The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
- Exceptionally quiet vinyl for this title, about as quiet as we can find them
- Insane Rock and Roll ENERGY like nothing you have ever heard - the sound is exceptionally full-bodied, smooth and solid, making it possible to get the volume up good and high where it belongs
- Here are the Rock and Roll Classics that reign supreme to this very day - Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway to Heaven, When the Levee Breaks, every one sounding better than you've ever heard them or your money back
- 5 stars: "Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of '70s hard rock."
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These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that's often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers ("relative" being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don't agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.
It is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you when you play this copy at the listening levels it was meant to be heard at.
You'd better be ready to rock, because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will make you want to. Zep IV demands loud volumes, but practically any copy will punish you mercilessly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels.
I never met John Bonham, and it's probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel more than a little disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels many audiophiles prefer. The term "hi-fidelity" loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where exactly is the fidelity?
What the Best Sides of Zep IV Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
The Zep IV You Don't Know
Some of the copies we've played over the years didn't last more than a minute on the table. When we hear harsh highs or wimpy bottom ends we simply throw the offender in the reject pile and move on.
It's not that this is a bad recording -- it's just a record that is very rarely mastered properly. The cymbal crashes on side one of the average pressing are harsh and edgy enough to have you running for the exits. (Or alternately dull, smeary, lifeless and boring.)
A (mostly) smooth, (relatively) sweet copy like this will show you a whole new Zep IV, and allow you to play it at the proper volume -- LOUD. Invite your friends over to hear the Zeppelin magic they had no idea was even possible on this recording.
What We're Listening For on Zep IV
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt -- Andy Johns in this case -- would have put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
The Tracklist tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice, and even an interview with Andy Johns in which he reveals how he got the massive drum sound on When the Levee Breaks (and later Kashmir).
Other records with individual track breakdowns and plenty of sonic advice can be found here.
A Must Own Rock Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- Black Dog
The key to both of the first two tracks is to find a copy with a solid bottom end. Next look for an extended top end, easily heard on all the splashing cymbals.
Now listen for a tonally correct Robert Plant. The copies with lots of top will typically have him sounding too bright. The copies with little in the way of high frequency extension will have him sounding veiled and dull.
One out of ten copies (with potentially good stampers) will get all three right: the top, the bottom and his voice. When you hear it you know it immediately, but you sure do have to go through a lot of copies before you have much of a chance of hearing it!
- Rock and Roll
"[Rock and Roll] was a little tough to record because with the hi-hat being so open and [Bonham] hitting it that hard it was difficult to control. But I managed somehow or another."
"The best copies prove once and for all that these are some of most up-front, lively and above all real sounding rock cymbals ever put on tape."
- The Battle of Evermore
- Stairway to Heaven
- Misty Mountain Hop
Note that the vocals for the first track are always somewhat edgy on even the best copies. After playing scores and scores of copies, having adjusted the VTA every which way we could, no copy did not have at least a bit of an edge on Plant's vocal. We're pretty sure it's that way on the tape. Our job is to find the copy that reproduces it as cleanly and accurately as possible.
- Four Sticks
- Going to California
- When the Levee Breaks
When The Levee Breaks is rarely mastered properly and consequently rarely sounds the way it should. If the cymbals or the double-tracked harmonicas on your copy don't get at least a little gritty you probably have an overly smooth copy, and it's even possible that it's made from a second or third generation tape. On the best copies both are alive with presence and energy.
And the room around the drums is huge, as is that famous 26" Ludwig bass drum.*
The Classic Records reissue corrects this problem somewhat, but at a cost. They've completely robbed the song of all the Zep magic. It's not as big, not as open, not as rich, not as lively, not as punchy, and so on -- but the cymbals are clean. Is that the tradeoff we should be happy to live with? If you're on our site you already know the answer.
*Andy Johns interviewed about recording When the Levee Breaks
The drum sound on When The Levee Breaks is one of Johns' greatest contributions to IV
One night Zeppelin were all going down the boozer and I said, 'You guys bugger off but Bonzo, you stay behind because I've got an idea.' So we took his kit out of the room where the other guys had been recording and stuck it in this lobby area. I got a couple of microphones and put them up the first set of the stairs.
It wasn't just the stairwell that got that famous, earthy delay sound though...
I used two Beyerdynamic M160 microphones and I put a couple of limiters over the two mics and used a Binson Echorec echo device that Jimmy Page had bought. They were Italian-made and instead of tape they used a very thin steel drum.
Tape would wear out and you'd have to keep replacing it. But this wafer-thin drum worked on the same principle as a wire recorder. It was magnetised and had various heads on it and there were different settings. They were very cool things!
And so playing at that particular tempo on 'Levee the limiters had time to breathe and that's how Bonzo got that 'Ga Gack' sound because of the Binson. He wasn't playing that. It was the Binson that made him sound like that. I remember playing it back in the Stones' mobile truck and thinking, 'Bonzo's gotta f**king like this!' I had never heard anything like it and the drum sound was quite spectacular.
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of '70s hard rock. Expanding on the breakthroughs of III, Zeppelin fuse their majestic hard rock with a mystical, rural English folk that gives the record an epic scope.