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Badfinger - Straight Up

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: badfistrai_2010) 



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

This relatively quiet WHITE HOT STAMPER Straight Up is KILLER, with a A++ side one and an A+++ side two -- you can't do much better than that! Side two has Master Tape Sound, the kind that we like to call AGAIG -- As Good As It Gets. Both sides have the kind of PRESENCE in the midrange that most copies can't begin to compete with. The sound here just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies of the album are supposed to (but rarely) do. For fans of the band -- and Power Pop in general -- this is the Straight Up you have been waiting for!

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Badfinger - Straight Up

Porky Not So Prime Cut

  (Item #: badfistrai_porky) 



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

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

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Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: blackblack_2015) 



Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

We played the album very loud, as loud as we could, and still we wanted more volume! That's what a good record is all about -- the louder you play it the better it sounds.

If you like the raw, rockin’ sound of early Zep, you should have a blast with this album. It's a shockingly good recording, and the music is of course as heavy as it gets for 1970.

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Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: costemyaim_2016) 



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

STUNNING! This insanely good pressing earned the rare FOUR PLUS (A++++) grade on side one -- it's OFF THE CHARTS! Side two is incredible as well, earning our standard top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) The sound is incredibly lively, punchy, and powerful; with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have. Relatively quiet for this album, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on both sides.

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Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

British Band, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: costemyaim_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

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

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


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Derek and The Dominos - Layla

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: dereklayla_listen) 



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.

The best copies of Layla are Tubey Magical, energetic, and tonally balanced. Most importantly, they sound CORRECT; you get the sense that you are hearing the music exactly as the band intended. The best sounding tracks have presence, clarity, and transparency like you have never heard -- that is, unless you've gone through a pile of copies the way we do.

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Electric Light Orchestra - On the Third Day

The British Imports Are Made from Dubs

  (Item #: electonthe_import) 



Sonic Grade: F

Presenting the newest member of our Hall of Shame.

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

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

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Bryan Ferry - Bete Noire

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: ferrybeten_2013) 



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

The domestic pressings are Direct Metal Mastered, the imports are not. Not being mastered DMM did not seem to confer any real benefit to the sound, which to us was a bit counterintuitive, but that's the reason we do shootouts, so we know the actual sound of the vinyl rather than the sound our biases would lead us to expect.

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Bryan Ferry - Boys And Girls

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: ferryboysa_2009) 



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

This domestic pressing has STUNNINGLY GOOD SOUND on side two! It's the best we’ve ever heard the album -- super high-resolution transparency coupled with amazing immediacy. And talk about energy -- the sound here positively JUMPS out of the speakers!

This side two blew our minds with its distortion-free sound, transparency and its punchy, note-like bass. The recording space is wall to wall HUGE, with amazing depth and three-dimensionality that's only hinted at by most of the pressings we played. It's meaty and punchy down low and there's plenty of extension up top.

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Bryan Ferry - Boys And Girls

What to Listen For

  (Item #: ferryboysa_wtlf) 



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

The song Valentine is a key test for side two. Note how processed Ferry's vocals are; on the best copies they will sound somewhat bright. The test is the background singers; they should sound tonally correct and silky sweet. If Ferry sounds correct, they will sound dull, and so will the rest of the side. That processed sound on his vocal is on the tape. Trying to "fix" it will ruin everything.

More Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music


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Bryan Ferry - The Bride Stripped Bare

British Guy, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: ferrybride_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

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

More Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music


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The Fleetwood Mac You Don't Know

The Self-Titled First Album & English Rose

  (Item #: fleetblack_2014) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from 1971.

You just can't write better songs than Love That Burns or Black Magic Woman, both of which can be found here. And Albatross, the mellow instrumental that closes out side four, was a Number One hit in the UK in 1969, can you believe it? It was backed on some releases by Need Your Love So Bad, another one of our all time favorite Fleetwood Mac songs. The band was on fire back when Peter Green was at the helm. These two LPs are proof enough.

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Fleetwood Mac - Future Games

Live and Learn

  (Item #: fleetfutur_wrong) 



As recently as October of 2005 we had Future Games all Wrong. Here is the very listing for what we believed at the time to be the best sounding version: The British Original. Hey, to be fair, it’s not bad, just far from the best.
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The Fleetwood Mac You Don't Know

Kiln House

  (Item #: fleetkilnh_know) 



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

Kiln House is one of the all-time great Fleetwood Mac albums. It’s the first they recorded after Peter Green left. With Green gone Jeremy Spencer’s influence came to the fore. He was apparently quite a fan of Buddy Holly. His songs are straightforward and consummately melodic.

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Fleetwood Mac - Mystery To Me

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: fleetmyste_2011) 



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.

Here it is, folks -- the best sounding copy of Mystery To Me to ever hit our site. This copy positively DOES IT ALL -- it's super open and spacious with tons of energy and incredible presence. The bottom end is just KILLER and there's dramatically more richness and fullness than you get on most copies out there.

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Fleetwood Mac - Mystery To Me

Whomp Factor on "Why"

  (Item #: fleetmyste_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.

There is an amazing bass drum on this album that plays on selective tracks, most notably the song "Why", and it will shake the foundation and knock your knick-knacks right off their shelves if you've got the woofers (and the room) to play it right. I was using this record to demo my system in the mid-'70s. I had a pair of Fulton Js and they could really pump out the low end this record needs.

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Jethro Tull - Aqualung

British Band, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: jethraqual_myth_2014) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

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

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

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Led Zeppelin on Vinyl

The British Pressings Are the Best, Right?

  (Item #: ledze_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

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

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

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Paul McCartney and Wings - At the Speed of Sound

Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: mccaratthe_2016) 



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

This is a classic case of Live and Learn. We were wrong about At the Speed of Sound as a recording. As to whether or not there are great sounding pressings of it, having just done a big shootout for the album in 2016 we now know there most certainly are.

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Paul McCartney - McCartney

British Artist, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: mccarmccar1_myth) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

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

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Queen - The Game

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: queengame_2011) 



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

Two SUPERB SIDES with side one beating all comers to achieve White Hot Stamper status! Throughout this copy you get solid bass, tubey magic, breathy vocals and BIG BOLD sound!

But watch out: this side one kicks it up to a whole 'nother level, with BIGGER energy, BIGGER bass and even more PRESENT and breathy vocals from Mr. Mercury. This is without a doubt some of the best sound we have ever heard for Queen, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

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Queen - The Game

What to Listen For

  (Item #: queengame_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.

The best sounding side ones were rarely as good as the best sounding side twos.

Even the good side ones tended to have a trace of harmonic distortion and compression that is simply nowhere to be found on the good side twos. How and why this is we have no idea. Since every copy had the same sonic issues we discounted it in our grading. Only the better copies bring the hits on side one to life and give them the size and power we know they can have.

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Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street

What to Listen For

  (Item #: rolliexile_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 will tend to have the qualities detailed below, and the more abundant these qualities are on any given pressing, the higher its grade will be.

Yes, it is a science, an empirical one, which can only be carried out by the use of strict protocols and controls, but it sure ain't rocket science. All you need is the system, the room, the records, the time and the will to do the painstaking critical listening required to carry out the task.

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The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: rolliletit_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.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I've mentioned how good this song sounds -- thanks to Glyn Johns, of course -- but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD. It's also our favorite test track for side one. The first minute or so clues you into to everything that's happening in the sound.

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Roxy Music - Siren

British Band, British Pressing, Right?

  (Item #: roxymsiren_2015) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

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

More Roxy Music / More Bryan Ferry


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Cat Stevens & TAS List Thoughts

Harry Pearson Is Losing It

  (Item #: stevemonab_tas) 



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

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: tenyeaspac_2010) 



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

MASTER TAPE SOUND on BOTH sides of this White Hot Stamper copy! Folks, it just does not get any better than this. It’s been more than two years (08/08) since last we embarked on a Hot Stamper shootout for this great album. I always knew it could sound good, but I sure never heard it sound like this! (I said that last time around too you may recall. Two years is a long time in audio. If your stereo and room are undergoing regular improvements, as they can and should be, the sound will be noticeably better every year, dramatically better after two.)

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Traffic - Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: traffshoot_2015) 



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

Import versus domestic? You would be hard pressed to find better sound than on the best of these DOMESTIC pressings, and that includes Low Spark of High Heeled Boys!

We just finished a huge shootout for this album and didn't find a copy that could hold a candle to this one in the huge stack we played. This may not be the best Traffic album ever, but on a copy that sounds this good it's very enjoyable and certainly an impressive sonic spectacular.

See all of our Traffic albums in stock


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U2 - The Joshua Tree

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: u2___joshu_2009) 



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

This domestic Island LP has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND on side one. The soundstage is huge, and the overall quality of the recording is BIG and BOLD. Most copies of this album are either thin, shrill and agressive -- like most U2 albums -- or thick and veiled. This one is actually smooth and fairly natural sounding, with the added benefit of some deep punchy bass.

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Yes, We're Getting Awfully Close To The Edge

Are Your Planets Aligned?

  (Item #: yes__close_planets) 



A word of caution: Even our Hottest Stamper copies can sound problematical unless your system is firing on all cylinders. Your electricity has got to be cooking, you've got to be using the right room treatments, and ideally you should be using a demagnetizer such as the Talisman on the record itself, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This is a record that's going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you're up to the challenge. If you don't mind putting in a little hard work, here's a record that will reward you many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process.

More Close to the Edge


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Yes - Fragile

British Band, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: yes__fragi_myth) 



Not Really. It’s just another Record Myth.

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

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

More Yes / More Fragile


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Yes - The Yes Album

What We Learned from Our Shootout in 2007

  (Item #: yes__yesal_wrong) 



Some of our oldest customers may remember that we used to prefer the British Originals for this album back in the '90s. There's no other way to say it, folks: We Was Wrong.

While the Brit copies can have some nice qualities, they just can't compete with the very best domestic pressings. No British Original we played rated above a solid A for either side. Based on what we heard in our shootout, we feel VERY confident that the master tapes for this album are in America. There is NO WAY this record is not cut from the master tape. Dubs just don't sound like this.

More Yes Album / More Yes


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