Top Artists – The Beatles

The music is great, but how’s the sound? We weigh in with our two cents worth.

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band

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

Drumroll please… FREAKISHLY GOOD SOUND ON BOTH QUIET SIDES! This White Hot Sgt. Pepper’s is absolutely stunning with huge amounts of LIFE, ENERGY, PRESENCE, and IMMEDIACY! The huge soundfield will fill up your living room — and then some!

Side One is a TUBEY MAGICAL MONSTER! We rate the first two tracks an A++ because the bass is a bit more bloated than we would like. But in true champion form, the bass tightens up during “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” to earn its THIRD PLUS and to show the world what tonal balance sounds like. The top end is silky and delicate with lots of extension. The vocals here are virtually strain free, which is a miraculous feat for any Beatles album. (more…)

The Beatles – With the Beatles – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

Here’s a BIG one for you Beatles nuts… the first A+++ / A+++ copy of With The Beatles to ever make it to the site!

MASTER TAPE SOUND AND QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES! This is one of the toughest Beatles albums to get to sound right, as long-time readers of our site surely know. That’s why we haven’t listed a Hot Stamper for this album since late 2006 — we just can’t find them!

We’ve heard copies that were smeared, murky, muddy, grainy, or all of the above. Almost all of them had no real magic in the midrange. And of course, we heard tons of copies with the kind of gritty vocals that you’ll find all over the average Parlophone Beatles pressing. So when we dropped the needle on this copy, it was nothing short of a REVELATION! It has the energy and the life of the music in the grooves in a way I GUARANTEE you have never heard before. (more…)

Vivaldi, The Beatles – Bad Direct Disc Music & Sound (Which Used to Happen All the Time in the ’70s)

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Vivaldi Ensemble / Vivaldi, The Beatles

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Sonic Grade: F

An awful Direct to Disc recording. The bad sound and pointless music — this is the kind of crap we audiophiles used to put up with back in the ’70s before we had much of a clue — means that it clearly belongs in only one place on our site: the Hall of Shame

The Beatles – Help – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

Folks, you may have noticed that not many copies of Help with knockout sound make it to the site very often. They’re just not easy to find, but we’re happy to report that our last shootout produced some real knockouts! If you like your Beatles albums to sound rich, natural, lively and clear — and who doesn’t — you can’t go wrong here.

Both sides here are truly killer, and better than the typical pressing in almost every way. The soundstage is bigger and more three-dimensional, the overall tonality is fuller and richer, and there’s a level of presence here that just doesn’t exist on most copies. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Beatles Vinyl

The Beatles

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One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently: 

Hey Tom,   

Just wanted to say I was blown away by this copy. Having lived with the MoFi pressing since the box set first came out in the 80’s I was dumbfounded when the horn blast opening the title track practically leapt out of my speakers. I am so impressed that I just placed an order for 3 more Hot Stamper Beatles vinyl. It’s time to replace the MoFi. (more…)

The Beatles – Help – Germans Versus Brits

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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 Help. 

We’ve heard some excellent German pressings before, but this time [circa 2011] nothing could match up to our best Brit copies. What the best British copies have is more of the TUBEY MAGIC that can typically be heard on early pressings, due no doubt to the fact that they are mastered with tube equipment.

One reason we were so crazy about the German pressings is how amazingly clean and clear they can be. I can’t tell you how many distorted Brit copies we’ve played of this album over the years.

Some of the old cutting equipment clearly adds its own layer of distortion to the distortion that already exists on the tape for many of these Imports. A clean, clear, super low distortion Brit copy like this one is certainly the exception and NOT the rule. (more…)

The Beatles – Let It Be – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a MIND-BLOWING A++++ SIDE ONE for this White Hot Stamper 2-pack! At its best, this album has the real power of live music, but it takes a special pressing to make it happen. Both of these copies had one stunning side and one that just didn’t impress us, so we’ve paired them up to give you incredible sound for the entire album!

So many copies of Let It Be lack the kind of energy and transparency that you need to bring this music to life, but these killer sides did EVERYTHING we were looking for. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks!

Side One

A++++ — nothing else in our shootout came close! Super spacious with serious immediacy and presence, this one knocked us out from the moment we dropped the needle. This level of clarity and transparency is typically accompanied by a hard, thin midrange, but you won’t hear anything like that here! The mids are just as rich and Tubey Magical as we could ask for (and we ask for a lot!). Absolutely stunning!

Side Two

A+++, easily the best side two in our shootout. Big and clear, rich and full-bodied, with tons of presence and detail, this is exactly the way we want this music to sound. White Hot Stamper material, all the way!

Boring? Not This Copy!

We just finished another big shootout for this great album, and it still surprises me how BORING the average British copy is. (Of course, the German pressings and the domestic copies are even worse, but you probably already knew that.)

You’ve got to do a lot of work to find a copy of Let It Be that doesn’t sound murky, sleepy, thick and/or veiled. We went through a massive stack of nothing but British imports and only a select few were FUN and INVOLVING enough to merit the Hot Stamper designation.

The Beatles: Rock Band

On a copy like this the natural rock n’ roll energy of a song such as Dig A Pony will blow you away. There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ — just the sound of the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out. It’s a thrill that you don’t really get from the more psychedelic albums like Sgt. Pepper’s or Magical Mystery Tour. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Let It Be – “I am rocking at a different level now”

Let It Be

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,  

I was just now able to give this Let It Be Hot Stamper a thorough listen. I really sat back and put my listening ears on, as I have listened to this album a lot, both on vinyl and on CD. 

It took about three songs into the LP before I was truly able to comprehend what I was hearing and how different it was compared to any other copy I have heard. I still am not sure exactly how to described it in words, but it is amazing and unlike anything I have ever heard before. Not only did I hear things I haven’t heard before, the things I have heard hundreds of times prior reached out and grabbed me like I couldn’t ever foresee. I heard a voice in the background of the opening to “Get Back” in clarity this time, where on other copies it was not much more than a mumble. I guess the closest I can describe it is that this LP has a combination of punch, clarity and realism that I never knew existed on any recorded media before. Some of the guitar riffs were beyond description. The voices are “live” and the bass is incredibly tight.

Now, being a collector of records for both listening pleasure and sheer collectability, I have paid a lot for some rare stuff. Because of that, I was very leery of paying this crazy price for this copy. Even after listening to it twice, I was still wanting to tell you that it sounded amazingly good, but I was going to send it back because it was just too much money. But, I then asked myself, do you want to send it back? My immediate answer to myself was hell no, it sounds way too good and I need to have this for my demo disc to my friends.

Anyway, I am impressed, Tom. I will be an avid watcher going forward and will be picking off some additional Hot Stampers as they show up on your site. Someone wrote you a while back and said he was better off getting a few Hot Stampers instead of a bunch of run of the mill vinyl. I agree!!

I am rocking at a different level now.

Bryan S.

The Beatles – Please Please Me – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series, this time for The Beatles’ amazing debut from 1963, Please Please Me.

The first Beatles record is nothing short of amazing. It captures more of the live sound of these four guys playing together as a rock and roll band than any record they ever made afterwards. (Let It Be gets some of that live quality too and makes a great bookend for the group.)

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

I Saw Her Standing There

Like any of the boys’ most radio ready singles, this song tends to be a bit bright. If this track sounds at all dull, there’s probably no hope for the rest of this side.

Misery

This track should sound lively and punchy. The best copies have excellent bass definition and superb clarity, allowing you to appreciate how the wonderful bounce of the rhythm section really energizes the song.

Anna (Go to Him)

Does it get any better? This is the real Beatles magic baby!

Chains

Note that the vocals on this track are not as well recorded as they are on the track above. As a rule they’re a bit edgier and not as transparent.

Go back and forth between the two songs a number of times and we think you will hear exactly what we mean. Although this difference is more audible on the better copies, it should still be noticeable on any Hot Stamper pressing.

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Letter of the Week – After The Gold Rush and Rubber Soul

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,  

Two fantastic finds; well done once again. The After the Gold Rush you sent is incredibly revealing. The pressing removed the veil. This Lp typically sounds dull and I don’t mean the songs. I dropped the needle on side one and started singing by the end of the first verse. I had planned to have a critical listen first as I always do, so I have a reference in which to make comparisons. If an album is great I start to sing the second time thru. That should tell you what I think of this pressing. When I played my copy it lasted one verse and one chorus before it was removed from the platter. Exceptional pressing!!! 

Re: Rubber Soul. I have 3 copies of this LP, all Parlophone and all earlier pressings than the one I purchased from you. One doesn’t really count because it is from the very first pressings that had problems. However, the other 2 are very good pressings. One is very transparent but extremely bass shy. The other is very much the opposite. It has lots of womp but is grainy. The pressing from Better Records is beautifully transparent especially in the voice and is nowhere near as bass shy.

I believe that being closest to the source usually reveals more accuracy. That goes for most every discipline of study. This pressing, though not being the actual closest, was the winner. Go figure!

Thanks again for doing the research to find these gems.

Mark H.

 

After The Gold Rush

Rubber Soul