Top Engineers – Brian Humphries

McDonald and Giles – A Sleeper Prog Album from 1970

Hot Stamper Pressings of Prog Rock Albums Available Now

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

Brian Humphries engineered the album, and although you may not be familiar with that name, if you’re an audiophile you should get to know his work better, as this guy recorded some amazing sounding albums.

Take a gander at this group:

  • Black Sabbath – Paranoid
  • Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
  • Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die
  • Traffic – The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys 

Two are of course on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, and all four — five if you count McDonald And Giles — qualify as State of the Art Rock Recordings from the era.

Demo Disc Quality Sound

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good the best early Island Label recordings can sound, this killer copy should do the trick.

This UK pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This IS the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There may well be a CD of this album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable and a good collection of vintage vinyl could care less.

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Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

  • This Pink Floyd classic is back on import vinyl that boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The vinyl has some issues, so those of you looking for a quieter copy may want to wait for one of those to hit the site
  • If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know, with music and sound like this, we hope to be able to do this shootout again soon
  • Demo Disc Quality Floyd Magic — our Hot Stamper pressings are bigger, richer, more dynamic, have better bass, more immediacy, and more of just about everything that makes a Classic Pink Floyd album a listening experience like no other
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, a Top 100 title and one that is tough to find with sound this good and surfaces this (relatively) quiet
  • “Showcasing the group’s interplay and David Gilmour’s solos in particular… the long, winding soundscapes are constantly enthralling.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this classic from 1975 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • A permanent member of our Rock and Pop Top 100 and, on big speakers at loud levels, a Demo Disc of the Highest Order

The sound of this very special import pressing is HUGE, open, and spacious like nothing you have ever heard.  It’s also exceptionally transparent, with substantial amounts of depth and three-dimensionality.

There is a huge room around the drums that we guarantee you have never heard sound as big and real as it does on this very record.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. 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).

Here is the size, energy, and presence to bring the music out of the speakers and right into your listening room! (more…)

Black Sabbath – Paranoid

More Black Sabbath

More Rock Classics

  • Black Sabbath’s killer second album returns to the site with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has the kind of energy, presence, and fullness needed to bring the best out of this Heavy Metal classic
  • This copy is on the second label, which is not a problem for this album because it’s still got the right mastering house mark in the dead wax, which is the main reason it would qualify to be put in a shootout
  • Drop the needle on a good copy and you’ll quickly hear how correct it sounds — it’s got a HUGE bottom end, excellent presence, a good amount of tubey magic and TONS of energy
  • 5 stars: “Paranoid refined Black Sabbath’s signature sound — crushingly loud, minor-key dirges loosely based on heavy blues-rock — and applied it to a newly consistent set of songs with utterly memorable riffs, most of which now rank as all-time metal classics.”

It’s taken us ages to find good pressings of this album, probably because just about every copy we see has been beat to death by the crazy muthas who originally bought ’em! Let’s face it — this wasn’t an album bought and treasured by people who know how to take care of their records; this was a record bought by kids who probably played it after getting wasted with their buddies. (No shame in that, of course!)

The music is freakin’ great, by the way. Since Ozzy has basically become a cartoon version of himself (as charming as that is) it’s easy to forget that these guys were a serious classic rock band that was duking it out with Zep for the hearts and minds of young hard rock fans in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

This album set the foundation for heavy metal, and I’m not sure anyone ever topped it. Play this album back to back with Zep II and it’s pretty clear the two bands were fueling each other, pushing both bands into creating bigger, bolder, better riff-based rockers.

Allmusic calls this “one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time” and when it sounds this good, I’m guessing you’ll agree! “War Pigs,” “Fairies Wear Boots,” “Electric Funeral,” “Rat Salad” (drummer Bill Ward’s answer to Bonham’s “Moby Dick”) and the title track are some of the classic tracks on this album.

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Letter of the Week – “This is worth every dollar. I’m extremely pleased.”

Progressive Rock Albums with Hot Stampers

More Debut Albums of Interest

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

Hey Tom, 

I played McDonald & Giles last night

WOW!

Massive improvement over my US first pressing I bought new back in the day. I could tell it was produced with care but I was pleasantly surprised just how nice it is.

This is worth every dollar. I’m extremely pleased.

I hope you can find a better cover for me.

A question: I have pressings of Ziggy and Aladinsane. Also a very nice UK RCA 1st pressing of Pinups.

They are much better than the US versions I have played since the early 1970’s (yes, still in great shape as I’ve always had decent playback equipment)

Sonically these 3 are not at the same level as McDonald & Giles. Do your white stampers of these titles have the warmth, detail and impact of that one?

Happy listening

Greg

Greg,

Ziggy has the potential to sound better than M and G, but that’s what good cleaning and shootouts are for, to find the best copies.

All you can do is keep buying them and improving your cleaning technology, eventually you should find something better, maybe even much better.

And the next top quality Ziggy we find will sell for $1000 or more.

So there is probably not much we can do for you there, sorry!

TP


FURTHER READING

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McDonald and Giles – McDonald and Giles

More Prog Rock

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

  • You’ll find incredible sound on both sides of this very well recorded proggy album
  • These early UK pressed sides are full of the kind of Tubey Magic that makes us (and other right-thinking audiophiles) swoon – thanks Brian Humphries!
  • If you like early King Crimson – they were in the band don’t you know – you will surely get a big kick out of this one-of-a-kind sleeper from 1970
  • 4 stars: “The main attraction is really the performances turned in by McDonald and the Giles brothers — they all sound fabulous…”
  • If you’re a Prog Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1970 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Brian Humphries engineered the album, and although you may not be all that familiar with his name, if you’re an audiophile you know his work well. Take a gander at this group:

  • Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die
  • Black Sabbath – Paranoid
  • Traffic – The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys
  • Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Two are of course on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, and all four — five if you count McDonald And Giles — qualify as State of the Art Rock Recordings from the era. (more…)

What We Think We Know about Pink Floyd’s Amazing Wish You Were Here Album from 1975

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Wish You Were Here

We have added some moderately helpful title specific advice at the bottom of the listing for those of you want to find your own Hot Stamper pressing.

This is the perfect example of everything we look for in a recording here at Better Records: it’s dynamic, present, transparent, rich, full-bodied, super low-distortion, sweet — good copies of this record have exactly what we need to make us audiophiles forget what our stereos are doing and focus instead on what the musicians are doing.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the album, Pink Floyd managed to record one of the most amazing sounding records in the history of rock music. The song Wish You Were Here starts out with radio noise and other sound effects, then suddenly an acoustic guitar appears, floating in the middle of your living room between the speakers, clear as a bell and as real as you have ever heard. It’s obviously an “effect,” but for us audiophiles it’s pure ear candy.   

The Seventies – What a Decade!

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. 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).

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Yes and far too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

Big Production Tubey Magical British Prog Rock just doesn’t get much better than Wish You Were Here.

A Big Speaker Record

Let’s face it, this is a BIG SPEAKER recording. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It demands to be played LOUD. It simply cannot come to life the way the producers, engineers and artists involved intended if you play it at moderate levels.

This is also the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Systems driving Big Dynamic Speakers. You need a lot of piston area to bring the dynamics of this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.

For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so.) To tell you the truth, the Big Sound is the only sound that I can enjoy. Anything less is just not for me.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.

Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean British original copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of original pressings of Classic Rock albums.

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience. (more…)

Pink Floyd / Animals – About Ten Years Ago We Discovered the Hottest Stampers of Them All

More Pink Floyd

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

  • An outstanding vintage UK copy with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too (for the most part)
  • The best sounding pressing are British reissues, a discovery we made about ten years ago — nothing can touch them
  • For those who appreciate the concept, nothing we have played to date can touch them, but tomorrow we could find a stamper with even better sound – who can say what tomorrow may bring?
  • Forget the dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl and the domestic pressings too – only these Brits have the Tubey Magical Midrange that this Pink Floyd album needs
  • “Of all of the classic-era Pink Floyd albums, Animals is the strangest and darkest, a record that’s hard to initially embrace yet winds up yielding as many rewards as its equally nihilistic successor, The Wall. Animals is all extended pieces, yet it never drifts — it slowly, ominously works its way toward its destination. For an album that so clearly is Waters’, David Gilmour’s guitar dominates thoroughly …it surges with bold blues-rock guitar lines and hypnotic space rock textures.”

As of 2021, Animals sounds better to us this way:

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

On the Right Import Pressing 

On the Right Reissue Pressing

If you are interested, click on the link below for:

More Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice (more…)

Traffic – Self-Titled

  • An incredible sounding Island pink label pressing and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Both of these sides are rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet still incredibly open and spacious; there’s tons of bottom end weight too!
  • “As Mason’s simpler, more direct performances alternate with the more complex Winwood tunes, the album is well-balanced… their second consecutive Top Ten ranking in the U.K.; the album also reached the Top 20 in the U.S.” – All Music, 5 Stars

This vintage Island pink label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Traffic – Welcome to the Canteen

More Traffic

More Steve Winwood

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on this UK copy of the band’s first live album
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – these imports are the only way to fly
  • 4 stars: “… the playing was exemplary, and the set list was an excellent mixture of old Traffic songs and recent Mason favorites. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” got an extended workout, and the capper was a rearranged version of Steve Winwood’s old Spencer Davis Group hit “Gimme Some Lovin’.” …Welcome to the Canteen’s status as only a semi-legitimate offering was emphasized by the release of The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. But that doesn’t make it any less appealing as a summing up of the Winwood/Mason/Traffic musical world.”

This vintage Island import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Traffic – The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys – Another Disgraceful MoFi Anadisq Release

More of the Music of Traffic

More of the Music of Steve Winwood

Sonic Grade: F

Another MoFi LP debunked.

Of course our Hot Stamper pressings are going to be better than the Anadisq LP from the mid ’90s.

How much better?

Words fail me.

The MoFi was an out and out disaster. Perhaps some of the MoFi collectors didn’t notice because they had nothing to compare it to. God forbid they would ever lower themselves to buy a “common” pressing such as one of our domestic Islands.

Had they done so what they would have heard is huge amounts of musical information that is simply missing from the MoFi pressing.

The MoFi has no leading edges to any of the transients; they’re shaved off, how they achieved this I cannot begin to fathom. Bad cutting equipment using a dull needle?

Blunted and smeared, their version is positively unlistenable. Robert Pincus once left a Post-It note stuck to a MoFi jacket of a record he was playgrading for me that pointedly summed up our shared thoughts on the quality of their mastering: “Did MoFi bother to listen to this before they ruined it?”