Top Engineers – Chris Thomas

Listening in Depth to the White Album

Hot Stamper Pressings of The White Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The White Album

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

It’s exceedingly difficult to find audiophile quality sound on The White Album. The Beatles were breaking apart, often recording independently of each other, with their own favorite engineers as enablers, and George Martin nowhere to be found most of the time. They were also experimenting more and more with sound itself, which resulted in wonderful songs and interesting effects. However, these new approaches and added complexity often result in a loss of sonic “purity.”

Let’s face it, most audiophiles like simplicity: A female vocal, a solo guitar — these things are easy to reproduce and often result in pleasing sound, the kind of sound that doesn’t take a lot of expensive equipment or much effort to reproduce.

Dense mixes with wacky EQ are hard to reproduce (our famous Difficulty of Reproduction Scale (DORS) comes into play here), and the White Album is full of that sound, taking a break for songs like Blackbird and Julia.

Some of the Tubey Magic that you hear on Pepper is gone for good. (Play With a Little Help from My Friends on a seriously good Hot Stamper pressing to see what has been lost forever. Lovely Rita would probably work just as well, too.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Looks at the lineup for side one. Is there a rock album on the planet with a better batch of songs?

Having done shootouts for the White Album by the score, we can also say with some certainty that side one is the most difficult side to find White Hot stamper sound for. It’s somewhat rare to find a side one that earns our top Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grade, even when all the other sides do. (Actually what happens more often than not is that we take the best second discs and mate them with the best first discs to make the grades consistent for the whole album. But don’t tell anybody.) (more…)

The Beatles – The White Album

More of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for The White Album

  • An outstanding British pressing of The White Album, with solid sound on all four sides
  • This copy of the Beatles’ Masterpiece (my personal favorite of all their albums) is going to thrill and delight the lucky person who snags it
  • If you’ve heard the half-speed and Heavy Vinyl versions of The White Album, then you know how riddled they are with erroneous and unacceptable mastering choices
  • They are simply not enjoyable on high-quality equipment (or shouldn’t be if your stereo is doing its job right), unlike this wonderful pressing, which is guaranteed to be an unalloyed joy to play
  • “If there is still any doubt that Lennon and McCartney are the greatest song writers since Schubert, then next Friday – with the publication of the new Beatles double LP – should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making…” Right On!

Our Hot Stampers have always been a BIG hit with the folks who’ve been lucky enough to snare them. If you’re ready for a High-Quality copy of The White Album that’s sure to massacre all the pressings you’ve heard until now, you should jump right on this bad boy. (more…)

Procol Harum – Broken Barricades

More Robin Trower

Reviews and Commentaries for Robin Trower and Procol Harum

  • Excellent sound throughout and the first copy to hit the site in many years, earning Double Plus (A++) sonic grades or BETTER on both sides
  • Looking for some proggy music that falls somewhere between Jethro Tull and Supertramp, with sonic credentials to match the recordings of those very well-recorded bands? Well, look no further 
  • This early UK press is full of the Tubey Magic and studio space that makes the band’s recordings the joy they are to play on a heavily-tweaked audiophile rig
  • “Simple Sister… is truly glorious, with Robin Trower’s frightening lead guitar work juxtaposed nicely against a wonderful string arrangement.”
  • If you’re a Prog Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1971 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • This is best sounding recording by the band we have ever heard. Others can be found here.

We LOVED playing this album, both for the music and the sound. These guys don’t get the respect they deserve among audiophiles, but we’re doing our best to try to change that.

Side one kicks off with the hit track Simple Sister, and you won’t believe how hard it rocks. Some copies are overly clean — they have the kind of clarity you might hope to find, but lacked the richness and fullness that makes ’70s analog so involving. Those “clean” copies simply do not earn very high grades from us. We leave that sound to the Heavy Vinyl and CD crowd; they seem to like it. (more…)

The Beatles on Vinyl – An Audiophile Wake Up Call

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Beatles

This commentary was written about 15 years ago. Unlike some of the things I used to say about records and audio, every word of this commentary still holds true in my opinion.

The sound of the best pressings of The Beatles — when cleaned with the Walker Enzyme fluids on the Odyssey machine — are truly revelatory.

So much of what holds their records back is not bad mastering or poor pressing quality or problems with the recording itself. It’s getting the damn vinyl clean. (It’s also helpful to have high quality playback equipment that doesn’t add to the inherent limitations of the recordings.)

Know why you never hear Beatles vinyl playing in stereo stores or audio shows?*

Because they’re TOO DAMN HARD to reproduce. You have to have seriously tweaked, top-quality, correct-sounding equipment — and just the right pressings, natch — to get The Beatles’ music to sound right, and that’s just not the kind of stuff they have at stereo stores and audio shows. (Don’t get me started.)

However, you may have noticed that we sell tons of Beatles Hot Stamper Pressings. We have the stereo that can play them, we have the technology to clean them, and we know just how good the best pressings can sound. The result? Listings for Beatles Hot Stampers on the site all the time.

Five of their titles — the most of any band — are on our Rock and Pop Top 100 List. That ought to tell you something. (Let It Be and Revolver would easily make the list as well, but seven albums from one band seemed like overkill, so we’re holding firm at five for now.)

A True Pass/Fail Test for Equipment

I’ve been saying for years that an audiophile system that can’t play Beatles records is a system that has failed a fundamentally important test of musicality. Everyone knows what The Beatles sound like. We’ve been hearing their music our whole lives.

We know what kind of energy their songs have.

What kind of presence.

What kind of power.

When all or most or even just many of those qualities are missing from the sound coming out of the speakers, we have no choice but to admit that something is very very wrong.

I’ve heard an awful lot of audiophile stereos that can play audiophile records just fine, but when it comes to the recordings of The Beatles they fall apart, and badly. Really badly.

Super Detailed may be fine for echo-drenched Patricia Barber records, but it sure won’t cut it with The Beatles. Of course the owners of these wacky systems soon start pointing fingers at the putative shortcomings of the recordings themselves, but we at Better Records — and our Hot Stamper customers — know better.

You can blame the messenger as much as you want — it’s a natural human tendency, I do it myself on occasion — but that sure won’t help you get your stereo working right.

The Beatles albums are the ultimate Audiophile Wake Up Call. It’s the reason practically no equipment reviewers in the world have ever used recordings by The Beatles as test records when making their judgments. The typical audiophile system — regardless of price — just can’t get their music to sound right.

Reviewers and the magazines they write for don’t want you to know that, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

* (Love doesn’t count; give me a break. I hope we’re over that one by now. Couldn’t stand to be in the room with it.)

(more…)

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon

  • With Hot Stamper sound from start to finish, this mind-blowing recording is guaranteed to rock your world
  • The transparency, the clarity, the energy, the power – it’s all here on these very special import pressings
  • Just listen to how clear the clocks are on Time, how breathy the vocals are on Breathe, how textured the synthesizers are and how silky the top end is from the beginning of the album all the way to the powerful finish
  • A Top 100 album (Top Ten actually) and a Rock Demo Disc to rival the most amazing sounding records of all time
  • 5 stars: “…what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music… no other record defines [Pink Floyd] quite as well as this one.”

This vintage import pressing has the presence, the richness, the size and the energy you always wanted to hear on Dark Side — AND NOW YOU CAN! (more…)

The Pretenders / Self-Titled

More from The Pretenders

More Women Who Rock

  • An outstanding UK pressing of the band’s debut studio album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows, and clear, open, extended highs that let this Pretenders Classic come to life, and beat the pants off the dubby domestic pressing, and anything else you care to put up against it
  • One of engineer Bill Price’s better efforts behind the boards, and Chris Thomas’s production is State of the Art
  • 5 stars: “Few rock & roll records rock as hard or with as much originality as the Pretenders’ eponymous debut album. A sleek, stylish fusion of Stonesy rock & roll, new wave pop, and pure punk aggression, Pretenders is teeming with sharp hooks and a viciously cool attitude.”

Forget the dubby domestic vinyl, these Brit pressings are the only way to go. (more…)

Expanding Space Itself on The Dark Side of the Moon

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

A few years back we played a copy with all the presence, all the richness, all the size and all the energy we ever hoped to hear from a top quality pressing of Dark Side of the Moon. It did it ALL and then some.

The raging guitar solos (there are three of them) on Money seemed to somehow expand the system itself, making it bigger and more powerful than I had ever heard.

Even our best copies of Blood Sweat and Tears have never managed to create such a huge space with that kind of raw power. This copy broke through all the barriers, taking the system to an entirely new level of sound.

Take the clocks on Time. There are whirring mechanisms that can be heard deep in the soundstage on this copy that I’ve never heard as clearly before. On most copies you can’t even tell they are there. Talk about transparency — I bet you’ve NEVER heard so many chimes so clearly and cleanly, with such little distortion on this track.

One thing that separates the best copies from the merely good ones is super-low-distortion, extended high frequencies. How some copies manage to correctly capture the overtones of all the clocks, while others, often with the same stamper numbers, do no more than hint at them, is something no one can explain. But the records do not lie. Believe your own two ears. If you hear it, it’s there. When you don’t — the reason we do shootouts in a nutshell — it’s not.

(more…)

Pink Floyd / The Dark Side of the Moon – 2003 Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Dark Side of the Moon

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, there are plenty).

The 30th Anniversary Heavy Vinyl pressing is TOO BRIGHT. There is a boost in the top end, probably right around the 12K region, which is a very poor mastering choice the late Doug Sax apparently made, a choice that is surely not doing this recording any favors. In fact, in the case of this new pressing, it’s positively ruinous. (more…)

The Pretenders on Nautilus Half-Speed – Ouch!

More of the Music of The Pretenders

Top Producers – Chris Thomas

Top Engineers – Bill Price

Top Engineers – Steve Nye

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing reviewed and found wanting.

This pressing is completely lifeless. Nautilus took all the rock out of this rock and roll band.

Another ridiculous joke played on a far-too-credulous audiophile public.  

But look who’s talking? I bought plenty of Nautilus pressings in the ’70s and ’80s, some good ones, some not so good. And some of them I liked well into the 2000s. What’s my excuse?

Even as recently as, say, fifteen years ago, I still had yet to achieve much of the progress in audio I would need to achieve in order to get past the last of the audiophile pressings I still clung to.

And there’s still one that just cannot be beat, even now.

Keep in mind I had been heavily into audiophile equipment and high quality records for thirty years at that point.

Which is simply more proof that audio is hard and that your progress in audio is most likely going to be slow, the way mine was.

 

Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets

  • KILLER sound from start to finish for this Island import pressing with both sides finishing top of the class — Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The sound here is clean, clear, present and dynamic yet still super rich and musical with lots of Tubey Magic
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on both sides
  • 5 stars on Allmusic: “Eno’s solo debut, Here Come the Warm Jets, is a spirited, experimental collection of unabashed pop songs… Avant-garde yet very accessible, Here Come the Warm Jets still sounds exciting, forward-looking, and densely detailed, revealing more intricacies with every play.”

A great pressing of one of our favorite albums! These are not easy to come by, so we don’t get to shoot these out as often as we’d like. This is not your typical audiophile-friendly rock album, to be sure. There are lots of weird sounds, out-of-tune instruments and other Eno craziness. We’re big Eno fans here — Taking Tiger Mountain and Before And After Science are other big favorites here. If you’ve got a taste for avant-garde art rock, this album should be right up your alley. (more…)