Top Engineers – Glyn Johns

The Beatles – Let It Be – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a MIND-BLOWING A++++ SIDE ONE for this White Hot Stamper 2-pack! At its best, this album has the real power of live music, but it takes a special pressing to make it happen. Both of these copies had one stunning side and one that just didn’t impress us, so we’ve paired them up to give you incredible sound for the entire album!

So many copies of Let It Be lack the kind of energy and transparency that you need to bring this music to life, but these killer sides did EVERYTHING we were looking for. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks!

Side One

A++++ — nothing else in our shootout came close! Super spacious with serious immediacy and presence, this one knocked us out from the moment we dropped the needle. This level of clarity and transparency is typically accompanied by a hard, thin midrange, but you won’t hear anything like that here! The mids are just as rich and Tubey Magical as we could ask for (and we ask for a lot!). Absolutely stunning!

Side Two

A+++, easily the best side two in our shootout. Big and clear, rich and full-bodied, with tons of presence and detail, this is exactly the way we want this music to sound. White Hot Stamper material, all the way!

Boring? Not This Copy!

We just finished another big shootout for this great album, and it still surprises me how BORING the average British copy is. (Of course, the German pressings and the domestic copies are even worse, but you probably already knew that.)

You’ve got to do a lot of work to find a copy of Let It Be that doesn’t sound murky, sleepy, thick and/or veiled. We went through a massive stack of nothing but British imports and only a select few were FUN and INVOLVING enough to merit the Hot Stamper designation.

The Beatles: Rock Band

On a copy like this the natural rock n’ roll energy of a song such as Dig A Pony will blow you away. There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ — just the sound of the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out. It’s a thrill that you don’t really get from the more psychedelic albums like Sgt. Pepper’s or Magical Mystery Tour. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue

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Black and Blue

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  • Incredible sound throughout with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • Hand Of Fate on side one sounds particularly good – it has the meaty Glyn Johns sound we love
  • A full-bodied, solid copy like this lets you appreciate Billy Preston’s contributions on the keys – he’s all over the album, a very good thing indeed
  • “Melody ought to be a tentative experiment with Billy Preston’s jazzy keyboard sound. Instead, it’s a triumph, Jagger’s voice swooping and snaking around Preston’s piano and harmonies.”

This is in fact one of the better sounding “later period” (1976) Stones records we’ve played, that’s if we’re talking about the better copies of course, like this one. The best pressings are big, open, dynamic and full-bodied, with exceptionally lively percussion. As always, credit goes to the recording engineers, Glyn Johns et al., as well as Lee Hulko at Sterling, the original mastering engineer (who’s cut about as many good sounding records as anyone we can think of). (more…)

The Faces – A Nod Is As Good As A Wink – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This Warner Bros. Green Label LP has a STUNNING SIDE ONE backed with MASTER TAPE SOUND ON SIDE TWO! If you like your hard rock dirty and bluesy, you can’t do much better than this record. You’re going to freak out over the meaty guitars, the HUGE bass, and the ROTM (Right On The Money) vocals. We played a ton of copies and most of them couldn’t hold a candle to this one. 

  • This album was produced by one of our very favorite engineers around here, Mr. Glyn Johns. He’s the man behind tons of Better Records faves — Sticky Fingers, Eagles 1st, Joan Armatrading’s self-titled, Who’s Next, and many more.

But no Faces album — Glyn Johns-produced or not — will ever have Demo Disc Sound. It’s just not what the band was going for. The proper sound for a band like this is RAW AND ROCKIN’. Any phony EQ or overproduction would really make a mess of what the band does here, which put simply is kickin’ out the jams. It would be fair to call these guys a bar band, but they’re the best darn bar band I’ve ever heard!

The best Faces pressings have amazing live-in-the-studio sound that completely conveys the power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time. What more can you ask for? (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – A MoFi Disaster to Beat Them All – Now With Video

If you click on the heading you can read some of the silly comments people are making about this awful pressing, one of the worst sounding versions of Sticky Fingers ever committed to vinyl. When you stop to consider how awful most pressings are compared to the only version that actually has ever sounded good to us, the original domestic LP,  that’s really saying something.

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a joke. It’s so compressed, lifeless, and lacking in bottom end that it would hardly interfere with even the most polite conversation at a wine tasting. I consider it one of the worst sounding versions ot the album ever made. It’s an Audiophile Record in the worst sense of the word.

A well-known reviewer actually — I kid you not — was still defending the sound of the MoFi as late as 2010. In one of his reviews earlier in 2008 he used it to test a piece of equipment he was evaluating(!). What could be more preposterous? Like I say, I kid you not.

In 2010 he wrote this:

Mo-Fi’s half-speed mastered edition (MFSL 1-060) was controversial when issued in 1980, with its jacked up lower bass, icy top end, sucked out midrange and low overall level. I’ll tell you though, as my system has improved, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. It offers outstanding focus and clarity and its portrayal of inner detail and transient snap is unsurpassed. Admittedly the sound is not for everybody.

It’s not for me, that’s for damn sure.

 

Spooky Tooth – It’s All About – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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It’s All About

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

This lovely Island Sunray British Import LP has some of the BEST SOUND I’ve ever heard for this band. Glyn Johns has done it again! Side one is amazing — super sweet and spacious, OVERFLOWING with tubey magic. If you love trippy pop as much as we do here at Better Records — think Dark Side of the Moon, Taking Tiger Mountain, Ambrosia, Magical Mystery Tour, Thick As A Brick and the like — you may find this one right up your alley.

The sound by Glyn Johns absolutely blew us away; not many records in the last thirty years have been recorded this well. (more…)

Eagles – On The Border – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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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…)

Humble Pie – Humble Pie

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

Both sides here are Super Hot – solid, big and fat with grungy guitars. Exceptionally quiet vinyl on both sides, mostly Mint Minus. A classic Glyn Johns rock recording from 1970 – he was really on a roll at the time. If you like a big bottom end on your rock records, this is the album for you.

This, their third album and first for A&M (which probably explains the master tape sound on domestic vinyl), is one of the few Humble Pie titles we’ve found that can offer honest-to-goodness Hot Stamper sound. There is no mystery in this case; the sound comes courtesy of none other than Glyn Johns. He knows Heavy British Rock like nobody else on the planet, or did at the time anyway. If you want fat, meaty drums and guitars — think Who’s Next, Sticky Fingers or A Nod Is As Good As A Wink — Glyn is your man. (more…)

Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Songs for Beginners.

This is one helluva well recorded album. Most of the credit must go to the team of recording engineers, led here by the esteemed Bill Halverson, the man behind all of the Crosby Stills Nash and Young albums. Nash was clearly influenced by his work with his gifted bandmates, proving with this album that he can hold his own with the best of the best.

Some songs (We Can Change The World, Be Yourself) are grandly scaled productions with the kind of studio polish that would make Supertramp envious. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better.

Others (Sleep Song, Wounded Bird) are quiet and intimate. Their subtlely is highlighted by the big productions surrounding them. This is that rare album in which every aspect of the production, from the arrangements to the final mix, serves to bring out the best qualities in the songs, regardless of scale.

The recording is of course superb throughout, in the best tradition of Crosby Stills and Nash’s classic early albums: transparent, smooth and sweet vocals, with loads of midrange magic ; deep punchy bass; lovely extension on the top to capture the shimmer of the cymbals and harmonic trails of the acoustic guitars; with the whole balanced superbly by one of our all-time heroes, Glyn Johns. (more…)

2-Packs – The Best Case for Dramatic Pressing Variations

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Just today (3/16/15) we put up a White Hot Stamper 2-pack of the Eagles’ First Album. One of the two pressings that made up the 2-pack had a killer side two, practically As Good As It Gets. 

What was interesting about that particular record was how bad side one was. Side one of that copy — on the white label, with stampers that are usually killer — was terrible. The vocals were hard, shrill and spitty. My notes say “CD sound. ” When a record sounds like a CD it goes in the trade-in pile, not on our site.

We encouraged the lucky owner to play the bad side for himself just to hear how awful it is, yet surprisingly, one might even say shockingly, it has exactly the qualities that audiophiles and collectors are most often satisfied with: the right label, and, in this case even the right stampers (assuming anyone besides us would know what the right stampers are). (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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

This is in fact one of the better sounding “later period” (1976) Stones records we’ve played, if we’re talking about the better copies, like this one. The best pressings are big, open, dynamic and full-bodied, with exceptionally lively percussion. As always, credit goes to the recording engineers, Glyn Johns et al., as well as Lee Hulko at Sterling, the original mastering engineer (who’s cut about as many good sounding records as anyone we can think of).  

Hand of Fate is our favorite on side one, sounding like an unreleased track from Exile on Main Street. I’m guessing Glyn Johns had a lot to do with that one sounding as meaty and raw as it does. Following Hot Stuff, it balances that one’s bright, clear sound nicely, making it easy to separate the real winners from the also-rans. (more…)