Top Engineers – Geoff Emerick

Robin Trower / Bridge of Sighs

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…)

The Beatles – Rubber Soul

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  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, this vintage UK stereo pressing has plenty of analog magic in its grooves – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, about as quiet as they can be found
  • We guarantee you’ve never heard Girl, I’m Looking Through You, In My Life, Wait, and If I Needed Someone sound better – and that’s just side two
  • A Must Own Folk Rock Masterpiece
  • 5 stars: “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, Michelle is incredibly 3-D; it’s one of the best sounding tracks on the entire album, if not THE best.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings, and especially from modern remasterings.  (more…)

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

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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…)

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