Top Artists – Fleetwood Mac

Letter of the Week – Dire Straits, Boston and Rumours

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

Hey Tom,   

Just some feedback. I know its been a long time. Just always busy. Anyways, All the albums were great. The Dire Straits I thought was the best. FM was next. Boston is hard for me to listen to nowadays. I used to really be a big Boston fan, played it all the time in the car cassette deck. In fact I first heard album #1 in a friends car deck. Now, I’m not so much a big fan, but The hot stamper was great. When I first contacted you about your hot stampers you mentioned that I might not be able to notice a big difference with my setup. But I could tell the difference right away. I frequent your site at least once a week looking for something of interest and within my price range. It’s amazing what you guys do.

Anyways, I’ll keep looking and thanks for the awesome hot stampers. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk – Some of Our Favorite Twisted Melodic Pop

More Tusk

Tusk For Sale

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  • A MONSTER pressing that simply cannot be beat – all four sides (well, almost) earned our highest sonic grade of Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Staggering Demo Disc Quality sound on the more highly produced tracks, of which there are plenty spread across these two discs
  • The power of the bottom end is especially impressive on all the sides (and John McVie kills it on bass as usual)
  • 5 stars: “Because of its ambitions, Tusk failed to replicate the success of its two predecessors … yet it earned a dedicated cult audience of fans of twisted, melodic pop.” Twisted melodic pop? Sign me up!

This copy is absolutely KILLER, with the kind of transparency, space and openness you simply cannot find on most copies. When the soundstage is as wide and three-dimensional as it is here, it’s amazing how much more SENSE the music starts to make.

And the clarity is not the phony “audiophile” kind that’s the result of too much treble. The tonality is correct throughout, and there’s no lack of richness or warmth to the sound. They just don’t get any better. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac / Greatest Hits – Find a Copy Where the Drums Punch Through the Mix

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

More Fleetwood Mac

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Many pressings are compressed, murky, veiled and recessed, especially the early ones. To find one that is transparent, clear, present and punchy is no mean feat.

On either side listen for the drums to punch through the mix.

Mick Fleetwood is banging the hell out of his toms on Black Magic Woman. If it doesn’t sound like he’s really banging away, you need a better copy (or a better stereo; one must always be open to the possibility that the system may not be up to reproducing punchy drums properly).

Oh Well Part 1 has some big drums too, so now you can check both sides of your copy.  (more…)

Letter of the Week – Fleetwood Mac – How We Go About Our Shootouts and Lots More Where That Came From

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

Hey Tom, 

  Sorry to say I will be returning this White Hot Stamper. Did a lot of
  research before ordering, understand and fully appreciate what you’re
  doing, seriously sad to not be keeping it. Pretty obviously you are
  crazy dedicated to this so wanted to fully explain why. Especially
  since there’s still good odds I would like to try again.

  First let me say it was quite the experience unpacking and seeing a
  cover still in its original shrink wrap. Probably quite a few would
  consider that alone worth the price. I never even slipped it out of
  the excellent plastic sleeve you shipped it in, that’s how much
  instant respect I have for the unbelievably unlikely existence of this
  thing. It truly is amazing. I bought it for the music not the cover,
  but still….

  The reason I will be returning this is Side 1. Monday Morning was a
  disappointment, but I really think we are kind of at the mercy of the
  master here. Warm Ways is a whole lot better, and yes quite a bit
  better than my copy, with a fair bit more inner detail and palpable
  presence but overall not much more than I have got from some good 45
  or heavy vinyl pressings.

  Just so you know, yes I do follow all your suggestions. Warm up,
  demagnetize, anti-static, all of that and more. Have a demagnetizer
  much more effective than the Talisman. Been doing all this stuff over
  20 years now. Because I hear and appreciate. Cables elevated off the
  floor. Every wire from the breaker to the speaker been cryo’d. Yes I
  pulled the wire out of the house, drove it down to Cryo One, had them
  do it all.

  Part of the problem. I hear how much better Side 1 is, it goes into
  that frame of reference. For over $300 it needs to be at least as
  great an improvement over my copy as I can get from warm-up,
  demagnetize, etc. Its not.

  Well your rating did say Side 2 was a bit better. Frankly, I think you
  could stand to correct that. Side 2 is a whole lot better. Right from
  the first track its just way more lively, present, dynamic, punchy,
  you name it. Not sure why you say Say You Love Me is “rich and sweet
  and tubey” probably that is one of the stock phrases you use
  throughout the site because this track offers, relative to the others
  on this side, less of this.

  Which brings me to Landslide, and World Turning. These two tracks
  totally deserve all the most glowing Better Records accolades! Simply
  superb sonics. Better even in some ways than my MoFi 45 of Brothers in
  Arms. Now this is what I was hoping for! The spellbinding sound of
  these two tracks is almost enough to make me forget Side 1.

  Almost. And its not like the rest of Side 2 is bad. Honestly, when it
  gets to this level (of pressing quality) you can hear so deeply what’s
  going on it becomes inescapable we are at a level where we are at the
  mercy of the mastering engineer. Or if not him then someone even
  further along up the recording chain. You know what I mean. I know you
  know what I mean. Because, in reading one of your glowing reviews was
  the comment, basically, “but get real, its Springsteen.” Because for
  whatever reason he could never be bothered to turn out a good recording.

  So I know. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It might
  very well be no copy of Fleetwood Mac ever pressed gonna have a Side 1
  that sounds as good all the way across as this Side 2. But I figure if
  anyone would know that it would be you.

  And that’s kind of where I am. The copy I have right now is worth to
  me only a fraction of the price. If the whole thing sounded like Side
  2 though, then I would be a happy camper. The price would still be
  dear, but worth it. Find me a copy like that, same price, don’t bother
  posting it, its sold. Or credit this one down a whole lot. I’d prefer
  the first option. If it even exists.

  Sorry for the email. Guy like you I would love to get on the phone.
  Which with my schedule, no chance until Wed or Thurs, and I didn’t
  want to wait. But I still would like to talk. You know the records and
  now you know a little about me. Maybe you can help me find the few
  select copies I just can’t live without. I got the feeling if anyone
  can, its you.

  Best regards,

  Chuck M.

Chuck,

A few quick thoughts:

Since every stereo plays every record differently, it’s hard to know why
our copy did not sound as good to you as it did to us. When it comes
back I will personally play it against our 3+ ref copy and see how it
holds up.

2.5+ means it came in second in the shootout. Maybe it didn’t deserve
that grade, I will find out!

The other issue is a much more subtle one. We play all the side ones
against all the other side ones, so comparing side one to side two is
something we would never do, it’s apples and oranges in a way, many side
ones of albums simply do not sound as good as their side twos, and vice
versa, and we note that in some of our listings.

We could honestly say that about a great many records if we took the
time to do it.

On F Mac’s self-titled album I am not aware that that is the case, but
it could be!

We play tracks one and four on side one to test with. They are the
hardest tracks to get right in our experience.

Monday Morning has huge amounts of bass and a slightly gritty vocal, so
it’s very difficult to get that song to sound right and easy to spot
when it does sound right.

Warm Ways is a piece of cake and sounds at the very least “good” most of
the time, so it’s not much of a test for us, although richness,
intimacy, space and transparency are obviously better on this track on
the better copies.

Anyway, I will check it out when it comes back and hopefully get back to
you before too long.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best, TP

Tom,

Had Fleetwood Mac all packed to send back, couldn’t quite do it. Last
night I pulled it out for a second listen. This time, instead of going
head to head with my other copy I had a more normal listening session of
playing increasingly good SQ records. I have a pretty good memory for
these things which is probably what was bugging me and keeping me from
sending it back. Sure enough, listening again you can clearly hear much
deeper into the recording than probably anything else I have. This is by
far the most I’ve ever paid for any one record, I was actually nervous
handling it, probably just psyched myself out. Plus, and this is still
sinking in, this is a very unusual and highly specialized niche item
we’re talking about. Much as I’d wish for a copy where both sides sound
as good as Side 2 on this one does, I can tell by now you wouldn’t be
selling that one for the same price anyway! (more…)

Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks

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  • An incredible copy with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich and Tubey Magical with a massive bottom end – this is a true Demo Disc for bass (much like the first Mac album they sang on)
  • Recording Engineer great Keith Olsen mastered the perfect mix, with rich, full sound, in the great tradition of English Rock
  • “An engaging listen and served as a proving ground of sorts for both artists’ songwriting chops and for Buckingham’s skills as an emerging studio craftsman. Crisp, ringing acoustic guitars and a bottom-heavy rhythm section framed the pair’s songs…”

We really enjoy playing this album here at Better Records. It’s an obvious preview of things to come for these two (and the engineer too!). Check out the wonderful early version of Crystal. On the better copies, it is warm, rich, and sweet — just like it is on the better copies of the Fleetwood Mac self-titled LP. In fact, many parts of this album bring to mind the best of ’70s Fleetwood Mac. Fans of the self-titled LP and Rumours are going to find A LOT to like here.

Those of you who read our commentary for Commoner’s Crown will recognize this bit, lifted practically in its entirety from that listing.

The British Sound? This record has it in spades:

The sound is rich and full in the best tradition of English Rock, with no trace of the transistory grain that domestic rock pressings so often suffer from. The bass is deep, punchy, full up in the mix and correct. There’s plenty of it too, so those of you with less than well-controlled bass will have a tough time with this one.

But never fear; it’s a great record to tweak with and perfect for evaluating equipment.

Things have changed as we never tire of saying here at Better Records, but in a way you could say they have stayed the same. This used to be a demo disc, and now it’s REALLY a Demo Disc. You will have a very hard time finding a record with a punchier, richer, fuller, better-defined, dare I say “fatter” bottom end than the one found on both these sides.

Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky-sweet and Tubey Magical, THIS IS THE SOUND WE LOVE.

What We’re Listening For on Buckingham Nicks

There are a couple of qualities that set that better copies apart from the pack. The biggest problem with this record is sound that gets too fat and too rich. There has to be transparency to the sound that lets us listen into the studio. When Stevie is singing, almost always double-tracked by the way, Lindsay is often doing harmony vocals well behind her, double-tracked as well. You want to be able to hear PAST her all the way back to him and hear exactly what he’s doing. Most copies don’t let you do that.

Another problem is smeary guitar transients. The multi-tracked acoustic guitars tend to be rich and sweet on practically every copy you can find; this is not the problem. When they lack transient information, or “pluck”, they also tend to lack harmonic information, the overtones of the notes. Put those two together and you get a blobby mass of smeared guitars overlaid onto one another — not an irritating sound, but not an especially pleasing one either.

And, lastly, we take off lots of points for copies that have the edgy, boosted upper mids we mentioned earlier.

In these shootouts, we are always trying to find copies with the right BALANCE. When everything fits together nicely, when the mix sounds right and all the parts are working their magic separately and together, you know you are on the road to Hot Stamperville. You may not be hearing the best copy ever pressed, but you are undoubtedly hearing a copy that has The Kind of Sound You Want This Music to Have.

(more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Kiln House

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  • Excellent sound from beginning to end with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Tubey Magical smooth sound is key to the best copies, and this copy delivers, with the analog richness the music needs
  • Three of the best songs Fleetwood Mac ever did are here: Tell Me All The Things You Do, Station Man and Jewel Eyed Judy
  • A grossly underappreciated album from Fleetwood Mac’s awesome post-Peter Green period
  • Danny Kirwan is brilliant here – Kiln House is the last of the Mac’s grungy guitar-based albums

This is a favorite Fleetwood Mac album of ours here at Better Records and one that’s very hard to find with anything resembling good sound. Grungy guitars and punchy drums in a huge acoustical space. The louder you play it the better it sounds.

This period Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House through Mystery to Me (both are the kind of records I would take to my Desert Island), has always been my favorite of the band. I grew up on this stuff, and I can tell you from personal experience, having played a dozen copies of Kiln House practically all day at some pretty serious levels for our shootout not that long ago, it is a positive THRILL to hear the album sound as good as it does right here. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – A Demo Disc for Bass

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Another in our series of Demo Discs for Bass.

One of the special qualities this album has is AMAZINGLY well-defined, punchy, deep BASS — the kind you just never hear on most records (or most pressings of this album for that matter).

The bass is typically bloated on most copies of this album, something that is especially true for the MoFi. When you get a copy with note-like, properly balanced bass, the whole album works. Bass is the foundation of the music. When the bass is blubbery and ill-defined, the music itself sounds blurred. It loses its focus.

It’s also very dynamic and punchy. The kick drum sounds exactly right — there’s a room around it, just exactly as you would hear it if you were in the studio with the band! It took a copy like this to show us what an amazing pop recording it is.

So few copies we ran across in our shootout had that “jump out of the speakers” sound we knew was possible from our previous shootouts of the album. When finally one did, boy did it ever. What a knockout. Hot Stampers? They’re on fire!

If you have a big speaker system and have taken advantage of the audio revolutions we discuss throughout the site, this is the kind of record that can help you chart your progress. When a record like this blows everything you’ve ever heard out of the water, you are definitely on the right track! (more…)

Letter of the Week – Rumours

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

Hey Tom,   

Friend over recently, played Fleetwood Mac Rumours, 45RPM. He says that’s gonna be awful hard to beat. “With one arm tied behind my back! Watch this!”

Wow, that was more open….!

Your discovery is easily the most amazing thing of all the amazing things this audiophile has come across in 30 years of amazing things.

Keep at it, no one else can, we are counting on you.

 

Rumours – A Ten to Twenty Dollar Used Record? Yeah, We Know Already

 

Stampers Galore!

You would have to go through at least a dozen or more copies of Rumours to even hope to find one in a league with our best pressings. That’s a lot of record hunting, record cleaning and record playing!

If you know anything about this record, you know that the average domestic pressing of this album is quite average sounding; the good ones are few and far between.

And the stampers, as we’ve come to learn, aren’t the whole story. For one thing, there are at least 75 different side ones and 75 different side twos, all cut by Ken Perry at Capitol on the same three cutters from — we’re assuming, we weren’t there — the same tapes.

But of course they all sound different. Ken also cut the original English and Japanese pressings; his KP is in the dead wax for all to see. The two import KP copies that I heard were quite good, by the way. Not the best, but very good. He only cut the originals though, so practically every import copy you can find will be a reissue made from a dub, ugh.

A Ten to Twenty Dollar Used Record? Yeah, We Know Already

So if you’re the kind of person who likes to complain about us charging hundreds of dollars for a record that can be found in every used bin in town for under twenty, save yourself some typing: that’s the price we pay too.

And if the copy you paid fifteen bucks for sounds good enough, more power to you. Go with god as they say.

But if your copy doesn’t thrill you — and it’s unlikely that it does — then you have a lot of work ahead of you if you expect to find one that sounds like ours. We wish you well. We wish everybody who likes to do his own shootouts well.

We know the kind of time and energy it takes to find great records, probably better than anyone on the planet. If you have that kind of time and energy available to you, go for it. It takes us a staff of six and access to all the records in the record capitol of the world to pull it off, with thirty years experience doing it no less.

But it can be done, and you can do it. You just have to be willing to put in the time and effort. The records are cheap, right? Fifiteen bucks each, we know already. Thanks in advance for your letter.