audiophile vinyl

Rod Stewart – An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down

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  • This UK Vertigo copy of Rod Stewart’s debut solo album boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing has a lovely musical quality that’s missing from most copies 
  • Titled The Rod Stewart Album for US release, this is Rod the Mod’s acclaimed debut
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The music and the songs are so vivid and rich with detail that they reflect a whole way of life, and while Stewart would later flesh out this blueprint, it remains a stunningly original vision.”

This vintage British 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. (more…)

Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive

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

What a monster — this White Hot Stamper Frampton Comes Alive boasts KILLER A+++ sound on sides one, two, and four and very strong A++ sound on side three! If you’re looking for a top-shelf pressing of THE iconic Classic Rock Double Live Album, don’t let this one pass you by. If you grew up with this album it’s going to be a thrill to hear this copy rockin’ on a big audiophile system. 

It’s ridiculously hard to find good sound for this record. Most copies are thin, dry and transistory. And it’s time consuming to clean and play as many copies of this double album as it takes to find enough Hot Stampers to make the endeavor worthwhile. When this album doesn’t have the goods it’s just not very fun. A White Hot Stamper copy like this one will remind you why we all went so crazy for this music back in the ’70s. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Slow Train Coming

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

We packaged together our very best A+++ side one with a different copy that boasted our best side two with the same top grade to give you this QUIET White Hot Stamper 2-pack! I doubt this is anyone’s very favorite Dylan album, but it’s sure a lot more enjoyable when you have sound like this. And if you want to hear what’s missing on the typical pressing, flip either copy over to the non-WHS side to see what we’re talking about. 

The big hit here is Gotta Serve Somebody, and Mark Knopler of Dire Straits is featured throughout the album. (more…)

Handel / Water Music / Leppard

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A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

The performance here by the English Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Raymond Leppard is currently my favorite, owing in large part to the fact that it has the kind of sound I find the most natural and enjoyable. This pressing boasts the biggest hall, the most transparency, and it has more clearly layered depth and more space than any other pressing we played. With White Hot stampers on side two and a Super Hot side one, this copy is right up there with the best Water Music we’ve heard.  (more…)

Haydn / The Surprise Symphony / Fjeldstad

More of the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This vintage RCA Living Stereo Camden LP has Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides. It’s one of the best Camdens, if not actually THE best. In true Living Stereo fashion, a natural, realistic concert hall perspective unfolds before you. As we noted about side one: it’s rich, smooth, sweet and tubey — what’s not to like? Lovely sheen on the strings too. This is our kind of sound! 

Fjeldstad’s performance is excellent as well. Fjeldstad, you may remember, is the man behind the definitive Peer Gynt on Decca (SXL 2012). His recordings may not be common but they have never disappointed. If you can’t own all 104 of Haydn’s symphonies, make sure that at least this one is in your collection. (more…)

Peter Frampton – Wind of Change – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and Frampton’s debut MASTERPIECE.

Hot Stampers for one of our favorite Classic Rock records have finally made it to the site! This British original is the very definition of TUBEY MAGIC. The sound is so rich and sweet it will make you want to take all your CDs and dump them in the trash (if you haven’t done so already). 

This is the sound WE LOVE here at Better Records, assuming the pressing in question still maintains its dynamics and some degree of presence, immediacy and transparency. Records like this can easily get thick and muddy; think of the typically dull Who’s Next or Sticky Fingers and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

But there can be too much of a good thing, even tubey magic, and this I’m sorry to report is exactly the problem here. That richness and fullness that makes British recordings from the era so good — think early Jethro Tull — can easily go over the edge, turning into a thick mucky stew in which the individual sonic components become difficult to separate out.

None of our Brit copies avoided the problem entirely; to one degree or another it’s on the tape. The best copies keep what’s good about the sound — leaner and cleaner they are not — while letting us hear into the soundfield with the most transparency and the least amount of smear.

Extension up top is also key to the best copies, as well as the least amount of compression. There is plenty of compression on some of these tracks — it is after all where some of the tubey magic comes from: tube compressors as opposed to the solid state kind. The best copies balance of all these elements in a way that allows the energy and power of this music to come through wonderfully.

Sides One and Two

Side one was neck and neck with the best sound we heard. In the end we had to call it A++ to A+++ because our Triple Plus side one had a touch more tubey magic.

Side two had solid A Double Plus sound, rich and sweet with big bass and smooth vocals (which got a bit grainy on some copies). With a bit less compression this one would have been competitive with the very best we played. As it is it will murder any copy other than the best British originals, and those, as I’m sure you know, do not grow on trees.

Glorious Big Speaker Sound

A while back we discussed the kind of sound that Glyn Johns managed to get for the likes of Humble Pie and The Who: “But oh what a glorious sound it is when it’s working. There’s not a trace of anything phony up top, down low or anywhere in-between. This means it has a quality sorely at odds with the vast majority of audiophile pressiings, new and old, as well as practically anything recorded in the last twenty years, and it is simply this: The louder you play it the better it gets.

This is without a doubt a big speaker record, one that requires the highest-resolution, lowest-distortion components to bring out its best qualities. If you have a system like that you should find much to like here.

I bought my first copy in 1972 when I was still in high school and it quickly became one of my favorite records. All these years later it still is. It’s records like this that shaped my audio purchases and pursuits. It takes a monster system to even begin to play this record right and that’s the kind of stereo I’ve always been drawn to. A stereo that can’t play this record, or The Beatles, or Ambrosia, or Yes, or the hundreds of other amazing recordings we put up on the site every year, is not one I would be very likely to own.


This is Peter Frampton’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.

What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so memorably wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, said record: 1) must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio enthusiast been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music”; 2) my sixty year old self must currently respect the album, and; 3) I must think I will want to listen to the music fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).

How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles will be added as time permits.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Fig Tree Bay
Wind of Change
Lady Lieright
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
It’s a Plain Shame
Oh for Another Day

Side Two

All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side)
The Lodger
Hard
Alright

AMG 4 Star Rave Review

Peter Frampton’s solo debut after leaving Humble Pie (as they stood on the brink of stardom) spotlights Frampton’s well-crafted, though lyrically lightweight, songwriting and his fine guitar playing… The sound is crisp, the melodies catchy, and Frampton’s distinctive, elliptical Gibson Les Paul guitar leads soar throughout… With its mix of ballads and upbeat numbers with just enough of a rock edge, Wind of Change showed Frampton at his creative peak.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River (from Way Back)

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

The first White Hot copy of Green River to ever hit the site! We’ve been trying this one for years but it’s insanely tough to find copies that really deliver. Creedence recordings tend to be somewhat rough and raw and this one is no exception, but this copy brought the music to life in a way that very few before it ever have on our system.

Green River isn’t ever going to be a knockout demo disc, but a copy like this allows you to enjoy the music as it was recorded. Most copies are so dull, grainy and lifeless that someone would have to wake you at the end of a side! (more…)

Wes Montgomery – The Alternative Wes Montgomery – Reviewed in 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Milestone Two-Fer LP with EXCELLENT sound has 14 unreleased alternate versions of songs recorded in a variety of settings by guitarist Wes Montgomery during his period with Riverside. In many cases, the versions here are dramatically different from the versions that appear on his original albums.  (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Straight, No Chaser

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Side two of this 360 pressing from 1967 is nearly White Hot — what a recording! If you want to hear just how good Monk’s great big rich piano sounds, look no further. 

Rudy Van Gelder, eat your heart out. This is the piano sound Rudy never quite managed. Some say it’s the crappy workhorse piano he had set up in his studio. Others say it was just poorly miked. Rather than speculating on something we know little about (good pianos and the their miking) let’s just say that Columbia had the piano, the room and the mics to do it right as you can easily hear on this very record. (more…)

Elvis Presley – From Elvis in Memphis – MoFi Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B-? C+?

Another MoFi LP reviewed. 

I first heard From Elvis in Memphis the way I heard so many albums back in the late ’70s and early ’80s: on the Mobile Fidelity pressing. I was an audiophile record collector in 1981 and if MoFi was impressed enough with the sound and the music to remaster it and offer it to their dedicated fans, of which I was clearly one, then who was I to say no to an album I had never heard? (Soon enough I would learn my lesson about MoFi’s A&R department. The MoFi release of Supersax Plays Bird, a record that had virtually nothing going for it, was the last time I took their advice.)

Turns out they did a pretty good job on the Elvis album though, not that I would have any way to know — back then it would not even have occurred to me to buy a standard RCA pressing and compare it to my half-speed-mastered pressed-in-Japan, double-the-price-of-a-regular LP. A decade or thereabouts later it would be obvious to me that MoFi had fooled around with the sound and that the right real RCA pressing would be more correct and more natural (but probably not as quiet of course).

Generic Audiophile LP Bashing

The most serious fault of the typical Half-Speed Mastered LP is not incorrect tonality or poor bass definition, although you will have a hard time finding one that doesn’t suffer from both.

It’s Dead As A Doornail sound, plain and simple, a subject we discuss in greater depth here.

And most Heavy Vinyl pressings coming down the pike these days are as guilty of this sin as their audiophile forerunners from the ’70s and ’80s. The average Heavy Vinyl LP I throw on my turntable sounds like it’s playing in another room. What audiophile in his right mind could possibly find that quality appealing? But there are scores of companies turning out this crap; somebody must be buying it. (more…)