Top Artists – Dire Straits

Dire Straits / Alchemy: Dire Straits Live

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  • An excellent import pressing of Dire Straits’ live double album from 1984 with Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The overall sound here is big, rich and musical with great space and energy (particularly on sides one, three, and four) – just right for a live album
  • Stick with the imports on this title, even though the domestic pressings were originally mastered by Robert Ludwig – he didn’t have the real tapes, and that makes all the difference in the world
  • “The arena-size crowd cheers wildly, and claps and sings along when given half a chance, as though each song were an up-tempo rocker… That Dire Straits’ introspective music loses much of its detail in a live setting matters less than that it gains presence and a sense of anticipation.”

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Dire Straits – Communique

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • This vintage UK pressing of the band’s sophomore album boasts outstanding sound from start to finish – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • 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 on Communique
  • If you’re a fan of the band’s debut release, you’ll find much to like on this underappreciated follow up
  • “…an album full of the delicate subtleties that make Mark Knopfler shimmer — that deep tobacco-soaked voice, the quick, fluid guitar, and the wit behind many of his lyrics… a rich, abundant source of beauty.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, a killer copy of their album from 1979 surely belongs in your collection

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Dire Straits – Self-Titled

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More Debut Albums of Interest

  • This stunning copy of the band’s debut album boasts a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • One of the best sounding rock records ever made, with rich, sweet, smooth mids; prodigious amounts of bass; superb transparency and clarity; and a freedom from hi-fi-ishness and a lack of distortion like very few rock records we have ever heard
  • Rhett Davies knocked this one out of the park – it’s a Top 100 title, a member of the Tubey Magical Top Ten (see below), and our favorite by the band for both sound and music
  • If you made the mistake of buying the unbelievably bad sounding MoFi 45 RPM Half-Speed, this vintage UK pressing will be a REVELATION
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Knopfler also shows an inclination toward Dylanesque imagery, which enhances the smoky, low-key atmosphere of the album… the album is remarkably accomplished for a debut, and Dire Straits had difficulty surpassing it throughout their career.”
  • It’s our pick for the band’s best sounding album. Roughly 150 other listings for the Best Recording by an Artist or Group can be found here.

Rhett Davies is one of our favorite recording engineers, the man behind Taking Tiger Mountain, 801 Live and Avalon to name just a few of his most famous recordings, all favorites of ours of course.

The man may be famous for some fairly artificial sounding recordings — Eno’s, Roxy Music’s and The Talking Heads’ albums come to mind — but it’s obvious to us now, if it wasn’t before, that those are entirely artistic choices, not engineering shortcomings.

Rhett Davies, by virtue of the existence of this album alone, has proven that he belongs in the company of the greatest engineers of all time, right up there with the likes of Bill Porter, Ken Scott, Stephen Barncard, Geoff Emerick, Glyn Johns and others we could mention.

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Dire Straits / Making Movies – Forget the Dubby Domestic Pressings

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • Boasting seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides, this early UK pressing will be very hard to beat
  • Guaranteed to be a huge improvement over anything you’ve heard, this Brit is big, punchy, and full-bodied with excellent presence (particularly on side one) – Mark Knopfler’s leads really soar
  • “Romeo and Juliet” comes to life the way you want it to here, and the song “Solid Rock” lives up to its title
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Making Movies is helped by a new wave-tinged pop production, which actually helps Knopfler’s jazzy inclinations take hold … ranks among the band’s finest work.”

The music really comes together, especially if you’ve been playing a sub-generation domestic pressing, which is the only kind Warners made as far as we know. (The first album is the same way of course.) Here you will find richer mids, sweeter highs, more energy and some real punch down low. (more…)

Dire Straits – The Best Pressings Have Surprisingly Natural Sound

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Reviews and Commentaries for Love Over Gold

This modern album (1982) can sound surprisingly good on the right pressing. On most copies the highs are grainy and harsh, not exactly the kind of sound that inspires you to turn your system up good and loud and get really involved in the music. I’m happy to report that both sides here have no such problem – they rock and they sound great loud.

We pick up every clean copy we see of this album, domestic or import, because we know from experience just how good the best pressings can sound.

What do the best copies have?

REAL dynamics for one.

And with those dynamics you need rock solid bass. Otherwise the loud portions simply become irritating.

A lack of grain is always nice — many of the pressings we played were gritty or grainy.

Other copies that were quite good in most ways lacked immediacy and we took serious points off for that.

The best copies of Love Over Gold are far more natural than the average pressing you might come across, and that’s a recognizable quality we can listen for and weight in our grading.

It’s essential to the sound of the better pressings, which means in our shootouts it’s worth a lot of points. Otherwise you might as well be playing the CD.

Domestics or Imports?

Both can be good. The good copies tend to be good in the same way, and the bad copies, domestic or import, are likewise bad in the same way. It just goes to show, once again, that the only way to know how a record will sound is to play it.

If I had only one or two copies to judge by, I might have preferred an import over a domestic or vice versa. In the old days (before the advent of Hot Stamper shootouts), I would probably have drawn some surely erroneous conclusion concerning the relative merits of one or the other. Small sample sizes are the primary cause of these mistaken judgments. Unless you have a big batch of copies to play, you really can’t be sure about the sound of a recording.

And If I’m not mistaken, aren’t all the original copies, imports and domestics, mastered here in the states at Masterdisk, some by RL, some by BK (Bill Kipper) and some by HW (Howie Weinberg)? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all three sets of initials in the dead wax of the copies we played over the years.


Further Reading

If you would like to run some tests on the copy of Love Over Gold that you own, listen for the qualities we describe above.

Here are some other titles that are good for testing these same qualities, many with advice on specifically What to Listen For.

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Dire Straits – Love Over Gold

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More Love Over Gold

  • This vintage British import boasts a STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an outstanding solid Double Plus (A++) side one – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The open, spacious soundstage, full-bodied tonality and Tubey Magic here are obvious for all to hear – huge, punchy, lively and rockin’ throughout
  • This killer Hot Stamper is far more natural than any other pressing you’ve heard – we guarantee it
  • “Certainly a quantum leap from the organic R&B impressionism of the band’s early LPs and the gripping short stories of Making Movies, Love Over Gold is an ambitious, sometimes difficult record that is exhilarating in its successes and, at the very least, fascinating in its indulgences.” – Rolling Stone
  • The sound may be heavily processed, but it works surprisingly well on the best sounding pressings (played at good, loud levels on big dynamic speakers in a large, heavily-treated room, of course)

This modern album (from 1982, which makes it 40 years old, but that’s modern in our world) can sound surprisingly good on the right pressing. On most copies, the highs are slightly grainy and can be harsh, not exactly the kind of sound that inspires you to turn your system up good and loud and really get involved in the music. I’m happy to report that both sides here have no such problem – they rock and they sound great loud.

We pick up every clean copy we see of this album, domestic or import, because we know from experience just how good the best pressings can sound. What do the best copies have? REAL dynamics for one. And with those dynamics, you need rock solid bass. Otherwise, the loud portions simply become irritating. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.”

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Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

One of our erstwhile customers asked me a question not long ago:

Hey Tom, 

Some audiophile guy professes to me that he prefers his Japan and German pressings of Dire Straits’ 1st LP over the UK press. How can I tell him in a kind way that he is wrong?

Dear Sir,

You can’t, in a kind way or any other way.

You have to play the two pressings for him, on his stereo or yours, and that’s simply not possible unless he lives near you, which is rarely the case, audiophiles being fairly thin on the ground as far as I know.

Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

All forums — whatever their benefits — cannot overcome this problem.

Next time someone posts an opinion about a record, ask yourself “What does his system sound like?”

If you don’t know the answer, why on earth would you put any stock in his opinion? For all you know his system sucks and his critical listening skills are non-existent. He might have a pair of JBL 100s in the basement and a Dual turntable (or the modern equivalent of same).

He may hate the records whose sound you love and love the records whose sound you hate.

I Look Forward to Being Proven Wrong

Along those lines, I had a new customer tell me that this record was one of the better Heavy Vinyl reissues he had heard recently. Rather than just paint every Heavy Vinyl pressing with the broad brush of disgust I normally reach for when doing reviews for them, I thought maybe I should actually give this one a listen.

It might change my mind. It might help me see the light. Maybe I could even learn a thing or two instead of being so relentlessly negative about modern reissues. They can’t all be as bad as I say, can they?

So I took his advice and ordered one right then and there.

For thirty bucks, I learned a lesson worth a great deal more than the money I sunk into such a worthless piece of vinyl on the say-so of someone whose stereo I had never heard, which is this: never believe a word you read about audio or records, no matter who says it, or where you read it, except under certain circumstances.

What circumstances, exactly?

To my mind there is only one circumstance when it makes sense to believe what somebody — anybody — tells you about the sound of a record: If that advice comes with a 100% money back guarantee of the purchase price if you are not happy with the sound.

It can’t get any more simple than that, now can it?

Do any of these guys ever put their money where their mouths are? Not a one of them ever has to the best of my knowledge, and why would they? Plenty of downside, but not a trace of upside. To quote Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther from Victim of Love, “I could be wrong, but I’m not.”

Of course we do things very differently here at Better Records. Yes, we have strong opinions. Lots of them.

But we back those opinions up with a full money back guarantee. The upside for us is huge — a satisfied customer, our favorite kind — and the downside is practically nil — whatever record someone returns just goes back up on the site, sells to someone else and we never see it again.

Voila, another satisfied customer!

I don’t know how Chad Kassem would react to you trying to return his awful Stand Up or his mediocre-at-best Tea for the Tillerman, but I doubt he would take too kindly to the idea.

And speaking of not being wrong, we actually go out of way to point out when we are.

Better to be a scout rather than a warrior.

There are way too many warriors on audiophile forums as it is. (more…)

Dire Straits – Piano and Snare Testing

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Reviews and Commentaries for Love Over Gold

Telegraph Road does something on this copy that you won’t hear on one out of twenty pressings: It ROCKS. It’s got ENERGY and DRIVE.

Listen to how hard Allan Clark bangs on the piano on side one — he’s pounding that piano with all his might. No other copy managed to get the piano to pop the way it does here, clear and solid.

Wow, who knew? Maybe this is the reason HP put the record on the TAS Super Disc List. (I rather doubt he’s ever heard a copy this good, but who’s to say?)

More records that are good for testing the sound of the piano.

Best test for side two?

The snare drum on Industrial Disease. Play five copies of the album and listen for how much snap there is to the snare on each of them. It will be obvious which ones get the transient attack right and which ones don’t. (If none of them do try five more copies!)

More records that are good for testing the sound of the snare drum.

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Letter of the Week – “The differences between all the copies was even far more obvious the second time I did the shootout.”

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. (Bolding added by us.)

Hey Tom, 

I’ve got to admit that I was skeptical when I purchased your Hot Stamper Dire Straits album. I told my brother I just paid $400 CAD (shipping and duties included) for a used record. Of course he thought I was nuts! I have an original Mercury copy that I bought in 1978 plus an audiophile copy mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analogue tapes and plated and pressed at Pallas, Germany.

I finally got the chance to do the shootout between all copies. The original totally sounded like shit. It was bright sounding, noisy and lacked bottom end and dynamics. The Grundman mastered copy was much quieter, it was much smoother and more dynamic but it didn’t sound great. When I put on the Hot Stamper, within a few notes I knew it was far superior. It was far more dynamic as if I turned up the volume. It was also quiet and far more transparent but had that great bottom end.

My brother came to visit me a few days ago and I did the shootout between all the copies again. The differences between all the copies was even far more obvious the second time I did the shootout. I can tell you that my brother doesn’t think I’m nuts any more. I hope I can purchase more albums from you in the future.

Tasi

Tasi,

We love it when our customers take the time and make the effort to do their own shootouts, especially when we win, which is what happens about 99% of the time.

It is not the least bit unusual for our customers to take another listen and become more aware of the superior sound of the Hot Stamper pressings the second time around.

When we do lose a shootout, we promptly refund the buyer’s money and wish him or her a nice day.

What do we do with the record, assuming the customer had no problem with its playing condition?

We put it right back up on the site to sell to the next customer who orders it. In only two or three cases that I can recall did it ever come back to us again. Two or three out of thousand and thousands of Hot Stampers sold. Not bad.


New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Letter of the Week – “The best one from you guys that I’ve bought is easily Wish You Were Here.”

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Wish You Were Here

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

Hey Tom, 

I’ve bought several LPs from you guys and have been exceptionally impressed. The eponymous Dire Straits plus Breakfast in America arrived yesterday, and are excellent.

The best one from you guys that I’ve bought is easily Wish You Were Here. That is an album meant to be played at full volume from start to finish, loving every minute. 

Keep up the good work! 

Anyway, thanks from a very satisfied customer.

Thanks, glad to see you liked it as much as we did.

We love pointing out that our Shootout Winning copies are not originals, and not pressed in the U.K.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

To see more Tubey Magical Guitar Demo Discs, click here.


Further Reading

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments