Top Artists – The Cars

The Cars – Self-Titled

More of The Cars

Hot Stamper Pressings of New Wave Recordings

  • This original Elektra pressing was giving us the sound we were looking for on The Cars’ debut album, earning superb Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • You may have heard these songs a million times, but you’ll be shocked at just how much better they sound on this vintage pressing
  • Despite what you may have read, the Rhino Heavy Vinyl pressing is a joke next to the Hot Stampers we offer the discriminating audiophile
  • A Better Records Top 100 title, the band’s masterpiece, and a New Wave Must Own Classic from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Whereas most bands of the late ’70s embraced either punk/new wave or hard rock, the Cars were one of the first bands to do the unthinkable — merge the two styles together. With flawless performances, songwriting, and production (courtesy of Queen alumnus Roy Thomas Baker), the Cars’ debut remains one of rock’s all-time classics.”
  • This is an amazing album from 1978 that belongs in every rock- and pop-loving audiophile’s collection
  • It’s our pick for the band’s best sounding album. Roughly 150 other listings for the Best Recording by an Artist or Group can be found here.

The material is superb — just check out the first three tracks: “Let The Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Just What I Needed” — how many albums start off with that kind of a bang? Each of those tracks sounds amazing. If you’ve got big speakers and a front end capable of resolving musical information at the highest levels, put this record on, turn it way up and get ready to hear some serious Demonstration Quality Sound.


If This Guy Isn’t on the Payroll…

He sure ought to be!

Based on what I’ve just read, if Rhino Records is looking for a head cheerleader, they could hardly do better than Mr. Youman.

I stumbled upon this fellow’s review of The Cars first album on Positive Feedback just a few days ago.

Not sure I would even call it a review. It comes across to me as more of a PR release.

I don’t think Positive Feedback cares either way. They need content, and apparently they consider this content.

The New Rhino High Fidelity Series – The Cars And John Coltrane Kick It Off in Grand Style!

One thing I have noticed about PF is that they do not seem to employ editors of any kind. My friend Robert Pincus writes for them — here is his review of a Dillards album that no one would be likely to buy from us but is probably worth picking up for the five or ten dollars a record store might charge — and there are plenty of typos throughout his reviews and others I have read. You’re on your own with PF. And they are good with however many exclamation marks you may want to use. Four in one paragraph? Bring it on they say!

The following paragraph from Youman’s review contains a ridiculous mistake that any knowledgeable editor should have noticed. Can you spot it? If so, email me at

Mastered by George Marino, the 1978 original would seem hard to beat, as the level of detail and attack is quite impressive. It absolutely rocks, and I would be very happy if this was my one and only copy. The 1980 Nautilus, which was half speed mastered by Jack Hunt, is surprisingly very much like the original with some minimal improvement in transparency and dynamic punch. Most would be hard pressed to hear the difference. Of course, the super quiet Japanese vinyl might be contributing to this. We also have the 2009 Mofi, which was half speed mastered by Shawn Britton. In my system, I found it to be dark and somewhat veiled. Bass was just too prominent to my ears. It was almost impossible to sit through the entire Mofi after hearing the OG and the Nautilus. I am a huge Mofi fan, so this was very disappointing.

When someone as clearly lacking in critical listening skills as this fellow has the temerity to compare “the” original and the Nautilus remaster (reviewed here) and declare “Most would be hard pressed to hear the difference,” it upsets me no end. I want to sit such a person down and say that it’s unlikely that anyone with two working ears and a halfway-decent stereo would not hear the difference. You can hardly hear it, that seems clear, but why insult others of a Cars-loving persuasion?

The reference to Giant Steps below is yet more evidence of this fellow’s inability to recognize a bad record when he hears it:

Let’s return to that Rhino catalog and all that it could possibly offer to the audiophile enthusiast. We need to send our wish lists and raise our hands if not bring out the megaphones!  Of course we have the Led Zeppelin catalog, but that has been debated ad nauseum on several internet websites and forums. It seems that those in control will not allow it. Can you imagine a Kevin Gray mastering for Led Zeppelin II? There have been several very good reissues for the Black Sabbath catalog, but the original UK pressings are still the ones to beat based on my own comparisons with various other collectors. Lets [sic] get those original analog UK tapes and hand them over to Kevin!  I also have a copy of the 45 RPM John Coltrane, Giant Steps released by Rhino in 2008. Some argue that this is best pressing ever and by a wide margin! One of the top ten jazz releases of all time as ranked by many jazz experts. Bernie Grundman did a fantastic job on that reissue but there was only a limited production of 2500 copies. Lets [sic] take another shot at those tapes as part of the new Rhino High Fidelity series!

We make the case that Bernie’s recutting of Giant Steps for Rhino is possibly the worst sounding version of the album ever, and perhaps by a wide margin! He already had his shot, the patient did not survice the operation, what good would it do to put another bullet in the corpse?

Jazz experts may rank it one of the top releases of all time — I certainly would — but it is unlikely they have ever heard Rhino’s bloated, thick, dull, lifeless and altogether unsatisfactory pressing of the album. We gave it an a F and felt that we were being too kind. There is some consolation to be had though: The limited production meant that only 2500 people had to suffer through it upon release. (According to Discogs, these days the average price paid for a copy is $225. We may charge a lot for records, but we charge a lot for good sounding records, not bad sounding records, and that should count for something, shouldn’t it?)

And Kevin Gray already ruined the album once for Rhino, so why would anyone want to hand him the tapes to do it again? Is he now a better mastering engineer than he was in the mid-2000s? What evidence to support this proposition could you possibly supply to those of us who doubt his competence? The shockingly bad sounding records he’s cut recently — Stand Up, Moondance and Rickie Lee Jones are three that spring to mind — make a mockery of the very idea that this guy knows what he is doing.

More comments from the above paragraph of the exploding head variety:

There have been several very good reissues for the Black Sabbath catalog…

Have there? Would someone please name one? We would love to hear it.

but the original UK pressings are still the ones to beat based on my own comparisons with various other collectors.

Then you need to get out more. The UK pressings we have played are not competitive in the least with the best domestic originals. Maybe there are some new reissues that are comparable to the UK pressings, but that is clearly setting the bar much too low. For our last shootout, we noted:

Back in 2018 we wrote: This title will surely make the cut next time we update our Top 100 Rock and Pop List. I would go so far as to say that the best copies of this album have sound as good or better than anything I’ve heard all year, and that’s an awful lot of great sounding records, hundreds and hundreds of them.

It did in fact make the Top 100 a while back. The album is hard to find in audiophile playing condition, but we make the effort and this killer Hot Stamper is the result.

Sabbath recorded their set list more or less live in the studio. This give the recording an unprocessed quality that really stands out on the best copies. The best Green Label pressings sound raw and real, with sound that is a perfect match for the band’s powerfully dark music.

No UK originals ever gave us that sound. The idea that the British pressing would be the best sounding for a British band such as Black Sabbath is something we used to characterize as a myth. Our preference now is to use a less pejorative term and call it a Misunderstanding.

To help our customers better understand why so many of our Hot Stamper pressings are from the “wrong” country, or have the wrong label, or are in stereo instead of mono, or are reissues, even budget reissues, we often add these lines to our listings:

Many audiophiles employ this kind of mistaken audiophile thinking, believing that a British band’s albums must sound their best on British vinyl for some reason, possibly a cosmic one. Those of us who actually play lots of records and listen to them critically know that that is simply not true and never has been.

How did we come by that information? By conducting carefully controlled experiments to find out.

We don’t guess. We don’t assume. We just play lots and lots of records and find out which ones sound better and which ones sound worse.

But enough about this silly review. We laid out for all to see a detailed account of the shortcomings of Kevin Gray’s Cars remaster back in June. Having just reread it, I find no reason to change a word. It’s still awful (the record, not the review).

Kevin Gray is a hack, turning out one junk pressing after another for the benefit of those whose stereos must be exceptionally good at hiding the many faults of his awful records. (We do not have the luxury of being able to hide the faults of the records we play. In order to find the best sounding records ever pressed — our mission here at Better Records — we had no choice but to take our system in the opposite direction, and we and our customers are very glad we did.)

Bernie Grundman and Doug Sax often come in for criticism from us here on the blog, but at least they used to make good records. Nothing Kevin Gray cut without the help of others has ever impressed us in the least, which is why we have a special link for our reviews of those records here.


The Cars on Rhino High Fidelity – Man, Is This Record Bad

More of the Music of The Cars

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Cars

I mean, really bad.

Kevin Gray has struck again. He’s a modern one man demolition crew, taking exceptionally well recorded analog albums and turning them into the vinyl equivalent of CDs, and bad CDs at that.

Steve Hoffman did the first Cars album on Gold CD and it sounds quite good. I still own mine. How can Kevin Gray, his former assistant, make such a mess of the album on vinyl?

This question has a rather obvious answer, and much of what we have to say about this record was said in our review of the disastrous Stand Up Gray cut for Analogue Productions.

Allow us to repeat ourselves:

We were finally able to get our hands on the newly remastered Cars first album, a record we know well, having played them by the score. Our notes for the sound can be seen nearby.

If ever a record deserved a “no” grade, as in “not acceptable,” this new pressing mastered by Kevin Gray deserves such a grade, because it’s just awful.

Here is what we heard on side one of the new Cars remaster.

Good Times Roll

  • Top is sandy  [Sandy typically refers to transistory, dry, grainy, or gritty sound.]
  • Hi-hat is spitty and gritty

My Best Friend’s Girl

  • No real space or punch
  • Flat and sandy

You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

  • Flat
  • No real space or weight
  • No dynamics

Bye Bye Love

  • Soft and sandy
  • Small and smeary

Grant Green on Music Matters had many of these same problems. Unsurprisingly, it too was mastered by Kevin Gray.

How this guy is still getting work is beyond me.

I am clearly being facetious here. These guys get work because audiophiles will buy the records they master. The market has decided these records sound just fine, and who am I to say otherwise?

Of course, people can say anything they want about these records, opinions being worth what they cost you.

We take a different approach. We will sell you the pressing of the album that can mop the floor with this Heavy Vinyl trash. We rarely have the first album in stock, but if you want one, just let us know and we will be glad to put you on the waiting list. Email Fred at

Compared to What?

Is the Rhino pressing the worst version of the album ever made? In our view, it’s only competition would be this disaster, a record that also sold well back in the day. The more things change…

If I were to try to “reverse engineer” the sound of a system that could play this record and hide its many faults, I would look for a system that was thick, dark and fat, with plenty of tube colorations and no real top end to speak of.

I know that sound. I had a system in the 90s with many of these shortcomings, but of course I didn’t have a clue about any of that. Like everybody into audio I met back then, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I’m glad to say things are different now, I think.

If you made the mistake of buying this record and can’t stand the phony top end, try covering your tweeter with something absorbent. Foam might work. Also you could try disconnecting your super tweeters if you have any. This is good advice for any record mastered by Stan Ricker as well.

Since that old school vintage tube sound takes the opposite approach to music reproduction that we’ve spent the last few decades working on here at Better Records — our goal being neutrality above all else — we are clearly not playing the record back on equipment that is capable of making it sound anything but godawful, hence our relentlessly negative reaction to the record.

On any properly setup, halfway decent stereo system, any original pressing with RTB in the dead wax should murder this Heavy Vinyl piece of junk. If you don’t have a system like that, we encourage you to get one. You will save a lot of money by not buying crap vinyl like this, only to discover later just how bad it sounds on the higher quality equipment you eventually end up with. (Here is some good news on that subject.)

Although, to be honest, if you are buying these kinds of awful records, it’s hard to see how you will ever get out of the hole you are in. Some audiophiles manage it, but I suspect that most never do.

You can also buy the CD — whether on DCC Gold or just whatever disc Elektra put out — and hear for yourself if it isn’t better sounding. I would be very surprised if it were not.


The Cars – We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing

More of the Music of The Cars

More Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

The hottest of the Hot Stampers did one easily recognizable thing better than the Also-Rans, and it was apparent pretty much from the get-go. The multi-multi-multi-tracked Power Pop Choruses on the best copies don’t strain (a very common problem), they are bigger and more powerful, they stretch from wall to wall, and the voices that make them up are separated much more than on other copies. 

I won’t say you can make out all the players — there are dozens of tracks overdubbed together don’t you know — but you can surely make out some of the voices. At least you can if you have the kind of high resolution front end that we do. Big speakers help a lot too, creating more space for each voice to occupy.

Some copies are huge; others, not so much. The effect of these size differentials is ENORMOUS. The power of the music ramps up like crazy — how could this recording possibly be this BIG and POWERFUL? How did it achieve this kind of scale? You may need twenty copies to find one like this, which begs the question: why don’t the other 19 sound the way this one does? The sound we heard has to be on the master tape in some sense, doesn’t it? Mastering clearly contributes to the sound, but can it really be a factor of this magnitude?

My intuition says no. More likely it’s the mastering of the other copies that is one of the many factors holding them back, along with worn stampers, bad stampers, bad metal mothers, bad plating, bad vinyl, bad needles and all the rest — all of the above and more contributing to the fact that the average copy of this album is just plain average. (more…)

The Cars – Heartbeat City

More of The Cars

Hot Stamper Pressings of New Wave Recordings

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage Elektra pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, or ever will hear
  • If you have big dynamic speakers and like to rock, you can’t go wrong with a killer Hot Stamper of Heartbeat City
  • 5 stars: “… a gleaming pop masterpiece. The producer’s golden touch, the strength of the songs Ric Ocasek wrote, and the stunning vocal performance both he and Benjamin Orr deliver make the album one of the best of the ’80s and something that still sounds perfect many years later.”


The Cars on Nautilus – Ouch!

More of the Music of The Cars

More Records that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Sonic Grade: F

This Nautilus Half-Speed Mastered LP is pure mud — compressed, thick and congested, a disaster on every level, much like their atrocious remastering of Candy-O.

Is it the worst version of the album ever made? Hard to imagine it would have much competition.

If you own this Audiophile BS pressing (NR-14) and you can’t hear what’s wrong with it, you seriously need to consider ditching your current playback system and getting another one.  It is doing you no favors.

Our Nautilus pressing here is yet another one of those Jack Hunt turgid muckfests (check out City to City #058 for the ultimate in murky sound), is incapable of conveying anything resembling the kind of clean, clear, oh-so-radio-friendly pop rock sound that producer Roy Thomas Baker, engineer Geoff Workman and the band were aiming for.

The recording has copious amounts of Analog Richness and Fullness to start with. Adding more is not an improvement; in fact it’s positively ruinous.

Further Reading

Records are getting awfully expensive these days, and it’s not just our Hot Stampers that seem priced for perfection.

If you are still buying remastered pressings, making the same mistakes that I was making before I knew better, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered LPs.

At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy of the album.

And if for some reason you disagree with us that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the very best.

The Cars – Panorama

More of The Cars

  • Panorama makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound here is rich and full-bodied with much less grain and much more Tubey Magic than most of the other copies we played
  • A tough title to find these days — it took us years to get this shootout going
  • “While it’s true that Panorama may be the work of a band in transition, taking baby steps in new directions, it’s also the work of a band that couldn’t help but make great music regardless. . . The production, too, is just as striking as it is on previous efforts, as are the performances.”


The Cars in 1979: The Year in Music

Hot Stamper Pressings of Albums from 1979 Available Now

More of Our Favorite Rock, Pop, Soul, etc. Titles from 1979

We’re big fans of this album, and a Shootout Winning Hot Stamper copy like this one will show you exactly why. It’s a favorite recording of ours here at Better Records for one very simple reason: Candy-O has got The BIG ROCK SOUND we love!

Drop the needle on Let’s Go and check out the sound of the big floor tom. When the drummer bangs on that thing, you FEEL it! It’s similar to the effect of being in the room with live musicians — it’s the difference between hearing the music and feeling the music. That difference is what you get from our best Hot Stamper copies when you turn them up good and loud and let them ROCK your world.

A New Wave Classic

What other New Wave band ever recorded an album with this kind of demonstration quality sound? The sound of the best copies positively JUMPS out of the speakers. No album by Blondie, Television, The Pretenders or any of their contemporaries can begin to compete with this kind of huge, lively, powerful sound, with the possible exception of the Talking Heads’ Little Creatures.

It Rocks!

If you have big dynamic speakers and like to rock you cannot go wrong here. Neil Young albums have the Big Rock sound, and if you’re more of a Classic Rock kind of listener, that’s a good way to go. 

For a band with skinny ties, leather jackets, jangly guitars, synths and monstrously huge floor toms that fly back and forth across the soundstage, Candy-O is the girl for you, no doubt about it.

1979 – The Year in Music

1979 sure was an interesting year. The Wall, Breakfast in America, London Calling, Off the Wall, Get the Knack, Damn the Torpedoes, Armed Forces, Spirits Having Flown, Tusk, The B-52s, Rust Never Sleeps, Rickie Lee Jones, and our bad boy here, Candy-O — the variety is remarkable.

Even more remarkable is the number of albums recorded in ’79 that sound fresh and engaging to this day, more than 35 years after they were released. I could sit down in front of my speakers today and play any one of them all the way through.

Try that with your ten favorite albums from ’89, ’99 or ’09.


Ramping Up the Horsepower of The Cars Like Crazy

More of the Music of The Cars

The best copies must have one key ingredient that we’ve discovered is absolutely essential if this groundbreaking New Wave album is to come to life — a huge, spacious soundstage.

Some copies are huge; others, not so much. The effect of these size differentials is ENORMOUS. The power of the music ramps up like crazy — how could this recording possibly be this BIG and POWERFUL? How did it achieve this kind of scale? You may need twenty copies to find one like this, which begs the question: why don’t the other 19 sound the way this one does? The sound we heard has to be on the master tape in some sense, doesn’t it? Mastering clearly contributes to the sound, but can it really be a factor of this magnitude?

The Cars – Candy-O

More of The Cars

Hot Stamper Pressings of New Wave Recordings

  • An outstanding copy of The Cars’ New Wave Classic, boasting solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • We guarantee this is some of the best sound you’ll ever hear on ANY Cars album – Roy Thomas Baker’s production makes this one jump out of the speakers like few recordings we’ve heard (and not many of them are from 1979, that’s for damn sure)
  • An underrated album by the band – we consider it a Must Own, along with their brilliant debut, two records that belong in any audiophile’s Rock and Pop collection
  • 4 1/2 stars: “As it stands, it may be one of the best second albums ever made, full of great songs, inspired performances, and sporting a still-perfect sound. If this had been the Cars’ debut album, people might consider it a classic. Coming after The Cars, it has to be rated a little lower, but not by much.”