Top Engineers – Bill Szymczyk

Eagles / Hotel California – DCC Reviewed

More of the Music of The Eagles

Reviews and Commentaries for Hotel California

Sonic Grade: B+/B-

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.  

Differing Grading Scales

Note that the grading scale for Hot Stampers is slightly different than the grading scale we all grew up with in school.

The best Hot Stampers receive a grade of A Triple Plus.

This DCC record for side one is three steps down from that.

Three steps down from an A+ grade in school, the highest grade one could earn, would be a B+, hence the B+ grade you see above.

(more…)

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

More of the Music of The Eagles

More Records that Are Good for Testing Grit and Grain

Most copies have a smeary, veiled, stuck-in-the-speaker quality that makes for some painful listening. Cardboard drums. Non-existent ambience. No energy. (Unless you get one of the hard, edgy, thin ones — we’re not sure which is more unpleasant to play.)

The best copies are a whole different story, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands.

What’s Bill Szymczyk’s problem anyway, you might ask. 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 (which of course it is).

(more…)

Joe Walsh – So What

More Joe Walsh

More of The Eagles

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this classic from Joe Walsh
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • Includes a couple of classics, notably “Welcome to the Club” and a remake of “Turn to Stone”
  • You’ll hear most of the Eagles playing on this one, produced and engineered by the redoubtable Bill Szymczyk
  • “So What sees Walsh in top form as a guitarist. Most of the nine tracks feature solos of unquestionable quality in his usual rock style.”

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 that at least one copy sound good we proceeded to gather up every LP we could get our hands on and make this shootout happen.

Unfortunately, most of what we ended up playing had the kind of mediocre sound we had been suffering through for decades. The best copies had 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 doubtless know.)

The best pressings have (relatively; this is still Joe Walsh album we’re talking about) rich, warm guitars and vocals, supported by tight, punchy bass. Most copies were far less energetic and dynamic than this one. Excellent transparency as well.

All in all, this is pretty much as good as it gets for Joe Walsh in 1974. The very next year he would become an Eagle and help those boys knock it out of the park with Hotel California, their indisputable Magnum Opus.

(more…)

The Eagles / The Long Run – The True Test for Side One

More of the Music of The Eagles

More Records that Are Good for Testing Grit and Grain

Most copies have a smeary, veiled, stuck-in-the-speaker quality that makes for some painful listening. Cardboard drums. Non-existent ambience. No energy. (Unless you get one of the hard, edgy, thin ones — we’re not sure which is worse.)

This one is a whole different story, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands.

What’s Bill Szymczyk’s problem anyway, you might ask. 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 (which of course it is).

What We Listen For on The Long Run

Less grit – smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on The Long Run.

A bigger presentation – more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you have to play this record the better.

More bass and tighter bass. This is fundamentally a pure rock record. It needs weight down low to rock the way Bill Szymczyk wanted it to.

Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.

Good top-end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.

Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find.

Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.

The True Test for Side One

Want to know if you have a good side one on your copy? Here’s an easy test. Timothy B Schmit’s vocal on I Can’t Tell You Why rarely sounds right. Most of the time he’s muffled, pretty far back in the soundstage, and the booth he’s in has practically no ambience. On the good copies, he’s not exactly jumping out of the speakers, but he’s clear, focused, and his voice is breathy and full of emotional subtleties that make the song the heartbreaking powerhouse it is.

This is why you need a Hot Stamper. Most copies don’t let you FEEL the song.

And the rest of the band is cookin’ here as well. From the big, full-bodied bass to the fat, punchy snare, this side is doing practically everything we want it to.

(more…)

The Eagles – One Of These Nights

More Eagles

  • On an exceptionally good sounding copy such as this one, the soaring guitar solo of the title track really comes alive – assuming you have it turned up GOOD and LOUD
  • Lyin’ Eyes and Take It To The Limit sound the way they should – we guarantee you have never heard them sound remotely as good as they do here
  • 4 stars: “…a lyrical stance — knowing and disillusioned, but desperately hopeful — had evolved, and the musical arrangements were tighter and more purposeful. The result was the Eagles’ best-realized and most popular album so far.”

Another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

What to listen for you ask? Dynamic, soaring guitar solos! On the best copies the guitar solos are the loudest parts of some songs, which, as everyone who’s ever been to a rock concert knows, is exactly what happens in live rock music.

This is one of the toughest Eagles albums to find with good sound. This album may never sound quite as good as Hotel California or the self-titled debut, but there are some wonderful songs here and a Hot Stamper like this brings them to life in a way most pressings cannot hope to do.

The best copies are richer and sweeter. When you turn them up, they really come to life. When you play the better sides at Rock Music Volumes they really ROCK. When a copy is cut really clean, as the best ones are, the louder you play them the better they sound. They’re tonally correct at loud levels and a bit dull at what we would call “audiophile” levels. That’s the way it should be. (more…)

The Eagles / The Long Run

More Eagles

More Joe Walsh

  • This copy has a rockin’ Long Run like you have never heard
  • The best songs prove that the Eagles were still at the height of their powers, at least some of the time…
  • The first two songs on both sides are practically as good as it gets for mainstream rock from this era
  • They’re playlist staples of Classic Rock stations from coast to coast to this day
  • “The Long Run is a chilling and altogether brilliant evocation of Hollywood’s nightly Witching Hour, that nocturnal feeding frenzy first detailed by Warren Zevon on his haunting Asylum debut (Warren Zevon, 1976) and the equally powerful Excitable Boy.” — Rolling Stone

The last song on side two, “The Sad Cafe,” is also standout. Others, as they used to say in school, ‘need improvement.’

But five Killer Eagles songs is nothing to sneeze at. This is an album that belongs in your collection, even if you choose to only listen to the best material on it.

(more…)

The Eagles / On The Border – A Must Own Country Rock Classic

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

  • An outstanding British SYL copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound for this criminally underrated California Country Rock Classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl for this album, because early UK pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile playing condition
  • If you’ve never heard one of these early pressings, you have simply never heard this album sound the way it should
  • You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love (their first No. 1) offer Glyn Johns magically delicious DEMO DISC quality sound
  • We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot coming from us – we’ve been big fans for decades
  • This killer album from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. On the Border is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind of sound you’ll hear on this vintage UK pressing (the only kind we sell of course).

The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings). (more…)

Jimmy Witherspoon – Handbags and Gladrags

More Jimmy Witherspoon

More Soul, Blues, and R&B

  • With KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish, this vintage ABC pressing is one of the best we’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are doing practically everything right – they’re super big, rich and lively, with tons of extension at both ends
  • Spacious and transparent, this copy has the three-dimensional soundstaging and natural vocal reproduction that makes these kinds of records such a joy to play (and in the process a record this good makes a mockery of the veiled, lifeless, ambience-free sound of the modern Heavy Vinyl reissue)

(more…)

Ranking The First Seven Albums by The Eagles

More of the Music of The Eagles

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Eagles

Without question the first Eagles album is still their best sounding release.

Hotel California is a classic, no argument there, but even the best sounding copies are a little “modern” for our tastes. I prefer both the music and the sound of On The Border to Hotel CA, but that should clearly be seen as a minority opinion. De gustibus and all that.

Let’s call them their second and third best, we’ll leave the order to you.

The third tier would have One of These Nights, followed by Desperado, The Long Run and Eagles Live.

The less said about any of their albums after 1980 the better.

You know the first album. You know Hotel California. The best Eagles album you don’t know is On The Border.

We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. On the Border is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

(more…)

The Glorious Sound of the SYL Pressing of On The Border

More of the Music of The Eagles

Reviews and Commentaries for On the Border

This commentary was written about fifteen years ago when we discovered how good the British originals of this album can sound.

‘You Never Cry Like A Lover’ is breathtaking on this copy — Glyn Johns is a genius I tell you!

We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot. Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind sound you’ll hear on this Hot Stamper LP!

You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love have SUPERB Glyn Johns Demo Disc Sound on this copy. The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume!

Let’s talk about the Eagles’ records from an audiophile perspective.

The Last Of The Glyn Johns Eagles Records

For their debut the Eagles recorded what we consider to be one of the Ten Best Sounding Rock Records in the history of recorded media. (We sometimes have some in stock. Click here to see.)

Wait a minute, the Eagles didn’t record anything, Glyn Johns did. He deserves all the credit for turning that first album into a Demo Disc of the highest order. Partway through this album, their third, they fired him. (The British ran Winston Churchill out of office after the war, so go figure.) Johns is credited with only two tracks, and as would be expected, those two are the real Demo Disc tracks on the album. (more…)