Top Engineers – Bill Szymczyk

Joe Walsh – So What

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

Welcome to the Club and a remake of Turn to Stone are the big hits on the album. Bill Szymczyk produced and engineered, and most of the Eagles play on Joe’s third solo album, from 1974.

You’ll hear MASTER TAPE SOUND on side two of this 1974 classic, and side one did very well in our shootout as well. You would need a big stack of copies to beat either one of these Hot Sides. If that’s your thing — it’s obviously ours — we say welcome to the club (ahem) and more power to you!

We were impressed with how rich and punchy this copy sounded after hearing dozens of dry, thin, lifeless pressings over the years. Once we had heard at least one copy sound good we proceeded to gather up every LP we could get our hands on and make the shootout happen.

Unfortunately, most of what we ended up playing had the kind of mediocre sound we had been suffering through for decades. This side two was a whole different story, earning our top A+++ grade with real energy, surprising dynamics, and lots of that ’70s Tubey Magic we love so much and never tire of talking about. (It’s also a sound that you will have a very hard time finding on most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days as you no doubt know.) (more…)

Joe Walsh – But Seriously, Folks…

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  • This solo effort boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A hard album to find with sound like this AND quiet surfaces, but here one is@
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an undiscerning record buying public
  • 4 1/2 stars: “As far as studio albums go, But Seriously Folks is Joe Walsh’s most insightful and melodic… The album’s introspective outlook glides through rejuvenation (‘Tomorrow,’ ‘Over and Over’), recapturing the simple pleasures of the past (‘Indian Summer’), mid-career indecision, and a melancholy instrumental.”

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James Gang – Thirds

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  • An incredible copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Big, present and lively, with good weight to the bottom end, this is clearly the right sound for this music
  • A copy sure to make you a fan of Joe Walsh’s grungy guitar artistry – turn up Walk Away on this Shootout Winning side one and it will blow your mind
  • 4 Stars: “… Walsh was being hailed as a guitar hero to rank with the best rock had to offer… Thirds quickly earned a respectable chart position and eventually went gold…” 

NOTE: On side one, the end of track one is a little noisier than Mint Minus Minus and there is a mark that plays at the start of track two six times at a light to moderate level.

The copies that did well in our shootout managed to keep the grit and grain in the sound under control without smothering the top end or smearing the upper midrange. Clear, breathy vocals that don’t strain when loud were tough to find, but some copies did a whole lot better than others, and those are typically the ones we preferred.

Plenty of tight bass and lively rock energy are every bit as important of course. Nobody wants a leaned-out or boring James Gang record.  (more…)

Eagles – The Long Run – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This copy had sound we never would have expected to hear on this record. Believe me, not too many sound like this one! Most copies have a smeary, veiled, stuck-in-the-speaker quality that makes for some painful listening. Cardboard drums. Non-existent ambience. No energy. The average copy of this album just sits on the turntable with nothing to say.

What’s Szymczyk’s problem anyway? Can’t the guy record an album any better than this after being in the studio for all these years?

Yes he can! Don’t make the mistake of judging his work by the typical bad pressing of it, the kind that Elektra was churning out by the millions back in the day. Believe me, the master tape must be AWESOME if the sound of some of the records we played is any indication. And of course that’s exactly how we know it is — by the pressings we heard. (more…)

Eagles – On The Border – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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More On The Border

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

TWO STUNNING SIDES on this British SYL pressing. You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love have SUPERB Glyn Johns Demo Disc Sound. The LIFE and ENERGY of this copy are going to knock you out of your seat! Most copies left us with a headache, but this one had us begging for more! 

You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love have SUPERB Glyn Johns Demo Disc Sound. I’m a HUGE fan of the material on this album. I find it to be some of the most sophisticated and enjoyable music these guys ever wrote, and that’s saying a lot. As audiophiles, many of you have probably never taken the time to appreciate how good the album is, because the typical domestic copy barely hints at the kind of magic you’ll hear on a British SYL Hot Stamper pressing. (more…)

John Lee Hooker – Endless Boogie

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Endless Boogie

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  • This original ABC pressing has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES! 
  • These sides are out of this world — rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with a big punchy bottom end and lots of energy
  • “… the timeliness of Endless Boogie is an unmitigated plus, and producers Bill Szymczyk and Ed Michel get a relaxed groove out of a cast of supporting musicians who can boogie Canned Heat right out of the studio.” – Robert Christgau

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Eagles – Hotel California – Rockin’ Out to Victim of Love

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Victim of Love is yet another one of our favorite tracks that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

It’s the sound of this five piece tearing it up LIVE IN THE STUDIO. It’s also the track where the DCC just falls apart for us. Where did the rock and roll energy go? The DCC makes it sound like the band just doesn’t care, which was certainly not our experience when were playing any of the killer Hot Stampers we came across. Just the reverse was true; we had them turned up full blast and they ROCKED.

In fact I might go so far as to say that Victim of Love is the best sounding track on the whole album. It’s punchy, real and MUSICAL in a way that nothing else on the album is, because it’s being played by a real band, live. The energy and coherency of the sound is like nothing else you will hear on Hotel California, and possibly on any other Eagles record. (more…)

Eagles Hotel California – DCC Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B+/B-

The DCC — Not Bad, But…

The DCC for this album is not a total disaster. In fact, the first side of the DCC is one of the better DCC sides we’ve played in recent memory. We dropped the needle on a few copies we had in the back (pressing variations exist for audiophile records too, don’t you know) and they averaged about a B+ for sound on side one. Side two was quite a bit too clean for our tastes — no real ambience or meaty texture to the guitars, about a B- for sound. To flip something we say often: you can do worse, but you can do a LOT better.   (more…)

Eagles – One Of These Nights – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This 2-pack contains the best side one we’ve ever heard! The sound is bigger, richer, tubier and livelier than we even thought possible. Side one was so amazing, such an obvious step up over every side of every other copy, we felt it deserved to be awarded our “Four Plus” (A++++) grade. One of These Nights, Too Many Hands and Hollywood Waltz will blow your mind on this side one. 

Please note: we award the Four Plus grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side one here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it a fourth plus!

We award this copy’s side one our very special Four Plus (A++++) grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

A Side One Like No Other

My notes read: ‘hi-rez, super tubey, breathy vocals with much less honk.”

This comment which really gets to the point: “guitar solos rise above.” The big solo on the title track just soars on this copy like we had never heard before. This is the guitar sound that Bill Szymczyk achieved with the band that Glyn Johns had not. Of course Johns had never tried; he saw them as a Country Rock band. The Eagles saw themselves as a Rock band, it’s as simple as that. (more…)

The Eagles’ Long Run – Don’t Blame Bill Szymczyk If Your Copy Doesn’t Sound Good

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More The Long Run

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  • This copy has a rockin’ Long Run like you have never heard, with Double Plus (A++) sound all around 
  • The sound is full, rich and vibrant with impressive punch down low and relatively smooth up top
  • The best songs prove that the Eagles were still at the height of their powers in 1979
  • “Overall, The Long Run is a synthesis of previous macabre Eagles motifs, with cynical new insights that are underlined by slashing rock & roll. There’s a stark simplicity to the album, especially when compared with the hyperslick Hotel California. Not a collection of hot car-radio singles. The Long Run is easily the band’s most uncommercial effort.” Rolling Stone 

What these sides of The Long Run are doing better than most other copies is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1979
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the guitars and drums having the correct sound for a Bill Szymczyk recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now (more…)