- Pipes of Peace makes its Hot Stamper debut with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides of this original Columbia pressing
- The sound here is rich and Tubey Magical, two qualities the CD made from these tapes surely lacks and two qualities which are crucial if this music is to sound the way Sir Paul intended
- These sides are bigger, more natural, warmer and more solid than those of any other copy you’ve heard or your money back
- “‘Say Say Say’ [featuring Michael Jackson] hits hard, sounding as funky as anything on Thriller, and ‘Pipes of Peace’ achieves an earned grace. Perhaps Pipes of Peace doesn’t have the gravitas of Tug of War but it offers something equally valuable: a portrait of an impeccable craftsman at play.”
Some records are consistently too noisy to keep in stock no matter how good they sound. This is one of them. We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.
Rick sent us a letter recently after having played his first Hot Stamper, the first record he ever bought from us. At $300 it wasn’t exactly cheap, but the best things in life never are, and certainly there is little in the world of audio that’s cheap and of much value.
This is not a cheap hobby if you want to do it right, and even tons of money doesn’t guarantee you will get good sound. It’s far more complicated than that. To quote Winston Churchill, you must be prepared to offer your “blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
Churchill went on to say “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs… Victory, however long and hard the road may be…”
Now, he wasn’t talking about audio, but he could have been, and I certainly am. It takes the serious commitment of resources — money and labor — to get the sound you want. That is the victory I am talking about.
On our Hot Stamper McCartney album, Rick no doubt heard the sound he was looking for — and then some — judging by his letter.
Well, I knew you guys were serious upon receiving the LP in 4 layers of wrapping and padding but when I put the disc on I was pretty stunned. Virtually everything was popping and so musical and rich sounding. Nothing like the 3 other pressings I’ve had of this recording in the past, the last of which I actually sailed out the window after 2 minutes of playing.
Every Night just sounds incredible, especially when he drops the bass an octave. And Maybe I’m Amazed gave me goosebumps for the first time since I bought it the week it came out. Also heard something on that track I never did (or could hear) before. During the guitar solo there’s a single high pitched vocal kind of buried in the background. Almost sounds like a mistake, making me think it could be Linda and Paul did what he could. Pretty wild.
My only very slight criticism is there is some surface noise but this is very overshadowed by all the positives. Overall it is superb. Can I give you guys a short list of LPs I’m looking for?
Thanks so much!
Rick, we are so happy to hear you loved that record as much as we did. We have been touting McCartney’s first solo album for more than a decade. Ever read a word about it in an audiophile context elsewhere? Of course you haven’t! The audiophile world doesn’t know and doesn’t care about great albums like this one, but we at Better Records LIVE for sound and music of this caliber.
It’s a permanent resident of our Top 100 Rock and Pop List for a reason: no other solo album by a Beatle can touch it.
As for surface issues, we wish we could find them quiet, but that is simply not an option, especially considering how dynamic the recording is. Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is roughly what yours was graded and that is certainly not dead quiet by any stretch. As we said:
We’ve used every trick in the book to try to get copies of this album to play Mint Minus, but it’s not usually in the cards. Maybe I’m Amazed, in particular, seems to be noisy on nine copies out of ten. If you’re looking for a copy without any surface noise, you’re probably better off tracking down the DCC Gold CD, which is actually quite good.
But no CD is ever going to sound like the record we sent you, not now, not ever. And we feel like throwing many of the copies we play of this album out the window too!
This is where I simply can’t understand how the typical audiophile can make the tradeoff for flat, average sound with quiet vinyl — the sound of these Heavy Vinyl reissues that have sprouted up all over the place, each one worse than the last — and the wonderful, but slightly noisy, sound to be found on the best originals.
I wrote more about the subject here:
Of course the obvious answer is that it is simply too much work to find enough original copies to clean and play in order to come across the proverbial needle in the haystack: the Hot Stamper pressing.
You had three copies and, to be honest, you can barely get started with a pool that small. Ten would be my idea of the minimum, and it takes a lot of luck and hard work to find ten clean copies. Maybe even more than three hundred bucks worth of your time and effort, when you get right down to it.
So Rick, welcome to the club. The difference is as real as it gets. All the skeptics in the world can’t change a note of what you heard. They say it ain’t true, but you have the record in your hands that proves them wrong. That record is The Truth.
The McCartney Magic is in those grooves and it will not be denied.
Enjoy it. It will give you Lasting Pleasure. That’s why they call it an LP.
Back in 2016 we had this to say about a copy of the album we had just played:
This copy will put you front and center for the single greatest Paul McCartney recorded concert of all time.
In the final round of shootouts on both sides, this copy showed itself as clearly superior in terms of transparency and three-dimensionality, as well as having the most rock solid bottom end. To sum it up, my notes read “so real,” which is exactly what makes this copy THE one to have. This is Paul and his mates LIVE in your listening room like you have never heard them before.
This copy gave us the feeling that we were right there in the audience for the taping of this amazing performance. It made other copies sound like records — good records, but records nonetheless. This one has the IMMEDIACY of a live show, one which just happened to be fronted by one of the greatest performers in the history of popular music, Sir Paul McCartney.
We shootout this album about once a year, which means that many changes will have occurred to the stereo in the meantime. One of the qualities that we noticed this time around was how much like live music this album can be when the pressings have one specific quality — tons of bass.
Live music, especially live music heard in a club, tends to have plenty of bass. It’s the sonic quality that’s by far the most difficult to recreate in the home.
When a record manages to capture that kind of “live” low end energy, it really helps make the connection between the sound of live music and the sound coming out of your speakers.
As we have labored so often to make clear on the site, dynamic speakers with large woofers can put you in front of live musicians in a way that nothing else in our experience can.
This very copy makes the case for that proposition better than any we’ve played in a long time.
One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:
As a newcomer to your business, and to the entire concept of “Hot Stamper” records, I was naturally skeptical. Many of us have invested in a wide variety of vinyl that simple failed to live up to expectations. Initially I was going to order one and only one record from you, and test your bold promises. Instead, I ended up ordering a nice variety to truly put it to the test… investing a couple thousand dollars on faith. In short, I am now your customer for life.
As a point of reference, my system includes a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia powered by 2 monoblock McIntosh tube Amps and a Mc-tube preamp. Most importantly, a Brinkmann mag drive turntable with a Sumiko low output moving coil cartridge. So, not the world’s best system, but enough to discern what is to follow.
I ordered the following:
* Carole King Tapestry, ((White Hot Pressing)
* The Doobie Brothers, What Were Once Vices (White Hot Pressing)
* James Taylor, Sweet Baby James (White Hot Pressing)
* Paul McCartney, McCartney (Super Hot Pressing)
* Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Steely Dan, Countdown to Ecstasy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Donald Fagen, The Nightfly (White Hot Pressing)
I warmed up my amps with the tuner for an hour or so and then sat and listened to some of my other records and reacquainted myself with the music from my system. First up was “What Were Once Vices…”. It was immediately apparent that I was getting a range as wide, if not wider than anything I had ever heard from my stereo. Then when I got to the last song on side one, “Road Angel” the guitar and drum interplay in the instrumental jam completely blew me away. Midway through I took the volume from loud to louder, and it exposed nothing but pure, sweet rock and roll. Literally gave me goose bumps.
I then listened to “Countdown to Ecstasy” and in this instance I owe a clean original copy, so I put it to the test. Back to back. I did not have to go past “Bodhisattva” to know it was no-contest. If I had to apply a percentage, something like 20% more music comes from the Hot Stamper, and this (like all of my orders) is one of my all time favorite albums.
I won’t go on and on, suffice to say that the experience repeated itself on all of the above.
Even the Fagen copy was WAY better than the 1982 MoFi copy I paid an arm and a leg for. I have always thought that record had a true analog quality, was surprised the first time I learned it was laid down on a digital track. The Hot Stamper even adds to this great sounding record.
Oh and one last… JT’s voice is so unbelievably warm matched perfectly with the clear reverberating guitar, followed by lingering cymbal crashes. For me it is like the difference between 2-D and 3-D. Depth.
Before I go, where I am as a customer going forward. I will always be a visitor to the web site. Obviously, I cannot replace my record collection, but I can supplement it with the occasional gem of a record.
In closing, Thank you to you and your crew. You are doing God’s work! 🙂 Seriously, nothing pleases me more than to relax and listen to my music the way it was meant to be heard.
Thanks for your letter. We love to hear from our happy customers. We’ve spent a lifetime getting to the place where our favorite music sounds the way it should, so we know exactly how you feel when you say “nothing pleases you more than to relax and listen to my music the way it was meant to be heard.”
- London Town returns to the site on this vintage import pressing with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
- Clean, clear, and full-bodied with a solid bottom end – this copy smoked the competition in our recent shootout
- Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – the UK LPs are the only way to fly on London Town
- 4 star: “… it’s certainly stronger than Speed and, in its own way, as satisfying as Venus and Mars… It’s a laid-back, almost effortless collection of professional pop and, as such, it’s one of his strongest albums.”
- A Tug of War like you’ve never heard, with seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides of this original UK copy – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- We had a devil of a time finding sound as good as this on Tug of War – most copies are just plain awful
- A copy with transparency and clarity like this lets you appreciate George Martin‘s masterful production work – you will easily hear the results on “Ebony and Ivory”
- 4 1/2 stars: “[Its] crowd-pleasing genre-hopping finds its apotheosis on “Take It Away,” a salute to eager performers and the crowds who love them, which means it summarizes not only the appeal of Tug of War in general – it is, by design, a record that gives the people old Beatle Paul – but McCartney in general.”
Drop the needle on the opener Tug Of War and listen to how wide and deep the sound field is. Take It Away follows with a bit of an ’80s reggae feel, and on the better copies you get meaty, tight bass that sets the foundation for the fun to follow. (more…)
The best pressings of this album convey the immediacy of a live show, one which just happens to be fronted by one of the greatest performers in the history of popular music, Paul McCartney.
On the best copies, the sound is warmer, richer, and sweeter, or in a word, more ANALOG sounding. You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange.
It’s surprising just how veiled and two-dimensional so many copies sound, considering this is a live recording with not a lot of processing after the fact.
As a digital recording, some of that processing is baked into the tape. Unplugged will never sound as good as this McCartney album, but that’s to be expected. The bulk of the recordings from 1991 are simply not competitive with those from 1970, not by a long shot. There were hundreds of great records recorded or released in 1970. There are 39 Hot Stamper pressings of them on the site as I write this. I would have a hard time finding even a dozen from 1991.
Stick with the Early Pressings
This isn’t your typical rock record that sounds like crap on eight out of ten copies. Most early pressings of Unplugged sound pretty good. The later reissues are terrible, which should come as no surprise. Rarely are late reissues of rock and pop albums any good.
We did hear quite a few copies that had a somewhat brittle quality to the top end, with no real extension to speak of. It wasn’t ever a dealbreaker, but the copies with a silky openness up there are much more enjoyable — and, unfortunately, not all that common.
There are copies that lack warmth, copies that never fully come to life, and copies that are a bit dark.
Some that we auditioned didn’t seem to get the breath in the vocals, and others lacked weight to the piano.
Again — not one of the early pressings we played sounded BAD, but many of them definitely sounded dry, boring and lifeless.
It’s nice when the copy in hand has all the transparency, space, layered depth and three-dimensionality that makes listening to records such a fundamentally different experience than listening to CD playback, but it’s not nearly as important as having a richer, more relaxed tonal balance.
A little smear and a lack of resolution are not the end of the world on this album.
Brightness, along with too much grain and grit, can be.
- More Records that Are Good for Testing Grit and Grain
- More Records that Are Good for Testing Midrange Presence
- More Records that Are Good for Testing Top End Extension
- More Records that Are Good for Testing Transparency
- With KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout, this vintage British pressing could not be beat
- Forget the dubby domestic pressings – these UK imports are the only ones that can deliver the McCartney II Magic
- “Entitled McCartney II because its one-man band approach mirrors that of his first solo album, Paul McCartney’s first record since the breakup of Wings was greeted upon its release as a return to form… [It] finds Paul in an adventurous state of mind, which is a relief after years of formulaic pop.”
- “… it’s certainly stronger than Speed and, in its own way, as satisfying as Venus and Mars… It’s a laid-back, almost effortless collection of professional pop and, as such, it’s one of his strongest albums.”
If you’ve heard the album, you know it’s not exactly a straight-ahead pop record. Paul is in his one-man-band mode here, just as he was for his brilliant solo debut, but this time around he relies more on synth-heavy arrangements and plenty of studio experimentation. Assuming you have the right pressing, UK only in our experience, it can be a very good sounding record. (more…)
- With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all six sides, these vintage Capitol pressings will be very hard to beat
- SIX sides of live Wings music, phew! As I’m sure you can imagine, this shootout was quite the undertaking
- This copy was just BIGGER and RICHER than most others we played – it’s clean, clear and full-bodied with a solid bottom end, tons of energy and lots of space around all of the musicians
- “… the Beatles mystique was still very much attached to record and artist alike… and it seemed like McCartney represented the part of the group’s legacy that came closest to living up to fans’ expectations. Thus the album ended up selling in numbers, rivaling the likes of Frampton Comes Alive and other mega-hits of the period, and rode the charts for months.”
- If you’re a McCartney fan, this title from 1976 is surely of interest, assuming you already have the first album, Unplugged and Band on the Run, and maybe Ram – all Must Own Titles or something close to them
- A true Demo Disc and excellent sounding import pressing that boasts KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- A strikingly intimate document of a live show, fronted by one of the greatest performers in history, Sir Paul McCartney
- You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange, than on all other copies we played
- 4 stars: “… it remains one of the most enjoyable records in McCartney’s catalog. McCartney is carefree and charming, making songs like ‘Be-Bop-a-Lula’ and ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ sound fresh.”
Stunning sound for this amazing recording! It’s a strikingly intimate document of a live show, one which just happens to be fronted by one of the greatest performers in the history of popular music, Sir Paul McCartney.
On the better copies, the sound is warmer, richer, and sweeter, or in a word, more ANALOG sounding. You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange. It’s surprising how veiled and two-dimensional so many copies can be, considering that this is a live recording (by the legendary Geoff Emerick himself) with not a lot of “messing around” after the fact.
Finding The Best Sound
This isn’t your typical rock record that sounds crappy on eight out of ten copies. Most copies of Unplugged sound pretty good. We did hear quite a few that had a somewhat brittle quality to the top end, with no real extension to speak of. It wasn’t ever a dealbreaker, but the copies with a silky openness up there are much more enjoyable — and, unfortunately, fairly uncommon.
There are copies that lack warmth, copies that never fully come to life, and copies that are a bit dark. Some that we auditioned didn’t seem to get the breath in the vocals, and others lacked weight to the piano. Again — not one of the pressings we played sounded BAD, but many of them definitely sounded dry, boring and lifeless.
Just for fun, check out Linda’s percussion and tambourine work in the right channel of the first track on side one, “Be-Bop-A-Lula.” Since that’s one of our test tracks, we had the opportunity to hear her ‘contribution’ to the song about twenty times or so, and it became a source of — to be charitable — ‘entertainment’ in its own right as the shootout progressed.