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Goodnight Vienna  (Item #: starrgoodn_2018) 


  • Goodnight Vienna finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Another amazing Richard Perry production with sound by Bill Schnee - on a pressing this good, you'll be blown away
  • Starr partnered with a host of phenomenal writers and musicians here, including John Lennon, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, and Harry Nilsson
  • 4 stars: "Goodnight Vienna was very much a follow-up to Ringo... Richard Perry again produced, bringing his strong pop sensibility to the diverse material... a masterpiece."
See all of our Ringo Starr albums in stock


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The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: rollirolli_2019) 



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

Both sides of this Red Label British Decca Mono are doing it right - they're big, rich and spacious with a huge bottom end. The best word I could use to sum up both the sound and the music on this record is HONEST. If you want to hear how early Rolling Stones records sound when they sound right, this is the ticket. This is the real sound of the early, early Stones.

Probably what any modern engineer would want to do to the album would only end up making it worse. It is what it is and that’s good enough for us. Since the tapes are now more than 60 years old, no modern reissue will sound remotely as good as this one.

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Barbra Streisand - The Barbra Streisand Album

Our Stereo Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: streibarbr_2019) 



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

A killer 360 original stereo pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish - the first copy to hit the site in many years. We recently did a shootout for this album and were thrilled at how natural and immediate the sound on the best copies can be. Good Ol' Babs (actually, a very young Babs here) sounds LOVELY on this pressing -- her voice is rich, breathy and textured with stellar presence. The orchestra backing her sounds wonderful and there's plenty of bass to set a nice foundation for the music.

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Sinead O'Connor - I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: oconnidono_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 I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got.

This is widely considered one of the best albums of the '90s, a brilliant and unique piece of work. I positively love this album. The emotion is every bit as naked and compelling as that found on Joni's Blue, and I do not say that lightly. I know the power of Blue, and this album has that kind of power. This is some heavy heavy stuff. Hearing it sound right is a thrill I won't soon forget.

See all of our Sinead O'Connor albums in stock


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Frank Sinatra - Sinatra Sings... of Love and Things

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: sinatsings_of_love_2015) 



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

The music is excellent as one can see from the track listing. It's hard to go wrong with these later Capitol Sinatra records. They're almost always a fun listen.

This album comprises the last group of singles Capitol released of Sinatra's music. Reprise had started in 1960 and the rest of Sinatra's music would come out on his own label. Somehow he managed to record and release six studio albums in 1962, with this compilation making a total of seven for the year. Even more remarkable, all seven of them made the Top Ten of the pop charts.

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76 Pieces of Explosive Percussion - Direct to Disc

Reviewed in 2000

  (Item #: vario76_pieces_2000) 



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

Sonic Arts Box Version. A poor man's Bang-Baaroom with a stage full of percussionists playing a variety of instruments. This LP presents a realistic soundstage and an amazing array of sounds. There's also some incredibly deep bass drum work.

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Kotekan - Percussion and...

Reviewed in 2002

  (Item #: kotekpercu_2002) 



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

This IMMACULATE Reference LP with No Sogn Of Play (NSOP) is the best sounding record RR ever made!

".. heady, explosive, weird, bizarre and brilliant playing..." - S.F. Chronicle


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Ronnie Aldrich / Melody and Percussion For Two Pianos

Reviewed in 2012

  (Item #: aldrimelod_2012) 



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

This Decca Phase 4 record from 1962 has Demo Disc sound of a sort on side one. Super Hot sonics coupled with the Super Phase 4 "jumping out of the speakers" recording techniques that were employed, mean that this is one LIVELY record!

See all of our Exotica albums in stock


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The Doobie Brothers - Stampede

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: doobistamp_2015_) 



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

The average copy of this album is compressed and congested, recessed and veiled, grainy and thin; in other words, it sounds like an old Doobie Brothers album. It takes a copy like this to show you just how good the Master Tape must really be. Most copies don't even hint at the sound you will hear on this record. And if we hadn't had plenty of copies to play with, we would never have known, now would we?

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Hanson/ Piano Concerto/ Hanson   (Item #: hansopiano_2000) 



RFR1/ RFR4. VLSOP GOLD LABEL Promo Copy with excellent sound! Hanson''s piano concerto is one of the few works of his I enjoy.

Also includes La Montaine''s Birds Of Paradise.

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Lee Morgan - Search For The New Land

Reviewed in 2008

  (Item #: morgasearc_2008) 



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

This QUIET, hard-to-find Blue Note Blue Label LP has EXCELLENT SOUND AND MUSIC! It’s transparent, open and spacious with deep, tight bass. The piano has nice weight to it and the trumpet has the right amount of bite. We never have enough of these around to do a full shootout, but based on my experience with this album I’m going to rate side one between solid A and A+ and side two A+. There may be a better copy out there somewhere, but good luck tracking it down.

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Astrud Gilberto / Walter Wanderley - A Certain Sadness...

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: gilbecerta_2010) 



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

LOVELY SOUND AND EXCELLENT MUSIC on this unusually quiet, exceptionally good sounding Verve T-Label LP. We compiled enough of these to do a shootout and this was one of the better copies, earning A++ grades for both sides. It's full of energy with big time immediacy and wonderfully breathy female vocals. The organ sounds gorgeous!

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Miles Davis - Filles de Kilimanjaro

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: davisfille_2019) 



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

This Columbia 360 Label LP boasts rich, full-bodied, clear sound with the space and three-dimensionality that was difficult to find on the later pressings we played

This is one of the all-time classic progressive jazz albums, and a copy like this allows you to appreciate the contributions of Miles and his top-notch band (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams and the great Ron Carter on most of the songs). This one's not as "out there" as Bitches Brew, but it gives you a taste of the various directions these guys would take in the years to come.

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The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: rollistick_2019) 



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

This is the best record the Stones ever made (along with Let It Bleed and Beggars Banquet - all three have the potential for outstanding sound -- the trick is, as always, finding the right pressing).

The sound is exactly what you want from a Stones album: deep punchy bass and dynamic grungy guitars. This record is to be played loud like it says on the inner sleeve and the surface noise is to be ignored. The louder you play it, the less bothersome the noise will be. This album ROCKS and it was not made to be listened to in a comfy chair with a glass of wine.

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The Rolling Stones - Through The Past Darkly

Reviewed in 2010

  (Item #: rollithrou_2010) 



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

This is a Decca In The Box Blue Label LP with EXCELLENT SOUND! Some of the tracks here sound WONDERFUL, but even more surprisingly, none of them sound bad the way so many Stones compilations often do. Virtually nowhere on this record can you find shrill, thin, edgy, typical compilation Stones sound. Playing songs like 'She's a Rainbow' or 'Dandelion' on this album is so refreshing and enjoyable because they really sound the way you want to hear those songs. They have that rich and sweet analog quality that's usually lost on later and/or digital versions.

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James Taylor - Sweet Baby James

A Rhino / Warners Heavy Vinyl Winner!

  (Item #: taylosweet_rhino) 



Sonic Grade: B+

This Rhino 180g LP is the BEST SOUNDING Heavy Vinyl reissue to come our way in a long long time. Those of you who’ve been with us for a while know that that’s really not saying much, but it doesn’t make it any less true either, now does it. Let’s look at what it doesn’t do wrong first.

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Traffic- Mr. Fantasy

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: traffmrfan_2019) 



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

This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best. We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG. Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault.

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Van Halen - Van Halen

DCC Debunked

  (Item #: vanhavanha_dcc) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another DCC LP debunked.

As I recall it isn't very good -- thick and dull and closed-in; in other words, boring -- but I played it quite a while ago. If your copy sounds better, more power to you, but I bet it doesn't. Any copy we sell is guaranteed to blow the doors off of it -- as well as any other pressing you own -- or your money back.

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Love - Love

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: love_love_2019) 



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

A classic from 1966, a combination of proto-punk and psychedelia featuring My Little Red Book, Hey Joe and more. The first Love album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most POWERFUL recording in the Love catalog. Engineered by none other than Bruce Botnick, here is the kind of massive bottom end weight and energy that we like to call WHOMP.

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Fiedler / Boston Tea Party

Reviewed in 2010

  (Item #: variobosto_2213_2010) 



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

This original Shaded Dog pressing has EXCELLENT SOUND AND QUIET VINYL ON SIDE TWO, where you'll find a wonderful rendition of Hernando's Hideaway! The sound is excellent -- lively, full-bodied and super three-dimensional. Check out how great the castanets sound!

Side one is nothing special and a bit noisy in the right channel, so we're really only charging you for the strong side two. Hernando's Hideaway is really worth the price of admission alone, you'll see! As I'm sure you know by now, Fiedler on this sort of material is very hard to beat.

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JS Bach / Voilin Concertos / Igor and David Oistrach

Reviewed in 2008

  (Item #: bach_violin_dg_2008) 



This Minty looking Deutsche Grammophon LP is rich and smooth. We didn't have any other copies to compare this to, but we've played enough DG LPs around here to know that the average pressing is nothing to get too excited about! If we were giving this a Hot Stamper rating, we'd put it at about A+ on both sides.
More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach


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JS Bach and Liszt / Organ Music / Richter

Reviewed in 2007

  (Item #: bach_organ_6172_2007) 



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

This is a Minty looking London Red Label LP with Virtually No Sign Of Play (VNSOP).

You can feel the cool air in the hall! Some audiophiles buy organ records to show off their subwoofers. Records like this can do that but records this good have musical qualities far beyond simple demonstrations of bass reproduction. Karl Richter understands this music perfectly and makes it come alive in a way I've never heard any other musician.

More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach


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JS Bach / Organ Music / Richter

Reviewed in 2007

  (Item #: bach_organ_6173_2007) 



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

This London Whiteback pressing of CS 6173 has SUPERB SOUND! Like its brother, CS 6172, recorded by Richter in 1954, probably on the same day, the sound of this early stereo 2 mic recording is amazingly spacious and rich.

Here's what I said about 6172; You can feel the cool air in the hall! Some audiophiles buy organ records to show off their subwoofers. Records like this can do that but records this good have musical qualities far beyond simple demonstrations of bass reproduction. Karl Richter understands this music perfectly and makes it come alive in a way I've never heard any other musician manage to do.

More of the music of JS Bach (1685-1750)


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Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: dylanblond_2019) 



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

It takes a properly mastered, properly pressed copy like this one to get both Dylan's voice and harmonica -- two of the most critically important elements on any of his recordings -- to sound smooth, full-bodied and clear. Any pinched quality will be painfully obvious to the listener, and for that shortcoming you lose a lot of points here at Better Records. That said, upper-midrangy sound on any vintage Dylan record to one degree or another is almost always audible. The less the better, but none is really not an option.

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Boz Scaggs - Boz Scaggs

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: scaggbozsc_2018) 



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

This original pressing has two excellent sides, which is two more than the typical cardboardy, flat, thin, lifeless copy has. If you like your music dry and clean, try the remixed version, the CD, or perhaps there is a heavy vinyl version out there (at one-tenth the price). That's not our sound here at Better Records. The best recordings from the era do not have that sound, so when we find that kind of analog richness, sweetness and naturalness on a pressing such as this, we know the record is right.

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Andrew Gold - What's Wrong With This Picture?

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: gold_whats_2015) 



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

The best copies of Gold's sophomore release are incredibly rich, sweet and Tubey Magical. They also have tons of deep punchy bass and wonderfully breathy vocals.

If you own many Asylum records, you know this title is yet another example of classic Asylum Analog. Think of the sound of the Eagles first album and you won't be far off.

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Tom Waits - The Heart of Saturday Night

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: waitsheart_of_2017) 



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

Amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides! This music ain't for everyone, but when you find good sounding Tom Waits pressings like this one the sonics can be out of this world. It's tough to find clean copies of this stuff these days and even tougher to find ones that really deliver the way this one does. Bones Howe sure knew how to record this kind of music, and a copy like this will really let you appreciate his work.

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Bizet & Gounod / Ballet Music / Gibson

Reviewed in 2007

  (Item #: bizetballe_vics_2007) 



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

This RCA Plum Label Victrola LP has many shortcomings, but its strengths more than compensate for them. The MIDRANGE is pure MAGIC. The sweet, textured strings, the back of the stage percussion, the placement of the orchestral sections in the soundstage, the performance itself -- all combine to make you forget you are listening to an old, somewhat flawed record. What has been captured in the grooves of the vinyl allows the listener to do what few recordings can -- suspend his disbelief.

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)


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Gilbert & Sullivan - The Best Of... (3 LP Box Set)

Reviewed in 2005

  (Item #: gilbebest_of_gilbert_2006) 



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

This is a Minty RCA Reader’s Digest 3 LP Box set with SUPERB SOUND! These recordings are DEMO DISC QUALITY.

HP put the Rachmaninoff Box on the TAS List, and when you get a properly mastered one, it belongs there. But this G&S box is every bit as good sonically. This may not be high brow classical music, but it's music that belongs in any record collection, and especially in an audiophile record collection, because the sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

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Astrud Gilberto - Gilberto With Turrentine

Reviewed in 2009

  (Item #: gilbegilberto_turrentine_2009) 



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

The music and sound on side two are OFF THE CHARTS! If you’re a fan of Sergio Mendes or Jobim you’re likely to really enjoy this music.

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Astrud Gilberto - Beach Samba

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: gilbebeach_2019) 



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

The soundstage is huge, and the overall quality of the recording is big and bold like you will not believe. Creed Taylor (the CTI man) produced, Don Sebesky and Deodato did the arrangements, and Val Valentin engineered - what's not to like?

"This 1967 Verve LP has the breezy bossa novas and sambas Astrud was famed for, but also a Lovin' Spoonful duet with her young son and some seriously impressive scatting, too." - Amazon

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Bruch / Scottish Fantasy / Heifetz

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: bruchscott_classic_records) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

It should go without saying that a good original pressing kills the Classic reissue, and the Classic version is one of the better Classics. Still, it's no match for the real thing, not even close. The Classic is airless, smeary and low-rez, which means that all the subtleties of the music and the performance will be much more difficult to appreciate. I dare say that were you to hear this copy it would be all but impossible to sit through the Classic ever again.

More of the music of Max Bruch


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Metallica - Ride The Lightning (45 RPM)

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: metalridet_mobile_fidelity) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked.

Compressed, sucked-out mids, no deep bass and muddy mid-bass, the mastering of this album is an absolute disaster on every level. If you want to know how clueless the average audiophile is a quick Google search will bring up plenty of positive comments from listeners and reviewers alike.

This is the Warner Brothers 45 RPM 180g Double LP Half-Speed Mastered at Mobile Fidelity from the original analog master tapes.



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Bruch & Mozart / Violin Concertos / Laredo - Mitchell

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: bruchvioli_2010) 



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

Superb sound. The violin is wonderful on both sides. The Mozart is absolutely gorgeous; the best I''ve ever heard it.

The orchestra on the Bruch side gets a little congested in the louder passages, which is typical for records of this era.

Laredo plays these pieces beautifully. The Bruch is an especially romantic work and his violin sings sweetly and with deep emotion throughout. The Mozart is more spritely and he plays it with the light touch it requires. You will have a hard time finding a better violin concerto record. This ranks with the best of them.

More of the music of Max Bruch


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Bruch - Mozart / Violin Concertos / Heifetz

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: bruchvioli_2011) 



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

Both sides of this Shaded Dog pressing of Heifetz and the New Symphony Orchestra of London have sound that earned the quite respectable sonic grades of A+ to A++.

Side one is tonally correct and lively, but suffers from a bit of the all-too-common tube smear, no doubt from the mastering chains and record presses that were in use at the time. (Most modern mastering chains and record presses are, to our ears, even worse, so this is not to denigrate the engineers at RCA in any way. It's simply to say that with Tubey Magic you often get tubey smear.)

More of the music of Max Bruch


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Bruch / Scottish Fantasia - Oistrakh / Horenstein

Our Shootout Winner from 2014

  (Item #: bruchscott_2014) 



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

CS 6337. This Minty looking London Whiteback LP has THE MOST AMAZING SCOTTISH FANTASIA I have ever heard! Folks, it doesn't get any better than this. I would say this is one of the five best sounding violin recordings I have ever heard. Interestingly, the violin sound that we typically put up with is found on side two of this very album. It's easy to forget that there are actually records that sound like side one, and that side two really isn't the way an orchestra is supposed to sound.

More of the music of Max Bruch (1938-1920


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Mendelssohn & Prokofiev / Concertos / Heifetz / Munch

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: mendevioli_2314_classic_records) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Heavy Vinyl Classical LP debunked.

Classic Records ruined this album, as expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, edgy and smeared than the better vintage pressings. In fact it's just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered.

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)


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Mendelssohn & Prokofiev / Concertos / Heifetz / Munch

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: mendevioli_2314_2011) 



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

This BETTER than Super Hot Stamper (A++ to A+++) White Dog pressing has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND on side one for the Mendelssohn concerto! It really has the Breath of Life. On top of that it's quiet, playing mostly Mint Minus, something that we don't run into too often with fifty year old Living Stereo pressings! Now I see why Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List. Most copies do not sound remotely as good as this one on side one. (Side two is a step down; it would almost have to be.)

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)


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Bach, Mendelssohn, Widor / Discovery / Welch

  (Item #: bach_discovery_2009) 



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

This is an INCREDIBLY RARE Wilson Audio LP in IMMACULATE condition, with works by Bach, Mendelssohn, Widor and others. Click on the images of the record labels for a full track listing. This is actually an amazing sounding record. I’ve owned a copy for over 20 years. It's some of the best sounding organ music with the deepest bass I've ever heard.

More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)



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Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio - Red Gardenia

Reviewed in 2019

  (Item #: yamamredga_2019) 



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

Imagine a Three Blind Mice piano date recorded Direct-to-Disc -- that's the sound of this album. This is one of the few audiophile records worthy of the name. It's also five times as rare as Blues to East and the music is better. There are two Stevie Wonder songs given a wonderful piano trio arrangement here that are just out of this world.

More Direct to Disc recordings / More Audiophile recordings


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Vivaldi / The Four Seasons / Cremona Chamber Ensemble

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: vivalexcer_2009) 



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

This is a SUPERB sounding Sonic Arts Direct-to-Disc LP with Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides. I gave this one rave reviews twenty years ago (when we could still find them) and I'm happy to see that the sound has held up just fine in the intervening decades. Recorded in a dry acoustic, immediacy and clarity are the sonic strengths of this side one. This is one of the most natural Direct-Disc I’ve heard in a long time. One could easily use it as Demo Disc, depending on your taste and system.

More of the music of Antonio Vivaldi


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Takemitsu - Percussions in Colors

Reviewed in 2010

  (Item #: takempercu_2010) 



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

Superb sound!

"Rare 1978 audiophile limited edition Japanese lp with Sumire Yoshihara on percussion performing experimental works. The Ichiyanagi work has a unique graphical score and allows the performer to select different classes of percussion. Takemitsu's piece is based on a work of art in the form of a book made for the composer by Italian artist Bruno Munari. Takemitsu's score consists of this book and an accompanying set of musical instructions on how to interpret its abstract collages and designs. Includes extensive notes inside the gatefold cover."

More Direct to Disc recordings


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Tchaikovsky / Sleeping Beauty / Ansermet / 3 LP Box Set

  (Item #: tchaisleep_2304_2010) 



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

Big Decca sound! Powerful deep bass. Beautiful string tone and sharply articulated brass sound. This is a wonderful record. Ansermet is of course a master of the ballet. The performance here is outstanding, perhaps even definitive.

More music conducted by Ernst Ansermet (1883-1969)


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The Royal Ballet - Gala Performances - Ansermet

Our Shootout Winner from 2005

  (Item #: varioroyal_6065_2005) 



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

This is a QUIET RCA Soria Shaded Dog Box Set with some of the BEST SOUND I HAVE EVER HEARD for this music on Disc One. This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND if what you are demonstrating is not the merely Hi-Fi, but the relaxed beauty and naturalness of what many consider to be the finest example of Living Stereo Magic brought to the greatest performances of ballet music ever committed to tape.

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Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto #2 - Katchen

Speakers Corner Reviewed

  (Item #: rachmpiano_2_speakers_corner) 



Sonic Grade: Unknown

In the late '90s we described the sound of this pressing this way: "Outstanding Rachmaninoff, dark and rich. Highly recommended." Since we have not played a copy of the album in over ten years, we have taken down our previous Sonic Grade of B as we have no idea how the record would fare today on our much-improved system. For all we know it's been recut, which is another problem with our old reviews of records we used to like: the new version could have very different sound from the one we played (and that's not even taking into account the pressing variability, which is sometimes huge).

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)


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Herbie Hancock - Takin’ Off

A Cisco Record We Recommend

  (Item #: hancotakin_cisco) 



Sonic Grade: B-

The sound is SUPERB overall, with correct tonal balance and plenty of life. I was WAY TOO HARD on this album when it first came in. It’s playing right now and really swinging!

I just learned the secret to getting this one to sound right, and I am happy to share it with you. TURN IT UP!. When you get some volume going, the musicians really come to life on this album. It may sound crazy, but you need to play this one as loud as you would play your average rock record.

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Leon Russell - Leon Russell and the Shelter People

We Broke Through in 2017

  (Item #: russeleonrussel_and_2017) 



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

The domestic pressings of Leon Russell and the Shelter People that we'd auditioned over the years always seemed flat, dry, and closed-in. We know that sound well; it's the sound you hear on records that have been made from dubbed tapes (and it's the hallmark of the modern Heavy Vinyl reissue, truth be told). It bores us to tears, and had us questioning what we could possibly have seen in the album in the first place. What happened to the glorious sound of early '70s analog we were expecting to find?

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Grofe / Grand Canyon Suite / Bernstein
  (Item #: grofegrand_6618_2009) 



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

This Minty Columbia Grey label Stereo LP is one of the most amazing copies ever! You will be hard pressed to find a better sounding Grand Canyon suite.

Bernstein’s Columbia recordings usually leave much to be desired. This is a notable exception. The normal Columbia shrillness is gone, replaced by sweet and liquid sound. I wish more of his records sounded like this one: I'd be picking them up left and right.

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein


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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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America - History: America’s Greatest Hits

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: amerihisto_2018) 



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

The big sound on both sides lets this Greatest Hits compilation hold its own against the originals. Side One has amazing CLARITY and PRESENCE, which is especially noticeable on the vocals. Side Two has plenty of bottom end that drives these songs with energy and life. Listen for the bells on 'Tin Man'; they have the correct transients and harmonics. You never quite get back all of the Tubey Magic of the originals, but the detail and richness are enough to make you fall in love with this high quality George Martin (re) production.

More America


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Rachmaninoff - Symphonic Dances - Johanos

(Reviewed in the '90s)

  (Item #: rachmsymph_athena) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl Classical LP debunked.

This Minty looking Athena LP shows Virtually No Sign of Play (VNSOP). A famous recording, now long out of print, it received rave reviews when it was released! (We quote many of them below.) This album is a member of the TAS Super Disc list, but we found the sound awfully opaque, smeary, slow and compressed, the kind of bad "analog" sound that Doug Sax brought to the early AP releases.

Check here to read more of our Classical Music Reviews .

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Vivaldi / The Four Seasons / I Solisti di Zagreb / Tomasow

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: vivalfours_vanguard_2012) 



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

Folks, we have some good news for those of you who have been waiting for one of the best sounding, most beautifully performed Four Seasons ever recorded. THIS IS IT! White Hot on both sides, I can't say the sound is better than the White Hot Shaded Dog pressing we heard in our recent shootout. It's certainly different, and one could easily make the case for either. Of course one's taste enters into the calculation, so choosing a clear winner is simply not possible with markedly superior pressings such as these.

More of the music of Antonio Vivaldi


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Martin Denny - Exotica

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: dennyexotica_2011) 



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

This second label very quiet Liberty Stereo LP has at least Super Hot Stamper EXOTIC SOUND on both sides, with a side two that may be White Hot. It's hard to know for sure whether side two can get any better than this -- it's pretty darn amazing, some of the most Magically Delicious sound we played in our recent shootout.

Recorded in 1958, you can imagine there is a healthy amount of Tubey Magical richness and sweetness, although this second label copy seems to be cut a bit more cleanly and correctly than some of the first label Denny records we auditioned. The tonality is dead on the money, a quality that the most tubey recordings rarely exhibit; they can easily get overly lush and appear murky.


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Martin Denny - Exotica: Vol. 2

Our Shootout Winner from 2014

  (Item #: dennyexoti_2014) 



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

This Liberty '60s Label Stereo LP has Hot Stamper EXOTIC SOUND on both sides. The cover says it's The Ultimate in Transistorized Stereophonic Hi-Fidelity Sound, but I hear an awful lot of Tubey Magical richness and sweetness. The tonality is actually right on the money, a quality that the heavily tubey recordings rarely exhibit: they can easily get overly lush and turn murky.

More Exotica


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Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: fitzgella_swings_brightly_2017) 



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

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good! The space is HUGE and the sound so rich.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD.

More Ella Fitzgerald


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Ravel / Piano Concertos / Haas

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: ravelpiano_2012) 



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

This Philips recording from 1970 on exceptionally quiet Dutch vinyl has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on side one for one of Ravel's best known piano works, the Piano Concerto in G. Most Philips records are much too thick, dull and opaque to be taken seriously, by us anyway. (In this respect they have many sonic attributes in common with Londons from the '70s and '80s.)

Dropping the needle on this pressing, however, was a pleasant surprise. It's big and spacious on side one, with zero smear on a piano that is both full and clear.

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)


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Red Norvo Quintet - The Forward Look (UHQR)

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: norvoforwa_2015) 



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

White Hot on both sides, DEMO DISC QUALITY sound. Side one has some of the most realistic live jazz club sound you will ever hear. Side two is dynamic, huge and immediate like you few records we know. This is what an audiophile record is supposed to sound like - AMAZING.

More Audiophile recordings


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Professor Johnson’s Astounding Sound Show

Reviewed in 2011

  (Item #: varioprofe_2011) 



This is a rare and IMMACULATE Reference Records 45 RPM LP with No Sign Of Play (VNSOP). The record was Half-Speed mastered by Stan Ricker and pressed in West Germany.

This record has been on Harry Pearson's TAS List!

More Audiophile recordings


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Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Grumiaux

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: beethvioli_grumiaux_2018) 



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

The reproduction of the violin here is superb -- harmonically rich, natural, clean, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound, as well as the fact that they become less congested in the louder passages and don't get shrill or blary. The best copies display a Tubey Magical richness -- especially evident in the basses and celli -- that is to die for.

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


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Joni Mitchell - Court and Spark

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: mitchcourt_2018) 



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

Court and Spark deserves to be heard with all the clarity, beauty and power that only the best Hot Stamper pressings can convey.

What you hear is the sound of the real tape; every instrument has its own character because the mastering is correct and the vinyl -- against all odds -- managed to capture all (or almost all; who can know?) of the resolution that the tape had to offer.

More Court and Spark


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Don McLean - American Pie

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: mcleaameri_2018) 



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

An incredible 'Triple 'Triple' copy of American Pie giving you amazing sound for the famous title track. This Number One album from 1971 has KILLER sound on both sides. It's dynamic too -- the end of American Pie gets good and loud, with a very solid piano holding it all together.

Beware of copies that are thin, dry or edgy; they take much too much of the fun out of the music.

See all of our Don McLean albums in stock


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Eric Clapton - E.C. Was Here

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: claptecwas_2019) 



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

Check out Clapton's superb arrangements and performances of two of the best songs from his short-lived Blind Faith period: Presence of the Lord and Can't Find My Way Home. They're two of the highpoints on an album filled with good material that does not seem to get the credit it is due. I bought this album when it came out in 1975 and never really got into it. Of course I had an inferior domestic pressing and a stereo that couldn't have done the album justice anyway, but in my defense I would have to say that there really wasn't any such stereo system on the face of the earth; we still had a long way to go.

More Eric Clapton


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Dvorak / Cello Concerto / Fournier - Szell

Reviewed in 2010

  (Item #: dvoracello_fournier_2010) 



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

This Deutsche Grammophon German Import LP is especially warm and sweet for a DG record. The tape hiss here is exactly right, which tells me that the smooth sound that I’m hearing is what the tape actually recorded and the engineers wanted. The cello sound is wonderful with an especially woody tone and nice texture to the strings.

More of the music of Antonin Dvorak


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Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

  (Item #: daviskindo_obsess) 



Kind of Blue 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, dating all the way to back to 2005 when we heard our first killer red label copy (or, I should say, when we first heard a killer red label copy reproduced correctly).

More Miles Davis / More John Coltrane


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Miles Davis - Someday My Prince Will Come

Our Six-Eye Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: davissomed_2019) 



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

We've found Red Label copies in the past that sound pretty darn good but this Six-Eye was a HUGE step up in class over the reissues this time around. It was not even close. This one is doing it all, with in-the-room presence, massive amounts of energy, clear, note-like bass and a rich, breathy quality to Miles's horn that is simply not to be found on most pressings, be they originals, reissues, on Heavy Vinyl, at 45 RPM or what have you.

More Miles Davis


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Nirvana - Nevermind

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: nirvanever_2019) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

An incredible sounding record, especially on a White Hot Stamper such as this (which is why this copy sold for $849!). I might even go so far as to say it's better than practically anything recorded during the entire decade of the '90s. Man, when you've heard this record at its best, there is NOTHING like it. For the true Rock and Roll Audiophile Connoisseur, the man who will settle for nothing but the very best, we humbly offer this Nevermind Verified Hot Stamper, the ultimate head-banging experience.

More Nirvana


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Nirvana - Nevermind

Stretching Back to 2001

  (Item #: nirvanever_2008) 



DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND on side two! It’s got the big, uber-punchy, hard rockin’ attitude we demand from a Nevermind Hot Stamper. Side one is no slouch either folks, with A++ sound! Only one other copy had better sound for side one -- THIS ONE ROCKS!

Side two on this Nevermind has MASTER TAPE SOUND. We found the most amazing clarity and transparency on this copy. You will find the sound so rich and full-bodied that at times you'd swear it was tube mastered! Check out the presence to the vocals on side one. The WHOMP factor is out of control all over this pressing.

More Nirvana


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Dick Schory - Music To Break Any Mood

Reviewed in 2009

  (Item #: schormusic_2125_2019) 



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

This is the successor to Bang Baaroom, and as you can imagine it's music in the same percussive style, the major difference here being the addition of a giant gong which the producers justifiably take great pride in. This title is also at least 5 times as rare as LSP 1866; I haven't seen one of these in years!

Features standards Caravan, Fascinating Rhythm and Stranger In Paradise, among others.

More Dick Schory


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Frank Sinatra - Sinatra's Sinatra

Our Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: sinatsinatras_2016) 



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

This Sinatra release from 1963 has out of this world Triple Plus (A+++) sound practically from start to finish. Forget the reissues - the stereo original we are offering here is the only way to go for rich, tubey, dynamic, musical sound. Frank rerecorded some of his biggest hits in stereo for this album - the record is one Sinatra Classic after another.

See all of our Frank Sinatra albums in stock


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Crosby, Stills and Nash - CSN

You Do the Best You Can with What You Have to Work With

  (Item #: crosbcsn_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.

CSN chose the Albert brothers to engineer this album. Their most famous album is Layla. Ever heard a great sounding Layla? Me neither. Can you hear the sound of Layla in your head? That's more or less what this album sounds like. There are better and worse Layla's -- we've done the shootout many times -- just as there are better and worse CSNs.

The problem with the sound cannot be "fixed" in the mastering, and here's how we know: on either side some songs have the breath of life and some don't. That's a recording problem. .

More CSN


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Crosby, Stills and Nash - CSN

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: crosbcsn_2013) 



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

This original LP is clearly the best sounding side one of this album we have ever played. Most copies of CSN are unbelievably flat, harsh, thin and opaque.

Which means simply that our approach is the only one that offers any hope of success. With a large enough batch of copies, cleaned using the best fluids, on the best machines, it is possible to find a side one this good. Without a pretty big batch of well-cleaned pressings your chance of success is hardly worth calculating. Even with the best intentions, frustration is likely to set in long before a Hot Stamper as good as this one has much chance of being found.

More CSN


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Stevie Wonder - Music of My Mind

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: wondemusic_2012) 



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

AMAZING A+++ SOUND and relatively quiet vinyl on BOTH sides of this early Stevie Wonder classic, an album that earned four-and-a-half big stars (out of five) in the All Music Guide. Anyone who has followed the site for a while (or tried the shootouts on their own) surely know how difficult it is to find Stevie Wonder records with excellent sound or quiet surfaces -- let alone both. This monster pressing should give you everything you ever hoped for from this music and then some!

More Stevie Wonder


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Gerry Mulligan - The Gerry Mulligan Songbook Vol. 1

Reviewed in 2009

  (Item #: mulligerry_2009) 



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

This original COLLECTOR QUALITY World Pacific Jazz LP has VERY GOOD sound and is EXCEPTIONALLY QUIET. Zoot Sims, Al Cohen, Lee Konitz and Allan Eager all play on this record. A pretty hot lineup if I do say so!

More Gerry Mulligan


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Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: burremidni_2019) 



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

Both sides have that Midnight Blue magic -- superb transparency, plenty of deep bass, silky highs, and TONS of energy. The sound of the congas on this copy is wonderful -- so punchy with clearly audible transients and so much ambience, it sounded to us like Ray Barretto was right there in the room with us, over by the left speaker.

More Kenny Burrell


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Dusty Springfield - Dusty In Memphis

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: sprindusty_2011) 



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

The Gold Standard for Female Vocal Blue-Eyed Soul is here in White Hot Stamper form! It takes us AGES to pull together enough clean copies to get this shootout going, and this one was a HUGE step up from most of them. We're always looking for a killer pressing (who out there doesn't want to hear Son Of A Preacher Man sound great?) but it is difficult to find one that does half as many things right as this one does!


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Earl Fatha Hines - Fatha

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: hinesfatha_2008) 



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

This M&K Direct to Disc SMOKED the copy we played it against -- the difference was NIGHT and DAY! The sound is smoother, sweeter, and richer than we are used to hearing for this album. There''s lots of space around the drums, and the tuba sounds Right On The Money. You aren't going to believe how DYNAMIC this copy is -- when Fatha's really pounding on the keys, you're gonna jump out of your chair! The overall sound is clean, clear, lively, and super transparent. The edgy, hard piano sound that plagued our lesser copy is nowhere to be found.

More Direct to Disc recordings


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The Doors - Morrison Hotel

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: doorsmorri_2018) 



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

Rich, big and full-bodied, with clarity and energy to spare, this is the way you want to hear the Doors' Bluesy Rock. Roadhouse Blues, Waiting For The Sun and Maggie McGill are KILLER on this pressing - all you Doors fans are gonna flip. Circus Magazine praised it as "possibly the best album yet from the Doors" and "Good hard, evil rock, and one of the best albums released this decade."

More by The Doors


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Sonny Rollins - Sound of Sonny

Reviewed in 2007

  (Item #: rollisound_2007) 



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

Riverside White and Blue original 2 Mic Label Mono LP. Side one sounds like a typical old Riverside jazz record, but side two sounds EXCELLENT! I don’t know when I’ve heard an early Sonny Rollins record sound better. His horn is really full-bodied and dynamic and has amazing IMMEDIACY on some tracks. It makes side one sound sick in comparison.

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Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow

What to Listen For

  (Item #: jeffesurre_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 of Surrealistic Pillow have three things in common.

1) Low Distortion, 2) Driving Rock and Roll Energy and 3) Plenty of Tubey Magic.

It's the exceedingly rare copy that has all three. The more of each of these qualities any given pressing has, the higher the sonic grades we will award it.

More Jefferson Airplane


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Rita Coolidge - It's Only Love

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: cooliitson_2019) 



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

We've been going through a number of Rita's albums lately, and with It's Only Love we feel we've discovered the best sounding of them all, and as luck would have it, it also happens to contain her best music. Fans of Linda Ronstadt's '70s music are going to find a lot of Tubey Magical sound to like here - this is a simply wonderful example of the kind of album that makes record collecting fun. John Haeny, the principal engineer for Rita and hubby Kris Kristofferson during the '70s, in fact worked on some of Linda's albums, as well as those by Judy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Little Feat and many others.

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Rita Coolidge - Nice Feelin’

Reviewed in 2010

  (Item #: coolinicef_2010) 



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

A very well recorded album. It’s easy to see why - two of the engineers are none other than Bruce Botnick and Glyn Johns. Al Kooper's here too.

It is amazing given the exposure Rita Coolidge obtained through the Mad Dogs & Englishmen soundtrack that her second album for A & M is such a cult item. Covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Graham Nash and participation by names like Al Kooper, Glyn Johns, Bruce Botnick, and Marc Benno should have made this record her breakthrough..." AMG

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Gerry Mulligan - Spring Is Sprung

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: mullisprin_2018) 



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

With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides, it just doesn't get any better than this copy of Mulligan's superb sounding and Hard To Find 1963 release on the rare Philips label. Phil Ramone made sure the album would be exceptionally well-recorded, which it is! Big, rich, and Tubey Magical, here is Mulligan's quartet with the energy and clarity these classic jazz performances deserve.

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Liszt, Enesco, Smetana / Rhapsodies - Stokowski

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: lisztrhaps_classic_records) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

The lower strings are wonderful on the original -- wall to wall, with that rosiny texture we love. I wrote at the time -- this is twenty or so years ago -- that the Classic pressing took that rich, dark sound and brightened it up, naturally ruining it in the process. Cellos and double basses just don't sound like that. On the best pressings of LSC 2471 their timbre is Right On The Money. Of course, that's is the real thing, not some audiophile rebutchering.

Now if you're a Classic Records fan, and you like that brighter, more detailed, more aggressive sound, the original is probably not the record for you.


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Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto #3 / Janis / Dorati

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: rachmpiano_90283_2013) 



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

This Super Hot Stamper (or better) original Colorback Mercury pressing is not only the BEST sounding copy we have ever heard, it also boasts the quietest side one we've experienced, playing mostly Mint Minus. For a fifty year old Mercury that is QUIET.

Not only is the sound amazing -- yes, it's on the TAS Super Disc list, and for good reason, a copy as good as this one really is a Super Disc -- but this copy has another vitally important characteristic that most copies of the record do not: virtually no Inner Groove Distortion.

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)


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Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto #3 / Janis / Munch

Reviewed in 2007

  (Item #: rachmpiano3_1032_2007) 



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

Outstanding! Sounds just like the already very good shaded dog, in many ways better. (I don''t have that one around to compare anymore but this LP has that same natural, smooth sound, while being cut a bit cleaner.)

We have two copies of this Victrola, both with the same stamper numbers, and this is definitely the better of the two sonically. It has more presence, more transparency and better dynamics.

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)


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Liszt - Preludes / Wagner - Various / Mehta

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: lisztprelu_6298_2013) 



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

This Unboxed Decca Deep Groove UK pressing on heavyweight vinyl from 1967 has Super Hot Stamper sound on side one. This is the side that has Les Preludes in its entirety, and what a powerful piece of music it is.

Much of what we like about Decca/London from the period (mid- to late-'60s, in this case 1967) can be heard on this pressing: the wonderful transparency; the richly textured lower strings; the natural timbre of the instruments. If only side two sounded as good!

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886)


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Liszt & Weber / Ballade No. 2, Mephisto Waltz, more / Bar-Illan

Reviewed in 2011

  (Item #: lisztpiano_audiofon_2011) 



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

The Liszt side here actually has the best sound. This is one of the few audiophile-oriented recordings I have ever played that actually sounded NATURAL and CORRECT. This is a very real sounding piano; there are not many recordings that can capture that instrument's weight, but this one sure does.

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886)


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Count Basie - Kansas City 5

Our Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: basiekansas_city_5_2016) 



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

Another amazingly well recorded Count Basie album, and this one is killer with Triple Triple grades. It's bigger, more solid and rich, with extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum that no other copy could match. First time on the site - a great session with a fresh sound for Basie, with Milt Jackson on vibes and Joe Pass on guitar.

More Count Basie


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Rachmaninoff/ Piano Concerto #1/ Janis / Reiner

Reviewed in 2005

  (Item #: rachmpiano_1101_2005) 



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

This is a Minty RCA Victrola Plum Label LP. I used to think that the Classic was better than the Vic, and in some ways it may be, but I hear a lot of midrange magic on this LP that I don't think you can find on the Classic pressing.[No kidding.]

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)


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Count Basie - Basie Big Band

The Glorious Sound of Triple Flutes

  (Item #: basiebasie_big_band_wtlf) 



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

Check out the triple flutes on the first track on side two - on a copy like this you will hear some shockingly Tubey Magical, breathy, sweet, natural flutes. And there are three of them! Even large classical orchestras rarely have three flutes. The sound is to die for.

More Count Basie


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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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Count Basie - Basie Plays Hefti

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: basiebaise_plays_2015) 



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

This is the followup to the smash Basie album The Atomic Mr. Basie, an album we would love to make available if we could ever find a clean, good sounding copy to play.

Side one is rich, tubey and lively, right up there with some of the best pressings we played.

Side two tends to start out a bit hot but by the second track it's fuller, smoother, and every bit as dynamic as anything on the album. The sound just keeps getting better from there, with the next track coming across especially big and clear.

More Count Basie


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Bloch / Sinfonia Breve / Dorati

Reviewed in 2004

  (Item #: blochsinfo_90288_2004) 



This is a very nice looking Mercury Living Presence LP with decent sound. It's an RFR pressing. Both pieces here are conducted by the Minneapolis Symphony. Also included is Free Variations for Orchestra by Peterson.
More Mercury Recordings


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Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra - Viva Cugat

Reviewed in 2011

  (Item #: cugatvivac_6003_2011) 



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

This crazy Cugat record (is there any other kind?) is a BALL and has absolutely amazing Demo Disc quality sound on side two, better than Super Hot Stamper quality.

It sounds like Henry Mancini on speed, and the recording quality puts most of Mancini's records to shame to boot. This is Bachelor Pad music for those who like their Bachelor Pad to be FUN!

More Exotica


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Schuller / Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee / Dorati

Reviewed in 2006

  (Item #: schulseven_2006) 



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

RFR1/ 2. DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND.

This record has the sound that Mercury is famous for: immediate, dynamic and spacious. This record lives up to the Mercury claim: You immediately feel as though you are in the Living Presence of the orchestra.

This is precisely the kind of record that Speakers Corner would not have a clue how to master. I'd stake my reputation on it, for what it's worth.

Classical Commentaries


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A Frequently Asked Question

Are Hot Stampers a good investment?

  (Item #: hot_stampers_faq_investment) 



Hot Stampers sure sound better than other records, but do they have any real "collector" value?

Not really. On the surface they look just like any other pressing, so their market value cannot be established or verified in any meaningful way. The value of a Hot Stamper pressing is almost purely subjective: they exist only to provide listening pleasure to their owner. Yes, a Pink Label Island pressing of In the Court of the Crimson King is worth big bucks, but is it worth the $850 we charged recently if you were to try and resell it? Probably not.

I understand why a record collector would be confused by this notion of subjective and limited value. Collecting records is mostly about buying, selling and owning various kinds of records.

Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions


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Harry Belafonte - Belafonte at Carnegie Hall

Our Shootout Winner from 2019

  (Item #: belafbelaf_2019) 



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

From an audiophile point of view, you get to hear live musicians and all the energy they bring to this music, all on the stage at the same time: strings, brass, percussionists and Harry Belafonte front and center. Tube mics (and not too many of them), a tube tape recorder, RCA's superb engineering and all-tube mastering chain ensure that the "breath of life" is captured intact. I know of no better live popular vocal recording on the planet.

More Harry Belafonte


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The Who - Live at Leeds

None Rocks Harder

  (Item #: who__livea_rocks_harder) 



The best copies of Live at Leeds just plain ROCK HARDER than other copies. 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 their tremendous energy. The music EXPLODES out of the speakers and comes to life on the best copies of Live at Leeds like few records you have ever heard. When we find that kind of power and energy on a record, all other things being equal, we know their stampers are White Hot.

More Live at Leeds


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Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

What to Listen For

  (Item #: john_goodb_choruses) 



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

The richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality is most obvious where you often hear it on a Pop Rock Big Production like GYBR: in the loudest, densest, most climactic choruses.

We set the playback volume so that the loudest parts of the record are as huge and powerful as they can possibly become without crossing the line into distortion or congestion.

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The Recordings of Duke Ellington

These Four Didn't Make the Grade

  (Item #: ellington_duke) 



These are just some of the recordings by Duke Ellington that we've auditioned recently and found wanting. Without going into specifics we'll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame.

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

Duke Ellington Albums with Hot Stampers

Duke Ellington Albums We've Reviewed



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