Top Artists – Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin / Led Zeppelin III – Bright and Harsh on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Ridiculously bright and harsh, nothing like the good pressings we sell.

We are proud to say this was one of the Classic Zep releases that we never carried on the site (along with II and Houses, both of which stink).

You will find very few critics of the Classic Zep LPs outside of those who write for this very website, and even we used to recommend three of the Zep titles on Classic: Led Zeppelin I, IV and Presence.

Wrong on all counts. Live and Learn, right?

Since then we’ve made it a point to create debunking commentaries for some of the Classic Zeps, a public service of Better Records. We don’t actually like any of them now, although the first album is by far the best of the bunch.


FURTHER READING

Labels With Shortcomings – Classic Records – Classical 

Labels With Shortcomings – Classic Records – Jazz 

Labels With Shortcomings – Classic Records – Rock and Pop 

AND

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

Heavy Vinyl Disasters 

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners 

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III

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Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin III

  • Outstanding sound throughout with each side earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight down low and lots of space around all the instruments, this copy is guaranteed to rock like nothing you have ever heard
  • Since I’ve Been Loving You, Gallows Pole, Tangerine and That’s the Way are just a few of the tracks that have truly Demo Disc sound
  • “On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth.”

Drop the needle on Since I’ve Been Loving You and turn it up good and loud. Robert Plant will be right there between your speakers, and your jaw will be on the floor!

Cue up Tangerine on side two for a taste of rich, sweet, Tubey Magical Analog Sound. The acoustic guitars are lush and delicate, the bass is deep and well-defined, and the vocals are completely natural and free from bad mastering or phony EQ. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

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  • Physical Graffiti finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides of this killer double album
  • Transparency, the other side of the Tubey Magical Richness coin, is key to the better pressings of this album, as well as many of our other favorite demo discs
  • Of course the main attributes that set the best copies apart from the also-rans are size, energy, weight, vocal presence and an overall freedom from grit and grain, and we guarantee that this copy will do better in all of these areas than any you have ever heard
  • 5 stars: ” Physical Graffiti captures the whole experience of Led Zeppelin at the top of their game better than any of their other albums.”

*NOTE: On side three, the intro to Track One, In The Light, plays Mint Minus Minus, but the rest of the side is quieter.

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume .

If you’ve been waiting for a seriously powerful Kashmir Experience, today is your lucky day. (more…)

When Led Zeppelin IV Sounds This Good, We Get Letters “Finally – It’s alive!”

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Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

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Michael just got a nice copy of Zep IV from us. His letter follows.

Well son of a bitch. Do you know how many tube combinations, cartridge adjustments, turntable adjustments, speakers, speaker placements, and other hocus pocus shit I’ve gone through after listening to a Led Zeppelin album I have where Bonham was barely present and Page’s guitar would wear my ears out within 2 songs thinking this can’t be the way they sounded… I know Bonham hit those drums hard. Well, that ain’t the case with the Zeppelins I recently purchased from you. Shit man, finally. It’s alive! Thank you Tom.

Michael S

Mike,
Glad to hear it! If you ever win the lottery we’ll get you a White Hot copy and REALLY blow your mind. About one out of ten with the right stampers gets When the Levee Breaks to sound the way you want it to.  When I finally heard it about two or three years ago I could hardly believe it. Most pressings just plain suck.

Notes on When the Levee Breaks

When The Levee Breaks is rarely mastered properly and consequently rarely sounds the way it should. If the cymbals or the double-tracked harmonicas on your copy don’t get at least a little gritty you probably have an overly smooth copy, and it’s even possible that it’s made from a second or third generation tape. On the best copies both are alive with presence and energy.

And the room around the drums is huge, as is that famous 26″ Ludwig bass drum.*

The Classic Records reissue corrects this problem somewhat, but at a cost. They’ve completely robbed the song of all the Zep magic. It’s not as big, not as open, not as rich, not as lively, not as punchy, and so on — but the cymbals are clean. Is that the tradeoff we should be happy to live with? If you’re on our site you already know the answer.

Good to know you are giving the boys a good home to live in, where they can be appreciated.

TP

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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FREAKISHLY GOOD LIVE ZEP SOUND! This Swan Song LP is just full of the Zep Magic — super lively and full-bodied with a whole lotta WHOMP. Bonzo’s drum sound is LARGER THAN LIFE on this copy. Three of the four sides here rate ABOVE A++. 

We’ve never heard a copy of this album sound anywhere near amazing before. Most of the copies we’ve played sound like bad, second-generation bootleg cassettes. We still pick them up every time we see them — hey, it’s Zep, man — but we weren’t sure we’d ever hear a decent copy. We dropped the needle on this one and were SHOCKED at how hard it rocked. Inspired, we pulled out all of our clean copies, — as we imagined, none of them came anywhere close to this monster!

How big is the difference between our top dog here and the rest of the pack? Our second place winner had four and a half pluses between the four sides — this one has NINE PLUSES. Furthermore, no other side on ANY other copy we play rated higher than A++, while this one rates above A++ on three sides. Talk about a landslide! (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

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More Top 100 Titles

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  • This vintage Atlantic pressing boasts a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one and has no marks that play or excessive amounts of surface noise, which makes it a very special copy indeed
  • Wall to wall, floor to ceiling Led Zeppelin power – this copy delivers like you will not believe, or your money back
  • A Better Records Top 100 album (along with 4 other Zep titles), 5 Stars in AMG and a True Zeppelin Must Own Classic
  • The Tubey Magical acoustic guitars heard here should be a wake up call to every audiophile that trying to remaster this album is just not in the cards
  • 5 stars: “Jimmy Page’s riffs rely on ringing, folky hooks as much as they do on thundering blues-rock, giving the album a lighter, more open atmosphere…”

This copy has the kind of BIG, BOLD ROCK SOUND that takes this music to places you’ve only dreamed it could go. The HUGE drums on this copy are going to blow your mind — and probably your neighbors’ minds as well.

And what would a Zep record be without bass? Not much, yet this is precisely the area where so many copies fail. Not so here. The bottom end is big and meaty with superb definition, allowing the record to ROCK, just the way you know Zep wanted it to.

The vocals too are tonally correct. None of the phony upper-midrange boost that the Classic suffers from is evident on this copy. The louder Robert Plant screams the better he sounds and the more I like it. The Classic makes me wince. (more…)

Led Zeppelin / II – Stan Ricker Versus Robert Ludwig

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

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Here is the story of my first encounter with a amazing sounding copy of Zep II.

I had a friend who had come into possession of a White Label Demo pressing of the album and wanted to trade it in to me for the Mobile Fidelity pressing that I had played for him once or twice over the years, and which we both thought was The King on that album.

To my shock and dismay, his stupid American copy KILLED the MoFi. It TROUNCED it in every way. The bass was deeper and punchier. Everything was more dynamic. The vocals were more natural and correct sounding. The highs were sweeter and more extended. The whole pressing was just full of life in a way that the Mobile Fidelity wasn’t.

The Mobile Fidelity didn’t sound Bad. It sounded Not As Good. More importantly, in comparison with the good domestic copy, in many ways it now sounded wrong.

Let me tell you, it was a watershed moment in my growth as a record collector. I had long ago discovered that many MoFi’s weren’t all they were cracked up to be. But this was a MoFi I liked. And it had killed the other copies I had heard in the past.

So I learned something very important that day. I learned that hearing a good pressing is the best way to understand what’s wrong with a bad pressing. (more…)

Led Zeppelin / Presence – The Drums and Cymbals Are Key to the Best Pressings

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A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

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The drum sound on the best copies is punchy and HUGE, with prodigious amounts of studio space swirling around Bonham’s kit. There’s real resonance to the toms, not the standard overdamped sound of a studio kit, which gives them a lively, realistic, natural quality that you rarely hear outside of Zep records.

And the cymbals crash and splash just like real cymbals do, which is yet another sound you rarely hear outside of the best Zep pressings. (The best copies of Zep IV have crashing cymbals on Black Dog and Rock and Roll like few records in the history of rock.) (more…)

Led Zeppelin – The One Test that a Top Copy Must Pass

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Yet Another Record that Sounds Better on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

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In our review for this album we debunked the Classic Records pressing using a very simple test which you may want to try at home.

The test we stumbled upon is actually quite an easy one to use — a copy that makes you want to turn up the volume is likely to be a winner. The Classic does not pass that test.

We threw one on and just couldn’t deal with the edgy vocals and upper-midrange boost. We wanted to turn down the volume as quickly as we could get our hands on the knob. As far as we’re concerned there’s no substitute for The Real Thing. As hard as it is to find great sounding copies of this album, it’s even harder for us to sit through a sub-par version like the Classic.

And boy were our faces red. We used to think the Classic version was pretty decent, but the best originals SLAUGHTER it! We had never done a shootout for this album before 2007. We didn’t feel up to the challenge, because the typical pressing tends to be miserable — gritty, grainy, hard sounding, with congested mids, dull up top, and on and on.

But once we did, the Classic crashed and burned, along with 90% of the other copies we played.

Try the Turn Up the Volume Test and see if your copy makes the grade or makes you want to turn it right back down. I’m guessing the latter, unless you were lucky enough to get one of our Hot Stampers from the last shootout. There sure weren’t enough to go around.


FURTHER READING

Records that sound best this way:

Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Mono or Stereo? Mono! 

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

Records that Sound Best on the Right Domestic Pressing 

Records that Sound Best on the Right Early Pressing 

Records that Sound Best on the Right Import Pressing 

Records that Sound Best on the Right Reissue Pressing