Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • This 360 stereo pressing offers outstanding sound from first note to last, with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • The keys to this stark recording – just Bob, his acoustic guitar, and harmonica – is correct tonality, as well as vocal presence with breathy intimacy, and here you get a good helping of all three
  • If you’ve played the MoFi or Sundazed LP, on the CD, the Tubey Magic here might just blow your mind
  • “These are beautifully crafted, tightly focused mini-masterpieces. And they have a radical edge, a political toughness, that one rarely finds in the folk music of the period. …the songs are uncompromising in their anger and unsparing in their analysis.”

Just about everything you could want in the sound is here: wonderful clarity, mindblowing transparency, clearly audible transients on the guitar, breathy texture to the vocals, full-bodied acoustic guitars, and more. If you’ve played other copies of the album — on MoFi, Sundazed or Columbia LP, on the CD, on whatever — the immediacy of the vocals and the Tubey Magic of the midrange are going to blow your mind. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 3 / Janis/ Dorati – Years Ago We Favorably Reviewed a Mono Pressing

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CBFR-1/CBFR-2. This Mono pressing sounds SUPERB, much smoother and more natural than I remember the Stereo pressings sounding. What’s interesting about these Monos is they’re not mastered by Robert Fine. They are mastered by someone with the initials J.J., who apparently does all the Mono mastering. The reason Mercury Monos can sound as good as they do is because they have their own separate microphone feed and their own separate Mono tape recorder dedicated all to themselves. (London did the same thing and that’s why so many London Monos are amazing sounding.)

I don’t think you can find a better sounding Rachmaninoff 3rd on Mercury than this one. 

[Of course we no longer agree with that.  The best stereo copies are in an entirely different league. The mono can be good, but it cannot be great in the way the stereo pressings can be.] (more…)

Jimmy Smith – Back at the Chicken Shack

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  • Back at the Chicken Shack makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on this New York label mono pressing
  • Joining Jimmy Smith is one of our favorite bluesy sax players, Stanley Turrentine – just play Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue to hear him at this best, and Burrell is especially good here too
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded quartet occupies
  • 5 stars: “Recorded in 1960 with Kenny Burrell on guitar, Donald Bailey on drums, and Turrentine, the group reaches the peak of funky soul jazz that all other challengers of the genre would have to live up to.”

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Spirit – The Stereo Rocks

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

We love this album around here, and on a White Hot copy like this the sound is amazing! Presence and clarity up top, weight and punch down low, and plenty of Tubey Magic in the middle — this copy gives you everything you need! If you’re a fan of guitar-driven psychedelic rock, this album is right up there with the best of the genre.

This copy, especially the As Good As It Gets side two, gives you the wall to wall width and layered studio depth like you will not believe, the kind of space you hear on engineering classics like Dark Side of the Moon and A Space in Time.  

Fired Up

Want a glimpse into the kind of energy the band was generating in the studio? Drop the needle on Fresh Garbage, the opening track, and you will hear this band come alive in a way you probably never imagined you’d ever hear them. It’s positively startling how immediate and lively the sound is here.

This is the band at their best, fired up and ready to show the world that The Doors are not the only SoCal rock band who have innovative ideas about rock music and the performing chops to pull them off, not to mention the studio wizards who managed to get their Sgt. Pepper-cum-jazzy electric piano conceptions down on tape with State-of-the-Art ’60s Rock sound quality. (It just now occurred to me that Mechanical World is Spirit’s takeoff on A Day in the Life. Play it and see if you don’t agree.) (more…)

Spirit – Spirit – The Mono Rocks

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame, not for the best Hot Stamper stereo copies, but for this amazing MONO. 

This killer pressing from 2010 has almost EVERYTHING you want from this ’60s Psych Pop Masterpiece — the energy, presence and sheer rock and roll POWER made a mockery of every stereo copy we played.

Want a glimpse into the kind of energy the band was generating in the studio? Drop the needle on Fresh Garbage, the opening track of this amazing mono pressing, and you will hear this band come alive in a way you never imagined you’d ever hear them.

It’s positively startling how immediate and powerful the sound is here.

That said, from an audiophile point of view, mono does involve a sacrifice — the huge three-dimensional soundstage of the best stereo copies is nowhere to be found here. From a musical or performance point of view this mono cannot be beat; it shows the band at their best, fired up and ready to show the world that The Doors are not the only So Cal rock band who have innovative ideas about rock music and the performing chops to pull off their conceptions, not to mention the studio wizards backing them to get it all down on tape. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Our Favorite Female Vocal Album of All Time

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

The first “Triple Triple” MONO copy to ever hit the site — A+++ from start to finish. Our knockout mono pressing here was fuller, more natural and more involving than any copy we heard in our shootout. with immediacy to put Ella practically in the room with you, it’s her performance that really comes to life. It’s our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year.

Check out what the lucky owner of this copy had to say about it.

PR Writes

As you probably know, I own superb copies of the stereo. They both fade into pastel in comparison with this mono. (more…)

Jimmy Smith – Prayer Meetin’

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  • The wonderful Prayer Meetin’ makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing was simply more ALIVE and musically involving than the others we played
  • Turrentine is one of our favorite bluesy sax players – just play Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue to hear him at this best, and he is especially good here too
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded quartet occupies
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Prayer Meetin’ is a delight from start to finish. Forming a perfect closure to Smith’s trio of albums with Turrentine… The blues roots are obvious here, and the Smith-penned title track might even be called jazz-gospel…

(more…)

Spirit – A Psych Rock Masterpiece (The First of Two)

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  • Incredible sound for this psychedelic masterpiece with both sides rating a Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Wall to wall, with layered studio depth like you will not believe, the kind of space you hear on an engineering classic like Dark Side of the Moon
  • The first Triple Triple Shootout Winning copy to hit the site in years, and one of the few that’s quiet enough to enjoy
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic, but in our estimation it deserves at least five – it’s simply one of the All Time Greats from the era

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Ode pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

This record is the very definition of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of this album, quite a few I would guess, but those of us with a good turntable could care less. (more…)

Odetta – At Town Hall in Mono

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this mono original pressing of At Town Hall, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Captured live in New York City in 1963, this superb pressing will transport a living, breathing Odetta right into your listening room
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical, you-are-there immediacy of this Odetta concert, this is the only way to go
  • The album features a wonderful mix of folk and blues, including “Let Me Ride,” “Hound Dog,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

(more…)

Odetta – At Town Hall in Stereo

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  • Here is an outstanding early stereo pressing of Odetta performing live – it boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout and plays as quietly as these Vanguard LPs ever do
  • Captured live in New York City in 1963, this superb pressing will transport a living, breathing Odetta right into your listening room
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical, you-are-there immediacy of this Odetta concert, this is the only way to go
  • The album features a wonderful mix of folk and blues, including “Let Me Ride,” “Hound Dog,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

This vintage Vanguard pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Odetta singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide. (more…)