TAS Super Disc List

Dire Straits – Love Over Gold

More Dire Straits

More Love Over Gold

  • This vintage British import boasts a STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an outstanding solid Double Plus (A++) side one – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The open, spacious soundstage, full-bodied tonality and Tubey Magic here are obvious for all to hear – huge, punchy, lively and rockin’ throughout
  • This killer Hot Stamper is far more natural than any other pressing you’ve heard – we guarantee it
  • “Certainly a quantum leap from the organic R&B impressionism of the band’s early LPs and the gripping short stories of Making Movies, Love Over Gold is an ambitious, sometimes difficult record that is exhilarating in its successes and, at the very least, fascinating in its indulgences.” – Rolling Stone
  • The sound may be heavily processed, but it works surprisingly well on the best sounding pressings (played at good, loud levels on big dynamic speakers in a large, heavily-treated room, of course)

This modern album (from 1982, which makes it 40 years old, but that’s modern in our world) can sound surprisingly good on the right pressing. On most copies, the highs are slightly grainy and can be harsh, not exactly the kind of sound that inspires you to turn your system up good and loud and really get involved in the music. I’m happy to report that both sides here have no such problem – they rock and they sound great loud.

We pick up every clean copy we see of this album, domestic or import, because we know from experience just how good the best pressings can sound. What do the best copies have? REAL dynamics for one. And with those dynamics, you need rock solid bass. Otherwise, the loud portions simply become irritating. (more…)

Massenet – Pros, Cons and a Milestone of Audio Progress

More of the music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

About ten years ago we reviewed a copy of the album that had a sub-optimal side two, a side two that suffered from screechy string tone.

Since that time we’ve made a number of improvements to our cleaning regimen and playback system, and the result has been that our last couple of shootouts went off without a hitch, showing us string tone that was virtually free of screechiness. (The Greensleeves reissues never had much of a screechy strings problem as they tended to be mastered on the smooth side. They are more forgiving of second-rate playback in that respect, but they can also never win shootouts with that overly smooth sound.) [1]

Problem solved! The records were fine, we just couldn’t play them back then as well as we can now.

In 2012, ten years ago, I had been selling records to audiophiles professionally for 25 years. I had owned a State of the Art system for 37 years.

But I knew I still had plenty to learn, and I kept at it.

After a decade’s worth of tweaking and tuning, the strings of this recording started to sound the way Stuart Eltham and his fellow engineers undoubtedly wanted them to.

This is how you chart your audio progress, by challenging yourself with difficult to reproduce recordings and building on the improvements you continue to make as the years and decades go by.

If you’re in the market for records that can show you that there is still plenty of work left to be done in this crazy audio hobby we’ve all chosen, we have scores of them on the Better Records site.

If we can get them to sound better, so can you.

[1] Our latest preoccupation here on the blog is to point out as often as we can that the Modern Heavy Vinyl remastered pressing is too often just too damn smooth.

The remastered box sets of The Beatles (see: Pepper, Sgt.., etc.) are the poster boys for making records sound more “analog” by boosting the bass and smoothing the treble, like your old ’70s system used to do. (Those of you who were in the hobby back then know exactly the sound I am talking about. For those who would like to know more, we wrote this overview.)

The Beatles records that we sell as Hot Stampers have nothing in common with that absurdly artificial approach. Mid-Fi systems may benefit from more bass and less top end, but Hi-Fi systems worthy of the name will not, hence our distaste for this kind of EQ overreach. More example of overly smooth modern records can be found here, with more to be added as time permits.


Our Review from 2012

This is a record that clearly belongs on a Super Disc list. If Harry hadn’t already put it there we certainly would have.

We would love to compile a Super Disc list of our own, but unless you have just the right copy of whatever title you find on the list, you may not have anything like Super Disc sound quality, so why a list at all? It creates more problems for audiophiles than it solves. [We have since changed our minds about Super Disc lists.]

Both sides of this TAS List disc contain audiophile Must Own Demonstration pieces, full of Tubey Magic, powerful dynamics, real depth, lifelike ambience, and uncannily accurate instrumental timbres, especially from the woodwinds. Add explosive dynamics and deep bass and you have yourself a genuine audiophile recording.

The sound is so rich you will not believe you are listening to an EMI. If more EMI records sounded like this we would be putting them on the site left and right. Unfortunately, in our experience the majority are thin, shrill and vague. Not so here.

Side One – Le Cid

A+++, so much bigger and livelier than the other copies we played. Huge size and scope, with an extended top, good texture to the strings, and lower strings that are rich and rosiny in the best tradition of vintage Deccas and RCAs.

As it stands it is clearly a Demo Disc of real power. It’s smooth and natural, which means you can really turn it up if you want that front row center seat.

Side Two – Scenes Pittoresques / The Last Sleep of the Virgin

A+ to A++, good, just clearly not as good as this amazing side one. It’s big, rich and spacious — 3-D in fact — but the string tone is not as warm and textured as it should be.

Which means it has some of that typically screechy EMI String Sound one often hears on their recordings.

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Herrmann – This Is What We Call Blockbuster Sound

More of the Music of Bernard Herrmann

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bernard Herrmann

This is an outstanding recording, with a huge three-dimensional stage. It’s open and clear, with an extended top and plenty going on down low. The sound on the best pressings is nothing short of amazing.

This is Demo Disc quality sound by any measure, especially on Big Speakers at Loud Levels.

If like us you’re a fan of Blockbuster Orchestral Recordings, this killer album from 1975 belongs in your collection.

Side one boasts some wonderful material from Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts. Who else but Herrmann could have orchestrated such phantasmagorical goings on?

The Three Worlds Of Gulliver Suite takes up all of side two. The complete score from which the suite is taken can be found on the original Herrmann album The Three Worlds of Gulliver, a long-time and extremely rare member of the TAS Super Disc List.

Borrowing from the Best

One reason this music is so wonderful is because it’s been more or less lifted from, and orchestrated exactly like, Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan.

Herrmann was no doubt familiar with Rimsky-Korsakov’s work, and knew that his “sound” was exactly the one that would work for the film. He overlayed his own compositional style onto Rimsky-Korsakov’s, and the result is a soundtrack of breathtaking beauty, full of exotic instrumental colors and delicious audiophile-candy percussion.

This Orchestral Spectacular should have a place of honor in any audiophile’s Classical Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Schubert / Death and the Maiden / Julliard String Quartet

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Franz Schubert

Wow! One of the RAREST and most sought after RCA Shaded Dog pressings (LSC 2378) in BEAUTIFUL CONDITION with SUPERB SOUND (on side two anyway). This Demo Copy has a side two with the kind of richness and sweetness lacking on many of the RCA chamber recordings we’ve played in the past, and in fact is lacking somewhat on side one of this very record.

Side two, which has the third and fourth movement of Death and the Maiden, is wonderful here, earning a sonic grade of A++. It’s very transparent, with real “rosin on the bow” resolution and naturalness.

Side one, with sound that rates something in the range of A to A+, was somewhat lean and midrangy, a common fault with RCA’s chamber recordings. It does have lovely 3-D soundstaging and spaciousness though.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

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Ry Cooder – Was Jazz Really a TAS List Superdisc?

Hot Stamper Pressings of TAS List Super Disc Albums

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

The typical pressing of this record doesn’t even hint at how magical this album can sound. If your copy isn’t exceptionally full-bodied, rich, and sweet, you can bet that it will sound edgy and irritating with the extensive amount of listening required to appreciate and fully enjoy this music.

There’s a reason this record is on the TAS list, but you’d never know it by playing the average Warner Brothers pressing. Most copies of this record just sound like an old record. You would never even know how magical this recording is by playing a copy that, for all intents and purposes, appears to be the pressing Harry Pearson is recommending on his Super Disc list.

The catalog number is the same, the sound is not. Unless you have at least a dozen copies of this record you have very little chance of finding even one exceptional side.

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 could ever devote to such a difficult and frustrating project.

Dick Schory – Music for Bang, Baaroom and Harp

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

  • A vintage pressing boasting INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound from start to finish
  • Absolutely As Good As It Gets – it’s a real treat to hear such a crazy assortment of percussion instruments with this kind of amazingly clear, high-resolution sound!
  • This phenomenal copy is just plain bigger, richer and clearer than any we can remember playing – part of the reason for that is that it takes us about five years to find enough clean copies of a record like this in order to do a shootout
  • It also helps that both of these sides are in correct polarity, a subject you can read about on the blog if you would like to know more
  • If you’re a fan of percussion extravaganzas, this Living Stereo from 1958 is about as good as it gets

The hottest stamper pressings of this album are Demo Discs for three important qualities we listen for in our record auditions. Each of the links below will take you to other recordings we have found to be potentially superior in these areas of reproduction.

  1. Size and Space,
  2. Correct Timbre and
  3. Tubey Magic.

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, and rightfully so. It certainly can be a Super Disc, but only when you have the right pressing. This is one of the Demo Discs on the TAS List which truly deserves its status when, and only when, you have the right copy. (The typical copy is quite good, but it sure doesn’t sound like this.) Nothing else in our shootout could touch it. And it’s IN PHASE. Many copies are not.

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The Eagles / Desperado

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

  • This STUNNING copy of the band’s sophomore release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This vintage pressing has huge amounts of Tubey Magic, a strong bass foundation, and plenty of space around the guitars and voices – man, that is our sound!
  • This is the second-best sounding Eagles record of all time, no doubt thanks to their brilliant engineer and producer, Glyn Johns
  • “A solid country-rock classic… the music stands the test of time, especially when Desperado is heard in its entirety, from start to finish.”

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.

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Classic Records First Three Classical Releases, Reviewed Circa 1994

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Titles Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Hundreds of Living Stereo Records

Way back in 1994, long before we had anything like the system we do now, we were finding fault with the “Classic Records Sound.”

With each passing year — 28 and counting — we like that sound less.  Some Classic Records pressings may be on Harry’s TAS list — disgraceful but true — but that certainly has no bearing on whether or not they are very good records. 

I had a chance to play LSC 1806 (pictured above) not long ago and I was dumbfounded at how bright, shrill and aggressive it was.

I still remember playing my first Classic Records title, their first release, which would probably have been in 1994. The deep bass of the organ at the start of Also Sprach Zarathustra, the horns and the tympani blasting out from a dead silent background, put a lump in my throat. Had they actually managed to remaster these old recordings so well that the vintage pressings I was selling for such high prices would soon be worthless? I really do remember having that thought race through my mind.

But then the strings came in, shrieking and as bright as the worst Angel or DG pressing I’d ever heard. It was as if somebody had turned the treble control up on my preamp two or three clicks, into ear-bleeding territory. All my equipment at the time was vintage and tube, and even though my system erred on the dark side tonally, the first Classic release was clearly off the charts too bright and transistory, with none of the lovely texture and sheen that RCA was famous for in the early days of Living Stereo.

I knew right then that my vintage record business was safe.

Here is our review from the ’90s, written shortly after the release of Classic’s first three titles. (With minor additions and changes for clarity and context.)

Hall of Shame Pressings, Every One

I’m reminded of the nonsense I read in TAS and elsewhere in the mid-’90s regarding the reputed superiority of the Classic Records Living Stereo reissues. After playing their first three titles: 1806, 1817 and 2222 (if memory serves), I could find no resemblance between the reviews I read and the actual sound of the records I played. The sound was, in a word, awful.

To this day I consider them to be the Single Worst Reissue Series in History.

[To be fair, Analogue Productions probably now holds that crown.]

When Harry Pearson (of all people! — this is the guy who started the Living Stereo craze by putting these forgotten old records on the TAS list in the first place) gave a rave review to LSC 1806, I had to stand up (in print anyway) and say that the emperor clearly had removed all his clothes, if he ever had any to begin with.

This got me kicked out of TAS by the way, as Harry does not take criticism well. I make a lot of enemies in this business with my commentary and reviews, but I see no way to avoid the fallout for calling a spade a spade.

Is anybody insane enough to stand up for LSC 1806 today? Considering that there is a die-hard contingent of people who still think Mobile Fidelity is the greatest label of all time, there may well be “audiophiles” with crude audio equipment or poorly developed critical listening skills, or both (probably both, as the two go hand in hand), that still find the sound of the shrill, screechy strings of the Classic pressing somehow pleasing to the ear. Hey, anything is possible.

As I’ve said again and again, the better a stereo gets, the more obvious the differences between good vintage pressings and most current reissues become. Modest front ends and mediocre playback systems can disguise these differences and mislead the amateur audiophile.

And the “professional” too. We’ve all had the experience of going back to play a record from years ago that we remember as being amazing, only to find it amazingly bad.

The Japanese Led Zeppelin series from the ’90s comes immediately to mind. How could my system have been so dull that those bright pressings actually fooled me into thinking they sounded good all those years ago? I’ve done a few Mea Culpas over the years, and that’s one of the bigger ones.

Remember when Chesky Records were all the rage? Does anybody in his right mind play that shit anymore?

A short anecdote: A good customer called me up one night many years ago. He had just finished playing the Chesky pressing of Spain, and had pulled out his Shaded Dog original to compare. The sound of his Shaded Dog pressing was so much better that he took his Chesky and, with great satisfaction, ceremoniously dropped it in the trash can, noting, “Of course I could have sold it or traded it away, but nobody should have to listen to sound like that.”

Another anecdote: when Chesky first got started in the remastering business, a friend picked up their pressing of LSC 2150, Prokofiev’s Lt. Kije with Reiner. He played it for me when I came over to hear his system, and he and I were both shocked that his ’70s Red Seal pressing was better in every way.

We wanted to know: What kind of audiophile label can’t even go head to head with a cheap reissue put out twenty years after the initial release just to keep the bins stocked and satisfy the needs of the low-budget classical record buyer?

The answer: Plenty of them, and definitely Chesky. Playing most Classic Records classical titles is a painful experience these days. I do not recommend it to anyone with good equipment. If you love the Living Stereo sound and cannot afford vintage pressings, consider playing the CDs RCA remastered. The one I know well is clearly better than Classic’s and AP’s LP.

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Holst / The Planets / Mehta

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This early London pressing of Holst’s phenomenal Magnum Opus boasts stunning sound from first note to last
  • These sides are clear, full-bodied and present, with plenty of space around the players, the unmistakable sonic hallmark of the properly mastered, properly pressed vintage analog LP
  • Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and scratch-free surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience of this TAS-approved recording

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Listening in Depth to Desperado

More of the Music of The Eagles

Hot Stamper Pressings of Especially Tubey Magical Recordings Available Now

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series. Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

This is the second-best sounding Eagles record of all time, no doubt thanks to the engineering of our man Glyn Johns.

Of course, the best sound on any Eagles record is found on the first album. It’s a Top Ten Rock and Pop title and as Tubey Magical a rock record as you will ever hear.

You don’t need tube equipment to hear the prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic that exist on this recording. For those of you who’ve experienced top quality analog pressings of Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon, or practically any jazz album on Contemporary, whether played through tubes or transistors, that’s the luscious sound of Tubey Magic, and it is all over Desperado.

For whatever reason, the first Eagles album was left off the TAS Super Disc list, even though we feel that both musically and sonically it beats Desperado by a hair. And there is no need to buy the one Harry recommended back in the day, the original British on SYL.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Doolin-Dalton

This wonderful song is a great test track for side one. Typical pressings of this album tend to be dark and lack extension up top. When you have no real top end, space, detail and resolution suffer greatly. You need to be able to appreciate each of the stringed instruments being played — guitar, banjo, dobro — and the top end needs to be extended and correct for you to be able to do that. (more…)