Top Artists – Heart

Listening in Depth to Little Queen

More of the Music of Heart

Reviews and Commentaries for Little Queen

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

This is a recording that I credit with making me a better audiophile. When I first heard a killer Hot Stamper pressing played back through the EAR 324P phono stage at a friend’s house, I immediately called the distributor and ordered one. Compared to the 834P I had been using, the 324P simply took the recording to a level I had no idea existed.

Once I had reached that level, I set about using the album for tweaking and testing, and learned a lot doing it. Along with a substantial number of other records I have come across in my forty plus years as a hobbyist and audiophile record dealer, Little Queen is one that has surely helped me to become a better listener. [1]

Side One

Barracuda

One of the little tricks I used toward the end of my marathon Little Queen tweaking session from many years ago (which lasted more than six hours one Saturday evening, leaving me euphoric but exhausted) was to listen to the ending of Barracuda. Some of the big guitar chords at the end of the song are louder than others, and the more the differences in level among them can be heard, the better the stereo and the room must be at exposing these micro-dynamic changes.

You can’t make the guitarist play some of the notes at the end louder than others, you can only reveal the fact that he indeed must have. This is what is meant by Hi-Fidelity, the higher the better.

Love Alive

This is as good as it gets for Heart. They really rock on this track — the sound of the drums and the guitars are perfection. This may sound heretical, but I would put Love Alive right up there with some of my favorite Led Zeppelin tunes. It ROCKS. The band is on fire; give them their due. The rhythm section on the early Heart albums is Top Notch and then some. Maybe not Bonham and Jones Quality but pretty darn good in their own right.

The beginning section has so many subtle details (such as the autoharp and tabla) that simply disappear on a run-of-the-mill system. On the best copies the autoharp sounds rich and chimey and the tabla has a fair amount of low end extension. All this gets lost in the sauce if you’re listening to the average copy, or the average stereo.

This was precisely the kind of information that my 834p had been keeping from me and my 324p was now revealing. the memory of that afternoon, circa 2005 — an audio milestone if there ever was one — is etched in my mind to this day


[1] The albums listed here not only informed my taste in music, but helped guide the progress of the stereo equipment I use to play that music on. I’ve had large scale dynamic speakers for close to five decades, precisely in order to play demanding recordings such as these, the music I fell in love with as a budding audiophile in my twenties. (And sometimes even earlier, as in the case of The Beatles. I still have my 45 of She Loves You, which I bought at the tender age of 10 in 1964, my first record purchased using my own money. The record itself may be cracked, but the picture sleeve, worn as it is after some early abuse, is priceless.)

There is no question that the artists that recorded these albums, in concert with their remarkably talented producers and engineers, sweated every detail of these exceptional recordings. Year after year, we have done everything we could think of to get these recordings to sound their best. We know how good they can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them.

The more tweaking and tuning you do — on your system, room and electricity — the more progress you will make in this hobby, and the bigger and bolder these recordings will come to sound. They are the most difficult-to-reproduce albums we know of, the ones that can help you make real, demonstrable progress in this hobby.

Again and again it was meeting the challenge of reproducing recordings such as these that allowed us to get to the next level, and they can do the same for you.


FURTHER READING

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More Records that Are Good for Testing Bass and Whomp

More Records that Are Good for Testing Transparency

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Dog and Butterfly – Listen for the Fat Snare on Straight On

More of the Music of Heart

More of the Music of Women Who Rock

Take five copies of the album, clean them well and then cue up Straight On. Now listen for how fat and solid the snare sounds. At least three will have a snare that doesn’t have the heft of the real thing. At most one will show you what it should really sound like.

Of course the copy with the right snare sound may have other problems, most assuredly does have other problems, which is why you need about ten to fifteen copies to really do a proper shootout.

Side Two

The vocals were breathy and clear on this side two, and the overall sound was punchy and energetic. The main areas we took points off for were a lack of warmth and a bit of smear on the acoustic guitars. Most copies have trouble getting all the transient information to resolve properly. The acoustic guitars are the place where this is most easily heard.

Side one earned the full Three Pluses for sound, with some of the breathiest background vocals we heard on any copy. That is a key sign of transparency — the background vocals are clear and breathy behind the lead singers. Most of the time they will be audible but the texture of the voices will be compromised.

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Heart / Dreamboat Annie – Turn Up Your Volume and Rock Out

More of the Music of Heart

More Records that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Dreamboat Annie is yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock records. It’s also one of those recordings that demands to be played LOUD. If you’ve got the big room, big speakers, and the power to drive them, you can have a LIVE ROCK AND ROLL CONCERT in your very own house. When the boys behind Heart (superb musicians all) let loose with some of those Zep-like monster power chords — which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and “safe” mixes — I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don’t like the sound of horns, so there you go.)

Not many records have this kind of big, rockin’ sound, that’s for sure! If you’re an audiophile who loves classic rock, you just haven’t lived until you’ve heard this album on a White Hot Stamper pressing. There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through. In a nutshell those are the ones that earn our top Hot Stamper grades.

We’re pretty fond of these ladies here at Better Records. Their second album, Little Queen, has been a favorite test disc around here for years. When Heart is at their best, the music is wonderful. If you’re lucky enough to own the right pressing — this one will do nicely — this band can ROCK with the best of them.

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Heart / Little Queen – How Wide and Tall Is Your Copy? Compared to What?

More of the Music of Heart

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. Love Alive and Barracuda on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power of your system. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the record that will show you just how big it is.

You get HUGE meaty guitars, BIG bass, a smooth top end, full-bodied vocals, incredible rock energy and dynamics, loads of richness and incredible transparency.

Wide and Tall

A key quality we look for in Hot Stamper copies of Little Queen is Wide and Tall Presentation. What exactly does that mean you ask? The best copies, the ones that really jump out of the speakers, tend to present some (usually high frequency) information higher and more forward than others. This is not hard to miss.

When you’re playing ten or fifteen copies of the same side of the same album and suddenly a cymbal crashes higher and more clearly than the others did in the part of the track you are testing, you can’t help but notice it. Wow! How did that get there? Once you hear it you start to listen for it, and sure enough the next copy won’t do it, nor will the next. Maybe the one after that gets about halfway there: the cymbal crashes higher than most, but not as far as the one that really showed you how high was up.

And of course it all ties in with our Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary. If you’ve been making steady improvements to your system, or have better cleaning technologies, or better room treatments, or cleaner electricity, maybe ALL the Little Queen pressings do it now. They might ALL do something they never did before, and in fact they SHOULD be doing most things better now.

Our last shootout was a while back. Since then many, many parts of the chain have undergone improvement. During this shootout we heard things in the recording we never heard before. This is the point of all this audio fooling around. It pays off, if you do it right. You have musical information waiting to be unlocked in your favorite recordings. It isn’t going to free itself. You have to do the work to set it free. Do it our way or do it some other way, but do it. You, more than anyone else, will be the one to get the benefit.

Biggest Problems Noted Recently

With continual improvements to the stereo in the year or so since we last did this shootout, the goal of which is to get the stereo out of the way of the sound of the record, we noted that many copies suffer from a degree of dryness and hardness. This lack of richness is most easily recognized by the lack of studio ambience in what seems to be a pretty dead studio. Play any good All Tube recording from the ’50s or ’60s and you will hear exactly what a record like this doesn’t do. But those other records don’t rock like this one either.

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Heart – Little Queen

  • Killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one (which is the better side, truth be told) – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Barracuda and Love Alive are two of Heart’s best songs bar none and they are guaranteed to blow your mind here
  • It’s the rare copy that has the powerful dynamics, deep bass, punchy drums and meaty guitars like you get here
  • A Rock and Pop Top 100 album with Demo Disc sound on a very special pressing such as this – it will rock your world

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. Love Alive and Barracuda on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power your system is capable of. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the pressing that will truly show it off.

There are plenty of commentaries that discuss the sound of this recording and what it can really do when you get hold of a good pressing… and have the system that can play it… and turn up the volume good and loud. We proudly present here a copy with the kind of Big Sound that we think backs up every claim we make.

We’re huge Heart fans here at Better Records, and we’re not ashamed to say so. These ladies can really rock, and on the right pressing their music can and will sound absolutely amazing. Here’s a copy that will allow you to hear that magic at home — the sound is super punchy with incredible energy and wonderful clarity. You’ll have a very hard time finding another copy that rocks any harder than this one. (more…)

Heart – Dog and Butterfly

  • Straight On is the killer track on this 1978 release, and with Triple Plus (A+++) sound you can be sure it will rock your world on this pressing
  • The sound is RICH and WARM without sacrificing clarity and punch, this is classic ’70s ANALOG at its best
  • Turn it up and hear the wonderful, grungy texture to the guitars and a big fat snare keeping the beat
  • “…the more resounding punch of Straight On went all the way to number 15 as the album’s first single. With the vocals and guitar work sounding fuller and more focused, the band seems to be rather comfortable once again.”

Like the best copies of Dreamboat Annie and Little Queen, this is classic ’70s ANALOG at its best. The sound is RICH and WARM without sacrificing clarity and punch. (more…)

Heart – Dreamboat Annie

More Heart

More Women Who Rock

  • One of the best sounding copies of Heart’s debut album to ever hit the site – Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Punchy and present, open and transparent, with real weight and power to the low end, not many copies can compare to this bad boy (girl?)
  • There is so much more LIFE to this recording than most audiophiles realize, and only the best pressings let that energy come through
  • A Better Records Top 100 album, 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic: “Aggressive yet melodic rockers like ‘Sing Child,’ ‘White Lightning & Wine,’ and the rock radio staples ‘Magic Man’ and ‘Crazy on You’ led to the tag ‘the female Led Zeppelin.'”

Not many records have this kind of big, rockin’ sound, that’s for sure! Punchy and present, open and transparent, with real weight and power to the low end. If you’re an audiophile who loves classic rock, you just haven’t lived until you’ve heard side one of this album on a Hot Stamper pressing.

We’re pretty fond of these ladies here at Better Records. Their second album, Little Queen, has been a favorite test disc around here for years. When Heart is at their best, the music is wonderful. If you’re lucky enough to own the right pressing, this band can ROCK with the best of them.

What A Hot Copy Gets You

For one thing, the music just JUMPS out of the speakers. There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through. In a nutshell, those are the ones that earn the name Hot Stamper. (more…)

Heart / Dreamboat Annie – What to Listen For

More Heart

More Women Who Rock

On the best copies the music just JUMPS out of the speakers. There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through. In a nutshell those are the ones that earn the name Hot Stamper. 

Dreamboat Annie is yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Allow me to borrow some of the commentary from our Abraxas Hot Stamper (the necessary changes having been made).

This is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock records. It’s also one of those recordings that demands to be played LOUD. If you’ve got the big room, big speakers, and the power to drive them, you can have a LIVE ROCK AND ROLL CONCERT in your very own house.

When the boys behind Heart (superb musicians all) let loose with some of those Zep-like monster power chords — which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and “safe” mixes — I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don’t like the sound of horns, so there you go.)

Big and full, clear and present, with full extension in both directions, this album can really ROCK — but only on the right copy. If you’re an audiophile who loves classic rock, you just haven’t lived until you’ve heard Magic Man and Crazy On You on a White Hot Stamper pressing. (more…)

Little Queen / Testing for Whomp Factor with Love Alive

heartlittl_1501_1187219026More of the Music of Heart

More of the Music of Women Who Rock

Heart’s Little Queen has long been a favorite Test Disc. It works especially well as a test for something we here at Better Records like to call Whomp — the energy found at the low end of the frequency spectrum. Some call it slam, we prefer whomp.

The commentary is here to help guide you as you make changes to your system, insuring that you end up with more whomp without sacrificing equally important qualities found in the midrange and top end of your system.

Reality Check Parts One and Two

Take the song Love Alive.

The beginning section is chock full of lovely and quite subtle details (such as the autoharp and tabla) that seem to lose their magic on most systems. The autoharp is rich and chimey, and the tabla has some real low end extension. The recorders and flutes that join them are breathy and sweet, while the acoustic guitars heard throughout display all the tubey-magical harmonic richness found on our favorite Hot Stamper recordings, from the Eagles first album to Teaser and the Firecat. These qualities easily get lost in the sauce if you’re listening to the average copy, or the typical audiophile stereo. That’s Part One of the test — the opening. (more…)

Heart / Little Queen – CBS Half-Speed Reviewed

More of the Music of Heart

Reviews and Commentaries for Little Queen

Sonic Grade: D

No slam, no real weight and no truly deep bass, just that 40-plus-cycles stuff and barely any of that, mostly 50 and up if you’re lucky, and BLUBBERY.

Our good customer Roger wrote to tell me how much better he liked our $100 Hot Stamper of Little Queen compared to his CBS Mastersound Half-Speed Mastered LP.

As you can see from our old commentary, I used to actually think the Mastersound pressing was pretty good, with better extension on the top to help overcome this album’s typically dull, thick, opaque sound.

But that’s before I discovered the Hottest Stampers, which fix EVERYTHING and turn this album into a real Demo Disc. (more…)