Top Engineers – Armin Steiner

Neil Diamond – Stones

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  • A Shootout Winner – Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first – this is the way to hear Neil Diamond!
  • Armin Steiner engineered the album, and it’s Neil’s best recorded release (that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers)
  • Stones and I Am… I Said are killer on the A+++ side one, but both sides have outstanding sonics
  • 4 Stars: “Stones is a stronger album than most of Neil Diamond’s late-’60s records. An engaging collection of mainstream pop.”

I can’t say for sure that this is the best sounding Neil Diamond album, we haven’t been through all of them yet, but it’s certainly the best sounding album of his that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers. Good luck finding another copy of Stones out in the bins that deliver top quality sonics the likes of these — we went through a TON of copies and only a small number held our interest. (more…)

Bread – The Best of Bread

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing will show you just how good Bread’s music can sound on All Analog vinyl
  • A Better Records Desert Island Disc if there ever was one — believe me, there are scores of them
  • This is one of the rare Greatest Hits compilations (and this band had a LOT of hits) that is sonically competitive with the original albums
  • You’ll find most of the best Bread ballads here, including Make It With You, Everything I Own, Baby I’m A Want You, and If
  • All Music on their first album – “… effectively the birth of Californian soft rock…” (We think this applies equally well to all of their early material)

A Better Records Desert Island Disc if ever there was one. Believe me, there are plenty of them.

Listening to these acoustic guitars brings back memories of my first encounter with a British original of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic — that sound knocked me out thirty years ago, and here it is again. I guess I’ve just always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. (I was buying Bread album in the early Seventies while still in high school.) If you are too, then this killer copy of The Best of Bread will no doubt become a treasured disc in your home as well.

When you hear sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more than the sound. Over the years I’ve even come to enjoy the rockers on side two. I used to consider side two the weak part of the album. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It’s Pure Pop for Now People, to borrow a good line from Nick Lowe.

Of course, by Now People, I’m referring to people who appreciate the music that came out more than thirty years ago. Whenever I hear a pop record with sound like this, I have to ask myself, “What went wrong with popular recordings over the last two or three decades? Why do none of them ever sound like this?”

Not to worry. Audiophiles with good turntables have literally an endless supply of good recordings to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you have, you can’t have scratched the surface of the recorded legacy of the last 60+ years. That’s the positive thought for the day. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just another step on your journey through the world of music.

One further note. Records like this only get better over time. There are no shortcomings in this recording to be revealed by better equipment, in painfully stark contrast to the vast majority of audiophile pressings and remasterings that reveal their phony, lifeless and often just plain weird sound as your stereo and critical listening skills improve. In other words, if you make a change to your stereo and this record starts to sound better, you did the right thing. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Hot August Night

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

The Neil Diamond Live is one the best I’ve ever bought from you. You were too kind to the Mofi: yours destroyed it. My stock copy is worthless. An unusually well recorded live album. You are so right. And your copy is awesome. (more…)

Bread – Manna

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  • Manna finally returns to the site after more than 6 years with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • A superb album, featuring one of the strongest rockers the band ever recorded, “Let Your Love Go”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this is a record that is laid-back and even tempered, which isn’t a bad thing — it results in a fine listen, especially since the group’s songwriting remains at the high standard instituted on that first Bread album.”

(more…)

Neil Diamond – Hot August Night

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  • KILLER sound on ALL FOUR SIDES with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • The superb presence and energy here have the power to bring the definitive Neil Diamond concert performance right into your very own listening room
  • If you own the MoFi, this copy will show you how they screwed up the sound of Neil’s voice – nothing new there, right?
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This is the ultimate Neil Diamond record. Not necessarily the best – he’s at his most appealing crafting in the studio – but certainly the ultimate, capturing all the kitsch and glitz of Neil Diamond, the showman.”

The sound here presents a textbook case of the basic elements we listen for, on Hot August Night as well as practically any other Classic Live Rock Album we might be playing. As we’ve said for years, none of this is rocket science. It all boils down to critical listening of lots of copies played on top-quality equipment, no more, no less. (more…)

Bread – On The Waters – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More Bread

More On The Waters

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

Hot Stampers have finally been discovered for the most consistent and BEST SOUNDING of the Bread albums (not counting the Best of Bread compilation, one of our long time favorites here at Better Records, but a compilation nevertheless). This is the record that put their heavily Beatles-inflected Pure Pop on the map, and at the top of the charts with their Number One hit single Make It With You.

We used to think that only the Best of Bread album could get that song to sound as luscious and Tubey Magical as it does when we hear it in our heads, but it seems we were wrong — it sounds positively amazing on the best copies of On The Waters. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. (more…)

Neil Diamond – Hot August Night

More Neil Diamond

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

Our two White Hot sides here are bigger, richer, clearer, livelier and more tonally correct than the two others — two others which are guaranteed to be bigger, richer, clearer, etc. than any sides of any copy you own or even any copy you have ever heard .

In fact, the sound here presents a textbook case of just what the basic elements we listen for would be, for Hot August Night as well as practically any other Classic Live Rock Album we might be playing. As we’ve said for years, none of this rocket science. It all boils down to critical listening to lots of copies played on top quality equipment — no more, no less. 

The sound here presents a textbook case of the basic elements we listen for, on Hot August Night as well as practically any other Classic Live Rock Album we might be playing. As we’ve said for years, none of this is rocket science. It all boils down to critical listening of lots of copies played on top-quality equipment, no more, no less. (more…)

Bread – Manna – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

Presented for your listening pleasure, an original pressing of Manna, Bread’s third album, with Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides. Side one rocks with the best of them — yes, Bread can rock; just play Let Your Love Go to see what I mean.

Side two boasts sweet and rich 1971 ANALOG sound, a credit to engineer ARMIN STEINER (who was also one of the engineers on Spirit’s first album, assisted on Ram and has more than a hundred other engineering credits).

That big rich bottom end and the volume of space that surrounds all the instruments and singers are the purest and most delightful form of Audiophile Candy of which we know.

The acoustic guitars? To die for. Talk about Tubey Magical Analog, this copy will show you just what’s missing from modern remastered records (and modern music generally). Whatever became of that sound?

This record put Bread’s heavily Beatles-inflected Pure Pop back on the charts after their the single from their previous album, On The Waters, made it to Number One, that song of course being Make It With You. “If”, the big hit off this album, went to number five, but we like it every bit as much as that earlier chart topper. Both represent the perfect melding of consummate songcraft and pure emotion.

We used to think that only the Best of Bread album could get those two songs to sound as luscious and Tubey Magical as they do when they’re playing in our heads, but it seems we were wrong — the latter sounds positively amazing on the best copies of Manna, and this is a VERY good copy indeed: A++ on both sides. (more…)

Neil Diamond – Moods

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  • Moods makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals and in-your-listening-room midrange presence – don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along with “Song Sung Blue” 
  • “This album, and its follow-up live album Hot August Night, are generally acknowledged to be the two most important recording projects of Diamond’s career in terms of defining his signature sound for the future.”
  • “There is nothing on this album that is not catchy, intelligent, playful, sentimental and incredibly likable.”

(more…)

Bread – Bread – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More Bread

More Bread – Bread

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

Side two of Bread’s debut here — the one that shows the heaviest influence of The Beatles, this being 1969 — is smoother, silkier, and sweeter than any copy we’ve EVER played. There’s TONS of life and energy and the clarity and resolution are nothing short of superb. The sound is clean and clear without losing any of the Tubey Magical Warmth we prize so highly here at Better Records. The bottom end here is deep and punchy with stellar definition. Side two rates an A++ to A+++, the best we’ve heard. (It may not get any better.) Bruce Botnick only recorded one album with Bread but it’s clearly one of the best sounding in their catalog, no surprise there. (more…)