Top Engineers – Glyn Johns

Listening In Depth to Let It Be

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

This is the first time we’ve discussed individual tracks on the album. Our recent shootout [now many years ago], in which we discovered a mind-boggling, rule-breaking side one, motivated us to sit down and explain what the best copies should do on each side of the album for the tracks we test with. Better late than never I suppose. 

These also happen to be ones that we can stand to hear over and over, dozens of times in fact, which becomes an important consideration when doing shootouts as we do for hours on end.

On the better pressings the natural rock n’ roll energy of a song such as Dig A Pony will blow your mind. There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ — just the sound of the greatest pop/rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out.

It’s the kind of thrill you really don’t get from the more psychedelic albums like Sgt. Pepper’s or Magical Mystery Tour. You have to go all the way back to Long Tall Sally and Roll Over Beethoven to find the Beatles consistently letting loose the way they do on Let It Be (or at least on the tracks that are more or less live, which make up about half the album).

Track Commentary

Side One

Two of Us

Dig a Pony

On the heavy guitar intro for Dig a Pony, the sound should be full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with plenty of bass. If your copy is too lean, just forget it, it will never rock.

What blew our minds about the Shootout Winning side one we played recently was how outrageously big, open and transparent it was. As the song started up the studio space seemed to expand in every direction, creating more height, width and depth than we had 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 Hall of Shame).

In addition, Ringo’s kit was dramatically more clear and present in the center of the soundfield just behind the vocal, raising the energy of the track to a level higher than we had any right to believe was possible. The way he attacks the hi-hat on this song is crazy good, and the engineering team of Glyn Johns and Alan Parsons really give it the snap it needs.

These are precisely the qualities that speed and transparency can contribute to the sound. If you have Old School vintage tube equipment, these are two of the qualities you are most likely living without. You only need play this one track on faster, better-resolving equipment to hear what you’ve been missing.

On the line after “All I want is you”, the energy of “Everything has got to be just like you want it to” should make it sound like The Beatles are shouting at the top of their lungs. If you have the right pressing they really get LOUD on that line. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Mono or Reprocessed Stereo?

More of the Music of The Rolling Stones

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments

On this London LP, even though it states clearly on the cover that the record is electronically re-processed into stereo, the songs we heard on side one were in dead mono.

So much for believing what you read on album covers.

This Sonny Rollins pressing of Tenor Madness says it too has been remastered into stereo, but you would have a hard time hearing any left-right information coming from your speakers. On headphones, maybe, but speakers? Unlikely.

Even when a record has been been reprocessed from mono into stereo, it can still sound very good. Not the best, mind you, but good enough to easily wipe the floor with anything pressed by any audiophile label that we’ve ever heard of, and we’ve heard pretty much all of them.


Mono, Stereo, Reprocessed Stereo, We’ve Played Them All!

Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Mono or Stereo? Stick with Mono

Mono or Stereo? Stick with Stereo

Mono Reprocessed into Stereo – Good and Bad

(more…)

Rod Stewart – Never A Dull Moment

More Rod Stewart

More British Blues Rock

  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this early Mercury pressing of Stewart’s fourth solo album
  • Extremely well-recorded, full of great songs – Rod Stewart was on top of the world when he followed up the brilliant Every Picture Tells A Story with this album in 1972
  • The music comes alive on this vintage domestic pressing (the only ones that have the potential for Hot Stampers in our experience), assuming you have your volume up good and loud
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 5 stars in AMG, and simply “… a masterful record … He never got quite this good ever again.”

Listen to the percussion on Angel — you can really hear all the transients and the sound of the drum skins. The meaty guitar in the left channel sounds mind-blowingly good. The bass is deep and well-defined, and the sound of the drums is awesome in every way. Who has a better drum sound than Rod Stewart on his two best albums?

Along with Every Picture Tells A Story this is one of the two Must Own Rod Stewart albums. Practically every song here is a classic, with not a dog in the bunch. Rod Stewart did what few artists have ever managed to do: release his two best albums back to back.

And this Hot Stamper, not to overstate the obvious, is clearly the way to hear it. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs And Englishmen

More Joe Cocker

  • This vintage copy boasts KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side four and seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound on the other THREE sides, and plays about as quietly as any early pressing ever will
  • The sound is rich and tubey, with driving energy and the top end and clarity that was simply missing from far too many of the copies we had to work through in order to find this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Unlike a lot of other ‘coffee table’-type rock releases of the era, such as Woodstock and The Concert for Bangladesh, people actually listened to Mad Dogs & Englishmen – most of its content was exciting, and its sound, a veritable definition of big-band rock with three dozen players working behind the singer, was unique.”

(more…)

The Eagles / Desperado

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

  • This STUNNING copy of the band’s sophomore release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This vintage pressing has huge amounts of Tubey Magic, a strong bass foundation, and plenty of space around the guitars and voices – man, that is our sound!
  • This is the second-best sounding Eagles record of all time, no doubt thanks to their brilliant engineer and producer, Glyn Johns
  • “A solid country-rock classic… the music stands the test of time, especially when Desperado is heard in its entirety, from start to finish.”

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.

(more…)

Listening in Depth to Desperado

More of the Music of The Eagles

Hot Stamper Pressings of Especially Tubey Magical Recordings Available Now

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series. Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

This is the second-best sounding Eagles record of all time, no doubt thanks to the engineering of our man Glyn Johns.

Of course, the best sound on any Eagles record is found on the first album. It’s a Top Ten Rock and Pop title and as Tubey Magical a rock record as you will ever hear.

You don’t need tube equipment to hear the prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic that exist on this recording. For those of you who’ve experienced top quality analog pressings of Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon, or practically any jazz album on Contemporary, whether played through tubes or transistors, that’s the luscious sound of Tubey Magic, and it is all over Desperado.

For whatever reason, the first Eagles album was left off the TAS Super Disc list, even though we feel that both musically and sonically it beats Desperado by a hair. And there is no need to buy the one Harry recommended back in the day, the original British on SYL.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Doolin-Dalton

This wonderful song is a great test track for side one. Typical pressings of this album tend to be dark and lack extension up top. When you have no real top end, space, detail and resolution suffer greatly. You need to be able to appreciate each of the stringed instruments being played — guitar, banjo, dobro — and the top end needs to be extended and correct for you to be able to do that. (more…)

Eric Clapton – Backless

More Eric Clapton

More British Blues Rock

  • Backless returns to the site with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides of this early British pressing
  • Rich, smooth, clear sound throughout – listen to the grungy guitars on “Walk Out In The Rain” – that’s the way they should sound all right
  • Clapton comes to life on the traditional blues “Early In The Morning” – it also has the best sound on the album
  • “Backless is a seductive record, if you’re attracted to the interplay of Clapton’s dolorous voice and Marcy Levy’s raspy backup vocals, George Terry’s slide guitar and Glyn Johns pristine production.” – Rolling Stone

The typical pressing of Backless, much like the typical pressing of Slowhand, is just too thick, dull, compressed and veiled to be much fun. At the very least you need to turn this album up good and loud to get it to do anything.

The copies that are solid and weighty love getting loud; the copies that are thin and bright only get worse as the level goes up, a sign that they leave a lot to be desired. This is a rock album after all.

We had top quality copies on both domestic and British vinyl. Both were cut here in L.A. It makes sense that either can be good.

(more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers

More Rolling Stones

  • A Sticky Fingers like you’ve never heard, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – reasonably quiet vinyl too, about as quiet as we can find them
  • If this price seems high, keep in mind that the top copy from our most recent shootout went for $1100, and the vinyl was no quieter
  • If you have never heard one of our Hot Stamper pressings of the album, you (probably) cannot begin to appreciate just how amazing the sound is
  • A landmark Glyn Johns / Andy Johns recording, our favorite by the Stones, a Top 100 Title (of course) and 5 stars on Allmusic (ditto)
  • Q magazine said this was “the Stones at their assured, showboating peak … A magic formula of heavy soul, junkie blues and macho rock.”
  • 5 stars: “With its offhand mixture of decadence, roots music, and outright malevolence, Sticky Fingers set the tone for the rest of the decade for the Stones.”

This is the best record the Stones ever made, with Let It Bleed and Beggars Banquet right up there with it but just a half-step behind.

The sound is exactly what you want from a Stones album, with deep punchy bass and dynamic, grungy guitars. This record is to be played loud like it says on the inner sleeve and the surface noise is to be ignored. The louder you play it, the less bothersome the noise will be. This album ROCKS and it was not made to be listened to in a comfy chair while sipping wine.

(more…)

The Who – Who Are You

More of The Who

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds remotely as good as this vintage UK import – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has the Glyn Johns BIG, BOLD sound we demand from this famous producer/engineer
  • Forget the domestic pressings, forget the DD Labs half-speed, forget whatever lame reissues have come or will come down the pike – if you want to hear this album right, a Hot Stamper British pressing is the only way to go
  • The title song sounds great on this superb copy – the dynamic power of the recording comes through loud and clear
  • If you’re a fan of The Who, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this album from 1978 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG


Big, tubey and rockin’, this copy has The Who sound we know from Who’s Next so well. Huge and pacious, with lovely three-dimensional depth, the sound has that patented Live in the Studio quality that Johns’ practically trademarked. Breathy vocals and great life and presence to every instrument — this is the way to hear it!

Forget the domestic pressings, forget the DD Labs half-speed, forget whatever lame reissues have come or will come down the pike — if you want to hear this album right, a Hot Stamper British pressing is the only way to go.

This copy has the Glyn Johns Who Sound we demand from one of the most famous producer/artist collaborations in the history of rock music. (I would argue that Johns’ work with the Stones is even more legendary.)

This is certainly not the equal of the beyond brilliant Who’s Next — what is? It’s an undisputed Masterpiece — but the best songs here are certainly in that league. The title track is one I used to demo my system with twenty years ago and, with a copy like this, would be happy to again.

(more…)

The Beatles – John’s Really Digging a Pony. Are You?

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

The best copies of Let It Be are Demo Discs for Energy, and here are some others that we’ve discovered are good for testing that quality on vinyl.

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…)