The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- This early Columbia 360 Stereo pressing boasts incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish, just shy of our Shootout Winner - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Lively, balanced and vibrant, with boatloads of the Tubey Magical richness these recordings need in order to work
- Listen to how amazingly breathy Jim (later Roger) McGuinn's vocals are - his vocals are key to the better sounding Byrds records
- These early Byrds records are becoming increasingly hard to find in playable condition; this is only the second copy to hit the site in a long time!
- 5 stars: "One of the greatest debuts in the history of rock ... nothing less than a significant step in the evolution of rock & roll itself, demonstrating that intelligent lyrical content could be wedded to compelling electric guitar riffs and a solid backbeat."
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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" meaning 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.
Tubey Magic? This copy has boatloads of it on both sides!
Want to hear exactly what I'm talking about? 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.
By the time you get to track two on side one you're hearing one of my favorite Byrds song of all time: "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better." It's energetic and very present on this copy.
Notice that Gene Clark's vocals usually sound better than Roger McGuinn's. For some reason they tend to brighten up his vocals, and the last thing you ever want to do with a Byrds recording is make it brighter. But having said that, most of the reissues are too thin and bright compared to the best originals.
What The Best Sides Of Mr. Tambourine Man 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 1965
- 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.
More Black Swans
Years ago we wrote that the 360 Label original pressings were the only ones with the rich, warm sound of tubes:
Looking for Tubey Magic? The best 360 pressings are the only way to go, and even those are often lacking. (Forget most red label copies; they have nice qualities but tubey magic is not among them.) But the best pressings of The Byrds' albums -- those with truly Hot Stampers -- are swimming in it.
Now we regularly find exceptionally good sounding Red Label reissues with plenty of lovely Tubey Magic. We cannot tell the originals from the reissues during the shootout, because they sure don't fit with our idea of what a reissue would sound like. Lots of originals can sound thin and bright the way some Columbia Red Label pressings do.
Fortunately we can't see the labels of the records that we're auditioning, which helps make the admittedly subjective evaluation of records somewhat more objective than might otherwise be the case.
What We're Listening For On Mr. Tambourine Man
- 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 would 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.
None of the Columbia monos we've played have ever done much for us. 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?
This is probably the best of all the Sundazed mono reissues. I never thought I would hear a Sundazed record with this kind of richness and sweetness. It reminds me of a good 360 pressing, and that has virtually never happened before. Side one is a tad better than side two, which is slightly brighter than it should be. But both sides are exceptionally good considering the modern mastering.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better 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.
A Tough Record to Play
Mr. Tambourine Man is a Difficult Record to Reproduce. Do not attempt to play it using anything other than the highest quality equipment.
Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies -- the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound -- can have problems. Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you've got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.
This is a record that's going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you're up to the challenge. If you don't mind putting in a little hard work, here's a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area many audiophiles neglect).
- Mr. Tambourine Man
- I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better
- Spanish Harlem Incident
- You Won’t Have to Cry
- Here Without You
- The Bells of Rhymney
- All I Really Want to Do
- I Knew I’d Want You
- It’s No Use
- Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe
- Chimes of Freedom
- We’ll Meet Again
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
One of the greatest debuts in the history of rock, Mr. Tambourine Man was nothing less than a significant step in the evolution of rock & roll itself, demonstrating that intelligent lyrical content could be wedded to compelling electric guitar riffs and a solid backbeat. It was also the album that was most responsible for establishing folk-rock as a popular phenomenon, its most alluring traits being Roger McGuinn's immediately distinctive 12-string Rickenbacker jangle and the band's beautiful harmonies.