Top Engineers – Glyn Johns

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…)

The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street

  • This is Exile raw and real the way it should be – full-bodied and punchy with great vocal presence and plenty of grungy rock and roll energy
  • 5 stars: “Few other albums, let alone double albums, have been so rich and masterful as Exile on Main St., and it stands not only as one of the Stones’ best records, but sets a remarkably high standard for all of hard rock.”
  • If you’re a Classic Rock fan, this Must Own Classic from 1972 surely belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

All four sides here have the kind of bass, energy, and presence that is essential for this music to rock the way it wants to. A copy like this conveys the emotional power of The Stones’ performances in a way that most pressings simply fail to do.

This shootout is always a struggle, an uphill battle all the way. You’d have to find, clean and play a ton of copies to come up with four sides that can do this music justice. We’re sure that Stones fans and Hot Stamper die-hards are going to be very pleased with this copy.

This vintage Artisan mastered pressing (the only ones that have any hope of sounding good) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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…)

Rod Stewart – A Milestone Listening Experience

More of the Music of Rod Stewart

More Milestone Events in the History of Better Records

In the listing for our 2010 Shootout Winner, we noted:

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. [In 2022, of course this statement strikes me as way over the top. But I must have believed it when I wrote it.]

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+++).

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.

The Sound

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.

Side Two — Almost As Good

We were thrilled when we dropped the needle on side two and heard BIG BASS and TONS of ENERGY just like this amazing side one.

Listen to the room around the drums on Angel — you can really hear the studio as well as the sound of the skins being beaten. On the same track, the meaty guitar in the left channel sounds mind-blowingly good. With a little more top end, the kind that makes the glockenspiel in the right channel clear and present and harmonically correct, this copy would have been hard to beat on side two as well. 

The story of our old shootout is what progress in audio in all about. As your stereo improves, some records should get better, some should get worse. It’s the nature of the beast for those of us who constantly make improvements to our playback and critically listen to records all day. And it all comes courtesy of Revolutions in Audio.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Led Zeppelin / Self-Titled

More Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin I

  • A truly excellent import of Zep’s amazing debut with outstanding sound from first note to last – quiet vinyl too
  • Arguably the biggest, clearest and most Tubey Magical Zeppelin album ever recorded, thanks to the engineering genius of Glyn Johns (and production genius of Jimmy Page, who paid for the whole thing out of his own pocket)
  • Just look at the track list – the lucky owner of this LP will be hearing those songs come to life like never before
  • The band’s first album is a permanent member of our Top 100 and a Big Speaker Demo Disc like you will not believe
  • 5 stars: “Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme… But the key to the group’s attack was subtlety: it wasn’t just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos.”

For the real Led Zep magic, you just can’t do much better than their debut — and here’s a copy that really shows you why. From the opening chords of “Good Times Bad Times” to the wild ending of “How Many More Times” (“times” start the album and end it, too, it seems) this copy will have you rockin’ out!

Both sides have THE BIG ZEP SOUND. Right from the start we noticed how clean the cymbals sounded and how well-defined the bass was, after hearing way too many copies with smeared cymbals and blubbery bass.

When you have a tight, punchy copy like this one, “Good Times Bad Times” does what it is supposed to do — it REALLY ROCKS! With this much life, it’s lightyears ahead of the typically dull, dead, boring copy. The drum sound is PERFECTION.

Drop the needle on “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” to hear how amazing Robert Plant’s voice sounds. It’s breathy and full-bodied with in-the-room presence. The overall sound is warm, rich, sweet, and very analog, with energy to spare. “Dazed and Confused” sounds JUST RIGHT — you’re gonna flip out over all the ambience!

Communication Breakdown is crazy good — the sound of Jimmy Page’s guitar during the solo is so good.

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The Beatles – Let It Be

More of The Beatles

More Let It Be

  • An outstanding UK pressing with solid sound from first note to last 
  • There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ – here is the most realistic, natural Beatles sound you can get outside of the first album
  • Copies like this one make good on the promise that Let It Be captures the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The album is on the whole underrated… it’s an album well worth having, as when the Beatles were in top form here, they were as good as ever.”

At its best, Let It Be has the power of live music, but it takes a special pressing such as this one to show you that sound. It’s a bit trickier trying to find good sound for this album than it is for some of the other albums in the Beatles’ catalog.

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Neil Young / Harvest – How Does the Heavy Vinyl Pressing Sound?

More of the Music of Neil Young

Reviews and Commentaries for Harvest

How does the heavy vinyl sound? We have no idea, never played one.

Actually, we do have an idea. Although we’ve never auditioned the heavy vinyl pressing of Harvest, we have played the newly remastered After the Gold Rush. We concluded that this is a reissue series that holds very little appeal for us as audiophiles. Some excerpts from our review for ATGR follow.

We know what the good pressings of the album sound like, we play them regularly, and this newly remastered vinyl is missing almost everything that makes the album essential to any Right Thinking Music Lover’s collection.

We can summarize the sound of this awful record in one word: boring. Since some of you may want to know more than that we’ll be happy to break it down for you a bit further.

What It Does Right

It’s tonally correct.

Can’t think of anything else…

What It Does Wrong

Where to begin?

It has no real space or ambience. When you play this record it sounds as if they must have recorded it in a heavily padded studio. Somehow the originals of After the Gold Rush, like most of Neil’s classic albums from the era, are clear, open and spacious.

Cleverly the engineers responsible for this audiophile remastering have managed to reproduce the sound of a dead studio on a record that wasn’t recorded in one.

In addition, the record never gets loud. The good pressings get very loud. They rock, they’re overflowing with energy.

And, lastly, there’s no real weight to the bottom end. The Whomp Factor on this new pressing is practically non-existent. The low end of the originals is huge, deep and powerful.

The Bottom Line

This new Heavy Vinyl pressing is boring beyond all understanding. I wouldn’t give you a nickel for it. If Neil Young actually had anything to do with it he should be ashamed of himself.

If you want a good copy of the album we have them on the site from time to time. If you can’t afford our Hot Stampers, please don’t waste your money on this one. I have an old CD from 30 years ago, and it is dramatically better than this LP.

Pass / Fail

We think the Heavy Vinyl pressing of After the Gold Rush is so awful that whatever supporters it may have — and there are surely some who have spoken well of it on audiophile forums somewhere, having seen the most ridiculously bad audiophile records touted again and again — are failing utterly in this hobby in one or both of the following ways.

They either cannot reproduce its shortcomings, or, having reproduced them, they have failed to recognize them.

Either one spells trouble. One or both should act as a wake up call of the most pressing kind. We explain what we mean by this kind of failure in more detail here:

Some records are so wrong, or are so lacking in qualities that are crucial to the reproduction of Hi-Fidelity sound — qualities typically found in abundance on the right vintage pressings — that the supporters of these records are failing fundamentally to judge them correctly. We call these records Pass-Fail.

Tea for the Tillerman on the new 45 may be substandard in almost every way, but it is not a Pass-Fail pressing. It lacks one thing above all others, Tubey Magic, so if your system has an abundance of that quality, the way many vintage tube systems do, the new pressing may be quite listenable and enjoyable. Those whose systems can play the record and not notice this important shortcoming are not exactly failing. They most likely have a system that is heavily colored and not very revealing, but it is not a system that is necessarily hopeless or unmusical.

A system that can play the MoFi of Aja without revealing to the listener how wrong it is must necessarily be at another level of bad entirely. A stereo of such poor quality is clearly a failure, what else could it be?

My system in the ’80s played the MoFi Aja just fine. Looking back on it now, I realize my system was doing more wrong than right. (Having very poorly-developed critical listening skills played a big part in my apparent satisfaction with both the MoFi pressing and the sound of my stereo in general.)

Today’s incarnation of that awful MoFi is the Cisco pressing, and yes, some folks are as clueless these days as I was in 1982.

Like all Self-Taught Audiophiles, I had a lousy teacher. I didn’t know it at the time — how could I? — but I had a very long way to go.

Some of the lessons I learned along the way, lessons you may find helpful in your own personal audio journey, can be found here.

The dramatic audio progress we’ve made in our 35 years in the record business, playing and selling thousands of audiophile quality vinyl LPs, is what has allowed us to recognize just how second- and third-rate most Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered pressings really are.

Head to head with a good vintage LP — those you see pictured below, for example — they are simply not competitive. We think the new Harvest is unlikely to be worth our time, but if you have a copy of the album and like the sound of it, please send it to us so that we can hear it for ourselves We will put it up against the amazing sounding vintage pressings we offer and report our findings, whatever they turn out to be.

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The Who – Who’s Next

More of The Who

Reviews and Commentaries for Who’s Next

  • This British Track pressing is guaranteed to blow your mind with its phenomenal sound — check out the BIG, BOLD, Rock ’em, Sock ’em bottom end energy
  • Compare this to any Heavy Vinyl (or other) pressing and you will hear in a heartbeat why we think The Real Thing just cannot be beat
  • 5 stars: “This is invigorating because it has. . . Townshend laying his soul bare in ways that are funny, painful, and utterly life-affirming. That is what the Who was about, not the rock operas, and that’s why Who’s Next is truer than Tommy or the abandoned Lifehouse. Those were art — this, even with its pretensions, is rock & roll.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1971 is a Masterpiece that belongs in every right thinking audiophile’s collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Listening in Depth to Sticky Fingers

More of the Music of The Rolling Stones

Reviews and Commentaries for Sticky Fingers

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Sticky Fingers.

Here are some albums on our site you can buy with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

A QUICK TEST: The best copies have texture and real dynamics in the brass. The bad copies are smeared, grainy and unpleasant when the brass comes in. Toss those bad ones and start shooting out the good ones. Believe me, if you find a good one it will be worth all the work.

Even through the noise of the bad vinyl you can hear the audio magic. The sound is exactly what you want from a Stones album: 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 with a glass of wine.


Track Commentary

Side One

Brown Sugar

If Brown Sugar makes you want to turn up the volume, you have a good copy! That song tends to be just plain irritating on most copies. You need a hot copy to listen to it at the level the Stones want you to: LOUD.

Sway
Wild Horses

Demonstration Quality Sound! Listen to those choruses. When have the Stones’ voices been recorded better? Never! None more times.

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

My favorite test track for side one. The Stones have never been better. If you have a copy with rock solid bass and a transparent midrange, you have yourself a real Demo Track here. (Assuming you have the big speakers with plenty of power needed to play it.)

You Gotta Move

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The Eagles – Self-Titled

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

  • A truly outstanding early pressing, earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • This is as quiet as they come, folks – no marks play, and the vinyl is often quieter than Mint Minus Minus, exceptional for this title
  • You will be floored by the huge, rich, Tubey Magical guitars exploding out from your speakers on Take It Easy
  • One of the Best Sounding Rock Records Ever Made, a member of our Top Ten and without a doubt Glyn Johns’ engineering (and producing) Masterpiece
  • A Top 100 Tubey Magical Demo Disc that is guaranteed to blow your mind on a pressing that sounds as good as this one does

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them 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, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


It will not take the lucky owner of this record long to recognize what we’ve known for years: the Eagles first album is clearly and inarguably one of the Best Sounding Rock Recordings Ever Made. Almost all the qualities we look for on this album can be found on this very copy.

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johnsmasterpiece — rock records simply do not sound any better in our experience. It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile pressing pale in comparison. Everything you could ask for as an audiophile is here, and more.

We’ve been up on our soapbox for years telling people how amazing this record can be, and here’s a copy that backs up our position from start to finish. (more…)

The Eagles / On The Border – A Must Own Country Rock Classic

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

  • An outstanding British SYL copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound for this criminally underrated California Country Rock Classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl for this album, because early UK pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile playing condition
  • If you’ve never heard one of these early pressings, you have simply never heard this album sound the way it should
  • You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love (their first No. 1) offer Glyn Johns magically delicious DEMO DISC quality sound
  • We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot coming from us – we’ve been big fans for decades
  • This killer album from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. On the Border is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind of sound you’ll hear on this vintage UK pressing (the only kind we sell of course).

The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. 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…)