best sounding vinyl

Letter of the Week – “I needed a day to fully pick up my jaw from the floor after hearing Revolver and Dark Side…”

Reviews and Commentaries for Revolver

Letters and Commentaries for Dark Side of the Moon

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

Hey Tom, 

I needed a day to fully pick up my jaw from the floor after hearing Revolver and Dark Side…

Now that I‘ve given them both a few listens to fully absorb how revealing these recordings I thought I knew so well really are, I just have so many questions. 

How much better sounding can the respective White Hots really be?????

As far as Dark Side, I’m finding out for myself. Just ordered the white hot stamper. Most likely will be returning one of them, but I hope that after this, I will finally be able to stop looking for “the better sound” on this one….

Regarding Revolver, will the A++ side of my Revolver Super hot sound the same as the A++ side of the WHS? Or is the A++ grade on the WHS relative to its A+++ side, and still better than the SHS? What I am getting at is, will both sides blow me away in comparison to my SHS, or is it better to be patient and hold out for a two-sided A+++? Btw, regardless of your answer, you cannot have this copy back, it is simply fantastic!

I know these kinds of questions are quite relative to a number of variables, but any enlightenment you can provide is welcome…. I appreciate what you do, you have gained a very happy customer. (more…)

Falla / Turina – Nights In The Gardens Of Spain / Danzas Fantásticas

More of the music of Manuel De Falla (1876-1946)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this original UK import pressing of these wonderful classical works will be hard to beat
  • These sides are doing pretty much everything right – they’re rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, and has depth and transparency to rival the best recordings you may have heard
  • Soriano’s piano is especially clear, solid, and present throughout Danzas Fantásticas, with practically no trace of vintage analog tube smear

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Art Pepper – Which Is Better: Phil DeLancie Digital or George Horn Analog?

More of the Music of Art Pepper

More Jazz Recordings featuring the Saxophone

[This commentary was written many years ago.]

We’ve wanted to do Art Pepper Today for more than a decade, but the original Galaxy pressings were just too thick and dark to earn anything approaching a top sonic grade. Thirty years ago on a very different system I had one and liked it a lot, but there was no way I could get past the opaque sound I was now hearing on the more than half-dozen originals piled in front of me.

So, almost in desperation we tried an OJC reissue from the ’90s. You know, the ones that all the audiophiles on the web will tell you to steer clear of because it has been mastered by Phil DeLancie and might be sourced from digital tapes.

Or digitally remastered, or somehow was infected with something digital somehow.

Well, immediately the sound opened up dramatically, with presence, space, clarity and top end extension we simply could not hear on the originals. Moreover, the good news was that the richness and solidity of the originals was every bit as good. Some of the originals were less murky and veiled than others, so we culled the worst of them for trade and put the rest into the shootout with all the OJCs we could get our hands on.

Now, it’s indisputable that Phil DeLancie is credited on the jacket, but I see George Horn‘s writing in the dead wax of the actual record, so I really have no way of knowing whether Mr Delancie in fact had anything to do with the copies I was auditioning. They don’t sound digital to me, they’re just like other good George Horn-mastered records I’ve heard from this period.

And of course we here at Better Records never put much stock in what record jackets say; the commentary on the jackets rarely has much to do with the sound of the records inside them in our experience.

And, one more surprise awaited us as we were plowing through our pile of copies.

When we got to side two we found that the sound of the Galaxy originals was often competitive with the best of the OJCs. Which means that there’s a good probability that some of the original pressings I tossed for having bad sound on side one had very good, perhaps even shootout winning sound, on side two.

This is a lesson I hope to take to heart in the future. I know very well that the sound of side one is independent of side two, but somehow in this case I let my prejudice against the first side color my thinking about the second.

Of all the people who should know better…

The Beatles – Abbey Road

More of The Beatles

More Top 100 Rock and Pop Albums

  • An Out-Of-This-World UK pressing of The Beatles’ last and arguably greatest album, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • The “medley” on side two in Triple Plus sound? On today’s modern systems, this copy can take you on a trip with The Beatles you could not have imagined was even possible when the record was released
  • The stereo to play it didn’t exist back then, but it does now!
  • This pressing might just give you a new appreciation for one of the Greatest Rock Albums of All Time, The Beatles’ Final Musical Statement, their Magnum Opus (along with Sgt. Pepper, of course)
  • 5 stars, a permanent member of the Better Records Top 100, and a true rock and pop Demo Disc

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Herbie Mann – Returns To The Village Gate

More Herbie Mann

Hot Stamper Pressings of Superb Jazz Recordings in Stock

  • Herbie Mann’s 1963 release makes its Hot Stamper debut on this early Atlantic Blue & Green label pressing with phenomenal you-are-there sound
  • You won’t believe how good the Live Jazz Club sound captured on this album is, but it might take a White Hot Stamper pressing like this one to really make the case
  • This is an exceptionally well recorded jazz flute album, and if you want to hear this kind of sound, you going to need an early ’60s pressing, because none of the reissues we played even came close
  • “By 1961, flutist Herbie Mann was really starting to catch on with the general public. This release, a follow-up to his hit At the Village Gate…features Mann in an ideal group with either Hagood Hardy or Dave Pike on vibes, Ahmed Abdul-Malik or Nabil Totah on bass, drummer Rudy Collins and two percussionists. Mann really cooks on four of his own originals, plus ‘Bags’ Groove,’ blending in the influence of African, Afro-Cuban and even Brazilian jazz.”
  • A Jazz Classic from 1963 that should appeal to any fan of Bossa Nova music
  • The complete list of titles from 1963 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Pink Floyd Sounds Terrible on this Japanese “Audiophile” Pressing

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for The Wall

This Japanese Import is one of the dullest, muddiest, worst sounding copies of The Wall we have ever played. It is clearly made from a second generation tape (or worse!).

And somehow this pressing, or one very much like it, ended up as on the TAS Super Disc List. I would hope that the copy Harry played sounded a whole lot better than this one.

And the CBS Half-Speed is every bit as bad!

How is it that the worst sounding pressings are so often marketed to audiophiles as superior to their mass-produced counterparts? In our experience, more often than not they are just plain awful, inferior in every way but one: surface quality.

Dear Audiophiles, stop collecting crappy audiophile pressings with quiet vinyl and just switch to CD already.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to Understanding The Fundamentals

Letter of the Week – “The WHS stamper just pulled you into those songs, so you could feel every little dynamic shift and tonal change…”

More of the Music of Steely Dan

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. [The bolding has been added by us.]

Hey Tom,   

A friend and I just did a shootout of 16 copies of Aja, plus one of your White Stampers, which easily trounced them all (including some DJ 12″ singles from the album) [1], and in exactly those areas that you cover in some of the WTLF descriptions you have for that album. Just a great big, open and lovely-sounding record–what a thrill!. And thanks very much for those notes–they help clarify the critical listening process.

We also listened to 16 copies of Tea for the Tillerman. Among those (UK pink rims, German, Japanese, and many US labels) were two excellent early brown label A&M pressings, which I saved for the end of the shootout.

And we had the Analogue Productions 33 rpm pressing, which has been a big disappointment since I first heard it. [2] Those two original A&Ms both sound so much more natural, with more delicacy, extension, air, presence and energy than the AP version. My listening buddy said they sounded as if they were cut at 45 rpm; and neither of us really expected your White Hot UK pink-rim pressing could be a significant improvement over those.

But, as good as those are, it was also obvious that your WHS brought the music several steps closer. The A&M brown labels both added some thickness and over-emphasized the low range of his voice–which (until we heard your WHS) was a pleasant coloration.

But as you frequently mention, the biggest issue, once you’ve heard a great copy, is how much more energy and flow the music has. The WHS stamper just pulled you into those songs, so you could feel every little dynamic shift and tonal change that the musicians were bringing to the table. It allowed that music to breathe in a way I’ve never heard before. What a record!

The BIG thing your Hot Stampers do is present the music in a perfectly balanced way–no frequency range is emphasized, which also means none are compromised. I think this is why you can always turn up the volume on a Hot Stamper. If you’ve got a bad mastering or bad pressing, at some point, turning up the volume only make parts of the recording more unlistenable. Turning up a Hot stamper makes it a bit louder, sure. But it also brings you further into the studio, and closer to the music–and that’s we really want, right?

Ivan

Ivan,

Quite a shootout! I see you learned a lot. That’s what shootouts are for, to teach you what the good copies do well that the other copies do not do so well. As you well know, going deep into the sound the way you did is a thrill, one we get to enjoy on a regular basis. Maybe not every day — not every record is as good as Tea for the Tillerman – but multiple times a week. It’s what make the coming to work every day fun for those of us on the listening panels.

Thanks for your letter.

P.S.

[1] I remember playing those Aja 12″ records back in the ’80s. I never thought they were all that good sounding. DJ appeal, not audiophile appeal.

[2] We couldn’t stand the AP pressing either, as you may have guessed by the title of our review: Tea for the Tillerman – This Is Your Idea of Analog? It’s the poster boy for records with No Tubey Magic Whatsoever.

Without Tubey Magic you might as well be playing a CD. The well known reviewer who has so many nice things to say about this pressing — I quote him at length in my review — apparently cannot hear that the new Heavy Vinyl pressing sounds more like a CD than the actual CD of Tea for the Tillerman does.

This champion of analog is single-handedly guilty of more reviewer malpractice than anybody I can think of this side of Julian Hirsch, so it should come as no surprise to anyone — especially anyone who reads this blog — that the Heavy Vinyl Tillerman is yet another in a very long line of records he has been dead wrong about.

If your goal is to promote vinyl, at the very least you should know better than to do it with a record as lacking in analog virtues as this one is. We listed them chapter and verse in our lengthy review. We had no trouble identifying and calling them out, and we frankly still don’t understand why so many analog devotees have such a difficult time with the kind of in-depth critical listening that shows up the faults of junk vinyl such as this misguided remaster.

And just in case you are wondering, I happen to know that the Sterling mastered CD from many decades ago sounds better, because I still own mine and play it in the car from time to time.

If you are stuck in a Heavy Vinyl rut, we here at Better Records can help you get out of it. We did precisely that for these folks, and we can do it for you.

(You may of course not be aware that you are stuck in a rut. Few audiophiles are. The best way out of that predicament is to hear how mediocre these modern records sound compared to the vintage Hot Stampers we offer. Once you hear the difference, your days of buying newly remastered releases will most likely be over. Even if our pricey curated pressings are beyond your budget, you can avail yourself of the methods we describe to find dramatically superior killer pressings on your own.)


Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

Reviews and Commentaries for Tea for the Tillerman

The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work

More of The Rolling Stones

 More Rock and Pop

  • An original domestic pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • These sides had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from most other copies we played
  • “…a handful of songs have a spry, vigorous attack – ‘One Hit (To the Body)’ is a classic, and ‘Winning Ugly’ and ‘Had It With You’ have a similar aggression.”

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David Bowie / Aladdin Sane

More David Bowie

More Records with Exceptionally Tubey Magical Sound


  • Outstanding sound throughout this vintage UK pressing of Bowie’s 1973 post-Ziggy classic, earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Remarkable richness, smoothness and warmth, something that all the best Ken Scott Tube Recordings are renowned for
  • Plenty of Bowie Classics: “Watch That Man,” “Aladdin Sane,” “Panic in Detroit,” “Cracked Actor,” “The Jean Genie,” “Lady Grinning Soul,” and more
  • Here are more of our favorite Hot Stamper pressings of recordings with exceptionally Tubey Magical Sound
  • And some reviews and commentaries for the most Tubey Magical Recordings we have ever played
  • If you’re a David Bowie fan, this title of his from 1973 has to be considered a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

THE BIG BOWIE SOUND for this wonderful follow-up to Ziggy Stardust! We just finished shooting out a number of import pressings of the album, and this import was one of the better copies we heard. This one’s got the kind of Tubey Magical Richness that takes these Glam Rockers to a whole new level. (more…)

The Beatles – John’s Really Digging a Pony. Are You?

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

The best copies of Let It Be are Demo Discs for Energy, and here are some others that we’ve discovered are good for testing that quality on vinyl.

What blew our minds about the Shootout Winning side one we played recently was how outrageously big, open and transparent it was on the song Dig a Pony. As the song started up the studio space seemed to expand in every direction, creating more height, width and depth than we’d ever experienced with this song before. 

But there is no studio space; the song was recorded on Apple’s rooftop. The “space” has to be some combination of “air” from the live event and artificial reverb added live or later during mixing. Whatever it is, the copies with more resolution and transparency show you a lot more of “it” than run-of-the-mill pressings do (including the new Heavy Vinyl, which is so airless and compressed we gave it a grade of F and banished it to our Shame Hall).  (more…)