Top Engineers – Ken Scott

Elton John / Honky Chateau – Our Thoughts Circa 2007

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This British Import Honky Chateau is THE BEST SOUNDING COPY WE’VE EVER HEARD — BY FAR! We just finished a big shootout for this wonderful album, and this copy took top honors with MASTER TAPE SOUND!

This has to be one of the best sounding rock records of all time — certainly worthy of a spot on our Top Rock LPs List. A Hot Stamper copy like this really tells you why. The highs are silky sweet, the vocals are full-bodied and breathy, and the tonal balance is perfection from top to bottom.

If you have any doubts that Elton John was a pop music genius, just play this record. It’s all the proof you will need. Drop the needle on any track — you just can’t go wrong.

There’s no need to go on and on about the sonic qualities of this copy. Everything you’d ever want from this record is here in abundance. Folks, this copy is the epitome of what we call Master Tape Sound — on both sides.

Two mastering approaches

The original British copies of this record, with the leatherette cover, have two distinctly different mastering approaches.

The earliest pressings tend to be very lively, but a bit hi-fi-ish and aggressive in places. I used to think these were the best.

The later British originals tend to sound dull and muddy.

It’s been almost two years since we’ve done a shootout for this album. It’s beyond difficult to find clean copies of this album, let alone ones that have Hot Stamper sound. There was a time when we liked a certain British stamper that we thought split the difference between the mastering approaches mentioned above. The copies we played this time around with that stamper were practically unacceptable this time around.

Our best domestic pressings actually bettered many of the Brit copies with our old favorite stamper. Improvements in our stereo and evaluation process have allowed us to discover the stampers with The Real Sound.

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The Beatles – The White Album

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More of The White Album

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  • An outstanding British pressing of The White Album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all four sides
  • This copy of the Beatles’ Masterpiece (my personal favorite of all their albums) is going to thrill and delight the lucky person who snags it
  • If you’ve heard the half-speed and Heavy Vinyl versions of The White Album, then you know how riddled they are with unacceptable flaws and not enjoyable on high-quality equipment, unlike this copy which is guaranteed to be an unalloyed joy to play
  • “If there is still any doubt that Lennon and McCartney are the greatest song writers since Schubert, then next Friday – with the publication of the new Beatles double LP – should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making…” Right On!

Our Hot Stampers have always been a BIG hit with the folks who’ve been lucky enough to snare them. If you’re ready for a High-Quality copy of The White Album that’s sure to massacre all the pressings you’ve heard until now, you should jump right on this bad boy. (more…)

America – Self-Titled

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the best we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of our favorite Hippie Folk Rock albums – the instruments and voices are so well recorded they will seem to be floating right in front of you
  • The Tubey Magical acoustic guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction – thanks Ken Scott!
  • A tough record to find these days on the early Green Label with sound this good and audiophile playing surfaces that are this quiet
  • 4 stars: “America’s debut album is a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg…”

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” being 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.

This is clearly America’s best album, and on the better pressings like this one, the sound is worthy of Demo Disc status. You’ll find the kind of immediacy, richness and harmonic texture that not many records (and even fewer CDs) are capable of reproducing.

The version we are offering here has the song A Horse With No Name. Some copies without that song can sound very good as well, but with grades this good, this copy is going to be very hard to beat.

Interestingly, A Horse With No Name never sounds quite as good as the rest of the album. It was recorded in 1971, after the album had already been released, and subsequently added to newer pressings starting in 1972. Unlike the rest of the album, it was not engineered by Ken Scott at Trident, but by a different engineer at Morgan Studios. The engineer of that song took a different approach to the one that Scott had, and we leave it to you to decide how well that approach worked.

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Ken Scott Is One of Our Top Five Favorite Engineers

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More of Our Favorite Engineers

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KEN SCOTT is one of our favorite record engineers and producers. Click on the link to find the albums on our site that Ken worked on, along with plenty of our commentaries about the sound of his recordings. 

Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, Truth, Birds of Fire) is the man responsible for the sound of many of our All Time Favorite Albums here at Better Records.

The kind of Tubey Magical richness, smoothness and fullness he achieved at Trident in the early ’70s has never been equaled elsewhere in our opinion.

In 2008 I had the opportunity to hear Ken speak at an AES meeting here in Los Angeles. I won’t bore you by trying to recap his talk, but if it ever comes out on youtube or the like, you should definitely check it out. The Behind-The-Scenes discussion of these artists and their recordings was a thrill for someone like me who has been playing and enjoying the hell out of most of his albums for more than thirty years.

Many can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music (limited to titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts).

David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World

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More Art Rock

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Big space, breathy vocals, grungy guitars and plenty of Ken Scott’s luscious Tubey Magic makes this album a true audiophile treat
  • As it says on the back of the jacket, “Many thanks to our engineer Ken (Scott, one of our favorites).”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Working with guitarist Mick Ronson and producer Tony Visconti for the first time, Bowie developed a tight, twisted heavy guitar rock that appears simple on the surface but sounds more gnarled upon each listen.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 8 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, The Width Of A Circle. On side two, a mark makes 16 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, Running Gun Blues.

The sound is rich and full, just the way the Brits (and us audiophiles) like it. The tube compression that both Bowie and Scott favor works its magic at every turn, adding fatness and richness and lovely harmonics to the guitars and the drums.

Mick Ronson’s guitars are wonderfully rich and grungy. The vocals can get a bit hot on the first track on side one (as is often the case), but by track two the sound has settled in and is rich and smooth, just the way we like it. Very present and lively vocals are a strong point. Listen to the big bass, richness and Tubey Magic of the third track on side two — that is some Ken Scott studio wizardry at play.

Note that the second track on the second side seems to be where Alice Cooper found his “sound.” More power to him I say. You could get away with ripping off Bowie in 1970; nobody bought this album in the states, which is why it’s so damn rare and expensive. (more…)

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a superb Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy of Supertramp’s Masterpiece will be very hard to beat
  • Ken Scott engineered this one to have Cinerama-sized height, width and depth to rival the best rock albums you’ve ever heard
  • Clearly their Magnum Opus, a great leap forward and a permanent member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 Album List
  • “The tuneful, tightly played songs, pristine clarity of sound, and myriad imaginative sound effects, helped create an album that Sounds magazine likened to ‘Genesis, The Beach Boys…a smattering of [Pink] Floyd.'”

CONDITION NOTES: A mark at the start of track two makes about twenty light to very light intermittent ticks, with a few a bit louder.

This is engineer Ken Scott’s (and the band’s) MASTERPIECE, but the average copy sure can’t get your blood pumping the way this one will. We’ve long recognized that Crime of the Century is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock recordings, a member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 list right from the get go.

When you hear the guitars come jumping out of your speakers on School or Bloody Well Right you can be sure that you’re playing a very special pressing of a very special recording indeed. (Yes, you need both. That’s why we’re here.) (more…)

Crisis? What Crisis? The Exception that Probes the Rule

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[This commentary is from more than fifteen years ago, so please take it with an oversized grain of salt. The best domestic pressings kill this audiophile record. That said, the better half-speed copies are actually surprisingly good.]

This Hot Stamper A&M Half Speed of Supertramp – Crisis? What Crisis? today joins a VERY ELITE GROUP: Half-Speeds that hold their own in a head to head shootout against some of the BEST Hot Stamper Non-Audiophile pressings we can find. There are presently a total of three titles that fit the description: Dark Side of the Moon on MoFi, Crime of the Century on MoFi, and this title on A&M.

Most half-speed mastered records we throw on our table have us scratching our heads and asking, What the hell were they thinking? They SUCK! Tubby bass, recessed mids, phony highs, compression — the list of bad qualities they almost all have in common is a long one. Playing these kinds of records on a properly set-up modern system is positively painful.
(You have to wonder how bad a stereo system has to be to disguise the shortcomings of records that sound as wrong as these. Then again, is Heavy Vinyl any better?) (more…)

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

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  • To say that this one has been a long time coming would be an understatement! FINALLY, an incredible sounding copy of All Things Must Pass
  • Superb Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on the fifth side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the remaining five sides — wonderfully big, full and Tubey Magical yet still clean and clear with tons of space and a lovely bottom end
  • “Without a doubt, Harrison’s first solo recording, originally issued as a triple album, is his best.” – All Music

Tubey Magic Is Key

This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot 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…)

Jeff Beck – Truth

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side one and a Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two, this copy is just about as good as it gets
  • Easily – and by a wide margin – the best sounding record Jeff Beck ever made – thanks Ken Scott! (And thank you, CBS, for the exceptionally quiet vinyl)
  • This pressing embodies the Big Rock Sound, the kind we go crazy for here at Better Records
  • Really fun music – it’s a blast to hear Rod Stewart fronting such a heavy rock band
  • AMG 5 Stars “…almost as groundbreaking and influential a record as the first Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Who albums.”

This is a SHOCKINGLY good sounding pressing of Truth, Beck’s As-Heavy-As-I-Can-Make-It Rock debut, the kind of record that would define Classic Rock for the next forty plus years.

The soundstage is absolutely HUGE, while the presence and transparency of this copy go way beyond most pressings. Great rock and roll energy too of course — without that you have nothing on this album.

Note how spacious, big, full-bodied and DYNAMIC both sides are. That’s why they’re White Hot or close to it. I am pleased to report that the whomp factor on these sides was nothing short of MASSIVE. With tons of bass these sides have what it takes to make the music ROCK. (more…)

The Beatles White Album – Listening in Depth

More on The White Album

 

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It’s exceedingly difficult to find audiophile quality sound on The White Album. The Beatles were breaking apart, often recording independently of each other, with their own favorite engineers as enablers, and George Martin nowhere to be found most of the time. They were also experimenting more and more with sound itself, which resulted in wonderful songs and interesting effects. However, these new approaches and added complexity often result in a loss of sonic “purity.”

Let’s face it, most audiophiles like simplicity: A female vocal, a solo guitar — these things are easy to reproduce and often result in pleasing sound, the kind of sound that doesn’t take a lot of expensive equipment or much effort to reproduce.

Dense mixes with wacky EQ are hard to reproduce (our famous Difficulty of Reproduction Scale (DORS) comes into play here), and the White Album is full of that sound, taking a break for songs like Blackbird and Julia.

Some of the Tubey Magic that you hear on Pepper is gone for good. (Play With a Little Help from My Friends on a seriously good Hot Stamper to see what has been lost forever.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Looks at the lineup for side one. Is there a rock album on the planet with a better batch of songs?

Having done shootouts for the White Album by the score, we can also say with some certainty that side one is the most difficult side to find White Hot stamper sound for. It’s somewhat rare to find a side one that earns our top Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grade, even when all the other sides do. (Actually what happens more often than not is that we take the best second discs and mate them with the best first discs to make the grades consistent for the whole album. But don’t tell anybody.) (more…)