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Home Audio Exercises

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Home Audio Exercises

This section is designed to help you become a better listener.

To that end we have created exercises, experiments and tests that you can do at home for fun and profit. We can all agree that the better our stereos sound, the more enjoyable they become. Learning how to get better sound from the equipment and recordings you own doesn't cost a dime. It simply requires that you improve your critical listening skills.

Those skills develop through practice, by challenging yourself to understand what is really on your records -- to figure out, to the best of your ability, what is right and what is wrong on every record you own. Same with your stereo. You can't fix a problem that you haven't yet recognized is a problem, right?

We have another whole section of commentaries about Audio Issues on the site as well.

Happy listening from all of us at Better Records.

 

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The Doors - The Doors

What to Listen For

  (Item #: doorsdoors_wtlf) 



What to Listen For? you ask?

ENERGY and RAW POWER. Few audiophiles have any idea how well recorded this album is, simply because most pressings don't do a very good job of encoding the life of the master tape onto the vinyl of the day, regardless of whether that day is in 1967 or 2017.

The first Doors album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most powerful recording in the entire Doors catalog.

More by The Doors


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Queen - The Game

What to Listen For

  (Item #: queengame_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

The best sounding side ones were rarely as good as the best sounding side twos.

Even the good side ones tended to have a trace of harmonic distortion and compression that is simply nowhere to be found on the good side twos. How and why this is we have no idea. Since every copy had the same sonic issues we discounted it in our grading. Only the better copies bring the hits on side one to life and give them the size and power we know they can have.

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Fleetwood Mac - Greatest Hits

What to Listen For - Punchy Drums

  (Item #: fleetgreat_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

Many pressings are compressed, murky, veiled and recessed, especially the early ones. To find one that is transparent, clear, present and punchy is no mean feat.

On either side listen for the drums to punch through the mix.

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10cc - Deceptive Bends

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: tenccdecep_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Deceptive Bends.

We've long been huge fans of this album both musically and sonically. It's the kind of recording where the sound JUMPS out of the speakers. It reminds me of Crime Of The Century that way. It's also one of the most DYNAMIC popular recordings I know of. If this album doesn't wake up your system, it's time to scrap it and start over! Musically it's one of my all time favorite albums, a real Desert Island disc.

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Traffic - Mr. Fantasy

Where's the Bass?

  (Item #: traffmrfan_pink) 



This Pink Label Original Island pressing has amazingly sweet, open, extended and transparent mids and highs. It has two major shortcomings: a lack of bass, and a fair amount of surface noise. If you can add a few dB around 50 cycles and can put up with some surface noise and scratches, you are guaranteed to hear some wonderful sound in the best tubey Island tradition.

Side two sounds better than side one; it has more bass and therefore is more tonally correct.

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Phil Collins - Face Value

Whomp Factor

  (Item #: collifacev_whomp) 



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.

Until we heard some of the better copies we were simply not able to appreciate just how important good bass definition and serious weight down low are to the sound of this record. When the bass is wooly or thin, as it is on so many copies -- not clear, not deep, not full enough -- it throws the rest of the mix off. When the bass is huge and powerful the music itself becomes huge and powerful.

More Phil Collins and Genesis


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The Beatles - Help

Germans Versus Brits

  (Item #: beatlhelp_2011) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Help.

We've heard some excellent German pressings before, but this time [circa 2011] nothing could match up to our best Brit copies. What the best British copies have is more of the TUBEY MAGIC that can typically be heard on early pressings, due no doubt to the fact that they are mastered with tube equipment.

More Help


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Testing for Sibilance with 10cc's Deceptive Bends

  (Item #: tenccdecep_test) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Deceptive Bends.

On side two the tonal balance is especially critical. Any boost to the top end will cause the vocals on the second track to SPIT LIKE CRAZY. This is a good test for how well your cartridge and arm are doing their jobs.

More 10cc


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The Eagles - One Of These Nights

What to Listen For

  (Item #: eagleoneof_wtlf) 



What to Listen For you ask?

That's easy: Soaring Guitar Solos and Huge Choruses.

If you have an exceptionally good sounding copy of the album, One Of These Nights is the kind of record that can really come alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

More by The Eagles


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James Taylor - Mud Slide Slim

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: taylomudsl_depth) 



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

Mud Slide Slim has some of Taylor's strongest material: You've Got a Friend; You Can Close Your Eyes; Hey Mister, That's Me up on the Jukebox, and one of his best and most underrated, Love Has Brought Me Around. If you've got a top copy of the album, this song, the leadoff on side one, can really rock. It's yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

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Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

What to Listen For

  (Item #: londojulieis_wtlf) 



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.

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is on Barney Kessel's guitar. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

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Santana - Santana

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: santasant1_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Santana's brilliant first album.

First off, a 360 label doesn't mean much on this record except the POTENTIAL for good sound. The badly mastered or pressed copies can be recognized easily: they are muddy and smeary. The recording itself has a bit of that too-many-tubes-in-the-signal-path quality to start with, so unless the record is mastered and pressed clearly and cleanly the whole presentation is likely to turn to mud.

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The Bloated Cello Sound Some Audiophiles Seem to Love

  (Item #: brittsonat_cello) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate any and all cello recordings you may own.

On this pressing we were a bit surprised by how unusually natural the cello sounded -- more like the real instrument and less like the typical recording of it.


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Richard & Linda Thompson - Shoot Out The Lights

An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

  (Item #: thompshoot_obsess) 



SHOOT OUT THE LIGHTS is an album we admit to being obsessed with -- just look at the number of commentaries we've written about it.

I've seen Richard Thompson on a number of occasions over the years, and as loud as my stereo will play, which is pretty darn loud, I've never been able to make his guitar solos 20 dB louder than everything else, because they're simply not on the record that way. That's why live music can't be reproduced faithfully in the home: the dynamic contrasts are much too great for the typical listener, or his stereo.

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Michael McDonald - If That's What It Takes

Great Sounding Soulful Pop

  (Item #: mcdoniftha_2016) 



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

For soulful pop it doesn’t get much better than a Hot Stamper pressing of Michael McDonald's first album. The bottom end has real weight, the top is extended and sweet, the vocals are breathy and present, and the energy is off the charts. Just listen to how rich and full-bodied the midrange is!

With the right pressing the highs open up and his vocals JUMP out of the speakers. He's RIGHT THERE.

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Fleetwood Mac - Bare Trees

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: fleetbaret_depth) 



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This period of Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House (1970) through Mystery to Me (1973) -- both are records I would take to my Desert Island -- has always been my favorite of the band. I grew up on this stuff, and I can tell you from personal experience, having played a dozen copies of Bare Trees practically all day at some pretty serious levels, it is a positive THRILL to hear it sound so good. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn't get any better than rockin' out to the song Bare Trees.

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Supertramp - Even In The Quietest Moments

Making Progress in Audio

  (Item #: supereveni_progress) 



The story behind this record is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

We wrote up this album in 2005 as a Hot Stamper Stalled listing. We just could not find anything that sounded right to us. The imports were a smeary mess, the half-speed was and is a complete joke (we used to like it but that just goes to show how wrong you can be), and the domestic copies were so grainy and phony-sounding we knew there was no way to make the case that this was an actual audiophile-quality recording.

Even in the Quietest Moments


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Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace

A Bit of Experimentation with VTA Can Really Pay Off

  (Item #: frankamazi_wtlf) 


This is a handy record for VTA setup, a subject we discuss at length below.

On the better copies Aretha's vocals are as dynamic as any you will ever hear, and unlike all the records she did with Tom Dowd, her voice never breaks up on this record. If you have big speakers that can play at loud levels, with the right volume level you can really get Aretha to belt it out like nothing you have ever heard.

See more of our Aretha Franklin albums in stock


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Oscar Peterson Trio - The Trio - Live From Chicago

What to Listen For

  (Item #: petertrio_wtlf) 



What to Listen For? you ask?

Some copies are poorly mastered, so poorly that Ray Brown's bass all but disappears from the trio! Other copies made Thigpen's snare sound hard and too forward in the mix. This is obviously just a mastering EQ problem, since the good copies, such as this one, get all those elements to balance beautifully.

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Brewer & Shipley - Down In L.A.

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: brewedowni_depth) 



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This has long been one of our favorite Hippie Folk Rock albums here at Better Records. If you like Crosby, Stills and Nash's first album or Rubber Soul -- and who doesn't love those two albums -- you should much to like on Down in L.A.

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Bob Dylan Listening Test

Here’s One to Wet Your Whistle

  (Item #: dylannashv_wtlf) 



Presenting today’s Home Audio Exercise. Play your copy of Nashville Skyline -- on speakers, no fair cheating on headphones! -- and see if you can answer this question. At the beginning of one of the songs on this album two sounds are heard, neither of which is produced by an instrument, but could be said to have been produced by a singer. What are these two mysterious sounds?

If you have a good copy of the record, a good stereo and the ability to listen critically, you should have no problem figuring out what these sounds are. When you do, drop us an email. Until we come up with a better prize, for now we can offer you an extra 10% off your next order.

More Bob Dylan


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XTC - English Settlement

What to Listen For

  (Item #: xtc__engli_wtlf_2017) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF).

For Big Production Rock Albums like English Settlement there are some obvious problem areas that are often heard on at least one or two sides of practically any copy of this four sided album.

With so many heavily-produced instruments crammed into the soundfield, if the overall sound is at all veiled, recessed or smeared -- problems common to 90+% of the records we play in our shootouts -- the mix quickly becomes opaque, forcing the listener to work too hard to separate out the elements of interest.

A Big Speaker Record if ever there was one.


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Bud Shank And the Sax Section

The Bass Sax - What a Sound

  (Item #: shankandth_wtlf) 



What to Listen For you ask?

The reason this album is so appealing to us audiophiles is that the sound of each of the saxophones is clearly recognizable as they weave in and around these arrangements. On the back cover you can see a fellow holding a bass saxophone, an instrument you don't hear too often -- perhaps it's fallen from favor. (It solos at the beginning of Sidewinder on side one. Once you hear it you will be dying to play that song for your audiophile buddies, I guarantee it. What a sound!)

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Grieg / Peer Gynt / Fjeldstad / LSO

Speakers Corner Reviewed / VTA Advice

  (Item #: griegpeerg_speakers_corner) 



Sonic Grade: C+

The Fjeldstad has long been one of our favorite performances of Peer Gynt here at Better Records.

This record is handy for VTA set-up as well, a subject discussed below in our listing from 2010.

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)


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Beethoven / ’Kreutzer’ Sonata

Putting Your System to the (Violin and Piano) Test

  (Item #: beethkreut_2577_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating this kind of recording.

Do you want a recording that is going to put your system to the test? Well this is that record! That violin is REAL. As you compare equipment or tweak your system, you will hear the sound of that violin change and it should be obvious when it gets better and when it gets worse.

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven


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Caldera - Carnavalito!

Turn Up the Volume

  (Item #: caldeskyis_loud_2014) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Carnavalito is a track that really comes ALIVE when you Crank Up the Volume. I played it FULL BLAST on two different occasions for audiophile friends of mine just to show them what happens when a Big Speaker Stereo meets a Large Scale Recording with absolutely AMAZING audiophile quality sound -- BIG and BOLD, wall to wall and then some!

It’s my favorite track not only for the album as a whole but for the band’s entire recorded output. It just doesn’t get any better than this if you have the system for it.

See all pressings of Sky Islands in stock


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Bread - Baby I'm-A Want You

Check Out Those Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars

  (Item #: breadbabyi_2011) 



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

Bread's fourth album has wonderfully sweet and rich 1972 ANALOG sound. The acoustic guitars are to die for on the title track. Talk about Tubey Magic, this copy has got bucketfuls of it on the voices and guitars. Whatever happened to that sound I wonder?

Listen for the delicate space up high above the music on the title track. This copy has the extended top end that opens up the sound and lets the music breathe.

See more recordings with especially Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars


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Brewer & Shipley - Tarkio

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: brewetarki_depth) 



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

This Bay Area Hippie Folk Rock has a lot in common with The Grateful Dead circa Workingman's Dead and American Beauty (the latter recorded by the same engineer, Stephen Barncard), and like those superbly well-recorded albums, it lives or dies by the reproduction of its acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies.

More Brewer and Shipley


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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deja Vu

An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

  (Item #: crosbdejav_obsess) 



DEJA VU is an album we admit to being obsessed with -- just look at the number of commentaries we've written about it.

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands -- maybe a bit too much time on your hands -- please feel free to check out our commentaries.

This link will take you to all of our other Crosby, Stills, Nash or Young albums.


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Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque / Fiedler

Reversed Polarity Copy!

  (Item #: rossilabou_2011) 



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

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This is a WONDERFUL sounding, very quiet original Shaded Dog pressing of one of the rarest Living Stereo titles. Dropping the needle on side one was a shock -- the sound was terrible: thin, shrill and practically unlistenable. Since I know this to be an exceptionally good sounding record, there was only one possibility: reverse absolute phase. Sure enough, the magic of Living Stereo reappeared. If you can't reverse your phase, this is not the record for you!

More of the music of Ottorino Rossini (1879-1936)


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The Beatles - Please Please Me

What to Listen For

  (Item #: beatlpleas_wtlf_2014) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) on PPM.

The Beatles' first album is a recording overflowing with sonic qualities prized by audiophiles and music lovers alike: Tubey Magic, energy, immediacy, richness, breathy vocals; in short, all the stuff you will never hear -- or not hear to the same extent -- on anything but the best vintage analog vinyl LPs.

More Please Please Me


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Turntable Set Up Advice

Using Court and Spark

  (Item #: mitchcourt_setup) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Court and Spark.

There are loud vocal choruses on many tracks, and more often than not at their loudest they sound like they are either breaking up or threatening to do so. I always assumed it was compressor or board overload, which is easily heard on Down to You. On the best copies there is no breakup -- the voices get loud and they sound clean throughout.

More Joni Mitchell


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Led Zeppelin - IV

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: ledze4_depth) 



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.

More Led Zeppelin


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Henry Mancini - Our Man In Hollywood

Making More Progress in Audio

  (Item #: manciourma_vta) 



The story of our recent shootout is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

In our previous listings we noted:

This is one of those odd records in which the variation in sound quality from track to track is dramatic. Take the first two tracks on side one -- they suck. They sound like your average LSP Mancini album, the kind I have suffered through far too many times. And that means bad bad bad.

See all of our Henry Mancini albums in stock


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Ambrosia - Ambrosia

An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

  (Item #: ambroambro_obsess) 



AMBROSIA is an album we admit to being obsessed with -- just look at the number of commentaries we've written about it. It's also part of our extensive Listening in Depth series. There is no question that this band, their producers and their engineers sweated every detail of this remarkable recording. They went the distance. In the end they brought in Alan Parsons to mix it, and Doug Sax to master it. The result is a masterpiece, an album that stands above all others.
More Ambrosia


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Thelonious Monk - Big Band and Quartet

The Glorious Sound of Tubes - 1963 Tubes, That Is

  (Item #: monk_bigba_tubes) 



Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning music and recordings.

On this record, more than most, the tubes potentially make all the difference.

Keep in mind that we are referring specifically to 1963 tubes, not the stuff that engineers are using today to make "tube-mastered" records. Today's modern records barely hint at the Tubey Magical sound of a record like this, if our experience with hundreds of them is any guide. We, unlike so many of the audiophile reviewers of today, have a very hard time taking any of the new pressings seriously. We think our position is pretty clear, and we have yet to hear more than a stray record or two that would make us want to change our minds.

See all of our Thelonious Monk albums in stock


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Cat Stevens Catch Bull at Four

Congestion? What Congestion?

  (Item #: stevecatch_progress) 



The story of our latest shootout is what real Progress in Audio is all about. Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best -- we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two top sides such as these.

Speaking of congestion, it had previously been our experience that every copy of the record had at least some congestion in the loudest parts, typically the later parts of songs where Cat is singing at the top of his lungs, the acoustic guitars are strumming like crazy, and big drums are pounding away are jumping out of both speakers.

More Catch Bull at Four


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Chicago - Chicago Transit Authority

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: chicachica1_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your Chicago Transit Authority album.

The average copy of this album is an unmitigated DISASTER. The smeary brass alone is enough to drive anyone from the room. To a list of its faults you can confidently add some or all of the following: 1) blobby, blurry, out of control bass; 2) opaque veiled mids; 3) rolled off highs, or no highs, whichever the case may be, common to virtually every pressing you find (cont.)

More Chicago


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Amazing Demo Discs for Bass

Peter Cetera and Chicago

  (Item #: chicachica1_bass) 



First in a series of Demo Discs for Bass.

Talk about beefy bass; this album is the poster boy for rock solid bottom end. When you have a copy of Chicago's first album with a hot side three you have a Bass Demo Disc LP that's going to rock your world, not to mention the foundation of your house. (How they managed to get the bass so right and screw up so many other things I will never know.)

More Chicago


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Chicago - Chicago II

360 Original or Red Label Reissue?

  (Item #: chicachica2_360_vs_red) 



Both can be good. I did the shootout (TP) and often tried to guess the label for the copy I was hearing, for fun more than anything else. I have to admit that my batting average was not much better than chance.

The 360s tend to be a little fuller and smearier, but plenty of red label copies sound that way and some 360s don't, so trying to match the sound to the label was even more pointless than usual.

When comparing pressings in a shootout it's too late for the label to have any predictive value. We've already bought the records, cleaned them all up and now just want to know what they actually sound like -- not which ones might be the best, but which ones are the best.

More Chicago


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Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

What to Listen For

  (Item #: dylanblood_wtlf_1) 



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.

Many copies have no bass, while other copies are bright, a combination which ruins the sound of the acoustic guitars that dominate the album. On the better Hot Stamper pressings the bass will be deep and well-defined and the tonal balance will be correct.

The copies that fared the best in our shootouts were rich, warm, tubey and full-bodied -- in other words, analog sounding.

More Bob Dylan


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Harry James & His Big Band - The King James Version

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: jameskingj_2008) 



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

This White Hot Stamper has the best side two we have ever heard! Side two fulfills the promise of the direct to disc recording approach in a way that few -- very few -- direct to disc pressings do. To be honest, the typical pressing of The King James Version leaves much to be desired. As a rule two areas are especially lacking: there is a noticeable lack of presence on most copies, causing the brass to get stuck in the speakers and lose its bite; and, every bit as bad, the sound is often just plain compressed, lacking energy and life. The musicians on most copies are just not giving it their all.

More Audiophile recordings


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Billie Holiday - Lady In Satin

Balancing the Vocal, Strings and Rhythm

  (Item #: holidladyi_2016) 



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 better copies reproduce clearly what to our minds are the three most important elements in the recording -- strings, rhythm, and vocal -- and, more importantly, the are reproduced properly balanced with one another.

The monos, as you might expect, balance the three elements well enough, but the problem with mono is that the vocals and instruments are jammed together in the center of the soundfield, layered atop one another.

More Billie Holiday


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Janis Joplin - I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

What to Listen For

  (Item #: jopliigotd_wtlf) 



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.

ENERGY is the key element missing from the average copy, but not on this bad boy (or girl if you prefer). The electric guitars are super Tubey Magical and the bass is solid and punchy.

On many copies -- too many copies -- the vocals are pinched and edgy. Here they're breathy and full -- a much better way for Janis to sound. There's a slight amount of grit to the vocals at times and the brass as well, but the life force on these sides is so strong that we much preferred it to the smoother, duller, deader copies we heard that didn't have that issue.

See all of our Janis Joplin albums in stock


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Beethoven / Concerto No. 3 / Hendl / Graffman

Reviewed in 2014

  (Item #: beethpiano_2396_2014) 



This rare RCA Shaded Dog has SUPERB SOUND as well as a top performance. Super Hot Stampers for both sides means that this pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades. Unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings (Rubinstein's come immediately to mind in this regard), the brilliant soloist featured here is not overly spotlighted, hence the more credible "concert hall" sound. The piano is part of the orchestra, allowing all the contributions of the musicians to be heard clearly, with each of the orchestral sections laid out beautifully across an especially huge and deep Orchestra Hall stage.
More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven


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Cream - Goodbye

Some of the Best Live Rock Sound Ever Recorded

  (Item #: creamgoodb_2016) 



When you get a good side one of Goodbye you'll hear exactly why we are calling it one of the Best Sounding Live Rock Albums of all time.

Goodbye has the Big Rock Sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records. The top copies just plain ROCK HARDER than all the others. Yes, they're bigger. Yes, they have more weight and whomp down low. Yes, they are smoother and more natural up top. But what really sets them apart is the tremendous Energy they contain in their grooves. The music EXPLODES out of the speakers and comes to life on the best copies like practically nothing you have ever heard.

More Cream


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Tears For Fears - Songs From The Big Chair

What to Listen For

  (Item #: tearssongs_wtlf) 



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.

There is one quality that the best copies always have and that the worst copies always lack: Frequency Extension, especially on the top end.

When you get a copy like this one, with superb extension up top, the grit and edge on the highs almost disappears. You can test for that quality on side one very easily with the percussive opening to Shout. If the harmonics and air are present at the opening, you are very likely hearing a top quality copy.

See all our Tears For Fears pressings in stock


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Heart - Little Queen

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: heartlittl_depth) 



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

One of the little tricks I used toward the end of my marathon Little Queen tweaking session from a few years back (which lasted more than six hours one Saturday evening, leaving me euphoric but exhausted) was to listen to the ending of Barracuda.

More Little Queen


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VTA Adjustment

Helplessly Hoping to Get It Right

  (Item #: crosbsofar_wtlf) 



This listing from 2005 (!) contains commentary about VTA adjustment using the track Helplessly Hoping from a Hot Stamper pressing of CSN’s So Far.
See all of our Crosby, Stills, Nash or Young albums in stock


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Crosby / Nash - Graham Nash/ David Crosby

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: crosbgraha_2015) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

This album has some of the BEST SOUND Crosby and Nash ever recorded, but you'd never know that listening to the average pressing. You need plenty of deliciously rich Tubey Magic if this music is going to work, and on that count this copy certainly delivers.

More by C, S, N and/or Y


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Sergio Mendes And Brazil ’66 - Stillness

(Reversed Phase Copy)

  (Item #: mendestill_polarity) 



This is one of the Pressings We’ve Discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This was a SEALED copy of Stillness, one of my favorite records of all time. Side two of this album is possibly THE MOST MAGICAL side of an album I’ve ever played. I don’t know of any other record like it. It seems to be in a class of its own. It’s my current favorite test disc as well [or was at the time anyway]. All tweaks and equipment changes and room treatments must pass the Stillness test. To fail to make this record sound better is to fail completely. The production is so dense, and so difficult to reproduce properly, that only recently have I begun to hear just how good this record can sound.

More Sergio Mendes


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Steely Dan - Katy Lied

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: steelkatyl_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

The trick with Katy Lied is to find the right balance between richness, sweetness and clarity.

Take three or four Katy Lied pressings, clean them up and play just one or two of the tracks we discuss below. You won't find any two copies that get those tracks to sound the same. We do our shootouts with dozens of copies at a time and no two sound the same to us.

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Billy Joel - 52nd Street

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: joel_52nds_listen) 



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

We heard some amazing sound coming from the grooves of 52nd Street, but let's give credit where credit is due -- the recording and mastering engineers involved with this album. Jim Boyer and Ted Jensen can both take great pride in the SUPERB work they have done here.

More Billy Joel


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Beethoven / Piano Concerto No.1 / Richter / Munch

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: beethpiano_2544_2012) 



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

As you may know, this is a ridiculously difficult Shaded Dog to find in clean condition. Its companion, the Brahms disc with Richter (LSC 2466), is ten times more common and not half as good.

This pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades, but unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings, Richter, the brilliant soloist featured here, is not overly spotlighted, hence the much more natural "concert hall" sound.

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)


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Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street

What to Listen For

  (Item #: rolliexile_wtlf) 



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 carry out the task.

More Rolling Stones


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Neil Young - Comes A Time

What to Listen For

  (Item #: youngcomes_wtlf) 



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 a Forgotten Classic from 1978.

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.

More Neil Young


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Jennifer Warnes - Famous Blue Raincoat

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: warnefamou_depth) 



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.

More Jennifer Warnes


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Cat Stevens Catch Bull at Four

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: stevecatch_depth) 



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.

More Cat Stevens


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Weather Report - Heavy Weather

Finding the Rare Pressing with an Actual Top End

  (Item #: weathheavy_top_end) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

It has been our experience that the copies with high frequency extension and the clarity, space and percussive energy that results from it are consistently the best sounding. You may have read elsewhere on the site that what separates many of the best Columbia LPs from their competition is an open, extended top end. For some reason Columbia, more than most labels, had a habit of making slightly dull records. Dull does not work for this album.

More Weather Report


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Blood, Sweat and Tears

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: bloodblood_2016) 



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.

More Blood, Sweat & Tears


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