Top Engineers – Geoff Emerick

The Beatles / With The Beatles – These Are the Stampers to Avoid

More of The Beatles

More Stamper and Pressing Information, Gratis

Reviews and Commentaries for With the Beatles

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In our experience, the stereo pressings with -2/-2 stampers are terrible sounding. We do not have any on hand, but we doubt that -1/-1 — the original, the first, the one approved by George Martin himself! — is any better. 

With -2 stampers this is a Hall of Shame pressing, as well as another early LP reviewed and found wanting.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best.

If you’re an audiophile looking for top quality sound on vintage vinyl, we’d be happy to send you the Hot Stamper pressing guaranteed to beat anything and everything you’ve heard, especially if you have any pressing marketed as suitable for an audiophile. Those, with very few exceptions, are the worst.

And if we can’t beat whatever LP you own or have heard, you get your money back.  It’s as simple as that.

That Old Canard

The early pressings are consistently grittier, edgier and more crude than the later pressings we played. So much for that old canard “original is better”. When it comes to With The Beatles it just ain’t so, and it doesn’t take a state of the art system or a pair of golden ears to hear it.

The audiophile community seems not to have caught on to the faults of the early Beatles pressings, but we here at Better Records are doing our best to correct their all-too-common misperceptions, one Hot Stamper pressing at a time.

It may be a lot of work, but we don’t mind — we love The Beatles! We want to find the best sounding copies of ALL their records, and there is simply no other way to do it than to play them by the dozens. (more…)

Maybe the Best Sounding Album Geoff Emerick Ever Recorded

More Robin Trower

Records We Only Offer on Import Vinyl

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Bridge of Sighs

We’ve been wandering around in the dark for more than a decade with Bridge of Sighs — that is, until we found a clean early UK Chrysalis pressing. Now we know just how good this album can sound, and that means ASTOUNDINGLY good. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any Geoff Emerick album that sounds as big and clear as this one. The three dimensional space is really something else on the better UK copies.

There is a substantial amount of Tubey Magic and liquidity on the tape, recalling the kind of hi-rez vintage analog sound that makes the luminous A Space in Time such a mind-expanding experience. Recorded a few years earlier, both albums have the kind of High Production Value sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records. You can find many of our favorites in our Rock and Pop Top 100, and if we can find more of this title, it will surely be on the list as well. (more…)

Sgt. Pepper’s and Bad Audiophile Thinking (Hint: the UHQR Is Wrong)

Hot Stampers of Sgt. Peppers

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

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Sonic Grade: D

We charge hundreds of dollars for a Hot Stamper Sgt. Pepper, which is a lot to pay for a record. But consider this: the UHQR typically sells for more than the price we charge and doesn’t sound as good. 

Of course the people that buy UHQRs would never find themselves in a position to recognize how much better one of our Hot Stampers sounds in a head to head shootout with their precious and oh-so-collectible UHQR. They assume that they’ve already purchased the Ultimate Pressing and see no need to try another.

I was guilty of the same bad audiophile thinking myself in 1982. I remember buying the UHQR of Sgt. Pepper and thinking how amazing it sounded and how lucky I was to have the world’s best version of Sgt. Pepper.

If I were to play that record now it would be positively painful. All I would hear would be the famous MoFi 10K Boost on the top end (the one that MoFi lovers never seem to notice), and the flabby Half-Speed mastered bass (ditto). Having heard really good copies of Sgt. Pepper, like the wonderful Hot Stampers we put on the site from time to time, now the MoFi UHQR sounds so phony to me that I wouldn’t be able to sit through it with a gun to my head. (more…)

Heavy Vinyl – Is This the Best Sounding Sgt. Pepper?

More of The Beatles

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

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You might agree with some reviewers that EMI’s engineers did a pretty good job with the new Pepper. In the March 2013 issue of Stereophile Art Dudley weighed in, finding little to fault on this title but being less impressed with most of the others in the new box set. His reference disc? The MoFi UHQR! Oh, and he also has some old mono pressings and a domestic Let It Be. Now there’s a man who knows his Beatles. Fanatical? Of course he is! We’re talkin’ The Beatles for Chrissakes.

When I read the reviews by writers such as these I often get the sense that I must’ve fallen through some sort of Audio Time Warp and landed back in 1982. How is it that our so-called experts evince so little understanding of how records are made, how variable the pressings can be, and, more importantly, how absolutely crucial it is to understand and implement rigorous protocols when attempting to carry out comparisons among pressings.

Critically comparing LPs is difficult and time-consuming. It requires highly developed listening skills. I didn’t know how to do it in 1982. I see no evidence that the audiophile reviewers of today are much better at it now than I was in 1982.

Just to take one example: They all seem to be operating under the same unproven conceit: that the original is the benchmark against which all other pressings should be compared.

To those of us who have played Beatles pressings by the hundreds, this is patent nonsense. To cite just one instance, a recent Hot Stamper listing notes:

We defy any original to step into the ring with it. One thing we can tell you, it would not be a fair fight. The cutting equipment to make a record of this quality did not exist in 1967, not at EMI anyway.

We had the opportunity not long ago to audition a very clean original early pressing of the album and were frankly taken aback by how AWFUL it was in virtually every respect. No top end above 8k or so, flabby bass, murky mids — this was as far from Hot Stamper sound as one could imagine. If it were a Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile pressing we would surely have graded it F and put it in our Hall of Shame.

To be fair we have played exactly one early copy of the record on our current system. (Played a copy or two long ago but on much different equipment, so any judgments we might have made must be considered highly suspect.) Perhaps there are good ones. We have no way of knowing whether there are, and we are certainly not motivated to find out given the price that original Sgt. Pepper’s are fetching these days.

We can tell you this much: no original British pressing of any Beatles album up through Pepper has ever impressed us sonically. We’ve played plenty and have yet to hear one that’s not congested, crude, distorted, bandwidth-limited and full of tube smear. (The monos suffer from all of these problems and more of course, which is only natural; they too are made with the Old School cutting equipment of the day.)

If that’s your sound more power to you. It’s definitely not ours. The hotter the stamper, the less congested, crude, distorted, bandwidth-limited and smeary it will be. (Or your money back.)

(more…)

The Beatles – Please Please Me

More of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Please Please Me

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  • This British stereo pressing offers excellent Hot Stamper sound or BETTER (on side two) for the brilliant debut from the Fab Four – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here’s proof that any Hot Stamper will soundly (ahem) beat the Heavy Vinyl pressing, and anything else you care to throw at it
  • 5 Stars at Allmusic and a Top 100 album, as well as our clear favorite of the band’s first five releases
  • Glorious live-in-the-studio sound to rival The Beatles’ best recordings – the immediacy and energy are really something to hear

Folks, if you’re looking for an wonderful copy of the first Beatles album, here it is. The music itself is nothing short of amazing. Please Please Me captures more of the live sound of these four guys playing together as a rock and roll band than anything that came after. (The better copies of Let It Be, on some songs at least, reproduce much of that live-in-the-studio quality and make a great bookend for the group.)

You Are There

On the top copies the presence of the vocals and guitars is so real it’s positively startling at times.

Just play Baby It’s You to hear what we’re talking about. When the boys all say “Oooooh,” you can pick out WHO is saying it and HOW they’re saying it.

Anna (Go To Him) is another stunner on the best pressings. It’s Tubey Magical with amazing immediacy and presence. The voices are PERFECTION — smooth, sweet, rich, full and breathy. The overall sound is lively and energetic with a meaty bottom end — in other words, it really rocks!

Stampers

PPM Hot Stampers are a regular feature on our site. We’ve been telling anyone who will listen for years that The Beatles were exceptionally well-recorded right from the get-go, but it takes the right pressing to prove it.

And the odd thing — not so odd to us anymore but odd to most record collectors I would guess — is that many of the hot copies have exactly the same stampers as the less than hot copies. It’s a mystery, and the only way to solve such a mystery is… to play the record. That’s what we do around here all day, and what we heard on this very copy was musically involving Hot Stamper sound. (more…)

Robin Trower / Bridge of Sighs

More Robin Trower

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  • An outstanding copy of Trower’s amazingly well recorded Psych masterpiece with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This early UK pressing is huge, rich and punchy, with guitar solos that soar like few others you’ve heard
  • Brilliant engineering by Geoff Emerick at George Martin’s AIR studios – maybe the best sounding album Emerick ever made
  • Top 100 and 4 1/2 stars on AMG: “…his most stunning, representative, and consistent collection of tunes. Bridge of Sighs holds up to repeated listenings as a timeless work, as well as the crown jewel in Trower’s extensive catalog.”

We’d been wandering around in the dark for more than a decade with Bridge of Sighs — that is, until about 2015 when we finally stumbled upon a certain UK Chrysalis pressing in audiophile playing condition.

Now we know just how good this album can sound. How good? Astonishingly good. The three-dimensional space is positively breathtaking on the best UK copies.

There is a substantial amount of Tubey Magic and liquidity on the tape, recalling the kind of hi-rez vintage analog sound that makes the luminous A Space in Time (1971) such a mind-expanding experience. Both albums have the kind of High Production Value sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records. You can find many of our favorites in our Rock and Pop Top 100, and if we can find more of this title, it will surely be on the list as well. (more…)

Paul McCartney – Unplugged

More Paul McCartney

More Beatles

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  • A true Demo Disc and superb sounding import pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • A strikingly intimate document of a live show, fronted by one of the greatest performers in history, Sir Paul McCartney
  • You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange
  • 4 stars: “… it remains one of the most enjoyable records in McCartney’s catalog. McCartney is carefree and charming, making songs like “Be-Bop-a-Lula” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” sound fresh.”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” meaning relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

Superb sound for this amazing recording! It’s a strikingly intimate document of a live show, one which just happens to be fronted by one of the greatest performers in the history of popular music, Sir Paul McCartney.

On the best copies, the sound is warmer, richer, and sweeter, or in a word, more ANALOG sounding. You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange. It’s surprising how veiled and two-dimensional so many copies can be, considering that this is a live recording (by the legendary Geoff Emerick himself) with not a lot of “messing around” after the fact. (more…)

Paul McCartney / Unplugged – This Copy Just Sounded More Like Live Music

More Paul McCartney

More Beatles

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Back in 2016 we had this to say about a copy of the album we had just played:

This copy will put you front and center for the single greatest acoustic Paul McCartney concert of all time.

In the final round of shootouts on both sides, this copy showed itself as clearly superior in terms of transparency and three-dimensionality, as well as having the most rock solid bottom end. To sum it up, my notes read “so real,” which is exactly what makes this copy THE one to have. This is Paul and his mates LIVE in your listening room like you have never heard them before.

This copy gave us the feeling that we were right there in the audience for the taping of this amazing performance. It made other copies sound like records — good records, but records nonetheless. This one has the IMMEDIACY of a live show, one which just happened to be fronted by one of the greatest performers in the history of popular music, Sir Paul McCartney.

We shootout this album about once a year, which means that many changes will have occurred to the stereo in the meantime. One of the qualities that we noticed this time around was how much like live music this album can be when the pressings have one specific quality — tons of bass.

Live music, especially live music heard in a club, tends to have plenty of bass. It’s the sonic quality that’s by far the most difficult to recreate in the home.

When a record manages to capture that kind of “live” low end energy, it really helps make the connection between the sound of live music and the sound coming out of your speakers. As we have labored so often to make clear on the site, big speakers with plenty of dynamic woofers can put you in front of live musicians in a way that nothing else (in our experience) can.

This very copy makes the case for that proposition better than any we’ve played in a long time. (more…)

The Beatles – With The Beatles

More of The Beatles

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  • An incredible sounding copy, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Superb space and immediacy, rich and (relatively) smooth and oh-so-Tubey Magical lead and harmony vocals – this is exactly the right sound for With The Beatles
  • So many great songs: All My Loving, Please Mr. Postman, Til There Was You, You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me, Devil In Her Heart… fourteen in all
  • “It was clear that, even at this early stage, the Beatles were rapidly maturing and changing, turning into expert craftsmen and musical innovators.”

This is a tough album to get to sound right, as long-time readers of our site surely know, but here are the sides that prove this album can sound very good indeed. Looking for the best sound? Try Till There Was You on side one and You Really Got A Hold On Me on the flipside. (more…)

Stealers Wheel – British A&M Vinyl Versus Domestic A&M Vinyl

More Gerry Rafferty

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Forget the dubby domestic pressings. Like so many British bands on the A&M label, when it came time to master the album for the domestic market, the people in charge (whoever they may have been) took the easy way out and simply ordered up a dub of the master tape to cut the album from.

Spooky Tooth, Procol Harum, Fairport Convention, (my beloved) Squeeze and too many others to think about all had their records ruined by sub-generation masters.

But this is the real British-pressed vinyl from the real master tape, and that makes all the difference in the world. (more…)