Top Producer-Engineers – Roy Thomas Baker

The Cars – Self-Titled

More of The Cars

Hot Stamper Pressings of New Wave Recordings

  • This original Elektra pressing was giving us the sound we were looking for on The Cars’ debut album, earning superb Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • You may have heard these songs a million times, but you’ll be shocked at just how much better they sound on this vintage pressing
  • Despite what you may have read, the Rhino Heavy Vinyl pressing is a joke next to the Hot Stampers we offer the discriminating audiophile
  • A Better Records Top 100 title, the band’s masterpiece, and a New Wave Must Own Classic from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Whereas most bands of the late ’70s embraced either punk/new wave or hard rock, the Cars were one of the first bands to do the unthinkable — merge the two styles together. With flawless performances, songwriting, and production (courtesy of Queen alumnus Roy Thomas Baker), the Cars’ debut remains one of rock’s all-time classics.”
  • This is an amazing album from 1978 that belongs in every rock- and pop-loving audiophile’s collection
  • It’s our pick for the band’s best sounding album. Roughly 150 other listings for the Best Recording by an Artist or Group can be found here.

The material is superb — just check out the first three tracks: “Let The Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Just What I Needed” — how many albums start off with that kind of a bang? Each of those tracks sounds amazing. If you’ve got big speakers and a front end capable of resolving musical information at the highest levels, put this record on, turn it way up and get ready to hear some serious Demonstration Quality Sound.


The Cars on Rhino High Fidelity – Man, Is This Record Bad

More of the Music of The Cars

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Cars

I mean, really bad.

Kevin Gray has struck again. He’s a modern one man demolition crew, taking exceptionally well recorded analog albums and turning them into the vinyl equivalent of CDs, and bad CDs at that.

Steve Hoffman did the first Cars album on Gold CD and it sounds quite good. I still own mine. How can Kevin Gray, his former assistant, make such a mess of the album on vinyl?

This question has a rather obvious answer, and much of what we have to say about this record was said in our review of the disastrous Stand Up Gray cut for Analogue Productions.

Allow us to repeat ourselves:

We were finally able to get our hands on the newly remastered Cars first album, a record we know well, having played them by the score. Our notes for the sound can be seen nearby.

If ever a record deserved a “no” grade, as in “not acceptable,” this new pressing mastered by Kevin Gray deserves such a grade, because it’s just awful.

Here is what we heard on side one of the new Cars remaster.

Good Times Roll

  • Top is sandy  [Sandy typically refers to transistory, dry, grainy, or gritty sound.]
  • Hi-hat is spitty and gritty

My Best Friend’s Girl

  • No real space or punch
  • Flat and sandy

You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

  • Flat
  • No real space or weight
  • No dynamics

Bye Bye Love

  • Soft and sandy
  • Small and smeary

Grant Green on Music Matters had many of these same problems. Unsurprisingly, it too was mastered by Kevin Gray.

How this guy is still getting work is beyond me.

I am clearly being facetious here. These guys get work because audiophiles will buy the records they master. The market has decided these records sound just fine, and who am I to say otherwise?

Of course, people can say anything they want about these records, opinions being worth what they cost you.

We take a different approach. We will sell you the pressing of the album that can mop the floor with this Heavy Vinyl trash. We rarely have the first album in stock, but if you want one, just let us know and we will be glad to put you on the waiting list. Email Fred at

Compared to What?

Is the Rhino pressing the worst version of the album ever made? In our view, it’s only competition would be this disaster, a record that also sold well back in the day. The more things change…

If I were to try to “reverse engineer” the sound of a system that could play this record and hide its many faults, I would look for a system that was thick, dark and fat, with plenty of tube colorations and no real top end to speak of.

I know that sound. I had a system in the 90s with many of these shortcomings, but of course I didn’t have a clue about any of that. Like everybody into audio I met back then, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I’m glad to say things are different now, I think.

If you made the mistake of buying this record and can’t stand the phony top end, try covering your tweeter with something absorbent. Foam might work. Also you could try disconnecting your super tweeters if you have any. This is good advice for any record mastered by Stan Ricker as well.

Since that old school vintage tube sound takes the opposite approach to music reproduction that we’ve spent the last few decades working on here at Better Records — our goal being neutrality above all else — we are clearly not playing the record back on equipment that is capable of making it sound anything but godawful, hence our relentlessly negative reaction to the record.

On any properly setup, halfway decent stereo system, any original pressing with RTB in the dead wax should murder this Heavy Vinyl piece of junk. If you don’t have a system like that, we encourage you to get one. You will save a lot of money by not buying crap vinyl like this, only to discover later just how bad it sounds on the higher quality equipment you eventually end up with. (Here is some good news on that subject.)

Although, to be honest, if you are buying these kinds of awful records, it’s hard to see how you will ever get out of the hole you are in. Some audiophiles manage it, but I suspect that most never do.

You can also buy the CD — whether on DCC Gold or just whatever disc Elektra put out — and hear for yourself if it isn’t better sounding. I would be very surprised if it were not.


Free / The Free Story – Another Dubby Compilation

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Free

Hot Stamper Pressings of British Blues Rock Albums Available Now

This is a Limited Edition Black Label Island Numbered Import 2 LP set.

The sound is passable at best. Unfortunately, like many of the compilations done over the years, this is a very dubby sounding album. It’s smearyveiled, and lacks space.

The good vintage pressings of the original albums just kill it. 

Not all compilation albums are bad. Here are some with the potential for very good sound.


Queen – A Day At the Races

More Queen

Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

  • This UK copy of the band’s fifth studio album boasts incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of out Shootout Winner
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from practically all other copies we played
  • Forget the domestic pressings – they may be cut at Sterling, but they never sound like these shockingly good British LPs
  • “A Day at the Races is a bit tighter than its predecessor… its sleek, streamlined finish is the biggest indication that Queen has entered a new phase, where they’re globe-conquering titans instead of underdogs on the make.”


Journey – Evolution

More Journey

  • An insanely good sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the first – (mostly) exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Three distinctive qualities of vintage analog recordings – richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality – are most clearly heard on a Big Production Rock Record like Evolution in the loudest, densest, most climactic choruses of the songs, and this side one delivers that size and power like no copy you’ve ever heard
  • “Journey could seemingly do no wrong. Evolution quickly became the band’s biggest-selling album, and Perry and co. soon embarked on yet another mammoth tour, which set many an attendance record, and set the stage for even greater triumph with 1980’s Departure.”


Queen / Jazz – Rockin’ Out with Fat Bottomed Girls

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Queen

Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

There is a tendency in the recording to be a little “hot” tonally on the vocals and snare. The better copies like this one keep it under control, with the lesser copies getting much too lean and gritty to play loudly. What good is a raver like Fat Bottomed Girls if you can’t turn it up and really rock out with it? 

Roy Thomas Baker is back on the scene here for Jazz, his first production with the band since 1975’s A Night at the Opera, and the last time he would work with Freddie and the boys.

On side one check out the low harmony vocal on the first track. The big kick drum is also a treat. RTB loves his bass, that’s for sure.

Both sides should have an open, extended top end and a solid, rich bottom. Our best copies were big and clear with plenty of rock bottom end and Whomp Factor.

We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that dramatically changes levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many its songs, especially the anthemic Fat Bottomed Girls. Mustapha, the first track on side one, has a huge finish as well. It can take a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically every rock album you own is.

The sad fact of the matter is that most mixes for rock and pop recordings are just too safe. The engineers and producers believe that the mixes have to be safe for the average (read: crap) stereo to play the record.

We like it when music gets loud. It gets loud in live performance — why shouldn’t most of that wonderful energy make it to the record?

News of the World is incredibly dynamic and powerful in this respect, our pick for the best recording by the band, but Jazz on its best cuts is not very far behind it.


The Cars on Nautilus – Ouch!

More of the Music of The Cars

More Records that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Sonic Grade: F

This Nautilus Half-Speed Mastered LP is pure mud — compressed, thick and congested, a disaster on every level, much like their atrocious remastering of Candy-O.

Is it the worst version of the album ever made? Hard to imagine it would have much competition.

If you own this Audiophile BS pressing (NR-14) and you can’t hear what’s wrong with it, you seriously need to consider ditching your current playback system and getting another one.  It is doing you no favors.

Our Nautilus pressing here is yet another one of those Jack Hunt turgid muckfests (check out City to City #058 for the ultimate in murky sound), is incapable of conveying anything resembling the kind of clean, clear, oh-so-radio-friendly pop rock sound that producer Roy Thomas Baker, engineer Geoff Workman and the band were aiming for.

The recording has copious amounts of Analog Richness and Fullness to start with. Adding more is not an improvement; in fact it’s positively ruinous.

Further Reading

Records are getting awfully expensive these days, and it’s not just our Hot Stampers that seem priced for perfection.

If you are still buying remastered pressings, making the same mistakes that I was making before I knew better, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered LPs.

At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy of the album.

And if for some reason you disagree with us that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the very best.

Ramping Up the Horsepower of The Cars Like Crazy

More of the Music of The Cars

The best copies must have one key ingredient that we’ve discovered is absolutely essential if this groundbreaking New Wave album is to come to life — a huge, spacious soundstage.

Some copies are huge; others, not so much. The effect of these size differentials is ENORMOUS. The power of the music ramps up like crazy — how could this recording possibly be this BIG and POWERFUL? How did it achieve this kind of scale? You may need twenty copies to find one like this, which begs the question: why don’t the other 19 sound the way this one does? The sound we heard has to be on the master tape in some sense, doesn’t it? Mastering clearly contributes to the sound, but can it really be a factor of this magnitude?

The Cars – Candy-O

More of The Cars

Hot Stamper Pressings of New Wave Recordings

  • An outstanding copy of The Cars’ New Wave Classic, boasting solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • We guarantee this is some of the best sound you’ll ever hear on ANY Cars album – Roy Thomas Baker’s production makes this one jump out of the speakers like few recordings we’ve heard (and not many of them are from 1979, that’s for damn sure)
  • An underrated album by the band – we consider it a Must Own, along with their brilliant debut, two records that belong in any audiophile’s Rock and Pop collection
  • 4 1/2 stars: “As it stands, it may be one of the best second albums ever made, full of great songs, inspired performances, and sporting a still-perfect sound. If this had been the Cars’ debut album, people might consider it a classic. Coming after The Cars, it has to be rated a little lower, but not by much.”


The Cars – Shake It Up

More of The Cars

Hot Stamper Pressings of New Wave Recordings

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing will show you just how good Shake It Up can sound on vinyl
  • It wouldn’t be a Cars Hot Stamper without BIG, BOLD sound flying out of the speakers – friends, let me tell you, this baby’s got that in spades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Amazing sound quality for some of their most memorable songs – Since You’re Gone, Shake It Up, I’m Not the One, A Dream Away and more
  • “The band’s sound may have been evolving with each succeeding album, but Ric Ocasek was still writing compelling new wave compositions despite all the change, many of which would ultimately become rock & roll standards.”

If you have big dynamic speakers and like to rock, you can’t go wrong with a Hot Stamper Shake It Up. For a band with thin ties, leather jackets, jangly guitars, synths and monstrously huge floor toms that fly back and forth across the soundstage, Shake It Up is going to be the record for you, no doubt about it.

The first two Cars albums were both in The Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100 at one time, with good reason: they’re superb recordings. The Cars have been in “heavy rotation” on my system since the albums came out in the late ’70s. We started doing shootouts for both albums right around 2006 or 2007 and they continue to be a regular feature of our Rock Hot Stamper section, not to mention some of the most fun shootouts we do in any given week. (more…)