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Commentary Overview

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Commentary Overview

We discuss practically anything that concerns recordings or their reproduction here for those who want to collect better sounding records and hear them at their best.

For further reading, be sure to check out our On The Record blog.

 

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Sonny Rollins - The Bridge

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: rollibridg_2013) 
by RCA LP



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

We found STUNNING sound for Sonny Rollins' classic LP The Bridge this week, and as you might have guessed from the image to the left, it wasn't on an original pressing! It's beyond tough to find copies of this album on any label these days, but we had a big stack of pressings from different eras and auditioned them in a big shootout. We've paired up our best side one with our best side two to create this killer White Hot Stamper 2-pack.

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Paul Simon - Graceland

What to Think When the New Version Is Completely Unrecognizable?

  (Item #: simongrace_debunk) 
by Warner Brothers LP



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

Where did this thick, dull, bloated, opaque turd come from? Having played at least 50 copies of the album over the last ten years, I can honestly say I have never heard one that sounded very much like this new version (maybe some record club copy we picked up by accident did, can't say it never happened).

Can that possibly be a good thing?

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Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street

What to Listen For

  (Item #: rolliexile_wtlf) 
by Atlantic LP



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The best copies will tend to have the qualities detailed below, and the more abundant these qualities are on any given pressing, the higher its grade will be.

Yes, it is a science, an empirical one, which can only be carried out by the use of strict protocols and controls, but it sure ain't rocket science. All you need is the system, the room, the records, the time and the will to do the painstaking critical listening required to complete the task.

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Mendelssohn / Violin Concerto in E Minor / Rybar

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: mendevioli_wh_2011) 
by Whitehall Records



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Whitehall budget reissue stereo pressing has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides and a performance by Peter Rybar that can hold its own against any you may have heard.

This recording easily beats most vintage Shaded Dogs, Mercurys and London records we've ever played here at Better Records, and it was released on vinyl by a relatively obscure budget label that most audiophiles have never even heard of and would probably not want to be caught dead with.


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Graham Nash's Wild Tales

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: nash_wildt_2015) 
by Atlantic LP



This is a Forgotten Classic from Graham Nash.

Like the man's first album, no one pays much attention to this music nowadays, but Better Records is trying to remedy that situation by making available to the audiophile public numerous copies of this album, every one of which is guaranteed to turn you into a fan. This is not new music, but it may be new music to you, so "discovering" it will be every bit as much fun for you in 2016 as it was for me in 1973.

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Neil Diamond - Stones

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: diamostone_2015) 
by Uni Domestic LP



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

On the Hot Stamper copies that do have sweet and rich ANALOG sound, credit naturally belongs with Neil's go-to engineer, ARMIN STEINER. He was one of the engineers on Spirit's first album (a truly phenomenal recording from 1968), assisted on Ram, recorded some of the best sounding, most Tubey Magical Chart Topping Pop Rock for Bread in the early '70s, and, if that's not enough, has more than a hundred other engineering credits.

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Stevie Wonder - Fulfillingness’ First Finale

A True Stevie Wonder Masterpiece

  (Item #: wondefulfi_wtlf) 
by Tamla



In my humble opinion this is clearly the second of Stevie Wonder's two MASTERPIECES. It could also be one of the Great Albums You May Not Know.

Over the course of the last year or two, for the first time in my life I've really gotten to know the album well, having found a CD at a local store to play in the car. I've listened to Fulfillingness’ First Finale scores of times and now see that is some of the best work Stevie Wonder ever did, right up there with Innervisions and miles ahead of any other Stevie Wonder album.

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Neil Young - Comes A Time

What to Listen For

  (Item #: youngcomes_wtlf) 
by Reprise LP



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) AND another in the long list of Great Albums You Probably Don't Know.

So many copies we played just sounded flat, with dull guitars and hard vocals. Some made Neil sound like he was singing from the back of the studio. Still others noticeably lacked leading edge transients of any kind, blunting the attack of the various stringed instruments.

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Roxy Music - Avalon

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: roxymavalo_2011) 
by EG Records LP



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

This British original EG Super DeLuxe pressing of Avalon has White Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides. We guarantee you have never begun to hear this music sound this clear, open and present. Right from the start the synths on track one were breathy and floating on a bed of cool studio air -- we knew this side was going to be awesome, and of course the more we played it the better it got. Nothing could touch it.

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Linda Ronstadt - Simple Dreams

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: ronstsimpl_2011) 
by Asylum Records



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

Clearly this is one of Linda's best albums, and I would have to say, based on my fairly extensive experience with her recorded output, that it is in fact THE BEST SOUNDING record she ever made. I love Heart Like a Wheel, but it sure doesn't sound like this, not even on the Triple Plus copies that win our shootouts.

Kudos once again must go to VAL GARAY, the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: James Taylor's JT (a Top 100 title), Andrew Gold, Prisoner In Disguise, etc.

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Jennifer Warnes - Famous Blue Raincoat

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: warnefamou_depth) 
by Cypress LP



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

I'm a huge fan of this music. It's the only album Jennifer Warnes ever made that I would consider a Must Own record or a Desert Island Disc.

In my humble opinion it's clearly her MASTERPIECE.

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Men At Work - Business As Usual

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: menatbusin_2015) 
by Epic LP



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

The only way to hear this album sound right is on Australian, Dutch, British and even Japanese vinyl. Yes, we have heard them all. We've liked about one out of every one hundred Japanese pressings we've played over the last twenty years. We were surprised to find that the Japanese copy of Business As Usual we played many years ago was pretty good, for what that's worth, and of course we can't be sure that on our current system with our current ears we would feel the same.

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Cat Stevens Catch Bull at Four

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: stevecatch_depth) 
by A&M LP



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

If you're familiar with what the best Hot Stamper pressings of Tea for the Tillerman, Teaser and the Firecat or Mona Bone Jakon can sound like -- amazing is the word that comes to mind -- then you should easily be able to imagine how good this killer copy of Catch Bull at Four sounds.

All the ingredients for a Classic Cat Stevens album were in place for this release which came out in 1972, about a year after Teaser and the Firecat. His amazing guitar player Alun Davies is still in the band, and Paul Samwell-Smith is still producing as brilliantly as ever.

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Joni Mitchell - Song To A Seagull

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: mitchsongt_2013) 
by Reprise LP



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

It took two records to make this White Hot Stamper 2-pack, with INCREDIBLE A+++ SOUND FROM START TO FINISH. The result? One of the best sounding, if not THE best sounding copy to ever hit the site. If you're a Joni fan this is one of her strongest records, and one that definitely belongs in your collection. If you own any other pressing we're confident that this copy will positively blow your mind.

These two sides have the kind of sound quality you probably never imagined would be possible -- but it is! We played it, we heard it for ourselves, and now we offer it to you, the Joni Mitchell (nee Roberta Joan Anderson) fans of the world.

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Led Zeppelin - IV

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: ledzeIV_depth) 
by Atlantic LP



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

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.

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Blood, Sweat and Tears

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: bloodblood_2016) 
by An Engineering Legend



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

In my opinion this is the BEST SOUNDING rock record ever made. Played on a BIG SPEAKER SYSTEM, a top Hot Stamper pressing is nothing less than a thrill, the ultimate Demo Disc.

Credit must go to the amazing engineering skills of ROY HALEE. He may not be very consistent (Graceland, Still Crazy After All These Years) but on this album he knocked it out of the park. With the right copy playing on the right stereo, the album has the potential to sound like LIVE MUSIC.

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Our Favorite Engineers (A Continuing Series)

Ron Nevison

  (Item #: allronnevison) 
by An Engineering Legend



RON NEVISON is one of our favorite engineers. He recorded Bad Company's debut, a Top 100 album for us, as well as Straight Shooter. In 1973 he engineered Quadrophenia, taking the reins away from Glyn Johns after his success with the amazing Who's Next.

1977 saw him working on the sprawling mess that turned into Physical Graffitti.

See more entries in our Favorite Engineers series


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John Coltrane - Standard Coltrane

How Good Are the New OJC Pressings?

  (Item #: coltrstand_OJC) 
by Original Jazz / Blues Classics LP



Feeling the obligation to do at least a minimal amount of due diligence with respect to the new OJC pressings, we purchased a batch and gave them a listen head to head with other pressings we knew to be good. In every case it was no contest, but that's not to say the new reissues are bad in any way. Better to say they are less good in every way -- less present, less clear, less spacious, less dynamic, in short, less real.

At the price, around $20, they are a good value for the average record lover, especially those on a budget. A number of Heavy Vinyl pressings are no doubt a good value as well, the ones we have reviewed favorably and quite probably many more.

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John Coltrane - Standard Coltrane

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: coltrstand_2015) 
by Original Jazz / Blues Classics LP



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

As you may have guessed by now, remastered is a bit of a dirty word around these parts. Most remastered records we play, from The Beatles to John Coltrane to ZZ Top, sound to us like pale imitations of the real thing, whether the real thing is an original or a reissue from back in the day.

But only a fool could fail to appreciate how correct and lively the best copies of this remastered record sound, and we're no fools here at Better Records. We judge records by one and only one criterion: how they sound. We pay no mind to labels, record thicknesses, playback speeds, mastering speeds or anything else you can read about on audiophile websites.

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Elton John - Elton John

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: john_elton_2011) 
by DJM LP



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

This original DJM British pressing has a SUPERB Demo Disc Quality side two and a wonderful A++ side one! You could easily play a hundred records from the '70s and not hear one that sounds this good. The richness and sweetness of this side have to be heard to be believed. We would be very surprised if this copy didn't become your favorite Elton John record -- it's an absolute knockout.

As is usually the case for this album and specifically these Brit DJM pressings, the vinyl is a bit noisy -- Mint Minus Minus with constant moderate surface noise under the music.

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