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White Hot Stamper

Michael Jackson
Thriller

  (Item #: jacksthril_1903) 

Our Price: $499.99

  • These INCREDIBLE sides are guaranteed to make this by far the best sounding Thriller you have ever heard - Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is HUGE - wide, deep, and open, with a solid bottom end and relentless rhythmic energy to spare
  • Billie Jean and Beat It sound out of this world, but that's not fair, since every track on this copy is good enough to blow your mind
  • 5 stars: "This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul — expanding the approach to have something for every audience."
See all of our Michael Jackson albums in stock


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White Hot Stamper

Michael Jackson
Off The Wall

  (Item #: jacksoffth_1902) 

Our Price: $399.99

  • A truly stunning Shootout Winning copy of this MJ classic with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from beginning to end
  • Off the Wall is substantially sweeter, tubier, more natural, richer, more relaxed and more ANALOG than any other Michael Jackson album
  • We're constantly blown away by just how good the best copies of Off the Wall sound - what a recording!
  • Clearly MJ's best sounding recording - "This was a visionary album ... part of a colorful tapestry of lush ballads and strings, smooth soul and pop, soft rock, and alluring funk." 5 stars
See all of our Michael Jackson albums in stock


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White Hot Stamper

Pink Floyd
Piper at the Gates of Dawn

  (Item #: pinkfpiper_1904) 

Our Price: $349.99

  • An outstanding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from the first note to the last
  • Both sides of this UK import are incredibly big and Tubey Magical with a massive bottom end, excellent transparency and lots of detail and texture
  • 5 stars: "... successfully captures both sides of psychedelic experimentation — the pleasures of expanding one’s mind and perception, and an underlying threat of mental disorder and even lunacy... One of the best psychedelic albums of all time."
See all of our Pink Floyd albums in stock


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Nearly White Hot Stamper

Simon & Garfunkel
Bookends

  (Item #: simonbooke_1903_1) 

Our Price: $299.99

  • An excellent 360 stereo pressing earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades throughout, just shy of our Shootout Winner - exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Our hottest copies have lovely midrange magic on the guitars and voices as well as plenty of studio ambience on most tracks, especially the simpler, more folky ones
  • An album that has become much tougher to come by, especially ones that play this well
  • Top 100, Five Stars - side two alone has four classics: Fakin' It, Mrs. Robinson, A Hazy Shade of Winter and At the Zoo
See all of our Simon and Garfunkel albums in stock


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Nearly White Hot Stamper

Simon & Garfunkel
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary...

  (Item #: simonparsl_1902x) 

Our Price: $299.99

  • A stunning copy with Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish, just shy of our shootout winner
  • This Columbia 360 is incredibly big and present, with excellent clarity, wonderfully breathy vocals and low levels of spit (the result of clean cutting)
  • A Demo Disc for Tubey Magical voices and guitars, as well as a longtime Better Records Top 100 album
  • 4 1/2 stars Allmusic: "[I]t is an achievement akin to the Beatles' Revolver or the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album, and just as personal and pointed as either of those records at their respective bests."
See all of our Simon and Garfunkel albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Simon & Garfunkel
Bookends

  (Item #: simonbooke_1903_2) 

Our Price: $249.99

  • An excellent 360 stereo pressing earning Double Plus grades throughout - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Our hottest copies have lovely midrange magic on the guitars and voices as well as plenty of studio ambience on most tracks, especially the simpler, more folky ones
  • An album that has become much tougher to come by, especially ones that play this well
  • Top 100, Five Stars - side two alone has four classics: Fakin' It, Mrs. Robinson, A Hazy Shade of Winter and At the Zoo
See all of our Simon and Garfunkel albums in stock


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White Hot Stamper

Otis Redding
The Immortal Otis Redding

  (Item #: reddiimmor_1806_1901) 

Our Price: $249.99
Sale Price: $199.00 (You save $50.99 / 20%)


  • An incredible sounding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two
  • This '60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce
  • This vintage Plum and Tan label LP plays pretty darn quietly for an original Atco pressing - we've never heard one quieter
  • "...any Otis Redding recordings should be considered welcome (if not mandatory) additions to all manner of listeners."
See all of our Otis Redding albums in stock


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White Hot Stamper

Roxy Music
Country Life

  (Item #: roxymcount_1803_1903) 

Our Price: $249.99
Sale Price: $199.00 (You save $50.99 / 20%)


  • This killer early British Island import pressing had two amazing sides, each rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it
  • This one is simply bigger, richer, more clear and more Tubey Magical than almost every other copy we heard in our shootout
  • As quiet as any UK Island original we've ever heard - Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus - they don't come quieter
  • AMG raves that "...Country Life finds Roxy Music at the peak of their powers, alternating between majestic, unsettling art rock and glamorous, elegant pop/rock. Roxy Music rarely sounded as invigorating as they do here."
See more of our Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry albums


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Super Hot Stamper

Sly and the Family Stone
Greatest Hits

  (Item #: slyangreat_1902_1) 

Our Price: $199.99

  • An outstanding pressing of this nearly perfect Sly record with two sides that both earned Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER for their sound
  • Real resolution to the sound, not the opacity and blur you would expect from a greatest hits compilation
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout - Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus - they didn't press them any quieter
  • "This summarizes their first four albums perfectly, adding the singles "Hot Fun in the Summertime," "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," and "Everybody Is a Star," possibly the loveliest thing they ever recorded... Greatest hits don't come better than this -- in fact, music rarely does."
See all of our Sly and the Family Stone albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds

  (Item #: beachpetso_1805_1903) 

Our Price: $199.99
Sale Price: $149.00 (You save $50.99 / 25%)


  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from beginning to end - this pressing has the Pet Sounds you've been looking for - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Play this against any and all versions you have - this will be the last Pet Sounds you buy (unless you decide to upgrade to a Triple Plus copy)
  • The Beach Boys revolutionized the popular music of the day with their genius for harmony, and a killer copy like this has their voices sounding the way they should
  • 5 stars: "The group here reached a whole new level in terms of both composition and production, layering tracks upon tracks of vocals and instruments to create a richly symphonic sound."
See all of our Beach Boys albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Pink Floyd
Piper at the Gates of Dawn

  (Item #: pinkfpiper_1904_1) 

Our Price: $169.99

  • An outstanding import pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This vintage British LP is spacious, lively, full-bodied, and full of the Tubey Magic that lets the early Floyd sound the way it should
  • Based on our extensive experience, it's highly unlikely any (pricey!) original can touch this later pressing
  • 5 stars: "...successfully captures both sides of psychedelic experimentation — the pleasures of expanding one’s mind and perception, and an underlying threat of mental disorder and even lunacy... One of the best psychedelic albums of all time."
See all of our Pink Floyd albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Roxy Music
Stranded

  (Item #: roxymstran_1901) 

Our Price: $169.99

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides and some of the band's best post-Eno music
  • The sound on this British original Island pressing is wonderful throughout - rich, smooth and oh-so-analog
  • One of the group's best sounding recordings, the Tubey Magic on their early albums is off the scale, especially here
  • "The operative adjective for Roxy's first true masterpiece is gorgeous (it's the same adjective for their final one, too) - The centerpiece, "Mother Of Pearl", might be Roxy's finest seven minutes."
More Roxy Music / More Bryan Ferry


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Super Hot Stamper

10cc
Deceptive Bends

  (Item #: tenccdecep_1812) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides, this huge, lively copy of Deceptive Bends will be very hard to beat
  • Superb transparency and plenty of Tubey Magic make this a true Demo Disc from 1977
  • A Permanent Member of our Top 100 and one of the most DYNAMIC and ENERGETIC popular recordings we know of
  • "[P]lenty of naggingly catchy pop hooks, oodles of catchy riffs, and surprising twists..."
See all of our 10cc albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

James Taylor
Mud Slide Slim

  (Item #: taylomudsl_1802_1903) 

Our Price: $149.99
Sale Price: $99.00 (You save $50.99 / 34%)


  • A wonderful copy of JT's classic followup to Sweet Baby James, boasting outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades for sound on both of its sides - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This original WB Green Label pressing demonstrates the Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records almost never reproduce
  • Some of old JT's strongest material: You've Got a Friend; You Can Close Your Eyes; Hey Mister, That's Me up on the Jukebox and more
  • 4 stars on Allmusic - it destroys the recent reissue, which lacks the texture and warmth you get in abundance on these killer originals
See all of our James Taylor albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

James Taylor
Sweet Baby James

  (Item #: taylosweet_1903) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • Just listen to all that lovely echo - it's a dead giveaway that both sides have resolving power far beyond other copies you may have heard
  • A Top 100 Title, inarguably a Masterpiece - Fire and Rain and Suite for 20 G (one of JT's All Time Best) are out of this world here
  • 5 Stars: "Sweet Baby James launched not only Taylor's career as a pop superstar but also the entire singer/songwriter movement of the early '70s that included Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, and others..."
See all of our James Taylor albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Johnny Mathis
Heavenly

  (Item #: mathiheave_1810_1903) 

Our Price: $149.99
Sale Price: $119.00 (You save $30.99 / 21%)


  • With two excellent sides, each rating a solid Double Plus (A++), this original 6 Eye stereo pressing is one of the better sounding copies we've heard
  • Natural vocal reproduction is the sine qua non of a Johnny Mathis album - this one showed us just how good Columbia was back in 1959
  • 4 1/2 stars: "The tempos are slow, the strings swell, and Mathis' vulnerable tenor, dripping with tender emotion yet never missing a beat, soars and swoops over all. The best track, a revelation when it appeared on this album, is 'Misty,' a treatment of Erroll Garner's jazz piano classic with a newly added lyric by Johnny Burke."
See all of our Johnny Mathis albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Neil Young
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

  (Item #: youngevery_1810_1812) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • With an excellent Double Plus (A++) throughout, this copy of Neil's breakthrough second album ROCKS
  • Fairly quiet vinyl for the most part, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus or close to it on both sides
  • Includes some of Neil's most beloved classics: "Cinnamon Girl," "Cowgirl in the Sand," and "Down by the River" just to name three
  • 5 stars: "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes...."
See all of our Neil Young albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Roxy Music
Country Life

  (Item #: roxymcount_1804_1901) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • This killer early British Island copy had two excellent sides, each rating a solid Double Plus (A++) for sound
  • Big, rich, full and dynamic with plenty of Tubey Magic and energy - it's one of the better copies from our most recent shootout
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus - for an original British Sunray that is QUIET
  • AMG raves that "...Country Life finds Roxy Music at the peak of their powers, alternating between majestic, unsettling art rock and glamorous, elegant pop/rock. Roxy Music rarely sounded as invigorating as they do here."
More Roxy Music / More Bryan Ferry


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Super Hot Stamper

Tony Bennett
I Left My Heart In San Francisco

  (Item #: benneileft_1903_1) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • This copy of Tony Bennett's 1962 classic has outstanding sound with a rating of Double Plus (A++) or BETTER on both sides
  • Tubey Magical like you will not believe - this killer copy is as about as huge and as real as it gets
  • Brilliant engineering by Frank Laico at his favorite recording digs (and ours), Columbia 30th Street studios
  • 5 Stars and the winner of two Grammy Awards in 1962 including Record of the Year (not bad!)
See all of our Tony Bennett albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Van Halen
Diver Down

  (Item #: vanhadiver_1804_1902) 

Our Price: $149.99
Sale Price: $119.00 (You save $30.99 / 21%)


  • You'll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this copy of Van Halen's fifth studio album
  • Surprisingly big, lively, open, rich and present with real extension both up top and down low - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This album put the band's hard-rocking spin on a number of covers, including "(Oh) Pretty Woman," "Dancing in the Street," and Where Have All The Good Times Gone!"
  • "...this is undoubtedly the work of a finely honed band who has only grown tighter and heavier since their debut... it's one of Van Halen's best records, one that's just pure joy to hear. Like the debut, it's a great showcase for all the group's strengths..." -- Allmusic
See all of our Van Halen albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Van Halen
Van Halen

  (Item #: vanhavanha_1904) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • This outstanding copy of the band's debut album boasts solid Double Plus sound from first note to last - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are smooth, rich and Tubey Magical, with soaring guitars and huge choruses that really get loud
  • One of the most powerful rock recordings of its day (if you get one that sounds like this)
  • 5 stars: "They sound vital, surprising, and ultimately fun -- and really revolutionary, because no other band rocked like this before Van Halen, and it's still a giddy thrill to hear them discover a new way to rock on this stellar, seminal debut. "
See all of our Van Halen albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Michael Jackson
Thriller

  (Item #: jacksthril_1903_1) 

Our Price: $129.99

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER throughout, this pressing will be very hard to beat
  • The sound is huge - big, wide, deep, and open, with a punchy bottom end and rhythmic energy to spare; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Billie Jean and Beat It sound out of this world, but that's not fair, since every track does
  • A Top 100 and 5 Stars on AMG: "This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul — expanding the approach to have something for every audience."
See all of our Michael Jackson albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Bonnie Raitt
Nick Of Time

  (Item #: raittnicko_1804_1902) 

Our Price: $99.99

  • An outstanding early domestic pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Some of the sweetest, richest, most ANALOG sound we've heard from any record Don Was produced
  • 4 1/2 stars: "A great comeback album that made for a great story".
See all of our Bonnie Raitt albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Paul Simon
Still Crazy After All These Years

  (Item #: simonstill_1901) 

Our Price: $99.99

  • This outstanding pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades for sound on both sides - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The immediacy of the vocals is striking, putting a living, breathing Paul Simon right between your speakers
  • An extremely tough album to find with the kind of big, spacious, Tubey Magical sound this pressing offers
  • "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" became the biggest solo hit of Simon's career - on this pressing it finally sounds right
See all of our Paul Simon albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Rod Stewart
Atlantic Crossing

  (Item #: stewaatlan_1803_1902) 

Our Price: $99.99
Sale Price: $79.00 (You save $20.99 / 21%)


  • You'll find superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last on this vastly underrated Rod Stewart classic
  • One of the few to hit our site in the last four years, and for that we apologize - Atlantic Crossing should be enjoyed by everyone in Hot Stamper form
  • This is some of the best Muscle Shoals rock- and soul-inflected pop from producer Tom Dowd we know of
  • AMG raves that "Three Time Loser and Stone Cold Sober catch fire," and on this copy we guarantee they do
See all of our Rod Stewart albums in stock


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Hot Stamper

Roxy Music
Country Life

  (Item #: roxymcount_1904) 

Our Price: $89.99

  • You'll find very good Hot Stamper grades on both sides of this early British import pressing
  • One of a handful of albums that represent the musical high watermark of early- to mid-'70s Art Rock
  • Includes many of the best songs Ferry ever wrote and Roxy ever played - if you're a fan this is a Must Own album
  • AMG raves that "...Country Life finds Roxy Music at the peak of their powers, alternating between majestic, unsettling art rock and glamorous, elegant pop/rock. Roxy Music rarely sounded as invigorating as they do here."
More Roxy Music / More Bryan Ferry


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10cc - Deceptive Bends

A Tough Test for Sibilance

  (Item #: tenccdecep_test) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Deceptive Bends.

On side two the tonal balance is especially critical. Any boost to the top end will cause the vocals on the second track to SPIT LIKE CRAZY. This is a good test for how well your cartridge and arm are doing their jobs.

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10cc - Deceptive Bends

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: tenccdecep_2008) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and another in our series of Demo Discs for Bass.

The remarkable level of transparency found on this copy allows you to pick out each background vocal and follow it throughout the choruses. The bass here is PERFECTION: it’s deep, punchy and POWERFUL. When you get the right pressing of this album, the bass is so good it will make every other rock record you own sound positively anemic.

More Deceptive Bends


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Billie Holiday - All Or Nothing At All

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: holidallor_2018) 



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

A KILLER sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish, on quiet vinyl to boot. This is one of the best sounding Billie Holiday records we have ever heard - it's even a clear step up from the originals we had on hand. This 2 LP set features most of the tracks from the original release plus another handful of recordings from the same period (1955-1956)

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Billy Joel - Songs in the Attic

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: joel_songs_depth) 



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

You know how you can tell when you have a Hot Stamper? It's the side you play through to the end. When the sound is right you want to hear more. Since the opening track of this record is one of the keys to knowing whether it's mastered and pressed properly, once you get past the sibilance hurdle on track one, the next step is to find out how the challenges presented by the rest of the tracks are handled on any given LP. Some advice follows.

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Bonnie Raitt - Nick of Time

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: raittnicko_2009) 



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

This Minty Capitol LP has an UNBELIEVABLE White Hot Stamper As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) Side Two backed by a Side One that was nearly its equal! The original grade for side one was in fact A+++, but after hearing a copy that was even better we had to lower the grade to A Double Plus. Hey, that’s how we roll here at Better Records. Side one will blow your mind, but if we hear something better, we lower the grade on the nearly White Hot copy, no matter how good it is.

We expect that, as good as side one is, when you drop the needle on side two you will hear EVEN BETTER sound.

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Bonnie Raitt - Nick Of Time

What to Listen For

  (Item #: raittnicko_wtlf) 



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

One of the biggest problems we ran into over and over again with this album is a lack of top end. The sound gets a bit smooth and some of the ambience and spaciousness of the studio disappears. (This, to a much stronger degree, is the problem from which the DCC suffers.)

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Cat Stevens - 200 Grams of Tea for the Tillerman

This Is Your Idea of Analog?

  (Item #: steveteafo_200_2014) 



Dear Record Loving Audiophiles of Earth,

I'm afraid we have some bad news to report. We regret to inform you that the 2011 edition of Tea for the Tillerman pressed by Analogue Productions on Heavy Vinyl doesn't sound very good. We know you were all hoping for the best. We also know that you must be very disappointed to hear this unwelcome news.

But the record is what it is, and what it is is not very good. Its specific shortcomings are many and will be considered in at length in our review below.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Tea for the Tillerman


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Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman

A Hall of Fame Pressing from 2004!

  (Item #: steveteafo_2004) 



This is a superb sounding original Brown Label A&M pressing. If you didn’t know better you might think you were listening to a Pink Label copy: it’s that good! In fact, having just played a Pink label Island 3U/3U original, I’m going to say that this pressing actually sounds better on side one than that famous import. This will no doubt shock many of you. But I have known of a better sounding brown label domestic pressing for close to 10 years.
More Tea for the Tillerman


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Cat Stevens Albums - Lee Hulko Cut Them All

Good, Bad and Otherwise

  (Item #: steveteafo_hulko) 



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

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

See all of our Cat Stevens albums in stock


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Confirmation Bias

Why You Won’t Hear What You Don’t Want to Hear

  (Item #: loggisitti_bias) 



After doing our first shootout for this album a few years back I can honestly say I had never heard this music sound remotely as good as it did on the best Hot Stamper pressings. More importantly, from an audiophile point of view, I can honestly say that I never imagined it could sound as good as I was hearing it. The sound was just OUT OF THIS WORLD.

It’s why we link the Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary to so many of our Hot Stamper listings. The revolutionary changes we discuss are precisely what make it possible for any audiophile (this means you) to hear better sound than you ever imagined for all your favorite albums.

All you have to do is do all the stuff we do.

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Crosby Stills & Nash - Crosby Stills & Nash

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: crosbcrosb_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Crosby, Stills & Nash's first album.

Although millions of copies of this album were sold, so few were mastered and pressed well, and so many mastered and pressed poorly, that few copies actually make it to the site as Hot Stampers. We wish that were not the case -- we love the album -- but the copies we know to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound are just not sitting around in the record bins these days.

More Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young


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Crosby Stills & Nash - Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

Critical Listening Exercise (WTLF)

  (Item #: crosbcrosb_test) 



This commentary from an older Hot Stamper listing for CSN’s debut makes note of some specific qualities in the recording that are a good test for midrange transparency and naturalness.

What’s magical about Crosby, Stills, Nash (& Young)?

Their voices of course. It’s not a trick question. They revolutionized rock music with their genius for harmony. Any good pressing must sound correct on their voices or it has no value whatsoever. A CSN record with bad midrange -- like most of them -- is a worthless record.

More Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young


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Donovan - The Real Donovan in Mono

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: donovreald_2013) 



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

Now here's a mono record we can get behind! If more mono records sounded big and open the way this one does we would totally be on board with the current movement towards One Channel. (As that has not been our experience we remain skeptical.)

This is by far the best sounding, quietest pressing we have ever played. It boasts Super Hot Stamper sound on side one, backed with even better than Super Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) on side two, and it's pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl (for Hickory anyway).

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Frank Zappa - The Grand Wazoo

What to Listen For

  (Item #: zappagrand_wtlf) 



The Tubey Magical keyboards at the start of The Grand Wazoo are amazing sounding on the best copies. How Zappa ever decided to go digital when he managed to record so well in analog (from time to time, let's be honest) is beyond me.

Problems?

Smear on the horn transients are always an issue on this album (and Zappa's previous big band album, Waka/Jawaka). After that we would say a lack of top end is the other most common shortcoming we hear. To find a copy that's not dull and smeary is no mean feat.

More Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention


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Hall and Oates - Abandoned Luncheonette

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: hallaaband_debunk_) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Those of you who have had the misfortune to play the MoFi LP know that they absolutely ruined this album. They boosted the hell out of the top end, the last thing in the world this recording needed.

Actually, that’s probably not true. People who collect MoFi records probably like the kind of phony sound found on the MoFi of this title.

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James Taylor - Mud Slide Slim

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: taylomudsl_2009) 



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

Side two here has STUNNING MASTER TAPE SOUND, and side one is not far behind. Side two is open and transparent with shocking clarity. All of the little details that are missing from the average copy really come through here -- the sound of the room around the guitars, the transients of the hand percussion, and the weight of the piano, to name a few. The acoustic guitar sound is Right On The Money and the vocals sound amazing. The bottom end on this copy just can’t be beat -- we’ve never heard another copy of Mud Slide Slim with such deep, note-like bass. The highs are silky sweet and there’s real three-dimensionality to the soundfield.

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James Taylor - Sweet Baby James

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: taylosweet_depth) 



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.

This White Hot Stamper is GUARANTEED to BLOW YOUR MIND, as James himself so famously sings on Steamroller here, and you can be sure that he never heard it sound any better on playback than it does here. This is truly Master Tape Sound -- transparent, present and Tubey Magical, the kind of sound that only the best pressings from the era can lay claim to. If you've got the stereo to play it, this record may become your new favorite Demo Disc. Yes, it's that good.

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James Taylor - Sweet Baby James

Our Shootout Winner for 2008

  (Item #: taylosweet_2008) 



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

It took three days, sixty seven copies, and multiple rounds, but SWEET BABY JAMES HOT STAMPERS ARE BACK! Both sides of this bad boy are DEMO QUALITY and ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. Add in the fact that the vinyl is unusually quiet, and you’ve got one heck of a copy here!

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Johnny Hartman - I Just Dropped By To Say Hello

What to Listen For

  (Item #: hartmijust_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of I Just Dropped By To Say Hello.

What to listen for you ask? Simple -- smooth, sweet, relaxed vocals. Many pressings -- especially the early ones, as counterintuitive as that may be -- tend to have spitty vocals. The best pressings are easy to spot. When Johnny sounds full, rich, tubey and grit-free, you have yourself a Hot Stamper.

See all of our Johnny Hartman albums in stock


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Johnny Mathis - Heavenly

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: mathiheave_2017) 



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

This copy had all the Tubey Magical richness of the best coupled with the hardest thing to find on an old Columbia record: top end extension. Natural vocal reproduction is the sine qua non of a Johnny Mathis album - this pressing showed us just how good Columbia was back in 1959.

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Loggins & Messina - Sittin' In

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: loggisitti_2011) 



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

TWO INCREDIBLE SIDES ON QUIET VINYL! This White Hot Stamper Side Two had off the charts ENERGY and DRIVE -- the music on this copy simply COMES ALIVE in a way that no other pressing we played was able to match. I can honestly say I've never heard these songs sound better.

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Loggins & Messina - Sittin' In

What to Listen For

  (Item #: loggisitti_wtlf) 



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

Practically any copy you find will have a bit of a boost in the bottom end. The kick drum really kicks on this album, more than it should in fact.

And almost all copies have too much top end right around 10k. The ones with the worst case of boosted highs and boosted bass sound like they were mastered by Stan Ricker and pressed in Japan, much like those put out by a famous label back in the '70s.

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Mastering I Left My Heart In San Francisco

Tubes, Sure, But Are They Any Good?

  (Item #: benneileft_reissues) 



We played a few decent sounding reissues from the '70s that may eventually make it to the site. Again and again my notes made it clear that those pressings could have used more tubes in the mastering chain.

On this record, like so many others you may have read about on the site, the right amount of TUBEY MAGIC -- and by that we mean a very healthy amount -- makes all the difference. Now keep in mind that we are talking about 1962 tubes, not the stuff that engineers are using today to make "tube-mastered" records. Modern pressings barely hint at the Tubey Magical sound of a record like this, if our experience with hundreds of them serves as a guide.

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Michael Jackson - Thriller

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: jacksthril_2010) 



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

A KILLER THRILLER, with an A+++ side one that's going to knock you out! That gives you TOP SHELF SOUND for songs including Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' and the title track, which are going to BLOW YOU AWAY! So many copies of Thriller out there just don't deliver, but this side one does almost everything right.

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Neil Young - After the Gold Rush

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: youngafter_2011) 



This amazing copy of AFTER THE GOLD RUSH is a member of our Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

It's an album we admit to being just a bit obsessed with. 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.

This link will take you to all of our other NEIL YOUNG albums.


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Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Live and Learn

  (Item #: youngevery_wrong) 



Below you will see our old Hot Stamper commentary from 2004 as part of the discussion of EKTIN in an older shootout (9-08), comments which we now renounce, disown, reject, repudiate and disavow with extreme prejudice. Huh? Here's part of our mea culpa.

Our latest shootout this time around left us with a fairly large serving of egg on our face concerning the commentary we had written for our previous shootout, a textbook example of We Was Wrong. We rarely try to make excuses for our mistakes, but give us a break, that last shootout was more than four years ago (September 2004)!

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Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: youngevery_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.

This original Two Tone Super Hot Stamper pressing had condition issues -- they all do don't you know -- but it also had KILLER Neil Young LIVE ROCK Sound. The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality, with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY. (Our commentary about Zuma to the left gets more heavily into the subject.) Suffice to say we love that sound.

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Otis Redding - The Immortal Otis Redding

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: reddiimmor_2018) 



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

An incredible sounding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two. This vintage Plum and Tan label LP plays pretty darn quietly for an original Atco pressing - we've never heard one quieter.

What won our shootout was whichever copy had the least amount of grit and spit on Otis's vocals, the most space, the most natural and immediate presentation of the singer, along with the most correct tonality.

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Paul Simon - Stil Crazy All These Years

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: simonstill_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Still Crazy After All These Years.

As well-produced, well-engineered Pop Albums from the '70s, the very best copies can proudly hold their heads high. Wait a minute. Our last commentary noted what a mess most of the pressings of this album sound like, with so much spit and grain. Have we changed our minds? Well, yes and no, and as usual we make no excuses for having changed our minds. We call it progress.

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Peter Gabriel - So

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: gabriso_depth) 



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

With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren't worth the vinyl they're pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin. We love this music and we know there are great copies out there, so we keep picking these up. More often than not, we're left cold.

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Revolutionary Changes in Audio

What Works for Us Can Work for You

  (Item #: revolution) 



This listing, like the stereo itself (mine and yours), is a work in progress. Please check back for the commentary we expect to be adding in the future.

Our reason for having this kind of commentary on a site ostensibly devoted to the selling of records is simple: the better your stereo sounds, the better our records sound, and, more importantly, the bigger the difference between our records and the copies you already own. Also those LPs recommended by "audiophile" record dealers, which tend to be on Heavy Vinyl, at 45 RPM, half-speed mastered or, even worse, Japanese pressed. We have no interest in any of them. Why? On our system they rarely sound better than second-rate.

More on The Stereo


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Rod Stewart - Atlantic Crossing

Our Shootout Winner from 2014

  (Item #: stewaatlan_2014) 



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

This copy just murdered the competition. The last consistently good Rod Stewart album? It gets my vote.

The copies we liked best were the biggest and richest, and the least thin and dry. Many of the brighter copies also had sibilance problems which the richer and tubier ones do not.

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Roxy Music - Country Life

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: roxymcount_2015) 



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

Many of the best songs Ferry ever wrote and Roxy ever played are on this album. Musically it's right up there with the first album and Siren, both early '70s Art Rock landmarks.

In our experience the right British original Sunray (Pink Rim) Island pressing will always win the shootout if you have a good pile of copies to play. There are some bad sounding Island LPs out there, so don’t assume the Sunray is the answer. It’s potentially the right answer. Without at least five copies in hand you won't know for sure whether the copy you like is truly a Hot Stamper or not-that-hot-of-a-stamper.

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Roxy Music - Stranded

Our Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: roxymstran_2016) 



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

Stranded is one of the higher quality recordings by the band, coming in second for sonics only to the first album, which is really saying something considering that the first album is a Top 100 title. The Tubey Magic on the early albums has to be heard to be believed.

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Sergio Mendes - Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: mendesergi_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

So spitty and thin! Why, in God's name, why?

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Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: simonbooke_depth) 



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

Musically side two is one of the strongest in the entire Simon and Garfunkel oeuvre (if you'll pardon my French). Each of the five songs could hold its own as a potential hit on the radio, and no filler to be found whatsoever. How many albums from 1968 can make that claim?

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Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends

Save the Life of My Child Is One Tough Test

  (Item #: simonbooke_wtlf) 



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

The big production songs on this album have a tendency to get congested on even the best pressings, which is not uncommon for Four Track recordings from the '60s. Those of you with properly set up high-dollar front ends should have less of a problem than some. $3000 cartridges can usually deal with this kind of complex information better than $300 ones.

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Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: simonparsl_2010) 



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

TWO FREAKISHLY GOOD A+++ SIDES and quiet vinyl make this our new ALL TIME CHAMPION for this killer album! We play dozens of copies of this album every few months, but we can't recall ever hearing a copy that was as stunning on both sides as this one is. It’s got all the elements we look for on this album: superb clarity and transparency; big time immediacy; amazing tubey richness and warmth; low levels of sibilance; a delicate, silky quality to the top end; weight to the bottom -- you name it, it’s here.

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Sly & The Family Stone - Stand

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: slyanstand_2017) 



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

Finally, a Triple Plus (A+++) copy of Sly’s classic Stand album from 1969, one of the few times that this album has EVER sounded the way it is supposed to! Man, most copies of this album just plain suck -- sonically of course.

Both sides here have lively punchy drums; a big soundfield, front to back and side to side; tonally correct vocals (which obviously are key and sound edgy and thin on most copies), and real resolution to the sound overall. Also just as importantly you lose the sibilance most copies suffer from and the smear on the horns goes away, thank goodness.

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Sly and the Family Stone - Greatest Hits

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: slyangreat_2008) 



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

Finally, a Triple Plus side for Sly’s Greatest Hits album, the first time this album has EVER sounded the way it is supposed to! Man, most copies of this album just plain suck -- sonically of course. Musically I have to second the sentiments of the writer for AMG who noted: "Music is rarely as vivacious, vigorous, and vibrant as this, and captured on one album, the spirit, sound, and songs of Sly & the Family Stone are all the more stunning." So true.

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Still Crazy About Records After All These Years

Why Not? They Keep Getting Better!

  (Item #: simonstill_better) 



Still Crazy is the perfect example of an album that now sounds far better than we thought would ever be possible, not in this life anyway, due mostly to changes to the stereo, the quality of the electricity that feeds it, and last but far from least, the listening room itself.
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The Beach Boys - Surfer Girl

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: beachsurfe_mofi) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

I played the MoFi pressing of this record many years ago, some time back in the early '90s if memory serves, and at the time I could hardly believe that the good people of MoFi would release a record that was so ridiculously SPITTY. The sibilance is positively out of control, the result of their wacky cutting system and phony EQ.

But then I remembered that there has never been a title produced by these people with sound so bad that they would have cancelled its release,

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The Beach Boys - Surfer Girl

Our Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: beachsurfe_2016) 



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

If you've ever played an original pressing of the album you know what a sonic mess it is. There may be some good sounding copies out there but we've never heard one and remain skeptical in the extreme as to the possibility. Ever heard a top quality early Beatles Capitol pressing? Me neither.

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The Beach Boys - Surfin' U.S.A.

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: beachsurfi_2017) 



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

It's hard to find great sounding Beach Boys records, so when first we heard a Hot Stamper of this title we were blown away. The sound is big, open, rich and full, with the performers front and center (as well as left and right). The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than others by a long shot.

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The Beatles - Please Please Me

An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

  (Item #: beatlpleas_obsess) 



PLEASE PLEASE ME 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.

This link will take you to all of our other BEATLES albums.


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The Beatles - Please Please Me

Our Shootout Winner from 2007

  (Item #: beatlpleas_2007) 



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

We shot out over two dozen copies of Please Please Me -- German, British, and American pressings of various vintages. The best German copies such as this one stood head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. However, we did manage to find some wonderful Brit and domestic copies which will be making it to the site very soon.

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The Beatles - Please Please Me

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: beatlpleas_mofi) 



Sonic Grade: C

Another Half Speed reviewed.

By the way, if you own the MoFi LP, do yourself a favor and buy one of our Hot Stamper pressings. (Actually any good British import pressing will do.) What's the first thing you will notice other than correct tonality, better bass and a lot more "life" overall?

No spit! As we've commented elsewhere, because of the wacky cutting system they used, MoFis are full of sibilance.

See all of our Beatles albums in stock


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The Beatles - Rubber Soul

Our Shootout Winner from 2007

  (Item #: beatlrubbe_2007) 



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

MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! We just finished a huge shootout for this record -- British, German, and domestic pressings -- and this Parlophone British import pressing is THE ALL-TIME CHAMPION FOR BOTH SIDES! No other copy came close.

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The Beatles - The White Album

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: beatlwhite_mfsl) 



Sonic Grade: D

Another MoFi LP debunked.

The last time I played the MoFi I could not believe how ridiculously phony and compressed it was. And to think I used to like their version when it came out back in the '80s!

Take Yer Blues. The MFSL pressing positively wreaks havoc with all the added bass and top end The Beatles put on this track. The MoFi version is already too bright, and has sloppy bass to start with, so the result on this track is way too much BAD bass and way too much BAD spitty 10k-boosted treble, unlike the good imports, which have way too much GOOD bass and treble.

See more of our in-stock copies of The Beatles albums


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Tony Bennett - I Left My Heart In San Francisco

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: benneileft_2015) 



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

Everything that's good about All Tube Vocal Recordings from the '50s and '60s is precisely what's good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can't deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

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Van Halen - Van Halen

Our Shootout Winner from 2014

  (Item #: vanhavanha_2014) 



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 recently took the time to shoot out a bunch of original pressings of Van Halen's debut. I'm sure it won't come as much of a surprise to most of you that the average copy is, well, quite average sounding. Not bad, just mediocre. Not rockin' all that hard and not all that much fun. You know the kind of record I'm talkin' about.

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Van Halen - Van Halen

What to Listen For

  (Item #: vanhavanha_wtlf) 



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

Most copies just do not have the kind of weight to the bottom and lower mids that this music needs to work. Put simply, if your Van Halen LP doesn't rock, then what exactly is the point of playing it?

The other qualities to look for on the best pressings are, firstly, space -- the best pressings are huge and three-dimensional, with large, lively, exceptionally dynamic choruses.

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Our Playback System ...

And Why You Shouldn’t Care

  (Item #: stereo) 



Below you will find a list of most of the equipment we use to carry out our pressing evaluations,also known as Hot Stamper shootouts. Of course the old 80/20 Rule comes into play here -- 80% (probably more like 90 or 95%, truth be told) of the sound is what you do with your audio system, 20% (or 10 or 5%) of the sound is the result of the components you own.

We like to say it’s not about the audio you have, it’s about the audio you do: how you set up your system, what you’ve done to treat your room, how good your electricity is and all the rest of it. Our current system is described below.

More on The Stereo


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