white hot stampers

Rodrigo / Concierto De Aranjuez / Yepes / De Burgos

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  • Glorious Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides
  • Quiet ’70s Decca vinyl
  • Rich and lush Golden Age sound, so effortless and analog
  • Rodrigo’s two most famous works on one LP

This Super Hot (on both sides) Decca pressing has Rodrigo’s two most famous works, the better known of course being the Concierto De Aranjuez.

With a sonic grade of A++, the sound is glorious, with practically all of the qualities that make listening to classical music in analog so involving. The presentation is shockingly three-dimensional, with an exceptionally wide and deep stage. The orchestral sound is rich and sweet, yet the guitar is clear and immediate. Managing to balance — so effortlessly — two dissimilar elements such as these, in 1959 no less, requires an enormous amount of skill and effort. Fifty-odd years later, those of us with good turntables are profoundly thankful for their achievement, in terms of both performance and sound.

If you were only to be allowed one Guitar Concerto recording, this would probably be the one to own. You will recognize the main theme instantly; it’s the one Miles Davis appropriated for the astonishingly innovative Sketches of Spain album he did with Gil Evans. (more…)

Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced

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  • SUPERB! An insanely good copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides — this one will blow you away!
  • The sound is dramatically bigger, cleaner, livelier and more present than you’ll hear on any other copy
  • Incredible sound for Purple Haze, Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary, Fire and Foxy Lady
  • No matter what version you’ve been playing, we guarantee you’ll be blown away by the energy and punch on this import
  • “One of the most stunning debuts in rock history, and one of the definitive albums of the psychedelic era.” 5 stars

It is no easy task trying to find good copies of this album (or any Hendrix album, really). This one is absolutely killer. The bottom end is big and weighty, the top is open and transparent, and there’s plenty of rich, full tubey magic. Good luck finding this kind of sound for Are You Experienced on your own — it took us DECADES! (more…)

David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Big space, breathy vocals, grungy guitars and plenty of Ken Scott’s luscious Tubey Magic makes this album a true audiophile treat
  • As it says on the back of the jacket, “Many thanks to our engineer Ken (Scott, one of our favorites).”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Working with guitarist Mick Ronson and producer Tony Visconti for the first time, Bowie developed a tight, twisted heavy guitar rock that appears simple on the surface but sounds more gnarled upon each listen.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 8 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, The Width Of A Circle. On side two, a mark makes 16 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, Running Gun Blues.

The sound is rich and full, just the way the Brits (and us audiophiles) like it. The tube compression that both Bowie and Scott favor works its magic at every turn, adding fatness and richness and lovely harmonics to the guitars and the drums.

Mick Ronson’s guitars are wonderfully rich and grungy. The vocals can get a bit hot on the first track on side one (as is often the case), but by track two the sound has settled in and is rich and smooth, just the way we like it. Very present and lively vocals are a strong point. Listen to the big bass, richness and Tubey Magic of the third track on side two — that is some Ken Scott studio wizardry at play.

Note that the second track on the second side seems to be where Alice Cooper found his “sound.” More power to him I say. You could get away with ripping off Bowie in 1970; nobody bought this album in the states, which is why it’s so damn rare and expensive. (more…)

Weather Report – Sweetnighter

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Weather Report Albums We’ve Reviewed

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • Boogie Woogie Waltz was one of the most mindblowing tracks found on any album from 1973
  • The sound is huge, spacious, lively, transparent and punchy – this is jazz fusion that really rocks
  • 4 stars: ” It is the groove that rules this mesmerizing album, leading off with the irresistible 3/4 marathon deceptively tagged as the ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’ and proceeding through a variety of Latin-grounded hip-shakers.”

This is our favorite Weather Report album here at Better Records. Heavy Weather is arguably a more ambitious and more accomplished piece of work, but Sweetnighter is so original and rhythmically compelling that we find ourselves enjoying it more. I don’t know of any other album on the planet like it. We only know of two Must-Own Weather Report albums, this one and Heavy Weather. They both belong in your collection if you’re a fan of jazz fusion.

The top end is fully extended here in a way that most copies barely hint at, and the overall sound is amazingly transparent and three-dimensional. The brass is full and rich, the percussion lively and present, and the bass is weighty and defined. All the stuff we look for on a Classic Weather Report album is here.

Note especially that the energy is excellent, and both sides are also very high-rez; the echo trails from all the studio reverb go on for days. (more…)

Jimi Hendrix – Hendrix In The West

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  • With stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this British Polydor pressing was rockin’ like crazy
  • This is a fun live album with stellar performances by Jimi – the best of his many posthumous releases
  • The awesome version of Little Wing is just killer on this copy – it’s Jimi’s best performance of the song
  • “Hendrix in the West is a collection of extremely good live Hendrix performances between 1968-1970. Three different concerts are sampled on this 1972 release, one of the few official live Hendrix releases following his death.”

*NOTE: A mark plays very lightly five times at the end of side one track three, Blue Suede Shoes. On side two a mark makes four light thumps at the start of track three, Red House.

We’re still surprised at how well recorded the album is. It takes a pressing like this to really show you the live Jimi Hendrix magic Eddie Kramer got onto tape. Drop the needle on Little Wing and you are going to be FLOORED.

The size and space here are really something, miles beyond most. The resolution and clarity of the open live sound of this copy bring out all the instrumental textures and details of the recording like few we played. More importantly, the extended top keeps the highs from getting hard or harsh the way they do on so many pressings we’ve played.

As these performances are culled from different concerts the sound varies a bit from track to track, but every track on here sounds good and the best tracks sound amazing.

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Judy Collins – Sometimes the Hits Are Mastered from Sub-Generation Tapes, and There’s Not Much You Can Do About It

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Both Sides Now, the Top Ten hit that finally put Judy on the map, is clearly made from a copy tape and doesn’t sound as good as the songs that follow it on side two. Hey, it happens, and I suspect it happens more often than most audiophiles think. I would wager that back in the day most people who bought this album never even noticed.

One thing I’ve noticed about audiophiles over the years: they’re like most people. The difference of course is that they call themselves audiophiles, and audiophiles are supposed to care about sound quality.

They may care about it, but are capable of recognizing it? Are they capable of listening critically?  Critically enough to notice dubby sound when they hear it?

Or to notice that one side of a record often sounds very different from another?

Or that some reissues sound better than the originals of the album?

Or that there is no correlation between the country that a rock band comes from and the country that made the best sounding pressings of their albums?

The embrace of one third-rate Heavy Vinyl pressing after another by the audiophile community has rendered absurd the pretense that their members ever developed anything beyond the most rudimentary critical listening skills.

Sadly, the Dunning-Kruger effect, the best explanation for the sorry state of audio these days, means they simply don’t know how little they know and therefore see no reason to doubt their high opinions of themselves, their equipment and their acumen.

Progress in audio is possible, but only if you know that you are not already at the top of the mountain. You should recognize that you have a lot of serious climbing to do.

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Little Feat – Dixie Chicken – Hard to Find on the Green Label

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TWO AMAZING WHITE HOT SIDES for one of Little Feat’s best-loved albums! This music is tons of fun, but the typical pressing is so flat and lifeless that the music is basically ruined. When you find a copy that’s been properly mastered, like this one, it’s a whole ‘nother story. Richer and fuller, clearer and more transparent, this Green Label will absolutely DESTROY any later pressing!

This album may never be a Demo Disc, but it certainly doesn’t need to sound like a piece of cardboard, and this copy is the proof! As soon as we dropped the needle, there was no doubt in our minds that this was the winner of our shootout. It’s a huge step up in every way.

Most copies of this album sound like cardboard, especially the later pressings on the palm tree and tan labels. To get the best sound you need originals of this album, and Warner Brothers green label originals are getting pretty darn hard to find as more and more collectors and audiophiles are coming to the realization that the unending stream of heavy vinyl reissues flooding the market leaves a lot to be desired. (Our desire for them is at zero as we no longer bother to order the stuff.) (more…)

Mark-Almond – Mark-Almond

A Record We May Never Shootout

Some records were just too much work to find, too expensive to buy.

This is one such album. The link above will take you to many more.

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This is a very nice original Harvest Green Label British Import LP of the band’s first album, which was released in America with additional tracks and no doubt mastered from a dub. This has that lovely Master Tape sound – smooth and sweet and totally grain free in the best tradition of British record making. If you like this band, this is a wonderfully relaxing way to enjoy their music. (more…)

Copland / Lincoln Portrait / Mehta

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AMAZING A+++ sound from START TO FINISH for all three works on this White Hot Stamper 2-pack!

Both of the copies in this 2-pack have one Shootout Winning superb sounding side and one side that plainly just didn’t cut it, so we combined them to give you out of this world White Hot Stamper sound for the entire album. The two good sides (out of four) boast Demo Disc sound quality!

This may not be a Copland work you know well, and I’m guessing the percussion concerto is not familiar either. Both are quite interesting and enjoyable if not exactly Must Owns. That said, the main reason audiophiles will LOVE this album is not the music, but the SOUND. The percussion works which start on side one and take up all of side two have amazing depth, soundstaging, dynamics, three-dimensionality and absolutely dead-on tonality — it’s hard to imagine a recording that allows your speakers to disappear more completely than this one.

We are on record as rarely being impressed with the recordings Zubin Mehta undertook as Music Director of the L.A. Phil. Audiophiles for some reason hold them in much higher esteem than we do, but then again audiophiles hold a great many recordings in much higher esteem than we do. It’s dumbfounding how many audiophiles and reviewers revere records which strike our ears as hard to take seriously. The TAS Super Disc List is full of them, and so are the entries in the annual Stereophile Records to Die For issue. We debunk them on the site by the carload, and even the hundreds that we’ve done are but a fraction of the bad records receiving undeserved praise in the audiophile rags over the years. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Love in Vain… that particular song sounds as if they are playing live in my living room!”

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One of our good customers had this to say about a Hot Stamper Rolling Stones title he purchased recently:

  Hey Tom,   

By the way, I was blown away by Let It Bleed. Despite the only noise on the record being on Love in Vain… that particular song sounds as if they are playing live in my living room! The richness of the guitars is unbelievable. And the bass on Live With Me, wow…. Great pressing! (more…)