Top Engineers – Eddie Offord

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fragile

The Analogue Productions 180g reissue shown here is mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey, two guys with reputations for doing good work, but the results of their latest collaboration [can you believe this record came out in 2006!?] leave much to be desired.

The overall sound is lean. This is especially noticeable on the too thin-sounding guitars and vocals. Believe me, it’s no fun to play a Yes album with thin guitars and vocals.

Also, there’s a noticeable lack of ambience throughout the record. What comes to mind when I hear a record that sounds like this is the dreaded R word: Reissue. I find it hard to believe they had the actual two-track original master tape to work with. The sound is just too anemic to have come from the real tape. If they did have the real tape, then they really botched the job.
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Yes – Close To The Edge

  • A STUNNING pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – these early pressings are the only ones that can make sense of this challenging music
  • On such a dynamic recording, with so many quiet passages, finding surfaces as quiet as these is a dubious proposition for even the most committed audiophile
  • An incredibly complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes and an abundance of multi-tracked parts
  • 5 stars: “Close to the Edge comprised just three tracks, the epic ‘And You and I’ and ‘Siberian Khatru,’ plus a side-long title track that represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years.”
  • If you’re a fan of adventurous Prog Rock, then this would clearly be a Must Own title for you from 1972.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Yes – The Yes Album

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Yes Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Yes Album

  • An incredible original Atlantic pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second — exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • You haven’t begun to hear the weight, energy and space of Yes’s brilliant third album until you’ve played one of our better copies
  • On the right system, at the right volume (very loud), this very record is an immersive experience like practically no other – I’ve Seen All Good People here will surely blow your mind
  • A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record if you ask us (although Fragile can sound absolutely amazing too, just not as smooth and rich)
  • “Organist Tony Kaye, guitarist Steve Howe and bass player Chris Squire play as though of one mind, complementing each other’s work as a knowledgeable band should.”
  • 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.

Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head.

With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers who like to play their records loud.

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “No one doubted your records after this listening session.”

Reviews and Commentaries for ELP’s Debut

Reviews and Commentaries for Abbey Road

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

Hey Tom, 

Yesterday, I attended an audio event in Verona, NJ, where I had purchased my stereo.

I spent my time in the “analogue” room. This room had the flagship equipment (Vandersteen 7 speakers, Aesthetix Jupiter series amps, pre-amps, phono stage, Clearaudio’s Goldfinger Statement cartridge, etc).

I listened for a while, hearing all the issues with almost every record they played. I then asked the store’s “turntable guru” to play some of the records I brought with me.

They thumbed through my boxes and asked me what the difference was between my two copies of Abbey Road. When I explained the superior side X on either copy, the audience found this concept amusing, based on their laughter. Any doubters would soon become believers.

They played Abbey Road‘s side 2 (3+ side, of course). While “Here Comes The Sun” was playing, Garth had his eyes closed. At the track’s conclusion, he exclaimed “Outstanding!”, and the record played on.

Next, we listened to ELP’s “Lucky Man“. Garth said it was the best he had ever heard.

I do not really know Garth, but I suspect he does not easily offer up such compliments in a room full of people. Others in the room, including the store’s turntable guru, were all very impressed. Several folks approached me, all pointing out parts of the music that blew them away.

There were comments about some folks hearing that Better Records was a scam, and others saying that you are the real deal. The discussion ended with “Hearing is believing”. No one doubted your records after this listening session.

I scored points with these important folks, thanks to your records. I provided the source material to allow their equipment to shine.

Any doubt these folks had about your company was put to rest. All that listened were very impressed, and I thought you’d want to know.

Craig D.

Craig,

Thanks for your letter!

I have to confess I am of two minds concerning this demonstration of the obviously superior sound of our best Hot Stamper pressings.

Allow me to make one cynical prediction.  None of those in the audience owns or will ever own one of our records. They like good sound all right, they certainly will tell you as much, but they just can’t wrap their heads around spending the kind of money it takes to get the kinds of records you played them.

But they sure like that $17,500 cartridge and are dying to own one.

You can be sure that those folks, like audiophiles in general, have lots of Heavy Vinyl mediocrities and are just fine with that fact. I have never understood it, but I have seen it time and time again.

If you are serious about good sound, you need good records. You know that as well as anyone.

Now that they have heard it for themselves, they know it too, but what will they do with this knowledge? My guess is nothing.

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Yes / The Yes Album – Rhino 180g Reviewed

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Yes Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Yes Album

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

The worst version ever? Could be!

That notorious hack Ron McMaster strikes again.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino bills their releases as pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl”. However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

The CD versions of most of the LP titles they released early on are far better sounding than the lifeless, flat, pinched, so-called audiophile pressings they did starting around 2000.

The mastering engineer for this garbage actually has the nerve to feature his name in the ads for the records. He should be run out of town, not promoted as a keeper of the faith and defender of the virtues of “vinyl.” If this is what vinyl sounds like I’d would have switched to CD years ago.

And the amazing thing is, as bad as these records are, there are people who like them. I’ve read postings on the internet from people who say the sound on these records is just fine. It’s sad.

Their Grateful Dead titles sound as bad as the cheapest Super Saver reissue copies I have ever heard. And those are terrible!


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Yes / Close To The Edge – A MoFi Winner, Or Was It? I Don’t Think We’ll Ever Really Know

Hot Stamper Pressings of Close to the Edge Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Close to the Edge

Sonic Grade: Side One: B to B+ / Side Two: C

Many, many years ago (2005?) we wrote the commentary you see below. We can’t say if we would still agree with the sentiments expressed, so take what you read with a grain of salt, and remember that no two records sound the same. If your copy is better or worse on either side it will not come as a surprise to us here at Better Records!

This is a great MOFI! (On side one anyway.) I have to admit I was partly wrong about this pressing. I used to think it was mud. Either the copy I have here is much better than the copy I played years ago, or my stereo has changed. I’m going to guess that it’s the stereo that has changed. I used to like the original American copies of this album and now I hear that they are upper midrangy and aggressive. So my stereo must have been too forgiving in that area, which in turn would have made this MOFI sound too dull.

Side one is as good as I’ve ever heard it outside of the best British originals. [We don’t even buy those anymore. Maybe that’s the problem with this comparison.] Since almost none of those have survived in clean enough condition to be played on modern audiophile turntables, there isn’t much of an alternative to this pressing.

And it should be noted that there is distortion on the tape. It’s on every LP copy and it’s on the CD too. There are cacophonous passages that have what sounds like board overload, mike preamp overload, tape saturation or something of the kind.

Eddie Offord, the recording engineer, is famous for complaining that the boys in the band were totally out of control when it came to adding layer upon layer and track upon track to their recordings, running the risk of such a dense mix that nothing would be heard above the din. He was always fighting a losing battle trying to rein them in. Although he did his best, it appears his efforts failed in some of the musical passages on this album.

So here’s a MOFI I like, but I only really like side one. Side two, although it’s decent enough, errs a little on the smooth, dull side. I have copies in which the guitars have wonderfully extended harmonics and sweeter tone. Some of them are even domestic pressings! On the MOFI there is a “blunting” of the acoustic guitar transients. (more…)

The Yes Album – What a Recording!

At its best, this album is a Big Speaker Prog-Rock opus with tremendous power and dynamic range, but it takes a special pressing like this one to really bring it to life. 

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it.

With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers!

Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head.

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Yes Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Yes Album

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Listening in Depth to Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Debut

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Reviews and Commentaries for Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Debut

Folks, this is ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest. You ain’t never gonna play a CD that sounds like this as long as you live. I don’t mean to rain on your parade but let’s face it, digital media are pretty much incapable of reproducing this kind of sound. There are nice sounding CDs in the world but there aren’t any that sound like this, not in my experience anyway. If you are thinking that someday a better digital system is going to come along and save you the trouble and expense of having to find and acquire these expensive original pressings, think again. Ain’t gonna happen. This is the kind of record that shows you what’s wrong with your BEST sounding CDs. (Let’s not even talk about the average ones in our collections; the less said the better.)

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

The Barbarian
Take a Pebble

Superb sound! Big, spacious and effortlessly alive!

Knife Edge

Again, some of the best sound to be found on any ELP album. We much prefer the tracks with vocals as opposed to the heavy keyboard ones. This is PROG at its best, right up there with Yes’s and King Crimson’s biggest and boldest musical statements. When it’s good, it’s REALLY GOOD. (Conversely, of course, when it’s bad, it’s pretty bad. Played Relayer lately?)

Side Two

The Three Fates: Clotho/Lachesis/Atropos

This is a super tough test for side two. It’s guaranteed to bring even the biggest and best systems to their knees. The organ is HUGE, so big and powerful it has a tendency to break up a bit in the loudest parts, either from groove damage or the inability of the cutting system to properly transfer the enormous amounts of bass that exist on the master tape onto the cutting acetate. You need plenty of amplifier cutting power and not every mastering chain had it.

Tank
Lucky Man

My favorite ELP track, sounding about as good as it gets. You need the right Cotillion copy for the ultimate sound; the better bass brings Palmer’s kick drum to life, not to mention the synthesizer solo.

Listen also to the electric guitar solo in the left channel. On the best copies it really comes to life and rocks out. If it lays back in the mix you do not have a Hot Stamper for side two, I can assure you of that!

By the way, this track is cut a bit low compared to the two that precede it. It needs click or two on the volume knob to work its magic. (more…)

John Lennon / Imagine – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

More John Lennon

More of The Beatles

  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – this was one of the better copies to emerge from our most recent shootout
  • These superb UK pressings are rich, weighty and oh-so-tubey – it took us a long time to find the right stampers
  • Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this recording – our thanks go to Eddie Offord and Shelly Yakus
  • 5 stars: “…it was only marginally less confessional than its predecessor. Underneath the sweet strings of “Jealous Guy” lies a broken and scared man, the jaunty “Crippled Inside” is a mocking assault at an acquaintance, and “Imagine” is a paean for peace in a world with no gods, possessions, or classes, where everyone is equal… A remarkable collection of songs that Lennon would never be able to better again.”

NOTE: A very small mark near the end of track three, side two, How Do You Sleep?, makes three loud pops.

Both sides here are excellent. capturing the essence of what Lennon and Phil Spector (and let’s not forget Yoko, who also gets a producer credit here) were going for. Copies that sound as good as this one do not grow on trees. If it wasn’t ridiculously difficult to find Hot Stamper pressings of Imagine it certainly would not have taken us until 2015 to offer one. (more…)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer / Self-Titled – Out of This World Sound on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer

More Prog Rock

  • This vintage Island Pink Rim import pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • Spacious, rich and dynamic, with especially smooth, present vocals – this is what we love about Eddie Offord’s work here
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD that sounds this good as long as you live
  • Lucky Man and Take A Pebble on this copy have Demo Disc Quality Sound like you won’t believe
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album… [which] showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly …there isn’t much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here.”

If you’ve got the system to play this one loud enough, with the low end weight and energy it requires, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. This is bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels, it actually will rock your world.

This UK Island pink rim import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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…)