Top Engineers – Glyn Johns

Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES! We’ve known for quite some time that this can be an amazing sounding record, but until this week we didn’t realize just how stunning the best copies can be! This one’s an absolute knockout — side one earned the high grade of A++ while side two is As Good As It Gets!

The average copy of this album has a tendency to sound a bit too hi-fi for our tastes. Most audiophiles love that kind of sound, but us analog freaks prefer richness and warmth over hyper-detailed, unnatural sound. That’s why most of the heavy vinyl stuff we play around here gets the hook after just moments. We just aren’t interested in records that sound like CDs.

Side one is incredibly airy, open, and transparent. Turn down the lights, drop the needle, and your speakers will practially disapper! The soundfield is spacious and three-dimensional. The top end is silky sweet, the bottom is rich and solid, and the acoustic guitar sounds JUST RIGHT. Listen to how full-bodied and present the vocals sound on Down To Zero — lovely!

Side two has AMAZING MASTER TAPE SOUND! It’s big and lively with unbelievable immediacy to the vocals. The acoustic guitar has just the right amount of pluck and twang. Most copies don’t have this degree of clarity and transparency. There’s lots of ambience and room around the drums that weren’t nearly as clear on other pressings. We gave this side our top grade of A+++.

Our Man Glyn Johns At The Helm

This album was produced and engineered by Glyn Johns and recorded at Olympic Studios in London. Glyn, of course, is one of our all-time favorite engineers. If you like the sound of Who’s Next, Let It Bleed, On The Border (my personal favorite Eagles album), Led Zeppelin’s debut, and Sticky Fingers, you have Glyn Johns to thank for that.

 

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD. This vintage London Stereo 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…)

Neil Young – Harvest – Our Shootout Winner in 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame since 2008.

Harvest is undeniably one of the most beloved albums in all of classic rock. We get letters all the time from customers hoping to get their hands on Hot Stamper copies, but we’ll never have the supply to keep up with the demand. It’s a tough nut to crack, because a Hot Stamper Harvest has to get so many things right — the lovely pedal steel guitar on Out On The Weekend, the LSO on A Man Needs A Maid and There’s A World (engineered by Glyn Johns), Neil’s grungy electric guitar on Alabama, and so much more. 

Many copies we played would work for the heavy songs and then fall behind on the softer numbers. Others had gorgeous sound on the country-tinged numbers but couldn’t deliver any whomp for the rockers. (more…)

Rita Coolidge – Nice Feelin’ – Reviewed in 2010

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

A very well recorded album. It’s easy to see why – two of the engineers are none other than Bruce Botnick and Glyn Johns. Al Kooper’s here too.

It is amazing given the exposure Rita Coolidge obtained through the Mad Dogs & Englishmen soundtrack that her second album for A & M is such a cult item. Covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Graham Nash and participation by names like Al Kooper, Glyn Johns, Bruce Botnick, and Marc Benno should have made this record her breakthrough…” AMG 

The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

Another HUGE double album conquered! This shootout was a MAJOR struggle, an uphill battle all the way. Stones fans and Hot Stamper die-hards are going to flip out over this one — here’s the Exile On Main Street you’ve been waiting for. You’d have to find, clean and play a ton of copies to come up with four sides that would come even close to the sound here.

Of course, Hot Stampers can only give you what’s on the tape. In this case, it’s some rude, crude, dirty rock & roll. That’s clearly what the Stones were going for here. In terms of audiophile appeal, Tea For The Tillerman this ain’t. This is no Demo Disc by any means; it may have some of The Rolling Stones best music on it, but those looking for the best sounding Stones album should look in the direction of Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed. They’re better recordings.

But this album is no slouch. It can be a bit gritty and grainy at times, but you gotta believe that’s kind of the sound the Stones heard in the booth. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

UNBELIEVABLE! The sound on this Decca Blue Label British Import pressing went far beyond our expectations and far beyond that of any copy we played it against — on BOTH sides. And the music? It’s the Stones at their best, baby — we love it!

The credit must of course go to GLYN JOHNS, who happens to be one of our favorite producers and recording / mixing engineers. It’s albums with sound like this that make us such big fans of his work.

From the moment we dropped the needle on side one, we were SHOCKED by the presence, the clarity, and the energy — and that’s just talking about the sound of the audience! About a minute after the music got going, we had to collect our jaws off the floor. No other copy we had heard could have led us to believe we would hear this album sound THIS amazing. The sound is both tubey magical and clear, and the energy and immediacy are off the charts. Turn it up loud and you are in the middle of the Stones’ concert of a lifetime! I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what kind of money Stones’ tickets go for these days, but I think it’s safe to say you’ll get better sound for your dollars on this White Hot Stamper LP. (more…)

The Who – Who’s Next – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

TWO AMAZING sides on QUIET vinyl — a stunning A+++ Off the Charts, Hard To Beat, Shootout Winning side two mated to a superb A++ to A+++ side one! This week we sat down for an all day MASSIVE shootout for Who’s Next, a true Glyn Johns Classic and undeniably one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

This Decca Colorband Original pressing BLEW OUR MINDS with phenomenal sound from start to finish — check out the BIG, BOLD, Rock ’em Sock ’em bottom end energy! No other pressing we played had this kind of POWER down below. If you’re ready to really rock out with The Who, this White Hot Stamper is your ticket to ride.

The sound is WONDERFUL from start to finish. There’s no grain to speak of and dramatically less smearing and veiling than most of the copies we played it against. The presence is startling — turn it up good and loud and The Who will be right there thrashing around in your listening room! The bottom end, on both sides, has the kind of weight that’s absolutely essential to this music.

We’re talking BIG ROCK SOUND and quiet vinyl, a rare combination in our experience, our experience of course coming from dozens and dozens of British Tracks and Polydors, German Polydors, Decca originals, MCA reissues, a few imports from other countries (Japan, thin and bright), and last but far from least, The Classic 200 gram pressing. (More about that later.)

Sides One and Two

The best Track copy we found to be ever so slightly better on side one; this Decca had more whomp but the Track had clarity and transparency that was impossible to beat. It was a close call but in the end we had to award this side one the silver, not the gold. It’s a common trade-off with Who’s Next — the copies with the most going on down low often get a little murky in the midrange.

But who are we kidding? Most copies of the album are murky in the midrange, whether they have any low end or not. It’s a murky sounding recording. Some copies clean up the murk — the Japanese pressings we’ve played come to mind — and that just ruins everything. What you want is the most transparency and clarity in the midrange coupled with the most low end weight and energy; it’s a simple as that.

Side two here gives you exactly that, the best of both worlds — all the whomp, all the clarity, and all the ENERGY. Wait until you hear it. When we say it rocks we ain’t kidding. The louder you play it the better it sounds. (more…)

The Who – Who Are You – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

A nearly White Hot side two (with an incredibly dynamic Who Are You to close out the album) backed with a Super Hot side one make this by far the best copy we have ever offered on the site. 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 / The Who BIG and BOLD Rock Sound we demand from one of the most famous producer/artist collaborations in the history of rock music. (Johns’ work with the Stones is even more legendary I should think.) This is certainly not the equal of the beyond brilliant Who’s Next, but the best songs here are certainly comparable. 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.

Side One

A++. Big, spacious, with lovely three-dimensional depth, the sound has that patented Live in the Studio sound Johns is known for. Breathy vocals and great life and presence to every instrument, this is the way to hear it! Our shootout winner was a bit bigger and clearer, but you will have to go through on awful lot of copies of Who Are You to find one that beats this pressing, and they aren’t cheap (or easy to find).

Side Two

A++ to A+++, even better! Big and tubey and rockin’, this has The Who sound we know from Who’s Next so well. Solid weight helps a lot, especially when it comes time for the band to explode after the amazingly quiet middle section of the title track comes to an end. Some copies get very quiet in that passage, with the guitar right at the noise floor. Other do not. I’m glad to say this is one of those dynamic ones that can show you just how powerful analog can be. (more…)

The Steve Miller Band – Brave New World

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  • An insanely good sounding with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them – this is the best copy to hit the site in years!
  • Engineered by the one and only Glyn Johns – until we heard this specific pressing we had no idea the album could sound as good as this one does
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus – I defy anyone to find an early Capitol pressing that plays as quietly as this one does!
  • “Brave New World was more fully realized, and rocked harder, than the Steve Miller Band’s first two albums.” 

(more…)

Rod Stewart – Never A Dull Moment – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

The credit must go to the engineering of MIKE BOBAK for the DEMO DISC SOUND. We just finished our most comprehensive shootout ever for the album, culling the best sounding dozen from about twenty five entrants, and this copy just plain kicked all their butts, earning our highest grade on side one (A+++).

Having made a number of serious improvements to our system in the last few months, I can state categorically and without reservation that this copy of Never a Dull Moment achieved the best stereo sound I have ever heard in my life (outside of the live event of course). I’m still recovering from it.

Side one here is OFF THE CHARTS! No other side one could touch it. It’s got all the elements needed to make this music REALLY ROCK — stunning presence; super-punchy drums; deep, tight bass; and tons of life and energy.

So many copies tend to be dull, veiled, thick and congested, but on this one you can separate out the various parts with ease and hear right INTO the music. It’s also surprisingly airy, open, and spacious — not quite what you’d expect from a bluesy British rock album like this, right? But the engineers here managed to pull it off! One of them was Glyn Johns (mis-spelled in the credits Glynn Johns), who’s only responsible for the first track on side one, True Blue. Naturally that happens to be one of the best sounding tracks on the whole album. (more…)