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Commentary Overview

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Commentary Overview


Commentary Overview
We discuss practically anything that concerns recordings or their reproduction here.

If you want to collect better sounding records and hear them at their best, many of the commentaries in this section will be of interest.

And be sure to check out our new blog, On The Record!


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Tell Us More About "Hot Stampers"

Straight Answers to Common Questions

  (Item #: hot_stampers_faq_2015_3) 

Many of the basic questions concerning Hot Stampers, including our grading system, 2-packs, coupons, the mailing list, as well as more general ordering and payment information, can be found in the original FAQ.

We recommend that you read it before continuing on with this one. The Hot Stamper FAQ below deals specifically with the kinds of issues that potential customers, as well as skeptics and forum posters (god bless 'em!), have raised with us over the years.

We think sitting down to listen to a Hot Stamper pressing is the best way to appreciate its superior sound, in the same way that hearing a vintage LP played back on a top quality system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog. Short of getting you to try one of our records -- 100% guaranteed, no questions asked -- we hope these comments will be of value.

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Dean Martin - Dream With Dean

Skip the Mono

  (Item #: martidream_mono) 

Sonic Grade: F

A great sounding record in stereo, potentially anyway, but in mono the bad sound puts it firmly in our Hall of Shame.

Stick with stereo; the monos aren't worth anybody's time (scratch that: any audiophile's time). In mono Deano sounds hard and honky, in stereo rich and warm. In our experience this is not unusual, which is why so few mono records make it to our site.

See more of our Popular Vocal albums in stock

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Shelly Manne - Sounds Unheard Of!

Analogue Productions Debunked

  (Item #: mannesound_debunk) 

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

Remember the old Acoustic Sounds Analog Revival series mastered by Stan Ricker? This was one of the titles they did, and completely ruined of course. Ricker boosted the hell out of the top end, as is his wont, so all the percussion had the phony MoFi exaggerated spit and tizzyiness that we dislike so much around here at Better Records but that many audiophiles never seem to notice.

See all of our Shelly Manne albums in stock

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Sergio Mendes - Equinox

Botnick and Levine Knocked This One Out of the Park

  (Item #: mendeequin_botnick) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

The music is of course wonderful, but what separates Sergio from practically all of his '60s contemporaries is the AMAZING SOUND of his recordings. Like their debut, this one was engineered by the team of Bruce Botnick and Larry Levine. Botnick is of course the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention.

See all of our Sergio Mendes albums in stock

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2-Packs - They Make Our Case For Us

  (Item #: eagleeagle_2-pack) 

Just today (3/16/15) we put up a White Hot Stamper 2-pack of the Eagles' First Album. One of the two pressings that made up the 2-pack had a killer side two, practically As Good As It Gets.

What was interesting about that particular record was how bad side one was. Side one of that copy -- on the white label, with stampers that are usually killer -- was terrible. The vocals were hard, shrill and spitty. My notes say "CD sound. " When a record sounds like a CD it goes in the trade-in pile, not on our site.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of the Eagles' albums

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Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy

  (Item #: eno__takin_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

This is Eno's Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly. On the right pressing this is a Twisted Pop Demo Disc like nothing you have ever heard. If you have a big speaker and the kind of high quality playback that is capable of unraveling the most complicated musical creations, with all the weight and power of live music, this is the record that will make all your audio effort and expense worthwhile.

See all of our Brian Eno albums in stock

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Jackson Browne - Jackson Browne

What to Listen For

  (Item #: brownjacks_wtlf) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Jackson Browne's first (and best) album.

The real trick with this album is in striking the right balance between richness and presence. A White Hot Stamper from years back made me change my mind about this recording. I used to think it was dull, but I was WRONG. I used to think that even the best copies of this recording sounded rolled off on the top end. I no longer believe that to be true. On the best pressings the top end is correct for this music.

See all of our Jackson Browne albums in stock

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The Beatles - Please Please Me

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: beatlpleas_mofi) 

Sonic Grade: C

Another Half Speed reviewed.

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

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

See all of our Beatles albums in stock

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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II

None Rocks Harder

  (Item #: ledzeII_loud) 

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

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

See all of our Led Zeppelin albums in stock

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Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

White Hot on the '70s Red Label? Can You Really Be Serious?

  (Item #: daviskindo_wtlf) 

When it comes to Miles Davis' jazz classic Kind of Blue, the 6-eye originals are of course the best sounding, right?

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth. Based on scores of pressings it has been our experience that the best sound for this album is found on standard domestic Red Label pressings from the '70s. I'm fully aware of how outrageous a statement that may seem to those who believe that original pressings are always superior, but we've long known of top of the heap, can't be beat Kind Of Blue reissues, going on more than twenty years now.

See all of our Miles Davis albums in stock

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Airto - Fingers

Top End Extension Is Key to the Best Pressings

  (Item #: airtofinge_wtlf) 

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

The best copies have the highs that are missing from so many of the CTI originals. When you play them against most copies there is an extension to the top end that you won't hear elsewhere. Since this album is heavy on percussion, that difference is critical. The HARMONICS of the percussion are critically important to the music. When they go missing it's as if the music seems to slow down, a strange effect but a fairly common one with rhythmically dense arrangements such as these.

See all of our Airto albums in stock

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Mobile Fidelity and the Limited Edition Pressing

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_limited) 

Many audiophiles are still under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, what with their strict ’quality control’, managed to eliminate pressing variations of the kind we discuss endlessly on the site.

Such is simply not the case, and it's child's play to demonstrate how false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things: good cleaning fluids and a machine, multiple copies of the same record, a reasonably revealing stereo, and two working ears (I guess that's actually five things, my bad). With all five the reality of pressing variations for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

See all of our Beatles albums in stock

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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 RVG can't begin to understand. However, some pressings in our shootout managed to give us an extra level of transparency and ambience that most 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 all 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.)

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The Beatles - Revolver

1981 Parlophone Mono Reissue

  (Item #: beatlrevol_mono) 

Sonic Grade: F

A great sounding record in stereo, potentially anyway, but this later reissue in mono is so awful it deserves a special place in our Hall of Shame.

My notes for side one: hard, sour, no bass. Side two: dumbass small mono, so unclear.

We love the mono mix of For No One, but not when it sounds like this! The only Beatles vinyl we offer on our site are stereo pressings. Our reasons for doing this are straightforward enough. (Continued below)

See all of our Beatles albums in stock

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The Byrds in Mono

How Do They Sound?

  (Item #: byrdsmono) 

None of the mono pressings of The Byrds' albums that we've played in shootouts over the course of the last ten years or so has ever impressed us much, none that I can recall anyway.

Congested and compressed, with no real top, who in his right mind could possibly tolerate that kind of sound on modern equipment?

Although, to be fair, we've stopped buying them, so there may actually be a good copy or two out there in used record land that we haven't heard. In our defense, who really has the time to play records with so little potential for good sound?

See all of our Byrds albums in stock

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Moussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz

Awesome In Mono

  (Item #: mousspower_mono) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

This is the kind of record that the mono cartridge owners of the world worship. And for good reason. But you don't need to have a mono cartridge to hear how good -- in fact, how much BETTER -- this copy sounds than most of the stereo pressings out there.

I found out about mono classical records one day when I got a mono copy of The Power Of The Orchestra, VCS 2659. It sounded better than any stereo recording of that work I had ever heard. All the instruments were so much more solid sounding, so palpable, so free from distortion, that it made me recognize for the first time what the mono record lovers of the world were talking about.

Read more about the music of Modest Moussorgsky

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Donovan - Sunshine Superman

Painting with a Very Broad Brush

  (Item #: donovsunsh_wrong) 

Back in 2009 we wrote: "Donovan’s albums are never well recorded so if you’re looking for audiophile sound this is not the record for you. Although the sounds varies here from track to track, some tracks do sound quite nice."

Although we have yet to play a copy of this particular album that sounds any good to us, we couldn't have been more Wrong about the rest of his catalog. Since 2009 we have certainly found any number of superb sounding Donovan records, the best of which to date is The Hurdy Gurdy Man, surely the man's masterpiece. You can read about some of them in the link below.

See all of our Donovan 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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John Coltrane - John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

Heavy Vinyl Debunked

  (Item #: coltrjohnc_debunk) 

Sonic Grade: C (at best)

We were only marginally impressed with both the Speakers Corner pressing of this album and the earlier Impulse Heavy Vinyl edition from the '90s. Neither one in our opinion is worth pursuing.

See all of our John Coltrane pressings in stock

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Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue

One Customer's Take on the 45

  (Item #: burremidni_letter) 

A good customer had this to say about a recent shootout he did:

"By the way side 2 of Midnight Blue bested every other copy I played including the 45 RPM Blue Note [Analogue Productions] reissue. The 45 RPM is very good. You know that technically it is right, but at the same time it’s missing something. When I listened to the [Hot] stamper copy you dug up for me I found it a little noisy at first and wasn’t sure if I could live with it. However after returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it..."

See all of our Kenny Burrell albums in stock

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