Top Artists – Brian Eno

David Bowie / Heroes – It Took Ages to Break the Sound Barrier (Because the Conventional Wisdom Turned Out to Be So Wrong))

Our intuition that the British originals would sound the best turned out to be incorrect.

In the audiophile record collecting world, intuitions have a bad track record, but more than a few audiophiles — many of whom are addicted to sharing their “record knowledge” on audiophile forums — seem to be unaware of this fact.

Taking a page from one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, we’ve opted to use a more scientific approach to discovering the best sounding record pressings, and we encourage you to do likewise. 

We pioneered the evidence-based approach to finding the best sounding pressings, and, like all good scientists, we shared it with everyone. Some in the audiophile community have taken it to heart, but most have chosen to put their faith in reviewers, forum posters, common sense and logic. None of these produce consistently good results, but those who use these methods are loathe to doubt them and only rarely if ever learn the error of their ways.

Once a decision has been made and a specific pressing acquired, you could call it door number three I suppose, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias immediately kick in to justify the result, and soon enough the game is over. The prize has been won. It’s the best prize ever. It does everything right, everything you hoped for.

Behind door number three was not the best sounding copy of the record. You don’t have the best sounding pressing (well, you might, but if you did it would be entirely the result of chance, since you carried out no experiments), but as long as you think you do, and, like most audiophiles, you play records only for yourself, and purely for enjoyment, you have no way of  discovering where on the spectrum of worst to best your choice would sit. As long as you think you have the best, you have the best. How could there ever be any evidence offered to the contrary?

Making an effort to prove yourself wrong is surely the key to making progress in this hobby. Nothing will do more to improve the quality of your record collection, of that we are convinced.

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Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

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More Brian Eno

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this UK copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for over ten years – here is one of the better copies we have to show for our effort
  • 5 Stars: “… another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting.”

Spacious, dynamic, present, with HUGE MEATY BASS and tons of energy, the sound is every bit as good as the music. (At least on this copy it is. That’s precisely what Hot Stampers are all about.)

Strictly in terms of recording quality, For Your Pleasure is on the same plane as the other best sounding record the band ever made, their self-titled debut.

Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album and this one are the only two with the kind of dynamic, energetic, powerful sound that Roxy’s other records simply cannot show us (with the exception of Country Life, was is powerful but a bit too aggressive).

The super-tubey keyboards that anchor practically every song on the first two albums are only found there. If you want to know what Tubey Magic sounds like in 1972-73, play one of our better Hot Stamper Roxy albums.

Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums that few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to. I love the band’s later albums, but none of them sound like these two. The closest one can get is Stranded, their third, but it’s still a bit of a step down. (more…)

Phil Manzanera / Diamond Head – Sonically As Big and Bold as They Come

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More of Our Best Art Rock Records

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  • This superb pressing of Phil Manzanera’s debut album boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Two excellent sides – Demo Disc quality sound barely begins to describe the size and power of this recording
  • This album is an amazing SONIC BLOCKBUSTER, with sound that will positively leap out of your speakers
  • A shockingly well-recorded album from the ultra-talented Rhett Davies – this is his Engineering Masterpiece

The wind is at your back here because this is one seriously well-recorded album. If this copy doesn’t wake up your stereo nothing will.

Like its brother, 801 Live, this album is an amazing sonic blockbuster, with sound that positively leaps out of the speakers. Why shouldn’t it? It was engineered by the superbly talented Rhett Davies at Island, the genius behind Taking Tiger Mountain, the aforementioned 801 Live, Avalon, Dire Straits’ first album and many many more.

If we could regularly find copies of this Audiophile Blockbuster (and frankly if more people appreciated the album) it would definitely go on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List. In fact, it would easily make the Top Twenty from that list, it’s that good.

Looking for Tubey MagicRhett Davies is your man. Just think about the sound of the first Dire Straits album or Avalon. The best pressings of those albums — those with truly Hot Stampers — are swimming in it. (more…)

Brian Eno / Before And After Science – A Must Own Eno Record (His Last, Sad to Say) from 1977

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More Arty Rock Records

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  • A stunning sounding copy of Eno’s brilliant 1977 release, earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to it on both sides
  • Here you will find that rare combination of silky highs and deep low end, with huge amounts of space in the middle, three qualities among many that make this album an especially magical listening experience
  • I know whereof I speak- I must have played this album at least two hundred times in the 43 years that have passed since I first bought a copy
  • If you’re a fan of Art Rock or Prog Rock or just like something a little different, this is an album that belongs in your collection
  • 5 stars: “Despite the album’s pop format, the sound is unique and strays far from the mainstream. The music on Before and After Science at times resembles Another Green World (“No One Receiving”) and Here Come the Warm Jets (“King’s Lead Hat”) and ranks alongside both as the most essential Eno material.”

Side one, the rock side, strongly relies on its deep punchy bass to make its material come to life and rock (or should we say art rock?). Eno’s vocals are clear and present with virtually no strain. Phil Collins’ drumming is energetic and transparent and perfectly complemented by Percy Jones’ simultaneously acrobatic and hard-driving bass work. (more…)

801 Live – When Clarity Obscures the Point

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More Live Recordings of Interest

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Some audiophiles get worked up listening for details in their favorite recordings. Is that where the music is – in the details? Lots of details come out when one copy is brighter than another.

Brighter ain’t necessarily better. Most of the time it’s just brighter. 

This album isn’t about clarity. It’s about the sound of a live Rock and Roll concert. It’s about the raw power of one of the most phenomenal rhythm sections ever to be captured in performance.

Next time you try out some audiophile wire or a new tweak, play this record to make sure you haven’t lost the essential weight and power of the sound. This album doesn’t care about your love of detail. It wants you to feel those bass notes going right through you. If the new wire can’t get that right, it’s got to go.

Our Hot Stamper Commentary for 801 Live Circa 2007

This is a one of my All Time Favorite records — a Desert Island Disc if there ever was one. I treasure this album. And I just now finally figured out how to tell the good ones from the not-so-good ones. I confess I was listening for the wrong things in the shootouts I was doing over the last few years, and in that I have the feeling I was not alone. I think this is a fairly common Major Audiophile Pitfall that we all get stuck in on occasion.

In this case I was trying to find a more transparent copy, one with more shimmer to the cymbals and air around the instruments. The first track is a little opaque and I wanted to be able to hear into the music better. I tried many import and domestic copies, but none of them seemed to have the particular qualities I was looking for. They all sounded different, but I could not for the life of me find one that sounded clearly better. (more…)

Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food

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  • This pressing boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from the first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • With Eno producing and Rhett Davies engineering, every track is (psycho) killer – truly this is a Must Own from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Brian Eno brought a musical unity that tied the album together, especially in terms of the rhythm section, the sequencing, the pacing, and the mixing.”

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Brian Eno and David Byrne – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

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More Talking Heads

  • An outstanding pressing of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are spacious, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with a solid bottom end and driving rhythmic energy
  • Rick Wright of Pink Floyd noted that the album “knocked me sideways when I first heard it – full of drum loops, samples and soundscapes. The way the sounds were mixed in was so fresh, it was amazing.”
  • 5 Stars: “… a whirlwind 45 minutes of worldbeat/funk-rock … it’s a tremendously prescient record for the future development of music during the 1980s and ’90s.”

If you like Remain in Light as much as we do here at Better Records, you will surely have a blast with this record. I’ve been a big fan of the album since the day it came out. As an added bonus, it’s a much better recording than Remain in Light — sweet and spacious, not hard and brittle the way that can album can be, especially on the first track. (more…)

Phil Manzanera / Diamond Head – A Truly Awesome Feat of Engineering by Rhett Davies

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You may recall reading this bit about RHETT DAVIES engineering on Dire Straits’ debut:

“…until something better comes along, THIS IS HIS MASTERPIECE. It has to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, with Tubey Magic mids, prodigious bass, transparency and freedom from hi-fi-ishness and distortion like few rock recordings you have ever heard.”

Well, something better has now come along, and it’s called Diamond Head.

It has some of the BIGGEST, BOLDEST SOUND we have ever heard. Diamond Head isn’t known as an audiophile album but it should be — the sound is GLORIOUS — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and as rich and dynamic as it gets.

It’s clearly a BIG SPEAKER album. Play it one as loud as you can. The louder you play it the better it sounds.

The best copies have ROOM SHAKING DEEP BASS with the kind of WHOMP FACTOR that can drive this music to practically unexplored heights.

It’s also super TRANSPARENT, with a large, deep soundfield that really allows you to hear INTO the music and the studio space in which it was created. The clarity is SUPERB with all the detail and texture one could hope for, but the real kicker is the amount of ENERGY and musical DRIVE that this side has going for it. This is what the Master Tape is really capable of — Mind Bogglingly Good Sound.

Looking for TUBEY MAGIC? Rhett Davies is your man. Just think about the sound of the first Dire Straits album or Avalon. The best pressings of those albums — those with truly Hot Stampers — are swimming in it. (more…)

Brian Eno – Music for Films

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More Art Rock Records

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  • Music for Films makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Rich, smooth, tonally correct, spacious, this collection of recordings made between 1975 and 1978 was compiled and transferred with consummate skill, ensuring that the highest fidelity was maintained
  • We bought quite a few of these experimental albums, but condition problems forced us to give up on the project – this is one of the few copies we found in audiophile playing condition
  • “It is a conceptual work intended as a soundtrack for imaginary films, although many of the pieces had already appeared in actual films.”
  • 5 stars: “…it is essential Eno, and a landmark collection drawn from among his work.”

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David Bowie – Heroes

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More Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Better on the Right Reissue

  • This import is ALIVE with musical energy and Tubey Magical Analog sound the likes of which you may never have experienced
  • Until we discovered these amazing British reissues, we had no idea the album could sound as good as it does here
  • 5 stars: “Repeating the formula of Low’s half-vocal/half-instrumental structure, Heroes develops and strengthens the sonic innovations David Bowie and Brian Eno explored on their first collaboration. The vocal songs are fuller, boasting harder rhythms and deeper layers of sound.”

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