Top Studios and Concert Halls – Abbey Road

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish, this mind-blowing recording is guaranteed to rock your world
  • The transparency, the clarity, the energy, the power – it’s all here on these very special import pressings
  • Just listen to how clear the clocks are on Time, how breathy the vocals are on Breathe, how textured the synthesizers are and how silky the top end is from the beginning of the album all the way to the powerful finish
  • A Top 100 album (Top Ten actually) and Demo Disc to rival the most amazing sounding records of all time
  • 5 stars: “…what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music… no other record defines [Pink Floyd] quite as well as this one.”

This vintage import pressing has the presence, the richness, the size and the energy you always wanted to hear on Dark Side — AND NOW YOU CAN! (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…)

Expanding Space Itself on The Dark Side of the Moon

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

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A few years back we played a copy with all the presence, all the richness, all the size and all the energy we ever hoped to hear from a top quality pressing of Dark Side of the Moon. It did it ALL and then some. The raging guitar solos (there are three of them) on Money seemed to somehow expand the system itself, making it bigger and more powerful than I have ever heard. Even our best copies of Blood Sweat and Tears have never managed to create such a huge space with that kind of raw power. This copy broke through all the barriers, taking the system to an entirely new level of sound.

Take the clocks on Time. There are whirring mechanisms that can be heard deep in the soundstage on this copy that I’ve never heard as clearly before. On most copies you can’t even tell they are there. Talk about transparency — I bet you’ve NEVER heard so many chimes so clearly and cleanly, with such little distortion on this track. (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…)

Derek Makes the Case for His Hot Stamper Dark Side of the Moon

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I wanted to comment on the discussion as to the validity of the ‘Better Records’ business model and offerings to audiophiles. As a backgrounder, I am an electrical engineer that grew up in the 60s and 70s listening first hand to many of the classic LPs that Better Records now offers for sale. I was also a musician with perfect pitch (playing French Horn in the Symphony and keyboards in various bands), I had a killer stereo and spent a lot of time in recording studios that produced some of the top acts and albums of the era so I certainly had exposure to the best equipment and listening environments back in the day.

I went on to being a CEO of various telecom/mobile software companies and somewhat lost touch with my musical purist roots. But I had 3 boys and one of them turned out to have the same music bug I had and he has gone on to pursuing a career as a recording engineer, re-introducing me to analog vinyl LPs, pushing me to re-engage in my greatest love, which I eventually did in spades: I tossed out my electrostatics and full digital sound chain and I built a set of Altec 604 monitors driven by a 300B tube amp and a killer turntable, and I went about spending about $30,000 on 1st pressing vinyl from around the world, cleaning them with an ultrasonic platform, and I learned a great deal during that process. (more…)

Pink Floyd / Dark Side of the Moon – “NEVER would I have thought a single record could make this kind of difference…”

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Dark Side of the Moon

Dan, our letter writer, is a new convert to the world of Hot Stampers. Although his system is modest by his own admission, the sound he was able to conjure up in his living room was “…a revelation…” A good Dark Side can have that effect on you.

Hi Tom,
I received this DSOTM yesterday…

First I played the 180gm 25th anniversary release, so I listened to the first side. While it didn’t necessarily ‘grab’ me, I sat through and listened, with the assumption that I really needed to get a feel for this to do a somewhat critical A/B listening experience.

Then I put this Hot Stamper on.

From the very beginning, I heard vocals I never heard before, in my 12 years of listening to this album. There was such a dramatically engaging ‘dreamlike’ flow to the music, that I have never experienced before! The soundstage was so 3-dimensional, the speakers disappeared, and moment after moment, I completely forgot I was sitting in my living room!

NEVER would I have thought a single record could make this kind of difference… it was TRULY one of those rare experiences – a revelation, of recreating an actual concert in one’s listening room.

While my system is quite modest by most accounts, this is a new chapter in the music playback book, to hear/ listen to something that is so lifelike, everything else disappears.

I look forward to enjoying this for a lifetime.

Sincerely,
Dan E.

Dan started out by emailing me about having some records cleaned, especially a copy of the Dark Side on Heavy Vinyl remastered for the 25th Anniversary of its release, by Doug Sax with the assistance of Kevin Gray (basically just using Kevin’s mastering chain).

My less-than-artful reply:

Dan, this is not a good sounding record. Cleaning it won’t help it much. Boosted top, zero ambience, it’s a dog on most levels.

My excuse for being curt? Simply this: Who has time to waste talking about a bad sounding record? The world is full of them. Their shortcomings are obvious to anyone with even a halfway-decent stereo. (Apparently such stereos are in shorter supply than one would think.) But everything is relative; the Heavy Vinyl beat Dan’s SACD, so he naturally concluded that it must be pretty good, since SACD is widely considered the latest and greatest digital software around.

But we here at Better Records think all this digital foolishness is a load of crap, a dead end. The reason we think that is that we have access to amazing sounding pressings of records like Dark Side, and they have the kind of sound no CD or digital media of any kind has — in our experience — ever had. We call them – you guessed it — Hot Stampers.

When Dan asked if we had a Hot Stamper that would blow his mind and blow that Heavy Vinyl version right out of the water, I said “Hell Yeah!”

The rest is history I guess. (more…)

The Beatles – Help – Germans Versus Brits

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Help. 

We’ve heard some excellent German pressings before, but this time [circa 2011] nothing could match up to our best Brit copies. What the best British copies have is more of the TUBEY MAGIC that can typically be heard on early pressings, due no doubt to the fact that they are mastered with tube equipment.

One reason we were so crazy about the German pressings is how amazingly clean and clear they can be. I can’t tell you how many distorted Brit copies we’ve played of this album over the years.

Some of the old cutting equipment clearly adds its own layer of distortion to the distortion that already exists on the tape for many of these Imports. A clean, clear, super low distortion Brit copy like this one is certainly the exception and NOT the rule. (more…)

The Beatles – Please Please Me – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series, this time for The Beatles’ amazing debut from 1963, Please Please Me.

The first Beatles record 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.)

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

I Saw Her Standing There

Like any of the boys’ most radio ready singles, this song tends to be a bit bright. If this track sounds at all dull, there’s probably no hope for the rest of this side.

Misery

This track should sound lively and punchy. The best copies have excellent bass definition and superb clarity, allowing you to appreciate how the wonderful bounce of the rhythm section really energizes the song.

Anna (Go to Him)

Does it get any better? This is the real Beatles magic baby!

Chains

Note that the vocals on this track are not as well recorded as they are on the track above. As a rule they’re a bit edgier and not as transparent.

Go back and forth between the two songs a number of times and we think you will hear exactly what we mean. Although this difference is more audible on the better copies, it should still be noticeable on any Hot Stamper pressing.

(more…)

The Beatles / Please Please Me – Which Is More 3-Dimensional, Mono or Twin Track?

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Please Please Me

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With all due respect to Sir George Martin, we’ve played a number of mono pressings of this album in the past twenty or so years and have never been particularly impressed with any of them. The monos jam all the voices and instruments together in the middle, stacking them one in front of the other, and lots of musical information gets mashed together and simply disappears in the congestion. 

But is Twin Track stereo any better? Yes, when you do it the way Norman Smith did on Please Please Me.

Twin Track stereo (which is actually not very much like two-track stereo, I’m sure Wikipedia must have a listing for it if you’re interested) is like two mono tracks running simultaneously. It allows the completely separate voices to occupy one channel and the completely separate instruments to occupy another with no leakage between them.

On some stereos it may seem as though the musicians and the singers are not playing together the way they would if one were hearing them in mono. They are in fact recorded on two separate mono tracks, the instruments appearing in the left channel and the singers in the right, separated as much as is physically possible.

Stuck in their individual stereo speakers, so far apart from one another, the members of the band don’t even seem to be playing together in the same room.

That’s on some stereos, and by some stereos I mean stereos that need improvement. Here’s why. (more…)