Top Engineers – Stephen Barncard

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name…

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More Hippie Folk Rock

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  • Crosby’s 1971 release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • “Exceptionally quiet vinyl” doesn’t begin to cover how hard it is to find an early pressing that plays as well as this one does – it has been a very long time since we heard a copy this quiet with sound this good
  • The ultimate Hippie Folk Rock Demo Disc – both sides are shockingly transparent, with huge amounts of bass, silky highs, in-the-room vocals and TONS of Tubey Magic
  • 4 1/2 stars: ” If I Could Only Remember My Name is a shambolic masterpiece, meandering but transcendentally so, full of frayed threads. Not only is it among the finest splinter albums out of the CSNY diaspora, it is one of the defining moments of hungover spirituality from the era.”

Here it is, folks… a TRUE ROCK DEMO DISC! A White Hot Stamper copy such as this will show you why we’ve long considered it one of the All Time Top Ten Rock Albums for Sound and Music. You will not believe how Tubey Magical and three-dimensional this album can be when you have a pressing with this kind of sound. The harmonic complexity and extension on the acoustic guitars are absolutely stunning!

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording? (We do applaud his decision not to add the Classic pressing of this title to the list, the way he did with so many other Classic pressings that have no business on anything called a Super Disc list.)

You Don’t Have to Be High to Hear It

When you drop the needle on this record, all barriers between you and the musicians are removed. You’ll feel as though you’re sitting at the studio console while Crosby and his no-doubt-stoned-out-of-their-minds Bay Area pals (mostly Jefferson Airplaners and Grateful Deads, see list below) are laying down this emotionally powerful, heartfelt music.

The overall sound is warm, sweet, rich, and full-bodied… that’s some real ANALOG Tubey Magic, baby! And the best part is, you don’t have to be high to hear it. You just need a good stereo and the right pressing. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / So Far – Listening in Depth

Hot Stamper Pressings of So Far Available Now

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening 

For example, on Find the Cost of Freedom the best copies have DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND. You could say everything that needs to be said about the beauty of analog with this one track alone. It’s not even two minutes long, but it’s two really wonderful minutes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at the height of their powers. The voices should sound as sweet and as silky as any CSN three part (four part?) harmony you have ever heard. This song rivals Helplessly Hoping for vocal blend.

More Crosby, Stills and Nash

More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Déjà Vu

When you get a good copy of this album, this song sounds like it was lifted right off of a Hot Stamper copy of Deja Vu itself. It’s so rich and Tubey Magical you’d swear it couldn’t get any better. Huge amounts of deep bass. Acoustic guitars that ring for days. Midrange magic to die for. Not many of them sound this way, unfortunately.

If I could indulge in some more MoFi and Half-Speed bashing for a moment, the bass “solo” at the end of this song is a great test for bass definition. The notes are relatively high, and it’s easy for them to sound blurred and wooly. The MoFi, like virtually all Half-Speed mastered records, has a problem with bass definition. If you own the MoFi, listen for how clearly defined the notes are at the end of this track. Then play any other copy, either of So Far or Deja Vu. It’s a pretty safe bet that the bass will be much more articulate. I know how bad the MOFI is in this respect. Rarely do “normal” records have bass that bad.

Stephen Barncard Does It Again

Listen to this song and compare it to anything on the Barncard-engineered first solo LP by David Crosby. That is the sound of Barncard’s engineering — open, spacious, rich, sweet; tons of deep bass; absolutely no trace of phony eq on vocals; acoustic guitars that ring for days — the man is a GENIUS. Thank god he was involved with music of this quality. If only more of the LP pressings did a better job of revealing the exquisite beauty of the recordings themselves. (I suppose that burden must be carried by the few Hot Stamper copies we can dig up.) (more…)

Crosby, Stills and Nash – Daylight Again

Hot Stampers of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Commentaries and Letters for Crosby, Stills, Nash and (sometimes) Young

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  • This outstanding copy of Daylight Again (the last good record these guys would ever make) earned solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • This is the embodiment of the Classic CSN sound we love – rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and clear 
  • Steven Barncard, one of our favorite recording engineers, no doubt deserves most of the credit
  • Allmusic on Wasted on the Way and Southern Cross: “Both were extracted as singles and became among the best-known tracks not only on Daylight Again, but also in the post-’60s CSN canon.”

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu

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  • A stunning Shootout Winning copy that is guaranteed to blow your mind – Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The sound is HUGE — lively, present and rich in a way that nothing you’ve heard can compete with
  • One of our all time favorite albums at Better Records and one that almost never sounds THIS good
  • 5 stars: “…this variety made Déjà Vu a rich musical banquet for the most serious and personal listeners, while mass audiences reveled in the glorious harmonies and the thundering electric guitars…”

If you play this copy at serious levels and have the kind of full range system that’s both loud and clean like live music, we guarantee you will be nothing less than gobsmacked at the size and power of the music on this album, the band’s inarguable masterpiece.

Both sides here are super high-resolution, tonally perfect, Tubey Magical and ALIVE. The vocals are silky and sweet with very little strain or grain (a very common problem in the loudest choruses). The highs are extended, the bass is deep and punchy, and the overall clarity is breathtaking.

Just listen to the guitars during the solos — you can really hear the sound of the pick hitting the strings. The rhythm guitars sound meaty and chunky like the best sounding copies of Zuma and After The Gold Rush. (more…)

What We Think We Know about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Masterpiece: Deja Vu

Hot Stampers of Deja Vu

Letters and Commentaries for Deja Vu

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DEJA VU is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Deja Vu. Here are some albums on our site you can buy with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

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Crosby / Nash – Whistling Down The Wire

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  • Insanely good sound from start to finish for this ABC pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • These sides were noticeably richer than most of the copies we played, which generally tended to be lean and dry
  • We played a big pile of these, but finding the Tubey Magical, spacious, sweet ANALOG sound we were after was not easy
  • Fortunately this copy showed us that it indeed was possible to get the clear, breathy vocals necessary to bring out the wonderful harmonies these two are so rightly famous for
  • “Wind on the Water has an instant classic, lived-in sound and is a definite must-have.” – All Music, 4 Stars

Music Does the Driving

As a budding audiophile I went out of my way to acquire any piece of equipment that could make these records from the ’70s (the decade of my formative music-buying years) sound better than the gear I was then using. It’s the challenging recordings by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as scores of other pop and rock artists like them, that drove my pursuit of higher quality audio, starting all the way back in high school.

And here I am — here we are — still at it, forty years later, because the music still sounds fresh and original, and the pressings that we find get better and better with each passing year.

That kind of progress is proof that we’re doing it right. It’s a good test for any audiophile. If you are actively and seriously pursuing this hobby, perhaps as many as nine out of ten non-audiophile pressings in your collection should sound better with each passing year. As your stereo improves, not to mention your critical listening skills, the shortcomings of some will be revealed, but for the most part, vintage pressings should sound better each time you play them with continual refinements and improvements to your system, room and cleaning techniques.

That’s what makes it fun to play old records: They just keep getting better!

(more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street – Templeman, Barncard and Landee Work Their Magic

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More Toulouse Street

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Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this one: STEPHEN BARNCARD and DONN LANDEE. This copy surely has all the Tubey Magic one could ask for, but it’s the size, space and clarity here that really shocked us.

After listening to one smeary, veiled mess after another it was a thrill to hear one rock like this.

The vocals have room to breathe, the acoustic guitars are big and up front with extended, correct harmonics, and the bass has more punch and definition than we had any right to expect.

The huge bass on the better copies of this album has to be the handiwork of STEPHEN BARNCARD (American Beauty, Tarkio), although DONN LANDEE (Little Feat, Van Halen), one of the other two engineers here, likes plenty of bass as well.

Back in the day I had no idea this record could sound so punchy in the bass, be this dynamic, yet still have smooth, silky, oh-so-analog vocals.

Some copies have wonky, bloated bass. Others have a bit of a boost at 10k, adding a sparkly unnatural quality to the vocals and cymbals, somewhat like a MoFi pressing.

The best copies have none of those problems. You have never heard ‘Listen To The Music’ sound better. It’s everything a good Ted Templeman produced rock record should be. (more…)

Crosby / Nash – Whistling Down The Wire

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More Whistling Down The Wire

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES RATING AT OR NEAR A+++! This is the pair’s third and best album, with better sound than Wind on the Water as well as their strongest songwriting. This is arguably a better CSN record than the album titled CSN from 1977. For one thing, the harmonies are superior, even without Stephen Stills. (Crosby and Nash were in big demand in the Rock and Pop world of the ’70s for their impressive background vocal skills.) For another it’s clearly a better recording. (more…)

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name…

More David Crosby

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Here it is, folks… a TRUE ROCK DEMO DISC! A White Hot Stamper copy such as this will show you why we’ve long considered it one of the All Time Top Ten Rock Albums for Sound and Music. You will not believe how Tubey Magical and three-dimensional this album can be when you have a pressing with this kind of sound. The harmonic complexity and extension on the acoustic guitars are absolutely stunning!

Please note that the grading scale pictured above only goes up to three pluses, as that is our standard top grade. Every now and then we’ll hear a side of an album we know well that goes beyond our expectations and our ref copies to earn a fourth plus. This side one did just that! (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far in 2007

More Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Records in Stock

More Commentaries and Letters for So Far

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This Hot Stamper copy has SUPERB SOUND ON SIDE TWO — the best we’ve ever heard. It sounds like it was made from the MASTER TAPE, and believe me, not many of them do. This LP killed any and all of the competition during this shootout; no other copy earned Three Pluses on Side Two. The sound is BIG and BOLD as it gets — it practically LEAPS out of the speakers. That’s what we call Hot Stamper sound. No other copy did that, on side two anyway. Side one has the highly-coveted unreleased material, so this copy, with “only” an excellent side one, is being priced somewhat more competitively and represents real value for money. 

When you get these good copies, they sound SO correct, they really show up the phony EQ and just plain bad mastering of the so-called Audiophile versions. The MoFi pressing and the Classic 200g LP are both quite obviously wrong in important but different ways. This is the kind of record that makes it painfully clear exactly what’s wrong with them. (more…)