Top Engineers – David Hentschel

Elton John’s Caribou Is Usually Noisy and Sounds Bad – Why Is That?

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There’s a good reason you’ve practically never seen this album for sale on our site. In fact there are quite a number of good reasons.

The first one is bad vinyl — most DJM pressings of Caribou are just too noisy to sell. They can look perfectly mint and play noisy as hell; it’s not abuse, it’s bad vinyl. (Empty Sky is the same way; out and out bad vinyl, full of noise, grit and grain.)

The second problem is bad sound. Whether it’s bad mastering or bad vinyl incapable of holding onto good mastering, no one can say. Since so many copies were pressed of this monster Number One album (topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic), perhaps they pressed a few too many after the stampers were worn out.

Or pulled too many stampers off the mother.

Or made too many stampers from the father.

Or used crap vinyl right from the start.

Of course there’s not an iota of evidence to back up any of these assertions, but I just thought I would throw it out there as a topic for speculation. (Have you noticed how much audiophiles and audiophile reviewers love to talk about things that they have no empirical evidence for one way or the other? Very little of that sort of thing can be found on our site. We like to stick to the sound of the records we’ve played and leave most of the “reasoning” about the sound to others.)

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Disastrous Remasters from MoFi and Direct Disk Labs

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Sonic Grade: F (DD Labs) / D (MoFi)

2 Hall of Shame entries and two more Half Speeds debunked.

If you have the Direct Disc Labs half-speed you have one truly awful record in your collection, so sucked out in the midrange, so compressed everywhere, what the hell were they thinking making this rockin’ album sound like that? It’s positively disgraceful. It makes MoFi look like they knew what they doing, and we know that sure isn’t true.

In truth we did not actually have a copy of the MoFi handy for this shootout, but in our defense let us just say that we’ve heard their pressing many times over the course of the last twenty years. It’s better than the DD Labs version but not good enough for me to want to play it — compressed and sucked-out like practically every record they ever made, just not as badly as the DD Labs version.

The most obvious problems with the sound of this album are ones common to many if not most rock records of the era: lack of presence, too much compression, smear, lack of weight from the lower mids on down — we hear lots of Classic Rock records with this litany of shortcomings. But it’s not the fault of the master tape, it’s probably not even the fault of the mastering engineer most of the time. It’s just plain bad pressing quality. The sound simply doesn’t get stamped onto the vinyl right and the result is one or more of the problems above. And if you don’t know how to clean your records properly, forget it, you have virtually no chance of hearing good sound on GYBR.

The Average Copy (more…)

Genesis – Seconds Out – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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

STUNNING SOUND FOR ALL FOUR SIDES! This live album from 1977 has some of the best Genesis sound we’ve heard. Their studio recordings are often a bit flat and dull, so it’s really a treat to hear those songs with this kind of big, open, dynamic sound! Phil Collins handles the lead vocals here, but he does a great job even on the Peter Gabriel material.  (more…)

Genesis – Wind and Wuthering

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a superb Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy will be very hard to beat 
  • These two outstanding UK-pressed sides are dramatically more present, dynamic and detailed than you’ve heard elsewhere, guaranteed
  • Their Masterpiece is still A Trick of the Tail, the album before this one, but Wind and Wuthering certainly has much to offer as well
  • “Wind & Wuthering followed quickly on the heels of A Trick of the Tail and they’re very much cut from the same cloth, working the same English eccentric ground that was the group’s stock in trade since Trespass.”

We have struggled like crazy to find copies of the album that are able to present the music as well as this one does. Most of the pressings we’ve gotten our hands on were a disaster, and that includes everything that does not say Made in England on the label. (more…)

Genesis – A Trick Of The Tail

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GENESIS AT LAST! Here’s an amazing Trick Of the Tail that absolutely blows the typical pressing out of the water! The sound is BIG, BOLD and OPEN, breaking free from the grainy and cloudly qualities that screw up the average copy.

It was a thrill to finally hear this album sound great after all these years. The cymbals are clean and silky, the vocals are present, the bass has real weight and the overall sound is balanced and natural! You’ve got to clean and play a TON of copies to have any hope of finding one that’d come anywhere near this one.

At the end of the second track on side one, Entangled, there is a wonderful sounding choral effect which Alan Parsons liked so much he decided to use it liberally on his own recordings. He’s famous for having admitted to analyzing classic rock records, then taking the best bits and pieces, cobbling them together and producing the “music” that he is known for. I prefer the original bits and pieces myself.  (more…)

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

With three White Hot shootout winning sides and one Super Hot side, the four sides of these 2 LPs will show you a GYBR you never imagined could exist. We certainly never expected to hear it sound like this, I can tell you that. I’ve never begun to hear these songs have the energy, presence and rock and roll POWER that they do here.

The most obvious problems with the sound of this album are those common to most rock records of the era: lack of presence and top end, too much compression / congestion, smear, lack of weight from the lower mids on down — we hear tons of Classic Rock records with this litany of shortcomings. (more…)

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

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All Things Must Pass

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

To say that this one has been a long time coming would be an understatement! FINALLY, an incredible sounding copy of All Things Must Pass. Stunning shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on all six sides (!).  

It’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the nicer boxes we’ve come across for this title. It’s the thicker box which has stood the test of time a little better than the narrower version. Those are usually in pretty poor shape and we should know because we have a bunch of problematical boxes sitting right here. (more…)

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – The Earliest Stampers Sound the Best, Right?

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Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

We had a White Hot stamper listing a while back with these comments featured prominently in the description: 

This is BY FAR the best sounding Goodbye Yellow Brick Road to ever hit the site, and BY FAR the best sounding copy we have ever played here at Better Records. And for those of you who think that the early stampers must be the best, note that this killer copy had no side with a stamper under three. How about them apples? As we like to say, screw all that Platonic thinking; we find the empirical approach of playing the records works a whole lot better, thank you very much.

We certainly never expected to hear it sound like this, I can tell you that. I’ve never begun to hear these songs have the energy, presence and rock and roll POWER that they do here. (more…)

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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  • An outstanding early British pressing with big, bold Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last 
  • There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals, in-your-listening-room midrange presence and no shortage of rock and roll energy
  • Overflowing with great songs, way too many to list – Candle In The Wind, Bennie And The Jets, and GYBR all sound killer here
  • A Top 100 Title: “…its individual moments are spectacular and the glitzy, crowd-pleasing showmanship that fuels the album pretty much defines what made Elton John a superstar in the early ’70s.”

NOTE: The two discs in this set have slightly different labels. We have learned from our research that this is actually the way some sets were produced, so even though the labels are mismatched, this is in fact an authentic early British release.

GYBR has the best rocker Elton and Bernie ever wrote: Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. Of course, it’s one of the tracks on side four we used to test with — if you’re going to listen to GYBR all day, why not play the songs that are the most fun to play? On the good pressings, the song just KILLS. (more…)

Genesis A Trick Of The Tail – A MoFi Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

The last time I played the MoFi I could not believe how ridiculously COMPRESSED it was. On top of that, the midrange is badly sucked out (as is the case with most MoFi’s) making the sound as dead as dead can be. You think 180 gram records are lifeless? Play this piece of crap and see just how bad an audiophile record can sound.

And to think I used to like this version! I hope I had a better copy back in the ’80s than the one I played a few years ago. I’ll never know of course. If you have one in your collection give it a spin. See if it sounds as bad as we predict it will.