Top Engineers – Shelly Yakus

John Lennon / Imagine – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – this was one of the better copies to emerge from our most recent shootout
  • These superb UK pressings are rich, weighty and oh-so-tubey – it took us a long time to find the right stampers
  • Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this recording – our thanks go to Eddie Offord and Shelly Yakus
  • 5 stars: “…it was only marginally less confessional than its predecessor. Underneath the sweet strings of “Jealous Guy” lies a broken and scared man, the jaunty “Crippled Inside” is a mocking assault at an acquaintance, and “Imagine” is a paean for peace in a world with no gods, possessions, or classes, where everyone is equal… A remarkable collection of songs that Lennon would never be able to better again.”

NOTE: A very small mark near the end of track three, side two, How Do You Sleep?, makes three loud pops.

Both sides here are excellent. capturing the essence of what Lennon and Phil Spector (and let’s not forget Yoko, who also gets a producer credit here) were going for. Copies that sound as good as this one do not grow on trees. If it wasn’t ridiculously difficult to find Hot Stamper pressings of Imagine it certainly would not have taken us until 2015 to offer one. (more…)

Tom Petty / Damn The Torpedoes – Is This Audiophile LP Bright Enough For You?

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On this pressing it sure is. If your stereo is dull, dull, deadly dull, this company’s remastering approach, like many of the CBS Half-Speeds, will fix your lack of high end.

A perfect example of Stone Age Audio Thinking – a bright record to fix a dark system.

The only problem is, what happens when you put together a better system, one that’s tonally correct?

Then you will have to get rid of your old record collection and start over, right?

So get your stereo right before you go wasting lots of money on phony sounding records.

And most of the Heavy Vinyl pressings being made today are every bit as bad, but the tonality mistakes are simply reversed. The bass is boosted and the top is too smooth.

Why can’t these ridiculous audiophile labels make up their minds? Should records be bright or dull? Pick a lane!

Tune your system to that crap and you will find yourself in the real predicament down the road, assuming you ever get your stereo working right. Having a collection full of modern remasterings will make any progress in audio that much more difficult to achieve.

Or you could just buy one of these to play your bright records. Problem solved.

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Long After Dark

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  • A STUNNING sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both sides are brimming with Petty’s unique brand of “meat and potatoes” rock and roll
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • Rich and full-bodied with tight bass, and brimming with Petty’s unique brand of straight ahead rock and roll, best exemplified by the radio smash You Got Lucky
  • Rolling Stone raves “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play a finely crafted brand of meat-and-potatoes rock. They shudder to a stop for the occasional ballad or showy guitar figure, but the next surging chorus is never far away. They’ve been honing that sound for five albums now, and Petty has gradually hoisted himself into the company of such masterful travelers of Route 66 as Seger and Springsteen. …overall, Long after Dark is Petty’s most accomplished record.”

Long After Dark boasts the monster rocker You Got Lucky and very good sound considering that the album was recorded in 1982, not an especially good year (or decade) to be recording rock music. (more…)

Tom Petty / Damn The Torpedoes

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  • This outstanding hard rockin’ pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Credit for the tremendous presence and energy of the recording goes to the brilliant engineer Shelly Yakus
  • Damn the Torpedoes is, simply put, the best sounding Tom Petty album we have ever played
  • Tons of hits too: Refugee, Here Comes My Girl, and my favorite of the bunch, Don’t Do Me Like That
  • 5 stars: “Few mainstream rock albums of the late ’70s and early ’80s were quite as strong as this, and it still stands as one of the great records of the album rock era.”

Credit must obviously go to the man behind the console, SHELLY YAKUS, someone who we freely admit, now with a sense of embarrassment, has never been one of our favorite engineers. After hearing a White Hot Stamper pressing of Damn the Torpedoes and a killer copy of Animal Notes we realize that we have been seriously underestimating the man.

If your Damn the Torpedoes doesn’t sound good (and it probably doesn’t), you sure can’t blame him – the master tape is mind-boggling in its size, weight, power and sheer rock n’ roll energy. (more…)

Spirit / Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus – The Core Collection

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 A record that belongs in any serious Rock Music Collection.

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  • A stunning copy of Spirit’s 1970 Trippy Masterpiece – Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Huge, lively and dynamic – this legendary Psych album creates a wall to wall, three dimensional psychedelic world of its own
  • Nature’s Way, Animal Zoo and Mr. Skin all sound amazing on this copy – there’s really not a bad track to be found
  • “Spirit’s crowning moment and one of the era’s great underrated albums … enriched by meaty horn arrangements, imaginative vocal harmonies, and a structured approach to psychedelic studio trickery such as stereo panning and tapes run backward.”

The soundfield is huge and transparent, there’s real richness and body to the instruments, and there’s no edge at all to the vocals. Believe me, it’s the rare copy that has all of these qualities, the only one in our shootout as a matter of fact.

This and Spirit’s first album are absolute Rock Classics in my book, records that belong in any popular music lover’s collection.

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Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band – Like A Rock

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  • A superb copy of Like A Rock with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides — just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • Features an A-list of rock and rollers, including Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, and Pete Carr, just to name a few
  • Per Seger, Like A Rock “expresses my feeling that the best years of your life are in your late teens when you have no special commitments and no career. It’s your last blast of fun before heading into the cruel world.”

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Stevie Nicks – The Wild Heart

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The spacious size, vocal presence, bottom end weight and (relative) warmth throughout are exactly the sound you want for The Wild Heart
  • Features a host of stellar guest musicians, including Tom Petty, Mick Fleetwood, Steve Lukather (Toto), and even Prince, though he wasn’t credited on the album
  • 4 stars: “The Wild Heart sold to the faithful — it made the Top Ten, sold over a million copies, and spawned three Top 40 hits… if you loved Bella Donna, you would like The Wild Heart very much.”

It’s easy to spot the good sounding copies. They’re big and rich, not thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect to hear on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the batch for sonics. (more…)

Spirit – Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This copy has the kind of sound I always dreamed the album could have, but it took years of listening — mostly to one flat, grainy, smeary copy after another — to get here.

This and Spirit’s first album are absolute Rock Classics in my book, records that belong in any popular music lover’s collection.

This album, however, typically sounds midrangy and compressed, with little in the way of extension on either end and not much energy. Great for FM radio but a mess when played on a real hi-fi.

But things change, and they have changed for the better judging by the fact that this record now sounds pretty darn good — when you have the right copy and have cleaned it right. This is one of those: cut right, pressed right, and cleaned right. Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale comes into play here; you will need top quality equipment to allow the magic in these grooves to be brought back to life, but we did it and if we can do it so can you. (more…)

Tom Petty – Hard Promises – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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The best copy we’ve heard in years, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides — “The Waiting” sounds superb. You get incredible energy and presence, full extension up top and real weight down low. Many copies can get thin and edgy — especially on the vocals — but not this one.

This pressing had sound on BOTH sides we never expected to hear on Hard Promises, an album that’s typically bright, thin, edgy, pinched and gritty — radio friendly, maybe, but not especially audiophile friendly.

We hate that sound but we are happy to report that some copies manage to avoid it, and this is one of them. Is that richer, fuller sound the sound of what’s on the master tape or did the mastering engineer “fix” it? We’ll never know, now will we? What we can know is the sound of the pressings we actually have to play, so let’s get right to it. (more…)

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Southern Accents

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  • You find incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides of this wonderful early pressing, guaranteed to beat anything you’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “Southern Accents is an ambitious album, attempting to incorporate touches of psychedelia, soul, and country into a loose concept about the modern South… “Rebels” and “Spike” are fine rockers, and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” expand The Heartbreakers’ sound nicely.”

If you’ve tried to find a good sounding copy of this album, you could easily be forgiven for throwing in the towel — we almost did ourselves, and more than once. We’ve cleaned and played a pile of copies over the years, and now we are glad to report that this one sounds like a completely different album — it’s rich, smooth and sweet, a big step up over the typical gritty, grainy copy.

Credit must obviously go to the man behind the console, Shelly Yakus, someone who we freely admit, now with a sense of embarrassment, had never been one of our favorite engineers. After hearing a White Hot Stamper pressing of Damn the Torpedoes and a killer copy of Crack the Sky’s Animal Notes, as well as amazing sounding pressings of Moondance (his first official lead engineering gig) and Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, we realize that we have seriously underestimated the man. (more…)