Top Artists – The Who

Making Audio Progress – Step One: Weed Out the Heavy Vinyl

 

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In his latest letter Dan tells us of his disappointment with the new reissues he’s been trying:

… And thanks again for that amazing “Who’s Next” record. It was startling to hear the difference between that and the Classic – and that was one of the better modern audiophile records!I can’t tell you how many modern reissues I’ve bought over the past couple months that have lost, and lost badly, to just my one single original or early pressing of an album. Reissues by AC/DC, The Who, ZZ Top, The Rolling Stones, and Patti Smith have all failed miserably against my merely average sounding originals.
(more…)

The Who By Numbers – More Bass or More Detail, Which Is Right?

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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 Who by Numbers.

With Doug Sax mastering from the real tape, you get a Rock Solid Bottom End like you will not believe. Talk about punchy, well-defined and deep, man, this record has BASS that you sure don’t hear too often on rock records. 

And it’s not just bass that separates the Men from the Boys, or the Real Thing from the Classic Reissue for that matter. It’s WEIGHT, fullness, the part of the frequency range from the lower midrange to the upper bass, that area that spans roughly 150 to 600 cycles. It’s what makes Daltry’s voice sound full and rich, not thin and modern. It’s what makes the drums solid and fat the way Johns intended. The good copies of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia have plenty of muscle in this area, and so do the imports we played.

But not the Classic. Oh no, so much of what gives Who By Numbers its Classic Rock sound has been equalized right out of the Heavy Vinyl reissue by Chris Bellman at BG’s mastering house. Some have said the originals are warmer but not as detailed. I would have to agree, but that misses the point entirely: take out the warmth — the fullness that makes the original pressings sound so right — and you of course hear more detail, as the detail region is no longer masked by all the stuff going on below it. Want to hear detail? Disconnect your woofers — you’ll hear plenty of detail all right! (more…)

Letter of the Week – Who’s Next

Who’s Next

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

Hey Tom,  

Just listened to the Very Hot Stamper of “Who’s Next” and thought I’d drop a little note: Holy F&*K that was POWERFUL!!! No record I own ever did that And I’m talking bone-rattling, earth-shaking, sock-you-in-the-gut POWERFUL. I’ve always known that The Who were one of the most intense bands in the history of rock n’ roll. Hell, everybody knows that and it’s part of the reason we love ’em so much. But with this record, I experienced the sheer physical force of their music like I NEVER have before. I couldn’t believe I heard bass notes hang in the air and resonate for long stretches. Bass notes never just hang like that! No record I own ever did that.
But this particular slab of vinyl offered more than just low-end power. Its grooves exploded with such energy, dynamics, and pure EXCITEMENT that I was honestly concerned my cartridge was going to jump off the record and say “Sorry, this is just too much.” Remarkably, it held up for the whole wild ride.

Anyhow, after that shockingly great experience, I (reluctantly) spun the Classic version of this album for comparison purposes. You’re right, there’s no going back. The difference is almost comical. On the track “Going Mobile”, while it certainly has well-defined bass and great detail, it sounded like a different take – a much worse take. The conviction in Townshend’s singing and guitar playing had been sucked out, as if he was bored of his own new song. I would have been sad hearing it if I didn’t know there was much better copy sitting on my shelf. So thank you for helping me take a dozen GIANT steps closer to the true sound of this phenomenal album. (more…)

The Who – The Who Sell Out – Classic Records Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

Not our idea of good sound. The only Classic Who record we ever carried was Who’s Next, which is actually pretty good — we gave it a B. (I suspect it would earn a lower grade now; we had lower standards for Heavy Vinyl back then.) 

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

The Who – Tommy – Classic Records Debunked

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP debunked.

The Classic Tommy is bass shy. It could have had amazing bass, like their Who’s Next, but it doesn’t. Why, I have no idea. The overall sound is thin, so thin that we immediately knew there was no point in carrying it (back in the bad old days when we carried Heavy Vinyl).

The only Classic Who record we ever carried was Who’s Next; the rest of them vary from mediocre to dreadful.

The Who – Tommy – Simply Vinyl Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the BEST titles on Simply Vinyl! Better than the Classic version, that’s for sure. This one has the bass that’s all but missing from the new 200 gram pressing.  

The Classic Tommy Has No Bass

It could have had amazing bass, like their Who’s Next, but it doesn’t. Why I have no idea. The overall sound is thin, so thin that we immediately knew there was no point in carrying it. (The only Classic Who record we ever carried was Who’s Next; the rest of them are dreadful, some of the worst sounding reissues out there.) Not when there’s a very fine Heavy Vinyl pressing already around. You guessed it: the Simply Vinyl pressing, the one from that label that some reviewer thinks is “screwing up the market.”

Who’s Screwing Whom?

We invite all our readers and listeners to do the shootout for themselves. Both versions of Tommy are in print and widely available. [Woops, not any more, both are out of print.]

If you do find the Classic to be more to your liking, we simply ask that you send us your copy with a note as to the tracks you compared and what you found, so that we can hear it for ourselves. As you know from reading about Nirvana Nevermind, no two records, not even new audiophile ones, sound the same, so if you managed to get hold of a hot copy of the Classic, we want to hear it too! (After we have picked our jaws up off the floor we will happily send it back to you.)

Letter of the Week – Quadrophenia and Blood On The Tracks

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased. Note that this is a very old letter because our records cannot be had for these kinds of prices anymore!

Hey Tom, 

After two or so years, I finally tried my first hot stampers. A Space In Time, a top ten stranded-on-a-desert-island album, and Quadrophenia (my favorite Who album). Owning three other pressings of each LP, all I can say is WOW !!! The copies I purchased from Better Records live up to your company’s name, especially side two of a Space In Time. At $60.00 and $75.00 respectivly, I got quite a bargain. I can only imagine what some of the very best copies must sound like.

The joy and pleasure great music that sounds great can bring is priceless. After bill paying this weekend I can only hope that the Blood On The Tracks hot stamper is still there. With the Talisman I just ordered, I have to believe my listening experiences are only going to keep getting better !

Bob N. (more…)

The Who – Quadrophenia – What to Listen For

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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.

On the best copies the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS. The highs are silky sweet, the bottom end is meaty, the drums are punchy and the vocals are present and tonally correct. The piano has real weight, the synths float breathily in the air, and there’s wonderful three-dimensional depth to the soundfield. 

There’s a POWER to the sound that the average copy only hints at. The crashing guitar chords that are the hallmark of The Who Sound often lack the weight of the real thing; they don’t punch you in the gut the way Townsend no doubt wanted them to.

Moon’s drums need to blast away like cannons. This is the quintessential Who sound. Everybody who’s ever seen them live knows it. I saw them back in the day when Moon was still behind his kit and it’s a sound I’ll never forget. 

Most copies don’t have nearly this much Tubey Magic — you aren’t going to believe all the richness, sweetness, and warmth here. The clarity and transparency are superb in their own right, and the impressive dynamic range really allows this copy to communicate the explosive energy of The Who at their peak.. (more…)

The Who – Live at Leeds – Universal Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame Pressing

Universal Records 180 gram LP. Flat as a pancake sound. The CD almost has to be better.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers. 

The Who – Quadrophenia – Universal Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

[These are old notes from many years ago. Take them with a grain of salt.]

Wow! This Universal Heavy Vinyl pressing from circa 2000 (the turn of the century!) is superb, not all that far from a good Track original, and quieter for sure. 

Side One rocks incredibly hard from start to finish. What a great album. It has to rank right up there with the best rock of the ’70s, right behind Who’s Next and probably on a par with Tommy, good company indeed, since we LOVE all three of those albums here at Better Records. (Both Tommy and Who’s Next are Top 100 Titles, but Quadrophenia is not far behind either of them for sound or music. (more…)