Top Artists – Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

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Reviews and Commentaries for Rumours

  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from start to finish, this early pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s Magnum Opus will be very hard to beat
  • Tubey Magical Analog – the sound is open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield
  • A Better Records Top 100 title – when you hear it sound as good as it does here, you’ll know why we’ve long considered Rumours an Audiophile Demo Disc
  • If you own the album on two 45 RPM discs (you know the one), allow us to send you a copy that will beat the pants off that modern mediocrity – this one!
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 5 stars: “Each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why Rumours touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.”
  • If you’re a Fleetwood Mac fan, this undeniable classic from 1977 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1977 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

When you hear a good copy of Rumours, it’s very easy to understand why this is one of the best-selling pop music albums of all time. Just about everyone knows how great these songs are, but I bet you didn’t know they could sound like this!

It’s tough finding Hot Stamper copies of this album. With over 75 sets of stamper numbers for each side, it’s an extremely taxing project, even for us. We know some of the better stampers and have been acquiring them since then in preparation for this shootout. (more…)

Strict Quality Control? We Put That Proposition to the Test


Yet Another Important Lesson We Learned from Record Experiments

Part one of this commentary concerns the random nature of record making processes. It can be found here.

A number of years ago we had the opportunity to crack open two brand new sealed copies of a recently remastered Heavy Vinyl pressing. We were told that with this record every effort was made to produce the highest quality product and to maintain the highest quality control throughout the production process, such that every copy produced, from first to last, would be more or less identical. Not just in terms of surfaces, but sound quality too.

To accomplish this feat, the producer used the real master tapes (we were told), had a well known mastering engineer do the mastering at a highly-regarded studio, then had a well-known audiophile pressing plant in Germany make the record, using the highest quality vinyl compounds available, in presses that meet the highest standards in the industry, operated by highly skilled professionals.

Long before any stamper could possibly be worn out it would be replaced. All the metal mothers and stampers would be made in a way designed to eliminate any possible variation. One and only one complete run would be made; if another was needed at some later date the whole process would have to be started over from scratch using the same strict quality controls.

No corners would be cut, nothing would be left to chance. Each one of the finished records would reflect the exceptional efforts brought to bear at every stage in the process. Every copy would be quiet, the sound would be of the highest audiophile quality, and, more to the point, every copy — from number 001 all the way to number 7,500 — would sound as good as any other.

Our Experience

As you might suspect, our opinion as to the possibility of these results being achievable is that they are not.

Bear in mind that this is an opinion supported by the playing of thousands and thousands of records, including sometimes more than a hundred of the same title, and having them all sound different to some degree.

So we proceeded to test the proposition that by exercising maximal control over all the known variables of record production, using the most exacting standards at each and every step, two copies of the same record, chosen at random, would sound the same.

We picked a song, cued it up and listened to it for a minute or so. Then we put the other copy on our table, cued up the same track and let it rip.

Falsified in Fifteen Seconds

Immediately the sound was different and, importantly, quite a bit better. The first big cymbal splash was brighter and more life-like, with more extended high frequencies. The bass was better too: deeper, as well as more solid and easier to follow. All of this was evident within the first fifteen seconds of playing the second copy. So much for controlling the variables.

The random variability inherent in the record making process cannot be overcome by best practices and high standards. The process is complex, not well understood, and surely stochastic; some parts of it can be controlled but not all the parts of it can be controlled, which means that the finished product will have some unavoidable element of randomness.


Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees

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Reviews and Commentaries for Fleetwood Mac

  • With two Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, you’ll have a hard time finding a Bare Trees that sounds remotely as good as this vintage UK import
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy that’s this lively, solid and rich… drop the needle on the title track and you’ll see what we mean
  • Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two superb sides such as these
  • “Arguably the first consistently strong album Fleetwood Mac ever recorded [not true, Kiln House is] … 1972’s Bare Trees is also the album where the band finally defines its post-blues musical personality.”

This period of Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House (1970) through Mystery to Me (1973) — both are albums I would put at the top of my list to 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 that it is a positive THRILL to hear the albums from this era sound so good.

Until not that many years ago we simply were not able to successfully shootout Bare Trees, Fleetwood Mac’s wonderful album from 1972. The pressings we were playing just didn’t sound very much like Hot Stampers to us. British, German, Japanese, domestic originals, domestic reissues; all of them left much too much to be desired.

Thankfully we can tell you that the best copies sound a whole lot better now than they did then. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – You Need a Copy Where the Drums Punch Through the Mix

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Reviews and Commentaries for Fleetwood Mac

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

Proper cleaning is essential. Many early Orange label CBS pressings (the only ones that have the potential to win shootouts) just sound like old records until they have been properly cleaned.

There are two tracks to play to hear how well the drums 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 pounding 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 the punchiness of the drums.

Oh Well Part 1 has some big drums too, which means you can check both sides of your copy for how punchy the drums are.

Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits is a Big Speaker record. It requires speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at fairly loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

Most of the music is not in the deeper bass anyway. It’s the whack of instruments whose energy is in the lower midrange and mid-bass that screens and smallish box speakers will struggle with.

A good large-driver dynamic speaker fed by fast electronics can usually handle the energy in that range with ease.

Take this album with you next time you head to your local stereo store to audition speakers.

It will help clarify the issues. Screens and small boxes do many things well, but drums are not one of them, at least in my experience.

This and hundreds of other albums like it are precisely the kinds of recording that drove me to pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Dynamic Speakers. You need a lot of piston area to bring 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 and I have never looked back.

To tell you the truth, the Big Sound is the only sound that I can enjoy. Anything less just doesn’t do it for me.

If you are looking for that kind of sound, we have a list of Demo Discs that can deliver it like nothing you’ve ever heard.

For more What to Listen For advice on other titles we have auditioned, please click here.


Letter of the Week – “When the sound field is this huge, lots of things click into place.”

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Rumours

One of our good customers had this to say about a comparison he did between a Super Hot and a White Hot pressing of Rumours.

Dear Tom and Fred,

White Hot Stampers are very special records. I know you know this already, but it still astonishes me every time. It’s been a pleasure to compare the WHS of Rumours to my SHS [Super Hot Stamper].

Tom, I hear you talk about the size of the acoustic space a lot on your blog, but it was hard for me to picture what you meant until I heard it myself. The WHS sounds bigger than the SHS. It is like I’m sitting a few rows back at a show. It’s such a palpable difference, I feel like I can measure the increased size of the sound field for the WHS. I’d say it’s about two feet more forward, up, and out compared to the SHS.

When the sound field is this huge, lots of things click into place. The instruments have their own space, and that seems to make it easier to follow each of them, and to notice all the details in someone’s playing. It’s really exhilarating.

Vinyl amazes me. It’s just so remarkable that two pressings can differ in terms of the size of the soundstage. What parameter of the pressing gives you that? I’d love to know, but even without understanding the physics of it, the effect is unmistakably real.

I imagine that picking out the white hot stampers is the easiest part of your job. I’m guessing that all it takes is a couple notes of music to know when a particular copy has THAT sound. Finding good candidates, I’m certain, can be tedium, then disappointment when they don’t pan out. But, spotting a 3+ is probably a cinch.

When I first got the SHS of Rumours, I shot it out against all the other copies I had, and it bested them all. It took me a whole afternoon (a delightful afternoon, but still.)

The WHS is simply in a different league. I went back and forth between it and the SHS, track after track, amazed by how easy it was to hear the differences, particularly in the size of the acoustic space. It’s really no wonder your white hots seem to sell faster than your super hots, even at 3-4x the price.



The size and space that any given pressing reproduces is one of the most important aspects of the sound that we listen for. Bigger and bolder, without being hyped-up in any way — that is our sound.

This brings to mind a milestone event in the history of Better Records. We did a huge shootout for Blood, Sweat and Tears’ second album many years ago, all the way back in 2010. We found two copies with sides that went far beyond any we had ever played. They reproduced the brass from wall to wall and floor to ceiling in a way that we had no idea was possible. We described it this way.

Let me give you just one example of how big a role the brass plays in our understanding of this recording. The best copies present a huge wall of sound that seems to extend beyond the outside edges of the speakers, as well as above them, by quite a significant amount. If you closed your eyes and drew a rectangle in the air marking the boundary of the soundscape, it would easily be 20 or 25% larger than the boundary of sound for the typically good sounding original pressing, the kind that might earn an A or A Plus rating.

The effect of this size differential is ENORMOUS. The power of the music ramps up beyond all understanding — how could this recording possibly be this good? You may need 50 copies to find one like this, which begs the question: why don’t the other 49 sound like this one? The sound of the amazing LP has to be on the master tape in some sense. Mastering no doubt contributes to the sound, but can it really be a factor of this magnitude? Our intuitions say no.

More likely it’s the mastering of the other copies that is one of the factors holding them back, along with worn stampers, bad vinyl, bad needles and all the rest. Any reason you like for why a record doesn’t sound good is as valid as any other, so you might as well pick one you are comfortable with; they’re all entirely meaningless. Of course the reverse of this is just as true: why a record sounds good is anyone’s guess, and a guess is all it can ever be.

We may not know why some copies can do what they do, but it is definitely not difficult to hear them doing it.

Thanks for taking the time and making the effort to do your own shootout, Nothing can teach you more about records that sitting down and playing a pile of copies of the same album and critically listening for the differences in the sound you hear. Experience is a great teacher.

Thanks for your letter,



Fleetwood Mac – Rockin’ the Fat Snare on Dreams

This is a rock album — it needs to be played LOUD and it needs to be played on a DYNAMIC system.

What do the best copies have that the also-rans don’t?

Lots and lots of qualities, far too many to mention here, but there is one you may want to pay special attention to: the sound of the snare.

When the snare is fat and solid and present, with a good “slap” to the sound, you have a copy with weight, presence, transparency, energy — all the stuff we ADORE about the sound of the best copies of Rumours.

Next time you are on the hunt to buy new speakers, see which ones can really rock the snare on Dreams. That’s probably going to be the speaker that can do justice to the entire Rumours album, as well as anything by The Beatles, and Neil Young’s Zuma, and lots of other favorite records of ours, and we expect favorites of yours too.

Side One


The drums that open this track and the one monster cymbal crash at the beginning are PERFECTION on the best pressings. If you took ten copies of this album and just played that cymbal crash, I’m guessing you could tell the difference in the sound of every copy. If that cymbal crash doesn’t splash you in the face like a bucket of cold water, you do not have a killer copy. It’s way out front in the mix and that’s the way they want it.

Ideally the bass is very prominent on this track. It should be way up in the mix, loud, tight and note-like, with the guitar and kick drum clearly separated. It absolutely drives the song; the copies that got the bass right on this track really came to life. If you want to know why Fleetwood and Mac are revered as one of the all-time great rhythm sections, this song should provide all the evidence you need. (Try Werewolves of London if this song doesn’t convince you. Same sound too.)

Listen for Stevie Nick’s humming before she starts to sing. On the good copies it’s quite clear.

Punchy bass and punchy drums are key to the best sounding copies of Rumours.

What to Listen For in General


Listening in Depth to Bare Trees

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Bare Trees.

Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.


Side One

Child of Mine

A real rocker from Danny Kirwan. If the electric piano is rich on your copy and you have some top end and space you are probably off to a very good start.

The Ghost
Homeward Bound
Sunny Side of Heaven

A wonderfully poignant, even melancholy instrumental track by Bob Welch. Not sure if that’s him on guitar but the playing is beautiful. The high point of side one.

Side Two

This is where most of the best music on Bare Trees can be found. We like every song on this side.

Bare Trees

If this song doesn’t get your blood pumping, you need to turn up the volume another click or two. There is tremendous energy and joy in this song, and it needs to be played loud to get those feelings across.

Sentimental Lady
Danny’s Chant
Spare Me a Little of Your Love

This is a tough track to get right. The Brit is smoother and sweeter, which works on this song. Bad copies can sound hard on Christine’s vocals as well as the chorus.


One of my all time favorite Fleetwood Mac songs. On a good copy this track sounds so sweet. The texture to the voices is right on the money — neither grainy nor dull.

Thoughts on a Grey Day (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Mirage

  • An outstanding copy of Mirage, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from top to bottom
  • Most copies are washed-out, recessed, and lack weight, but this one will show you just how right this music can sound
  • The producing-engineering team of Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut return to provide top quality Rumours-like production
  • The album spent five weeks at Number One, probably on the strength of the amazingly fun single “Hold Me.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, a killer copy of their 1982 release might just need a home in your collection, and is the last Fleetwood Mac album that we would recommend to anyone but the most diehard fan
  • The albums to come later — Tango in the Night (1987). Behind the Mask (1990), Time (1995) and Say You Will (2003) — have never been offered as Hot Stamper pressings, a fact that is unlikely to change
  • Like Tusk, this is a Digital Recording that sounds great on vinyl

Mirage is a surprisingly good album if you can find the right copy.

The mids and highs can be really silky and sweet. The whole album has a glossy sound, clearly the influence of Lindsay Buckingham and his production team. The sound of Fleetwood Mac in this period is their doing, and with a phenomenal run of success that’s rarely been seen in pop history, it’s hard to argue with either their approach to the material or the sound. It strikes us that they used every track on the multi-track recorder and then some. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

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More Five Star Albums Available Now

  • The best sounding tracks are killer here – clear, rich, warm, full-bodied, with all the hallmarks of high-production-value analog throughout
  • These vintage pressings have the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the 40 year old tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copy of those tapes)
  • 5 stars: “McVie and Nicks don’t deviate from their established soft rock and folk-rock templates, and all their songs are first-rate… 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.”
  • If you’re a fan of Late-’70s pop, especially the kind with a harder edge, this is a Must Own from 1979 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1979 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here. (more…)

The Fleetwood Mac You Don’t Know – Future Games

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Reviews and Commentaries for Fleetwood Mac

Danny Kirwan is the guy who really takes control on Future Games, the band’s 1971 release. Some of the best songs this band ever did are here, many of them written by Kirwan.

The opening track on side one, Woman Of A Thousand Years, and the opening track on side two, Sands Of Time, are both his and set the tone for the whole side, which is folky, ethereal and extended. The best of these pop songs don’t seem to follow any of the standard pop conventions of verse verse chorus. They seem to wander on a journey of discovery. In that way they remind me a little bit of 20th century French classical music, or some of the longer tracks from Neil Young’s Zuma.

Any Fleetwood Mac greatest hits collection would be a joke without those tracks. They are of course missing from most of the compilations I am familiar with. Sadly, few people miss them because few people have ever even heard them.

This period Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House through Mystery to Me (both are 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 (or more, I lose track there are so many) copies of Future Games practically all day at some pretty serious levels that it is a positive THRILL to hear it sound as good as it does on the best pressings.