ledzeIV

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

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A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

  • Insane Rock and Roll ENERGY like nothing you have ever heard – the sound is exceptionally full-bodied, smooth and solid, making it possible to get the volume up good and high where it belongs
  • Here are the Rock and Roll Classics that reign supreme to this very day – Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway to Heaven, When the Levee Breaks, every one sounding better than you’ve ever heard them or your money back
  • 5 stars: “Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1971 is clearly one of their best, and one of their best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

It is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you when you play this copy at the listening levels it was meant to be heard at.

You’d better be ready to rock, because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will make you want to. Zep IV demands loud levels, but practically any copy will punish you mercilessly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels.

I never met John Bonham, and it’s probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel more than a little disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels many audiophiles prefer. The term “hi-fidelity” loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where exactly is the fidelity?

How on earth is a speaker system like this one going to reproduce the 22 inch (or more!) kick drum of John Bonham?

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Today’s Heavy Vinyl Disaster from Classic Records… Zep IV

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

A classic case of Live and Learn

Back in the day I thought the Classic 180 and then 200 gram pressing was the king on this title. In late 2006 I wrote:

“You can hear how much cleaner and more correct the mastering is right away…”

Folks, I must have been out of my mind.

No, that’s not quite fair. I wasn’t out of my mind. I just hadn’t gotten my system to the place where it needed to be to allow the right original pressings to show me how much better they can sound.

Our EAR 324 phono stage and constantly evolving tweaks to both the system and room are entirely responsible for our ability to reproduce this album correctly. If your equipment, cleaning regimen, room treatments and the like are mostly “old school” in any way, getting the album to sound right will be all but impossible. Without the myriad audio advances of the last decade or so you are just plain out of luck with a Nearly Impossible to Reproduce album such as this.

All of the above are courtesy of the phenomenal Revolutions in Audio that have come about over the last twenty years or so. It’s what progress in audio in all about.

The exact same 200 gram review copy now [this was written about ten years ago] sounds every bit as tonally correct as it used to, and fairly clean too, as described above, but where is the magic?

You can adjust your VTA until you’re blue in the face, nothing will bring this dead-as-a-doornail Classic LP to life.

Relatively speaking, of course. For twenty eight bucks (when it was in print) could you buy something better? Probably not. (Now it’s $100 to $400 on ebay and at that price you are definitely not getting your money’s worth.)

The average IV is really a piece of junk. And if you don’t have at least $10k in your front end (with phono), forget it. It takes top quality equipment to bring this album to life, and you better be prepared to go through a large number of copies to find a good one.


Letter of the Week – “Wanted to drop you a note and let you know [I’m] not a skeptic any more.”

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

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

Hey Tom, 

Wanted to drop you a note and let you know you have me now not a skeptic any more.

Case in point, over the 12 days of Christmas I acquired an [original] Led Zeppelin IV from you. I also received one from a family Member.

You are absolutely correct in that not all pressings sound the same.

I played both copies in a shootout and yours hands down was the better of the two.

The most recent purchase has me sitting staring at my speakers in amazement.

Both the Rumours and the But Seriously Folks are AMAZING!

Kevin

Kevin,

Thanks for taking the time to prove that the stampers are not the end-all and be-all of top quality sound.

We love it when our customers take the time and make the effort to do their own shootouts, especially when we win, which is what happens roughly 99% of the time.

Having an original pressing doesn’t guarantee you the best sound, but we sure as hell do.

Best,

TP

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The Recordings Won’t Change, So Other Things Have To

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Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

It’s amazing how many records that used to sound bad now sound pretty darn good. The blog is full of commentaries about them. Here’s a good one.

Every one of them is proof that comments about recordings are of limited value.

The recordings don’t change. Our ability to find, clean and play the pressings made from them does, and that’s what the Hot Stamper Revolution is all about.

You have a choice. You can choose to take the standard audiophile approach, which is to buy the record that is supposed to be the best pressing and consider the case closed.

You did the right thing, you played by the rules. You bought the pressing you were told to buy, the one you read the reviews about, the one on the list, the one they said was made from the master tape, the one supposedly pressed on the best vinyl, and on and on.

Cross that title off and move on to the next, right?

When — sometimes if but usually when — the sound of the record doesn’t live up to the hype surrounding it, you merely accept the fact that the recording itself must be at fault.

Prepare to allot a fair amount of time to complaining about such an unfortunate state of affairs. “If only they had recorded the album better…” you say to yourself as you toddle off to bed, ending your listening session prematurely, fatigued and frustrated with a record that — for some reason — doesn’t sound as good as you remember.

We did it too, more times than I care to admit.

Try It Our Way

Or you can adopt our approach and hear those very same albums sound dramatically better than you ever thought possible. Better than you remember. It happens all the time here at Better Records and it can happen at your house too. Just follow the yellow brick– uh, scratch that, just follow these four steps.

Our approach has the added benefit of freeing up time that would normally be spent bitching about the bad sound of most recordings. This in turn makes more time available for pleasurable listening to the Hot Stamper pressing you discovered on your own or the one we found for you. (It’s the same process whether you do it yourself or we do it for you.)

You also probably won’t feel the need to go on silly audiophile forums to argue the merits of this or that pressing. You will already own the pressing that settles the argument.

Keep in mind that your pressing only settles the argument for you — nobody else will believe it.

And why should they? They have never heard your copy. It would take quite a leap of faith on their part to believe that your copy sounds so much better than the one they own, when the one they own looks just like the one you own. It might even have the same catalog number, the same label, maybe even the same stampers.

But this is precisely what Hot Stampers are all about. Records may look the same but they most assuredly do not sound the same.

It may be a dead horse, but we see no reason to stop beating it: “Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.”

What We Offer

Unfortunately most of what is important in audio you have to learn to do for yourself.

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Listening in Depth to Led Zeppelin IV

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of RLJ.

Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

We always have a great time doing Zep IV shootouts. It’s one of those all-too-rare cases where amazing music and amazing sonics coexist on the same slab of vinyl. You just need to find the right slab, a proposition that turns out to be much harder than it sounds.

You probably know by now just how tough it is to find audiophile quality sonics on this album. Far too many copies just leave us cold, but the best pressings, whether British or domestic, are so good, and so much fun at the loud volumes we employ, that it ends up being worth all the time, trouble and expense it takes to wade through the vinyl dreck to find them.

But the best copies are so good, and so much fun, that it was definitely worth the trouble. Because the best copies ROCK, and it is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you.

Side One

Black Dog

The key to both of the first two tracks is to find a copy with a solid bottom end. Next look for an extended top end, easily heard on all the splashing cymbals.

Now listen for a tonally correct Robert Plant. The copies with lots of top will typically have him sounding too bright. The copies with little in the way of high frequency extension will have him sounding veiled and dull.

One out of ten copies (with potentially good stampers) will get all three right: the top, the bottom and his voice. When you hear it you know it immediately, but you sure do have to go through a lot of copies before you have much of a chance of hearing it!

Rock and Roll

“[Rock and Roll] was a little tough to record because with the hi-hat being so open and [Bonham] hitting it that hard it was difficult to control. But I managed somehow or another.”

Andy Johns

“The best copies prove once and for all that these are some of most up-front, lively and above all real sounding rock cymbals ever put on tape.”

Tom Port

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Letter of the Week – “You can’t hear the speakers; the sound fills the entire room, including the back walls.”

Reviews and Commentaries for Close to the Edge

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

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

Hey Tom, 

A good friend of mine came over today to take a look at my cartridge setup now that it is properly burned in. I was still getting some brightness in the right channel and we found that the cartridge was not seating properly in the groove. A few adjustments and now perfection!

My litmus test, Yes Close to the Edge now sounds absolutely unbelievable! You can’t hear the speakers; the sound fills the entire room, including the back walls.

As you stated, everyone should own a copy of this record to determine if their setup is correct.

I went through several of my hot stampers and I feel like I am in audio heaven now.

Morning Has Broken also sounds amazing; Piano definition, Cat’s voice, etc. Another 3D sound extravaganza!

Finally, I had a chance to compare Led Zeppelin 4 (your hot stamper vs. my 200g Classic).

Before the cartridge tweaking I was hard pressed to tell the difference.

Now that the stylus is properly seated in the groove, with the Hot Stamper I can hear more detail in Jimmy’s guitar, more airiness in Robert’s voice and just an overall more listenable experience.

The entire soundstage is about 3 feet higher than the Classic version.

Well, I am spoiled again and loving it!!

Thanks again
Rob

Rob,

Glad to hear your turntable is working better. As you say, differences between Hot Stampers and Heavy Vinyl pressings are not much more obvious, and that’s a good thing. We think audiophiles should learn to do all these sorts of things for themselves, and have written about it at some length:

Tweaking and Tuning Are Essential to Improving Your Critical Listening Skills

My friend Robert Brook has gone into in even more detail on his blog:

Turntable Set Up Guide Part 1: Why You Need to Do It Yourself


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Revolutions in Audio, Anyone?

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Led Zeppelin / IV – “Finally – It’s alive!”

xxxLetters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

More Led Zeppelin on Classic Records Reviewed

Michael just got a nice copy of Zep IV from us. His letter follows.

Well son of a bitch. Do you know how many tube combinations, cartridge adjustments, turntable adjustments, speakers, speaker placements, and other hocus pocus shit I’ve gone through after listening to a Led Zeppelin album I have where Bonham was barely present and Page’s guitar would wear my ears out within 2 songs thinking this can’t be the way they sounded… I know Bonham hit those drums hard.

Well, that ain’t the case with the Zeppelins I recently purchased from you. Shit man, finally. It’s alive! Thank you Tom.

Michael S

Mike,
Glad to hear it! If you ever win the lottery we’ll get you a White Hot copy and REALLY blow your mind. About one out of ten with the right stampers gets When the Levee Breaks to sound the way you want it to.  When I finally heard it about two or three years ago I could hardly believe it. Most pressings just plain suck.

Notes on When the Levee Breaks

When The Levee Breaks is rarely mastered properly and consequently rarely sounds the way it should. If the cymbals or the double-tracked harmonicas on your copy don’t get at least a little gritty you probably have an overly smooth copy, and it’s even possible that it’s made from a second or third generation tape. On the best copies both are alive with presence and energy.

And the room around the drums is huge, as is that famous 26″ Ludwig bass drum.

The Classic Records reissue corrects this problem somewhat, but at a cost. They’ve completely robbed the song of all the Zep magic. It’s not as big, not as open, not as rich, not as lively, not as punchy, and so on — but the cymbals are clean. Is that the tradeoff we should be happy to live with? If you’re on our site you already know the answer.

Good to know you are giving the boys a good home to live in, where they can be appreciated.

TP

Led Zeppelin – With This UK Copy You Better Be Ready to Rock

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

We did a massive shootout in 2012 for Zep’s beloved fourth album and this British pressing earned a nearly perfect score with some of the BIGGEST, BOLDEST, HARDEST Rockin’ sound we have ever heard on the album. Without a doubt this is the best sounding IV side two we’ve ever played, with the biggest bottom of them all.

When the Levee Breaks, a problematical track on even the best copies, finally sounds the way you’ve always heard it in your head — relentless and so powerful it’s downright scary.

But the best copies are so good, and so much fun, that it was definitely worth the trouble. Because the best copies ROCK, and it is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you.

Let’s get right to why this copy is SO DAMN GOOD.

Side Two

The biggest, boldest, most dynamic, punchiest and liveliest of them all. Zero smear, live-in-your-listening-room presence, with a beautifully extended and amazingly natural and correct top end, nothing could touch this one.

Note that the vocals for the first track are always somewhat edgy on even the best copies. After playing scores and scores of copies, having adjusted the VTA every which way we could, no copy did not have at least some edge on Plant’s vocal. We’re pretty sure by now it’s that way on the tape. Our job is to find the copy that reproduces it as accurately as possible. (more…)