Top Artists – The Beatles

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

What We Listen For: The Spirit and Enthusiasm of the Musicians

More Revolver

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This discussion, brought about by a Hot Stamper shootout we conducted for Revolver many years ago (2007!), touches on many issues near and dear to us here at Better Records: pressing variations, system upgrades, dead wax secrets, and the quality we prize most in a recording: LIFE, or, if you prefer, energy.

At the end of the commentary we of course take the opportunity to bash the MoFi pressing of the album, a regular feature of our Beatles Hot Stamper shootouts. We’re not saying the MoFi Beatles records are bad; in the overall scheme of things they are mostly pretty decent. What we are saying is that, with our help, you can do a helluva lot better. Our help doesn’t come cheap, as anyone on our mailing list will tell you. You may have to pay a lot, but we think you get what you pay for, and we gladly back up that claim with a 100% money back guarantee for every Hot Stamper pressing we sell.

The Story of Revolver, Dateline October 2007

White Hot Stampers for Revolver are finally HERE! Let the celebrations begin! Seriously, this is a very special day for us here at Better Records. The Toughest Nut to Crack in the Beatles’ catalog has officially been cracked. Yowza!

Presenting the first TRULY AWESOME copy of Revolver to ever make it to the site. There’s a good reason why Hot Stamper shootouts for practically every other Beatles album have already been done, most of them many times over, and it is simply this: finding good sounding copies of Revolver is almost IMPOSSIBLE. The typical British Parlophone or Apple pressing, as well as every German, Japanese and domestic LP we’ve played in the last year or two just plain sucked. Where was the analog magic we heard in the albums before and after, the rapturously wonderful sound that’s all over our Hot Stamper Rubber Souls and Sgt. Peppers? How could Revolver go so horribly off the rails for no apparent reason? (more…)

Letter of the Week – After the Gold Rush and Beatles For Sale

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

Hey Tom, 

Just wanted to write and tell you how much I love that Neil Young After The Gold Rush White Hot Stamper I picked up last week. Really awesome. This ranks up with the best I’ve bought from you guys.

The sound is incredible. Neil’s voice is right in the room. The guitar sounds real and that harmonica is super. I love when he performs, just him and nobody else. I’m really stuck on Neil’s albums. The sound is just soooo good. I’m working on my system to get more out of these records.

Oh yeah, I picked up one of your “Beatles for Sale” albums for $65. Really nice for the money. Those Beatle albums can really be awesome. Have to get a White Hot Stamper Beatles album someday. (more…)

The Beatles – Beatles For Sale

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a side one that’s right up there with it, this copy is nearly as good as it gets – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • I’m A Loser, Baby’s In Black, Rock And Roll Music, I’ll Follow The Sun. Eight Days A Week, Words Of Love, Every Little Thing, I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party, What You’re Doing and 4 more – 14 tracks in all (!)
  • An underrated Beatles album – Allmusic gives it Five Big Stars and we like it every bit as much as they do
  • Superb energy and presence – the band is RIGHT THERE and full of the LIFE the best Beatles pressings always have

Beatles For Sale is a criminally underappreciated album, and a killer copy like this will show you exactly why. The startling presence and immediacy of the sound here allow the emotional qualities of these lovely songs to work some real Beatles vocal magic.

There is one important trait that all the best copies have in common: wonderful midrange warmth and sweetness. It’s the single most important factor in bringing out The Beatles’ individual voices and harmonies. Of the first five albums, from Please Please Me to Help, For Sale is clearly the most natural and Tubey Magical. (For those of you keeping score at home, With the Beatles is clearly the worst, with A Hard Day’s Night not far behind.)

When comparing pressings of this record, the copies that get their voices to sound present, while at the same time warm, smooth, and sweet, especially during the harmonies and in the loudest choruses, are always the best. All the other instruments seem to fall in line when the vocals are correct. This is an old truism — it’s all about the midrange — but in the case of an early Beatles album such as For Sale, it really is true. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I just had a chance to listen to the Please Please Me record you sent me. WOW!”

Please Please Me

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

Hey Tom,  

I just had a chance to listen to the Please Please Me record you sent me. WOW! It is sooo much better than the tinny sound I remember. The tonality of their voices is incredible. And there’s background detail that I never heard before. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Revolver and Dark Side Of The Moon

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

Hey Tom, 

I needed a day to fully pick up my jaw from the floor after hearing Revolver and Dark Side…

Now that I‘ve given them both a few listens to fully absorb how revealing these recordings I thought I knew so well really are, I just have so many questions.

How much better sounding can the respective White Hots really be?????

As far as Dark Side, I’m finding out for myself. Just ordered the white hot stamper. Most likely will be returning one of them, but I hope that after this, I will finally be able to stop looking for “the better sound” on this one….

Regarding Revolver, will the A++ side of my Revolver Super hot sound the same as the A++ side of the WHS? Or is the A++ grade on the WHS relative to its A+++ side, and still better than the SHS? What I am getting at is, will both sides blow me away in comparison to my SHS, or is it better to be patient and hold out for a two-sided A+++? Btw, regardless of your answer, you cannot have this copy back, it is simply fantastic!

I know these kinds of questions are quite relative to a number of variables, but any enlightenment you can provide is welcome…. I appreciate what you do, you have gained a very happy customer. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Songs From The Big Chair and The Beatles / Help

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

Hey Tom, 

I know you must have a TON of e-mail traffic to sort through but wanted to send accolades for the latest shipment of hot stampers from you! Simply incredible!!!!

I don’t know how you managed to get the TFF Big Chair LP to play SO clean because it looks atrocious! If I would have seen that in a used record store I would have put it back but when the stylus touched down, dead silent surface and throughout the whole record!! The sound is incredible as advertised !!! I played it for my wife who is enjoying these pressings with me and praises you after reading your descriptions. She jumped out of her seat on the couch after the percussive intro to Shout was over and the song launched!!

The Beatles Help album was also incredible! Compared to the MoFi I have it now sounds overly bright and goosed. The UK 1970’s press sounds more cohesive and even across the spectrum! That title was missing from my others of that same pressing era. (more…)

How Can Anybody Not Hear What’s Wrong with Old Pressings Like These?

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New Paradigms and Old

It is our strongly held belief that if your equipment (regardless of cost) or your critical listening skills do not allow you to hear the kinds of sonic differences among pressings we describe, then whether you are just getting started in audio or are a self-identified audio expert writing for the most prestigious magazines and websites, you still have a very long way to go in this hobby.

Purveyors of the old paradigms — original is better, money buys good sound — may eventually find their approach to records and equipment unsatisfactory (when it isn’t just plain wrong), but they will only do so if they start to rely more on empirical findings and less on convenient theories and received wisdom.

A reviewer we all know well is clearly stuck in the Old Paradigm, illustrated perfectly by this comment: (more…)

The Beatles / Sgt. Peppers – Practical Advice on Which Pressings to Avoid

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Chris, an erstwhile customer from long ago, sent us a letter describing his search for a good sounding Sgt. Pepper.

The first thing that comes to mind when reading his letter is that many record collecting rules were broken in going about his search the way he did. But then I thought, What rules? Whose rules? Where exactly does one find these rules? If one wants to avoid breaking them they need to be written down someplace, don’t they?

Wikipedia maybe?

Sadly, no, not at Wikipedia, or any place else for that matter — until now. As crazy as it sounds, we are going to try to lay down a few record collecting rules for record loving audiophiles, specifically to aid these individuals in their search for better sounding vinyl pressings. And by “these individuals” we mean you.

See if you can spot the rules that were broken by Chris in his fruitless search for a good sounding Sgt. Pepper. Note that this letter came to us long before the new Beatles CDs and vinyl had been remastered.
(more…)

The Beatles – Past Masters Volumes 1 & 2 – Digital Remastering at its Worst

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Sonic Grade: F

The ’90s import pressings of this album are bright and aggressive and very digital sounding, but if you want better sounding versions of these songs you’re gonna have to buy lots of pressings of the band’s albums and singles and EPs in order to find good sounding versions of them (which I did back in the ’80s and it took years to do it).

These are all the songs that aren’t on the original 13 British albums, so for those of you with the MoFi Beatles box, these 2 LPs give you all the tracks you don’t have.  

This was written so long ago that we actually refer to the MoFi Beatles Box as something and audiophile would own.

No serious audiophile who loves The Beatles should have the MoFi Box Set or Past Masters in his collection.

A Fun and Easy Test for Abbey Road: MoFi Versus Apple

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Abbey Road

There is a relatively simple test you can use to find out if you have a good Mobile Fidelity pressing of Abbey Road. Yes, as shocking as it may seem, they actually do exist, we’ve played them, but they are few and far between (and never as good as the best Brits).

The test involves doing a little shootout of the song Golden Slumbers between whatever MoFi pressing you have and whatever British Parlophone pressing you have. If you don’t have both LPs this shootout will be difficult to do. The idea is to compare aspects of the sound of both pressings head to head, which should shed light on which one of them is more natural and which is more hi-fi-ish sounding.

The Golden Slumbers Test

I’ve come to realize that this is a Key Track for side two, because what it shows you is whether the midrange of your pressing — or your system — is correct. At the beginning Paul’s voice is naked, front and center, before the strings come in. Most Mobile Fidelity pressings, as good as they can be, are not tonally correct in the middle of the midrange. The middle of the voice is a little sucked out and the top of the voice is a little boosted. It’s really hard to notice this fact unless one plays a good British pressing side by side with the MoFi. Then the typical MoFi EQ anomaly become obvious. It may add some texture to the strings, but the song is not about the strings. (more…)