Top Artists – The Beatles

The music is great, but how’s the sound? We weigh in with our two cents worth.

The Beatles / White Album – Listening in Depth

Hot Stamper Pressings of The White Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The White Album

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

xxxxx

It’s exceedingly difficult to find audiophile quality sound on The White Album. The Beatles were breaking apart, often recording independently of each other, with their own favorite engineers as enablers, and George Martin nowhere to be found most of the time. They were also experimenting more and more with sound itself, which resulted in wonderful songs and interesting effects. However, these new approaches and added complexity often result in a loss of sonic “purity.”

Let’s face it, most audiophiles like simplicity: A female vocal, a solo guitar — these things are easy to reproduce and often result in pleasing sound, the kind of sound that doesn’t take a lot of expensive equipment or much effort to reproduce.

Dense mixes with wacky EQ are hard to reproduce (our famous Difficulty of Reproduction Scale (DORS) comes into play here), and the White Album is full of that sound, taking a break for songs like Blackbird and Julia.

Some of the Tubey Magic that you hear on Pepper is gone for good. (Play With a Little Help from My Friends on a seriously good Hot Stamper pressing to see what has been lost forever.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Looks at the lineup for side one. Is there a rock album on the planet with a better batch of songs?

Having done shootouts for the White Album by the score, we can also say with some certainty that side one is the most difficult side to find White Hot stamper sound for. It’s somewhat rare to find a side one that earns our top Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grade, even when all the other sides do. (Actually what happens more often than not is that we take the best second discs and mate them with the best first discs to make the grades consistent for the whole album. But don’t tell anybody.) (more…)

Letter of the Week – Abbey Road

Hot Stamper Pressings of Abbey Road Available Now

More of the Music of The Beatles

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

Hey Tom,   

I just played a couple of songs from the Abbey Road album $850.00 I just purchased and I am blown away by the sound. The texture and clarity of the bass drum in Come together is much more pronounced than any of the copies of the 10 Abbey Road copies that I have including the MOFI and Pro Use albums. The album is so much better in all areas.

It was well worth the money and I am grateful to have it as it is my favorite album.

I like forward to hearing all of the songs. Wishing you all the best.

Ed

That’s great news. Looking back through some of the emails we exchanged, I see that I told you we would send you the best sounding Beatles records you ever imagined, and by the looks of it, that has turned out to be true! Glad to hear you like our records as much as we do. We charged $850 for that copy because it sounded like $850 worth of great sound and music.

Enjoy your new Beatles records and thanks for your business and support.

Best, TP

 

Sgt. Pepper’s and Bad Audiophile Thinking (Hint: the UHQR Is Wrong)

Hot Stampers of Sgt. Peppers

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

xxxxx
xxxxx
xxxxx

Sonic Grade: D

We charge hundreds of dollars for a Hot Stamper Sgt. Pepper, which is a lot to pay for a record. But consider this: the UHQR typically sells for more than the price we charge and doesn’t sound as good. 

Of course the people that buy UHQRs would never find themselves in a position to recognize how much better one of our Hot Stampers sounds in a head to head shootout with their precious and oh-so-collectible UHQR. They assume that they’ve already purchased the Ultimate Pressing and see no need to try another.

I was guilty of the same bad audiophile thinking myself in 1982. I remember buying the UHQR of Sgt. Pepper and thinking how amazing it sounded and how lucky I was to have the world’s best version of Sgt. Pepper.

If I were to play that record now it would be positively painful. All I would hear would be the famous MoFi 10K Boost on the top end (the one that MoFi lovers never seem to notice), and the flabby Half-Speed mastered bass (ditto). Having heard really good copies of Sgt. Pepper, like the wonderful Hot Stampers we put on the site from time to time, now the MoFi UHQR sounds so phony to me that I wouldn’t be able to sit through it with a gun to my head. (more…)

The Beatles – Revolver

More of The Beatles

More Revolver

xxxxx

  • An outstanding British pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • Here is the space, energy, presence clarity and massive bottom end you had no idea were even possible on Revolver
  • 14 amazing tracks including Taxman; Eleanor Rigby; Here, There and Everywhere; Yellow Submarine; Good Day Sunshine; Got To Get You Into My Life and Tomorrow Never Knows (!)
  • 5 stars: “Even after Sgt. Pepper, Revolver stands as the ultimate modern pop album and it’s still as emulated as it was upon its original release.”

Want to be blown away by Beatles sound you never imagined you would ever have the chance to experience for yourself? Drop the needle on Taxman on this very side one — that’s your ticket to ride, baby! We were knocked out by it and we guarantee you will be too. (more…)

Mobile Fidelity and the Limited Edition Pressing

More on the so-called Ultra High Quality Record

xxxxx
xxxxx
xxxxx

Many audiophiles are still operating under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, what with their strict ’quality control’, managed to eliminate pressing variations of the kind we discuss endlessly on the site. 

Such is simply not the case, and it’s child’s play to demonstrate how false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things:

  1. Good cleaning fluids and a machine,
  2. Multiple copies of the same record,
  3. A reasonably revealing stereo, and
  4. Two working ears (I guess that’s actually five things, my bad).

With all five the reality of pressing variations — sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic — for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

The fact that this is a controversial viewpoint in 2021 does not speak well of the audiophile community.

The raison d’être of the Limited Edition Audiophile Record is to take the guesswork out of buying the Best Sounding Pressing money can buy.

But it just doesn’t work that way. Not that I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but our entire website is based on the proposition that nothing of the sort is true. If paying more money for an audiophile pressing guaranteed the buyer better sound, 80% of what we do around here would be a waste of time. Everybody knows what the audiophile pressings are, and there would be nothing for us to do but find them and throw them up on the website for you to buy. Why even bother to play them if they all sound so good?

I was guilty of the same Bad Audiophile Thinking myself in 1982. I remember buying the UHQR of Sgt. Pepper and thinking how amazing it sounded and how lucky I was to have the world’s best version of Sgt. Pepper. Yay for me!

If I were to play that record now it would be positively painful. All I would hear would be the famous MoFi 10K boost on the top end (the one that MoFi lovers never seem to notice), and the flabby Half-Speed mastered bass (ditto). Having heard really good copies of Sgt. Pepper, like the wonderful Hot Stampers we have on the site most of the time, now the MoFi UHQR sounds so phony to me that I wouldn’t be able to sit through it with a gun to my head.


FURTHER READING

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters (81)

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “I cannot recall a purchase that’s made me happier since I went back to vinyl a year ago. It’s THAT good.”

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

Hey Tom, 

You’ve done it again. I thought the Hot Stamper copy I bought back in June sounded extraordinary. But this White Hot Stamper puts it to shame. This is truly unbelievable.

Paul’s bass on the opening track blew me away. Ringo’s drums are so strong it’s scary. I ALMOST had to turn it down (I live in a top-floor apartment and push my neighbors below me right to the edge), but screw it, this sounds so good at my regular listening volume I’ll happily put up with a complaint if I must. Hell, I’ll invite him in and put him in The Chair, and that’ll be the end of THAT.

And you weren’t kidding about George’s vocals and his sitar on Within You, Without You. That’s always been one of my least-favorite cuts on the album, but I’ll skip it no longer. (more…)

Heavy Vinyl – Is This the Best Sounding Sgt. Pepper?

More of The Beatles

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

beatlessgt

You might agree with some reviewers that EMI’s engineers did a pretty good job with the new Pepper. In the March 2013 issue of Stereophile Art Dudley weighed in, finding little to fault on this title but being less impressed with most of the others in the new box set. His reference disc? The MoFi UHQR! Oh, and he also has some old mono pressings and a domestic Let It Be. Now there’s a man who knows his Beatles. Fanatical? Of course he is! We’re talkin’ The Beatles for Chrissakes.

When I read the reviews by writers such as these I often get the sense that I must’ve fallen through some sort of Audio Time Warp and landed back in 1982. How is it that our so-called experts evince so little understanding of how records are made, how variable the pressings can be, and, more importantly, how absolutely crucial it is to understand and implement rigorous protocols when attempting to carry out comparisons among pressings.

Critically comparing LPs is difficult and time-consuming. It requires highly developed listening skills. I didn’t know how to do it in 1982. I see no evidence that the audiophile reviewers of today are much better at it now than I was in 1982.

Just to take one example: They all seem to be operating under the same unproven conceit: that the original is the benchmark against which all other pressings should be compared.

To those of us who have played Beatles pressings by the hundreds, this is patent nonsense. To cite just one instance, a recent Hot Stamper listing notes:

We defy any original to step into the ring with it. One thing we can tell you, it would not be a fair fight. The cutting equipment to make a record of this quality did not exist in 1967, not at EMI anyway.

We had the opportunity not long ago to audition a very clean original early pressing of the album and were frankly taken aback by how AWFUL it was in virtually every respect. No top end above 8k or so, flabby bass, murky mids — this was as far from Hot Stamper sound as one could imagine. If it were a Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile pressing we would surely have graded it F and put it in our Hall of Shame.

To be fair we have played exactly one early copy of the record on our current system. (Played a copy or two long ago but on much different equipment, so any judgments we might have made must be considered highly suspect.) Perhaps there are good ones. We have no way of knowing whether there are, and we are certainly not motivated to find out given the price that original Sgt. Pepper’s are fetching these days.

We can tell you this much: no original British pressing of any Beatles album up through Pepper has ever impressed us sonically. We’ve played plenty and have yet to hear one that’s not congested, crude, distorted, bandwidth-limited and full of tube smear. (The monos suffer from all of these problems and more of course, which is only natural; they too are made with the Old School cutting equipment of the day.)

If that’s your sound more power to you. It’s definitely not ours. The hotter the stamper, the less congested, crude, distorted, bandwidth-limited and smeary it will be. (Or your money back.)

(more…)

The Beatles – Please Please Me

xxxxx

  • This British stereo pressing offers excellent Hot Stamper sound or BETTER (on side two) for the brilliant debut from the Fab Four – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here’s proof that any Hot Stamper will soundly (ahem) beat the Heavy Vinyl pressing, and anything else you care to throw at it
  • 5 Stars at Allmusic and a Top 100 album, as well as our clear favorite of the band’s first five releases
  • Glorious live-in-the-studio sound to rival The Beatles’ best recordings – the immediacy and energy are really something to hear

Folks, if you’re looking for an wonderful copy of the first Beatles album, here it is. The music itself is nothing short of amazing. Please Please Me captures more of the live sound of these four guys playing together as a rock and roll band than anything that came after. (The better copies of Let It Be, on some songs at least, reproduce much of that live-in-the-studio quality and make a great bookend for the group.)

You Are There

On the top copies the presence of the vocals and guitars is so real it’s positively startling at times.

Just play Baby It’s You to hear what we’re talking about. When the boys all say “Oooooh,” you can pick out WHO is saying it and HOW they’re saying it.

Anna (Go To Him) is another stunner on the best pressings. It’s Tubey Magical with amazing immediacy and presence. The voices are PERFECTION — smooth, sweet, rich, full and breathy. The overall sound is lively and energetic with a meaty bottom end — in other words, it really rocks!

Stampers

PPM Hot Stampers are a regular feature on our site. We’ve been telling anyone who will listen for years that The Beatles were exceptionally well-recorded right from the get-go, but it takes the right pressing to prove it.

And the odd thing — not so odd to us anymore but odd to most record collectors I would guess — is that many of the hot copies have exactly the same stampers as the less than hot copies. It’s a mystery, and the only way to solve such a mystery is… to play the record. That’s what we do around here all day, and what we heard on this very copy was musically involving Hot Stamper sound. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I feel like a wasted a lot of money on inferior albums. I will continue to make wise purchases from you.”

The continuing story of one man’s quest to find better sounding Beatles albums. His story can be seen below. Here is the latest back and forth concerning The Beatles, a band we think we know something about.

Hi Tom
I think I have purchased 6 albums from you. Obviously I believe in your company! Could you tell e which Beatles albums that you test have the best sound.

We used to have a Top 100 Rock and Pop list on the site. We are building a new one that looks like this:

Top 100 Rock and Pop in Progress

There are six Beatles albums in our Top 100. Those are the best sounding.

I have the Sgt Pepper, White, Help, and a Hard Days Night. I have the Beatles Mono Box set which I purchased new. I agree with you that the stereo version purchased from you are superior.

That set is a bad joke played on the record loving public. Dead as a doornail. A complete ripoff. I have the stereo version and it is just as bad. Here is my review.

I am not impressed by the MOFI pressings. I am still checking each day hoping I won’t miss out on a good Abbey Road pressing.

They are hard to come by these days but some will come on the site before too long.

I always get great info and service from you. I feel like a wasted a lot of money on inferior albums. I will continue to make wise purchases from you. I am trying to spread the word around here to check out Better Records.

Thanks for your kind thoughts and for spreading the word. Perhaps someone you know will be saved the expense of buying inferior Heavy Vinyl pressings. We review the worst of them here, so just point him to this blog and perhaps you will be able to help a fellow audiophile get Better Records.

And of course the best way to help your fellow audiophiles is by letting them hear your Hot Stamper pressings. That’s the only surefire way we know of to convince the skeptics. One listen to your Sgt. Pepper should be all it takes.

Tom

Below is Edward’s original conversation with us. (more…)

The Beatles – Let It Be

More of The Beatles

More Hot Stampers of Let It Be

xxxxx

  • With solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides, this UK pressing boasts outstanding Let It Be sound
  • There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ – here is some of the most realistic, natural Beatles sound you can get
  • Copies like this one make good on the promise that Let It Be captures the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The album is on the whole underrated… it’s an album well worth having, as when the Beatles were in top form here, they were as good as ever.”

At its best, Let It Be has the power of live music, but it takes a special pressing such as this one to show you that sound. It’s a bit trickier trying to find good sound for this album than it is for some of the other albums in the Beatles’ catalog. (more…)