audiophile quality vinyl

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis

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  • Stunning sound on this early Verve Mono LP with both sides rating a Triple Plus (A+++) and playing reasonably quietly
  • As Good As It Gets – no modern pressing can hope to put Ella and Louis right in the room with you the way this one from 1956 can
  • One of the greatest duet albums of all time, if not THE GREATEST – a Desert Island Disc to beat them all
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ella and Louis is an inspired collaboration, masterminded by producer Norman Granz… Gentle and sincere, this is deserving of a place in every home.”

Click and pop counters might want to give this one a miss. It’s not as quiet as a modern pressing would be, but it’s as quiet as this title can be found on vintage ’50s Verve vinyl. If you have a top quality, heavily tweaked front end and a quiet cartridge, you might be good to go, but if you are picky about your surfaces, we recommend you give this one a miss.

Those of you looking for a cheaper, quieter alternative to spending hundreds of dollars on one of our Hot Stampers should look into the original Speakers Corner pressing or the CD, both of which we’ve played and both of which are quite good. (more…)

Pat Metheny – Offramp

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  • Offramp finally returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last
  • This is the sound of the Master Tape — worlds better than what most record lovers have ever had the privilege of hearing
  • Offramp held the Number One spot on the Jazz Album charts for 16 weeks back in 1982
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the thoughtful Metheny makes excellent use of space, choosing his notes wisely and reminding listeners that, while he has heavy-duty chops, he’s not one to beat everybody over the head with them.”

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Bonnie Raitt – Home Plate

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More Women Who Rock

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  • Home Plate finally returns to the site with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • Sound this good means you’re probably hearing the album better than they did when they played back the master tape in the control room — studio monitors being what they are
  • Since this is one of my three favorite Bonnie Raitt albums — the others being Sweet Forgiveness and Nine Lives — and quite possibly the best sounding album she ever made, it goes without saying that this is THE Must Own Bonnie Raitt Hot Stamper Pressing of All Time
  • “. . . a wonderful hybrid of American music, built on a thoroughly impressive set of songs, all delivered with Raitt’s warm, expertly shaded, and undeniably sexy singing.”

Another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. This is a classic case of a record that really starts to work when the levels are up. It’s so free from distortion and phony processing it wants to be played loud, and that’s the level this music works at. It’s the level it was no doubt mixed at, and that mix sounds pretty flat at moderate levels. If you want to hear the real rockin’ Bonnie Raitt you gots to turn it up!

Like a lot of the best recordings from the mid-’70s, the production and recording quality are clean and clear, and we mean that in a good way. There is very little processing to the sound of anything here; drums sound like drums, guitars like guitars, and Bonnie sings without the aid of autotuning — because she can sing on-key, and beautifully. Her vocals kill on every song. (Her dad had a pretty good set of pipes too.) (more…)

David Lindley – El Rayo-X

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Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

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  • El Rayo-X finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • If you’re looking for deep punchy bass, crashing dynamics, silky sweet vocal harmonies, grungy slide guitars, tons of ambience, and super low distortion sound, this is the copy for you
  • Engineered in 1981 by Greg Ladanyi, the very next year he would take home the Best Engineering Grammy for Toto IV (one helluva good sounding album and a former member of our Top 100)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of the greatest rock music albums of its time. Fabulous.”

This superb Asylum original LP is a real DEMO DISC — if what you are trying to demonstrate is how BIG and BOLD a good old-fashioned analog recording can sound.

After hearing Lindley’s white-bread session playing on ’70s albums by Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, et al., you might think the man must have a stick up his butt. His solos just never seem to let loose or get loose, and they rarely rock. Mercury Blues is proof positive that he can rock like a wild man when he wants to. On this album, perhaps for the first time, he really does seem to want to.

The sound on this record is so punchy and dynamic, the rest of your rock records should seem positively anemic in comparison. Most of it sounds live in the studio, and live in the studio is how you get a bunch of guys to play with this kind of enthusiasm and energy.

Engineered in 1981 by Greg Ladanyi, the very next year he would take home the Best Engineering Grammy for Toto IV (one helluva good sounding album and a former member of our Top 100).

Fortunately for us audiophiles, this album catches him before the overly-processed, digital drums and digital echo “sound of the ’80s” had gotten into his blood. (Just play any of the awful Don Henley records he made to hear what we mean.) This record still sounds ANALOG, and even though it may be 1981 and mostly transistorized, the better copies display strong evidence of TUBES in the recording chain. (more…)

Cream / Disraeli Gears – Live and Learn

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A classic case of Live and Learn

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Our shootout quite a while ago for Cream’s classic second album provided proof positive that We Was Wrong when we said:

No reissue we’ve ever played sounded especially good and none likely ever will.

Ah, but some do! We would love to tell you exactly what to look for so that you can go find one for yourself, but that’s bad for business as I’m sure you can see. Let’s just say there will be at least one later reissue of the album with very good grades coming soon to a site near you.

We also have to admit to being wrong about this:

If you’re expecting Sunshine of Your Love to rock on record like you remember it rockin’ on the radio back in the day, forget it. When you heard that song your brain added the bass and dynamics that are missing from the record. Either that or you did it through the loudness control on your old receiver. There’s maybe five db of dynamic range on that song and there can never be more than that.

There are copies with dynamic vocals on that track. The vocals are practically the only thing that do get loud, but on some copies they do; we heard it. Likewise, on some copies the drums have much more body and punch than than they do on most.

So, when it comes to bass and dynamics, yes, some copies have some, maybe even more than you remember. (more…)

Los Lobos – How Will The Wolf Survive?

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  • This superb Los Lobos release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big, rich (for 1984), present and lively, with good weight to the bottom end, this is clearly the right sound for this music
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than anything else around, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an unsuspecting record buying public
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the band’s exemplary taste, musical smarts, and road-tested maturity [is] in evidence on every cut. While rarely flashy, even a casual listen offers all the proof you might need that Los Lobos were a band of world-class musicians…”

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Peggy Lee – Sugar ‘N’ Spice

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More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • Sugar ‘N’ Spice makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING sound on both Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides
  • So hugely spacious and three-dimensional, yet with a tonally correct and natural sounding Peggy, this is the way to hear it
  • “Peggy is in fine voice and brings her sweet feminine tones to her ballads and her salty, seductive sounds to the more uptempo material. The backings are by Benny Carter and feature a compact orchestra with an emphasis on brass.”

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The Sons of The Pioneers – Down Memory Trail with The Sons of The Pioneers

More of The Sons of The Pioneers

More Country and Country Rock

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  • Down Memory Trail finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • These sides have a richness and sweetness that’s disappeared entirely from modern recordings yet they’re still incredibly clean, clear and spacious
  • If you want to know why people love Living Stereo records, playing either side of this record should be more than sufficient
  • “Another nostalgic journey through the west”

This vintage RCA Victor pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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. (more…)

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – What to Listen For

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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The richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality is most obvious where you often hear it on a Pop Rock Big Production like GYBR: in the loudest, densest, most climactic choruses.

We set the playback volume so that the loudest parts of the record are as huge and powerful as they can possibly become without crossing the line into distortion or congestion.

On some records, Dark Side of the Moon comes instantly to mind, the guitar solos on Money are the loudest thing on the record.

On Breakfast in America the sax toward the end of The Logical Song is bigger and louder than anything on the record, louder even than Roger Hodgson’s near-hysterical multi-tracked screaming “Who I am” about three quarters of the way through the track. Those, however, are clearly exceptions to the rule. Most of the time it’s the final chorus of a pop song that gets bigger and louder than what has come before.

A pop song is usually designed to build momentum as it works its way through the verses and choruses, past the bridge, coming back around to make one final push, releasing all its energy in the final chorus, the climax of the song. On a good recording — one with real dynamics — that part of the song should be very loud and very powerful.

Testing the Climaxes

The climax of the biggest, most dynamic songs are almost always the toughest tests for a pop record, and it’s the main reason we play our records loud. The copies that hold up through the final choruses of their album’s largest scaled productions are the ones that provide the biggest thrills and the most emotionally powerful musical experiences one can have sitting in front of two speakers. Our Top 100 is full of records that reward that kind of intense listening at loud levels.

We live for that sound here at Better Records. It’s precisely what the best vintage analog pressings do so brilliantly. In fact they do it so much better than any other medium that there is really no comparison, and certainly no substitute. If you’re on this site you probably already know that.

Two to Listen For

Number one: Too many instruments and voices jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression, there will be too many elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space in the upper part of the midrange, causing congestion and a loss of clarity.

With the more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich. Above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments and voices comfortably, without piling them on top of one another as so often happens. Consequently, the upper midrange “space” does not get overloaded and overwhelmed with musical information.

Number Two: edgy vocals, which is related to Number One above. Almost all copies have at least some edge to the vocals — the boys want to really belt it out in the choruses, and they do — but the best copies keep the edge under control, without sounding compressed, dark, dull or smeary.

The highest quality equipment, on the hottest Hot Stamper copies, will play the loudest and most difficult-to-reproduce passages with virtually no edge, grit or grain, even at very loud levels. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Way Out West

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Reviews and Commentaries for Way Out West

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  • A stunning copy of Way Out West with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This stereo pressing has superb 1957 Contemporary sound – big, open and natural throughout
  • The sax is so smooth and tubey it will have you drooling
  • One of our favorite Rollins records – one listen to this copy and you will know exactly why we love the recordings of Roy DuNann
  • 5 stars: “The timeless Way out West established Sonny Rollins as jazz’s top tenor saxophonist”

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