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Andy Johns

One of Our Favorite Engineers

  (Item #: allandyjohns) 



ANDY JOHNS is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. Click on the link to find our in-stock Andy Johns engineered or produced albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries.
Andy Johns Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Andy Johns Engineered Albums We've Reviewed



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Blind Faith - Blind Faith

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: blindblind_2010) 



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

This early British pressing SLAUGHTERED all the other pressings we played it against! It's the Blind Faith you’ve been waiting for: Tubey Magical, Transparent, full of Life and Energy -- dear friends, it’s all here! And the vinyl is some of the quietest we've ever heard for this album.

Sick of buying one harsh, thin, distorted, murky LP after another in a vain attempt to find a copy that reminds you of why you LOVED this record so much when it came out back in 1969?

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Free - Tons Of Sobs

  (Item #: free_tonso_1401) 



TWO AMAZING SIDES for this underappreciated classic! This is exactly the kind of sound you want on an album like this -- Big and Bold! If you've got the full range dynamic speakers to play the album good and loud, you will discover, as we have, what a powerful British Blues Rock album this is. No hits, just heavy electric blues played with feeling, a year before Zeppelin came along.
See all pressings of this album in stock


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Nearly White Hot Stamper

Humble Pie
Rock On

  (Item #: humblrocko_1904) 

Our Price: $199.99

  • With nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, this pressing will show you a Rock On you have never heard
  • The sound of this copy has hard rockin' energy to spare - Shine On is amazing here
  • An outstanding classic Glyn Johns recording - we were knocked out by the full-bodied, Tubey Magical sound of the best pressings
  • 4 stars: "The record has an undeniable live feel to it, due in part to Glyn Johns' humble yet precise recording, framing the group as if they were a boogie version of the Band."
More Humble Pie / More Peter Frampton


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Humble Pie - Rock On

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: humblrocko_2009) 



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

This record is the very definition of TUBEY MAGIC. The sound is so rich and sweet it will make you want to take all your CDs and dump them in the trash, if you haven’t done so already.

This is the sound WE LOVE here at Better Records, assuming the pressing in question still maintains some degree of presence, immediacy and transparency. Records like this can easily get thick and muddy; think of the typically dull Who’s Next or Sticky Fingers and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

More Humble Pie / More Peter Frampton


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Super Hot Stamper

Jethro Tull
Stand Up

  (Item #: jethrstand_1902_1) 

Our Price: $129.99

  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two and a side one that's right up there with it, this copy has much to recommend it
  • This Jethro Tull Classic is a tough record to come by with this kind of sound and vinyl that plays so QUIETLY
  • Tull's best album? It gets my vote, and this copy will make the case if you turn it up good and loud
  • "Stand Up! has great textural interest, due, in part, to a more sophisticated recording technique, in part to the organ, mandolin, balalaika, etc., which Anderson plays to enrich each song. The band is able to work with different musical styles, but without a trace of the facile, glib manipulation which strains for attention."
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Jethro Tull - Stand Up

Notes from 2006

  (Item #: jethrstand_2006) 



This Island Pink Label Original British pressing has ABSOLUTELY AMAZING SOUND! We mention that there was a Sunray pressing that may have been even better, but I didn’t have this copy in hand to compare the Sunray to, so I can’t be sure that pressing was any better. This one sounds as good as any I've ever heard.

It's amazingly dynamic and powerful, yet full of tubey magic. I played almost ten different pressings of this record today (11/08/06): every domestic label variation and a handful of imports. This copy is clearly the best of the batch.

More Stand Up


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Jethro Tull - Stand Up

Notes from 2009

  (Item #: jethrstand_2009) 



A distinguished member of our Better Records Hall of Fame.

Our last shootout for Stand Up was over a year ago, early in 2008. By some good fortune we have been able to find a number of fairly clean early British pressings, with both Pink and Sunray labels, as well as some very good sounding domestics. (Yes, they are out there. Few and far between and probably not the ones you would think to buy but out there nonetheless. Buy enough of them and clean them right and you will find some too.)

More Stand Up


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Jethro Tull's Stand Up

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: jethrstand_listen) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

It's very common for pressings of Stand Up to lack bass or highs, and more often than not they lack both. The bass-shy ones tend to be more transparent and open sounding -- of course, that's the sound you get when you take out the bass. (90 plus percent of all the audiophile stereos I've ever heard were bass shy, no doubt for precisely that reason: less bass equals more detail, more openness and more transparency. Go to any stereo store or audiophile show and notice how bright the sound is.)

Just what good is a British Classic Rock Record that lacks bass? It won't rock, and if it don't rock, who needs it? You might as well be playing the CD.

More Stand Up


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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: ledze2_2017) 



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

This pressing just knocked us out from beginning to end -- this is the Zep II sound you want.

At least 80% of the copies we buy these days -- for many hundreds of dollars each I might add -- go right back to the seller. The biggest problem we run into besides obvious scratches that play and worn out grooves is easy to spot: just play the song Thank You at the end of side one. Most of the time there is inner groove damage so bad that the track becomes virtually unlistenable.

See all of our Led Zeppelin albums in stock


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Led Zeppelin - II

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: ledze2_classic_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

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

An absolute DISASTER -- ridiculously bright, ridiculously crude, in short, a completely unlistenable piece of garbage.

Over the years we have done many Led Zeppelin shootouts, often including the Classic Heavy Vinyl Pressings as a "reference". After all, the Classic pressings are considered by many -- if not most -- audiophiles to be superior to other pressings. If you don't believe me go to the forums and read for yourself.

More Led Zeppelin


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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II

None Rocks Harder

  (Item #: ledze2_loud) 


It's official: we're inaugurating a Top Ten Best Sounding Rock / Pop Album List, and the first member to be inducted is none other than our old favorite, Led Zeppelin II.

It's also yet another in a very long line of records that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. We're convinced Zep II has to be the hardest rocking album of all time. The best copies -- often with the same stampers as the not-as-good copies by the way -- have a LIFE and a POWER to them that simply cannot be found on other records.

More Led Zeppelin


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Super Hot Stamper

Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin III

  (Item #: ledze3_1903x) 

Our Price: $249.99

  • Outstanding sound throughout with each side earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight down low and lots of space around all the instruments, this copy is guaranteed to rock like nothing you have ever heard
  • Since I've Been Loving You, Gallows Pole, Tangerine and That's the Way have truly awesome Demo Disc sound
  • "On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth."
See all of our Led Zeppelin albums in stock


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White Hot Stamper

Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin III

  (Item #: ledze3_1905) 

Our Price: $749.99

  • With two Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning sides, this copy will lay waste to any pressing you've heard
  • Drop the needle on Since I've Been Loving You, turn it up good and loud and Zep will be right there between your speakers for the live concert of a lifetime
  • Immigrant Song, Celebration Day and Tangerine are among the tracks that have truly awesome Demo Disc sound - the vinyl's fairly quiet too
  • 5 stars: "...Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth."
See all of our Led Zeppelin albums in stock


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Led Zeppelin - III

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: ledze3_2008) 



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

It is INCREDIBLY difficult to find knockout copies of Zep III -- of the dozen-plus copies we auditioned, this British Import Plum & Orange pressing was the only one with two superb sides, with an AGAIG A+++ side two and a side one that's just half a step behind at A++ - A+++. Folks, when I tell you that it is no mean feat to find a decent copy of this album, I am not joking around.

More Led Zeppelin


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Led Zeppelin - III

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: ledze3_classic_records) 



Sonic Grade: F

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

Ridiculously bright and harsh, we are proud to say this was one of the Classic Zep releases that we never carried on the site (along with II and Houses, both of which stink).

More Led Zeppelin


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Led Zeppelin III

Proof that Jimmy Page Was a Brilliant Producer

  (Item #: ledze3_page) 



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

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

More Led Zeppelin


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Super Hot Stamper

Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV

  (Item #: ledze4_1904) 

Our Price: $249.99

  • A Hard Rockin' Zep IV, one that earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides
  • Dramatically fuller and smoother than most, making it possible to get the volume up good and loud where it belongs
  • Here they are: Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway, When the Levee Breaks, and more, sounding better than you've ever heard them
  • 5 stars: "Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of '70s hard rock."
See all of our Led Zeppelin albums in stock


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Led Zeppelin - IV

With This Copy You Better Be Ready to Rock

  (Item #: ledze4_2012) 



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.

We did a massive shootout in 2012 for Zep's beloved fourth album and this British pressing earned a nearly perfect score with some of the BIGGEST, BOLDEST, HARDEST Rockin' sound we have ever heard on the album. Without a doubt this is the best sounding IV side two we've ever played, with the biggest bottom of them all.

More Led Zeppelin


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Led Zeppelin - IV

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: ledze4_depth) 



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

We always have a great time doing Zep IV shootouts. It's one of those all-too-rare cases where amazing music and amazing sonics coexist on the same slab of vinyl. You just need to find the right slab, a proposition that turns out to be much harder than it sounds.

You probably know by now just how tough it is to find audiophile quality sonics on this album. Far too many copies just leave us cold, but the best pressings, whether British or domestic, are so good, and so much fun at the loud volumes we employ, that it ends up being worth all the time, trouble and expense it takes to wade through the vinyl dreck to find them.

More Led Zeppelin


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Led Zeppelin - Coda

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: ledzecode_2010) 



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.

TWO GREAT SIDES and QUIET VINYL on this Swan Song pressing, one of the few good sounding copies we've ever played. We just sat down with the dozen-plus copies of Coda that made it through our preliminary round and only found a few that were worth writing home around. Most copies are too dry, grainy, and/or dull to get excited about, but this one is a MONSTER.

More Led Zeppelin


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Super Hot Stamper

Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy

  (Item #: ledzehouse_1903_2) 

Our Price: $199.99

  • Two SUPERB Tubey Magical sides, each earning very strong Double Plus (A++) grades and playing reasonably well for this album, about as quiet a copy as can be found
  • The sound here is big, lively, transparent (check out The Rain Song) and energetic (The Song Remains the Same is really rockin')
  • A Better Records Top 100 album (along with 4 other Zep titles), 5 Stars in AMG and a True Zeppelin Must Own Classic
  • "Jimmy Page's riffs rely on ringing, folky hooks as much as they do on thundering blues-rock, giving the album a lighter, more open atmosphere..."
See all of Led Zeppelin albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper (With Issues)

Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy

  (Item #: ledzehouse_1905) 

Our Price: $199.99

  • You'll find outstanding, tubey magical, Double Plus (A++) grades and exceptionally quiet vinyl (with a small issue noted below), on both sides of this Zep classic
  • The sound here is big, lively, transparent (check out The Rain Song) and energetic (The Song Remains the Same is really rockin')
  • A Better Records Top 100 album (along with 4 other Zep titles), 5 Stars in AMG and a True Zeppelin Must Own Classic
  • "Jimmy Page's riffs rely on ringing, folky hooks as much as they do on thundering blues-rock, giving the album a lighter, more open atmosphere..."
See all of Led Zeppelin albums in stock


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Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: ledzehouse_classic_records) 



Sonic Grade: F

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

We can describe the sound in two words: ridiculously bright. Honestly, what more need be said?

Over the years we have done many Led Zeppelin shootouts, often including the Classic Heavy Vinyl Pressings for comparison purposes. After all, these Classic LPs are what many -- perhaps most -- audiophiles consider superior to other pressings.

More Houses of the Holy


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Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: ledzehouse_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 Led Zeppelin's momentous 1973 release, Houses of the Holy.

You really get an understanding of just how much of a production genius Jimmy Page was when you listen to a copy of Houses with the kind of resolution and transparency found on our best copies. To take just one example, just listen to how clearly the multi-tracked guitars can be heard in the different layers and areas of the soundstage. On some songs you will have no trouble picking out three, four and even more guitars playing, each with its own unique character.

More Houses of the Holy


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Super Hot Stamper

Led Zeppelin
Physical Graffiti

  (Item #: ledzephysi_1903_2) 

Our Price: $249.99

  • This copy is outstanding from first note to last, earning Double Plus (A++) sonic grades or BETTER on sides one, two and four and just shy of Double Plus (A+ to A++) on the third side
  • Here's the energy, presence, and sheer rock and roll power that lets this music come to life like you've never heard in your life
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout with all four sides playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • 5 stars: "Captures the whole experience of Led Zeppelin at the top of their game better than any of their other albums."
See all of our Led Zeppelin albums in stock


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Nearly White Hot Stamper

Led Zeppelin
Physical Graffiti

  (Item #: ledzephysi_1905) 

Our Price: $499.99

  • This copy is amazing on every side, earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on three out of its four sides and incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the fourth side, which means it sounds an awful lot like our recent Shootout Winner (the one that sold for $1000)
  • Here's the energy, presence, and sheer rock and roll power that lets this music come to life like you never even imagined it could
  • 5 stars: "...its appeal lies in its great sprawl, since it captures elements of the band's personality rarely showcased elsewhere — and even at its worst, Physical Graffiti towers above its hard rock peers of the mid-'70s."
See all of our Led Zeppelin albums in stock


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Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: ledzephysi_2008) 



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.

Zep fans, rejoice -- PHYSICAL GRAFFITI HOT STAMPERS ARE HERE! We thought this day might never come. As you probably know by now, most copies of this album just plain suck!

More Led Zeppelin


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Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: ledzephysi_classic_records) 



Sonic Grade: D

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

Tonally correct, which is one thing you can't say for most of the Zeps in this series, that's for sure. Those of you with crappy domestic copies, crappy imported reissues and crappy CDs, which is pretty much all there is of this recording, will not know what you're missing.

More Led Zeppelin


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Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti

Breaking Down the Engineers

  (Item #: ledzephysi_engineers) 



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

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

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Joni Mitchell - Shadows and Light

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: mitchshado_2011) 



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

FOUR INCREDIBLE SIDES! We had a huge shootout for this famous double album and this copy blew our minds with a pair each of White Hot and Super Hot sides and quiet vinyl throughout. In the high-stakes game of Better Records Double Album Poker, that's a full house, my man! Sides one and three earned the A+++ grades while sides two and four were close behind at A++. This one gives you the kind of YOU ARE THERE immediacy and transparency that put you front and center for a late '70s jazzy Joni Mitchell show. Not too many copies will do that!

See all of our Joni Mitchell albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Renaissance
Renaissance

  (Item #: renairenai_1705_1903) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • A killer copy and the first to hit the site in three years - Double Plus (A++) or better on both sides
  • This is an outstanding recording. And why shouldn't it be? It's engineered by Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin II and many more)
  • "The original group's debut album was a then-groundbreaking meld of progressive rock with classical and jazz influences... [it's] far druggier than the later group in its ambience (cofounders Keith Relf and Jim McCarty were the heavily psychedelic half of the final lineup of the Yardbirds, which made them anathema to Jimmy Page), but vocalist Jane Relf had a striking individual style, and the classical influence was unique for its time."
See all of our Renaissance albums in stock


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Renaissance - Renaissance

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: renairenai_2012) 



Prog fans take note: this is one AMAZING sounding recording.

And why shouldn't it be? It's engineered by ANDY JOHNS (Led Zeppelin II and many more) and produced by Paul Samwell-Smith (Cat Stevens!), so its audiophile credentials are more than in order. Some of the best recordings we have ever heard involved one of these guys, and on this one you get them both. That's almost too much production talent for one album.

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Super Hot Stamper

The Rolling Stones
Goats Head Soup

  (Item #: rolligoats_1902_2) 

Our Price: $199.99

  • You'll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last on this superb copy of Goats Head Soup
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard
  • Who knew the record could sound this good? Certainly not us - we had no luck with this album for years
  • "This may not be as downright funky, freaky, and fantastic as Exile, yet the extra layer of gloss brings out the enunciated lyrics, added strings, wah-wah guitars, explicit sex, and violence, making it all seem trippily decadent..."
See all of our Rolling Stones albums in stock


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The Rolling Stones - Goats Head Soup

Live and Learn, A Lesson from 2011

  (Item #: rolligoats_2011) 



This is a classic case of Live and Learn.

We would agree with very little of what we had to say about Goat's Head Soup as a recording when we wrote about it back in 2011 -- and for the previous 35+ years since I first played a domestic original.

Having done a big shootout for the album in 2016 we now know there most certainly are great sounding pressings to be found, because we found some. The data are in, and now we know just how wrong we were. In our defense, let me just ask one question: Did anybody else know this record was well recorded? I can find no evidence to support anyone having ever taken such a contrarian position.

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The Rolling Stones - Goats Head Soup

Our Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: rolligoats_2016) 



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

The impossible has happened - we found a good sounding copy of Goats Head Soup, only 53 years after it was first released.

Why did it take us so long to find a killer copy? Let's just say the pressing is somewhat "off the beaten path" and leave it at that. We ran into it by accident during an attempted shootout not long ago, and it was so much better than the other records we were playing at the time that we had to postpone the shootout until we could find more of these specific pressings. It took some months but we managed to get a big pile of "happy accidents" together and the result was a gamechanging White Hot copy.

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Super Hot Stamper

The Rolling Stones
It's Only Rock 'N' Roll

  (Item #: rolliitson_1904_1) 

Our Price: $119.99

  • An outstanding early pressing of this Rolling Stones classic, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The best pressings are cleaner and clearer, with much less grit and grain - richness is also key to the sound of the killer copies
  • The superbly talented Andy Johns engineered, so you can be sure that this is the sound the Stones were aiming for
  • "Throughout, the Stones wear their title as the "World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band" with a defiant smirk, which makes the bitter cynicism of "If You Can't Rock Me" and the title track all the more striking, and the reggae experimentation... all the more enjoyable."
See all of our Rolling Stones albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

The Rolling Stones
Sticky Fingers

  (Item #: rollistick_1905) 

Our Price: $299.99

  • This outstanding copy of Sticky Fingers boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last
  • Finally, with the best vintage pressings we can hear the power and the beauty of this truly superb recording
  • A landmark Glyn Johns / Andy Johns recording, our favorite by the Stones, a Top 100 Title (of course) and 5 stars on Allmusic (ditto)
  • Q magazine said this was "the Stones at their assured, showboating peak ... A magic formula of heavy soul, junkie blues and macho rock."
See all of our Rolling Stones albums in stock


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The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

Worst Version Ever!

  (Item #: rollistick_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

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

This RTI 180g copy (with the zipper cover) is one of a series of five titles Bob Ludwig cut in the ’90s. According to the man, after cutting the record he chanced upon a consumer copy and was shocked to hear how bad it sounded.

It sounded, according to him, nothing like the record he had cut. Somehow they had botched the pressings and ruined the sound. How this could happen I can’t imagine.

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The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: rollistick_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Sticky Fingers.

A QUICK TEST: The best copies have texture and real dynamics in the brass. The bad copies are smeared, grainy and unpleasant when the brass comes in. Toss those bad ones and start shooting out the good ones. Believe me, if you find a good one it will be worth all the work.

And don't forget to Turn Up Your Volume.

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The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: rollistick_mofi_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a joke. It’s so compressed, lifeless, and lacking in bottom end that it would hardly interfere with even the most polite conversation at a wine tasting. I consider it one of the worst sounding versions ot the album ever made. It’s an Audiophile Record in the worst sense of the word.

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The Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request

Our Shootout Winner from 2007

  (Item #: rollitheir_2007) 



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

HARD ROCKIN’ STONES MAGIC AND QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES! We’ve never heard another copy of this album that sounded as amazing as this one. Both sides took top honors in our shootout -- A+++ for side one, and A++ - A+++ for side two.

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Leon Russell - Leon Russell and the Shelter People

We Broke Through in 2017

  (Item #: russeleonr_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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Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: spookspook_2009) 



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

This very nice looking Island Sunray British Import LP has AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES (with caveats!). Side one is super rich and full of tubey magic. It can be ever so slightly grainy and strained but when the sound is this good who cares!? Andy Johns is the man behind the console here, which explains why the album is so well recorded. If you’re a fan of Black Sabbath you’ll find much to like here; this is psych rock at its best.

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Hot Stamper

Stephen Stills
Stephen Stills

  (Item #: stillsteph_1802_1904-) 

Our Price: $49.99

  • A Stephen Stills classic, this pressing boasts Hot Stamper sound and relatively quiet vinyl on both sides
  • This is Stills' masterpiece and, when all the elements are working together on a good pressing, the music sounds amazing
  • A triumph of engineering for Bill Halverson and Andy Johns - this and Deja Vu are both landmarks of Big Production Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars: "Listening to this album three decades on, it's still a jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu, and only a shade less important than either of them."
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Super Hot Stamper

Stephen Stills
Stephen Stills

  (Item #: stillsteph_1812_1904) 

Our Price: $129.99

  • An outstanding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to the last - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is HUGE, lively, rich and tubey, with unusually high resolution for the big choruses on side one
  • Love the One You're With and Sit Yourself Down are to die for, but there's really not a bad track on the album
  • A triumph of engineering for Bill Halverson and Andy Johns - this and Deja Vu are both landmarks of Big Production Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars in the AMG: "Listening to this album three decades on, it's still a jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu, and only a shade less important than either of them."
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White Hot Stamper

Stephen Stills
Stephen Stills

  (Item #: stillsteph_1905) 

Our Price: $249.99

  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this copy of Still's amazing debut is as good as it gets
  • Love the One You're With and Sit Yourself Down are to die for, but there's really not a bad track on the album
  • A triumph of engineering for Bill Halverson and Andy Johns - this and Deja Vu are the very definition of Big Production Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars: "Listening to this album three decades on, it's still a jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu, and only a shade less important than either of them."
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Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: stillsteph_2008) 



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

TWO YEARS LATER, Stephen Stills Hot Stampers are BACK! We’ve had an unbelievably hard time finding copies of this album that lived up to our expectations, prompting much of my crew to argue that it just could not be done. Folks, today is the day where the Doubting Thomases of Better Records are proven WRONG. We didn’t find copies that sounded just as good as I remembered -- no, we found copies that went BEYOND what I had hoped for. To the CSN(Y) fans who visit our site, and I know there are lots of you, prepare to be BLOWN AWAY. You are going to freak out over this record!

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Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: stillsteph_2018) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Rock Classic.

Love the One You're With and Sit Yourself Down are to die for, but there's really not a bad track on the album. A triumph of engineering for Bill Halverson and Andy Johns - this and Deja Vu are the very definition of Big Production Rock.

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Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills

Bill Halverson's Engineering Masterpiece?

  (Item #: stillsteph_wtlf) 



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

When all the elements are working together as they do here, the music on Steve Stills' first album is postively AMAZING. Until I hear something better, I'm going to have to call this BILL HALVERSON's Engineering Masterpiece.* Yes, on the best copies it's that good.

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White Hot Stamper

Ten Years After
Cricklewood Green

  (Item #: tenyecrick_1808_1902) 

Our Price: $249.99

  • This Chrysalis UK LP boasts killer Triple Plus (A+++) Heavy British Rock sound or very close to it on both sides
  • It's rich and smooth with an impressive bottom end, qualities that bring out the best in this bluesy music
  • "Me and My Baby" sounds particularly good here, like it was recorded live in the studio (which it probably was)
  • 4 1/2 stars: "Cricklewood Green provides the best example of Ten Years After's recorded sound. ...the band and engineer Andy Johns mix studio tricks and sound effects, blues-based song structures, a driving rhythm section, and Alvin Lee's signature lightning-fast guitar licks into a unified album that flows nicely from start to finish."
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Ten Years After - Cricklewood Green

Reviewed in 2010

  (Item #: tenyecrick_2010) 



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

This very nice looking original Deram British Import LP has that good old Heavy British Rock sound. It’s lively if a bit crude, but that’s pretty much the way these bands were recorded. The sound varies quite a bit from track to track, with some sounding noticeably better than others. Not much new there.

’Me and My Baby’ is a particularly good sounding song here. It sounds like it was recorded live in the studio, and it probably was!

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White Hot Stamper

Traffic
John Barleycorn Must Die

  (Item #: traffjohnb_1904) 

Our Price: $349.99

  • An outstanding copy of this Traffic Classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Both sides have the vintage analog sound we love - rich and smooth, with plenty of Tubey Magic, bottom end weight and studio space
  • Arguably their best album, certainly their most groundbreaking, original and involving - Low Spark would rank a close second
  • "...the band sounds utterly grounded. As the grooves percolate effortlessly along, it becomes clear that unity, not any technical skill, is what makes the music levitate."
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Super Hot Stamper

Traffic
John Barleycorn Must Die

  (Item #: traffjohnb_1904_1) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • With two seriously good sides each rating a Double Plus (A++) or BETTER, this copy was one of the better pressings we played in our shootout
  • Both sides have the vintage analog sound we love - rich and smooth, with plenty of Tubey Magic and studio space
  • Arguably their best album, certainly their most groundbreaking, original and involving - Low Spark would rank a close second
  • "...the band sounds utterly grounded. As the grooves percolate effortlessly along, it becomes clear that unity, not any technical skill, is what makes the music levitate."
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Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: traffjohnb_2012) 



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

This White Hot Stamper side one is OUT OF THIS WORLD -- the new KING for this album! We played a huge number of pressings -- Pink Labels, United Artists originals and reissues -- and this side one was completely UNMATCHED. What put it in a league of its own? BIG ENERGY for one thing. Side one of this copy was jumping out of the speakers in a way that took us completely by surprise. We had a dozen clean copies, that's 24 sides, and this was the only one that showed us just how lively and clear that side one master tape must be.

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Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: traffjohnb_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For as you critically evaluate your copy of John Barleycorn Must Die.

The toughest test on side two is the first track, Stranger to Himself. Getting the voices right is practically impossible. If the voices are full, smooth, yet breathy and clear, you have that rare copy that actually gets the midrange right. Not many do.

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Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die

Listen for Winwood's Left Hand

  (Item #: traffjohnb_wtlf_2015) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For.

We learned something new a few years back about John Barleycorn while playing an especially TRANSPARENT copy. This pressing made it clear -- really, for the first time -- exactly what Winwood was doing with his left hand on the piano during the song Glad.

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