Top Engineers – Ron Nevison

The Who / Quadrophenia – What to Listen For

More of the Music of The Who

More Records We Only Offer on Imported Vinyl

On the best copies the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS. The highs are silky sweet, the bottom end is meaty, the drums are punchy and the vocals are present and tonally correct. The piano has real weight, the synths float breathily in the air, and there’s wonderful three-dimensional depth to the soundfield. 

There’s a POWER to the sound that the average copy only hints at. The crashing guitar chords that are the hallmark of The Who Sound often lack the weight of the real thing; they don’t punch you in the gut the way Townsend no doubt wanted them to.

Moon’s drums need to blast away like cannons. This is the quintessential Who sound. Everybody who’s ever seen them live knows it. I saw them back in the day when Moon was still behind his kit and it’s a sound I’ll never forget. 

Most copies don’t have nearly this much Tubey Magic — you aren’t going to believe all the richness, sweetness, and warmth here. The clarity and transparency are superb in their own right, and the impressive dynamic range really allows this copy to communicate the explosive energy of The Who at their peak..

As with any Who album, this is obviously not your typical Audiophile Demo Disc. We don’t imagine you’ll be enjoying this one with wine, cigars, and polite conversation. This one is for turning up loud and rockin’ out — in other words, it’s our kind of record!

Turn It Up

Now if you want to play this record at 70 db, little of our commentary about the power of this recording will make much sense. There are some dumb ideas floating out there in Audiophile land, but playing your records quietly in order to hear them better has to be one of the dumbest. Anybody who plays a record like Quadrophenia at moderate levels should be taken out in the street and hosed down. How do you think Townsend went deaf, by playing his music too softly? He played his music LOUD because that’s the way he wanted you to hear it. Moon beats the hell out of his drums because he likes the sound of drums beaten HARD.

If you don’t have the stereo to play this record right, don’t make excuses and don’t make up bizarre theories about volume levels in the home. You’re not fooling anybody with those kinds of rationalizations. If your speaker distorts that’s your problem, pal. Don’t lay that trip on me.

Some of us have done our homework and take pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve been challenging ourselves and our systems with records like Zep II and Aqualung and Quadrophenia for thirty years. We know how good these records can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them at good loud levels. If you’re not going to play this Hard Rockin’ Record right, better to save your money for the kinds of records that sound fine at moderate levels. This is not one of them.


Further Reading

We’ve identified a number of Demo Discs for Bass on the site, and there are surely many more to come.

Whomp is a quality of the bottom end we look for here at Better Records. If you have speakers that move a lot of air down low and like to play your music loud, you know what whomp is all about.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.

Bad Company – Straight Shooter

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  • If you’re playing this one good and loud, you’ll feel like you’re in the room with the boys as they kick out these classic riff-driven jams
  • Take it from us, it is not easy to find a copy that’s as right as this one, with the weight, balance and energy this music needs to rock
  • 4 stars: “Vocalist and songwriter Paul Rodgers wrote two acoustic-based rock ballads that would live on forever in the annals of great rock history: ‘Shooting Star’ and the Grammy-winning ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love.'”

The sophomore jinx is nowhere to be found on this album. In fact, you could make a pretty good case that this is actually a better album than their debut. The best pressings of this Bad Company classic have ROCK ENERGY that cannot be beat. (more…)

Bad Company / Straight Shooter’s Punchy Drums

More of the Music of Bad Company

More Rock Classics

In late 2009 we had just finished a shootout for this hard-rockin’ album, our first since January of ’08, and what we were hearing this time around BLEW OUR MINDS. This record got a whole lot better over the course of the last twenty months or so. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the drum sound on this record is the right up there with the most present, punchy and realistic I have ever heard on record. 

I saw a friend’s band play recently in a small club and remember thinking how amazingly punchy the snare sounded (the sound coming from the live instrument itself and the club’s speakers) and this record has that kind of drum sound!.

There’s nothing like live music — everybody knows that — but good copies of this album get you a whole lot closer than I ever expected to get.

It’s a classic case of We Was Wrong. Last time around we wrote “I don’t think you’ll ever find a copy of this album that qualifies as a True Demo Disc, but make no mistake: on the right pressing there’s magic in the grooves.”

We was wrong: It is a true Demo Disc.

On our system anyway. Our stereo is all about playing records like this, and playing them at good loud levels as nature — and the artists — intended.

We revamped our Top 100 List in 2011 and this sucker is now on it, right next to its older brother, the first Bad Company album.

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The Who – Quadrophenia

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A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

  • If you want to hear this music EXPLODE out of the speakers and come to life the way The Who wanted you to hear it. this record will do the trick
  • The sound here is so BIG, rich, and powerful it will surely make you rethink the recording itself
  • 5 stars: “Some of Townshend’s most direct, heartfelt writing is contained here, and production-wise it’s a tour de force, with some of the most imaginative use of synthesizers on a rock record.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1973 is clearly one of their best, and one of their best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We recently removed this title from our Top 100 List because it has become so difficult to get hold of clean UK copies nowadays. Who’s Next is even more difficult, but for some reason we left that one on the list, go figure.

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What Do You Hear on the Best Hot Stamper Pressings of Quadrophenia?

More of the Music of The Who

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

They just plain ROCKED HARDER than the other copies we played. Yes, they’re bigger. Yes, they have more weight and whomp down low. Yes, they are smoother and more natural up top.

But what really sets them apart is their tremendous ENERGY. The music explodes out of the speakers and comes to life on the best copies of Quadrophenia like few records you have ever heard. When we find that kind of power and energy on a record, all other things being equal, we have a name for them: White Hot Stampers.

It’s what you’re paying for — and what you get — for the kind of money we charge.

Dynamics and Energy

The sine qua non of rock records is that they rock. The rock records that earn the highest grades here at Better Records are usually the ones that have the most energy and power. Transparency, Presence, Clarity, Tubey Magic, Sweetness and other favorites of the audiophile community are very important qualities in a record, but all of them pale in comparison to raw power when it comes to rock and roll.

For us a transparent, sweet, lifeless record is just no fun, hence our disdain for Heavy Vinyl, which in our experience almost always lacks energy, along with lots of other things of course.

We like the Big Speaker sound.

This means the sound must be dynamic, immediate and full-range. Small speakers, screens and their ilk can do some nice things, but they can’t move air very well, so for us they fail to convey the true sense of the power, the “liveness”, of a recording the way dynamic drivers can (assuming of course the drivers are big enough and you have enough of them).

Room treatments play a vitally important role here of course. Untreated or poorly treated listening rooms constantly fight the speakers’ efforts to play louder without distortion. The room is the bottleneck, yet because the problem is not correctly identified, nothing is done to solve it. (I was heavily into audio for twenty years before I figured this out.)

Some of us have done our homework and take pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve been challenging ourselves and our systems with records like Zep II and Aqualung and Quadrophenia for thirty years. We know how good those records can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them at good loud levels.

If you’re not going to play this Hard Rockin’ Record good and loud, better to save your money for the kinds of records that sound fine at moderate levels. This is not one of them.


RECORDS THAT ARE GOOD FOR TESTING

More Records in the None Rocks Harder Club

More Records that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Records that Are Good for Testing Bass and Whomp 

Records that Are Good for Testing Bass Definition 

Records that Are Good for Testing Energy 

Ron Nevison Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

More Recordings Engineered by Ron Nevison

More of Our Favorite Engineers

Ron Nevison is one of our favorite engineers. He recorded Bad Company’s debut, a Top 100 album for us, as well as Straight Shooter. In 1973 he engineered Quadrophenia, taking the reins away from Glyn Johns after his success with the amazing Who’s Next.

1977 saw him working on the sprawling mess that turned into Physical Graffiti.

Bad Company was one of RON NEVISON’S early engineering jobs. The year before (1973) he had been behind the board at Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studio for Quadrophenia, one of the best sounding Who albums we know of and a longtime member of our Top 100 (as is this album). He also knocked it out of the park on Bad Company’s follow-up release, 1975’s Straight Shooter.

If you have top quality copies of any of them you should be able to recognize the qualities they all seem to have in common. This guy definitely knew how to get The Big Rock Sound onto analog tape.

Our job here at Better Records is simply to find you the very special pressings that actually reproduce all the energy and rock and roll firepower that Nevison captured. It ain’t easy but we don’t mind doing it — these are clearly some of the All Time Great Rock Albums of the ’70s (or any other decade you care to name) and we just never get tired of hearing them.

He went on to do lots of the biggest selling monster rock albums of the ’80s, but The ’80s Sound has never held much appeal for us, which is of course why you find so few recordings from that era on our site, silk purses, sow’s ears and all that.

Bad Company – Self-Titled

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More Rock Classics

  • This vintage UK Island pressing of Bad Company’s ’70s classic debut boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Both sides are huge, present, punchy, lively, and solid as a rock – this is some of engineer Ron Nevison’s cleanest work
  • Here you will find none of the glossy artificiality you might hear on so many of the rock records we sell — there’s nothing wrong with that sound, mind you, but this recording captures much more of what the real instruments sound like in the studio
  • A member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100, and a Must Own Classic Rock title from 1974
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Bad Company’s 1974 self-titled release stands as one of the most important and accomplished debut hard rock albums from the ’70s … it was one of the most successful steps in the continuing evolution of rock & roll.”
  • If you’re a Classic Rock fan, then Bad Company’s killer debut album from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of 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.   

Now on to the good news!

This one’s got what you’re looking for from this kind of Classic Rock album — clarity, punchy bass, big drums, and lots of energy. The guitars sound right: grungy and distorted with loads of tubey richness.

You’re going to want to play this one good and loud to let it REALLY ROCK!

And, if you’re playing it good and loud, you’ll feel like you’re in the room with the boys as they kick out the jams. Ready For Love sounds great here — shocking clarity, tons of ambience, and silky sweet highs. The overall sound on both sides is lively, full-bodied, and transparent with Tubey Magical guitars and good weight to the bottom end. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

Zep fans, rejoice — PHYSICAL GRAFFITI HOT STAMPERS ARE HERE! We thought this day might never come. As you probably know by now, most copies of this album just plain suck!

After making some improvements in our evaluation process (minor tweaks to the room and the stereo, plus some new steps in our cleaning process) and — let’s face it — some seriously good luck, we’ve finally been able to track down a few killer copies of Zep’s monster double album.

If you’ve been waiting for The Ultimate Kashmir Experience, today is your lucky day.

Though we’ve known forever that many of you were eager for them, we just weren’t sure we’d ever have Hot Stampers for Physical Graffiti. There are a number of factors at play here. First off, you’ve gotta have a whole lot of copies around to do a shootout, and clean copies of this album sure ain’t cheap. When we’re doing a shootout for a title like The Stranger, Toto IV, or even Rumours, we can afford to pick up any nice-looking copy we see without breaking the bank. Not so with this one — minty copies don’t come cheap, and most of them sound so bad that it ain’t worth the risk. (more…)

Bad Company – Run With The Pack (2013)

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SUPERB SOUND on Hot Stamper 2-pack! This is not an easy album to find with audiophile sound, and since our best sides were less impressive on their flipsides, we paired up these two copies to give you incredible sound for the album from first note to last.

Side two of the second record is the real deal, with BIG, RICH and ROCKIN’ White Hot Stamper sound. Side one of the first record is nearly as good (A++ to A+++), boasting exceptional transparency, excellent balance and something we didn’t hear on most copies: ENERGY. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti on Classic Records

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Tonally correct, which is one thing you can’t say for most of the Zeps in this series, that’s for sure. Those of you with crappy domestic copies, crappy imported reissues and crappy CDs, which is pretty much all there is of this recording, will not know what you’re missing.

Compare this title to some of the better Classic Zep releases and I expect you will notice that hearing into the midrange is a more difficult proposition on these songs, with reduced ambience and space around the voices and instruments.

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY. (more…)