Top Artists – Dire Straits

Dire Straits / Alchemy: Dire Straits Live

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  • An outstanding early UK pressing of Dire Straits’ live album from 1984 with Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on all FOUR SIDES
  • 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 / Love Over Gold – Testing with Piano and Snare

More of the Music of Dire Straits

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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?)

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…)

Mark Knopfler – Local Hero

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  • A KILLER Vertigo import pressing of Knopfler’s 1983 soundtrack album, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • This one is doing everything right – it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than anything else we played
  • As good as the Warner Brothers pressings might be, we think these Vertigo originals are a step up in class
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler’s intricate, introspective finger-picked guitar stylings make a perfect musical complement to the wistful tone of Bill Forsyth’s comedy film, Local Hero… The low-key music picks up traces of Scottish music, but most of it just sounds like Dire Straits doing instrumentals, especially the recurring theme, one of Knopfler’s more memorable melodies.”

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Dire Straits’ First Album / A Tour de Force by Rhett Davies – We Knew It Back in 2007

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More Recordings Engineered by Rhett Davies

This Vertigo British pressing of Dire Straits’ wonderful debut has ABSOLUTELY THE BEST SOUND for this album we have ever heard. Folks, this one just can’t be beat. AGAIG is our shorthand for As Good As It Gets, and that’s an understatement when it comes to the sound of this copy. It blew the doors off every record we put up against it; every Vertigo pressing, regardless of country of manufacture or era. If you’re looking for The World Champion, this copy holds the title and is very unlikely to be giving it up any time soon.

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.

His Masterpiece Discovered

Well, we just have to say that 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 to beat the band, and freedom from hi-fi-ishness and distortion like few rock recordings you have ever heard.

This album is every bit as good and may in fact be even a bit better in some areas, principally as regards dynamics and energy. It is a very special recording of incredible size and power. Still, we’re pretty sure most people would rather have a good copy of Dire Straits’ debut.

So, to be fair, let’s say the man is responsible for two of the best sounding records we know of. Two masterpieces in other words.

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 pressing alone, has proven that he belongs in the company of the greatest engineers of all time, along with the likes of Bill Porter, Ken Scott, Stephen Barncard, Geoff Emerick and others too numerous to mention.

We Want To Rock

What separates the best Brits from the merely good ones? In a word, ENERGY. The best copies make this band sound like they are on fire, ready to go head to head with the world, fiercely proud of the new sound they’ve created. The not-so-good copies make Dire Straits sound the way Dire Straits usually does — laid back and well under control, perhaps even a bit bored with the whole affair. The best copies show you a band that wants to rock with the best of them, and can.

Demo Disc Sound

Both sides here are OFF THE CHARTS — no copy came close, and none may ever! It’s got all of the punch, all of the energy, and all of the tubey magic that you could ever ask for. The vocals, the bass, the guitars — all PERFECTION. The overall sound is rich, full, smooth, sweet, super transparent, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The presence and immediacy on this copy are UNCANNY and UNMATCHED.

Water Of Love and Sultans of Swing have the kind of Demo Disc sound that will have your audiophile friends drooling and turning green with envy. We can’t all afford $100,000 turntables, but when you have a record that sounds this good, you don’t need one! This record makes it sound like you have 100k in your rig, whether you do or not.

A Big Speaker Record

Let’s face it, this is a BIG SPEAKER recording. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It demands to be played LOUD. It simply cannot come to life the way the producers, engineers and artists involved intended if you play it at moderate levels.

This is the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Speakers. You need a lot of piston area to bring the dynamics of this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.

For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so.) To tell you the truth, the Big Sound is the only sound that I can enjoy. Anything less is just not for me. (more…)

Dire Straits / Making Movies – Forget the Dubby Domestic Pressings

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • Guaranteed to be a huge improvement over anything you’ve heard, this Brit is big, punchy, and full-bodied with excellent presence – 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 – Brothers in Arms

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Reviews and Commentaries for Brothers in Arms

  • Tonally correct from start to finish, with a solid bottom and fairly natural vocals (for this particular recording of course), HERE is the sound they were going for in the studio
  • Drop the needle on So Far Away – it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet still rich and full-bodied
  • 4 stars: “One of their most focused and accomplished albums … Dire Straits had never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them.”

Fully extended from top to bottom with a wide-open soundstage, this is the sound you need for this music. There’s plenty of richness and fullness here as well — traits that are really crucial to getting the most out of a mid-’80s recording like this.

Drop the needle on So Far Away — it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet incredibly rich and full-bodied. The bottom end really delivers the goods — it’s punchy and meaty with healthy amounts of tight, deep bass. (more…)

Dire Straits – Love Over Gold

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  • This outstanding British import boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The open, spacious soundstage, full-bodied tonality and Tubey Magic here are obvious for all to hear – huge, punchy, lively and rockin’ throughout
  • This 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

This modern album (from 1982, which makes it 38 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…)

Dire Straits / Alchemy: Dire Straits Live – How Good Are the Robert Ludwig Pressings?

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The best domestic pressings we heard, the ones cut by Robert Ludwig at Masterdisk, were simply not competitive with the original British LPs.

The evidence is pretty clear that the master tapes stayed in England and that only the British pressings are made from them.

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Dire Straits Debut from 1977 – Energy Is the Key to the Best Pressings

What separates the best copies from the merely good ones? In a word, ENERGY. The best copies make this band sound like they are on fire, ready to go head to head with the world, fiercely proud of the new sound they’ve created.

The not-so-good copies make Dire Straits sound the way Dire Straits usually does — laid back and well under control, perhaps even a bit bored with the whole affair. The best copies show you a band that wants to rock with the best of them, and can.

Back in 2007 or thereabouts we wrote about this subject after playing a particularly lively copy of Revolver:

At the risk of being definitive about things that are better left ill-defined, I would say that the Number One quality we look for in a pressing is that element of Life or Energy. We can put up with many shortcomings, including even some tonality problems, but when a record fails to convey the spirit and enthusiasm of the musicians, it’s pretty much over.

Water Of Love and Sultans of Swing on a Hot Stamper copy have the kind of Demo Disc sound that will have your audiophile friends drooling and turning green with envy. We can’t all afford $100,000 turntables, but when you have a record that sounds this good, you don’t need one! This record makes it sound like you have 100k in your rig, whether you do or not.

Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

Hot Stampers of the First Album Available Now

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

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?

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 few and far between. 

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 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 for all you know (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 these new pressings, I though maybe I should 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 you say, can they?

So I took his advice and ordered one up 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 the following 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 of it.

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 no 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 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…)