audiophile records

Grover Washington, Jr. – A Secret Place

More Grover Washington, Jr.

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • A Secret Place makes its Hot Stamper debut with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them throughout this original Kudu pressing
  • The sound is everything that’s good about Rudy Van Gelder‘s recordings – it’s present, spacious, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, dynamic and, most importantly, ALIVE in that way that modern pressings never are
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, big and lively, with wonderful clarity in the mids and highs and Washington’s sax front and center
  • 4 stars: “The bottom line on A Secret Place is that while the set did well commercially, it got nowhere near the critical praise of its predecessors. That’s a shame, because it is a truly fine album whose grooves and pleasures stand the test of time easily. It’s ripe for reappraisal.”
  • If you’re a Grover Washington fan, this title from 1976 is surely of interest, assuming you already have his best masterpiece, All the King’s Horses.

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Holst / The Planets – We Call This “Blockbuster Sound”

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Planets

This is what we here at Better Records refer to as Blockbuster Sound.

Even on the best copies, the recording does not sound very much like a live orchestra, nor is it trying to. It’s trying to be huge and powerful in your home.

It’s more in line with a Rock Demo Disc such as Crime of the Century or Dark Side of the Moon, in the sense that everything has been carefully and artificially placed in the soundfield, each with its own space and sonic qualities.

It’s clearly not the recreation of a live orchestral event. No live concert I have ever attended sounded anything like this record.

Instead it’s the actual creation of a unique orchestral sound, with unique staging of its own design.  Lots of microphones were used, which cause instruments and sometimes whole sections of the orchestra to appear in places and take up spaces they could possible take up.

If your stereo images well, with three-dimensional staging and depth, you will have no trouble hearing what we are talking about with any pressing of the album.

This is the sound that Bernard Herrmann made such wonderful use of with his series of Phase IV recordings for Decca, rather than the four mics and two stereo channels of the Fiedler Gaite Parisienne from RCA in 1954.

Which is ironic. HP talked about The Absolute Sound of live unamplified music as being the standard, yet somehow this recording ended up in his Top Twelve All Time Greats. Makes no sense to me, but neither do many of the records on The TAS Super Disc List. That said, our current favorite Planets is the other Planets on the TAS List, Previn’s on EMI.

If I were in charge of the TAS Super Disc List, I would not have put this record on it. Here are some others that we do not think qualify as Super Discs.

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George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

More George Harrison

More of The Beatles

  • With superb sound on all six sides, this early British box set of All Things Must Pass will be very hard to beat
  • If you’ve struggled with domestic pressings and later imports or Heavy Vinyl reissues, your troubles are over – here is the sound you were looking for
  • 5 stars: “Without a doubt, Harrison’s first solo recording is his best. Drawing on his backlog of unused compositions from the late Beatles era, Harrison crafted material that managed the rare feat of conveying spiritual mysticism without sacrificing his gifts for melody and grand, sweeping arrangements.”
  • This is clearly George Harrison’s best sounding album. Roughly 100 other listings for the Best Sounding Album by an Artist or Group can be found here.
  • This is a Must Own Title from 1970, a great year for Rock and Pop Music
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here
  • A great deal of tube compression was used in the mixing and mastering of the album, which makes this a difficult one to reproduce on anything but the highest quality equipment

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Beethoven / Septet / Members of the Vienna Octet

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Records on Decca and London

  • With outstanding grades on both sides, the sound here is realistic and natural, if not DEMO DISC quality
  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, the sound on this import pressing is classic Decca from 1959 – rich, smooth and completely free of the hi-fi-ish qualities some audiophiles seem to admire by the likes of Reference, Telarc, Wilson and the like
  • This record was cut by real Decca engineers and in 1969 they certainly still knew what they were doing
  • Both sides are full, rich, spacious, big and present, with very little smear and a very healthy dose of Tubey Magic
  • At the right level, the level at which these instruments are heard in performance, the sound is tonally right on the money
  • We’ve been raving about this album forever, first on Blueback and on UK Stereo Treasury, and now on Ace of Diamonds – all three can be superb
  • If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know – with music and sound like this, we hope to be able to do this shootout again soon

We normally do not put as much effort into finding top quality pressings of chamber music as we do for the large orchestral works favored by audiophiles (or at least the audiophiles who are willing to spend the money to buy our records), works such as Scheherazade and The Planets. However, if more of them sounded as good as this one we would be more than happy to do just that. (more…)

Willie Nelson / To Lefty From Willie

More Willie Nelson

More Country and Country Rock

  • Willie’s superb 1977 tribute album finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • You get clean, clear, full-bodied, lively and musical ANALOG sound from first note to last
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl they’re making – the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this very special vintage pressing simply cannot be beat
  • 4 1/2 stars: “To Lefty From Willie is an affectionate and thoroughly enjoyable salute to Lefty Frizzell, featuring stellar versions of a number of Lefty’s best-known songs. . . Nelson is respectful without being overly reverential, giving his own spin to each song without abandoning their honky tonk roots.”

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Phil Manzanera – A Truly Awesome Feat of Engineering by Rhett Davies

More of the Music of Phil Manzanera

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Phil Manzanera

You may recall reading this bit about Rhett Daviesengineering on Dire Straits’ debut:

“…until something better comes along, this is his Masterpiece. It has to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, with Tubey Magical mids, prodigious bass, transparency and freedom from hi-fi-ishness and distortion like few rock recordings you have ever heard.”

Well, something better has now come along, and it’s called Diamond Head.

It has some of the Biggest, Boldest Sound we have ever heard. Diamond Head isn’t known as an audiophile album but it should be — the sound is glorious — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and as rich and dynamic as it gets.

It’s clearly a Big Speaker Demo Disc. Play this one as loud as you can. The louder you play it, the better it sounds.

The best copies have Room Shaking Deep Bass with the kind of Whomp that can drive this music to practically unexplored heights.

It’s also transparent, with a large, deep soundfield that really allows you to hear into the music and the studio space in which it was created. The clarity is superb with all the detail and texture one could hope for, but the real kicker is the amount of Energy and Musical Drive that these two sides have going for them.

This is what the Master Tape is really capable of — Mind Bogglingly Good Sound.

Looking for Tubey Magic? Rhett Davies is your man. Just think about the sound of the first Dire Straits album or Avalon. The best pressings of those albums — those with truly Hot Stampers — are swimming in it. (more…)

Heart – Little Queen

  • An original Portrait pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • “Barracuda” and “Love Alive” are bar none two of Heart’s best songs and they are guaranteed to blow your mind
  • It’s the rare copy that has the powerful dynamics, deep bass, punchy drums and meaty guitars like you get here
  • A Rock and Pop Top 100 album with Demo Disc sound on a very special pressing such as this – it will rock your world
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After acquiring a substantial following with Dreamboat Annie, Heart solidified its niche in the hard rock and arena rock worlds with the equally impressive Little Queen.”

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. “Love Alive” and “Barracuda” on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power your system is capable of. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the pressing that will truly show it off.

There are plenty of commentaries that discuss the sound of this recording and what it can really do when you get hold of a good pressing… and have the system that can play it… and turn up the volume good and loud. We proudly present here a copy with the kind of Big Sound that we think backs up every claim we make.

We’re huge Heart fans here at Better Records, and we’re not ashamed to say so. These ladies can really rock, and on the right pressing their music can and will sound absolutely amazing. Here’s a copy that will allow you to hear that magic at home — the sound is super punchy with incredible energy and wonderful clarity. You’ll have a very hard time finding another copy that rocks any harder than this one.

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Dire Straits – Self-Titled

More Dire Straits

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this UK pressing of the band’s brilliant debut
  • One of the best sounding rock records ever made, with rich, sweet, smooth mids; prodigious amounts of bass; superb transparency and clarity; and a freedom from hi-fi-ishness and a lack of distortion like very few rock records we have ever heard
  • Rhett Davies knocked this one out of the park – it’s a Top 100 title, a member of the Tubey Magical Top Ten, and our favorite by the band for both sound and music
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Knopfler also shows an inclination toward Dylanesque imagery, which enhances the smoky, low-key atmosphere of the album… the album is remarkably accomplished for a debut, and Dire Straits had difficulty surpassing it throughout their career.”

Rhett Davies is one of our favorite engineers. He’s the man behind Taking Tiger Mountain, 801 Live and Avalon to name just a few of his most famous recordings, all favorites of ours of course.

The man may be famous for some fairly artificial sounding recordings — Eno’s, Roxy Music’s and The Talking Heads’ albums come to mind — but it’s obvious to us now, if it wasn’t before, that those are entirely artistic choices, not engineering shortcomings.

Rhett Davies, by virtue of the existence of this album alone, has proven that he belongs in the company of the greatest engineers of all time, right up there with the likes of Bill Porter, Ken Scott, Stephen Barncard, Geoff Emerick, Glyn Johns and others we could mention. (more…)

Chet Atkins – The Other Chet Atkins

More Chet Atkins

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chet Atkins

  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — it’s all here
  • Need a refresher course in tubey magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? This record is overflowing with it
  • It seems as though Bill Porter just doesn’t know how not to make an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording. Everything the guy touches is GOLD!

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for pointing out to us with his TAS List what a great record this is, although I’m pretty sure anybody playing this album would have no trouble telling after a minute or two that this recording is very special indeed.

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Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

More Fleetwood Mac

Reviews and Commentaries for Rumours

  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from start to finish, this early pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s Magnum Opus will be very hard to beat
  • Tubey Magical Analog – the sound is open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield
  • A Better Records Top 100 title – when you hear it sound as good as it does here, you’ll know why we’ve long considered Rumours an Audiophile Demo Disc
  • If you own the album on two 45 RPM discs (you know the one), allow us to send you a copy that will beat the pants off that modern mediocrity – this one!
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 5 stars: “Each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why Rumours touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.”
  • If you’re a Fleetwood Mac fan, this undeniable classic from 1977 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1977 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

When you hear a good copy of Rumours, it’s very easy to understand why this is one of the best-selling pop music albums of all time. Just about everyone knows how great these songs are, but I bet you didn’t know they could sound like this!

It’s tough finding Hot Stamper copies of this album. With over 75 sets of stamper numbers for each side, it’s an extremely taxing project, even for us. We know some of the better stampers and have been acquiring them since then in preparation for this shootout. (more…)