best sounding vinyl

Aerosmith – Done With Mirrors

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  • Done With Mirrors finally arrives on the site with superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Big and solid guitars, with great bass, full vocals, and tons of Tubey Magic – this the way to hear the band
  • 4 stars: “Unlike the records that preceded it, Done with Mirrors is powered by the same smart-assed lyrics and filthy guitars that formed the core of Aerosmith’s best songs… it marks the beginning of their remarkable comeback.”

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Rick Wakeman – The Myths and Legends of King Arthur…

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  • Superb sound for this A&M British Import LP with each side rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings (or whatever crappy new reissue is around) – this the only way to hear the master tapes’ huge, lively and Tubey Magical qualities
  • 4 stars: “Rick Wakeman’s third solo album is among his best, as he employs his vast array of keyboards to their full extent, musically describing the characters pertaining to the days of King Arthur’s reign… The album’s entirety is a sensational execution of Wakeman’s adroitness, and with vocals from Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford Hopkins, it still stands along with Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Six Wives of Henry VIII as one of his most astute pieces.”

This vintage British 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…)

Cowboy Junkies – Whites Off Earth Now!!

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More Debut Albums of Interest

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s debut album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing is well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs as well as an open and spacious soundfield
  • “Whites Off Earth Now!! establishes the spare country blues sound that took the band to international fame with their next album.” – Wikipedia
  • “… it’s fascinating to hear their signature country-on-valium sound develop. Margo Timmins sings beautifully.”

This vintage Latent Recordings 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…)

Della Reese – Della by Starlight

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More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • An outstanding copy of Della by Starlight with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing puts a living, breathing, big-as-life Della Reese performing at the peak of her vocal powers right in your listening room
  • The key to the best copies is Tubey Magical richness and sweetness, and this vintage analog copy has plenty of both

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Thinking About the Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars of Bread and Cat Stevens

In many ways this recording is state-of-the-art. Listening to the Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars on the best copies brings back memories of my first encounter with an original Pink Label Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic– that sound knocked me out twenty-odd years ago, and here it is again. 

Of course I’ve always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. If you are too then a Hot Stamper copy of Manna will no doubt become a treasured demo disc in your home as well.

Audiophiles with high quality turntables literally have an endless supply of good recordings such as this to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you own, you can’t possibly have even scratched the surface of the vast recorded legacy of the last sixty years. (The first stereo recordings date from 1954, the year of my birth, good timing on the part of my parents.) That’s the positive thought for the day.

We here at Better Records look forward to helping you find recordings that do justice to the music you have yet to hear. (more…)

The Vintage Sound of The Genius After Hours

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

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Proof positive that there is nothing wrong with remastering vintage recordings if you know what you’re doing. These sessions from 1956 (left off of an album that Allmusic liked a whole lot less than this one) were remastered in 1985 and the sound — on the better copies mind you — is correct from top to bottom.

The highest compliment I can pay a copy such as this is that it doesn’t sound like a modern record. It sounds like a very high quality mono jazz record from the ’50s or ’60s. Unlike modern recuts it doesn’t sound EQ’d in any way. It doesn’t lack ambience the way modern records do. It sounds musical and natural the way modern records almost never do.

If not for the fairly quiet vinyl you would never know it’s not a vintage record. The only originals we had to play against it were too noisy and worn to evaluate critically. They sounded full, but dark and dull and somewhat opaque (hey, there’s that modern remastered sound we’ve all been hearing for years!).

And although it is obviously a budget reissue, it sure doesn’t sound cheap to these ears.

Tender Loving Care?

Was it remastered with great care, or did the engineer just thread up the tape on a high-quality, properly calibrated deck and say “Nice, sounds good, let her rip.”? Either explanation works for me, because I really don’t care who made the record or how much work they put into it. In the case of The Genius After Hours it seems they found the real master tape and just did their job right, the way mastering engineers — well, some of them anyway — had been doing for decades.

A scant ten years later Bernie Grundman, a true Hall of Famer, started cutting for Classic Records and ruined practically every tape handed to him.

Our explanation? We don’t have one! We played the records and reported our findings. We sold the ones we thought sounded good to us and didn’t bother with the rest.

Just like we’re doing now. The biggest difference here is that we are evaluating a single copy, with these specific qualities, and guaranteeing that you either love it or you get your money back. (more…)

Whomp Factor on Little Queen – Testing with Love Alive – Parts One and Two

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Heart’s Little Queen has long been a favorite Test Disc. It works especially well as a test for something we here at Better Records like to call Whomp — the energy found at the low end of the frequency spectrum. Some call it slam, we prefer whomp.

The commentary is here to help guide you as you make changes to your system, insuring that you end up with more whomp without sacrificing equally important qualities found in the midrange and top end of your system.

Reality Check Parts One and Two

Take the song Love Alive.

The beginning section is chock full of lovely and quite subtle details (such as the autoharp and tabla) that seem to lose their magic on most systems. The autoharp is rich and chimey, and the tabla has some real low end extension. The recorders and flutes that join them are breathy and sweet, while the acoustic guitars heard throughout display all the tubey-magical harmonic richness found on our favorite Hot Stamper recordings, from the Eagles first album to Teaser and the Firecat. These qualities easily get lost in the sauce if you’re listening to the average copy, or the typical audiophile stereo. That’s Part One of the test — the opening. (more…)

Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

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  • This early Black Label Shootout Winning pressing boasts stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • The only real rock album this band ever made actually ROCKS on this pressing, and that’s what makes listening to vinyl of the highest quality FUN
  • Only 8 tracks (so the band can stretch out). and every one is guaranteed to sound better than you have ever heard it
  • 5 stars: “Smart, conflicted bands from Weezer to the Eels owe Steely Dan big time… because on Countdown to Ecstasy, the band was human, not just brainy. Like Exile on Main Street, this is a record where Steely Dan let slip their extraordinary mask of sarcasm, and could not disguise the joy in these excellent songs, or the fact that they were having a blast playing them.”

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Ambrosia’s Debut – An Album that Takes Everything We’ve Got and Then Some

Ambrosia

Commentaries and Letters for Ambrosia’s Debut

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During our most recent Hot Stamper shootout we were reminded of a fact that had slipped our minds: Trying to get this record to sound right is a truly humbling experience. Without a doubt it deserves the title for Most Difficult to Reproduce in the Rock and Pop category. (Yes, we know, there is no such thing, we just made it up.) 

This record will bring any stereo to its knees, including one like ours, which is tuned and tweaked within an inch of its life. Everything has to be working at its absolute best before I would even consider any attempt to play the album. It’s not enough to have the stereo warmed up and cookin’, with everything in the house unplugged. The electricity from the pole needs to be at its best, not that grungy garbage you get in the middle of the day or around dinner time, when all your neighbors have their appliances going. You need that late-at-night, two o’clock in the morning everybody-has-gone-to-bed-and-turned-off-all-their-stuff electricity for this bad boy to work its magic.

I learned an important lesson from a shootout we conducted not long ago, which boils down to this: You can play hard-to-reproduce records all day long if your system is tuned up and working fine. Ours has to be, every day. The shootouts we do require that everything is working properly or we simply couldn’t do them. (more…)

Paul McCartney and Wings – Wings at the Speed of Sound

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  • An incredible pressing of Wings’ follow-up to Venus and Mars, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • This copy has a “cinematic” quality – it’s just plain bigger, with more depth to the soundfield, and stronger dynamics
  • The big hits, Let ‘Em In and Silly Love Songs, as well as minor gems, such as Beware My Love, are musical here with good body and a smoother top end
  • Allmusic: “A full-band effort, where everybody gets a chance to sing, and even contribute a song.”

The better copies such as this one had the qualities that really make the songs come to life and give you a taste of the old McCartney magic. (more…)