Loading...
 [ LOGIN/REGISTER ]  [ MY ACCOUNT ] Items in the shopping cart:0    Current total:$0.00
   

Audio Advice & Exercises

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Audio Advice & Exercises


Here we discuss audio issues raised by particular recordings that we've auditioned.

This link will take you to a description of our playback system. The equipment and sound improving devices we use are for the most part no longer available for purchase on the site. If we know something works it's usually because we've used it ourselves. Naturally we want our customers to benefit from our experience and achieve the same sonic improvements in their own systems. We encourage you to find retailers for these products on your own and give them a critical listen. 

We also have a section devoted to
Home Audio Exercises, experiments and challenges designed to help you improve the sound of your stereo and become a better listener at the same time. (That's fairly redundant actually; improving your stereo and becoming a better listener almost always go together.)

As users as well as retailers we offer helpful practical advice regarding the specific application of the products and equipment we recommend. This is especially true for the Hallographs and Dynavector cartridges we endorse -- products we have experimented with at length over the years.

 

Found : 32   Display : 1-32
Page :
1
    << · < Prev · Next > · >>
Sort by:








Transparency

and that Wonderful Feeling of Being There

  (Item #: transparency) 


Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

For our review of the new Heavy Vinyl After the Gold Rush we wrote:

Cleverly the engineers responsible for this remaster have managed to reproduce the sound of a dead studio on a record that wasn't recorded in one.

This pressing has no real space or ambience. Now the album sounds like it was recorded in a heavily baffled studio, but we know that's not what happened, because the originals of After the Gold Rush, like most of Neil's other albums from the era, are clear, open and spacious.

In other words, they are TRANSPARENT.


  more Info











Are You a Detail Freak?

At Better Records We Call that Pitfall Number 1

  (Item #: 801__live_detail) 


Is that where the music is -- in the details? Brighter ain’t necessarily better; most of the time it’s just brighter.

This album isn't about clarity. It's about the sound of a live Rock and Roll concert. It's about the raw power of one of the most phenomenal rhythm sections to ever be captured in performance.

More Phil Manzanera / More Brian Eno


  more Info











Brahms, Handel, Chopin - Lincoln Mayorga, Pianist

Reverse Your Polarity!

  (Item #: variobrahm_mayorga) 



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


  more Info











Setup Discs, Part Two

Dialing in the Anti-Skate

  (Item #: bizetcarme_setup) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

This is a superb Demonstration disc, but it is also an excellent Test disc. The sound of the best copies is rich, full-bodied, incredibly spacious, and exceptionally extended up top. There is a prodigious amount of musical information spread across the soundstage, much of it difficult to reproduce. Musicians are banging on so many different percussive devices (often at the back of the stage, exactly where they should be) that getting each one's sonic character to clearly come through is a challenge -- and when you've met it, a thrill.

If you've done your homework with VTA, Azimuth, Anti-Skate and Tracking Weight, this is the record that will make clear just how much you've accomplished.

More of the music of Georges Bizet


  more Info











Ambrosia's First Album

Right at the Top of Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

  (Item #: ambroambro_setup) 



You can play hard-to-reproduce records all day long if your system is tuned up and working fine. Ours has to be, all day, every day. The shootouts we do require that everything is working properly or we simply couldn't do them.

But you can't play this record on such a system without retesting everything, because this is the Single Most Difficult to Reproduce Recording I know of, bar none.

More Ambrosia


  more Info











Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick

Ruthless When It Comes to Accuracy

  (Item #: jethrthick_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.

From 2009 to 2010 this was our single go-to record for testing and tweaking the system.

Although we now use an amazing copy of Bob and Ray (the big band version of The Song of the Volga Boatmen located therein has to be the toughest test we know of bar none), we could easily go back to using TAAB. It's absolutely ruthless when it comes to the slightest hint of artificiality in the sound of the system.

More Thick As a Brick


  more Info











In the Market for New Speakers?

Will They Handle the Size and Energy of Take It Easy?

  (Item #: eagleeagle_speakers) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Take one of our killer Hot Stamper pressings with you when you go shopping for speakers. The speaker that gets the POWER and ENERGY of this music right is the one you want. This record will separate the men from the boys thirty seconds into Take It Easy. It will be obvious who's got the piston power and who doesn't.

With big bass and huge scope, this may become your favorite disc for showing your friends just what analog is really capable of.

More of the Eagles' first album


  more Info











Our DOR (Difficulty of Reproduction) Scale

  (Item #: brewedowni_dors) 



We’ve mentioned how difficult some records are to reproduce: how the Revolutions in Audio of the last decade or two have profoundly changed the ability of the seriously dedicated audiophile to get records that never sounded good before to come to life musically in a way previously seen as impossible -- until now.

This is one of those records. But you have to have done your homework if you want to play a record like this, as the commentary below explains.

See more records that rank high up on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale


  more Info











Record Cleaning Advice

  (Item #: cleaning_2014) 


Walker Audio Prelude is the only fluid we recommend for serious SOUND ENHANCEMENT and cleaning of your LPs. You have never heard what's really in the grooves of your records until you've cleaned them using Walker's system. There is nothing in our experience that works as well.

We've tried many fluids over the years and a not insignificant portion of them actually made our records sound worse (most often by rolling off the high end). It's not a good idea to assume the record cleaning fluid you use is doing its job properly. Many do not, including some that are very popular.

More Audio Advice


  more Info










Conducting Your Own Shootouts

How Novel Patterns Emerge

  (Item #: ambroambro_2014) 


When you sit down to play ten or twelve copies of an album, one right after the other, patterns in the sound are going to emerge from that experience, patterns which would be very likely to pass unnoticed when playing one copy against another or two over the course of the twenty or thirty minutes it would take to do it.

In the case of this album, the pattern we perceived was simply this: About one or two out of that dozen or so will have punchy, solid, rich, deep bass. (There is a huge amount of bass on the recording, so recognizing those special copies is not the least bit difficult if you have a full-range speaker and a properly treated room.)

More Shootout Advice


  more Info











My-Fi Versus Hi-Fi

  (Item #: fidelity) 


We went wild recently over a marvelous copy of the Ted Heath record you see pictured. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound was positively uncanny. This was vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you'll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve upon it.

This is our kind of sound. It's also important to keep in mind that our stereo seemed to love the record. (Stereos do that.) Let's talk about why that might be the case.

Our system is fast, accurate and uncolored. We like to think of our speakers as the audiophile equivalent of studio monitors, showing us exactly what is on the record, with nothing added and (hopefully) nothing taken away.


  more Info











Table / Arm / Cartridge Set-up Advice

  (Item #: set-up) 



Click here for advice on how to go about adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like.

This link will take you to more advice for improving the sound of your playback.



  more Info











Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA)

A Few Moments of Experimentation Can Really Pay Off

  (Item #: paganvioli_vta) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically adjust your Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA).

Experimenting with the VTA for this record in preparation for a shootout we found a precise point where it all came together, far exceeding whatever expectations for the recording we had at the time. Correct VTA revealed what to our ears now sounded like a gloriously real violin floating in the room, a huge concert space surrounding it...

More recordings featuring the violin


  more Info











In the Market for New Speakers?

See How Well They Handle the Energy of Far More Drums

  (Item #: brubetimef_exercise) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

The drum solo Joe Morello lets loose on Far More Drums is one of the best on record. I was playing that very song recently and it occurred to me that it is practically impossible for a screen or panel speaker of any nature to reproduce the sound of those drums properly, regardless of how many subs you have.

Most of the music is not in the deeper bass anyway. It’s the whack of instruments whose energy is in the lower midrange and midrange that a screen speaker will struggle with, while a good large-driver dynamic speaker seems to handle the energy in that range with ease.

See all Dave Brubeck albums in stock


  more Info











The Brahms Violin Concerto

Unplug or Suffer the Consequences!

  (Item #: brahmvioli_test) 



The massed strings here, such as those found at the opening, are close miked and immediate in the "Mercury recording style." Your electricity better be good when you play this record, because it presents a test many of you will have trouble passing at even moderate levels.

We've often encouraged our readers and customers to go about unplugging things in their homes in order to test the effect of clean electricity on their playback systems. The opening of this record is a perfect example of the kind of material with which everyone should be testing in order to hear these changes. I'd be very surprised if the strings on this record don't sound noticeably better after you've unplugged a few things in your house, and the more the better.

See more commentaries as well as our in stock recordings featuring the violin


  more Info











Yes, We're Getting Awfully Close To The Edge

Are Your Planets Aligned?

  (Item #: yes__close_planets) 



A word of caution: Even our Hottest Stamper copies can sound problematical unless your system is firing on all cylinders. Your electricity has got to be cooking, you've got to be using the right room treatments, and ideally you should be using a demagnetizer such as the Talisman on the record itself, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This is a record that's going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you're up to the challenge. If you don't mind putting in a little hard work, here's a record that will reward you many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process.

More Yes


  more Info











Advances in Playback Technology

More Than Blind Faith

  (Item #: blindblind_advances) 



In a 2007 commentary for the Hot Stamper pressing of Blind Faith we noted that

When it finally all comes together for such a famously compromised recording, it’s nothing less than a THRILL. More than anything else, the sound is RIGHT. Like Layla or Surrealistic Pillow, this is no demo disc by any stretch of the imagination, but that should hardly keep us from enjoying the music. And now we have the record that lets us do it.

More Blind Faith


  more Info











Turntable Tweaking Advice

Try This at Home, It Worked for Us

  (Item #: goodadvice) 



The Mapleshade website has a piece of audio advice that caught the eye of one our customers, who sent me the excerpt below.

Like most advice, especially Audio Advice, we find that some of it accords well with our own experience and some of it clearly does not. The relationship of good to bad is hard to determine without making a more careful study, but let's just say that there is plenty of both and leave it at that. That being the case, we thought it would be of service to our customers to break it down in more detail, separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak.

  more Info











Good Audio Advice

and Otherwise

  (Item #: badadvice) 



[This is an updated version of a commentary written in 2009.]

The latest Mapleshade catalog (Spring 09) has, along with hundreds of recommendations, this little piece of audio advice that caught my eye:

For much improved bass and huge soundstage, put your listening chair or sofa right against the wall behind you. Move your speakers in to 5’ in front of you and 7’ or more apart. No room treatments will yield this much bass improvement.

I literally had to read through it a couple of times to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating, but every time I read it it still said the same thing, so I know I can’t have been dreaming. This is crazy talk! What the hell is wrong with these people?


  more Info











Joe Jackson's Jumpin’ Jive

Get Rid of Grit and Grain The Right Way

  (Item #: jacksjumpi_advice) 



Jumpin' Jive is one of the clearest examples of an album where it is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to make sure your stereo is running on good electricity before you make any attempt to play it. This is the kind of recording -- bright, full of energy -- that will bring most stereo systems to their knees. Of course, when you play a good copy and it really sounds good, it's a record that rewards all the time and effort you've put into your system.

So much of the aggressiveness, grit and grain that we hear in immediate, high-energy recordings such as this are really the fault of the electricity feeding the stereo, not the fault of the record or even the equipment used to play it.

More Audio Advice


  more Info











How To Get The Most Out Of Your Records

  (Item #: how-to) 



We've recently begun to include an info sheet with our Hot Stamper pressings that describes a few simple steps you can take to get better results with our records in your home. Since these tips really apply to all records and not just our Hot Stampers, we figured we'd outline them here and add a few additional thoughts.


  more Info











Set-up Discs, Part One

Start with a Large Scale Orchestral Recording

  (Item #: lisztpc12_setup) 



Classical music is unquestionably the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge set-up. The Liszt recording you see pictured is a superb choice for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like.

One of the reasons $10,000+ front ends exist is to play large scale, complex, difficult-to-reproduce music such as Liszt’s two piano concertos. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you choose to, it would surely be the kind of record that can show you the sound your tens of thousands of dollars has paid for.

See more pressings of Liszt's music in stock


  more Info











VTA Adjustment with Santana

Sometimes It Pays to Just Fake It

  (Item #: santasanta_vta) 



When this Heavy Vinyl pressing by Columbia came out back in 2003, I was dumbfounded at the incredible sound: huge depth and soundstage; an octave of bass below what would normally be considered bass (a 20 cycle note that sticks its head up from under the more common 40 cycle bass that drives the music); wonderful transparency and sweetness in the midrange; dynamics; and lastly, the kind of low-distortion, naturally un-hyped sound that this record shared with the Nirvana LP you’ve read about on the site. When you turn up the volume to very high levels, the sound gets better!
More Santana


  more Info











The Turn Up Your Volume Test

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

  (Item #: costemyaim_volume) 



There is a line in the Hot Stamper commentary below concerning driving punk rock bass. Man, this record lives or dies by your ability to reproduce the powerful bottom end that propels this music. Pardon me for cueing up a broken record again, and with all due respect to the things they do well -- they must do something well, right? People keep buying them -- small speakers and screens are not going to cut it on My Aim Is True. This is precisely the kind of album they don’t do well.

’70s era JBLs, the ones with the fifteen inch woofers, as awful as they may be in most respects, do a better job with an album like this than the average audiophile speaker system being sold today.

See all of our Elvis Costello albums in stock


  more Info











Letter of the Week

... going through all my Hot Stampers and taking it all in ...

  (Item #: hallograph_testimonial_1) 



This week’s letter comes from our good friend Franklin who was having some serious sound problems that were driving him crazy after moving his speakers from the long wall (not a good idea) to the short one (much better as a rule).

He already had one pair of Hallographs, which had helped his room problems quite a bit. We rely on three pair, and the second and third pair were a big improvement over the first, so we recommended another to Franklin, which, by the sound of this letter, seems to have worked miracles!

More on The Stereo


  more Info











Azimuth, VTA, Anti-Skate and Tracking Weight

We Got to Live Together

  (Item #: Azimuth) 



With a shout out to my man Sly!

In this listing you can find commentary and advice about tonearm azimuth adjustment, Ansermet’s recordings, Speakers Corner 180g pressings, and more.

  more Info











Can This Machine Turn YOUR Records into Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: rcm) 



The short answer is of course not. (Maybe "you wish" might be more to the point, but there's no need to rub it in so we won't even go there.)

A bad record is a bad record no matter how clean it is. Most record collections are swimming in mediocre-at-best LPs (especially collections made up of audiophile pressings) and no machine can fix bad mastering from bad tapes pressed on bad vinyl, or any combination thereof.

More Audio Advice


  more Info











Revolutionary Changes in Audio

What Works for Us Can Work for You

  (Item #: revolution) 



This listing, like the stereo itself (mine and yours), is a work in progress. Please check back for the commentary we expect to be adding in the future.

Our reason for having this kind of commentary on a site ostensibly devoted to the selling of records is simple: the better your stereo sounds, the better our records sound, and, more importantly, the bigger the difference between our records and the copies you already own. Also those LPs recommended by "audiophile" record dealers, which tend to be on Heavy Vinyl, at 45 RPM, half-speed mastered or, even worse, Japanese pressed. We have no interest in any of them. Why? On our system they rarely sound better than second-rate.

More on The Stereo


  more Info











Some Thoughts on

Acoustical and Electrical Polarity

  (Item #: polarity) 



Click here to see Pressings We’ve Discovered with Reversed Polarity.

We also have a section for other Audio Issues such as these.

  more Info











Sometimes the Most Fundamental Questions in Audio Are Simply Overlooked

  (Item #: twoquestions) 



This commentary is about two things -- knowing the kind of music you like, and getting the kind of sound you want.

If you believe a word you read on the various sites where audiophiles freely dispense advice about everything under the sun regarding music, recordings and equipment, you are asking for trouble and you are surely going to get it. You will encounter an endless supply of nonsense, more often than not defended tooth and nail by those with more aptitude for typing than for critical listening.

  more Info










How to Become an Expert Listener

Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off

  (Item #: expert) 



Scientific American joins forces with Better Records (or is it the other way around?) to share a few ideas, which turn out to have much in common.

For years we've been writing commentaries about the sound of specific records we've auditioned in order to put them up for sale on the site. By now there are literally hundreds of pages of commentary in which we've tried to explain, often in great detail, exactly what we listened for and exactly what we heard when playing these pressings. We've tried to be as clear as possible about precisely which qualities separate the better sounding LPs from their competitors -- what they do right, and how you can recognize sound that is right .

More Shootout Advice


  more Info










Our Playback System ...

And Why You Shouldn’t Care

  (Item #: stereo) 



Below you will find a list of most of the equipment we use to carry out our pressing evaluations,also known as Hot Stamper shootouts. Of course the old 80/20 Rule comes into play here -- 80% (probably more like 90 or 95%, truth be told) of the sound is what you do with your audio system, 20% (or 10 or 5%) of the sound is the result of the components you own.

We like to say it’s not about the audio you have, it’s about the audio you do: how you set up your system, what you’ve done to treat your room, how good your electricity is and all the rest of it. Our current system is described below.

More on The Stereo


  more Info




Found : 32   Display : 1-32
Page :
1
    << · < Prev · Next > · >>

         

Right right-line
  | NEW TO THE SITE? |  CONTACT US   |