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Record Myths

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Record Myths

 

Record Myths

The Better Records Revolution
Who we are, what we do, and how we guarantee to provide you with the best sounding records you've ever heard or your money back.

Debunking the "Audiophile" LP
Here the Bad Audiophile LP is subjected to the punishment it deserves from our merry band of reviewers. We take no prisoners and neither should you. Why waste good money on bad sounding audiophile records?

 

 

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Leonard Bernstein - West Side Story (Broadway Cast)

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: bernswests_broadway_2015) 



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

SUPERB sound can be found on these two Columbia stereo pressings of the Broadway Cast recording. This is a huge, spacious, natural, exciting All-Tube Golden Age recording that impressed us no end here at Better Records.

We heard an amazing sounding copy many years ago, and the only reason we haven't done the shootout since then is that we just couldn't find enough clean copies with which to do it. To be clear, we're not talking quiet vinyl, we're talking about not beat-to-death, not all-scractched-up vinyl. People loved this music and they played the hell out of it.

More of the music of (or music conducted or performed by) Leonard Bernstein


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Count Basie - Basie Plays Hefti

Original Versus Reissue

  (Item #: basiebasie_plays_emus) 



The original pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. It's (probably) just another Record Myth.

Basie was recording like a madman back in the late '50s and even all through the '60s. In 1958, the year of this release, he put out seven (7!) albums on the Roulette label. We've played quite a number of them over the years and found relatively few with audiophile quality sound.

Including the original Roulette pressing of this very title. We've only heard a few, and had only one for our shootout, but it was awful enough to make us swear off buying more, especially considering the prices vintage jazz albums are going for these days.

More Count Basie


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Paul McCartney - McCartney

British Artist, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: mccarmccar1_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

In our experience, the real McCartney Magic is only found on the best domestic Apple pressings. We've never heard an import that knocked our socks off, and the later CBS issues are hardly worth the vinyl they're pressed on. Then again, many of the domestic Apples are garbage too. You've got to clean and play a whole lotta copies to find a copy with truly Hot Stamper sound.

More Paul McCartney and Wings


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Rossini / Overtures / Maag / PCO

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: rossiovert_2013) 



The London and Decca original pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that's just another Record Myth.

This Stereo Treasury pressing of Maag's 1958 recording is shockingly good in many ways. It sure doesn't sound like a budget reissue. If anything it sounds more original than the originals we played against it!

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


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Barbra Streisand - Je M'Appelle Barbra

'60s 360 Vs. '70s Red

  (Item #: streijemap_2015) 



For Barbra Streisand's early albums the original pressings on the 360 label have just got to be better, right?

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth. The best of the 360 pressings in our shootout did well, just not as well.

Our good later label pressings had all the richness and Tubey Magic of the 360s -- one really couldn't tell which pressing was on the turntable by the sound -- but had a bit more space, clarity and freedom from artificiality.

More Barbra Streisand


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Dopey Record Theories Part 2

Putting More Bad Ideas to the Test

  (Item #: book_2) 



A well-known audiophile expert 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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Poco - Poco

Are the Original Pressings the Best Sounding?

  (Item #: poco_poco_original) 



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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The Beatles - With the Beatles

The Early Pressings Are the Best, Right?

  (Item #: beatlwitht_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

So many Parlophone copies would have you think With The Beatles is a gritty, edgy, crude recording -- especially if you made the mistake of buying an early pressing. The early pressings are consistently grittier, edgier and more crude than the later pressings we played.

So much for the old canard that Original Always Equals Better. When it comes to With The Beatles it just ain't so, and it doesn't take a State-of-the-Art system or pair of golden ears to hear it.

More With the Beatles


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Bryan Ferry - The Bride Stripped Bare

British Guy, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: ferrybride_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

We were a bit surprised to find that the domestic copies we played were clearly better sounding than the UK imports. It may be counterintuitive but these are exactly the kinds of things you find out when doing blinded shootouts. We have little use for intuitions (UK recording, UK pressing) and rules of thumb (original = better sound). Hard data -- the kind you get from actually playing the records -- trumps them all.

More Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music


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Electric Light Orchestra - On the Third Day

The British Imports Are Made from Dubs

  (Item #: electonthe_import) 



Sonic Grade: F

Presenting the newest member of our Hall of Shame.

It's obvious, or should be, that the Brit vinyl is made from sub-generation copy tapes. The imports sound like someone threw a blanket over your speakers. We know this because we had a bunch of them cleaned up for our shootout many years ago and they all sucked.

We tend to buy Electric Light Orchestra records on import vinyl; those are the ones that often sound the best. Many of the domestic pressings sound as though they were mastered from dub tapes. But On The Third Day is proof that this is not always the case, just as Siren proves that the best Roxy Music albums are not always British.

More Electric Light Orchestra


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Mel Torme - Swings Shubert Alley

The Original Pressings Are the Best, Right?

  (Item #: tormeswing_original) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing on the original. Don't buy into that record collecting / audiophile canard that the originals have better sound.

The original Verve stereo pressing -- true, we only had the one, so take it for what it's worth -- was dry, lean and evinced very little of the Tubey Magic that VAL VALENTIN managed to get on the master tape.

More Mel Torme


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Cannonball Adderley - Bill Evans - Know What I Mean?

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: adderknoww_2015) 



A distinguished member of the Jazz Hall of Fame.

One of our favorite Cannonball Adderley albums here at Better Records, and the sound is killer on this copy. Both sides are Tubey Magical, rich, open, spacious and tonally correct. We've never heard the record sound better, and that's coming from someone who's been playing the album since the '80s when it was first reissued in its current form.

These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their living, breathing presence on every track -- assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

More Bill Evans / More Cannonball Adderley


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Beethoven, Bach, Schubert / Trios / Heifetz, Primrose, Piatigorsky

On the Red Seal Label?

  (Item #: beethtrios_reissue) 



So often when we do these shootouts involving original pressings up against their reissue counterparts, it's the reissues that sound rich, warm and tubey, and the originals that sound dry and boxy. If you haven't noticed that in your own critical listening, play this record against any shaded dog that you own and see which one is more Tubey Magical.

If you have your VTA set right, you might be shocked to find it's this one. Don't get us wrong; lots of these later RCA pressings are awful: thin, often with no top end at all. Flat transfers perhaps? Who is to say?

More Living Stereo


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Delibes / Coppelia & Sylvia / Ansermet

London Vs. Decca, Again

  (Item #: delibcoppe_decca) 



Don't buy into that record collecting / audiophile canard that the originals are better. The right Decca reissue blows the doors off the original we played.

This has lately become a pattern, but keep in mind it's a pattern that's reliable less than half the time, if memory is any guide. Many of the Decca reissues we've played over the last few years have failed badly in a head to head with their earlier-mastered and -pressed counterparts. But the ones that beat all comers are the ones that stick in our minds and show up on our site. Clearly a case of confirmation bias, but at least we know something about our own biases.

More of the music of Leo Delibes (1836-1891)


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Badfinger - Straight Up

Porky Not So Prime Cut

  (Item #: badfistrai_porky) 



British Band, British Pressing... Right? Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

We had an original British pressing in our shootout, unbeknownst to me as it was playing of course. And guess where it finished: dead last. The most thick, congested, crude, distorted, compressed sound of ALL the copies we played. We love the work of Porky, Pecko, et al. in general, but once again this is a case where a British Band recorded in England sounds best on domestic vinyl. (McCartney on Apple is the same way.)

More Badfinger


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Bill Evans - Moon Beams

OJC versus Riverside

  (Item #: evansmoonb_wtlf) 



The original Riverside pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that's just another Record Myth.

Some of you may have discovered that the original Bill Evans records on Riverside are mostly awful sounding -- I can't recall ever hearing a good one -- so we are not the least bit worried that this OJC won't beat the pants off of the original, as well as any other reissue you may have, and even the new Analogue Productions 45.

More Bill Evans


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Roxy Music - Siren

British Band, British Pressing, Right?

  (Item #: roxymsiren_2015) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

Of all the Roxy albums (with the exception of Avalon) this is probably the best way "in" to the band's music. The earlier albums are more raucous, the later ones more rhythmically driven -- Siren catches them at their peak, with, as other reviewers have noted, all good songs and no bad ones.

More Roxy Music / More Bryan Ferry


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Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Obvious Differences Don't Seem to Register

  (Item #: rimskscheh_reviews) 



There is a newly remastered 33 RPM pressing of the album which has garnered rave reviews in the audiophile press. We have played it and will report our findings at the appropriate time.

Have you noticed that in many of the reviews for the new pressing, the original used for comparison is a Shaded Dog? In our experience almost no Shaded Dog pressings are competitive with the better White Dog pressings, and many of them are just plain awful, as we have mentioned previously on the site. At best one out of three would qualify to be offered as a Hot Stamper; most simply would not make the cut.

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


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Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

White Hot on the '70s Red Label? Can You Really Be Serious?

  (Item #: daviskindo_wtlf) 



When it comes to Miles Davis' jazz classic Kind of Blue, the 6-eye originals are of course the best sounding, right?

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth. Based on scores of pressings it has been our experience that the best sound for this album is found on standard domestic Red Label pressings from the '70s. I'm fully aware of how outrageous a statement that may seem to those who believe that original pressings are always superior, but we've long known of top of the heap, can't be beat Kind Of Blue reissues, going on more than twenty years now.

More Miles Davis


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Mobile Fidelity's Limited Edition Pressings

Bad Audiophile Thinking on My Part, Circa '82

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_limited) 



Many audiophiles are still operating under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, what with their strict "quality control," managed to eliminate pressing variations of the kind we discuss endlessly on the site.

This is simply not the case, and it's child's play to demonstrate how false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things: good cleaning fluids and a machine, multiple copies of the same record, a reasonably revealing stereo, and two working ears (I guess that's actually five things, my bad). With all five the reality of pressing variations for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

See all of our Beatles albums in stock


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The Beatles - Revolver

1981 Parlophone Mono Reissue

  (Item #: beatlrevol_mono) 



Sonic Grade: F

A great sounding record in stereo, potentially anyway, but this later reissue in mono is so awful it deserves a special place in our Hall of Shame.

My notes for side one: hard, sour, no bass. Side two: dumbass small mono, so unclear.

We love the mono mix of For No One, but not when it sounds like this! The only Beatles vinyl we offer on our site are stereo pressings. Our reasons for doing this are straightforward enough. (Continued below)

More Beatles


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Supertramp - Crisis? What Crisis?

Another Question: Original Is Better?

  (Item #: supercrisi_wtlf) 



This is an older listing that illustrates how We Was Wrong when we thought the best domestic copies were not competitive with the A&M Half-Speed or better British pressings.

We touch on other much-loved themes in this commentary, such as the myth that the original pressing is going to be better than a reissue or later stamper. On this album that is definitely not the case.

More Crisis? What Crisis?


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Jethro Tull - Aqualung

British Band, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: jethraqual_myth_2014) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

As we’ve noted so many times before, this British band, like many of their brethren, had their master tapes sent to America to make our much-maligned domestic pressings. I maligned them myself, wrongly I now realize.

It takes an amazing stereo and a top quality Hot Stamper pressing to get this music to work its magic. If you are lucky enough to have those two things, you will not believe how good this album sounds on domestic vinyl, so much better than you ever thought possible. It’s not perfect, but with the right pressing you can hear why Anderson, his bandmates, the engineer and producer all thought they had put a real winner down on tape.

More Jethro Tull


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Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

British Band, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: costemyaim_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

The British pressings are simply not competitive with the best domestics. No import, from any country, can touch a good Columbia pressing from the states. The most common stampers for the Columbia pressings have never sounded very good to these ears, but that doesn't mean there aren't some killer copies with different stampers sitting in the bins wearing the generic '70s Red Columbia label. We've heard them. Wish we could find more of them but they are rare and only getting rarer.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Elvis Costello's albums


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Brahms Violin Concerto

Is the 1s Pressing Always the Best?

  (Item #: brahmvioli_1903_myth) 



This early Shaded Dog pressing of a 1958 recording has surprisingly good Super Hot stamper sound on side two. On the second side the sound opens up and is very sweet, with the violin becoming much more present and clear. The whole of side two is transparent with an extended top. Usually the earliest Living Stereo titles suffer from a lack of top end extension, but not this one.

Maybe the 1S is that way. For some reason audiophiles tend to think that the earliest cuttings are the best, but that's just another Record Myth in our experience, easily refuted if you've played hundreds of these Living Stereo pressings and noted which stampers sound the best and which do not.

More recordings featuring the violin


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Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

The Earliest Stampers Sound the Best, Right?

  (Item #: john_goodb_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

We had a White Hot stamper listing a while back with these comments featured prominently in the description:

This is BY FAR the best sounding Goodbye Yellow Brick Road to ever hit the site, and BY FAR the best sounding copy we have ever played here at Better Records. And for those of you who think that the early stampers must be the best, note that this killer copy had no side with a stamper under three. How about them apples? As we like to say, screw all that Platonic thinking; we find the empirical approach of playing the records works a whole lot better, thank you very much.

More Goodbye Yellow Brick Road


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Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto #1 / Richter / Karajan

Another Audio Myth Explodes

  (Item #: tchaipiano_myth) 



The original Large Tulip early pressings are the best on this record, right?

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth, as explained in the commentary for our recent Hot Stamper 2-pack. That pair of pressings was all the proof we required to back up our contention that either label can be the best on this classic DG recording. Original is better? Again, not so much. Original can be better fits more with our experience.

See all pressings of Tchaikovsky's music in stock


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Judy Collins - Who Knows Where The Time Goes

The Gold Labels Are the Best, Right?

  (Item #: colliwhokn_original) 



Nope. It’s just another one of them pesky Record Myths.

As often happens in these shootouts, the copy that's supposed to be the most Tubey Magical and "Real" -- most audiophiles would nominate the Gold Label original as their first choice on both counts -- turns out, counterintuitively, to be somewhat flat, lean and "modern" sounding. We were as surprised as anyone (even though we shouldn't be by now). We're fans of early label Elektra pressings as a rule; on this title they usually left us wanting more.

More Judy Collins


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Art Pepper + Eleven

The Originals Are Better, Right?

  (Item #: peppemoder_original) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

We used to get the original Contemporary pressings in all the time, but so few are mastered right practically none ever make it to the site. Some are pure muck; others have bass that's so bloated it's hard to tell if it's electric or acoustic. And where's the presence? We dropped the needle on a few Black Label copies of this title and were entirely underwhelmed.

More Art Pepper


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Jethro Tull - Stand Up

Is The Pink Label Always The Hot Ticket?

  (Item #: jethrstand_pink) 



Well, it certainly can be, but sometimes it isn't, and failing to appreciate that possibility is a classic case of misundertanding a crucially important fact or two about records. Audiophile analog devotees would do well to keep these facts in mind, especially considering the prices original British pressings are fetching these days.

Simply put: Since no two records sound alike, it follow that the right label doesn't guarantee the right sound. A recent shootout illustrated both of these Truths.

More Stand Up


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Cat Stevens Albums - Lee Hulko Cut Them All

Good, Bad and Otherwise

  (Item #: steveteafo_hulko) 



Is the Pink Label Island original pressing THE way to go? That’s what Harry Pearson -- not to mention most audiophile record dealers -- would have you believe.

But it’s just not true. And that’s good news for you, Dear (Record Loving Audiophile) Reader.

See all of our Cat Stevens albums in stock


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Fagen's The Nightfly & Digital Sound

Do All the Pressings Have to Sound Like CDs?

  (Item #: fagennight_digital) 



The average copy of this digitally recorded, mixed and mastered LP sounds just the way you would expect it to: like a CD. It's anemic, two-dimensional, opaque, thin, bright, harsh, with little extreme top and the kind of bass that's all "note" with no real weight, solidity or harmonic structure. Sounds like a CD, right? (That's the way most of my CDs sound, which is why I no longer listen to them except in the car)

But what if I told you that the best copies of The Nightfly can actually sound like a real honest-to-goodness ANALOG recording, with practically none of the nasty shortcomings listed above? You may not believe it, but it's true.

More Donald Fagen


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Yes - Fragile

British Band, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: yes__fragi_myth) 



Not Really. It’s just another Record Myth.

Some of you may remember that back in the '90s (and even into the 2000s, gulp) we preferred the sound on the British original pressings for the most famous Yes albums, Fragile among them.

There's no way around it, folks: We Was Wrong. While the Brit copies can have some very nice qualities, they just can't compete with the best domestic pressings of Fragile.

More Yes / More Fragile


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Brian Eno

His First Four Albums Are Best on Import, Right?

Well, Almost...

  (Item #: eno__befor_myth) 



All four? Not quite. The idea that all of Eno's early albums sound the best on import vinyl is just another Record Myth.

You can read all about it below. Scroll down to check out the free bonus Critical Listening Exercise too.

More Brian Eno


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Eagles - Desperado

Which Pressing Sounds Better, the Brit SYL or Domestic Asylum?

  (Item #: eagledespe_vs) 



Short answer: They both do, or more accurately, they both can sound better than the other. It all depends on how many of each you have.

Harry Pearson famously listed the SYL pressing of this album on his TAS List of Super Discs, but most of them sure don’t sound that super to us! Play enough of them though, and if you’re lucky you just might find one like the one we did -- a lovely Brit Import SYL pressing that has SUPERB SOUND on BOTH SIDES!

See more of our Eagles' albums


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The Fab Four on Parlophone

The Original Beatles Pressings Are the Best, Right?

  (Item #: beatles_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

Back in 2005 we compared the MFSL pressing of Help to a British Parlophone LP and were -- mistakenly, as you may have already surmised -- impressed by the MoFi.

More of The Beatles


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Free - Fire and Water

on a Mythical Pink Island

  (Item #: free_firea_myth) 



Free’s Third Album on the Original British Island Pink Label — Wow!

Found one at a local record store a while back. It was the first one I’d ever seen in nice enough condition to buy. Checking the dead wax was a bit of a shock though. Guess where it was mastered. Right here in the good old U S of A. In fact, at one of the worst mastering houses of all time: Bell Sound in New York.

More Free


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Sergio Mendes on LP

Diminishing Returns in Audio?

  (Item #: mendesergi_diminishing) 



Diminishing returns? Sez who? In our opinion, it's another Old and Pernicious Myth.

I often read this comment in audio magazines regarding the piece of equipment under review, as if to say that we are so close to audio perfection that a gain of a few percent is the most we can hope for from this or that new megabuck amp or speaker. In my experience the exact opposite is true.

More Sergio Mendes


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1A, or Is 1B Better?

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

  (Item #: simonparsl_fremer) 



Before we go any further, I have a question: Why are we guessing?

I received an email recently from a customer who had gone to great pains to do his own shootout for a record; in the end he came up short, with not a lot to show for his time and effort. It had this bit tucked in toward the end:

Some of [Better Records'] Hot Stampers are very dear in price and most often due to the fact that there are so few copies in near mint condition. I hate to think of all the great Hot Stampers that have ended up in piles on the floor night after night with beer, Coke, and seeds being ground into them.

More Simon and Garfunkel


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Cat Stevens & TAS List Thoughts

Harry Pearson Is Losing It

  (Item #: stevemonab_tas) 



In an issue of The Absolute Sound from a few years back Harry revisited some of his favorite records from the old days. This was one of the ones mentioned, and he made the point that only the British originals sound any good. At one time there were four Cat Stevens albums on the TAS List, all British pressings EXCEPT for Mona Bone. Why? Because Mona Bone never sounds good on import vinyl, at least not on the dozen or so early imports I’ve come across.
More Mona Bone Jakon


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How to Find a Hot Stamper Deja Vu

Hint: Ignore Conventional Wisdom

  (Item #: crosbdejav_conventionalwisdom) 



A testimonial from a customer for his Hot Stamper Deja Vu provides a forum for the discussion of just what are the higher fidelity pressings.

Never make the mistake of confusing Better Sounding pressing with More Original pressing; they have nothing -- and I mean nothing -- to do with each other. It’s just another Record Collecting Canard. The audio world is full of them.

More on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's 1970 Masterpiece, Deja Vu


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Led Zeppelin on Vinyl

The British Pressings Are the Best, Right?

  (Item #: ledze_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

That old canard isn’t doing audiophiles any favors. We hear over and over that you’re supposed to look for pressings that come from the same country that the band does. If that's the case then how is it that the German copies of Please Please Me DESTROY the Brits?

How come the British pressings of Mona Bone Jakon are not remotely competitive with the best domestics?

More Led Zeppelin


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