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Queen – A Day At the Races

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More Hot Stamper Pressings We Only Offer on Import Vinyl

  • With two solid Double Plus (A++) sides, you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds remotely as good as this vintage UK pressing
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from most other copies we played
  • Forget the domestic pressings – they may be cut at Sterling, but they never sound like these shockingly good British LPs
  • “A Day at the Races is a bit tighter than its predecessor… its sleek, streamlined finish is the biggest indication that Queen has entered a new phase, where they’re globe-conquering titans instead of underdogs on the make.”
  • If you’re a Queen fan, their 1976 followup to A Night at the Opera is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date — more than one hundred as of 2023 — can be found here

Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days — the UK LPs are the only way to fly.


Sam Cooke – Hits of the 50’s in Living Stereo

  • Hits of the 50s returns to the site for the first time in many years, here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound or close to it on both sides of original RCA pressing
  • If you want to hear one of the great vocalists from the 50s, in his prime, with top quality audiophile sound, this is the album that will do the trick!
  • This is the way it must have sounded in 1960, in the New York studios where it was recorded, with legendary RCA engineer Bob Simpson behind the board
  • This is not the typically radio-EQ’d singing-out-of-tin-can sound of so many male vocal albums from the era – Cooke’s voice is warm and rich here
  • “…constitutes [Cooke] reaching full pop maturity from his gospel beginnings. These are hit tunes of the 50s…and he handles them in straight, ungimmicked style, to the accompaniment of tasteful, small group scorings by Glenn Osser” – Billboard Magazine


Letter of the Week – “This has to be the most dramatic improvement over a typical recording I’ve ever heard!”

More of the Music of David Bowie

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of David Bowie

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

Hey Tom, 

Picked up your SHS of “Ziggy” last week–my daughter is 13 and starting to get into Mick Ronson, and I got this to show her what I think is his best work, not just on guitar, but in essentially creating the overall sound for the “Ziggy Stardust” album.

What I didn’t expect was how fantastic this album sounds. I’ve had other copies and they sound like I’m wearing a blanket over my head. Alongside my HS copy of “Freak Out” (first record I ever bought from you guys, I think), this has to be the most dramatic improvement over a typical recording I’ve ever heard!

Records like this justify Better Records in spades–wow!!

Stephen F.

Stephen, thanks for your letter.

Let’s face it: the average copy is pretty average. We wouldn’t even bother to play the average copy. Who needs it? Audiophiles want something that sounds good and record collectors can find records like these on ebay for under $10 or thereabouts, so no one in either group needs to come to our site to get some run-of-the-mill pressing of a title as common as this one.

Audiophiles come to us for the best, the copies that beat the Remastered Heavy Vinyl Con Jobs, the Half-Speeds, the whatever Audiophile BS pressing may be out there. We take them all on and beat them with ease.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great record from us. It helps — don’t get me wrong, our Top Dollar copies are OUT OF THIS WORLD. But for the price of a good dinner (maybe an especially good dinner), you can have a record that will give you joy and pleasure far out of proportion to its cost.

[UPDATE: The bit about the record costing the price of a dinner is no longer true, unless you are in the habit of spending $1000 or more at dinner. Rarely are Hot Stamper pressings of Ziggy priced under that nowadays. Trying to balance the small supply with the high demand has resulted in the price getting well out of hand, at least for those of us in the middle class. If we could find more of the good pressings and sell them for cheaper, believe me, we would. At under $1000 the record would probably not last a day on the site. At $1500 and up, it’s there for those who love the album enough to pay the admittedly premium price we’re asking.]

Stephen, we look forward to finding you more better sounding pressings of your favorite music.


A.C. Jobim – Ramone and Ogerman Work Their Magic

More of the Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim

Although I have been a big fan of this album at least since the 90s, it took us years to get around to doing a shootout. We were pleasantly surprised at just how well recorded this album is.

Credit engineer Phil Ramone for correctly capturing the sound of every instrument here: the guitars, piano, flutes, strings, drums, percussion instruments — everything has the natural timbre of the real thing. I used to think this recording erred on the bright side, but not the Hot Stamper copies. They are tonally Right On The Money. (When the balance lacks lower midrange the sound gets lean, which causes the strings to seem brighter than they really are, a not uncommon problem with some of the pressings we played.)

Claus Ogerman

The string arrangements by the phenomenally talented producer/arranger Claus Ogerman surely contribute a great deal to the beauty of this music, and much of its “feel.”. This is the man who made Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim such an original and powerful departure in Sinatra’s body of work. He continued to work with Jobim on a number of follow-up albums, including A Certain Mr. Jobim (1967) and Wave (1967). From 1963-67 he arranged some 60-70 albums for Creed Taylor’s Verve and then went on to work with him extensively at CTI.

And what would “Breezin’” be without Ogerman’s lush strings? Not to be too uinkind, but probably just another George Benson album.

His Best Album

I’m a HUGE fan of Jobim’s music. In my opinion this is the best album he ever made. If you find yourself loving these syncopated beats, you owe it to yourself to check out Sergio Mendes’ music. He did wonderful arrangements of many of Jobim’s songs, and the sound (at least on the Hot Stamper pressings) is out of this world! Astrud Gilberto does wonderful versions too, but her records are very difficult to find in audiophile condition. Believe me, we’ve tried.

Many Distinct Pressings

We’ve played a ton of different versions, including imports, originals, reissues (all stereo), and one lone mono, which was so ridiculously bad sounding we tossed it right out of the competition and into the trade pile.

For those of you playing along at home, we are not going to be much help to you in finding your own Hot Stampers. Every version had strengths and weaknesses and all are represented in the listings we will be putting up on the site.


Fleetwood Mac – The Pious Bird Of Good Omen

More of the Music of Fleetwood Mac

More of the Early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green

  • An original UK Blue Horizon pressing that is doing practically everything right, with killer Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The early pressings take the cake on this one, but try to find one in audiophile playing condition – it takes us many years to get one of these shootouts going
  • Both of these sides are amazingly big and rich, with correct tonality, punchy energy and exceptionally breathy vocals – this is the way early Fleetwood Mac is supposed to sound
  • One of the top Fleetwood Mac compilations – I have it on CD and have never tired of the music
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…makes for a terrific laid-back stroll through some of the best British blues music ever made.”

If you’re a fan of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac — and who in his right mind wouldn’t be? — then you can’t go wrong with this record. “Need Your Love So Bad,” “Albratross” and “Black Magic Woman” are all featured here.

Speaking of “Black Magic Woman,” the better copies of Pious Bird reproduce the bass-heavy drumming on that track much better than the Greatest Hits album we also recommend. It’s very unlikely that you can find better sound for that classic than right here on this very copy.


Supertramp and Your 1977 Ears – There’s No Going Back


More of the Music of Supertramp

Reviews and Commentaries for Even in the Quietest Moments

I grew up on this album. By 1977 I was a huge fan. Played their albums all the time.

The first Supertramp album I ever bought was Crime of the Century on Mobile Fidelity. Every audiophile bought that one; MoFi sold over a hundred thousand of them. And why not? The sound was killer on the systems of the day. Lots of slam down low (but not really that low, although it seemed plenty low at the time), lots of extra top up high, lots of phony detail, just what the old school stereos of the day, like mine, needed.

Crisis? What Crisis?, followed in 1975. It was the Supertramp album that sent me over the top. I played that album relentlessly. Before long Art Rock was at the top of my list anytime I wanted to have an immersive musical experience, and that, for an obsessive audiophile like myself, meant almost every day.

Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, Crack the Sky, ELO, Bowie – it’s all I wanted to listen to back then, and it encouraged me to keep upgrading my equipment whenever I had the money, although I admit to being completely clueless about all of that at the time. More on that subject here.

A year and a half later EITQM followed. It too became a staple of my musical diet. Man, I played that record till the grooves were worn smooth.

I thought the sound of my domestic pressing was killer at the time, too. Crisis was a demo disc at my house and this was right up there with it. Now the obvious question is, did I have a good sounding copy, or did my stereo not reveal to me the shortcomings of my LP? Or maybe my ears were not well enough trained to hear what was wrong.

Those of you who have been doing this for a long time know the answer: any or all of the above, probably all, and nobody can know just how much of each.

And there is no way to find out because you are not that person anymore.

Your 1977 Ears… and Mine

Even if you could recreate your old stereo and room, and find your original copy, there’s one thing you can’t do, and that’s listen to it with your 1977 ears. Every time you play a record and listen to it critically, your ears get better at their job.

If you do a lot of critical listening, your ears should be very good by now. You no doubt listen for things you never listened for before. This is simply the way it works. You don’t really have to try that hard to get better. It happens quite naturally.

So now the half-speed sucks when it used to sound good. (Such is the case with practically all audiophile records; the better you get at listening, the more obvious their shortcomings.)

And now, with your better stereo and better ears, when you drop the needle on some copy you picked up of Even in the Quietest Moments, expecting to hear the glorious sound you remember from your youth, it’s a huge letdown — so grainy, thin, and edgy, with blurry bass.

On top of that the whole sordid mess is stuck somewhere back behind the speakers, like the sound you hear from a cassette.

It’s not the record you remember, that’s for sure.

The Good News

The good news is that ten years later and more copies than we care to remember we think we’ve got EITQM’s ticket. We now know which stampers have the potential to sound good as well as the ones to avoid. Finding the right stampers (which are not the original ones for those of you who know what the original stampers for A&M records are) has been a positive boon.

[UPDATE: We used to prefer the right domestic pressings for this album, but for years now the better imports have been winning our shootouts. We think this state of affairs is unlikely to change. We have a link to other records like this one, in which the imports win the shootouts but the best domestic pressings still do well, earning grades somewhere in the range of Two Pluses.]

Once we figured the stampers out we were in a much better position to hear just how well recorded the album is. Now we know beyond all doubt that this recording — the first without Ken Scott producing and engineering for this iteration of the band — is of the highest quality, in league with the best.

Until recently we would never have made such a bold statement. Now it’s nothing less than obvious.

Further Reading


Sweetnighter – A Must Hear Album of Modern Jazz Fusion

More of the Music of Weather Report

Weather Report Albums We’ve Reviewed

We recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.

The list is purposely wide-ranging. It includes some famous titles (Tumbleweed Connection, The Yes Album), but we’ve gone out of our way to choose excellent titles from famous artists that are less well known (Atlantic Crossing, Kiln House, Dad Loves His Work), which simply means that you won’t find Every Picture Tells a Story or Rumours or Sweet Baby James on this list because masterpieces of that caliber should already be in your collection.

Many of these may not be to your taste, but they sure were to ours.

Out of the thousands of records we have auditioned and reviewed, here are a hundred or two that are less well known, yet have stood the test of time for us. As such, we think are more than deserving of a serious listen.

Sweetnighter checks off a number of boxes for us here at Better Records

More reviews and commentaries for Sweetnighter.

Further Reading

Charles Mingus – Mingus Plays Piano

More Charles Mingus

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • With solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER throughout, you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds remotely as good as this vintage Impulse reissue pressing
  • Once again Rudy Van Gelder delivers the sound that audiophiles and jazz fans alike thrill to
  • These sides are lively, dynamic and full-bodied, and there’s real weight to the piano, a key quality we look for on all the piano recordings we play
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 stars: “This album is unique in Mingus’ enormous catalog. As the title indicates, the famous bassist takes to the ivories solo to give life to his dazzling improvisational art. At first it seems odd to hear Mingus without one of his trademark interactive and exploratory ensembles. But the sensibility that he brings to this collection of piano pieces bears all the signs of the composer’s genius.”


Letter of the Week – “I did a lot of research on which pressing to purchase and nobody ever mentioned the version that you sell!”

More of the Music of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Abbey Road

Hi Tom,

Tonight’s been really cool.

I got to hear Abbey Road in such a way that I had no idea existed. I put side one of the SHS I just got and my eyes popped out and my jaw dropped and I went ‘WTF’ was that.

Some of the extended bass rumbles on Come Together really made me smile and go ‘whoa.’

I know what my UK 1st pressing sounds like and I always thought that it was special in comparison to others l’d heard, like the MFSL and Japanese Pro Use.

So now I’m listening to yours somewhat in disbelief. The end of side one just about blew the windows out of the house! Then I put my UK copy on. By comparison, it just sounded flat! ….but on its own it sounds good.

What an amazing discovery. You are completely correct in your assessment of these ’69 UK pressings.

Thanks again,


Over the last couple of years I did what I thought was a lot of research on which Abbey Road pressing to purchase for the best experience….and nobody ever mentioned the version that you sell!


This letter warms our hearts. We’ve known that the original Abbey Road pressings are not the end-all and be-all that some audiophiles and record collectors think they are, and of course the same is true for the legendary Toshiba Pro-Use and MFSL discs. Been there, done that, left them in the dust a long time ago. Now you know why. You own the pressing that trounces them all.

The fact that no one recommends the pressings we sell as superior to those commonly touted by the so-called experts just tells us that the work we do is difficult and simply cannot be accomplished without a staff and a budget.

And that what we do is important. Essential even.

As we are the only operation dedicated to this kind of work with either the staff or the budget it takes to succeed, it is not surprising that no one has figured out the key to Abbey Road. It took us a very long time too. As you may have read elsewhere on the blog:

Skeptical thinking has been key to our success from the very start, and it can be key to your success too. To understand records, you need to think about them critically, not naively, in order to get very far in this devilishly difficult hobby we have chosen for ourselves.

Our first big shootout was 2007, and since then we have carried out at least two dozen more for the album, making a lot of Beatles’ fans happy in the process. We helped them spend their money on something that will give them lifelong pleasure.

As for the original sounding flat, you may have seen this too:

Shootouts are the only way to answer the most important question in all of audio:

Compared to what?

Without shootouts, how can you begin to know the specific characteristics of the sound of the pressings you own?

Now that you have done your own shootout, you know how flat your copy was all along — but, as you say, “on its own it sounds good.”

This is the kind of progress in audio we love to hear about.

Thanks for your letter,

Best, TP

Further Reading

Richard & Linda Thompson – We Don’t Sell the Domestic Pressings, and This Is Why

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Richard (and Linda) Thompson

More Hot Stamper Pressings We Only Offer on Import Vinyl

The biggest problems with this record would be obvious to even the casual listener: gritty, spitty vocals; lack of richness; bright tonality; lack of bass; no real space or transparency, etc.

The domestic Island pressings did not do nearly as well in our shootout as the best Island imports, no surprise there as the early UK records were mastered by one of our favorite engineers.

Avoid the Carthage pressings mastered by Sterling. They came in last in our shootout.

The domestic breakdown follows:

Black Island Domestic #1

  • Tubey but hot and spitty.

Black Island Domestic #2

  • Flat, dry and hot (glary or bright)

Carthage Domestic recut from 1983, Sterling on both sides

  • So sandy and lean! They really wanted to add some top end.

Defending the Indefensible

When good mastering houses like Kendun and Sterling make bad sounding records, we offer no excuses for their shoddy work.

Records are to be judged on their merits, not on the reputations of the companies or individuals making them.

That some audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them have trouble understanding this is, to be frank, hard to fathom.

We discussed the apparent distaste some audiophiles have for criticizing the demonstrably bad records made by formerly talented engineers here.

If someone can explain to me why we should like it when cutting engineers do bad work, please contact me at

Further Reading