Pressings with Weak Sound Quality or Music

Some records that didn’t sound very good to us.

Gino Vannelli / Powerful People – What Was I Thinking?

More Gino Vannelli

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Sonic Grade: F

At the time of our last shootout in 2014 I still had the MoFi pressing of Powerful People in my personal, very small (at this point) record collection. Almost all the best sounding records from my collection had long ago been sold off, going to good homes that I can only assume would play them more than I had in the last ten years. If it’s a record you see on our site, chances are good I have listened to it until I’d practically turned blue in the face.

But I had kept my Powerful People half-speed these 30+ years because the domestic pressings I’d played were just too damn midrangy to enjoy. At least the MoFi had bass, top end and didn’t sound squawky or hard on the vocals.

Well, let me tell you, played against the best domestic pressings, of which this is one, the MoFi is laughable. (In that respect it shares much with the current crop of audiophile reissues.) It’s unbelievably compressed, a problem that is easily heard on the biggest, most exciting parts of the tracks — they never get remotely as big or as loud on the MoFi as they do on the lowly A&M originals. (more…)

Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records – Columbia Released Mariah Carey’s Debut in 1990

More Bad Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl

Very digital sounding, with way too much sizzle on the top end. Best to give this one a pass if you are looking for audiophile sound. If you are looking for audiophile sound quality, this site is full of the best sounding records ever made.

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.) (more…)

Led Zeppelin II – Stan Ricker Versus Robert Ludwig

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

More Led Zeppelin

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Here is the story of my first encounter with a amazing sounding copy of Zep II.

I had a friend who had come into possession of a White Label Demo pressing of the album and wanted to trade it in to me for the Mobile Fidelity pressing that I had played for him once or twice over the years, and which we both thought was The King on that album.

To my shock and dismay, his stupid American copy KILLED the MoFi. It TROUNCED it in every way. The bass was deeper and punchier. Everything was more dynamic. The vocals were more natural and correct sounding. The highs were sweeter and more extended. The whole pressing was just full of life in a way that the Mobile Fidelity wasn’t.

The Mobile Fidelity didn’t sound Bad. It sounded Not As Good. More importantly, in comparison with the good domestic copy, in many ways it now sounded wrong.

Let me tell you, it was a watershed moment in my growth as a record collector. I had long ago discovered that many MoFi’s weren’t all they were cracked up to be. But this was a MoFi I liked. And it had killed the other copies I had heard in the past.

So I learned something very important that day. I learned that hearing a good pressing is the best way to understand what’s wrong with a bad pressing. (more…)

The Original Jazz Classics (OJC) Series Got Off to a Bad Start with Sonny’s Worktime Album

Hot Stamper Pressings of Sonny Rollins’s Albums Available Now

OJC 007, the first Sonny Rollins title they picked to remaster. Too bad they did such a poor good job with it.

The copy we auditioned did not impress us sonically, so don’t expect to see Hot Stampers of this title on OJC coming to the Better Records website any time soon.

The music might be wonderful — we unreservedly follow the maxim de gustibus non est disputandum — but the sound of this pressing is unlikely to ever be of audiophile quality.

There may be great sounding pressings of the album – how could we possibly know there aren’t without playing every version ever pressed? — but we’re pretty sure the OJC will always fall short of the mark.

We created two sections for the OJC label: one for the (potentially, it’s what Hot Stampers are all about) good sounding OJC pressings and one for the (probably, see the paragraph above) bad sounding ones.

If you know of a great sounding pressing of the album, feel free to let us in on what pressing you have and we might just pick one up and give it a listen.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade / Ansermet – Not the Sound or the Performance You Want

More Recordings of Scheherazade

Hot Stamper Decca and London Pressings Available Now

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In our experience this is not the recording of the work to buy, on either Decca or London. Of the two recordings by Ansermet, we much prefer the one made with the Suisse Romande to that of the Paris Conservatoire.

We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had shown potential.

The only recordings that held up all the way through — the fourth movement being THE Ball Breaker of all time, for both the engineers and musicians — were those by Reiner and Ansermet.

This was disappointing considering how much time and money we spent finding, cleaning and playing those ten or so other pressings.

Here it is a year later and we’re capitalizing on what we learned from the first big go around, which is simply this: the Ansermet recording on Decca/London can not only hold its own with the Reiner on RCA, but beat it in virtually any area. The presentation and the sound itself are both more relaxed and natural, even when compared to the best RCA pressings.

The emotional content of the first three movements (all of side one) under Ansermet’s direction are clearly superior. The roller coaster excitement Reiner and the CSO bring to the fourth movement cannot be faulted, or equaled. In every other way Ansermet’s performance is the one for me. (more…)

Respighi / Pines of Rome with Maazel on DG – Not the Pressing You Want

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

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Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records
Deutsche Grammophon Made This One

I’ve been playing a lot of different pressings of this music lately, trying to find the recordings that are most likely to win a shootout.

My notes for this one read: Very multi-miked. No depth, but the stage is wide. Not warm but dynamic.

There are a lot of DG recordings that have this kind of sound. We’ve played them by the score. Most went directly into the trade bin.

We simply do not sell classical records with this kind of second-rate sound regardless of the how good the performances may be.

Our job is to find you good sounding pressings. That’s the reason we carry no Heavy Vinyl of any kind, exactly one Half-Speed mastered title (John Klemmer’s Touch), rarely any Japanese pressings, and almost nothing made in the 21st century.

If these kinds of records sounded good — in other words, if they did well in shootouts — we would be happy to offer them to our customers. But they don’t.

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Dear Audiophiles: The Wall Sounds Terrible on this Japanese “Audiophile” Pressing

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for The Wall

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This Japanese Import is one of the dullest, muddiest, worst sounding copies of The Wall we have ever played. It is clearly made from a second generation tape (or worse!).

And somehow this pressing, or one very much like it, ended up as on the TAS Super Disc List. I would hope that the copy Harry played sounded a whole lot better than this one.

And the CBS Half-Speed is every bit as bad!

How is it that the worst sounding pressings are so often marketed to audiophiles as superior to their mass-produced counterparts? In our experience, more often than not they are just plain awful, inferior in every way but one: surface quality.

Dear Audiophiles, stop collecting crappy audiophile pressings with quiet vinyl and just switch to CD already.

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Steely Dan – Katy Lied – A MoFi that Beggars Belief

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

By the time I was avidly collecting Mobile Fidelity records in the late ’70s this title had already gone out of print, one of the first to do so. My guess is that even the cloth-eared audiophiles at MoFi knew when they had a turkey on their hands and mercilessly put this one out to pasture. Yes, the sound is so bad that even MoFi could hear it. 

Compressed and lifeless as the screen speakers so popular at the time, it’s hard to imagine any version sounding worse than this one.

And yet I continued to play my copy, for enjoyment of course, oblivious — I must have been oblivious, right? — to the bad sound. (more…)

The Who ‎/ Who’s Next – Getting It Exactly Backwards

A classic case of Live and Learn

More of The Who

What follows is the commentary for the Canadian One Sided Half-Speed that we had auditioned around 2000. It came in a regular jacket, not the one you see pictured, and was part of a big overstock batch I had gotten my hands on a number of years before.

Getting It Exactly Backwards

Half of this record is Half-Speed Mastered! There’s an interesting story behind this album. Those of you who’ve been collecting audiophile records for a long time may remember that Who’s Next was as an MCA Masterphile Half-Speed Mastered pressing produced in Canada. I remember liking it back in the day, which had to be 15 years ago at least. But they are very rare and I haven’t played one in many years.

I ran into some sealed Canadian pressings of Who’s Next, and when I cracked one open to play it I noted it had Masterphile written in the deadwax on one side. Apparently they had made so few Masterphile pressings that the metal work was still useable and they decided to press some “regular” records with one of the stampers.

And I remember I used to tell people that the good side, side one, was the Masterphile side. Then three or four years ago [circa 2000], I had occasion to play the record. Lo and behold, side one was bright and phony, and side two was rich and sweet, like the good Track Label pressings! I had gotten it exactly backwards.

A recurring theme here at Better Records has to do with the phony sound of audiophile records that we used to like, and the more natural sound of regular records, which are the ones we like now. This is another example. The better your equipment gets, the fewer so-called “audiophile” pressings you will want to have in your collection. The upshot to this story? Side two sounds great on this copy! (more…)