Cal Tjader – Soul Sauce

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  • Tjader’s 1965 Latin Cool Jazz release – dubbed “Mambo Without a Migraine” – arrives with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing was simply bigger, livelier and more palpable than any of the other copies we played
  • Superb engineering by Rudy Van Gelder – Soul Sauce features jazz legends Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, and Jimmy Heath
  • 4 stars: “Soul Sauce is one of the highlights from Tjader’s catalog with its appealing mixture of mambo, samba, bolero, and boogaloo styles… he dodged the “Latin lounge” label with an album full of smart arrangements, subtly provocative vibe solos, and intricate percussion backing.”

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Jascha Heifetz Plays the 1st Movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (Brilliantly)

Amazing! If only the sound of the original records were better!

[Oh but they are, or they certainly can be. We admit we was wrong! We review a killer copy of LSC 1992 right here on our site.]

For more Heifetz, click here.

Bill Evans – Symbiosis – A Very Good MPS Pressing

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  • Evans’ wonderful 1974 album accompanied by symphony orchestra makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • We dropped the needle on a copy years ago and heard wonderful audiophile sound right from the get-go
  • Bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum and more depth, width and height than any other other copy we played
  • “… a special and unique entry in Evans’ hugh catalog… Not your “typical” Bill Evans album–but that’s what makes SYMBIOSIS such a fine, gently challenging listen.”

On the best copies the strings have wonderful texture and sheen. If your system isn’t up to it (or you have a copy with a problem in this area), the strings might sound a little shrill and possibly grainy as well, but I’m here to tell you that the sound on the best copies is just fine with respect to string tone and timbre. You will need to look elsewhere for the problem. (more…)

Falla / Three-Cornered Hat / Argenta (CS 6050) – This Copy Sure Was a Letdown

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Sonic Grade: F

This London original pressing with 1K/1K stampers was so bright, dry, and shrill I could hardly stand to listen to it for more than the half minute it took to realize it was not going to get any better. It’s bad enough to go right into our Hall of Shame.

The copy we had back in 2010 was a very good sounding record, or so we thought. Maybe we were wrong! You can read all about it below.

Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat is positively WONDERFUL on this copy (A++), and the Sinfonia Sevillana by Turina on side two is every bit as good! The second suite on side one is particularly lovely — check out how rich and full the sound is. Side two has a HUGE soundstage, as wide as they come. The sound is very rich and full of audiophile colors — this is the kind of record that you’re going to love playing for your audio pals!

Argenta brings the authentic Spanish flavor out in these works. Like so many audiophile reviewers over the years, you may find these performances definitive.

The strings on the first side are a bit dry to start, kind of like the sound many of you will recognize from Mercury’s classical records. Still, there’s much to like about the sound and you’ll have a very hard time finding a copy that’s any better. Most pressings do not have such an extended top end, and that quality here really brings this music to life. (more…)

Yes – Fragile – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

MASTER TAPE SOUND! We doubt you’ve heard too many rock records that sound as AMAZING as this one. It’s dynamic, punchy and powerful, with the kind of super-low distortion sound that lets you really crank the levels, the louder the BETTER! How many Yes records will let you do that? THIS ONE WILL! That’s what you get for your $750 — the kind of sound that will blow your mind.

Side one here has ALL the qualities we look for in a Hot Stamper Fragile. It’s smooth and sweet with virtually no smearing up top or distortion on the piano. There’s lots of meaty, punchy bass that really propels the music far beyond the typical pressing. The overall sound is airy, open, spacious, and super transparent.

As hard as it is to find a Fragile with two WHITE hot sides, we’ve done it. This side two is AS AMAZING as the stunning side one. The bass is deep, rich, and well-defined. The highs are silky and delicate, and the bottom end has lots of WHOMP — check out that punchy kick drum! It’s a super transparent side two — just listen to all that echo and ambience around the vocals.

This Is The Master Tape

I don’t think it gets any better than this! I would guess that not many audiophiles have a rock record that sounds this good in their collections (excluding those of you who have managed to acquire some of our best Hot Stampers; those audiophiles own the real thing and the real thing just can’t be beat.) (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Bruce Botnick and The Big Bottom End

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What separates Sergio from practically all of his ’60s contemporaries is the AMAZING SOUND of his recordings. The first album was recorded by the legendary BRUCE BOTNICK, the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention. This, in my opinion, is his Masterpiece. The Doors albums Bruce recorded represent some of his best work, but what Doors album sounds as good as Sergio’s debut? I can’t name one. [Actually I can: the first album, when you get the right pressing. It’s out of this world.] 

Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. When you hear one of those copies, you have to give Botnick his due. The man knew what he was doing. (Larry Levine, who recorded the subsequent albums, was no slouch either. Stillness is one of the ten best sounding records I have ever played, and that’s no exaggeration.)

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was close to twenty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the intervening decades.

Bruch / Scottish Fantasy – Airless, Smeary and Low-Rez on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

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

It should go without saying that a good original pressing kills the Classic reissue, and the Classic version is one of the better Classics. Still, it’s no match for the real thing, not even close. The Classic is airless, smeary and low-rez, which means that all the subtleties of the music and the performance will be much more difficult to appreciate. 

I dare say that were you to hear a top quality copy it would be all but impossible to sit through the Classic ever again. (That might be true for all Classic records — once you hear the real thing it’s hard to imagine be able to tolerate the sound of this reissue.)

OUR HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY

WHITE HOT Stamper sound for the Bruch side of this original RCA Shaded Dog, one of the best Heifetz concerto titles of all time. (I’m trying to think of a Heifetz title that sounds better and coming up blank.)

This was our shootout winner on side two, beating all comers, earning our highest grade, the full Three Pluses (our blue ribbon, gold medal, and best in show all wrapped into one). The sound is nothing short of DEMO DISC QUALITY.

If you want to demonstrate the magic of Living Stereo recordings, jump right to the second movement of the Bruch. The sonority of the massed strings is to die for. When Heifetz enters, the immediacy of his violin further adds to the transcendental quality of the experience. Sonically and musically it doesn’t get much better than this, on Living Stereo or anywhere else.

The violin is captured beautifully on side two. More importantly there is a lovely lyricism in Heifetz’s playing which suits Bruch’s Romantic work perfectly. I know of no better performance. (more…)

Badfinger – No Dice

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  • KILLER sound for this original Apple pressing with both sides earning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades; only the second copy to ever hit the site!
  • Both of these sides are rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet still super clean and clear; the bass is right on the money and the energy level is off the charts
  • “… boasting old-fashioned rockers, catchy pop tunes, and acoustic ballads… the heart of the album lies in Ham’s work.. He proves that songcraft is what separates great power-pop from good, and it’s what makes No Dice a superb pop record.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

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The Rolling Stones – No. 2

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

The best word I could use to sum up both the sound and the music on this record is HONEST. If you want to hear how early Rolling Stones records sound when they sound right, this is the ticket. This is the real sound of the early, early Stones.

Probably what any modern engineer would want to do to the album would only end up making it worse. It is what it is and that’s good enough for us.

Some tracks do sound quite a bit better than others, recorded as they were in three different locations (including Chess studios) by two different engineers (Ron Malo and Dave Hassinger). (more…)

Johnny Cash – The Sound of Johnny Cash

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish with both sides earning Nearly Triple Plus (A+++) grades, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Big, rich, tubey and open, this is some of the best sound Columbia achieved for its country records in the ’60s
  • The vocal presence and freedom from coloration will put a very real sounding Johnny Cash front and center in your listening room
  • “What is interesting about this album, though, is that it doesn’t just remind us of the sound of Johnny’s past, instead it points the way forward to the future, even serving as a template for his ultimate Man in Black persona.”

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