Top Engineers – Geoff Emerick

The Beatles / Let It Be – John’s Really Digging a Pony. Are You?

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More Let It Be

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What blew our minds about the Shootout Winning side one we played recently was how outrageously big, open and transparent it was on the song Dig a Pony. As the song started up the studio space seemed to expand in every direction, creating more height, width and depth than we’d ever experienced with this song before. 

But there is no studio space; the song was recorded on Apple’s rooftop. The “space” has to be some combination of “air” from the live event and artificial reverb added live or later during mixing. Whatever it is, the copies with more resolution and transparency show you a lot more of “it” than run-of-the-mill pressings do (including the new Heavy Vinyl, which is so airless and compressed we gave it a grade of F and banished it to our Shame Hall).  (more…)

The Beatles – Rubber Soul

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  • This stunning copy boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound here is PHENOMENAL — big, bold, lively and powerful with the kind of dynamics that bring out the best in this music
  • Norweigan Wood and In My Life sound superb here, along with the rest of these wonderful Beatles classics, 14 in all
  • A Better Records Top 100 Title, 5 Stars on Allmusic, and a Masterpiece of mid-’60s Folk Rock
  • “The lyrics represented a quantum leap in terms of thoughtfulness, maturity, and complex ambiguities. Musically, too, it was a substantial leap forward, with intricate folk-rock arrangements that reflected the increasing influence of Dylan and the Byrds.”

Since this is one of the best sounding Beatles recordings, this could very well be some of the BEST SOUND you will ever hear on a Beatles album!

There’s wonderful ambience and echo to be heard. Just listen to the rimshots on Michelle — you can clearly hear the room around the drum. On the best pressings, like this one, Michelle is incredibly 3-D; it’s one of the best sounding tracks on the entire album, if not THE best. (more…)

Sgt. Pepper on Heavy Vinyl – The Reviewers from 1982 Blow It Again

Hot Stampers of Sgt. Peppers in Stock Now

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? Who can blame him? We’re talkin’ The Beatles for Chrissake!

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 these days than I was in 1982.

What does one well-known reviewer have to say, keeping in mind that he’s using his original British pressing for comparison? I quote at length — without prejudice so to speak — so there can be no misunderstanding. (more…)

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely…

Hot Stampers of Sgt. Peppers in Stock Now

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

 

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides and exceptionally quiet vinyl for the most part, this pressing is guaranteed to smoke any copy of the album you’ve heard
  • Huge, spacious and detailed, with the Tubey Magic of a fresh tape, this is the way to hear Sgt. Pepper in all its analog glory, not remixed and not remastered
  • Most pressings – especially the new ones – have nothing approaching the Tubey Magic, space and energy of this LP
  • A Better Records Top 100 – “It’s possible to argue that there are better Beatles albums, yet no album is as historically important as this.”

The sound here is so big and rich, so clear and transparent, that we would be very surprised, shocked even, if you’ve ever imagined that Sgt. Pepper could sound this powerful and REAL. (more…)

The Beatles – Beatles ’65 – Listen for Reversed Polarity

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This is a Capitol Records Purple Label LP with THE BEST SOUND I have ever heard for a Capitol Beatles LP (as of 7/5/06). But there’s a catch. It only sounds good if you reverse your absolute phase. If you don’t, or can’t, forget it. 

I wrote the rave review you see below without realizing that I had reversed my headshell leads for the previous record I was playing and had forgotten to change them back. So all the nice things I said about Capitol really aren’t true: they got the phase backwards, which positively ruins the sound unless you can correct for it. I did, and was astonished at how musical the album sounded.

Do you want an AMAZING example of how phase can affect the sound of a recording? Switch back and forth on Honey Don’t, especially if you are the skeptical type like me. You will become a believer on the spot, all doubt forever banished.

I wonder how many other bad Beatle albums are phase reversed? We will report our findings as time goes on so watch for them. [We of course never did this. The Beatles pressings we sell are in correct polarity and we simply do not have the time to survey every Beatles record ever made.]

This is what I initially said about the record:

This is a Minty Capitol Purple Label LP with THE BEST SOUND I have ever heard for a Capitol Beatles LP. If more of them sounded like this we wouldn’t have said all those mean and nasty things about Capitol Records for the past forty years. Yes, they still “butchered” For Sale to create this “album”, but that’s not the point. The point is this record sounds like a good Parlophone pressing — rich and sweet, with dead-on tonality. Whatever tapes Capitol may have used had plenty of that famous Beatles Analog Magic in them — you won’t hear any Beatles CDs sound like this, that I can assure you. That sound is gone and it ain’t comin’ back.

The late Capitol mastering here is Right On The Money. I don’t think they ever cut a record better. You can be sure the original Rainbow Label pressings sound as bad as you remember. I have never heard ANY original Capitol pressing that sounded like this — not even close.

The two singles mentioned below both have DREADFUL SOUND, the kind we have come to expect from Capitol. Everything else is wonderful.

“Dave Dexter, Jr. (a name which will live in infamy) “assisted” the Beatles by pulling eight tracks from Beatles for Sale, one from A Hard Day’s Night [I’ll Be Back], and both sides of the latest Beatles single (“I Feel Fine”/”She’s a Woman”) for the creation of this album.” – AMG

The Beatles – Help

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  • A Shootout Winner – Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – we guarantee you’ve never heard Help sound remotely this good
  • Want to hear The Beatles at their Tubey Magical best? Just play You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away on this killer copy
  • Everything that’s great about Help is here – jangly 12 string guitars, harmonically rich tambourines, and breathy vocals
  • Side one alone boasts 7 classics: Help!, The Night Before, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, I Need You, Another Girl, You’re Gonna Lose That Girl and Ticket to Ride – whew!

Want to hear The Beatles at their Tubey Magical best? Just play You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away on this copy.

One of the reasons this song stands out in a crowd of great tracks is that there are only acoustic instruments being played. There’s not an electric guitar to be found anywhere in the mix, one of the few tracks on side one for which that is true.

We flip out over the Tubey Magical acoustic guitars and harmony vocals found on early Beatles albums, and this song can be an exceptionally good example of both when you’re lucky enough to have the right pressing playing. (more…)

What We Listen For: The Spirit and Enthusiasm of the Musicians

More Revolver

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This discussion, brought about by a Hot Stamper shootout we conducted for Revolver many years ago (2007!), touches on many issues near and dear to us here at Better Records: pressing variations, system upgrades, dead wax secrets, and the quality we prize most in a recording: LIFE, or, if you prefer, energy.

At the end of the commentary we of course take the opportunity to bash the MoFi pressing of the album, a regular feature of our Beatles Hot Stamper shootouts. We’re not saying the MoFi Beatles records are bad; in the overall scheme of things they are mostly pretty decent. What we are saying is that, with our help, you can do a helluva lot better. Our help doesn’t come cheap, as anyone on our mailing list will tell you. You may have to pay a lot, but we think you get what you pay for, and we gladly back up that claim with a 100% money back guarantee for every Hot Stamper pressing we sell.

The Story of Revolver, Dateline October 2007

White Hot Stampers for Revolver are finally HERE! Let the celebrations begin! Seriously, this is a very special day for us here at Better Records. The Toughest Nut to Crack in the Beatles’ catalog has officially been cracked. Yowza!

Presenting the first TRULY AWESOME copy of Revolver to ever make it to the site. There’s a good reason why Hot Stamper shootouts for practically every other Beatles album have already been done, most of them many times over, and it is simply this: finding good sounding copies of Revolver is almost IMPOSSIBLE. The typical British Parlophone or Apple pressing, as well as every German, Japanese and domestic LP we’ve played in the last year or two just plain sucked. Where was the analog magic we heard in the albums before and after, the rapturously wonderful sound that’s all over our Hot Stamper Rubber Souls and Sgt. Peppers? How could Revolver go so horribly off the rails for no apparent reason? (more…)

The Supertramp You Don’t Know – Even In The Quietest Moments

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After discovering killer Hot Stampers for this Forgotten Classic we feel the album can hold its own with any of Supertramp’s classic ’70s releases, from Crime of the Century all the way through to Breakfast in America.

Our White Hot stamper pressings showed us some of the best Supertramp sound we have ever heard on any of their albums, which is saying a lot. Supertramp is one of the most well-recorded bands in the history of pop music. GEOFF EMERICK took over most of the recording duties after the band decided to work with a different engineer for this, their 1977 album.

KEN SCOTT recorded the two albums that came before this one, Crime and Crisis, and as has been well documented on this very site, he knocked the two of them out of the park.

As I’m sure you know, both famously engineered The Beatles.

What we didn’t know, not until 2015 anyway, was how amazingly well recorded this album was.

In 2005 we noted that we had basically given up on ever finding a good sounding copy of the Even in the Quietest Moments. It’s now ten years later. Having gone gone through more copies than we care to remember we think we’ve got EITQM’s ticket. We think we know which stampers have the potential to sound good as well as the ones to avoid. Finding the right stampers (which are not the original ones for those of you who know the earliest stampers for A&M records) has been a positive boon.

Once we discovered the right stampers we were in a much better position to hear just how well recorded the album is. Now we know beyond all doubt that this recording — the first without Ken Scott producing and engineering for this iteration of the band — is of the highest quality, in league with the best.

Until recently we would never have made such a bold statement. Now it’s nothing less than obvious.

Some Remarkable High Points

Lover Boy is a Demo Quality Track on the best copies. It can be huge, spacious and lively. Getting the strings to sound harmonically rich without sliding into shrillness may not be easy but some copies manage to do it. On the biggest, richest copies the breakdown at about 2:20 is a lot of fun.

On side two the recording quality of the solo piano at the start of the second track From Now On is nothing short of breathtaking. No piano on any Supertramp album sounds as good, and only the White Hot Stamper pressing reproduced it perfectly.

Credit must go to the engineers assisting Geoff Emerick, Peter Henderson and Russel Pope.

(more…)

Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom

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  • Imperial Bedroom finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Geoff Emerick engineered, creating a unique sound – forget the painfully bad domestics, these imports are the only way to go
  • This dense, darkly serious album contains some of the best songs EC ever wrote – the last of his True Classics
  • 5 stars: “Costello’s music is complex and intricate, yet it flows so smoothly, it’s easy to miss the bitter, brutal lyrics…the detail and the ornate arrangements immediately peg Imperial Bedroom as Costello’s most ambitious album.”

Six of Elvis’s first seven albums received a Five Star rating from Allmusic, the exception being Almost Blue, and we generally would agree with that assessment (although Get Happy should probably get Four Stars also, not Five).

Which is to say that Elvis Costello is a brilliant artist whose albums work as albums, a fact that is in danger of being lost in a world of single song downloads and greatest hits packages. We record-playing audiophiles are inclined to start at the beginning of a side and let it flow through to the end, and that is clearly the best way to appreciate and enjoy the work of this very gifted man. (more…)

Steeleye Span – All Around My Hat – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

The best copy to ever hit the site! It ain’t easy to find clean British pressings of this one, which is why it’s taken us so long to get a copy like this up on the site. We played a good sized stack of these recently and only a couple did the job well enough to be considered Hot Stampers. This one is a big step up, with way less of the thick / murky / veiled sound that plagues many copies.

The sound is rich and full in the best tradition of English Rock, with no trace of the transistory grain that domestic rock pressings so often suffer from. The bass is deep, punchy, full up in the mix and correct. There’s plenty of it too, so those of you with less than well-controlled bass will have a tough time with this one. But never fear, it’s a great record to tweak with and perfect for evaluating equipment. (more…)