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The Allman Brothers - Eat a Peach

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: allmaeatap_2008) 

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

THE ALLMAN’S MASTERPIECE CONQUERED AT LAST! I don’t think you could find a more tubey magical Southern Rock record than this! We just shot out a huge stack of these double LPs, no mean feat, and this Original Capricorn pressing manhandled the competition, rating A++ or better on ALL FOUR SIDES. Not only that, but the vinyl plays mostly Mint Minus throughout -- exceptionally quiet for an old Allman Brothers record.

More Allman Brothers

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The Association - Insight Out

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: associnsig_depth) 

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

The real stars of Windy (and the album itself) are Hal Blaine and Joe Osborne, the famous session drummer/ bass player team from The Wrecking Crew who create the driving force behind these songs. Osborne's web site puts Windy front and center as the first track demonstrating what a top rhythm section can do for a pop song. This whole album can be enjoyed simply for the great drum and bass work, not to mention the sound that both instruments are given by the Master of Tubey Magical Pop Recording, Mr. BONES HOWE.

More of The Association

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The Beatles - Let It Be

Listening In Depth

  (Item #: beatlletit_wtlf) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about the business of critically evaluating copies of Let It Be.

This is the first time we've discussed individual tracks on the album. Our recent shootout, in which we discovered a mind-boggling, rule-breaking side one, motivated us to sit down and explain what the best copies should do on each side of the album for the tracks we test with. Better late than never I suppose.

More on Let It Be

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Beethoven / Piano Concerto No.1 / Richter / Munch

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: beethpiano_2544_2012) 

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

As you may know, this is a ridiculously difficult Shaded Dog to find in clean condition. Its companion, the Brahms disc with Richter (LSC 2466), is ten times more common and not half as good.

This pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades, but unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings, Richter, the brilliant soloist featured here, is not overly spotlighted, hence the much more natural "concert hall" sound.

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

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Leonard Bernstein - West Side Story

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: bernswests_2015) 

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

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

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

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

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David Bowie - David Live

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: bowiedavid_2010) 

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

The best copies have Live Rock and Roll Energy like you will not believe. The band is ON FIRE. These are the A List players of the day and they gell like a band that's been together for years. The sonic treats include multiple horn players (David Sanborn KILLS on almost every track, and the baritone sax and oboe are rendered beautifully ) and multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the seering fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass -- the list goes on.

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Brewer & Shipley - Tarkio

Do All the Robert Ludwig Mastered Copies Have Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: brewetarki_RL) 

Even though all the original Pink Label pressings are mastered by Robert Ludwig, they have a marked tendency to be dull, thick and opaque. The sound is just too smooth. The best copies however have the top end and the transparency to let you hear all the guitar and vocal harmonics, surrounded by the large acoustic of the studio.

This time around we discovered something new: one specific stamper that seemed to be the only one with the potential for an extended top end. This special stamper did not always fare well; some copies with it were mediocre. We have always found this to be the way with the "right" stampers; they often let us down and sometimes they really let us down hard.

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Byrd et al. / An Evening Of Elizabethan Music / Bream

Reviewed in 2011

  (Item #: byrd_eveni_2011) 

This lovely RCA Living Stereo Soria Pressing (LDS 2656) has reasonably quiet vinyl and EXCELLENT SOUND on side one. (It's a little ticky but find me a Soria pressing that isn't.)

Side one is so transparent you feel as though you are truly in the presence of the musicians. (Try that with any, and I do mean any, heavy vinyl pressing on the planet. Veiled and opaque, none of them can transport you like a properly recorded and mastered vintage LP can.)

More Living Stereo

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Ry Cooder - Jazz

Transparency Is Key

  (Item #: coodejazz_wtlf) 

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

The best copies realistically convey the live-in-the-studio quality of the sound. This is a tight ensemble working at the top of their game, no surprise there; Ry surrounds himself with nothing but the best.

But the better copies have such amazingly transparent sound you can't help feeling as though you really are in the presence of live human beings You really get the sense of actual fingers plucking those guitar strings. You hear mouths blowing air through horns and woodwinds.

More Ry Cooder

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Martin Denny - Quiet Village

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: dennyquiet_2010) 

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

This Superb sounding Hot Stamper copy of Quiet Village has a lot in common with the other Bachelor Pad / Exotica titles we've listed over the years, albums by the likes of Esquivel, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Arthur Lyman and others.

But c'mon, nobody really buys these records for the music (although the music is thoroughly enchanting). It's all about the Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation, the wacky 3-D sound effects (of real birds and otherwise) and the heavily percussive arrangements. In all of these areas and more this record does not disappoint.

More Martin Denny

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Dire Straits - Love Over Gold

What to Listen For

  (Item #: diresloveo_wtlf) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Telegraph Road does something on this copy that you won't hear on one out of twenty pressings: It ROCKS. It's got ENERGY and DRIVE.

Listen to how hard Allan Clark bangs on the piano on side one -- he's pounding that piano with all his might. No other copy managed to get the piano to pop the way it does here, clear and solid. Wow, who knew? Maybe this is the reason HP put the record on the TAS Super Disc List. (I rather doubt he's ever heard a copy this good but who's to say?)

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Duke Ellington - Ellington Indigos

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: ellinindig_2008) 

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

AMAZINGLY TUBEY MAGICAL SOUND for this album of romantic jazz ballads. We just finished a shootout for this album and this Six Eye pressing was the winner in a landslide. The overall sound is richer, wamer, and fuller than any other. The brass is breathy with the proper amount of bite; the trumpets sound particularly good. We played about ten copies of this album this week and didn't hear any with the kind of life and energy on BOTH sides of this record. The transparency is amazing and you won't believe all the DEPTH to the soundfield -- you can really hear INTO the music.

More Duke Ellington

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Duke Ellington - Masterpieces By Ellington

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: ellinmaste_2018) 

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

We've known about this wonderful album for decades, since first got hold of a red label copy from the '70s. Although not in the league with the best 6 eye pressings, even that late reissue had enough Columbia magic left in its grooves to impress the hell out of me.

And the fact that a jazz album recorded in 1950 was still in print more than twenty years later is testament to the lasting power of Ellington's music. As Kenny Burrell would say, "Ellington Is Forever."

More Duke Ellington

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Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: fleetfleet_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.

So few copies we ran across in our shootout had that "jump out of the speakers" sound we knew was possible from our previous shootouts of the album. When finally one did, boy did it ever. What a knockout. Hot Stampers? The best copies are on fire!

If you have a big speaker system and have taken advantage of the audio revolutions we discuss throughout the site, this is the kind of record that shows just how much progress you've made.

More Fleetwood Mac

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Vince Guaraldi - Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

Keeping the Players Together

  (Item #: guarajazzi_wtlf) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises, here discussing the importance of transparency, ambience and resolution.

The arrangement of the players is straightforward, with the bass hard left, drums hard right (with leakage well to the left on the cymbals, but that's another story), and Guaraldi on piano in the center. (The first track of side two reverses this arrangement; why I have no idea.)

Here's the crazy thing about this recording: The best copies really connect up the space each of the players is in. I heard it during the shootout, and I can't recall if it actually happened more than once or twice, but I know I heard it. They are all live, they are all on the same soundstage, but on most copies you would hardly know it.

More Vince Guaraldi

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Never Heard Maiden Voyage Like This

The Transparency on this Copy Is Superb!

  (Item #: hancomaide_testimonial) 

Hello Gentlemen,

I have to commend you once again. I have never heard Maiden Voyage like this before. The transparency on this copy is superb! I gave up listening to my reissue a while back. It had a heavy veil hanging over it that was obvious. Yet as the listener I yearned to hear past it because the music itself is so wonderful. Thanks for digging up this treasure. It will bring many hours of enjoyment now and in the future.

Records are a tangible investment for the listener. When you find a great copy you hang on to it because it engages you. It moves you in a real sense. A collector who collects for value of first issue is a collector too. However they collect as one would coins, stamps or baseball cards. The value is attributed to what is perceived not what is experienced. I do not slam anyone for this. If joy is found in this manner then, so be it.

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Barney Kessel - Carmen

Transparency Is Key

  (Item #: kessebarne_transparency) 

The best Hot Stamper Original Yellow Label Mono pressings have the Tubey Magic we've come to expect from Contemporary circa 1958, with that warm, rich, full-bodied sound that most engineers can't begin to understand. However, some pressings in our shootout managed to give us an extra level of transparency and ambience that the original pressings rarely do.

There's a room around this drum kit. So many copies don't show you that room, not if they have the full sound that a copy like this does. (It's amazing all the detail you can hear in a leaned-out record, but what good is that? The sound is leaned out! If you like that sound buy the OJC or the CD. Leave these wonderful originals to those of us who know the sound we're after.)

More Contemporary jazz

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Carole King - Tapestry

The Piano Stylings of Carole King

  (Item #: king_tapes_wtlf_1) 

One quality that we had no trouble recognizing on the better copies was TRANSPARENCY. The more transparent copies made it possible to hear through the mix to Carole's piano, which is usually placed toward the back of the mix. There it serves to underpin the music, playing more of a supporting role than a leading one, very unlike the piano on a Joni Mitchell album for example.

The best copies let you easily follow Carole's playing all the way through every song, from start to finish, no matter how quiet her part or how far back in the mix she may be placed.

See all of our Carole King LPs in stock

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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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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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Loggins & Messina - Mother Lode

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: loggimothe_fame) 

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

This White Hot Stamper pressing of L&M's fourth release demonstrates pretty convincingly just what an amazing DEMO DISC this album can be. When Jim Messina rips into his mandolin solo half way through Be Free your jaw is likely to hit the ground. On the best copies it positively LEAPS out of the left speaker. I can't recall another pop or rock recording that captures either the plucked energy or the harmonic nuances of the instrument better. To hear such a well-recorded mandolin on a copy of this quality is nothing less than a THRILL.

More Loggins and Messina

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Phil Manzanera - Diamond Head

Rhett Davies Truly Awesome Engineering Masterpiece

  (Item #: manzadiamo_masterpiece) 

You may recall reading this bit about RHETT DAVIES engineering on Dire Straits' debut:

"...until something better comes along, THIS IS HIS MASTERPIECE. It has to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, with Tubey Magic mids, prodigious bass, transparency and freedom from hi-fi-ishness and distortion like few rock recordings you have ever heard."

Well, something better has now come along, and it's called Diamond Head.

More Phil Manzanera and Roxy Music

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The Moody Blues - In Search Of The Lost Chord

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: moodyinsea_2009) 

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

This Minty early Deram British Import LP has SOME OF BEST SOUND I HAVE EVER HEARD for this album. It has higher resolution, is more dynamic, sweeter and clearer than most copies, WITHOUT SACRIFICING the tubey-magical richness, warmth and lushness for which the Moody Blues recordings are justifiably famous. I’ll tell you this -- this pressing is correct from top to bottom, so present and alive, while still retaining all the richness and sweetness we expect from British Moody Blues records, that I find it hard to believe you can do any better, in this life anyway.

More Moody Blues

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The Moody Blues - In Search Of The Lost Chord

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: moodyinsea_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.

Achieving just the right balance of Tubey Magical, rich but not too rich "Moody Blues Sound" and transparency is no mean feat. You had better be using the real master tape for starters. Then you need a pressing with actual extension at the top, a quality rarely found on most imports. Finally, good bass definition is essential; it keeps the bottom end from blurring the midrange.

More Moody Blues

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Graham Nash's Wild Tales

and Their Mysteries Many and Deep

  (Item #: nash_wildt_wtlf) 

What hurts so many pressings of this album is a lifeless, compressed quality and a frustrating lack of presence.

Were the stampers a bit worn for those copies? Or was it bad vinyl that couldn't hold the energy of the stamper? Or perhaps some stampers just weren't cut right? These are mysteries, and they are mysteries that will always be mysteries, if for no other reason than that the number of production variables hopelessly intertwined at the moment of creation can never be teased apart no matter how hard one thinks about them.

As we like to say at every turn, thinking is really not much help with regard to finding better sounding records.

More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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Bonnie Raitt on Heavy Vinyl

DCC + RTI = Audio Enervation

  (Item #: raittnicko_enervation) 

The no-longer-surprising thing about our Hot Stamper pressings of Nick Of Time is how completely they MURDER the DCC LP. Folks, it's really no contest. Yes, the DCC is tonally balanced and can sound very good, but it can't compete with the best original pressings. It's missing too much of the presence, intimacy, immediacy and transparency that we've discovered on the better original pressings.

As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound. Modern remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing.

More Bonnie Raitt

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Rimsky-Korsakov - The Tale of Tsar Saltan

Speakers Corner Reviewed

  (Item #: rimsktaleo_speakers_corner) 

Sonic Grade: C

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing shown here in order to see how it would fare up against a pair of wonderful sounding Londons we were in the process of shooting out a while ago. Here's what we heard in our head to head comparison.

The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount. But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.

See more of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov in stock

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Rozsa / Music From the Film Ben Hur

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: rozsabenhu_2010) 

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

This TAS List Super Hot Stamper pressing of one of the greatest and most famous Orchestral Blockbuster Soundtracks ever recorded more than lives up to our expectations for Decca Phase 4. This is Phase 4 done RIGHT.

As with all the best Herrmann releases, the huge size and scope you hear is the sound of orchestral music recorded in glorious ANALOG!

See all of our Phase 4 albums in stock

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Boz Scaggs

What to Listen For

  (Item #: scaggbozsc_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 the album.

This original (SD-8239) pressing has two excellent sides, which is two more than the typical cardboardy, flat, thin, lifeless copy has. If you like your music dry and clean, try the remixed version (SD-19166), the CD, or perhaps there is a heavy vinyl version out there (at one tenth the price). That's not our sound here at Better Records.

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Carly Simon - Boys In The Trees

How Clearly Can You See the Hi-hat

  (Item #: simonboysi_listen) 

The Hi-hat Listening Test -- yet another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Carly's soulful version of You Belong To Me is what made this album a Must Own back in the day (and still does). During our shootout, as we listened to the song over and over again on copy after copy, it became clear that the best pressings allowed us to easily hear the drummer's hi-hat within the dense mix of this heavily produced pop song. On most copies it's buried and all but inaudible.

If the pressing you own is full-bodied and tonally correct, and you can easily pick out the rhythmic contribution of the hi-hat within the mix, you have a copy with the kind of transparency that few we played managed to achieve.

More Carly Simon

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Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman

Making Progress in Audio

  (Item #: steveteafo_progress) 

The following comments were written in 2004.

Hard Headed Woman is a song that has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years. If you've been making regular upgrades to your equipment and taking advantage of all the new technologies available at the front end, such as: vibration control, electromagnetic stabilization, better arms, better cartridges, better phono stages, better motors, fly wheels, Synchronous Drive Systems, better power cords, better power conditioning, to name just a few, you are no doubt able to reproduce this song much better than you were in the old days.

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London Orchestral Records from the '70s

And the Problem of Opacity

  (Item #: straualsos_6978) 

Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning records.

The average copy of this 1976 recording has that dry, multi-miked modern sound that the '70s ushered in for many of the major labels, notably London and RCA. How many Solti records are not ridiculously thick and opaque? One out of ten? If that. We're very wary of records recorded in the '70s; we've been burned too many times.

And to tell you the truth we are not all that thrilled with most of what passes for good sound on Mehta's London output either. If you have a high-resolution system these recordings, like those on Classic Heavy Vinyl we constantly criticize, leave a lot to be desired.

More orchestral music conducted by Georg Solti

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James Taylor - Dad Loves His Work

What to Listen For

  (Item #: taylodadlo_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 soundstage and depth on our Hot Stamper copies is HUGE -- this is without a doubt the most spacious recording by James Taylor we've ever heard. If you want your speakers to disappear, replaced by a huge studio full of musicians playing their hearts out, this is the album that can do it. But of course there's a lot more to the sound of the best copies than a big soundstage. Tonality is key.

More Dad Loves His Work

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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.

More Traffic

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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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War - Why Can't We Be Friends?

Richness Or Transparency - On This Album You Need Both

  (Item #: war__whyca_wtlf) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises, wherein we discuss two qualities essential to the sound of the album Why Can't We Be Friends? -- Richness and Transparency.

As usually happens in these shootouts we learned that there's so much more to this album than just big bass. What really makes this music come alive on the best copies was the result of two qualities we found were in fairly short supply.

See all of our War albums in stock

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and that Wonderful Feeling of Being There

  (Item #: youngafter_transparent) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

For our review of the new Heavy Vinyl After the Gold Rush we wrote:

Cleverly the engineers responsible for this remaster have managed to reproduce the sound of a dead studio on a record that wasn't recorded in one.

This pressing has no real space or ambience. Now the album sounds like it was recorded in a heavily baffled studio, but we know that's not what happened, because the originals of After the Gold Rush, like most of Neil's other albums from the era, are clear, open and spacious.

In other words, they are TRANSPARENT.

More Audio Advice

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Frank Zappa - Fillmore East - June 1971

Our Shootout Winner from 2014

  (Item #: zappafillm_2014) 

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

KILLER SOUND ON QUIET VINYL -- what are the odds? We're big fans of this album, and Zappa in general, but it's incredibly difficult to find copies that do justice to the music. The vinyl is typically thrashed, and even the copies in relatively clean condition usually don't sound good. This one has about the quietest vinyl you could hope for, playing Mint Minus on both sides, and the sound is just about as good as it gets!

More Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

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Frank Zappa - Waka/Jawaka

What to Listen For

  (Item #: zappawakaj_wtlf) 

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

Not long ago we discovered the secret to separating the men from the boys on side one: TRANSPARENCY.

On the lively, punchy, dynamic copies -- which are of course the best ones -- you can follow the drumming at the beginning of 'Big Swifty' note for note: every beat, every kick of the kick drum, every fill, every roll.

More Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

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Frank Zappa - Weasels Ripped My Flesh

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: zappawease_2013) 

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

TWO STUNNING A+++ SIDES! Nothing else in our shootout could touch this copy. The sound is incredibly BIG and BOLD throughout with shocking clarity, amazing presence, and wonderful transparency.

If you’re not already a Zappa fan, be warned that experimental song structures, feedback, dirty lyrics, avant garde jazz freakouts and gas mask solos (yes, you read that right) all figure into the mix here. I don’t know of anyone else who could shape that all into one amazing, fairly cohesive LP except for Zappa.

More Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

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