tom port

Mott The Hoople – Mott

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides, this copy will blow the doors off anything you’ve played
  • Both of these sides are rich and musical, solid down low, with Tubey Magic for days – forget the dubby domestic pressings, this is the sound you want for Mott
  • Bill Price engineered in 1973 – he’s the man behind The Clash’s Best Sounding Album, London Calling
  • AMG raves “This sounds better, looser, than All the Young Dudes, as the band jives through “All the Way From Memphis” and “Honaloochie Boogie,” beats the living hell outta “Violence,” swaggers on “Whizz Kid,” and simply drives it home on “Drivin’ Sister.”

This CBS Orange Label early British LP has the big British Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Phenomenally rich and sweet, with meaty bass and a smooth top, it’s the kind of sound you find on the best Ken Scott recordings from the early ’70s.

Bill Price engineered this one as he did for many of Mott’s albums. His claim to fame in these parts is London Calling, but his credits run into the hundreds for classic rock records starting in the ’60s right through to the ’80s.

We were surprised (although we shouldn’t be by now) that so many copies were slightly thin and dry. The first track on side one, the big hit All the Way From Memphis, tends to have a problem in that area more than the tracks that follow. (more…)

Woody Herman – Road Father – Direct to Disc

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

This Century Direct-to-Disc LP is a real sleeper. The arrangements are lively, the material is excellent and the sound is equal to the task. One of the better Century DDs. 

[Reviewed in 2005.]

Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This Reprise original tri-color label stereo LP has EXCELLENT SOUND on both sides. This, in my opinion, is the best sounding Sinatra record on Reprise. It’s so rich, sweet, and tubey magical you would think it was prime Capitol period Sinatra but it’s not — it just sounds that way. 

The sound is amazingly rich, warm, and sweet — that’s old tube mastering for you. Of course, that also means that it’s a bit smeary and the bass is pretty tubby. Still, what you’re involved with a record like this for is Sinatra’s voice and Jobim’s guitar and both sound WONDERFUL. Side one is a bit more open and transparent than side two, so it earned an extra half-plus.

If you like romantic music, you will be hard pressed to find a better album than this one. The song Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars perfectly encapsulates the mood of this album. My favorite track here is Dindi. Sinatra is the king of lost loves, and the song Dindi offers him another opportunity for regret. Nobody does it better than Frank. It’s a cliche to say he wears his heart on his sleeve, but the man made a career out of it. If the cliche fits…

The Rhino 180 gram LP mastered by Kevin Gray is a nice record, but this is the real thing. There is a richness, a sweetness and a naturalness here that you virtually never find on modern remasterings.

Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This album is all about sound, pure sound itself if you will: the sound of the instruments, their textures, and the textures of the soundscape Eno has created for them.

With the subtle harmonics of Eno’s treated sounds captured onto vinyl intact, the magic of the experience far exceeds just another batch of catchy songs with clever arrangements. It truly becomes an immersive experience; sounds you’ve never heard in quite that way draw you into their world, each sound more interesting than the next.

Only these British originals sound like they are made from fresh master tapes on rich, sweet tubey-magical, super high resolution cutting equipment.



In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

(Which, by the way, is BRILLIANT from the opening guitars of Burning Airlines to the never-ending chirping crickets of The Great Pretender. I mean that literally: on these early British pressings the run-out groove has the sound of the crickets embedded in it so that the crickets chirp until you pick up the arm, much in the same way that Sgt. Pepper has sound in the run-out groove at the end of A Day In The Life.)

Burning Airlines Give You So Much More

Pure Pop for Now People. Listen to all those multi-layered harmonies! They’re sweet as honey, and only the best British copies get them to sound that way. You can make out practically every voice. This is what we mean by Midrange Magic. (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

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What to listen for on this album? That’s easy: The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label the way they did back the day. I chalk it up — as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles tend to make about the sound of records, my own judgments included — to the limitations of the equipment, bad setups, bad rooms and poor record cleaning. 

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I myself had an Audio Research SP3-A1 and a D-75a, later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record wouldn’t be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing them on the much more revealing systems that are possible today.

Working in unfathomably complicated and unpredictable combination, today’s modern systems, painstakingly set up and tweaked through trial and error, in heavily treated rooms, using only records that have been subjected to the most advanced cleaning technologies — these are what make it possible to know what your records really sound like. 

These are what make it possible for us to do our job. You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like on your system and in your room. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record will be yours to enjoy for as long as you live. (more…)

Gershwin / Con. In F & Rhapsody In Blue / Previn / Kostelanetz

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  • This Columbia Six Eye has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound for the Rhapsody in Blue on side two – reasonably quiet vinyl too, especially for an early stereo LP
  • As would be expected, both sides are exceptionally rich and Tubey Magical, but the clarity, deep bass and powerful, dynamic sound of side two surprised the hell out of us – we’ve never heard the work reproduced with this kind of authority or fidelity
  • The first two movements of the Concerto in F found on side one earned a solid grade of Double Plus (A++) for their full brass and especially clear, solid, present piano, one with practically no trace of vintage analog tube smear
  • Performed with consummate skill and attention to detail – the results are magnificent!

Finally, the sound we’ve been searching for – rich, tubey and real, with nicely textured strings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and percussive — there is hardly any Old School smear or hardness to be heard, always important to the proper reproduction of any piano recording, whether the music is jazz, classical or rock. (We talk about smeary, hard pianos on many of our listings for those of you who take the time to read them.) (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Through The Past Darkly – Reviewed in 2010

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

This is a Decca In The Box Blue Label LP with EXCELLENT SOUND! Some of the tracks here sound WONDERFUL, but even more surprisingly, none of them sound bad the way so many Stones compilations often do. Virtually nowhere on this record can you find shrill, thin, edgy, typical compilation Stones sound. Playing songs like ‘She’s a Rainbow’ or ‘Dandelion’ on this album is so refreshing and enjoyable because they really sound the way you want to hear those songs. They have that rich and sweet analog quality that’s usually lost on later and/or digital versions.

The best sounding tracks on side one are track two; track three (silky vocals and deep bass); track five (big sound — a bit bright but ALIVE and tons of fun); and track six.

The best sounding tracks on side two are track two (as good as it gets); track four (the same); and track six, with plenty of cowbell. Side two is characterized by perfect top to bottom tonality and lots of energy.

“The U.K. version of this album was a bit odder yet more rewarding than its American counterpart. Apart from the superior sound, the major difference lies in the range of songs…” – AMG (more…)

Toto – IV – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. 

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this is one of the BEST SIDE TWOS WE’VE EVER HEARD! Africa sounds HUGE on this copy. With a soundfield this BIG and 3-D, it’s easy to see how this copy rated so high. Side one is no slouch either, rating A double plus for having a PUNCHY bottom end, and tons of rock energy. Big speaker sound all the way.

The good ones make you want to turn up the volume; the louder they get the better they sound. Try that with the average copy. When playing mass-produced pop music like this, more level usually means only one thing: bloody eardrums.

With a soundfield this BIG and 3-D, it’s easy to see how this copy rated so high. Side one is no slouch either, rating A double plus for having a PUNCHY bottom end, and tons of rock energy. Big speaker sound all the way.

If more records sounded like this we would be out of business (and the CD would never have been invented). Thankfully we were able to find this TOTO-ly Tubey Magical copy and make it available for our customers who love the album. (I may have been lukewarm on this music before, but now I LOVE it!)

This was our third shootout for Toto and it’s always fun. Great songs, and even the non-super-hot-stampers were full of energy and enjoyble as hell (within reason). It’s obvious why Toto IV was a Platinum Record. What’s not to like? (more…)

Neil Young – Harvest


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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this vintage pressing of Neil’s undeniable classic is guaranteed to beat any Harvest you’ve ever heard
  • At Mint Minus Minus this is not an especially quiet copy, but keep in mind that it’s practically impossible to find an early pressing with sound this good that will play quieter – it hasn’t happened in years 
  • A Top 100 album and a sublime recording no audiophile should be without
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the love songs and the harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” remain among Young’s most affecting and memorable songs.” 

When you have this kind of open, extended top end, the grit, grain and edge just disappear, leaving you with a clear, Tubey Magical sound that’s way beyond anything you have ever heard (or we give you your money back). Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the string of superb studio albums Neil released from 1970 to 1976. Just look at these titles: After The Gold Rush, Harvest, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night, and Zuma. (more…)

Can You Imagine Sound this Bad from a TAS List Super Disc? We Can, We Played It.

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This 2-pack boasts White Hot Stamper sound on side two for the Mehta Planets. Yes, it IS possible. Side two shows you what this record is actually capable of — big WHOMP, no SMEAR, super SPACIOUS, DYNAMIC, with an EXTENDED top. It beat every London pressing we threw at it, coming out on top for our recent shootout. Folks, we 100% guarantee that whatever pressing you have of this performance, this copy will trounce it.

But side one of this London original British pressing was awful. We wrote it off as NFG after about a minute; that’s all we could take of the bright, hard-sounding brass of War.

Can you imagine sound this bad from a TAS List Super Disc record? We can, we played it. (more…)