Top Artists – Led Zeppelin

Letter of the Week – “I’m still listening to the copy you sold me every few days, and loving it…”

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

Hey Tom, 

I noticed that a Super Hot of Zep 2, and now a Nearly White Hot, both sold out within hours of you listing them, despite some jaw-dropping prices.

Meanwhile, I’m still listening to the copy you sold me every few days, and loving it at least as much as I did on the first play. I’m still wincing at the price, but also feeling very glad you reached out to me about it. So, thanks again.

Aaron

Aaron,

Just think how many times you will play that record in your lifetime. A few bucks a play, for an experience like that, what a bargain!

TP

More Letters

More Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II


FURTHER READING

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Today’s Heavy Vinyl Disaster from Classic Records… Zep IV

It wasn’t that long ago that I thought the Classic 180 and then 200 gram pressing was the king on this title. In late 2006 I wrote:

“You can hear how much cleaner and more correct the mastering is right away…”

Folks, I must have been out of my mind.

No, that’s not quite fair. I wasn’t out of my mind. I just hadn’t gotten my system to the place where it needed to be to allow the right original pressings to show me how much better they can sound.

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

A classic case of Live and Learn

More Led Zeppelin on Classic Records Reviewed

Our EAR 324 phono stage and constantly evolving tweaks to both the system and room are entirely responsible for our ability to reproduce this album correctly. If your equipment, cleaning regimen, room treatments and the like are mostly “old school” in any way, getting the album to sound right will be all but impossible. Without the myriad audio advances of the last decade or so you are just plain out of luck with a Nearly Impossible to Reproduce album such as this.

All of the above are courtesy of the phenomenal Revolutions in Audio that have come about over the last twenty years or so.

It’s what progress in audio in all about.

The exact same 200 gram review copy now [this was written about ten years ago] sounds every bit as tonally correct as it used to, and fairly clean too, as described above, but where is the magic?

  • The heavy vinyl pressing is lifeless and boring.
  • All the subtleties of both the music and the sound are missing.
  • More than anything else the Classic sounds crude.

You can adjust your VTA until you’re blue in the face, nothing will bring the dead-as-a-doornail Classic LP to life.

Relatively speaking of course. For twenty eight bucks (when it was in print) could you buy something better? Probably not. (Now it’s $100+ on ebay and at that price you are definitely not getting your money’s worth.)

The average IV is really a piece of junk. And if you don’t have at least $10k in your front end (with phono), forget it. It takes top quality equipment to bring this album to life, and you better be prepared to go through a large number of copies to find a good one.

Here are a few commentaries you may care to read about Bernie Grundman‘s work as a mastering engineer, good and bad.


Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

More Led Zeppelin

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

  • Insane Rock and Roll ENERGY like nothing you have ever heard – the sound is exceptionally full-bodied, smooth and solid, making it possible to get the volume up good and high where it belongs
  • Here are the Rock and Roll Classics that reign supreme to this very day – Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway to Heaven, When the Levee Breaks, every one sounding better than you’ve ever heard them or your money back
  • 5 stars: “Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1971 is clearly one of their best, and one of their best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

It is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you when you play this copy at the listening levels it was meant to be heard at.

You’d better be ready to rock, because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will make you want to. Zep IV demands loud levels, but practically any copy will punish you mercilessly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels.

I never met John Bonham, and it’s probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel more than a little disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels many audiophiles prefer. The term “hi-fidelity” loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where exactly is the fidelity?

How on earth is a speaker system like this one going to reproduce the 22 inch (or more!) kick drum of John Bonham?

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Houses of the Holy on Classic Records and About 156 Other Records No Audiophile Should Own

This is another one of the VERY BAD records Michael Fremer put on his 2009 Top LP list, while passing over one of Classic’s better titles: the first Led Zeppelin album. (We don’t like it as much as we used to, but it is still a good record if you get a good pressing of it, something that can never be guaranteed. We link to our review of it below.)

Michael Fremer’s web site used to be called called musicangle (now defunct). On this site you would have been able to find a feature called157 In-Print LPs You Should Own!

Surprisingly the link still works! If I had made a list this ridiculous it would have become a Live and Learn commentary, out of sheer embarrassment if for no other reason. But back to our story.

I can’t begin to count the bad records on this list. There are scores of them — albums that are so bad that we actually created a Hall of Shame section (linked below) to help you avoid them.

But Michael Fremer holds just the opposite view; he thinks these are records you should own. Now I suppose we can disagree over the merits (or lack of them) of a title such as Houses of the Holy on Classic (reviewed here). It’s a free country after all.

But the reason this list does such positive harm to the record-loving audiophile public, in my opinion, is that MF passes over one of the best records Classic ever cut, Led Zeppelin’s Self-Titled First Album, in order to put the bright and aggressive piece of crap Houses of the Holy on the list in its place.

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Led Zeppelin II on Classic Records – Seriously, What Could Be Sadder?

An absolute DISASTER — ridiculously bright and ridiculously crude. In short, a completely unlistenable piece of garbage.

Over the years we have done many Led Zeppelin shootouts, often including the Classic Heavy Vinyl Pressings as a “reference.” After all, the Classic pressings are considered by many — if not most — audiophiles as superior to other pressings. What could be sadder?

In fact. you will find very few critics of the Classic Zep LPs outside of those of us (me and the rat in my pocket) 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.

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

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

More Led Zeppelin on Classic Records Reviewed

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Hot Stampers of Led Zeppelin and ELP Helped Some Audiophiles Hear What They’d Been Missing

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he played at a stereo show recently. You can read all about it here.

We carried on the conversation:

Tom,

Thank you and for sure I’d be more than happy to spread the word more and help out! Send me cards for sure. I’m def a Better Records disciple.

You should consider teaming up with a room at the show next time, I think worth your while. Time to break the grip of the Mofi Mafia at these shows.

All the best, Mike

Mike,

We went to some shows years ago and nothing came of it.

It may turn out that none of these people will ever want to pay good money for hot stampers. I wrote about it here:

“No one doubted your records after this listening session.”

Experience over many years has borne out this view, disappointing as it may be.

The audiophiles who go to shows for some reason don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the Hot Stamper concept.

Hard to imagine that none of them can afford our records. The money someone might pay for three wacky MoFis or three Analogue Productions disasters would probably get you one very good sounding Hot Stamper pressing. In my book, one good record that you might actually listen to and enjoy often is a lot better than any number of modern records that you will seldom play and more than likely simply file away on the shelf to collect dust.

I’m guessing. I don’t really know what people do with all these mediocre-at-best sounding reissues. I wrote about what I suspect happens to them here.

I Beg the Question

But this is purely an exercise in “begging the question.” I’m assuming things I do not know to be true, in order to make the very point I should have the burden of proving.

I need to provide evidence to back up my claim that these records don’t get played and enjoyed, but I have no evidence whatsoever that that is indeed the case.

It’s a naked expression of prejudice on my part, of assuming that what’s obviously true for me must be true for others. I don’t enjoy playing these Heavy Vinyl records, and I think that other audiophiles must be as disappointed by them as I am.

But Heavy Vinyl records are selling very well these days. Somebody must be buying them.

And they buy them even though, as our writer points out, they cannot begin to compete with a good vintage pressing.

(This happens to be something I have a lot of evidence for and can prove with ease. Practically every record on our site is a rebuttal to audiophile pressings from every era, made by every company in the remastering business. To find out how wrong these modern records are, all you need do is buy one of our Hot Stampers and play them head to head.)

Oh well. All we can do is keep trying to get the word out. And we thank you for your help showing audiophiles what they are missing. Because explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

Best, TP

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Letter of the Week – “No one in that room will ever forget it.”

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

Hey Tom, 

Thanks again!

Got the White Hot ELP s/t Friday afternoon as I was leaving for a weekend at the Capital Audio Fest in Bethesda Maryland but had no time to listen to it at home so brought it and the Led Zep 2 White Hot I bought from you a year or so back with me to the show with the intention of playing it on some of the crazy systems being demo’ed at the show.

The majority of participants demo their systems with Mofi and other heavy vinyl reissues, rarely will you hear old vinyl.

Saturday night in the “main room” where VAC and Von Schweikert were partnering and demoing their million dollar system, there was a presentation by Greg Weaver (a friend of mine) and the theme was great sounding prog rock. After a few records – all reissues, Greg turns to the 30 or so of us and asked what we wanted to hear next. The guy behind me shouts out “Zep 2 Robert Ludwig hot mix!” and of course he didn’t have it but that was my opening and I took it – “I have it upstairs and happy to bring it down!” Greg of course said “sure!” so I ran up to my room and grabbed the Zep 2 AND the ELP I just got from you but never played.

The Zep 2 was a revelation to many – some people moved closer to take it all in, it was everything you would have expected and beyond, an unforgettable highlight for all! One guy had me pose with him holding the record after it was done, lol!

Greg was excited to see the ELP too and put it on next. He gave a little history about the band and its members and then dropped the needle.

All I can say it was a “Holy Shit!” moment for EVERYONE in the room. Maybe, no…without a doubt, the best record I and many there had ever heard in our lives, coming thru a million dollar system and utterly blowing our minds. What an INSANE sounding record!

No one in that room will ever forget it.

My complements to the chefs at Better Records for making this incredible experience possible!

Mike (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Presence

More Led Zeppelin

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here is a pressing with the power, the dynamic contrasts, the low end whomp, as well as the in-the-room midrange presence (pun only slightly intended) you’ve been waiting for
  • Featuring a stripped down, harder rock sound, Presence really benefits from the killer bottom end found on this early LP
  • “Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute Tea for One.”

We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how HARD this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one. (more…)

Jimmy Page – The Session Man

I’m so glad this music from the early ’60s does nothing for me because I sure wouldn’t want to try and find any of these old records!

 

Hot Stamper Pressings of Led Zeppelin Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin / Houses of the Holy – Listening in Depth

You really get an understanding of just how much of a production genius Jimmy Page was when you listen to a copy of Houses with the kind of resolution and transparency found on our best copies.

To take just one example, listen to how clearly the multi-tracked guitars can be heard in the different layers and areas of the soundstage. On some songs you will have no trouble picking out three, four and even more guitars playing, each with its own unique character. The clarity of the better copies allows you to recognize — perhaps for the first time — the special contribution each makes to the finished song.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

The Song Remains the Same
The Rain Song

Check out the guitars — the sound should be warm, sweet and delicate. There are some dead quiet passages in this song that are almost always going to have some surface noise. Most copies start out a bit noisy but almost always get quieter as the music goes along.

Over the Hills and Far Away

This is a great test track for side one. It starts with lovely acoustic guitars before the Monster Zep Rock Chords come crashing in. If both parts of the song sound correct and balanced, you more than likely have a winner. And the bigger the dynamic contrast between the parts the better.

Turn your volume up good and high in order to get the full effect, then stand back and let the boys have at it.

The Crunge (more…)