Top Engineers – Martin Birch

Deep Purple – Made In Japan

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  • This outstanding UK pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades for sound or BETTER on all four sides 
  • Surpisingly clean, undistorted sound for a live album, yet every bit as big and lively as a Hard Rockin’ Live Album should be
  • In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness, Made In Japan might just be The Best Sounding Live Album of All Time
  • Rolling Stone: “They’ve done countless shows since in countless permutations, but they’ve never sounded quite this perfect.”

*A mark makes 5 loud to medium pops near the beginning of track 1, Highway Star.

Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan I’d put the album right up there with the best of the best. In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness — qualities that are usually in very short supply on live albums — I would have to say that the shootout winning copies of Made In Japan would be very likely to take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Album of All Time.

Yes, the sound is that good.

Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought Martin Birch along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me – Whomp Factor on “Why”

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

That bass drum tells you a lot about your deep bass reproduction, but we prize a little something called whomp here at Better Records every bit as much. It’s the WEIGHT and POWER you sense happening down below that translates into whomp factor. (This is the frequency area that screens and small dynamic drivers have the most trouble with. You need to be able to move lots of air under, say, 200 cycles to give the music a sense of real power down below. Few systems I’ve run into over the last thirty years can really pull it off.) 

That bass drum tells you a lot about your deep bass reproduction, but we prize a little something called whomp here at Better Records every bit as much. It’s the WEIGHT and POWER you sense happening down below that translates into whomp factor.

“Why”

Speaking of the song “Why,” I have to confess that it’s my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of all time. Considering how many great songs this band has recorded over the last thirty plus years, that’s really saying something. (“Need Your Love So Bad” off Pious Bird is right up there with it.) (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Penguin

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout  
  • This early Reprise LP is a huge step up from most – this copy is full-bodied, smooth and musical – classic Fleetwood Mac sound
  • One of my favorite songs on the album is one of Christine McVie’s best from this period, Did You Ever Love Me – on this pressing it’s rich and sweet exactly the way it should be
  • “Fleetwood Mac’s first album made after the departure of Danny Kirwan features the additions of guitarist Bob Weston and singer Dave Walker… This album gave Fleetwood Mac its best U.S. chart showing yet…”

This is the rare copy that strikes the right balance between richness and texture. So many copies sacrifice one for the other, but not here. Fully extended on both top and bottom, with big bass and plenty of energy, this pressing is getting Penguin right. 

On the best pressings, the sound is positively JUMPING out of the speakers in a way that is completely unexpected. We often talk about the size of the soundfield on a particular pressing, side to side, bottom to top, and even more often about the energy found on one copy relative to another. On this copy, we were surprised by a Penguin that was bigger and more energetic than most of the pressings we heard in our shootout. (more…)

The Faces – Long Player – Their Best Sounding Album – Best Music Too

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WA distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

We knew this album could sound good, but back in the day we sure didn’t know it could sound like this. The best pressings of this album have amazing live-in-the-studio sound that conveys completely the raw power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time. 

Both musically and sonically I don’t think the group ever recorded a better album than this one.

Take the wonderful Bad ‘N’ Ruin (the opening track on side one) for example. It’s the sound of open mics in a big studio space — nothing more, nothing less. It’s totally free from any phony mastering or bad EQ, and on a Hot Stamper copy like this one, it’s absolute magic.

MARTIN BIRCH was the engineer for the first two tracks on side one. You may know him from his work with Fleetwood Mac (1969-1973) and Deep Purple (1969-1977), including the amazingly well-recorded albums Machine Head and Made In Japan. (more…)

Deep Purple – Machine Head

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Machine Head

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  • Two killer sides clocking in at Double Plus (A++) – the sound is HUGE, with real energy, presence and whomp – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Amazingly spacious and three-dimensional, no doubt the result of the album being recorded practically live in the studio
  • Their superbly talented engineer, Martin Barre, recorded the big, bold, rich, smooth sound of British Rock about as well as anyone ever did
  • 5 stars: “Machine Head was anything but a one-trick pony, introducing the bona fide classic opener “Highway Star,” which epitomized all of Deep Purple’s intensity and versatility while featuring perhaps the greatest soloing duel ever between guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and organist Jon Lord.”

When you get a Hot Stamper pressing like this one, Machine Head is a True Rock and Roll Demo Disc. Since our stereo is all about playing these kinds of records, and playing them at good loud levels as nature — and the artists — intended, we had a helluva time with Machine Head.

It had the kind of presence and energy that puts most copies of this album to shame. It’s also amazingly spacious, the result no doubt of it being recorded practically live in the studio. On the best copies, you can really hear the sound bouncing off the studio walls, just as you can on the best Zep, AC/DC and Bad Co. albums. You can just tell they are all playing this one live: it’s so relaxed and natural and REAL sounding. (more…)

Deep Purple – Who Do We Think We Are! – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This British Import Purple Records pressing has a GREAT side one, and AMAZING A+++ side two, and VERY QUIET VINYL throughout! I don’t think you could find a better sounding side two no matter what you did. The sound here is BIG, BOLD and LIVELY with real weight down low and excellent presence. It really JUMPS out of the speakers and fills up the room! Side one is very good as well, with all of the qualities described above. It doesn’t fully open up the way side two does, but it still slaughtered most of the copies we played it against.

The big hit song from this one was Woman From Tokyo and it sounds excellent on this copy — very natural with real texture to the guitars and lots of WHOMP down low. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Here it is, folks — the best sounding copy of Mystery To Me to ever hit our site. This copy positively DOES IT ALL — it’s super open and spacious with tons of energy and incredible presence. The bottom end is just KILLER and there’s dramatically more richness and fullness than you get on most copies out there. 

It’s beyond difficult to find great sounding copies of this album, which is why it’s been about four years since we last had these on the site.

Mystery To Me is my All Time Favorite Fleetwood Mac album, and this White Hot Stamper copy has the sound that I always DREAMED this album could have, but didn’t — until now. This is just the second Hot Stamper shootout that we’ve been able to do, since clean copies with the right stampers are ridiculously hard to come by. I’m not kidding. I have spent the last ten years and more trying to find the right stampers for this record. I can tell you I was dead wrong so many times in the past that I had almost given up. Time and time again, just when I thought I had it figured out, I would go back and play my so-called “hot” copy, to find myself miserably disappointed all over again. (more…)

Deep Purple – In Rock

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In Rock

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  • Both these UK sides have excellent sound for the band’s 1970 Classic, earning Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Only the Brit Harvest LPs such as this one are made from the actual master tape, and it sure ain’t hard to hear the difference using the real tape makes
  • In our experience, these import pressings are the only way to hear the band with the big, rich, Tubey Magical sound they’re famous for
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Deep Purple’s soon to be classic Mark II version made its proper debut and established the sonic blueprint that would immortalize this lineup of the band on 1970’s awesome In Rock.”

The best pressings give you exactly what you want from this brand of straight ahead rock and roll: presence in the vocals; solid, note-like bass; big punchy drums, and the kind of live-in-the-studio energetic, clean and clear sound. (AC/DC is another band with that kind of live studio sound. With big speakers and the power to drive them YOU ARE THERE.) (more…)

Deep Purple – Made In Japan – Another DCC Disaster

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Deep Purple – Made In Japan

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Sonic Grade: D-

Hall of Shame pressing and another DCC LP debunked.

Dead as a doornail sound. Disgraceful.  

Deep Purple – Made In Japan – What To Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

We’ve raved about a number of live albums over the years. Some of the better sounding ones that come readily to mind (in alphabetical order) are Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, David Live, Johnny Cash At San Quentin, Donny Hathaway Live, The Jimi Hendrix Concerts, Performance – Rockin The Fillmore, Live Wire – Blues Power, Waiting For Columbus, Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out and Live at Leeds. I would be proud to have any of them in my collection.

Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan I’d put it right up there with the best of the best. In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness — qualities that are usually in very short supply on live albums — I would have to say that the shootout winning copies of Made In Japan would be very likely to take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Album of All Time. Yes, the sound is that good.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

The best sides tended to have the same qualities. They were huge, open, clear, transparent, rich, tubey and natural.

And of course they rocked, with startling dynamics, massive amounts of bass and a full-bodied midrange. The better the pressing the more the instruments jumped right out of the speakers. Live in your listening room was the sound we were after, and this copy delivers like nothing you have ever heard.

Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought MARTIN BIRCH along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles. (more…)