Top Engineers – Donn Landee

Carly Simon – Another Passenger – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

A TOP PRESSING of what we consider to be the best — and best-sounding — Carly Simon album! I’ve been telling people for years how amazing this album can sound, but we almost never hear it sound quite like this! Side one rates A++, side two rates A+++ and both sides play quietly. Most copies are gritty and edgy, but this one is smoother, sweeter and much more musical.  (more…)

Van Halen – Women And Children First

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s third release, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Full-bodied, smooth analog sound is the key to the best Van Halen pressings, and here both sides have it 
  • One of our favorite engineers, Donn Landee, worked his magic here (together with Ted Templeman) and the results are superb
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After two pure party albums, the inevitable had to happen: it was time for Van Halen to mature, or at least get a little serious … This is the first Van Halen album to consist entirely of original material and there’s some significant growth here to the writing…”

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Van Halen – Van Halen II

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  • A STUNNING copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These killer sides are highly resolving, smooth and full-bodied, with a huge bottom end and massive amounts of rock and roll energy – if this isn’t the right sound for Van Halen’s music, we don’t know what else could be!
  • 4 stars: “… this feels both heavier and lighter than the debut. Heavier in that this sounds big and powerful, driven by mastodon riffs that aim straight of the gut. Lighter in that there’s a nimbleness to the attack… it’s hard not to marvel at these two frontmen, and hard not to be sucked into the vortex of some of the grandest hard rock ever made.” 

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The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me – Nautilus Debunked

More The Doobie Brothers

More The Captain and Me

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Sonic Grade: D

Another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked and another We Was Wrong listing to boot.   

We actually recommended the Nautilus Half-Speed in the old days, but the last time we played one (mid-2007) the sound was Pure Audiophile BS — compressed to death and totally whomp-free. The average domestic copy is terrible too, but that’s no excuse now is it?

The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute – Nautilus Reviewed

More The Doobie Brothers

More Minute By Minute

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

You may remember reading on the site that we used to like the Nautilus Half-Speed of this title. Playing our Nautilus copy against the better domestic pressings made us wonder what the hell we must have been smoking. The Nautilus was awful — veiled and compressed, with a lightweight bottom end. (The Nautilus of Threshold of a Dream is another one we used to like and boy does that record sound awful these days.)

Maybe we had played a better copy years ago, or maybe we had played some really bad domestics back then, who can say? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. All we can say for now is that our Hot Stampers are going to blow that audiophile piece of junk — and any other pressing of the album that might exist — right out of the water. (Or your money back.)

And the gold CD too of course. I have never in my life heard a CD sound like this record does, and I don’t think anyone else has either. CDs do some things reasonably well, but few of them have the kind of richness, sweetness and tubey magic that the best vinyl copies of this album do, cleaned right and played on a proper stereo of course. (more…)

Captain Beefheart – Clear Spot – A Desert Island Disc

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and the Captain’s MASTERPIECE of bent rock.

Side one earned an A++ grade for its powerful energy and exceptional fullness and richness. When we flipped this copy over we were surprised to find that it was even BETTER, with all of the above qualities and more: the punchiest, tightest, most note-like bass; more presence in the vocals and guitars; and the most clarity sacrificing the tubey magical richness the best copies have to offer. Folks, this is without a doubt the best copy we have ever put on the site.

This shootout had a troubled history — the domestic pressings we played were almost without exception defectively pressed, and I mean really defectively pressed, to the point where the vinyl roar was unbearable. How this happened is a complete mystery to us, but a word of advice: don’t buy any copy of this album that you can’t play in advance of purchase or easily return. Chances are good you will get one that is defective. We took a bath on most of the copies we owned; they looked fine and played like sh*t. And they weren’t cheap either. (more…)

Van Halen – Diver Down

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this copy of Van Halen’s fifth studio album 
  • Surprisingly big, lively, open, rich and present with real extension both up top and down low – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This album put the band’s hard-rocking spin on a number of covers, including “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” “Dancing in the Street,” and Where Have All The Good Times Gone!”
  • “…this is undoubtedly the work of a finely honed band who has only grown tighter and heavier since their debut… it’s one of Van Halen’s best records, one that’s just pure joy to hear. Like the debut, it’s a great showcase for all the group’s strengths…”

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Van Halen – 5150

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  • Sammy Hagar’s Van Halen debut finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but lively and full are harder to come by on this record – this pressing has it all 
  • “Van Hagar” hit the ground running with this new incarnation, including “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “Love Walks In” and “Dreams”
  • 4 stars: “… on 5150… they had the songs and the desire to party, so those good intentions and slow tunes don’t slow the album down; they give it variety and help make the album a pretty impressive opening act for Van Halen Mach II.”

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Little Feat – Time Loves A Hero

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

On the better copies the title track has Demonstration Quality Sound – the soundstage is huge and the multi-tracked vocal parts are energetic, clear and free from congestion and distortion. If your copy doesn’t blow your mind on this song, try one of ours.

The next track, Rocket in My Pocket, kicks off with a big, fat drum sound that’s present and punchy on the better copies. The album finishes with the controversial jazz-rock fusion of Day at the Dog Races, a song the band used to open their live act with in order to get in the groove. If the band wants to stretch out a bit, we don’t have a problem with it.

On side two Old Folks’ Boogie rocks with the best of them; it’s a must for any Greatest Hits compilation. Red Streamliner has a strong Doobies vibe, which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about that band. (We’re big fans.) (more…)

Van Halen – 1984

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  • A stunning copy of this hard rock classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are rockin’ like crazy – lots of energy, impressive size and big-time presence
  • Tons of hits: Panama, Hot For Teacher, Jump, and you won’t believe how good they sound on this copy
  • 5 stars: “It’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s instrumental prowess as a band… the best showcase for their songwriting, just their flat-out best album overall.”

Want to hear three of the best songs these guys ever did — Jump, Panama and Hot For Teacher — sound incredible? We recently had a chance to shoot out a bunch of these, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you that most copies were a JOKE. Most of them just do not have the kind of weight to the bottom end that this music needs to work. Put simply: if your Van Halen LP can’t rock, then what’s the point? (more…)