan, a killer copy of their classic album from 1981 belongs in your collection

Recordings from the ’80s are always a bit tricky in terms of their sound quality, and U2 is not a band we have ever associated with the highest audiophile-quality sonics. We’ve been through a number of their albums now, including War, The Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree, and while Demo Quality Sound may never be in the cards for these guys, we’ve at least found a handful of pressings that do a much better job of communicating their music than others, and certainly a great deal better than any Heavy Vinyl reissue or digital source.

It’s not often that we come across audiophile-quality sound for U2’s early titles. The average copy of this record sounds as dry and flat as a cassette. Not this one, or to be more precise, not this pressing. (more…)

Bee Gees et al. – Saturday Night Fever

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  • An incredible copy of this ’70s classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the third side, and Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on the other three
  • Please note that the labels on this 2 LP set are slightly mismatched — we’re combining two different copies to make one great sounding set album
  • There’s real Bee Gees vocal magic here – “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “More Than a Woman,” “Jive Talkin’,” and even “A Fifth of Beethoven” all sound great
  • It’s no walk in the park to find a copy with sound this good and fairly quiet vinyl, but here it is
  • 5 stars: “Saturday Night Fever is virtually indispensable as a Bee Gees album, not just for the presence of an array of songs that were hits in their own right but because it offered the Gibb brothers as composers as well as artists…”

This copy of the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack has truly killer sound throughout, and that ain’t no jive talkin’! We collected a bunch of these and put them through the shootout process and were delighted to find out that some of the material on here can sound wonderful on the best pressings.

Like any compilation, some songs are going to sound better than others. The good news here is that most of the tracks you’d hope to be impressive actually are: “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love” and “Disco Inferno” are among the better-sounding songs here.

Compared to every other copy we played — on all four sides mind you — these sides are richer, fuller, and livelier. They’re also more open and transparent, with notably improved clarity, less smear, and better bass.

Find your favorite song on here, drop the needle, and see if the dramatically improved sound doesn’t bring back some special memories, and maybe even inspire you to bust a move! (more…)

Paul McCartney – McCartney

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  • This copy of McCartney’s Apple debut boasts killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Both sides are big and rich, with plenty of low end, strong midrange presence and the kind of spatiality that will fill your entire listening room
  • Record Collector highlighted “Every Night”, “Junk,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” as songs that “still sound absolutely effortless and demonstrate the man’s natural genius with a melody.”
  • A Top 100 pick and Paul McCartney’s One and Only Masterpiece – a Must Own when it sounds this good!

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. The music jumps right out of the speakers and fills up the room. (more…)

Ringo Starr – Ringo

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More by Richard Perry

  • 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.

(I had a chance to tour Bill Schnee’s studio when he sold it to a friend of mine. The main room was huge with a vaulted high ceiling and lots of acoustically variable panels on the walls. It’s sure to be all digital by now; more’s the pity.) (more…)

Heart / Dreamboat Annie – Turn Up Your Volume and Rock Out

Dreamboat Annie is yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock records. It’s also one of those recordings that demands to be played LOUD. If you’ve got the big room, big speakers, and the power to drive them, you can have a LIVE ROCK AND ROLL CONCERT in your very own house. When the boys behind Heart (superb musicians all) let loose with some of those Zep-like monster power chords — which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and “safe” mixes — I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don’t like the sound of horns, so there you go.)

Not many records have this kind of big, rockin’ sound, that’s for sure! If you’re an audiophile who loves classic rock, you just haven’t lived until you’ve heard this album on a White Hot Stamper pressing. There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through. In a nutshell those are the ones that earn our top Hot Stamper grades.

We’re pretty fond of these ladies here at Better Records. Their second album, Little Queen, has been a favorite test disc around here for years. When Heart is at their best, the music is wonderful. If you’re lucky enough to own the right pressing — this one will do nicely — this band can ROCK with the best of them.

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

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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It!

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More of Our Favorite Titles from 1978

  • Musically it’s surely the best record Tom Petty ever made – a late ’70s Rock Classic 
  • Three of Petty’s best songs are on this one – Restless, I Need To Know and Listen To Her Heart – and they sound amazing
  • “Overall, the current LP boasts an impressive stylistic cohesiveness with its predecessor, but what makes the album exciting are the fresh hints of openness and expansion just beneath the surface. The rhythms are a bit looser, and there’s a new emphasis on Petty’s rough, driving, rock & roll guitar in the mix.” Rolling Stone

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

Sweetly textured guitars, breathy vocals — all the subtleties of a High Quality Recording are here, along with prodigious amounts of bass and powerful dynamics. Check out that drum sound! If you can play this one at the levels it demands you might just be shocked at how good it sounds. (more…)

John Lennon – Rock ‘N’ Roll

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More of The Beatles

  • These sides are doing practically everything right — rich, full-bodied, present and spacious with plenty of extension on both ends
  • “Rock ‘n’ Roll, in fact, stands as a peak in his post-Imagine catalog: an album that catches him with nothing to prove and no need to try… Today, Rock ‘n’ Roll sounds fresher than the rock & roll that inspired it in the first place. Imagine that.” – All Music, 4 Stars

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Roxy Music / Siren – The Atco Pressings Are the Only Game in Town

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More Five Star Albums Available Now

  • The sound here is richer, with much less transistory grain, and more of the All Important Tubey Magic than most other copies we played
  • 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 anything.

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…)

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms

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Reviews and Commentaries for Brothers in Arms

  • Tonally correct from start to finish, with a solid bottom and fairly natural vocals (for this particular recording of course), HERE is the sound they were going for in the studio
  • Drop the needle on So Far Away – it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet still rich and full-bodied
  • 4 stars: “One of their most focused and accomplished albums … Dire Straits had never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them.”

Fully extended from top to bottom with a wide-open soundstage, this is the sound you need for this music. There’s plenty of richness and fullness here as well — traits that are really crucial to getting the most out of a mid-’80s recording like this.

Drop the needle on So Far Away — it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet incredibly rich and full-bodied. The bottom end really delivers the goods — it’s punchy and meaty with healthy amounts of tight, deep bass. (more…)