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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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Dvorak / Violin Concerto / Accardo / Davis

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: dvoravioli_accardo_2015) 
by Philips LP



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

Top quality sound on BOTH sides of this lovely Philps recording from 1980 -- yes, it was still possible to record classical music properly in 1980, though not many labels managed to pull it off. (Londons from this era are especially opaque and airless. We find them as irritating and frustrating as most of the Heavy Vinyl releases being foisted on the audiophile public today.)

More of the music of Antonin Dvorak


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Steely Dan - Katy Lied

Live and Learn

  (Item #: steelkatyl_jpn) 
by MCA Records



And to think I used to swear by this pressing -- specifically the 2000 Yen reissue, not the 1500 Yen original -- another example of just how Wrong you can be.

We happily admit to our mistakes because we know that all this audio stuff and especially the search for Hot Stampers is a matter of trial and error. We do the trials; that’s how we avoid the kinds of errors most audiophiles and audiophile record dealers make when it comes to finding the best sounding records. Of course, being human we can’t help but make our share of mistakes. The difference is that we learn from them. We report the facts to the best of our ability every time out.

See more of our Steely Dan albums in stock


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Dopey Record Theories Part 2

Putting More Bad Ideas to the Test

  (Item #: book_2) 
by Columbia Records



A well know audiophile reviewer once wrote the following, which I quote:

But just because you find a “360 Sound” label doesn't mean you have an “original” pressing. -1A is an original. Then -1B, etc. Past a certain number it goes to -1AA, etc. There's great variability to the sound of these different pressings with -1A being best, of course.

Of course!
More Dopey Record Theories


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Phil Collins - Face Value

Whomp Factor

  (Item #: collifacev_whomp) 
by Atlantic LP



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

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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Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti

Breaking Down the Engineers

  (Item #: ledzephysi_engineers) 
by Swan Song



Four engineers worked on the various sessions for the tracks which would become Physical Graffiti. The songs for this sprawling double album were recorded over the course of five years (1970-1974) although the bulk of the work was done by Ron Nevison in January and February of 1974.

For a complete breakdown of who recorded what, see below.

More Physical Graffiti


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Which Album by The Who Has the Best Sound?

We Think It's Tommy

  (Item #: who__tommy_sounds_best) 
by Track Original Black Label



I don't know of another Who album with such consistently good sound -- song to song, not copy to copy, of course. Just about every song on here can sound wonderful on the right pressing. If you're lucky enough to get a Hot Stamper copy, you're going to be blown away by the Tubey Magical Guitars, the rock-solid bottom end, the jumpin'-out-of-the-speakers presence and dynamics, and the silky vocals and top end. Usually the best we can give you for The Who is "Big and Rockin," but on Tommy, we can give you '60s analog magic like you will rarely hear in the decades to follow.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.

More Tommy


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Peter Gabriel

Commentary and Overview

  (Item #: allpeter_gabriel) 



I’m a huge PETER GABRIEL fan, having grown up with every one of the first five studio albums practically as they were released.

The first is an operatic extravaganza, with everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production, a sound PG would never return to for some reason. Maybe he needed to get it out of his system?

Hot Stamper Peter Gabriel Albums in Stock


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A Frequently Asked Question

How different will a Hot Stamper sound on my system?

  (Item #: hot_stampers_faq_3) 



That's a tough question, because it involves two things I can't know: how good your stereo is, and how critically you listen to it. Really, the only way to find out is to try a record or two and see if the sound quality justifies the price to you. Which is why we offer a 100% money back guarantee: the record has to perform to your satisfaction or we give you all your money back.
Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions


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A Frequently Asked Question

How can common pressings possibly be worth these prices?

  (Item #: hot_stampers_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.

Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions


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A Frequently Asked Question

Are Hot Stamper pressings quiet?

  (Item #: hot_stampers_faq_1) 



They're about as quiet as vintage LPs ever are. Some surface noise is always going to be audible on an old record. We believe we sell the quietest vintage pressings in the world, but they are certainly not silent. Lately we've been adding this text to our listings to clarify our position on surface noise:

Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any original pressing will play, and since only the right originals have any hope of sounding amazing on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions


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The Eagles - One Of These Nights

What to Listen For

  (Item #: eagleoneof_wtlf) 
by Asylum Records



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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Records We've Played Vs. Records We've Heard

What's the Difference?

  (Item #: playing_vs_hearing_) 
by London Classical LP



Please note that we should, but often don't, make a vitally important distinction between two words we tend to use interchangeably on the site. There is a difference between the sound of records that we've played and the sound that we've heard.

The stereo, the listening room, our cleaning technologies and who knows what else are all undergoing constant changes. This means that we may have played a better pressing in the past but couldn't hear it sound as good as it does now. The regular improvements we make in all areas of playback make sonic comparisons over time all but meaningless.

More Orchestral Recordings


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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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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) 
by RCA LP



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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