Records that Sound Best on the Right Import Pressing

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.

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

More George Harrison

More of The Beatles

  • With superb sound on all six sides, this early British box set of All Things Must Pass will be very hard to beat
  • If you’ve struggled with domestic pressings and later imports or Heavy Vinyl reissues, your troubles are over – here is the sound you were looking for
  • 5 stars: “Without a doubt, Harrison’s first solo recording is his best. Drawing on his backlog of unused compositions from the late Beatles era, Harrison crafted material that managed the rare feat of conveying spiritual mysticism without sacrificing his gifts for melody and grand, sweeping arrangements.”
  • This is clearly George Harrison’s best sounding album. Roughly 100 other listings for the Best Sounding Album by an Artist or Group can be found here.
  • This is a Must Own Title from 1970, a great year for Rock and Pop Music
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here
  • A great deal of tube compression was used in the mixing and mastering of the album, which makes this a difficult one to reproduce on anything but the highest quality equipment

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Simply Red / A New Flame – A Personal Favorite

More Simply Red

More Soul, Blues, and R&B

  • This excellent UK import copy of A New Flame boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • The key qualities for a record from this era are richness, smoothness, naturalness and Tubey Magic — with those, and clarity and presence, you have pretty much everything you need for a top quality pressing
  • Simply Red’s third (and in our opinion their BEST) album – this is where it all came together for the band, with “It’s Only Love” and “A New Flame” being the two best tracks the group ever recorded
  • Their cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” on side two sounds FANTASTIC

This outstanding UK import pressing has some of the best sound we have ever heard for the album, Simply Red’s third and in my opinion their BEST.

This is where it all came together for the band, especially in the writing department. These songs about love (few popular songs are about anything else when you stop to think about it) harken back to the days when there was such a thing as “Blue-Eyed Soul Music,” a cross between real soul music and the standard radio-friendly pop song. Hall and Oates, Smokey Robinson (not exactly blue-eyed but definitely the right sound); the music of these artists combines pop craftsmanship with real soul.

I love this album. Every track is good; the slow ones are the best but unlike their previous records the uptempo tracks are taken at a more modest and listenable pace. The two tracks that open side one are two of the best the band ever recorded.

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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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Lou Reed – Transformer

More of Our Favorite Artists’ Best Sounding Albums

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • Excellent sound for Lou Reed’s Glam Rock Classic, Transformer, engineered to sound as Tubey Magical as Ziggy Stardust by none other than Ken Scott
  • Here is an import pressing with the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot BEGIN to reproduce
  • A side one this good means Walk on the Wild Side is a Demonstration Quality track that will have your audiophile friends turning green with envy
  • Transformer is an absolute tour de force of ’70s Glam Rock / Classic Rock / Alternative Rock
  • “… Bowie and Ronson gave their hero a new lease on life — and a solid album in the bargain.” 
  • Transformer is his Masterpiece, a Core Collection title, and possibly a case of One and Done since it’s the only Lou Reed album we sell. (You, of course, may feel differently.)

Transformer is an absolute tour de force of ’70s Glam Rock / Classic Rock / Alternative Rock. You’ve got Lou Reed teamed up with David Bowie (in the producer’s chair!), Mick Ronson, Herbie Flowers and Klaus Voorman, and on top of that the album was recorded at Trident and mixed by the great Ken Scott.

Throw in the fact that this is the best set of post-Velvets material Lou would ever write and it is a recipe for success. There are so many good songs on here I won’t bother to list them one by one. Satellite Of Love is especially good though, if you ask me. If you agree, and you’ve never heard the VU demo version, make sure to seek it out. It’s completely different and good fun.

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Debussy / Clair de Lune / Agoult

  • This rich, sweet and full-bodied UK pressing boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from top to bottom – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Side one gives you not only a wonderful Clair De Lune, but a number of shorter works by Faure, Massenet and Elgar as well, with side two highlighted by meditative pieces by Bach, Tchaikovsky and others
  • We can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the program and the sound – this record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson in this case) were able to capture on tape
  • It’s the same recording as the famous Living Stereo Clair De Lune, LSC-2326, but with a couple of extra tracks included
  • The other main difference between the Living Stereo pressing on our Decca here is that the Decca has better sound

Transparent and spacious, wide and naturally staged, clean yet rich, with zero coloration, there is nothing here to fault. So relaxed and natural you will soon find yourself lost in the music.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording. We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

The 1959 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1970, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.

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The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta

More Sting and The Police

  • Forget the domestic pressings, forget the Nautilus 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 import pressing is the only way to go
  • This album is an absolute classic — it leads off with Don’t Stand So Close To Me and never lets up
  • 5 stars: “Zenyatta contains perhaps the quintessential new wave anthem, the haunting ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’… Zenyatta Mondatta remains one of the finest rock albums of all time.” [That’s a bit much.]

It is brutally difficult to find great copies of this album, which explains why not that many have gone up since 2006.

This copy was doing pretty much everything we wanted. The vocals are present, the bass is well-defined, the guitars have harmonic texture, and the drums are punchy and lively.

As for the music, the album is an absolute classic — it leads off with “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and never lets up.

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Bonnie Raitt – Luck of the Draw

  • This UK import pressing will blow the doors off any other Luck Of The Draw you’ve heard with superb sound from start to finish
  • Amazingly open and transparent, with tons of energy and real immediacy to Bonnie’s wonderfully present, breathy vocals
  • This copy had more ANALOG qualities than most others in our recent shootout, which tended to have that digital / sterile sound that kills so many albums from the era
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Luck of the Draw is an unqualified success, filled with strong songs — including the hits ‘Something to Talk About’ and ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me,’ plus the Delbert McClinton duet ‘Good Man, Good Woman’ — appealing productions, and just enough dirt to make old-school fans feel at home.”

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Elvis Costello – King of America

More Elvis Costello

More Records We Sell Only on Import Vinyl

  • This F-Beat import pressing of Elvis’s brilliant 1986 release boasts seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are clean, clear, and lively with plenty of bottom end and lots of space around all of the instruments
  • Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is only one highlight among many – these are some of his best songs
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Stripping away much of the excess that cluttered Punch the Clock and Goodbye Cruel World, Elvis Costello returned to his folk-rock and pub rock roots with King of America, creating one of his most affecting and personal records … one of his masterpieces.”

Even though the album was recorded right here in the states, the domestic copies are clearly made from dubs, sounding quite a bit more opaque, vague, closed-in, flat and dry than most of the British pressings we played. Like most Costello albums on domestic vinyl, they should be avoided.

Of course I and all my friends, at least the ones who were into Elvis at the time, had a copy with exactly this kind of mediocre sound and we liked it just fine. Now, thirty-six years on, I couldn’t sit through that kind of sound with a gun to my head.

Setting higher standards for yourself — consciously or unconsciously, the process works both ways — is an important aspect of becoming a more critical listener. Many of the Heavy Vinyl audiophile remasters sound “opaque, vague, closed-in, flat and dry” next to the best Hot Stamper pressings, but if you’ve never heard one, how would you know what you’re missing?

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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 removed this title from our Top 100 List a while back because it has become too difficult to get hold of clean UK copies. Who’s Next is even more difficult, but for some reason we left that one on the list, go figure (it is the better album).

The other Who album that still makes the cut and always will is Tommy. That is one amazing sounding record, when you find a good one on the UK Track label. (Nothing else can touch it, of course, but if you don’t want to pay the big bucks we charge, find one of these for cheap.)

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