Top Engineers – Chris Huston

War – Bass, Choruses and Energy Are Key to the Best Pressings

More of the Music of War

More Jazz / Rock Fusion Records with Hot Stampers

[This review was originally published about 2012 or so. Note that we rarely have any War records in stock. If you see one, grab it, the recordings on the best pressings are positively amazing on big speakers at loud levels.]

We just finished our first big shootout for this fun album — the All Music Guide calls it “a magical ride with plenty of surprises to keep the listener on his or her toes” and we couldn’t agree more.

This copy gives you punchy bass, airy flutes, hard-hitting percussion and loads of Tubey Magic. Many copies we played had too much hardness, edge, and midrange honk, but this one is smooth, sweet and rich.

Engineered by the brilliant Chris Huston, this recording displays all his trademark gifts.

His mixes feature:

lots of bass;

huge, room-filling choruses that get loud without straining or congestion; and

rhythmic energy that few pop recordings could lay claim to in 1972.

The links above will take you to other albums that are good for testing all of these qualities.

As for the choruses, allow me to paraphrase our listing from Commoner’s Crown.

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that actually has actual, measurable, serious dynamic contrasts in its levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many songs. The first track on side two, Four Cornered Room, is a perfect example. Not only are the choruses noticeably louder than the verses, but later on in the song the choruses get REALLY LOUD, louder than the choruses of 99 out of 100 rock/pop records we audition. It sometimes takes a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically everything else you own is.

The Top Is Important Too

Richness and weight are key to the sound, but oddly enough an extended top end was almost as crucial to the success of the best copies. When the top end extends, the sound is open and relaxed. When the various songs build to their climaxes, the copies with lots of clean top end had a sense of “ease” that simply was not to be found on the smoother (read: duller) brethren.

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Led Zeppelin / II – Back to the Stone Age

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP reviewed.

Yes, it’s yet another record perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

This version of Zep’s sophomore release from 1969 has to be one of the worst audiophile remastering jobs in the history of the world. There is NOT ONE aspect of the sound that isn’t wrong. Not one!

The highs are boosted, the upper midrange is boosted, the mid-bass is boosted, the low bass is missing — what part of the frequency spectrum is even close to correct on this pressing? The answer: none.

If you’re in the market for a Hot Stamper pressing of Led Zeppelin II, we can help you, but prices these days are steep and show no sign of coming down. We typically pay $1000+ or more for the used copies we buy if that tells you anything about what to expect a Hot Stamper pressing will cost you.

Records are getting awfully expensive these days, and it’s not just our Hot Stampers that seem priced for perfection.

If you are still buying these modern remastered pressings, making the same mistakes that I was making before I knew better, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered LPs.

At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy. of the album.

And if for some reason you disagree with us that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the best.

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Led Zeppelin / Led Zeppelin II

More Led Zeppelin

A Top Ten Title

  • This pressing may be the QUIETEST Robert Ludwig pressing we have ever played, with no marks and no Inner Groove Damage (which is almost always present on “Thank You”)
  • The seller charged us a pretty penny for this copy, and he was right to do so — we just never find them with audiophile surfaces such as these
  • Years ago we gave up on everything but these killer RL (and SS) pressings, because nothing else can hold a candle to them
  • With copies selling for $1000+ on ebay, sometimes $3000+, we’re forced to pay big bucks for Zep II these days, but if any album is worth it, it’s this one

At least 80% of the copies we buy these days — for many, many hundreds of dollars each I might add, more than a grand on occasion — go right back to the seller. The biggest problem we run into besides obvious scratches that play and worn out grooves is easy to spot: just play the song “Thank You” at the end of side one. Most of the time there is inner groove damage so bad that the track becomes virtually unlistenable.

It’s become a common dealbreaker for the records we buy on the internet. We get them in, we play that track, we hear it distort and we pack the record up and send it back to the seller.

But this copy plays clean all the way to the end on both sides — assuming you have a highly-tweaked, high-performance front end of course.

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War – The World Is A Ghetto

More of the Music of War

More Jazz / Rock Fusion Records with Hot Stampers

  • A STUNNING copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Both of these sides are so open and three-dimensional, with tons of bass and driving rhythmic energy like no other
  • 4 stars: “‘The Cisco Kid’ and ‘The World Is a Ghetto’ understandably dominated the album’s exposure, but there’s much more to enjoy here, even decades on. Beyond the quality of the musicianship, the classy, forward-looking production has held up remarkably well…”

Engineered by the brilliant Chris Huston, this recording displays all his trademark gifts. His mixes feature lots of bass; huge, room-filling choruses that get loud without straining or becoming congested; and rhythmic energy that few pop recordings could lay claim to in 1972.

As for the choruses, allow me to paraphrase another listing, the from Commoner’s Crown.

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that actually has actual, measurable, serious dynamic contrasts in its levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many songs. The first track on side two, Four Cornered Room, is a perfect example. Not only are the choruses noticeably louder than the verses, but later on in the song the choruses get REALLY LOUD, louder than the choruses of 99 out of 100 rock/pop records we audition. It sometimes takes a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically everything else you own is

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War / Why Can’t We Be Friends? – A True Demo Disc

More War

This Well Recorded Album Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

  • An incredible copy of the band’s 1975 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • One of our favorite albums here at Better Records and clearly the band’s Masterpiece – the bass and dynamics on the better pressings make this a Demo Disc on the right system
  • 4 stars [but we give it 5]: “Cut from the same cloth as the band’s 1973 Deliver the Word LP, War’s 1975 Why Can’t We Be Friends? is a masterpiece in its scope and breadth. [It] remains one of War’s truly outstanding efforts, and has become an integral part of the funk genre’s landscape. It also remains the nightcap of their finest hour.”

Engineered by the brilliant Chris Huston, this recording displays all his trademark gifts. His mixes feature lots of bass; huge, room-filling choruses that get loud without straining or becoming congested; and rhythmic energy that few pop recordings could lay claim to in 1975.

Low Rider sounds AWESOME on this one. This is the kind of record you can take to any stereo store or audiophile friend’s house and bring their stereos to their knees. Audiophile systems are rarely designed to play this kind of music at the levels it demands, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be. Records like this are the challenge we audiophiles need to make our stereos even better. When the music is this good it’s worth the effort

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War – Deliver The Word

  • Insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this Shootout Winning copy – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Thanks to the brilliant engineering of Chris Huston, the sound is War at its best: big, rich, smooth and clear, with the kind of low end whomp that few rock records from the era can claim
  • 4 Stars: “A smooth blend of the band’s more progressive jazz-rock fusion, the LP shot to the top of the R&B charts, their second of four number one records in a row. It was a perfect tonic to the mediocre MOR music rampaging its way through the early part of the decade…A magical ride with plenty of surprises to keep the listener on his or her toes, this set is a perfect example of the band at their genre-fusing best.”

Engineered by the brilliant Chris Huston, this recording displays all his trademark gifts. His mixes feature lots of bass; huge, room-filling choruses that get loud without straining or becoming congested; and rhythmic energy that few pop recordings could lay claim to in 1972.

As for the choruses, allow me to paraphrase our listing from Commoner’s Crown.

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that actually has actual, measurable, serious dynamic contrasts in its levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many songs. The first track on side two, Four Cornered Room, is a perfect example. Not only are the choruses noticeably louder than the verses, but later on in the song the choruses get REALLY LOUD, louder than the choruses of 99 out of 100 rock/pop records we audition. It sometimes takes a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically everything else you own is.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Richness and weight are key to the sound, but oddly enough an extended top end was almost as crucial to the success of the best copies. When the top end extends, the sound is open and relaxed. When the various songs build to their climaxes, the copies with lots of clean top end had a sense of “ease” that simply was not to be found on the smoother (read: duller) brethren. (more…)

Led Zeppelin II on Classic Records – Seriously, What Could Be Sadder?

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

More Led Zeppelin on Classic Records Reviewed

An absolute DISASTER — ridiculously bright and ridiculously crude. In short, a completely unlistenable piece of garbage.

Over the years we have done many Led Zeppelin shootouts, often including the Classic Heavy Vinyl Pressings as a “reference.” After all, the Classic pressings are considered by many — if not most — audiophiles as superior to other pressings. What could be sadder?

In fact. you will find very few critics of the Classic Zep LPs outside of those of us (me and the rat in my pocket) who write for this very website, and even we used to recommend three of the Zep titles on Classic: Led Zeppelin I, IV and Presence.

Wrong on all counts.

Since then we’ve made it a point to review most of the Classic Zeps, a public service of Better Records. We don’t actually like any of them now, although the first album is still by far the best of the bunch.

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War / Richness Or Transparency – On This Album You Need Both

Below we discuss two qualities essential to the sound of War’s Masterpiece of Jazzy Soul, Why Can’t We Be Friends? 

Richness and Transparency 

As usually happens in these shootouts we learned that there’s so much more to this album than just big bass. What really makes this music come alive on the best copies was the result of two qualities we found were in fairly short supply: Richness and Transparency.

When the vocals sound thin and pinched as they do on so many copies of this album, possibly the result of the grainy crap vinyl UA is infamous for, that sour sound takes all the fun out of the music. Many tracks have group vocals and choruses, and the best copies make all the guys sound like they are standing in a big room, shoulder to shoulder, belting it out live and in living color.

These are not classically trained singers. These are guys who love their music, who make up in enthusiasm what they lack in polish. I say more power to them. Smoke ’em if you got ’em and turn it up!

The good copies capture that energy and bring it into the mix with the full-bodied sound it no doubt had live in the studio. When the EQ or the vinyl goes awry and their voices start to take on a lean or gritty quality, the party’s over.

Seriously; this album has a party atmosphere; it’s overflowing with fun energy. If you can’t play it loud enough to rock because the sound is fighting you with every click of the volume knob, what is the point of playing it all? (more…)