Top Artists – Led Zeppelin

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 

Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door

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White Hot Stamper - Led Zeppelin - In Through The Out Door

  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this outstanding copy of Zep’s final release
  • It’s all here: huge amounts of rock-solid bass, grungy guitars, breathy, natural vocals, and jump out of the speakers presence and energy
  • Fool In The Rain and All My Love are two of the best, and best sounding, tracks on the album
  • “The album’s opening number, ‘In the Evening,’ with its stomping rhythms and heavy, staggered riffs, suggests that Zeppelin haven’t deviated from their course, but by the time the rolling shuffle of ‘South Bound Suarez’ kicks into gear, it’s apparent that they’ve regained their sense of humor.”

This may not be Zep’s best album, but there are some great songs here, and the music really works when the sound is this good! (more…)

Letter of the Week – Led Zeppelin III

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

Hey Tom,   

Wanted to say thanks for the Led Zep III, fantastic and beyond expectation. While the loud parts rock in an unbelievable way the quiet bits reveal the magic, the surreal presence, space and uncanny realism. Brilliant! I have an OK copy of Led Zep IV and the first section of Stairway to Heaven is similar in that I love hearing the acoustic guitar and then the breathy recorders (oh those recorders) and then Plant’s voice seems to appear from nowhere right before your ears. I am so lucky to have the Zep III so thanks again.

(more…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I

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Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin I

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  • A truly INCREDIBLE import of Zep’s amazing debut with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – this is very close to As Good As It Gets folks, and on quiet vinyl to boot!
  • Arguably the biggest, clearest and most Tubey Magical Zeppelin album ever recorded, thanks to the engineering genius of Glyn Johns (and production genius of Jimmy Page, who paid for the whole thing out of his own pocket)
  • Just look at the track list – the lucky owner of this LP will be hearing those songs come to life like never before
  • 5 stars: “Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme… But the key to the group’s attack was subtlety: it wasn’t just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos.”

For the real Led Zep magic, you just can’t do much better than their debut — and here’s a copy that really shows you why. From the opening chords of Good Times Bad Times to the wild ending of How Many More Times (“times” start the album and end it too it seems) this copy will have you rockin’ out!

Both sides have THE BIG ZEP SOUND. Right from the start we noticed how clean the cymbals sounded and how well-defined the bass was, after hearing way too many copies with smeared cymbals and blubbery bass.

When you have a tight, punchy copy like this one, Good Times Bad Times does what it is supposed to do — it REALLY ROCKS! With this much life it’s light years ahead of the typically dull, dead, boring copy. The drum sound is PERFECTION.

Drop the needle on Babe I’m Gonna Leave You to hear how amazing Robert Plant’s voice sounds. It’s breathy and full-bodied with in-the-room presence. The overall sound is warm, rich, sweet, and very analog, with tons of energy. Dazed and Confused sounds JUST RIGHT — you’re gonna flip out over all the ambience!

Communication Breakdown sounds superb — the sound of Jimmy Page’s guitar during the solo is shockingly good. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “You are providing a great service and developed a great business model !!”

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

Hey Tom, 

(more…)

Zep II – With Trees This Ugly, What Grade Should You Give the Forest?

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[This commentary was written in around 2014 when this pressing came out.]

We herein offer some rather interesting observations by a well known writer about the new Heavy Vinyl Led Zeppelin II that’s just come out. They are in no particular order and clearly taken out of context — we’re not even providing the reference to the specific song under discussion. Some you can guess; as for the rest, what difference, at this point, does it make?

Allow us to present: The Trees

the spatial presentation seemed meek

individual cymbal hits in that psychedelic break lacked sparkle

instead of an interruption eruption the changeover was anything but abrupt

overall musical intent wasn’t being fully communicated

(more…)

Led Zeppelin – A Classic Records LP that Can Beat Most Pressings (!)

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More Classic Records Led Zeppelin Pressings Reviewed

Sonic Grade: B

Considering how bad (or at best mediocre) the average copy of the first Zep album sounds, let’s give credit where credit is due and say that Bernie’s remastered version on Heavy Vinyl is darn good (assuming you get a good one, something of course that neither I nor you should assume).

It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Zeppelin titles, most of which we found none too pleasing to the ear.

Our Thinking Circa 2010

We like the Classic, albeit with reservations. It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissues of the Zeppelin catalog, most of which are not very good and some of which are just awful.

Why is this one good? It’s tonally correct for one thing, and the importance of that cannot be stressed too strongly.

Two, it actually ROCKS, something a majority of pressings we’ve played over the years don’t.

Three, it’s shockingly dynamic. It may actually be more dynamic than any other pressing we have ever played.

If you aren’t willing to devote the time and resources necessary to acquire a dozen or more domestic and import copies, and you don’t want to spend the dough for one of our Hot Stamper copies, the Classic is probably your best bet.

We would agree now with almost none of what we had to say about this Classic title when it came out back in the day. We’ve reproduced it below so that you can read it here for yourself.

It’s yet another example of a record we was wrong about. Live and Learn, right? (more…)

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

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An absolute DISASTER — ridiculously bright, 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 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 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 still by far the best of the bunch.