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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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Poco - Poco

Are the Original Pressings the Best Sounding?

  (Item #: poco_poco_original) 
by Epic LP

I've been a fan of this album since it came out in 1970, but I never thought that the original pressings were especially good sounding.

Turns out I was right -- the original Yellow Label Epic pressings leave much to be desired, so much so that we simply do not bother to pick them up anymore. Based on the results of this shootout I would say it's very unlikely we would offer you anything but a later label copy as a Hot Stamper. Ah, but which one? That's always the rub, isn't it? They all sound different, and most are nothing special.

See all of our Poco albums in stock

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Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

What to Listen For

  (Item #: londojulieis_wtlf) 
by Liberty 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.

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.

More Julie London

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Why Didn't Those @!#&/?% Record Companies Produce More Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: santasant1_press) 

A while back we received a letter from a good customer of ours lamenting how rare Hot Stamper pressings are.

Why were so many copies produced without HOT STAMPER sound when it was obviously possible is beyond me and quite frankly upsets me. But that is the way it is.

Our answer can be found below.

See all of our Santana albums in stock

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The Bloated Cello Sound Some Audiophiles Seem to Love

  (Item #: brittsonat_cello) 
by London Classical LP

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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Stravinsky / The Firebird / Dorati

One Thing We Learned in Our 2016 Shootout

  (Item #: stravfireb_90226_learn) 
by Mercury LP

Another entry in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series.

For our recent shootout of The Firebird we had three minty, potentially hot copies of the Mercury with Dorati, as well as our noisy ref. (We have a noisy reference copy for just about every major title by now. We -- meaning me and the rat in my pocket -- have been doing these shootouts for a very long time. After thirty years in the record business, we have accumulated a World Class collection of records too noisy to sell.

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

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Joni and Blue

Hot Stamper Shootout Stalled 2005!

  (Item #: mitchblue_2005) 
by Warner Brothers LP

Dateline 2005!

We are preparing to put some Hot Stamper copies of this record on the site. Because it’s so difficult to find a quiet, properly mastered, properly pressed LP of this music, it’s a project that has been going on for years.

More Joni Mitchell

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Little Feat - Feats Don't Fail Me Now

Their Most Consistent, Most Inspired Songwriting

  (Item #: littlfeats_best) 
by Warner Brothers LP

This is, we regret to say, a Forgotten Rock Classic from Little Feat.

Feats Don't Fail Me Now is the best sounding album of the first four the band recorded. We think the songs are great too; we would hope that goes without saying. Waiting For Columbus -- their live masterpiece and inarguably the definitive recording statement by the band -- has at least one song from this album on each of its four sides. That ought to tell you something. This is where the band really hit their stride. (The next album is a personal favorite as well.)

More Little Feat

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The Not So "Golden Age" of RCA, Mercury, London and more

  (Item #: rca_golden_age) 

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

We ran into a number of copies of this title that had what we like to call that "Old Record" sound, which is surprisingly common on even the most revered Golden Age labels, RCA included.

No top, no real bottom, congested climaxes and an overall shrillness to the sound -- we've played Living Stereos by the dozens that have these shortcomings and many more. Some audiophiles may be impressed by the average Shaded Dog pressing, but I can assure you that we here at Better Records are decidedly not of that persuasion. Something in the range of ten to fifteen per cent of the major label Golden Age recordings we play will eventually make it to the site. The vast majority just don't sound all that good to us.

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Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace

A Bit of Experimentation with VTA Can Really Pay Off

  (Item #: frankamazi_wtlf) 
by Atlantic LP

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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A Frequently Asked Question

How can common pressings possibly be worth these prices?

  (Item #: faq_2) 

We freely admit that we paid south of twenty bucks each at local stores for most of the records on our site. We pay what the stores charge, and most rock records are priced from five to twenty bucks.

Unfortunately the cost of the records you see on the site is only a small part of the cost of that finished "product." The reality of our business is that it costs almost as much to find a Carly Simon or Gino Vannelli Hot Stamper that sells for a hundred dollars as it does to find a Neil Young or Yes Hot Stamper that sells for five times that.

More Straight Answers to Your "Hot Stamper" Questions

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Brewer & Shipley - Down In L.A.

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: brewedowni_depth) 
by A&M LP

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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MS 6069

A Columbia Record We Can't Recommend

  (Item #: rimsk_6069) 
by Columbia Classical

Another recording that we auditioned and found wanting. Without going into too many specifics, we'll just say the album suffers from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore deserves a place in our Hall of Shame.

The performance here is far too slow to be taken seriously.

A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

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Bud Shank And the Sax Section

The Bass Sax - What a Sound

  (Item #: shankandth_wtlf) 
by Pacific Jazz LP

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!)

More Bud Shank

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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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Dylan Thomas - Under Milk Wood

Our First Testimonial for a Record We've Never Heard

  (Item #: thomaunder_letter) 

This week’s testimonial letter comes from our good customer Michael L. in England.

He had just ordered some fairly expensive White Hot Stamper copies of jazz classics that we raved about: Kind of Blue, Miles Davis In Person - Friday Night and Somethin' Else.

Knowing that he's been collecting both originals and audiophile reissues for decades, I dropped him a note asking him to "make sure to play our Hot Stampers against all your originals! We welcome the comparison."

What follows is his enthusiastic reply.

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Led Zeppelin III

Proof that Jimmy Page Was a Brilliant Producer

  (Item #: ledze3_page) 
by Atlantic LP

The startling resolution and transparency found on the best copies of Zep III let you hear every element in the huge soundfield that Jimmy Page designed for his recordings. They allow you to appreciate every carefully placed instrument and the remarkable sonic detail to be discovered as each track unfolds.

The size, space, energy and clarity of the hottest Hot Stamper copies are surely what make possible a more profound appreciation of the singular effort that went into these recordings. Along with the kind of Master Tape Sound found on the best pressings comes a deeper appreciation of the remarkable skills of one of rock's true production geniuses, Jimmy Page.

More Led Zeppelin

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Steely Dan - Can’t Buy A Thrill

A Classic Case of Live and Learn

  (Item #: steelcantb_wrong) 

Years ago - starting with our first shootout in 2007 for the album as a matter of fact - we had put this warning in our listings:

One thing to note: this isn't Aja, Pretzel Logic or Gaucho (their three best sounding recordings). We doubt you'll be using a copy of Can't Buy A Thrill to demo your stereo.

We happily admit now that we got Can't Buy a Thrill all wrong. It's actually a very good sounding record - rich, smooth, natural, with an especially unprocessed sound. In that regard it is superior to most of their catalog; better than Countdown to Ecstacy, Katy Lied, Royal Scam and maybe even Gaucho. You could easily use the album to demo your stereo.
More Can't Buy a Thrill

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Frank Sinatra - Sings Days of Wine and Roses & more

Judging Books and Covers

  (Item #: sinatdayso_2016) 
by Reprise LP

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

Presented with the less-than-captivating cover and title of Days of Wine and Roses, we were put off by our first impression; that of a budget thrown-together compilation, brought even lower by the fairly generic shot of Old Blue Eyes on the cover. We didn't think an album that looked like this could possibly contain the swinging (or deeply emotional, both are fine with us) Sinatra music we've grown to love from his best Capitol- and Reprise-era releases.

More Frank Sinatra

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deja Vu

An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

  (Item #: crosbdejav_obsess) 
by Atlantic LP

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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Steely Dan - Katy Lied

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: steelkatyl_debunk) 
by Mobile Fidelity

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

By the time I was avidly collecting Mobile Fidelity records in the late '70s this title had already gone out of print, one of the first to do so. My guess is that even the cloth-eared audiophiles at MoFi knew when they had a turkey on their hands and mercilessly put this one out to pasture. Yes, the sound is so bad that even MoFi could hear it.

Compressed and lifeless as the screen speakers so popular at the time, it's hard to imagine any version sounding worse than this one.

More Katy Lied

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