Top Artists – Al Kooper

Bloomfield-Kooper-Stills – Super Session – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Man’s Temptation, track 3 on side one, has got some seriously bright EQ happening (reminiscent of the first BS&T album), so if that song even sounds tolerable in the midrange you are doing better than expected.

Clean Cutting

What you get with this copy is some of the most transparent, lowest distortion, cleanest cutting we’ve ever heard. This copy is high-rez like you will not believe, with an unusually extended top end on both sides.

Turn It Up

Most copies are far too bright and phony sounding to turn up loud; the distortion and grit are just too much at higher volumes. On a copy like this, with more correct tonality and an overall freedom from distortion, you can TURN IT UP and LET IT ROCK.

Season of the Witch sounds amazing at loud levels on this copy, with its big build-ups and quiet breakdowns. It is nothing less than a thrill to just let it blast away at the levels we were listening at. The band is RIGHT THERE.

Side One

A++, big and clear with absolutely ZERO smear! The bass is solid and tight, and there’s more transparency here than on the typical pressing. So good!

Side Two

We awarded this side a rare A++++ grade, reserved for the kind of sound that makes us completely rethink the possibilities of a recording! Super spacious and three-dimensional with an amazingly extended top end, this absolutely blew away everything else in our shootout. Rich and Tubey Magical with incredible energy and no smear at all, this is doing everything we want it to. AMAZING! (more…)

Bloomfield / Kooper / Stills – Super Session – A MoFi Winner

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

Super Session is one of the best-sounding MoFi pressings. The midrange sounds wonderful — silky sweet and transparent. Not having been cut by Stan Ricker, the top end doesn’t have that SR/2 boost. Overall it’s a very nice sounding record, and the music just can’t be beat. 

Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde

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Blonde On Blonde

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  • With 10.5 pluses out of a possible 12, this copy was one of the best we heard in our recent shootout — exceptionally quiet vinyl too  
  • You won’t believe how big, rich and full this album can sound on a copy this good
  • Includes tons of quintessential Dylan classics: Rainy Day Women, I Want You, Just Like A Woman, and more – they all sound phenomenal
  • 5 stars: “Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play… It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.”

It takes a properly mastered, properly pressed copy like this one to get both Dylan’s voice and harmonica — two of the most critically important elements on any of his recordings — to sound smooth, full-bodied and clear. Any pinched quality will be painfully obvious to the listener, and for that shortcoming you lose a lot of points here at Better Records. That said, upper-midrangy sound on any vintage Dylan record to one degree or another is almost always audible. The less the better, but none is really not an option. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde and Some Bad Side Fours

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on all four sides, this was one of the better copies we heard in our most recent shootout – quiet vinyl too!
  • You won’t believe how big, rich and full this album can sound on a copy this good
  • Includes tons of quintessential Dylan classics: Rainy Day Women, I Want You, Just Like A Woman, and more – they all sound phenomenal
  • 5 stars: “Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play. It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.” 

This album is an essential addition to any Dylan collection, and we work hard to find worthy copies. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s tough to find great pressings of any of Dylan’s 60’s albums, really. It takes a well-mastered copy to get the vocals and the harmonica — key elements of course — to sound smooth, full-bodied and clear. Any pinched quality will be obvious to the listener. You lose a lot of points for that shortcoming here at Better Records. (more…)

Two Reviews of Blood, Sweat & Tears – Fremer Vs. Better Records – You Be the Judge

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In 2010 MF reviewed both the Sundazed and Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl pressings of the album. I think his review is mistaken on a number of counts, and mostly unhelpful. The commentary below will discuss his errors in detail, in the hopes that you, dear reader, will not make the same mistakes yourself. 

He talks about his history with the album for a while, and then notes:

Anyway, the original “360 Sound” edition of this record sounds fantastic. It’s a high quality Columbia studio recording, with vivid harmonics, impressive transparency and dynamics, shimmering highs and tight extended bass. The soundstage is expansive and the images tightly presented. I’m not sure it can get much better than the original given how well-pressed Columbia records were in those days, especially if you have a clean original.

We, however, seem to hold precisely the opposite view. I quote from our review:

“Why did it take us so long [to do a Hot Stamper shootout]? Let me ask you this: have you ever played this album? The average copy of this record is a sonic MESS. Even the best copies have problems.”

We then go on to discuss in detail what most copies do wrong and what to listen for in order to find a copy that gets it right. (More on that later.) (more…)

Highway 61 Revisited – Not So Good on Sundazed in Mono

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Sundazed record debunked.

I don’t think mono works for this album, so we never carried this pressing nor recommended it.

Here are some other records that we don’t think sound very good in MONO.

Here are some we think can sound amazing in MONO.

Listening in Depth to The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

 

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Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD. It’s also our favorite test track for side one. The first minute or so clues you into to everything that’s happening in the sound.

Listen for the amazing immediacy, transparency and sweetly extended harmonics of the guitar in the left channel. Next, when Watts starts slapping that big fat snare in the right channel, it should sound so real you could reach out and touch it. (more…)

Child Is Father to the Man – What to Listen For

Child Is Father to the Man

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At the end of a long day of listening at loud levels to multiple copies of this album you may want to run yourself a nice hot bath and light some candles. If you have an isolation tank so much the better. You could of course turn down the volume, but what fun is that? This music wasn’t meant to be heard at moderate levels. Playing it that way is an insult to the musicians who worked so hard to make it.

The Right Balance

Every once in a while you hear a pressing in which the right balance has been struck, and this one clearly belongs to that group. It’s not perfect; you have to put up with a few rough patches to get the sound that serves most of the music properly. No copy will do it all; with this album the goal is to do the best you can.
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