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Selling Your TAS Super Disc List LPs? – Say It Isn’t So!

[This listing is from more than ten years ago. Please to enjoy!]

We ran across a website years ago that confirmed our worst prejudices regarding Audiophiles and their apparent desire to rely on gurus such as Harry Pearson to tell them which records sound good and which don’t.

This flies in the face of everything we stand for here at Better Records.

  • Since no two records sound the same, a list of so-called Super Discs is practically meaningless. “Practically meaningless” hits the nail right on the head as far as we are concerned. Picture yourself standing in your local record store with a record in your hands, one you happen to know is on the TAS List. This knowledge makes the record slightly more likely to sound better than any other record you might have randomly picked up in the store. Insignificantly, trivially more likely. In other words, as a practical matter, no more likely. Why is this? Three reasons: one, many Super Discs are not on the TAS List; two, some of the records on the TAS List are not deserving of Super Disc status; and most importantly, three, most pressings of titles on the TAS List don’t sound good — only the right ones do.
  • But that’s not even the point. Ask yourself this: Why on earth would anyone want to collect the records on The TAS List, when most of these records contain music that appeals to a very small circle of people outside of Harry and his friends? The purpose of having an audiophile quality music system is that it allows you to hear your favorite music sound better than it would otherwise sound. It’s not for playing someone else’s favorite records; it’s for playing your favorite records.

This is why we do our Hot Stamper shootouts for records nobody in his right mind would think of doing. Toto IV? Zuma? Toulouse Street? You’ve got to be kidding.

No, we’re not. We love those albums. We sincerely want to find great sounding copies of them for those of our customers who love them too. It’s as simple as that.

Nobody else on the planet seems capable (or interested) in doing the kind of work it takes to find superior pressings of these albums, so if we don’t do it, who will? Nobody, that’s who.

But I digress. The website we ran across is no longer active.

Had you gone there back in the day, the page you would have seen first is a list of Marty’s Audiophile Vinyl Collection, which he introduces this way:

I have been a reader of The Absolute Sound since issue 33, (1982) one of the great journeys of my life. (I still have those old issues.) I was always an avid follower of the “Super disc list” that Harry Pearson had put together, a “Holy scripture” that I followed in earnest. I have amassed many of those titles knowing full well that I would be rewarded by sonic treats they lay ahead.

Thanks Harry !!

Holy scripture? Sonic treats? I think I just threw up in my mouth.

What followed was the TAS List, in all its vainglory, with Marty’s links to the copies he has been “fortunate” enough to acquire.

Just for fun you might have wanted to click on the Rock & Pop section. Here you would have found some of the worst sounding audiophile pressings ever made.

Mobile Fidelity Magical Mystery Tour?

Abbey Road and Rubber Soul on Japanese vinyl?

This is some real garbage. 

The more I browsed the more I had the feeling that my head was about to explode. Records like these positively disgust me. They pretend to be audiophile records, when in fact they universally sound phony and wrong. They fool audiophiles easily enough, that’s pretty clear, but any music lover would recognize their junky qualities in a heartbeat. (more…)

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill

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Reviews and Commentaries for Can’t Buy a Thrill

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  • Both sides of this Steely Dan classic earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades for their big, bold, rich, Tubey Magical sound
  • After doing so many shootouts over the years, and hearing the guitars and vocals jumping out of our speakers right into our listening room, we now find the recording a lot more to our liking than we used to
  • A surprisingly difficult record to find these days with good sound and audiophile quality playing surfaces
  • If you made the mistake of buying the Speaker Corner reissue from 2000, this is your chance to hear the record with all the energy that this band put into their debut, the kind of energy and presence the remastering engineers took out!
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were remarkable craftsmen from the start, as Steely Dan’s debut illustrates. Each song is tightly constructed, with interlocking chords and gracefully interwoven melodies, buoyed by clever, cryptic lyrics.”

Dirty Work sounds great here — rich and sweet mids, breathy brass, and lots of texture to the vocals. Often this track sounds dull and dubby, but it’s actually just a case of the mix being smoother than most of the other songs on the album. If this track sounds smooth, and the other songs sound right, the tonality is correct for the whole side because that’s what the best copies sound like.

Flip the record over and the good times begin all over again. Elliot Randall’s guitar on Reeling In The Years has the meaty texture and uncanny presence to take the song to an entirely new level. Fire In The Hole is dynamic with real weight to the piano, and the double-tracked vocals on Turn That Heartbeat Over Again sound rich and poppy the way they should. (more…)

Stevie Wonder / Songs in the Key of Life on Speakers Corner – Is This a Well-Engineered Album?

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Songs in the Key of Life Available Now

[This commentary was written more than ten years ago. I just went to this reviewer’s website to make sure the quote below was accurate, and everything you need to see is still up and as misguided as ever.]

I will ask the question again: Is This a Well-Engineered Album?

How on Earth could anyone possibly know such a thing?

Some background. Years ago our first ever Hot Stamper shootout for Songs in the Key of Life had us enthusiastically singing its praises:

HOT STAMPERS DISCOVERED for one of the funkiest and most consistent double albums of all time! It’s beyond difficult to find great sounding Stevie Wonder vinyl, but here’s a copy that proves it’s possible if you try hard enough. So many copies are terrible in so many different ways — we should know, we played them. And just to be clear, this copy is far from perfect as well, but it did more things right in more places than we ever expected it would or could. And that means it showed us a great sounding Stevie Wonder record we never knew existed.

But a noted reviewer says it’s a bad recording. Does he know something we don’t?

Not exactly. The fact is he doesn’t know something we do, something he, like anybody else, could have found out had he simply done his homework. (We call them shootouts, but homework is certainly a serviceable and in some ways even more accurate description: it’s work and you do it at home.)

All it takes is one good copy to falsify the assertion this fellow makes. We in fact found more than one. But I’m quite sure we do things very differently at Better Records than they do at any reviewer’s digs. (more…)

An Astoundingly Bad Sound Show – If This Is Your Idea of a Reference Record, You Are in Real Trouble


Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and a Half-Speed Mastered Disaster if there ever was one.

Mastered by none other than Stan Ricker. RR-7 also appears to still be on Harry Pearson’s TAS List!

My recent notes can be seen below. (The 1 in the upper left hand corner is my abbreviation for side one, which seems to be the worst side of the two here.)

Track two, the Red Norvo selection, is a real mess, highlighting the problems typically caused by Half Speed Mastering, especially at the hands of one of the most notorious “Audiophile” Mastering Engineers of All Time, the late Stan Ricker. Who cut as many bad sounding records as SR/2 himself? No one I can think of comes close.

His records, with few exceptions, suffer from bad bass (probably bloated and poorly defined in this case, my notes don’t say but after playing these records for thirty years I doubt I’m very off with this guess) and phony, boosted highs, which cause the striking of the mallets to be emphasized in an especially unnatural and unpleasant way.

Arthur Lyman had dramatically better sound in the ’50s. How come none of the audiophiles at Reference Records bothered to figure out how he did it?

(more…)

Neil Young – Freedom

More Neil Young

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  • Freedom finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing was a big step up from every other copy we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Freedom, which was a major critical and commercial comeback after a decade that had confused reviewers and fans, seemed to be a selection of the best tracks from several different unissued Young projects. …[W]hat made it all work was that Young had once again written a great bunch of songs. The romantic numbers were carefully and sincerely written. The long imagistic songs were evocative without being obvious.”

(more…)

Paul Desmond – Pure Desmond

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More Jazz on CTI

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  • Paul Desmond’s superb 1975 release makes its Hot Stamper Debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space that the superbly well-recorded group occupies
  • 4 stars: ” Paul Desmond reverted back to the relaxed quartet format that suited him well in the past… [this album] sparked a Desmond renaissance where he regained a good deal of the witty spark and erudite cool of his collaborations with Hall…

CTI is better known for the funky grooves of artists like Stanley Turrentine, Ron Carter and Deodato, but this album features mature adult jazz from Dave Brubeck’s former sideman, Paul Desmond.

It’s a lovely album, but if your pressing doesn’t have all the magic we could forgive you for not giving the music the credit it deserves. Unless your copy has a lot of energy and good amounts of richness and fullness, you probably wouldn’t give the music a second thought.

When you hear a copy like this, it’s an entirely different story. Fans of Contemporary label jazz are sure to get a lot out of this one. (more…)

Tchaikovsky – Capriccio Italien / Ormandy

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

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  • This classical masterpiece returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it from first note to last
  • Dynamic, huge, lively, transparent and natural – with a record this good, your ability to suspend disbelief will require practically no effort at all
  • “Tchaikovsky possessed a remarkable talent for instrumentation, instinctively scoring his works to obtain a maximum variety of color and the widest possible range of tonal effects. His “Capriccio Italien”, vibrant with the raw colors of its Italian song and dance rhythms, is one of his most popular works and shows the composer’s complete mastery of orchestration.”

We’ve had copies of the album in the past, but they sure never sounded like this! From both an audiophile and music lover’s perspective, you would have a hard time finding a record that holds this much appeal to both groups.

The orchestra is big and rich, and there is lovely sheen to the strings. The piano is surrounded by plenty of space, with great depth to the hall. The weight and bite of the brass are near perfection. The top is extended and open. And the loud passages are big and stay smooth, with very little congestion even at the climax of the work. So LIFELIKE this way. (more…)

Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain

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  • This outstanding Columbia 360 Stereo pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The good copies capture the realistic sound of Davis’s horn, the body, the breath and the bite (and not a little of the squawk as well)
  • Balanced, clear and undistorted, this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • A couple of marks play, so this copy is being offered at a much lower price than it otherwise would have been for those of you who can tolerate the pops
  • 5 stars: “Sketches of Spain is the most luxuriant and stridently romantic recording Davis ever made. To listen to it in the 21st century is still a spine-tingling experience…”

*NOTE: On side two, two marks make 24 moderate pops one-quarter inch from the end of Track 2, Saeta, and 15 moderate pops one-quarter inch into Track 3, Solea.

On the best pressings of this masterpiece, the sound is truly magical. (AMG has that dead right in their review.) It is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite, just like the real thing. What more can you ask for? (more…)

Van Morrison – Moondance

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  • A stunning Green Label early pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • A brilliant example of early-’70s Tubey Magical analog sound and Van’s Masterpiece of blue-eyed soul
  • An incredibly tough title to find in clean condition with audiophile quality sound, but we did it, and here it is
  • “An album worthy of an Irish R&B singer who wrote a teen hit called “Mystic Eyes” (not to mention a Brill Building smash called “Brown Eyed Girl”), adding punchy brass (including pennywhistles and foghorn) and a solid backbeat (including congas) to his folk-jazz swing, and a pop-wise formal control to his Gaelic poetry.” Christgau – A+ (a grade he does not give out often)

The record Moondance most reminds me of musically is After The Gold Rush. Neil Young set out to make a commercial album that had nothing but strong songs built around catchy melodies, with the highest quality production values. What better describes Moondance? Every song is good, you can sing practically every one of them from memory, and in fact you’ll probably feel like singing along with every one of them as you are playing this very copy.

Van Morrison never made another album as good as this one, and After the Gold Rush is still Neil’s masterpiece (along with Zuma of course). If there are two records on the planet that belong in everybody’s collection, it’s these two. Finding good sounding LPs of both of them is a tricky proposition — unless of course you are a customer of Better Records, where superb sounding pressings of Classic Rock Albums can be found all day every day. (more…)

Chopin / 24 Etudes / Vasary – A Demo Disc for Solo Piano on DG

More of the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings with Demo Disc Sound

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  • This stunning album of some of Chopin’s greatest piano pieces has superb sound, boasting a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • This magnificent sounding (and surprisingly hard to find) pressing is yet another example of a classical “sleeper,” one that can hold its own with practically any solo piano recording you have ever heard
  • As expected, Vasary performs with consummate skill, bringing out nuances in the work that may have escaped others – the results are captivating
  • “… an extraordinarily impassioned work, belying its technical utility.”

(more…)