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Our Audiophile Scorecard - Winners and Losers

Audio Commentary  >  Audiophile  >  Our Audiophile Scorecard - Winners and Losers

Our Audiophile Vinyl Scorecard -- Winners and Losers

Click here to sort the section alphabetically by manufacturer.

We have a section specifically devoted to our favorite pastime here at Better Records, a little something we like to call
Debunking The Pseudo-Audiophile LP. The Audiophile's Choice -- the record that will do the best job of communicating the music through its superior sound quality -- is almost never going to be the one marketed to him as an Audiophile Pressing. If you find this in any way hard to believe, we encourage you to read on.

This section contains ratings and reviews of some of the Audiophile records that have come our way over the years. The most recent reviews are at the top. Records that have been given poor grades can also be found in our Hall of Shame, in the company of other audiophile pressings we found wanting.
 

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Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel

Debunked

  (Item #: gabrigabri1_debunk) 
by Classic Records Heavy Vinyl



Sonic Grade: D

Another addition to our Hall of Shame from one of our favorite whipping boys here at Better Records, the late but hardly lamented Classic Records.

Bernie Grundman's mastering approach for the first PG album is a disaster -- brighter and cleaner, which turns out to be precisely the wrong sound for the music.

The Direct Disk Labs half-speed is thick, compressed and lifeless, though fairly rich. You could do worse I suppose, but too much of the life of the music will be lost when playing their pressing.

More Peter Gabriel


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Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture / Kunzel

Telarc UHQR Debunked

  (Item #: tchai1812_UHQR) 
by Telarc



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

This is what we had to say about the UHQR back in 2005 or so:

Having played this record all the way through, I have to comment on some of its sonic qualities. It's about the most dynamic recording I've ever heard. This was the promise of digital, which was never really delivered. On this record, that promise has been fulfilled. The performance is also one of the best on record. It's certainly the most energetic I can remember.

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)


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Foreigner - Double Vision

MoFi Half-Speed Debunked

  (Item #: foreidoubl_mfsl) 
by Mobile Fidelity



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

There is a Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed Mastered version of this album currently in print, and an older one from the days when their records were pressed in Japan (#052).

We haven't played the latter in years; as I recall it was as lifeless and sucked-out in the midrange as some other famous MoFis of that period, notably The Doors (#051) and Trick of the Tail (#062). Is there any doubt that the new MoFi will be every bit as bad or worse?

More Foreigner


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Lee Ritenour - Rit

Reviewed in 2010

  (Item #: ritenrit_nr41) 
by Nautilus Audiophile Pressing



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

This very nice Nautilus Half-Speed Mastered LP has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND and plays pretty quiet, mostly Mint Minus. We played this against the 180g Discovery reissue that Doug Sax remastered and it SMOKED it. What a piece of muddy trash that Discovery pressing is.

Members of both Toto and Chicago play on this album, so fans of either should get a kick out of this music.


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Lee Ritenour - Friendship

Reviewed in 2008

  (Item #: ritenfrien_dd) 
by Audiophile Label (various)



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

This is a Minty looking JVC Japanese Direct-to-Disc LP complete with the original OBI strip. One of my all time favorite audiophile discs because this is real music worth listening to! The song Woody Creek is wonderful and reason enough to own this excellent album. The guitar of Lee Ritenour and the saxophone of Ernie Watts double up during a substantial portion of this song and the effect is just amazing.

More Audiophile recordings


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Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio - Blues to East

Reviewed in 2015

  (Item #: yamamblues_2015) 
by Japanese LP Pressing



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

On this album there's almost none of that "introspective noodling jazz" that the Japanese are infamous for. I love Midnight Sugar as much as the next guy, but too much of that kind of music is wearying.

Yamamoto's Trio wants to show that it can play good old fashioned straight ahead American piano jazz with the best of them. I hear echoes of Bill Evans in Yamamoto's playing. Supposedly he was a big Errol Garner fan as well.

More Audiophile recordings


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Stoneground - Play It Loud

Bad Direct Disc Music & Sound

  (Item #: stoneplayi_crystal_clear) 
by RCA LP



Sonic Grade: F

An awful Direct to Disc recording. The bad sound and pointless music -- this is the kind of crap we audiophiles used to put up with back in the '70s before we had much of a clue -- means that it clearly belongs in only one place on our site: the Hall of Shame.

More Direct to Disc recordings


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The Great Jazz Trio - Direct From L.A.

Reviewed in 2014

  (Item #: greatdirec_2014) 
by Import LP



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

The album features some excellent jazz with outstanding drum work by Tony Williams (one of our favorite drummers here at Better Records. His work with Return to Forever is mind-boggling).

Albums with Ron Carter on bass / Tony Williams on drums


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The L.A. 4 - Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte

Reviewed in 2008

  (Item #: lafou_pavan_dd) 
by Eastwind



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

This is a Near Mint East Wind Japanese Import Direct-To-Disc LP with SUPERB SOUND. Most copies we come across are quite ticky. Thankfully that ain''t the case here. This is an EXCEPTIONALLY QUIET copy!

More recordings engineered by Lee Herschberg


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The L.A. Four - Going Home

Reviewed in 2005

  (Item #: lafougoing_dd) 
by Eastwind



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

This Minty looking East Wind Japanese Direct-to-Disc LP has AMAZING SOUND. The boys do a fantastic version of Greensleeves here, flawlessing switching idioms from swing to bossa nova to bop.

More recordings engineered by Lee Herschberg


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Brahms, Handel, Chopin - Lincoln Mayorga, Pianist

Reverse Your Polarity!

  (Item #: variobrahm_mayorga) 
by Sheffield Labs LP



This IMMACULATE Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP with Very Little Sign Of Play (VLSOP) is one of the best Sheffields. Lincoln Mayorga is an accomplished classical pianist: this is arguably his best work. (I had a chance to see him perform at a recital of Chopin's works early in 2010 and he played superbly -- for close to two hours without the aid of sheet music I might add.)

You might want to try reversing the phase when playing this LP; it definitely helps the sound, a subject we discuss below.

See more of our Direct to Disc recordings


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Rickie Lee Jones - Rickie Lee Jones

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: jonesricki_mofi_reviewed) 
by Mobile Fidelity



Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed, and this one's pretty good for a change.

As I recall -- it's been a while, a very long while in fact -- the MoFi pressing is natural and musical. The bass is flabby and out of control as expected; the silly half-speed mastering Mobile Fidelity was promoting back in the '80s made a mess of the low end on practically every record they cut. But the midrange is mostly right, and you sure can't say that for the new heavy vinyl pressing.

More Rickie Lee Jones


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Joan Baez - Diamonds and Rust

The Half-Speed that Beats Most Originals

  (Item #: baez_diamo_nautilus) 
by Nautilus Audiophile Pressing



Sonic Grade: B+

One of the best Half Speed Mastered Records we have ever played.

In our recent shootout we were shocked -- shocked -- to hear how good our old copy of Diamonds and Rust on Nautilus sounded head to head against the best first pressings. Hard to believe, but it actually beat practically every one. If I hadn't heard it with my own two ears I wouldn't have believed it.

More Joan Baez


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Blood Sweat and Tears

Direct Disc Labs

  (Item #: bloodblood_dd_labs_debunk) 
by Direct Disc Labs



Sonic Grade - C.

Yet another Half Speed of questionable sound quality.

Back in the '80s I thought this DD Labs version smoked domestic copies, because the only domestic copy I had ever bought was a bad sounding one. This was many years before I came to understand that no two domestic copies were the same and that there were dozens of pressing variations. I believe it was not until about 1990 that I heard my first Hot Stamper of BS&T. Oddly enough, those stamper numbers managed to best all comers for about the next 15 years. Now we know they can be awesome, but there is actually another stamper that is potentially even better. It's so good in fact that it has been awarded our Four Plus grade.

More Blood, Sweat & Tears


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Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition / Muti

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: mussopictu_debunk) 
by Mobile Fidelity



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi mastering here is a joke. All that phony boosted top end makes the strings sound funny and causes mischief in virtually every other part of the orchestra as well. Not surprisingly, those boosted highs are missing from the real EMIs.

More Pictures at an Exhibition


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Gino Vannelli - Powerful People

What Was I Thinking?

  (Item #: vannepower_debunk) 
by Mobile Fidelity



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

At the time of our last shootout in 2014 I still had the MoFi pressing of Powerful People in my personal, very small (at this point) record collection. Almost all the best sounding records from my collection had long ago been sold off, going to good homes that I can only assume would play them more than I had in the last ten years. If it's a record you see on our site, chances are good I have listened to it until I'd practically turned blue in the face.

More Gino Vannelli


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The Band - Music From Big Pink

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: band_music_debunk) 
by Mobile Fidelity



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

In 2012 the new MoFi put out another remastered Big Pink. Since their track record at this point is, to be honest, abysmal, we have not felt the need to audition it.

It's very possible, even likely, that they restored some of the bass that's missing from the originals. But bad half-speed mastered bass -- poorly defined, never deep and never punchy -- is that the kind of bass that would even be desirable?

More by The Band


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Bob Seger - Night Moves

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: segernight_mofi) 
by Mobile Fidelity



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

The last time I played a copy of the MoFi I could not believe how ridiculously bright it was.

More Bob Seger


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Holst / The Planets/ Previn (2 45 RPM LPs)

  (Item #: holstplane_45) 
by EMI



This Minty looking EMI 45 RPM Japanese Import 2 LP set with the OBI strip and Little Sign Of Play (LSOP) is widely considered one of the great Planets, but it's not, based on our playing of a copy we had years ago, which means it belongs in our Hall of Shame.

The best copies on British or Dutch EMI vinyl are clearly better than this "audiophile" pressing.

More of the music of Gustav Holst


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JS Bach / Virgil Fox -The Fox Touch, Volume 1

Reviewed in 2010

  (Item #: bach_thefo_fame) 
by Crystal Clear



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

Are we changing our tune about Audiophile records? Not in the least; we love the ones that sound right. The fact that so few of them do is not our fault.

The methods used to make a given record are of no interest whatsoever to us. We clean and play the pressings that we have on hand and judge the sound and music according to a single standard that we set for all such recordings. Organ records, in this case, get judged against other organ records. If you've been an audiophile for forty years as I have you've heard plenty of organ records.

More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)


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Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: simonbridg_mofi_debunk) 
by Mobile Fidelity



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Pure mud. One of the worst versions ever made. (The CBS Half-Speed is actually quite good by the way.)

More Simon and Garfunkel


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The Sheffield Drum Record

  (Item #: variosheff_drum_record) 
by Sheffield Labs LP



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

This Minty looking Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP has AMAZING SOUND. We played it against other pressings we had and this was clearly the winner. It's so lively with a wonderfully extended top and bottom. We rate it about A++ - A+++ on both sides.

The record features improvisations from Jim Keltner (one of the all-time great session drummers) and Ron Tutt (Elvis Presley’s studio drummer). The album is a member of the famous TAS list.

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Willie Nelson - Stardust

What's the Right Grade for the CBS Half-Speed of Stardust?

  (Item #: nelsostard_cbs_2016) 
by Columbia Records



Sonic Grade: B to F, depending on the copy

This Hot Stamper CBS Mastersound LP has the BEST SOUND we have ever heard for the half-speed of this title. It KILLED the other two CBS Audiophile Stardusts we played. If you think there's a snowball's chance in hell that any two records -- domestic, import, audiophile, 180 gram, or otherwise -- sound the same, then you simply need to do a shootout or two with records like these to be disabused of that notion.

See all of our Willie Nelson albums in stock


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Bloomfield / Kooper / Stills - Super Session

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: bloomsuper_mofi) 
by Mobile Fidelity



Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

Super Session is one of the best-sounding MoFi pressings. The midrange sounds wonderful -- silky sweet and transparent. Not having been cut by Stan Ricker, the top end doesn't have that SR/2 boost. Overall it's a very nice sounding record, and the music just can't be beat.

More Super Session


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