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Letter of the Week – “Your Rubber Soul and ELO sides are clearly better than anything I ever heard and comparisons to Gold CDs, Legacy, MFSL, Nautilus or DCC series are pointless.”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Rubber Soul

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

I was a DJ for 20 years and by nature of meeting demand for the newest I was always buying vinyl the day it came out.

Your A++ to A+++ Rubber Soul and ELO sides are clearly better than anything I ever heard then or now and comparisons to gold CDs, Legacy, MFSL, Nautilus or DCC series are pointless.

I look forward to replacing my favorites with your A+++.

Btw the B-52’s 1st LP early pressing, which I bought back in June of 1979, always lept out of the speakers. The entire lp (any track) filled my dance floor well into 1987. I am not surprised it is in your Top 100. (more…)

The Beatles – Rubber Soul

More of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it, this vintage UK stereo pressing has plenty of analog magic in its grooves – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, about as quiet as they can be found
  • We guarantee you’ve never heard “Girl,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “In My Life,” “Wait,” “If I Needed Someone” and “Run for Your Life” sound better – and that’s just side two!
  • A Must Own Folk Rock Masterpiece and permanent member of our Top 100
  • 5 stars: “The lyrics represented a quantum leap in terms of thoughtfulness, maturity, and complex ambiguities. Musically, too, it was a substantial leap forward, with intricate folk-rock arrangements that reflected the increasing influence of Dylan and the Byrds.”

Since this is one of the best sounding Beatles recordings, this could very well be some of the BEST SOUND you will ever hear on a Beatles album!

There’s wonderful ambience and echo to be heard. Just listen to the rimshots on Michelle — you can clearly hear the room around the drum. On the best pressings, Michelle is incredibly 3-D; it’s one of the best sounding tracks on the entire album, if not THE best.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings, and especially from modern remasterings.  (more…)

How Can Anybody Not Hear What’s Wrong with Old Records Like These?

beatlrubbeoriginalRecord Collecting – A Guide to the Fundamentals

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Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

It is our strongly held belief that if your equipment (regardless of cost) or your critical listening skills do not allow you to hear the kinds of sonic differences among pressings we describe, then whether you are just getting started in audio or are a self-identified Audio Expert writing for the most prestigious magazines and websites, you still have a very long way to go in this hobby.

Purveyors of the old paradigms — original is better, money buys good sound — may eventually find their approach to records and equipment unsatisfactory (when it isn’t just plain wrong), but they will only do so if they start to rely more on empirical findings and less on convenient theories and received wisdom.

A reviewer we all know well is clearly stuck in the Old Paradigm, illustrated perfectly by this comment: (more…)

The Beatles / Rubber Soul – How Does the Heavy Vinyl Sound?

Hot Stamper Pressings of Rubber Soul

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

[This review was originally written in 2015.]

We are so excited to tell you about the first of the Heavy Vinyl Beatles remasters we’ve played! As we cycle through our regular Hot Stamper shootouts for The Beatles’ albums we will be of course be reviewing more of them*. I specifically chose this one to start with, having spent a great deal of time over the last year testing the best vinyl pressings against three different CD versions of Rubber Soul.

The short version of our review of the new Rubber Soul vinyl would simply point out that it’s awful, and, unsurprisingly, it’s awful in most of the ways that practically all modern Heavy Vinyl records are: it’s opaque, airless, energy-less and just a drag.

I was looking forward to the opportunity to take Michael Fremer, the foremost champion of thick vinyl dreck from sources far and wide, to task in expectation of his rave review, when to my surprise I found the rug had been pulled out from under me — he didn’t like it either. Damn!.
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How Can I Recognize What I Should Be Listening For on a Given Album?

Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Hot Stampers – The Four Pillars of Success

Doing carefully controlled shootouts with large groups of records is the only practical way anyone can learn what to listen for. We wrote about it here in a review for Rubber Soul:

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album at key moments of your choosing.

Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that others do not do as well, using a specific passage of music — the acoustic guitar John strums the hell out of on Norwegian Wood from Rubber Soul just to take one example — it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces that passage.

The process is simple enough. First you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

Admittedly, to clean and play enough copies to get to that point may take all day, but you will have gained experience and knowledge that you cannot come by any other way. If you do it right and do it enough it has the power to change everything you will ever achieve in audio.

Once you have done that work, when it comes time to play a modern record, on any label, it often becomes obvious what they “did to it” in the mastering, and how far short if falls when compared head to head to the pressings that were found to have the best sound. 

Our critiques are often quite specific about the sound of these Heavy Vinyl pressings. Our review for the remastered Rubber Soul is a good example of how thorough we can be when we feel the need to get down to brass tacks. 

Many of those who were skeptical before they heard their first Hot Stamper have written us letters extolling the virtues of our pressings. Here are some Testimonial Letters you may find of interest.

One Final Note

Before you try your first Hot Stamper, as long as you are buying vintage pressings in the meantime, not audiophile records, you are probably not wasting much money.

Every vintage pressing has the potential to teach you something.

A modern record, on the other hand, should never be considered anything more than a stop-gap, a kind of sonic benchmark to beat when you finally find a better sounding vintage pressing in acceptable playing condition.


FURTHER READING

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Letter of the Week – “The After the Gold Rush you sent is incredibly revealing.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,  

Two fantastic finds; well done once again. The After the Gold Rush you sent is incredibly revealing. The pressing removed the veil. This LP typically sounds dull and I don’t mean the songs. I dropped the needle on side one and started singing by the end of the first verse. I had planned to have a critical listen first as I always do, so I have a reference in which to make comparisons. If an album is great I start to sing the second time thru. That should tell you what I think of this pressing. When I played my copy it lasted one verse and one chorus before it was removed from the platter. Exceptional pressing!!! 

Re: Rubber Soul. I have 3 copies of this LP, all Parlophone and all earlier pressings than the one I purchased from you. One doesn’t really count because it is from the very first pressings that had problems. However, the other 2 are very good pressings. One is very transparent but extremely bass shy. The other is very much the opposite. It has lots of whomp but is grainy. The pressing from Better Records is beautifully transparent especially in the voice and is nowhere near as bass shy.

I believe that being closest to the source usually reveals more accuracy. That goes for most every discipline of study. This pressing, though not being the actual closest, was the winner. Go figure!

Thanks again for doing the research to find these gems.

Mark H.

The Beatles / Rubber Soul – Twin Track for Me But Not for Thee

More of the Music of Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

How is it that none of the critics of “twin track stereo” — the two-track recording approach used on the first two albums, with the elements hard-panned left and right — has ever come clean about the obvious twin track sound of Rubber Soul?

We used tracks four, five and six to test side two with, and in all three the vocals are hard-panned right with most of the instruments hard-panned left. Why is it wrong for Please Please Me to sound that way — the mono mix being the critic’s choice — but fine for Rubber Soul to be heard that way? 

Tons of energy on the drums in the left channel are a key test. In the right channel the shakers and tambourines are way up in the mix. The bass is a bit lean compared to the other tracks and tends to get a bit lost. If you can follow the bass throughout the song that’s a good sign.

Balancing the bass and drums in the left channel with the vocals and percussion in the right channel is not easy to do, which of course is what makes it a great test.

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The Beatles / Rubber Soul – Listening in Depth

More of the Music of Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

After playing so many copies of this record over the last few years, all of us here at Better Records have come to appreciate just how wonderful an album Rubber Soul really is. It has 14 fairly compact, well-structured, well-arranged pop songs, each of which is a gem in its own right. It reminds me a bit of the second album (With The Beatles) in that respect — short and to the point, get in and get out. 

But the second album does not feature acoustic guitars the way Rubber Soul does. From an audiophile point of view, the strumming of those lovely acoustic guitars is in large part what makes Rubber Soul such a special recording.

But what we’ve noticed only recently is how much the tambourine is used. It’s all over this album, and the good news is that most of the time it sounds great. There are other high frequency percussion instruments — shakers and the like — and between the tambourine and all the rest there’s just a lot of percussive energy on most of the songs that really carries them along. To me, this could be called The Tambourine Album. No other Beatles album features that instrument so boldly in the mix and builds so many songs around it.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Drive My Car

Mobile Fidelity made a mess of this song on their Half-Speed Mastered release. They took out far too much upper midrange and top end.

What drives the energy of the song are the cow bell, the drums and other percussion. Instead of a scalpel Mobile Fidelity took a hatchet to this slightly bright track, leaving a dull, lifeless, boring mess. Some Parlophone copies may be a little bright and lack bass, but they still manage to convey the energy of the song. The purple label Capitols can also be quite good. A bit harsher and spittier, yes, but in spite of these shortcomings they communicates the music.

As much as I might like some of the MoFi Beatle records, and even what MoFi did with some of the other tracks on Rubber Soul, they sure sucked the life out of Drive My Car. We all remember how much fun that song was when it would come on the radio. Playing it on a very high quality stereo should make it more fun, not less. If you’ve got a Rubber Soul with a Drive My Car that’s no fun, it’s time to get another one.

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The Beatles / Rubber Soul – Two Key Tracks for Testing

More Rubber Soul

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul is one of the most difficult Beatles records to get right. The individual tracks seem to vary drastically in terms of their sound quality. Some (What Goes On) sound sweet, rich and near perfect. Others (You Won’t See Me) can be thin and midrangy. What’s a mother to do?

I think what we’re dealing with here are completely different approaches to the final mix. The Beatles were experimenting with different kinds of sounds, and their experiments produced very different results from track to track on this album more than practically any other I can think of besides The White Album (which was recorded in multiple studios by multiple producers and engineers).

Is Your Rig Up To It?

One final note: this is the kind of record that really rewards a good cartridge/ arm/ table combination. You do not want to play this record with a lean or bright sounding cartridge, or a front end that does not track sibilances well. (I could name some equipment that I would not want to play this record on, but rather than insult the owners of such equipment, let’s just say they will have a tough time with this record.)

The Toughest Test on Side One

“Nowhere Man.” Unless you have an especially good copy this song will sound VERY compressed, much too thick and congealed to be as enjoyable as it should be. The best copies manage to find the richness in the sound as well as the breathiness in the vocals that others barely hint at.

Play this track on whatever copies you own (more than one I hope) and see if it doesn’t sound as compressed, thick and congested as we describe.

The Toughest Test on Side Two

“Wait,” a song we’ve never commented about before. The drums in the left channel are a key test — they should have huge amounts of energy.

In the other channel, the shakers and tambourines are well up in the mix and really come jumping out of the right speaker on the best copies.

The bass is a slightly lean compared to the other tracks and tends to get lost somewhat. If you can follow it throughout the song that’s a good thing.

Balancing the bass and drums in the left channel with the vocals and percussion in the right channel is not easy to do, which is of course what makes it a great track to test with.

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