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Crosby, Stills and Nash - CSN

You Do the Best You Can with What You've Got to Work With

  (Item #: crosbcsn_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

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

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

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Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow

What to Listen For

  (Item #: jeffesurre_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The best copies of Surrealistic Pillow have three things in common.

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

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

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Count Basie - Basie Big Band

The Glorious Sound of Triple Flutes

  (Item #: basiebasie_big_band_wtlf) 



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

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

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The Beach Boys - Surf's Up

What to Listen For

  (Item #: beachsurfs_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.

What's magical about The Beach Boys? Their voices of course, what else could it be? It's not a trick question. Any good pressing must sound correct on their voices or it has no practical value whatsoever. A Beach Boys record with bad sound in the midrange -- like most of them -- is to us a worthless record.

When you drop the needle on a copy with gritty, spitty, harsh, shrill vocals, give up and move on. You have a bad pressing and no amount of cleaning or adjusting of the table can ever fix it.

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The Rolling Stones - Black and Blue

Listen to Billy Preston's Piano

  (Item #: rolliblack_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.

Billy Preston is all over this album on piano and organ and his contribution is crucial to the musical vibe on practically every song. Listen for Billy's full, solid, clear piano sound. When the piano is thin, the mix is thin and that's not the sound you want on a Stones album.

If the piano gets lost, your copy either has a smear problem or a transparency problem. Those are certainly easier to live with -- all the '70s systems I owned were smeary and opaque compared to my system today and I enjoyed the hell out of all of them -- but far from ideal.

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - 4 Way Street

What to Listen For

  (Item #: crosb4ways_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.

If the singers get hard and shrill in the louder passages, then what you have is a pretty typical pressing. Add grit and grain, smeared transients, opacity, surface noise and a lack of weight down low and you'll know why it takes us years to find enough copies to shoot out -- because this is what most pressings sound like.

More 4 Way Street / More CSN&Y


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Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

What to Listen For

  (Item #: londojulie_is_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.

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is on Barney Kessel's guitar. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

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Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive

What to Listen For

  (Item #: frampframpton_comes_wtlf) 



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

What to listen for? Dynamic, soaring guitar solos!

On the best copies the guitar solos are the loudest parts of some songs, which, as everyone who's ever been to a rock concert knows, is exactly what happens in live rock music.

Not many live albums are mixed to allow the guitar solos to rock the way these do. Since Frampton is one of my favorite players, hearing his solos get loud on this album is nothing less than a thrill.

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Frank Sinatra and Count Basie - Sinatra At The Sands

What to Listen For

  (Item #: sinatatthe_wtlf) 



There is some edge on Sinatra's voice on every side of every copy; it's so common it's got to be on the tape. Those copies with less edge and grit on the vocals which are not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts.

Also, richness is very important. We look for a combination of rich, Tubey Magical sound that still maintains a fair amount of space, clarity, transparency and freedom from smear.

The original label pressings (always in stereo; the monos are really a joke) are richer and thicker as a rule.

The pressings with the orange two-tone labels tend to be thinner and clearer. A high percentage of them are much too modern sounding, bright and gritty, and when they are we throw them right in the trade-in pile.

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Simon & Garfunkel - Wednesday Morning, 3 AM

The Right 360 Pressing Is King

  (Item #: simonwedne_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.

We played a big stack of copies recently and ran into all kinds of problems. Some were dull, some were spitty, many were smeared, and far too many were gritty.

The later pressings didn't solve any of these problems. In fact, none of the Red Label copies we've ever played sounded good enough on either side to merit a Hot Stamper grade. If you want good sound for this album, 360 stereo pressings seem to be the only way to go. The mono pressings we played were painfully bad.

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Dean Martin - Dream With Dean

Watch Out for Hard and Honky Vocals

  (Item #: martidream_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.

Dream with Dean is great for finding any traces of "honk" in your midrange. Getting Deano's baritone to sound tubey and rich, to get the sound that Bing Crosby could get just by opening his mouth, is not all that easy on some systems, mine included. Correctly set VTA is critical in this regard, but pretty much everything must be working at its best for Dean to sound as intimate and natural as we know he can on the best pressings.

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Freddie Hubbard - Sky Dive

What to Listen For

  (Item #: hubbaskydi_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.

Smear is by far the most common problem with the copies we played. When the transient bite of the trumpet is correctly reproduced, maintaining its full-bodied tone and harmonic structures, you know you have a very special copy of Sky Dive (or First Light or Red Clay, etc., etc.). When the sound is blurry, thick, veiled, dull or slow, you have what might be considered something more like the average copy.

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Transparency

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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Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps

Just How Good Is a Second Tier Neil Young Album?

  (Item #: youngrustn_wtlf) 



Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning music and recordings.

AMG raves about this album, giving it 5 big stars. (For those of you keeping score at home, that's half a star MORE than they gave Harvest.) We like the album just fine, but I doubt we would want to go quite that far. Sure, these are great songs, but give us After The Gold Rush, Zuma or Harvest (all Top 100 titles, Hot Stampers of which are sometimes in stock) over this one any day.

Still, a second tier Neil Young album (by our standards) usually will beat a first tier album from just about anybody else making records in 1979.

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Dave Brubeck Trio Featuring Gerry Mulligan - Compadres

What to Listen For - The Audience

  (Item #: brubecompa_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, or any live album for that matter.

As is the case with most live albums, the sound of the crowd tells you a lot about the recording, and on this copy the crowd sounded exceptionally clear and natural.

More Dave Brubeck / More Gerry Mulligan


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Eagles - The Long Run

What to Listen For

  (Item #: eaglelongr_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 Long Run on side one.

Want to know if you have a good side one on your copy? Here's an easy test. Timothy B Schmit's vocal on I Can't Tell You Why rarely sounds right. Most of the time he's muffled, pretty far back in the soundstage, and the booth he's in has practically no ambience. On the good copies he's not exactly jumping out of the speakers, but he's clear, focussed, and his voice is breathy and full of emotional subtleties that make the song the heartbreaking powerhouse it is.

More Eagles


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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.

More Fleetwood Mac


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The Doors - The Doors

What to Listen For

  (Item #: doorsdoors_wtlf) 



What to Listen For? you ask?

ENERGY and RAW POWER. Few audiophiles have any idea how well recorded this album is, simply because most pressings don't do a very good job of encoding the life of the master tape onto the vinyl of the day, regardless of whether that day is in 1967 or 2017.

The first Doors album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most powerful recording in the entire Doors catalog.

More by The Doors


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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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Fleetwood Mac - Greatest Hits

What to Listen For - Punchy Drums

  (Item #: fleetgreat_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.

Many pressings are compressed, murky, veiled and recessed, especially the early ones. To find one that is transparent, clear, present and punchy is no mean feat.

On either side listen for the drums to punch through the mix.

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Eagles - One Of These Nights

Soaring Guitar Solos and Huge Choruses

  (Item #: eagleoneof_wtlf) 



What to Listen For you ask?

That's easy: Soaring Guitar Solos and Huge Choruses.

If you have an exceptionally good sounding copy of the album, One Of These Nights is the kind of record that can really come alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

More by The Eagles


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Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace

A Bit of Experimentation with VTA Can Really Pay Off

  (Item #: frankamazi_wtlf) 



This is a handy record for VTA setup, a subject we discuss at length below.

On the better copies Aretha's vocals are as dynamic as any you will ever hear, and unlike all the records she did with Tom Dowd, her voice never breaks up on this record. If you have big speakers that can play at loud levels, with the right volume level you can really get Aretha to belt it out like nothing you have ever heard.

See more of our Aretha Franklin albums in stock


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Oscar Peterson Trio - The Trio - Live From Chicago

What to Listen For

  (Item #: petertrio_wtlf) 



What to Listen For? you ask?

Some copies are poorly mastered, so poorly that Ray Brown's bass all but disappears from the trio! Other copies made Thigpen's snare sound hard and too forward in the mix. This is obviously just a mastering EQ problem, since the good copies, such as this one, get all those elements to balance beautifully.

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Bob Dylan Listening Test

Here’s One to Wet Your Whistle

  (Item #: dylannashv_wtlf) 



Presenting today’s Home Audio Exercise. Play your copy of Nashville Skyline -- on speakers, no fair cheating on headphones! -- and see if you can answer this question. At the beginning of one of the songs on this album two sounds are heard, neither of which is produced by an instrument, but could be said to have been produced by a singer. What are these two mysterious sounds?

If you have a good copy of the record, a good stereo and the ability to listen critically, you should have no problem figuring out what these sounds are. When you do, drop us an email. Until we come up with a better prize, for now we can offer you an extra 10% off your next order.

More Bob Dylan


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XTC - English Settlement

What to Listen For

  (Item #: xtc__engli_wtlf_2017) 



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

For Big Production Rock Albums like English Settlement there are some obvious problem areas that are often heard on at least one or two sides of practically any copy of this four sided album.

With so many heavily-produced instruments crammed into the soundfield, if the overall sound is at all veiled, recessed or smeared -- problems common to 90+% of the records we play in our shootouts -- the mix quickly becomes opaque, forcing the listener to work too hard to separate out the elements of interest.

A Big Speaker Record if ever there was one.


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Bud Shank And the Sax Section

The Bass Sax - What a Sound

  (Item #: shankandth_wtlf) 



What to Listen For you ask?

The reason this album is so appealing to us audiophiles is that the sound of each of the saxophones is clearly recognizable as they weave in and around these arrangements. On the back cover you can see a fellow holding a bass saxophone, an instrument you don't hear too often -- perhaps it's fallen from favor. (It solos at the beginning of Sidewinder on side one. Once you hear it you will be dying to play that song for your audiophile buddies, I guarantee it. What a sound!)

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Beethoven / ’Kreutzer’ Sonata

Putting Your System to the (Violin and Piano) Test

  (Item #: beethkreut_2577_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating this kind of recording.

Do you want a recording that is going to put your system to the test? Well this is that record! That violin is REAL. As you compare equipment or tweak your system, you will hear the sound of that violin change and it should be obvious when it gets better and when it gets worse.

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven


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The Beatles - Please Please Me

What to Listen For

  (Item #: beatlpleas_wtlf_2014) 



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

The Beatles' first album is a recording overflowing with sonic qualities prized by audiophiles and music lovers alike: Tubey Magic, energy, immediacy, richness, breathy vocals; in short, all the stuff you will never hear -- or not hear to the same extent -- on anything but the best vintage analog vinyl LPs.

More Please Please Me


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Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

What to Listen For

  (Item #: dylanblood_wtlf_1) 



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.

Many copies have no bass, while other copies are bright, a combination which ruins the sound of the acoustic guitars that dominate the album. On the better Hot Stamper pressings the bass will be deep and well-defined and the tonal balance will be correct.

The copies that fared the best in our shootouts were rich, warm, tubey and full-bodied -- in other words, analog sounding.

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Harry James & His Big Band - The King James Version

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: jameskingj_2008) 



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

This White Hot Stamper has the best side two we have ever heard! Side two fulfills the promise of the direct to disc recording approach in a way that few -- very few -- direct to disc pressings do. To be honest, the typical pressing of The King James Version leaves much to be desired. As a rule two areas are especially lacking: there is a noticeable lack of presence on most copies, causing the brass to get stuck in the speakers and lose its bite; and, every bit as bad, the sound is often just plain compressed, lacking energy and life. The musicians on most copies are just not giving it their all.

More Audiophile recordings


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Janis Joplin - I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

What to Listen For

  (Item #: jopliigotd_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.

ENERGY is the key element missing from the average copy, but not on this bad boy (or girl if you prefer). The electric guitars are super Tubey Magical and the bass is solid and punchy.

On many copies -- too many copies -- the vocals are pinched and edgy. Here they're breathy and full -- a much better way for Janis to sound. There's a slight amount of grit to the vocals at times and the brass as well, but the life force on these sides is so strong that we much preferred it to the smoother, duller, deader copies we heard that didn't have that issue.

See all of our Janis Joplin albums in stock


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Tears For Fears - Songs From The Big Chair

What to Listen For

  (Item #: tearssongs_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.

There is one quality that the best copies always have and that the worst copies always lack: Frequency Extension, especially on the top end.

When you get a copy like this one, with superb extension up top, the grit and edge on the highs almost disappears. You can test for that quality on side one very easily with the percussive opening to Shout. If the harmonics and air are present at the opening, you are very likely hearing a top quality copy.

See all our Tears For Fears pressings in stock


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VTA Adjustment

Helplessly Hoping to Get It Right

  (Item #: crosbsofar_wtlf) 



This listing from 2005 (!) contains commentary about Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) adjustment using the track Helplessly Hoping from a Hot Stamper pressing of CSN’s So Far.
More So Far / More CSN&Y


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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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Stevie Wonder - Fulfillingness’ First Finale

A True Stevie Wonder Masterpiece

  (Item #: wondefulfi_wtlf) 



In my humble opinion this is clearly the second of Stevie Wonder's two MASTERPIECES, as well as a Forgotten Classic.

Over the course of the last year or two, for the first time in my life I've finally taken the time to really get to know the album well, having found a CD at a local store to play in the car and a cassette tape to take to the gym. I've listened to Fulfillingness’ First Finale scores of times and now see that is some of the best work Stevie Wonder ever did, right up there with Innervisions and miles ahead of any other Stevie Wonder album.

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Neil Young - Comes A Time

What to Listen For

  (Item #: youngcomes_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), and a Forgotten Classic from 1978.

So many copies we played just sounded flat, with dull guitars and hard vocals. Some made Neil sound like he was singing from the back of the studio. Still others noticeably lacked leading edge transients of any kind, blunting the attack of the various stringed instruments.

More Comes a Time / More Neil Young


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Heart - Dog and Butterfly

Listen for the Fat Snare on Straight On

  (Item #: heartdogan_wtlf_2016) 



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.

Take five copies of the album, clean them well and then cue up Straight On. Now listen for how fat and solid the snare sounds. At least three will have a snare that doesn't have the heft of the real thing. At most one will show you what it should really sound like.

Of course the copy with the right snare sound may have other problems, most assuredly does have other problems, which is why you need about ten to fifteen copies to really do a proper shootout.

More Heart


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Joe Jackson - Balancing Night with Day

  (Item #: jacksnight_wtlf) 



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

There are basically four elements that go into the making of Night and Day: vocals; keyboards (mostly the piano); percussion (in the mids and highs) and rhythm (drums and bass).

No two copies will get all of these elements to sound their best. The trick to finding the hotter of the Hot Stamper pressings is to find copies of the album that reproduce these four elements clearly and correctly, in balance, and reveals their placement in a large, three-dimensional studio space.

See all of our Joe Jackson albums in stock


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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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The Byrds - Mr. Tambourine Man

What to Listen For

  (Item #: byrdsmrtam_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.

Want to hear what the best copies of Mr. Tambourine Man can do? Play Chimes of Freedom, one of the best sounding tracks on side two, if not THE best. Listen to how breathy Jim (later Roger) McGuinn's vocals are. Byrds records almost never sound like that.

I Knew I’d Want You is another one that sounds amazingly Tubey Magical on the best pressings.

More of The Byrds


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The Monty Alexander 7 - Jamento

What to Listen For - Percussion and Piano

  (Item #: alexajamen_wtlf) 



Another in our series of What to Listen For.

Clear piano notes, first and foremost. Any smear or loss of speed (a problem with hi-fi equipment since the beginning of time) detracts from the fun.

Next, the tonality of the best copies is rich and solid; accept nothing less.

And, finally, the proper reproduction of the percussion instruments is critically important to the energy and drive of the music. The better you hear them -- without losing the weight and richness of the piano -- the more you will enjoy your copy of the record.

More Monty Alexander


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Buffalo Springfield - Again

Extracting the Midrange Magic

  (Item #: buffaagain_wtlf) 



Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts concerning music and recordings.

So many copies of this album sound so bad and play so poorly that most audiophiles have by now written it off as a lost cause. But we didn't. We kept at it, and our main motivation was the music.

Extracting the midrange magic from a album like this should be the goal of every right-thinking audiophile. Who cares what's on the TAS Super Disc List? I want to play the music that I love, not because it sounds good, but because I love it. And if the only way to find good sounding copies of typically poorly-mastered, beat-to-death records such as this one is to go through a big pile of them, well then, I guess that's what we'll have to do.

More Buffalo Springfield


 
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Willie Dixon - I Am The Blues

What to Listen For

  (Item #: dixoniamth_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.

It was pretty easy to separate the men from the boys in this shootout. A quick drop of the needle on each side would immediately answer our number one question: "How BIG is the sound?" The copies that lacked top end extension or heft in the bottom end were just too uninvolving. This is the BLUES, baby -- you think it's supposed to sound small and distant?

Another problem we ran into on many copies was excessive smoothness. When a copies was overly rich or smeary, it usually lacked the "gritty" feel that music like this should have.

More Willie Dixon


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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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Tchaikovsky / Concerto for Violin & Orchestra / Oistrakh

Not Too Big to Fail

  (Item #: tchaivioli_mhs_wtlf) 



Side two of this copy from our 2016 shootout provides a clear example of the effect known as the "The Violin That Ate Cincinatti."

Yes, it may be oversized, but it's so REAL and IMMEDIATE and harmonically correct in every way that we felt more than justified in ignoring the fact that the instrument could never sound in the concert hall the way it does here -- unless you were actually playing it (and even then I doubt if it would be precisely the same sound -- big, but surely quite different).

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky


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John Klemmer - Straight from the Heart

Listening for the Tubey Magic

  (Item #: klemmstrai_wtlf) 



The best copies give you dynamics and immediacy like you have rarely heard outside of the live event. Hell, this record IS live; it's live in the studio. It's a direct to disc recording, what else could it be?

There is simply nothing in the way of the music. If you have the system for it, you can recreate the live sound of this session in a way that few other recordings would ever allow you to do.

This copy had one quality not heard on most of the others: Tubey Magic. The sound is rich and full-bodied, practically free of grit and grain - this is the kind of sound one hears occassionally on the best tube equipment and practically nowhere else. Of course this is an all-transistor affair, but tubey sound is what ended up on the record, so go figure.

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Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage

Keeping the Players Together

  (Item #: hancomaide_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember playing around with the stereo one day, listening for different effects as I made minor changes to the tracking weight, the VTA, adjustments to the Hallographs and the like, and at one point I noticed that the ensemble seemed to be really coherently connected, each of the players balanced with all the others.

It was a striking effect and it made me realize that musical values can often be overlooked while chasing after audiophile effects of one kind or another. Hearing the ensemble come together made me appreciate this album even more.

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Buffalo Springfield - Last Time Around

Listening for Tubey Magic Down Low

  (Item #: buffalastt_wtlf) 



On even the best copies there's a bit too much Tubey Magic in the bass I regret to say. Tubbiness and bloat were par for the course. This may explain why so many copies have rolled off bass; the engineer cut the bass because he heard how tubby it was and figured no bass is better than bad bass.

Which is just not true. Cutting the bass leans out and "modernizes" the sound, making the voices sound thin and dry. This pretty much ruins everything on this album just the way it ruins everything in practically every modern recording I hear. Having your bass under control on the playback side isn't easy -- in fact it's probably the hardest thing to achieve in audio -- but it can be done, and with good bass control the slightly wooly bass is just part of the sound you learn to accept.

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Talking Heads - Little Creatures

I Ask You: What Album from 1985 Has Better Sound?

  (Item #: talkilittl_wtlf) 



We’re huge fans of Little Creatures here at Better Records and we think when you hear one of our Hot Stamper copies you’ll know exactly what we love about it. Not many records from this era sound as amazingly rich as this one, not in our experience anyway. (As I write this there are four Hot Stamper pressings from 1985 on the site, and one of them is Brothers in Arms, hardly anyone's idea of audiophile quality sound I venture to say.)

The recording is simply outstanding -- punchy, smooth & so ANALOG, with an especially beefy bottom end, the kind a good Big Beat Pop Album record needs. (For a mental reference think Get The Knack or Parallel Lines.)

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Santana - Inner Secrets

Santana's Guitar Solos Soar

  (Item #: santainner_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.

On side two the final guitar solo Santana takes on Well All Right gets LOUDER in the mix than any guitar solo on any rock record with which I am familiar. The sound gets louder after the first chorus, then louder still right before the second solo, and then the solo itself gets even louder until it seems to be as loud as live music. (Operative word: seems.)

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Queen - Jazz

Rockin' Out with Fat Bottomed Girls

  (Item #: queenjazz_wtlf) 



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.

There is a tendency in the recording to be a little "hot" tonally on the vocals and snare. The better copies like this one keep it under control, with the lesser copies getting much too lean and gritty to play loudly. What good is a raver like Fat Bottomed Girls if you can't turn it up and really rock out with it?

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Loggins & Messina - Full Sail

Choruses that Really Get Up and Going

  (Item #: loggifulls_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.

At about the two minute mark the big chorus in Watching the River Run is also a great test for weight, resolution, dynamic energy, and freedom from strain in the loudest parts. When the whole band is projecting, really belting it out, the shortcomings of practically any copy will be most evident. It was a key test every pressing had to pass.

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Harry Nilsson - Nilsson Schmilsson

Jump into the Fire with Harry Nilsson

  (Item #: nilssschmi_wtlf) 



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Nilsson Schmilsson.

Jump Into The Fire is one of the best tests we used for side two. Copies that are too smooth make the "just bass and drums" intro sound thick and smeared. Too bright and the vocals will tear your head off. The "just right" copies rock from the start and never get too far out of control, even when Harry does. The best we can hope for is that the loudest vocal parts stay tolerable. Believe me, it is not that easy to find a copy that's listenable all the way through, not at the high volume I play the record at anyway!

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Perez Prado - Prez

What to Listen For

  (Item #: pradoprez_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.

If you like the sound of percussion instruments of every possible flavor, including some you have never tasted before, you will have a hard time finding a more magical recording of them than this.

Big and spacious, yet clear, dynamic and energetic. The brass is never "blary" the way it can be on so many Big Band or Dance Band records from the '50s and '60s. (Basie's Roulette records tend to have a bad case of blary brass as a rule.)

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The Pretenders - Get Close

What to Listen For

  (Item #: pretegetcl_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 copies have superb extension up top, which allows the grit and edge on the vocals to almost entirely disappear. Some of it is there on the tape for a reason -- that's partly the sound they were going for, this is after all a Bob Clearmountain mix and a Jimmy Iovine production -- but bad mastering and pressing adds plenty of grit to the average copy, enough to ruin it in fact.

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Frank Sinatra - Strangers In The Night

What to Listen For

  (Item #: sinatstran_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.

What to listen for you ask? The superb engineering of LEE HERSCHBERG and EDDIE BRACKETT! The sound is, in a word, luscious.

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Rod Stewart - Never A Dull Moment

What to Listen For

  (Item #: stewanever_wtlf) 



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

Most copies tend to be dull, veiled, thick and congested, but the trick with the better pressings is being able to separate out the various parts with ease and hear right INTO the music.

Just listen to those meaty electric guitars, the note-like bass or that amazing snare drum sound with such a huge THWACK -- that's the raw power of rock n' roll, baby.

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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.

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Burt Bacharach - Reach Out

What to Listen For

  (Item #: bachareach_wtlf) 



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

What to listen for? Brightness, Blare, Lifelessness, Smear.

We played a good-sized stack of these recently, but not many of them sounded like this one. The majority of copies had a tendency to be bright, which is MURDER when the horns start blaring at the levels we like to play our records at.

In addition there are plenty of copies out there that lack energy, while others suffer from transient smearing, clearly audible on the brass.

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Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Rossi

How Does the Narrator Sound?

  (Item #: prokopeter_van_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate ANY version of Peter and the Wolf.

The narrator for this piece almost always sounds like he's in a sound booth, of varying sound quality to be sure. (Bernstein's narration is one of the worst in this respect, sounding more like Aqualung than Lennie.)

Somehow Boris Karloff sounds like he is on stage with the orchestra here. He's either been recorded on stage, or precisely the right amount and kind of reverb has been added to his voice to match the sound of the hall.

See more of the music of Sergei Prokofiev


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The Who - Quadrophenia

What to Listen For

  (Item #: who__quadr_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.

On the best copies the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS. The highs are silky sweet, the bottom end is meaty, the drums are punchy and the vocals are present and tonally correct. The piano has real weight, the synths float breathily in the air, and there's wonderful three-dimensional depth to the soundfield.

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Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings and Food

What to Listen For

  (Item #: talkimores_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.

With Our Love turned out to be one of our favorite tests for side one. The picking of the rhythmic guitar in the intro told us just about everything we needed to know about smear, veiling and resolution. On most copies the instrument is simply blurry, the notes mashed together. When you've got a copy with its transients intact, resolving properly and clearly right there in front of you, you have the makings of a Hot Stamper side one.

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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.

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Carly Simon - Another Passenger

What to Listen For

  (Item #: simonanoth_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's one quality in particular that added immensely to our enjoyment of the music -- gobs and gobs of Tubey Magic. The copies that were opaque, dry, flat and "modern" sounding -- which pretty much describes practically every Heavy Vinyl record we've played in the last five years -- bored us to tears, not surprisingly in the very same way that most Heavy Vinyl does.

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Carly Simon - Carly Simon

What to Listen For

  (Item #: simoncarly_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.

Too many copies we played erred on the hi-fi side, with not enough warmth. The copies that sound incredibly clean and clear just didn't do much for us; they weren't able to convey the intimacy and emotion of the music. I'm sure you've had a similar experience playing CDs of some of your old favorites. You keep wondering why you liked the music in the first place. Don't blame the music. Blame those crappy CDs.

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Deep Purple - Made In Japan

What to Listen For

  (Item #: deeppmadei_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.

We've raved about a number of live albums over the years. Some of the better sounding ones that come readily to mind (in alphabetical order) are Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, David Live, Johnny Cash At San Quentin, Donny Hathaway Live, The Jimi Hendrix Concerts, Performance - Rockin The Fillmore, Live Wire - Blues Power, Waiting For Columbus, Get Your Ya-Ya's Out and Live at Leeds. I would be proud to have any of them in my collection.

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Earth, Wind & Fire - That’s The Way of the World

What to Listen For

  (Item #: earththats_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.

We're pretty sure that the first track on side one, Shining Star, is made from a dub, a common occurrence with planned hit singles. The rest of the songs on side two are a step up in class; when you play the side, see if you don't hear some veiling and smearing.

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Chabrier / Orchestral Music / Ansermet

What to Listen For

  (Item #: chabrorche_wtlf_2016) 



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.

On many copies the strings are dry, lacking Tubey Magic. This is decidedly not our sound, although it can easily be heard on many London pressings, the kind we've played by the hundreds over the years. If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange that so many moving coils have these days, you will not notice this tonality issue nearly as much as we do. Our 17D3 is ruler flat and quite unforgiving in this regard.

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894)


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Bizet & Saint-Saens / Carmen Fantasie

This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

  (Item #: bizetcarme_wtlf) 



Ricci’s playing of the Bizet-Sarasate Carmen Fantasie is OUT OF THIS WORLD. There is no greater performance on record in my opinion, and few works that have as much Audiophile Appeal. Which is why I've had a copy of this record in my own collection for about fifteen years marked "My Demo Disc". But this copy KILLED it. How could that be?

It just goes to show: No matter how good a particular copy of a record may sound to you, when you clean and play enough of them you will almost always find one that's better, and often surprisingly better. Shootouts are the only way to find these kinds of records. Nothing else works.

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


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Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein

What to Listen For

  (Item #: prokopeter_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.

What makes this an especially good Peter and the Wolf? The timbre of the solo instruments -- bassoon, oboe, flute -- each of which serves to represent a character in the story. Shockingly lifelike, the tonality is unerringly Right On The Money (ROTM) throughout. That makes this pressing both a superb Demo Disc as well as a top quality Audio Test Disc.

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)


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Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon

Live Sound Versus Chesky Sound

  (Item #: schubtrout_6090_wtlf) 



What I hear on this pressing is sound that is absolutely free from any top end boost, much the way live music is. There’s plenty of tape hiss and air; the highs aren’t rolled off, they’re just not boosted the way they normally are in a recording.

A few years back I had a chance to see a piano trio play locally; they even perform a piece by Schubert. The one thing I noticed immediately during their live performance was how smooth and natural the top end was. I was no more than ten feet from the performers in a fairly reverberant room, and yet the sound I heard was the opposite of what passes in some circles for Hi-Fidelity.

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)


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Shelly Manne & His Friends - Bells Are Ringing

What to Listen For

  (Item #: mannebells_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

I have a very long history with this album, dating back close to twenty years. My friend Robert Pincus first turned me on to the CD, which, happily for all concerned was mastered beautifully. We used it to test and tweak my stereo and many of those that were owned by friends.

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The Doobie Brothers - Toulouse Street

Templeman, Barncard and Landee Work Their Magic

  (Item #: doobitoulo_wtlf) 



Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this one: STEPHEN BARNCARD and DONN LANDEE. This copy surely has all the Tubey Magic one could ask for, but it's the size, space and clarity here that really shocked us.
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Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo - Lena & Gabor

Now That's a Good Sounding Drum Kit!

  (Item #: hornelenaa_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.

This is the most realistic drum kit I have heard on a non-jazz album in my life. The drum sound on the first track is exactly the sound we all know from hanging around small clubs and our friends' garage bands. There is simply no audible processing on any part of the kit. The drums are centered behind the vocals and lead instruments, with what sounds like to me the barest of miking, surrounded by just the right amount of unbaffled studio space.

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Michael Jackson's Off The Wall Vs. Thriller

Which Album Has the Real Tubey Magic?

  (Item #: jacksoffth_wtlf) 



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.

Off the Wall has better sound than Thriller you say?

Yes. As consistently brilliant as Thriller may be musically -- it is the biggest selling album of all time after all -- speaking strictly in terms of sonics the best copies of Off the Wall are substantially sweeter, tubier, more natural, richer, and more ANALOG than Thriller.

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Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills

Bill Halverson's Engineering Masterpiece?

  (Item #: stillsteph_wtlf) 



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

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

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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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Badfinger - Straight Up

What to Listen For

  (Item #: badfistrai_wtlf) 



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

The best sides have the kind of PRESENCE in the midrange that most copies can't begin to reproduce. The sound on the right pressings just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies are supposed to (but rarely) do.

This is Power Pop, plain and simple. The basics are what count: punchy drums, grungy guitars, present vocals, clear but full bass lines -- just the meat and potatoes of rock, no fancy sauces.

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Christopher Cross - Christopher Cross

Ride Like the Wind

  (Item #: crosschris_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's one test on side two that few copies do well on. The mostly instrumental section in the middle of Ride Like the Wind has a huge chorus singing in a wonderfully reverberant studio. Only the most transparent, most distortion-free copies let you clearly hear all their voices bouncing off the walls.

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Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan / Ansermet

What to Listen For - The Triangle

  (Item #: rimsktaleo_6012_wtlf) 



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

This is a work that makes extensive use of the triangle, and I don't know when I've ever heard a better recording of that instrument. (I think there are actually two being played.) It's incredibly sweet, detailed and extended, without calling attention to itself in an unnatural manner. When you hear it, you know it, and I'm hearing it in my head as this is being written.

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Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick

Ruthless When It Comes to Accuracy

  (Item #: jethrthick_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.

From 2009 to 2010 this was our single go-to record for testing and tweaking the system.

Although we now use an amazing copy of Bob and Ray (the big band version of The Song of the Volga Boatmen located therein has to be the toughest test we know of bar none), we could easily go back to using TAAB. It's absolutely ruthless when it comes to the slightest hint of artificiality in the sound of the system.

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Bruce Springsteen - Darkness On The Edge Of Town

Cleaner and Clearer than You Might Think

  (Item #: sprindarkn_wtlf) 


We used to say that Springsteen recordings from this era always suffered from some grit and grain. With the better cleaning technologies we employ now, and dramatically better playback quality as well, much of that gritty, grainy sound is simply no longer a problem. That change and the others like it come under the general heading of Revolutionary Changes in Audio. It's what real Progress in Audio is all about.
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David Crosby - If I Could Only Remember My Name

What to Listen For

  (Item #: crosbifico_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.

Note how Crosby's voice is "chesty" -- some copies make him sound like he's all mouth and no diaphragm. When his voice is full-bodied and solid, that's when he sounds more like a real person and less like a pop recording of a person. Give credit where credit is due, to the brilliant engineering of Stephen Barncard and Henry Lewy.


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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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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.

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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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The Who - Who By Numbers

More Bass or More Detail, Which Is Right?

  (Item #: who__whoby_wtlf_2015) 



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

With Doug Sax mastering from the real tape, you get a Rock Solid Bottom End like you will not believe. Talk about punchy, well-defined and deep, man, this record has BASS that you sure don't hear too often on rock records.

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Crowded House - Crowded House

What To Listen For

  (Item #: crowdcrowd_wtlf) 



What to Listen For, you ask?

Number one: Too many instruments jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression, there will be too many elements -- voices, guitars, drums -- vying for space in the upper area of the midrange, causing congestion and a loss of clarity. This is especially noticeable on the second track of side one, Now We're Getting Somewhere.

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Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire

What To Listen For

  (Item #: mahavbirds_wtlf) 



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

Birds of Fire as a recording is not about depth or soundstage or ambience. It's about IMMEDIACY, plain and simple. All the lead instruments positively jump out of the speakers -- if you are lucky enough to be playing the right pressing. This is precisely what we want our best Hot Stampers to do. The better they do it, the higher their grade.

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Elton John - Madman Across The Water

What To Listen For

  (Item #: john_madma_wtlf) 



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

This is the last of the classic Elton John albums recorded at Trident, the best of which have more Tubey Magic than anything recorded afterwards. There are three amazing sounding Elton John records on our Top 100 list, two of them engineered by the estimable ROBIN GEOFFREY CABLE, Trident Studios’ house engineer in 1972.

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Weather Report - Sweetnighter

What to Listen For

  (Item #: weathsweet_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. What surprised us most about the dozen or so copies that we played for this shootout was how wrong most copies of this album sound. They're SOUR in the midrange. On this kind of music, a sour midrange is the kiss of death. Those copies that aren't sour are frequently just plain dull. On a recording like this, so full of percussion -- which to be honest LIVES OR DIES on the quality of its percussion -- dullness is devastating.
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Joni Mitchell - Ladies Of The Canyon

What To Listen For

  (Item #: mitchladie_wtlf) 



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

The growl of the cello on Rainy Night House can clearly be heard behind Joni, with the wood of the instrument sounding real and correct. The kind of You Are There immediacy and transparency of the best copies has to be heard to be believed.

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Linda Ronstadt - Don’t Cry Now

What to Listen For

  (Item #: ronstdontc_wtlf) 



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

Her vocals on both sides can be very DYNAMIC, but only the best copies will present them with no hint of STRAIN or GRAIN, two problems that make most pressings positively painful to listen to at the loud volumes we prefer.

Linda really belts it out on this album -- face it, it's what she does best -- and only the rarest copies allow you to turn up the volume good and loud and let her do her thing.

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Crack The Sky - Animal Notes

What To Listen For

  (Item #: crackanima_wtlf) 



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

The best vintage rock recordings usually have something going for them that few recordings made after the '70s do: their choruses get big and loud, yet stay smooth, natural and uncongested.

We've mentioned it in countless listings. So many records have -- to one degree or another -- harsh, hard, gritty, shrill, congested choruses. When the choruses get loud they become unpleasant, and here at Better Records you lose a lot of points when that happens.

More Crack the Sky


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Paul Simon - Graceland

When Clarity Is King

  (Item #: simongrace_wtlf) 



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

We regularly do shootouts for Graceland. Having played so many copies over the years we're become quite familiar with the range of sound on the album, what constitutes good, better and best, and we feel we understand what qualities the premier copy must have in order to win one of our shootouts.

What Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY.

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Gershwin / An American In Paris & Rhapsody In Blue / Bernstein

What To Listen For

  (Item #: gershrhaps_6091_wtlf) 



This original Six Eye LP has the smooth brass and full-bodied strings that allow this wonderful music to astound the listener.

Smooth and solid, not brash or blary, what really impressed about the sound here was how full it was, yet it was never thick or murky. Instead it was transparent in the lower mids and below, and that sound was just glorious after listening to too many thin and brash pressings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and very percussive -- there is no tubey Old School smear to be heard, and that too was a surprise.

More of the music of George Gershwin


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Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Further Out

What to Listen For

  (Item #: brubetimef_wtlf) 



The best copies such as this one demonstrate the big-as-life Fred Plaut Columbia Sound at its best (better than even Time Out in our opinion). These vintage recordings are full-bodied, spacious, three-dimensional, rich, sweet and warm in the best tradition of an All Tube Analog recording. If you want to hear big drums in a big room these Brubeck recordings will show you that sound better than practically any record we know of. The Engineering tab below has much more on that subject.
See more of our Dave Brubeck albums in stock


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Bill Evans - Moon Beams

OJC versus Riverside

  (Item #: evansmoonb_wtlf) 



The original Riverside pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that's just another Record Myth.

Some of you may have discovered that the original Bill Evans records on Riverside are mostly awful sounding -- I can't recall ever hearing a good one -- so we are not the least bit worried that this OJC won't beat the pants off of the original, as well as any other reissue you may have, and even the new Analogue Productions 45.

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Buckingham Nicks - Buckingham Nicks

Watch Out for Too Fat and Too Rich

  (Item #: buckibucki_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 biggest problem with this record is sound that gets too fat and too rich. There has to be transparency to the sound that lets us listen into the studio. When Stevie is singing, almost always double-tracked by the way, Lindsay is often doing harmony vocals well behind her, double-tracked as well.

More Buckingham Nicks / More Fleetwood Mac


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Billy Joel - Turnstiles

What to Listen For

  (Item #: joel_turns_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.

On side two Prelude/Angry Young Man were key test tracks. The biggest, richest copies with the most space consistently brought out the best in the songs and individual performances of the players.

Summer, Highland Falls is a great test -- listen for breathy vocals, a full piano, a clear snare drum once it comes in and, most importantly, an energetic performance. You will need all four to score well in one of our shootouts.

More Billy Joel


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