Reviewers

Yes – Fragile – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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FRAGILE is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries. Below you can find a letter one of our good customers wrote about his Hot Stamper pressing.

Our good customer Franklin wrote us a nice letter to let us us how much he loved his Fragile Hot Stamper. He’s so right: that was one AMAZING sounding record!

Just listened to the Yes album Fragile. FANTASTIC!!!!! I didn’t know Yes LPs could sound like this. Any Yes LPs I’ve ever heard were harsh sounding and after a couple of minutes my ears would start to hurt. Thanks!

Regards,
Franklin

Thanks, Franklin, for your enthusiastic letter. Is this the same famously “compromised” recording that MF complained about while extolling the virtues of the mediocre Analogue Productions LP? Now you and I both know two things: how wrong they are, and how amazing this record can really sound — when you’re lucky enough to have a truly Hot Stamper like the very one you played. (more…)

Classic Records 45 RPM Remaster – This Is Your Idea of a Great Firebird?

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Classic Records 45 RPM Debunked

Sonic Grade: C-

A customer alerted me to a review Wayne Garcia wrote about various VPI platters and the rim drive, and this is what I wrote back to him:

Steve, after starting to read Wayne’s take on the platters, I came across this:
That mind-blowing epiphany that I hadn’t quite reached with the Rim Drive/Super Platter happened within seconds after I lowered the stylus onto the “Infernal Dance” episode of Stravinsky’s Firebird (45 rpm single-sided Classic Records reissue of the incomparable Dorati/LSO Mercury Living Presence recording).

That is one of my half-dozen or so favorite orchestral recordings, and I have played it countless times.

This is why I have so little faith in reviewers. I played that very record not two weeks ago (04/2010) against a good original and the recut was at best passable in comparison. If a reviewer cannot hear such an obvious difference in quality, why believe anything he has to say? The reason we say that no reviewer can be trusted is that you cannot find a reviewer who does not say good things about demonstrably bad and even just plain awful records. It’s the only real evidence we have for their credibility, and the evidence is almost always damning. (more…)

TAS List Thoughts on Willie Nelson’s Stardust

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There’s a reason Willie Nelson’s Stardust is on HP’s TAS List of Super Discs, but you’d never know it by playing the average Columbia pressing. Most copies of this record just sound like an old Willie Nelson record. You wouldn’t have a clue how magical this recording can be if you dropped the needle on the average copy, a copy that for all intents and purposes appears to be exactly the pressing that Harry Pearson recommends on his Super Disc list. The catalog number may be the same, but the sound won’t even hint at Super disc status. (Which, sad to say, most audiophiles don’t seem to notice.)

Get real. Unless you have at least a dozen copies of this record (and we had more than double that) you have very little chance of finding even one side with exceptional sound.

This has always been the problem with the TAS list. The pressing variations on a record like this are HUGE and DRAMATIC. There is a world of difference between this copy and what the typical audiophile owns based on HP’s list. I’ve been complaining for years that the catalog number that Harry supplies has very little benefit to the typical audiophile record lover.

Without at least the right stampers, the amount of work required to find a copy that deserves a Super Disc ranking is daunting, requiring the kind of time and effort that few audiophiles are in a position to devote to such a difficult and frustrating project. The average copy of Stardust just plain sounds wrong, and finding one that sounds right is no mean feat. 

Ron McMaster Strikes Again – Who Approved This Miserable Band Pressing?

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The Band on Heavy Vinyl

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

Flat, compressed, no top end, no Tubey Magic, this is Ron McMaster’s work at its worst, helped along by the fact that he does not have the original master tape or even a copy of it to work with, but instead the new remix that was made a few years back because the original tape had been lost. And somehow reviewers like it!
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Romantic Russia – Who on Earth Could Possibly Take This Kind of Sound Seriously?

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Borodin, Glinka & Mussorgsky / Romantic Russia / Solti

 

Sonic Grade: F

Another MoFi LP debunked.

A well-known reviewer has many kind things to say about this pressing, but we think it sounds like a hi-fi-ish version of a ’70s London, which means it’s opaque and the strings are badly lacking in Tubey Magic.

The bass is like jello on the MoFi, unlike the real London which has fairly decent bass.

More orchestral music conducted by Georg Solti

MoFi had a bad habit of making bright classical records. I suppose you could say they had a bad habit of making bright records in general. A few are dull, some are just right, but most of them are bright in one way or another. Dull playback equipment? An attempt to confuse detail with resolution? Whatever the reasons, the better and more accurate your equipment becomes, the most obvious this shortcoming will be. My tolerance for their phony EQ is at an all time low. But hey, that’s me. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – A MoFi Disaster to Beat Them All – Now With Video

If you click on the heading you can read some of the silly comments people are making about this awful pressing, one of the worst sounding versions of Sticky Fingers ever committed to vinyl. When you stop to consider how awful most pressings are compared to the only version that actually has ever sounded good to us, the original domestic LP,  that’s really saying something.

More The Rolling Stones

More Sticky Fingers

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a joke. It’s so compressed, lifeless, and lacking in bottom end that it would hardly interfere with even the most polite conversation at a wine tasting. I consider it one of the worst sounding versions ot the album ever made. It’s an Audiophile Record in the worst sense of the word.

A well-known reviewer actually — I kid you not — was still defending the sound of the MoFi as late as 2010. In one of his reviews earlier in 2008 he used it to test a piece of equipment he was evaluating(!). What could be more preposterous? Like I say, I kid you not.

In 2010 he wrote this:

Mo-Fi’s half-speed mastered edition (MFSL 1-060) was controversial when issued in 1980, with its jacked up lower bass, icy top end, sucked out midrange and low overall level. I’ll tell you though, as my system has improved, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. It offers outstanding focus and clarity and its portrayal of inner detail and transient snap is unsurpassed. Admittedly the sound is not for everybody.

It’s not for me, that’s for damn sure.

 

Avoid Making this Rookie Record Collecting Mistake

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Record Shopping Day Video!

Not sure how much of this video you can stand — nothing could interest me less than a couple of audiophile / vinyl enthusiasts spouting off on what they think about some random records sitting in a local store’s bins — but one or two bits caught my eye. I thought it might possibly be of service to share them with you.

Is there any value to the comments of these two collectors? If you care about what music they like, perhaps.  Anything about what to look for on the label or jacket that might correspond to better sound?  If it’s there I sure didn’t see it, but I admit to speeding through most of it so I can’t say for sure.

The first bit I refer to above is at 18:42.  The album in question is the legendary Kind of Blue. At this point the unseen helmet-cammed audiophile picks up the record, recognizes the original cover, and proceeds to pull the record out to see what era the pressing is from.

Drat! The disappointment in this audiophile’s voice is palpable as he drops the record back in the bin with his dismissive comment that  “it’s a later pressing.”

But we here at Better Records would be falling all over ourselves to get our hands on that later pressing. Those late pressings can and often do win shootouts. We would never look down our noses at a Red Label Columbia jazz LP, and neither should you.

Our intrepid audiophile explorer does much the same thing about 23 minutes in. It seems pretty clear to us that he has no respect for such reissues, another example of one of the most common myths in record collecting land, the myth that the  original pressing is always, or to be fair, usually better. (more…)

1A, or Is 1B Better? – Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

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More 1A, or Is 1B Better?

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Before we go any further, I have a question: Why are we guessing?

I received an email recently from a customer who had gone to great pains to do his own shootout for a record; in the end he came up short, with not a lot to show for his time and effort. It had this bit tucked in toward the end:

Some of [Better Records’] Hot Stampers are very dear in price and most often due to the fact that there are so few copies in near mint condition. I hate to think of all the great Hot Stampers that have ended up in piles on the floor night after night with beer, Coke, and seeds being ground into them.

Can you imagine all the 1A 1B or even 2A 2B masters that ended up this way or were just played to death with a stylus that would be better used as a nail than to play a record!

As it so happens, shortly thereafter I found myself on Michael Fremer’s old website of all places, where I saw something eerily similar in his review for the (no doubt awful) Sundazed vinyl. I quote below the relevant paragraphs. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Alternate Takes – It’s a Long Story

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More Alternate Takes

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

An absolutely killer pressing of one of our favorite jazz albums! The album is comprised of alternate takes from the Way Out West and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders sessions, and as such there is a bit of sonic variation between these tracks and the ones on the actual albums. The best-sounding songs here, particularly the material from Way Out West, sound amazing!  (more…)

Billy Joel – 52nd Street on Impex (Cisco)

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Sonic Grade: Side One: F / Side Two: C+

The new Impex (Cisco) 180 gram remastering of 52nd Street was cut by Kevin Gray, under the direction of Robert Pincus (aka Mr Record), at the now defunct AcousTech Mastering in Camarillo. We noted in a recent review for a much superior (how could it not be?) Hot Stamper pressing:

Side one is a joke (zero ambience, resolution, energy, etc.) but side two is actually quite good. Side two fixes the biggest problem with the album: hard, honky vocals.

In his review appearing in The Absolute Sound, Neil Gader plucks two songs out of the album’s nine as especially meritorious. Oddly enough they’re both on side two. I wonder why.  (more…)