Top Engineers – Norman Smith

The Original Pressings of Beatles Albums Are the Best, Right?

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Beatles Available Now

Records that Sound Better on the Right Reissue

(excluding The Beatles)

beatles help label

Nope. We think it’s just another Record Myth.

Back in 2005 we compared the MFSL pressing of Help to a British Parlophone LP and were — mistakenly, as you may have already surmised — impressed by the MoFi.

Mobile Fidelity did a GREAT JOB with Help!. Help! is a famously dull sounding record. I don’t know of a single original pressing that has the top end mastered properly. Mobile Fidelity restored the highs that are missing from most copies.

The source of the error in our commentary above is in this sentence, see if you can spot it:

I don’t know of a single original pressing that has the top end mastered properly.

Did you figure it out? If you’ve spent much time on our site of course you did.

Original pressing?

Is that the standard?

Why?

Who said so? Where is it written?

Cut It Right

The domestic original Capitol pressings are awful and the original British import pressings of Help NEVER have any real top end. The Yellow and Black Parlophone pressings have many wonderful qualities, Tubey Magic for days being one of the most pleasurable, but frequency extension up top is not among them. Neither is tight, articulate bass. The old tube cutting systems just didn’t have what it takes to cut the highs and lows well.

The middle may be glorious, but the rest of the frequency spectrum is a mess.

Stop the Presses

In 2021 we found an exception to that rule.

And here is the one record we have always preferred on the Yellow and Black label.

(more…)

The Beatles – Help

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  • A STUNNING UK pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Everything that’s great about Help is here – jangly 12 string guitars, harmonically rich tambourines, and, most important of all, breathy, in-the-room, tonally-correct vocals
  • If you’re like us and think the new Beatles Heavy Vinyl reissues are boosted in the bass and way too smooth in the midrange, take comfort in the fact that this pressing is neither of those things, because it sounds right
  • Side one alone boasts 7 classics: Help!, The Night Before, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, I Need You, Another Girl, You’re Gonna Lose That Girl and Ticket to Ride – whew!

Want to hear The Beatles at their Tubey Magical best? Just play You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away on this copy.

One of the reasons this song stands out in a crowd of great tracks is that there are only acoustic instruments being played. There’s not an electric guitar to be found anywhere in the mix, one of the few tracks on side one for which that is true.

We flip out over the Tubey Magical acoustic guitars and harmony vocals found on early Beatles albums, and this song can be an exceptionally good example of both when you’re lucky enough to have the right pressing playing. (more…)

The Beatles / With The Beatles – These Are the Stampers to Avoid

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More Stamper and Pressing Information, Gratis

Reviews and Commentaries for With the Beatles

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In our experience, the stereo pressings with -2/-2 stampers are terrible sounding. We do not have any on hand, but we doubt that -1/-1 — the original, the first, the one approved by George Martin himself! — is any better. 

With -2 stampers this is a Hall of Shame pressing, as well as another early LP reviewed and found wanting.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best.

If you’re an audiophile looking for top quality sound on vintage vinyl, we’d be happy to send you the Hot Stamper pressing guaranteed to beat anything and everything you’ve heard, especially if you have any pressing marketed as suitable for an audiophile. Those, with very few exceptions, are the worst.

And if we can’t beat whatever LP you own or have heard, you get your money back.  It’s as simple as that.

That Old Canard

The early pressings are consistently grittier, edgier and more crude than the later pressings we played. So much for that old canard “original is better”. When it comes to With The Beatles it just ain’t so, and it doesn’t take a state of the art system or a pair of golden ears to hear it.

The audiophile community seems not to have caught on to the faults of the early Beatles pressings, but we here at Better Records are doing our best to correct their all-too-common misperceptions, one Hot Stamper pressing at a time.

It may be a lot of work, but we don’t mind — we love The Beatles! We want to find the best sounding copies of ALL their records, and there is simply no other way to do it than to play them by the dozens. (more…)

The Beatles / Please Please Me – Our Killer White Hot Shootout Winning Copy

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Reviews and Commentaries for Please Please Me

  • A stunning copy of the Beatles debut studio album with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Side one of this copy has superb presence, clarity and size – it’s bigger, bolder and richer, as well as more clean, clear and open than any other pressing we played
  • A Triple Plus PPM would clearly be a top pick for a Beatles Demo Disc – your jaw will drop
  • “… [The Beatles] were a group with the luck to meet opportunities, the wit to recognize them, the drive to seize them, and the talent to fulfil them. Please Please Me is the sound of them doing all four.”

Folks, if you’re looking for an amazing Top Quality copy of the first Beatles release, here it is! Big and lively with superb presence and energy, this is EXACTLY the right sound for this music. The album itself is nothing short of amazing. It captures more of the live sound of these four guys playing together as a rock and roll band than any record they ever made afterwards. (Let It Be gets some of that live quality too and makes a great bookend for the group.)

This vintage Beatles 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.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Please Please Me Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Subtle Effects

There’s a subtle smearing and masking that occurs on most pressings. You don’t notice it often because you have no better pressing to compare yours to. But when you have many copies of the same pressing, and you are lucky enough to discover a Hot One lurking among them, you can hear instantly how much better defined all the instruments and voices are. You hear the ambience and presence that’s veiled on other LPs. Dynamic contrasts increase.

It all starts to sound right, so right in fact that you forget it’s a record and you find yourself just enjoying the music. Disbelief has been suspended.

Startling Presence

On the top copies like this one the presence of the vocals and guitars is so real it’s positively startling at times. What started out as a great Beatles recording had turned into a great Beatles album. Now it’s a piece of music as opposed to a piece of plastic.

Just play Baby It’s You to hear what we’re talking about. When the boys all say “Oooooh,” you can pick out WHO is saying it and HOW they’re saying it.

Anna (Go To Him) is another stunner. It’s Tubey Magical with amazing immediacy and presence. The voices are PERFECTION — smooth, sweet, rich, full and breathy. The overall sound is lively and energetic with a meaty bottom end — in other words, it really rocks!

What We’re Listening For on Please Please Me

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The instruments and voices are jumping right out of the speakers as The Beatles’ brilliant engineer for their early albums up through Rubber Soul — Norman Smith — intended.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Stampers

Please Please Me Hot Stampers are a regular feature on our site. We’ve been telling anyone who will listen for YEARS that The Beatles in their early days were exceptionally well-recorded, but only the right pressing will prove that.

And the odd thing — not so odd to us anymore but odd to most record collectors I would guess — is that many of the hot copies have exactly the same stampers as the less than hot copies. It’s a mystery, and the only way to solve such a mystery is… to play the record. That’s what we do around here all day, and what we heard on this copy was musically involving Hot Stamper sound.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

Pitchfork

Whether or not you think the Beatles are the best rock band of all time, it’s hard to deny they’re the best rock story. Their narrative arc– of graft, tragedy, and stardom; of genius emerging and fragmenting– is irresistible. More so when you factor in the sense that they drove their fascinating times as much as mirrored them.

But the satisfying sweep of the Beatles’ epic risks doing them a disservice. It makes their achievements and development feel somehow predestined, an inevitable consequence of their astonishing talent. Of course, this isn’t the case: Every record they made was born out of a new set of challenges and built around tough decisions. The marketing of the band over the past few decades by their record label, Apple, has been aimed at creating a sense of apart-ness: Let lesser talents digitize their songs, feature on compilations, sell their music to samplers. The Beatles are different. This flatters listeners who were there, but setting the band apart from the rest of the pop world risks sterilizing their music and making newcomers as resentful as curious.

Besides, at the start they weren’t so different at all. Britain in the early 1960s swarmed with rock’n’roll bands, creating local scenes like the Mersey Sound the Beatles dominated. Rock’n’roll hadn’t died out, but it had become unfashionable in showbiz eyes– a small-club dance music that thrived on local passion. It was raucous, even charming in a quaint way, but there was no money in it for the big-timers of the London music biz.

At the same time the record market was booming. The Conservative UK government of the late 1950s had deliberately stoked a consumer boom: Aping the post-war consumption of the U.S., more British households than ever owned TVs, washing machines, and record players. The number of singles sold in Britain increased eightfold between the emergence of Elvis in 1956 and the Beatles in ’63. Combine this massively increased potential audience with the local popularity of rock’n’roll and some kind of crossover success seems inevitable– the idiocy of the Decca label in turning down the Beatles isn’t so much a businessman’s failure to recognize genius as a businessman’s failure to recognize good business.

The Beatles’ life as a rock’n’roll band– their fabled first acts in Hamburg clubs and Liverpool’s Cavern– is mostly lost to us. The party line on Please Please Me is that it’s a raw, high-energy run-through of their live set, but to me this seems just a little disingenuous. It’s not even that the album, by necessity, can’t reflect the group’s two-hour shows and the frenzy-baiting lengths they’d push setpiece songs to. It’s that the disc was recorded on the back of a #1 single, and there was a big new audience to consider when selecting material. There’s rawness here– rawness they never quite captured again– but a lot of sweetness too, particularly in Lennon-McCartney originals “P.S. I Love You” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret”.

Rather than an accurate document of an evening with the pre-fame Beatles, Please Please Me works more like a DJ mix album– a truncated, idealized teaser for their early live shows. More than any other of their records, Please Please Me is a dance music album. Almost everything on the record, even ballads like “Anna”, has a swing and a kick born from the hard experience of making a small club move. And it starts and ends with “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout”, the most kinetic, danceable tracks they ever made.

The “evening with the band” feel makes Please Please Me a more coherent experience than other cover-heavy Beatles albums: Here other peoples’ songs work not just as filler, but as markers for styles and effects the band admired and might return to as songwriters. McCartney, for instance, would go on to write songs whose drama and emotional nuance would embarrass “A Taste of Honey”, but for now he puts his all into its cornball melodrama, and the song fits.

Please Please Me also works as a unit because the group’s vocals are so great. At least some of this is due to the remastering, which makes the Beatles’ singing thrillingly up-close and immediate. I’d never really paid much attention to “Chains” and the Ringo-led “Boys”, but the clearer vocals on each– “Chains”‘ sarcastic snarls and the harmonies helping Ringo out– make them far more compelling.

And as you’d imagine, making the voices more vivid means Lennon’s kamikaze take on “Twist and Shout” sounds even more ferocious. Done in one cut at the session’s end, it could have been an unusable wreck. Instead, it’s one of the group’s most famous triumphs. This sums up the Beatles for me. Rather than a band whose path to the top was ordained by their genius, they were a group with the luck to meet opportunities, the wit to recognize them, the drive to seize them, and the talent to fulfil them. Please Please Me is the sound of them doing all four.

The Beatles – Please Please Me

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Reviews and Commentaries for Please Please Me

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  • This British stereo pressing offers excellent Hot Stamper sound or BETTER (on side two) for the brilliant debut from the Fab Four – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here’s proof that any Hot Stamper will soundly (ahem) beat the Heavy Vinyl pressing, and anything else you care to throw at it
  • 5 Stars at Allmusic and a Top 100 album, as well as our clear favorite of the band’s first five releases
  • Glorious live-in-the-studio sound to rival The Beatles’ best recordings – the immediacy and energy are really something to hear

Folks, if you’re looking for an wonderful copy of the first Beatles album, here it is. The music itself is nothing short of amazing. Please Please Me captures more of the live sound of these four guys playing together as a rock and roll band than anything that came after. (The better copies of Let It Be, on some songs at least, reproduce much of that live-in-the-studio quality and make a great bookend for the group.)

You Are There

On the top copies the presence of the vocals and guitars is so real it’s positively startling at times.

Just play Baby It’s You to hear what we’re talking about. When the boys all say “Oooooh,” you can pick out WHO is saying it and HOW they’re saying it.

Anna (Go To Him) is another stunner on the best pressings. It’s Tubey Magical with amazing immediacy and presence. The voices are PERFECTION — smooth, sweet, rich, full and breathy. The overall sound is lively and energetic with a meaty bottom end — in other words, it really rocks!

Stampers

PPM Hot Stampers are a regular feature on our site. We’ve been telling anyone who will listen for years that The Beatles were exceptionally well-recorded right from the get-go, but it takes the right pressing to prove it.

And the odd thing — not so odd to us anymore but odd to most record collectors I would guess — is that many of the hot copies have exactly the same stampers as the less than hot copies. It’s a mystery, and the only way to solve such a mystery is… to play the record. That’s what we do around here all day, and what we heard on this very copy was musically involving Hot Stamper sound. (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…)

The Beatles – Rubber Soul

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Reviews and Commentaries for 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 / A Collection of Beatles Oldies – Listening in Depth

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The choice of songs is outstanding, with just the right mix — almost as if you had compiled the thing yourself from all the best tunes from that era of The Beatles. They’re almost all favorites of mine, and I hope yours too.

This album is an excellent source for many of the Beatles’ greatest hits up to 1966. With 8 songs per side you get a lot for your money. 

This collection has a number of songs that are not on the original British LPs: the first three on side one for starters; also Can’t Buy Me Love, I Feel Fine; Bad Boy; Paperback Writer and I Want To Hold Your Hand.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

She Loves You

This song will never be Demo Quality, but when it’s mastered correctly using low-distortion cutting equipment, as it seems to be on the better copies, it can actually sound quite good.

From Me to You
We Can Work It Out

One of the better test tracks for side one. The overall sound should be airy and spacious. On the best copies you’ll hear lots of ambience around the harmonium. This is also one of our favorite songs from Paul McCartney’s Unplugged, again with a wonderful sounding hamonium.

This track and Day Tripper were the first “double A sided single” The Beatles released, the two songs having been recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions. (Some good sessions those!)

Help!
Michelle
Yesterday

When we did a shootout for Help! a little while back, we noticed that this song never sounded quite right on the Brit copies; the vocals had a hollow quality on every Brit copy we played. On this album it sounds MUCH closer to correct. The German Helps are still king for this song, but a good copy of this album is a close second.

I Feel Fine
Yellow Submarine

Side Two

Can’t Buy Me Love
Bad Boy

One of the best sounding tracks on the album. When this song is right, it REALLY ROCKS — Demo Quality for sure.

Day Tripper

The stereo mix of this song leaves much to be desired. We’re waiting to be blown away by a superb mono mix.

A Hard Day’s Night

One of the toughest tracks to get right. On almost every copy you’ll have to deal with aggressive upper mids and at least a bit of distortion. It has some of that sound on the original album as well.

Ticket to Ride
Paperback Writer
Eleanor Rigby

With a high-resolution copy you’ll really hear the texture of the strings of the octet (four violins, two cellos, and two violas) accompanying Paul. On an exceptional copy it’s pure magic. Paul’s voice should be rich and full with lots of ambience.

I Want to Hold Your Hand

Background

A Collection of Beatles Oldies (subtitled But Goldies!) is a compilation album by the English rock band the Beatles. Released in the United Kingdom in December 1966, it features hit singles and other songs issued by the group between 1963 and 1966. The compilation served as a stopgap release to satisfy EMI’s demand for product during the Christmas period, since the Beatles had only begun recording their new studio album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, late the previous month. It was the band’s first official greatest hits collection, although the Beatles had no involvement in the album.

The album’s preparation and release coincided with rumours in the press that the group were on the verge of splitting up. This speculation was encouraged by the band members’ high-profile individual activities since completing their final US tour, in late August 1966, and the announcement that, unlike in previous years, they would not be performing any concerts in Britain at the end of the year. The album cover is a painting combining contemporary psychedelic and op art themes and was commissioned by the band’s manager, Brian Epstein. To proponents of the Paul is Dead theory, the artwork offered the first clues relating to the alleged demise of Paul McCartney and his replacement in the Beatles by a lookalike, a scenario that is said to have taken place in November 1966.

WIKIPEDIA

Song Selection

A Collection of Beatles Oldies was the band’s first official greatest-hits set and their eighth official album release in Britain. A cover version of Larry Williams’ “Bad Boy” was the sole new track for the UK market. It had already been released in the United States, on the Capitol album Beatles VI in June 1965. Most of the other songs had been issued as singles, all of which had topped the national chart compiled by Record Retailer magazine.

The compilation provided the debut UK album release for the following singles tracks: “From Me to You”, “She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “I Feel Fine”, “Day Tripper”, “We Can Work It Out” and “Paperback Writer”. The two songs that had not been issued as UK singles (apart from “Bad Boy”), “Yesterday” and “Michelle”, had each been number 1 hits in other European countries overseen by EMI. “Yesterday” was also the title track of a March 1966 EP, which had topped Record Retailer’s EPs chart, and “Michelle” was one of the four Rubber Soul tracks included on the Nowhere Man EP in July that same year. Aside from their appearances on albums or as standalone singles, most of the songs on A Collection of Beatles Oldies had also been available on the various compilation EPs issued by EMI since 1963, one of which was the December 1965 release The Beatles’ Million Sellers.

Several tracks, including “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “Day Tripper”, “We Can Work It Out” and “Paperback Writer”, were remixed in stereo for the album. The stereo mixing was carried out by George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, with none of the band members present, between 31 October and 10 November 1966.

WIKIPEDIA

Stereo Love

After having critically auditioned a pile of Oldies But Goldies pressings it’s abundantly clear to us that our stereo system just plain loves some of the songs on this record. Let’s talk about why we think that might be.

Our system is fast, accurate and uncolored. We like to think of our speakers as the audiophile equivalent of studio monitors, showing us to the best of their ability exactly what is on the record, no more and no less.

When we play a modern record, it should sound modern. When we play a vintage Tubey Magical import pressing such as this, we want to hear all the Tubey Magic, but we don’t want to hear more Tubey Magic than what is actually on the record. We don’t want to do what some audiophiles like to do, which is to make all their records sound the way they want all their records to sound.

They do that by having their system add in all their favorite colorations. We call that “My-Fi”, not “Hi-Fi”, and we’re having none of it.

If our system were more colored, or slower, or tubier, this record would not sound as good as it does. On the best tracks it’s already got plenty of richness, warmth, sweetness and Tubey Magic.

To take an obvious example, playing the average dry and grainy Joe Walsh record on our system is a fairly unpleasant experience. Some added warmth and richness, with maybe some upper-midrange suckout thrown in for good measure, would make it much more enjoyable. But then how would we know which Joe Walsh pressings aren’t too dry and grainy for our customers to enjoy?

We discussed some of these issues in another commentary:

Our Approach

We’ve put literally thousands of hours into our system and room in order to extract the maximum amount of information, musical and otherwise, from the records we play, or as close to the maximum as we can manage. Ours is as big and open as any system in an 18 by 20 by 8 room I’ve ever heard.

It’s also as free from colorations of any kind as we can possibly make it. We want to hear the record in its naked form; not the way we want it to sound, but the way it actually does sound. That way, when you get it home and play it yourself, it should sound very much like we described it.

If too much of the sound we hear is what our stereo is doing, not what the record is doing, how can we know what it will sound like on your system? We try to be as truthful and as critical as we can when describing the records we sell. Too much coloration in the system makes those tasks much more difficult, if not a practical impossibility.

We are convinced that the more time and energy you’ve put into your stereo over the years, decades even, the more likely it is that you will hear this wonderful record sound the way we heard it. 

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

The Beatles / Beatles For Sale

More Beatles for Sale

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a side one that’s right up there with it, this copy is nearly as good as it gets – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • I’m A Loser, Baby’s In Black, Rock And Roll Music, I’ll Follow The Sun. Eight Days A Week, Words Of Love, Every Little Thing, I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party, What You’re Doing and 4 more – 14 tracks in all (!)
  • An underrated Beatles album – Allmusic gives it Five Big Stars and we like it every bit as much as they do
  • Superb energy and presence – the band is RIGHT THERE and full of the LIFE the best Beatles pressings always have

Beatles For Sale is a criminally underappreciated album, and a killer copy like this will show you exactly why. The startling presence and immediacy of the sound here allow the emotional qualities of these lovely songs to work some real Beatles vocal magic.

There is one important trait that all the best copies have in common: wonderful midrange warmth and sweetness. It’s the single most important factor in bringing out The Beatles’ individual voices and harmonies. Of the first five albums, from Please Please Me to Help, For Sale is clearly the most natural and Tubey Magical. (For those of you keeping score at home, With the Beatles is clearly the worst, with A Hard Day’s Night not far behind.)

When comparing pressings of this record, the copies that get their voices to sound present, while at the same time warm, smooth, and sweet, especially during the harmonies and in the loudest choruses, are always the best. All the other instruments seem to fall in line when the vocals are correct. This is an old truism — it’s all about the midrange — but in the case of an early Beatles album such as For Sale, it really is true.

What the Best Sides of This Early Beatles Classic Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1964
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the keyboards, guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Hey, Sir George: We Respectfully Disagree!

We had a lot of fun reading The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, which details the band’s studio history from 1962 – 1970. In the book, George Martin mentions that he felt this album was a rush job and that he has trouble listening to it to this day. As much respect as we have for Sir George, we couldn’t disagree more. For Sale is WONDERFUL!

The more we got to know the album the more we enjoyed it. Repeated listenings only enhanced our enjoyment, and a good copy like this let us hear things in the music that we hadn’t heard before. This isn’t the kind of record that beats you over the head with mega pop hits sure to enthrall screaming teens.

With wonderful songs like I’ll Follow The Sun, Eight Days A Week, I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party and What You’re Doing, For Sale gives you a more complete picture of the heartfelt side of the Beatles. More often than not the vibe is innocent, sweet, and delicate.

What We’re Listening For on Beatles For Sale

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Norman Smith in this case — would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Beatles’ Undiscovered Album

Of all the Beatles records that we play around here, this, along with Abbey Road, Rubber Soul, and Please Please Me, is one of our most enjoyable regular shootouts. The music is so good, yet this group of songs hasn’t been overplayed to death. In our book, it’s a minor classic.

You might even call it the Beatles’ undiscovered album.

Everyone knows The White Album and Sgt. Pepper’s like the back of their hands, but what about Beatles For Sale? If more people had Hot Stamper pressings of this LP we guarantee you’d be hearing a lot more about the album. When the sound is this good, For Sale is (Tubey) MAGICAL.

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).

 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

No Reply
I’m a Loser
Baby’s in Black

This song tends to be a bit dull on most pressings of the album, but on a superb copy you’ll get wonderful Tubey Magic, warmth and life.

Rock & Roll Music
I’ll Follow the Sun

It seems to us that I’ll Follow the Sun would have to be on any list of The Beatles’ very best. On a good copy the vocals are sweet and delicate beyond belief.

Paul pops the mic on one word in this song — if your system has reasonable resolution and bottom end speed, you should be able to pick it out. Drop us a line if you can tell us what word it is — we’re curious to know if you heard what we heard.

Mr. Moonlight
Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! [Medley]

Side Two

Eight Days a Week
Words of Love

A tough track to get right. There are some lively, jangly guitars behind the smooth voices. Many copies seem to sacrifice one for the other, leaving you with either irritating guitars or dull voices. The best copies are the ones that get them both right.

Honey Don’t
Every Little Thing
I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party
What You’re Doing

The transient information on this song is often just a bit smeared. On the more transparent copies you’ll be able to hear each time the piano’s hammer hits the strings. Listen for the space between the notes when the piano is playing briskly.

This track is also a good test for how punchy the bottom is. With that big drum in the intro it won’t take long for you to figure out if your copy has much deep low end.

Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful pressings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

AMG Review

There are some important changes on Beatles for Sale, most notably Lennon’s discovery of Bob Dylan and folk-rock. The opening three songs, along with “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” are implicitly confessional and all quite bleak, which is a new development… Its best moments find them moving from Merseybeat to the sophisticated pop/rock they developed in mid-career