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Nearly White Hot Stamper - Michael Jackson - Off The Wall

The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.

Nearly White Hot Stamper

Michael Jackson
Off The Wall

Regular price
$199.99
Regular price
Sale price
$199.99
Unit price
per 
Availability
Sold out

Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus

  • You'll find superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides of this MJ classic - just shy of our Shootout Winner - with some of the most heartfelt music he ever recorded
  • Off the Wall is substantially sweeter, tubier, more natural, richer, more relaxed and more ANALOG than any other Michael Jackson album
  • We're constantly blown away by just how good the best copies of Off the Wall sound - what a recording!
  • Clearly MJ's best sounding release - 5 stars: "This was a visionary album ... part of a colorful tapestry of lush ballads and strings, smooth soul and pop, soft rock, and alluring funk."
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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.

As consistently brilliant as Thriller may be musically -- it is the biggest selling album of all time after all [scratch that, the Eagles Greatest Hits just took the top spot away from Thriller recently] -- speaking strictly in terms of sonics the sound of the best copies of Off the Wall is substantially sweeter, tubier, more natural, richer, and more ANALOG than Thriller.

Thriller is clearly more aggressive and processed-sounding than Off the Wall. The Girl Is Mine or Human Nature from Thriller would fit just fine anywhere on Off the Wall, but could the same be said for Beat It or Thriller? Just thinking about them you can hear the artificiality of the sound of both those songs in your head. Think about the snare that opens Beat It. I've never heard a snare sound like that in my life. Practically no instrument on Off the Wall has that kind of overly processed EQ'd sound.

Normally when you have a copy with plenty of presence, it can be somewhat sibilant in places. Sibilance is hardly a problem here. For some reason this copy has all the highs, but it's cut so clean it practically doesn't spit at all. Even on the song I Can't Help It, which normally has a problem in that respect. Since that's my favorite song on this album, and probably my favorite MJ song of all time, hearing it sound so good was a revelation.

What the best sides of Off The Wall 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 even as late as 1979
  • 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.

Choruses Are Key

The richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality is most apparent on Off the Wall where you will most always hear it on a pop record: in the biggest, loudest, densest, most climactic choruses.

We set the playback volume so that the loudest parts of the record are as huge and powerful as they can possibly grow to be without crossing the line into distortion or congestion. On some records, Dark Side of the Moon comes instantly to mind, the guitar solos on Money are the loudest thing on the record. On Breakfast in America the sax toward the end of The Logical Song is the biggest and loudest sound on the record, louder even than Roger Hodgson's near-hysterical multi-tracked screaming "Who I am" about three quarters of the way through. Those are clearly exceptions though. Usually it's the final chorus that gets bigger and louder than anything else.

A pop song is often structured so as to build up more and more power as it works its way through its verses and choruses, past the bridge, circling back around to make one final push, releasing all its energy in the final chorus, the climax of the song. On a good recording -- one with real dynamics -- that climax should be louder and more powerful than everything that came before it.

Living Loud

It's almost always the toughest test for a pop record, and it's the main reason we play our records loud. The copies that hold up through the final choruses of their album's largest scaled productions are the ones that provide the biggest thrills and the most emotionally powerful musical experiences one can have. Our Top 100 is full of the kinds of records that reward listening at loud levels.

We live for that sound here at Better Records. It's what vintage analog pressings do so brilliantly. They do it so much better than any other medium that there is really no comparison and certainly no substitute. If you're on this site you probably already know that.

To bring this discussion back to the subject at hand, the loudest choruses on Off the Wall are richer, smoother, sweeter and more free of processing than those on Thriller.

Michael and Bruce

One might be tempted to put forth the proposition that as Michael and engineer Bruce Swedien continued their collaboration with Bad (1987) and Dangerous (1991, without the phenomenally talented Quincy Jones), the sound got progressively worse -- phonier and more mechanized, not unlike pop music in general. I would not want to be the ideal choice to make that case though, if only because I've spent so little time listening to either album.

However, I've played Off the Wall and Thriller by the score, and been powerfully moved by the energy and beauty of the best sounding copies for more years than I can remember. Having listened critically to so many copies of the two albums, I feel safe in saying that Off the Wall is clearly the better recording.

I have no doubt this copy will make you a believer as well. No copy we know of has ever made the case better than this one. When you get the choruses turned up good and loud you will hear just exactly what we're on about with Off the Wall.

What We're Listening For on Off the Wall

  • 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 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.

Track Commentary

Without getting too far into the weeds with the sound of select tracks (commentary which we've just added to the Track Listing), we'll simply state for the record that this is a much better sounding album than Thriller will ever be, no matter how hot the stamper.

To back up our case we note that on side one:

    Rock With You has some of the richest, smoothest, sweetest, most ANALOG sound on the entire album. There is no track on Thriller that sounds as Tubey Magical, assuming you have a top quality pressing.

On side two we discuss the merits of the first track, Off The Wall:

    On the better copies the multi-tracked chorus and background vocals are as breathy, rich, sweet and Tubey Magical as any pop recording we know of. An extended top end opens up the space for the huge, dense production to occupy. There is Midrange Magic To Die For exceeding anything to be found on Thriller.

We end with this comment:

    One despairs for the digital-only music lovers of the world. They will never be able to experience a top quality pressing of Off the Wall in analog.

Vinyl Condition

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.

Track Commentary

The Track Listing tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For (WTLF) advice.


Side One

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

The first single from the album was designed to go to Number One and it certainly met all expectations in that regard.

On the properly mastered and pressed copies the vocals and percussion will be a bit brighter than those on most of the tracks that follow. The percussion is often somewhat brittle on even the best copies; it's surely on the tape that way.

It should be big, clear and lively right out of the gate.

Rock With You

The balancing act to the first track, Rock With You has some of the richest, smoothest, sweetest, most ANALOG sound on the entire album. There is no track on Thriller that sounds as Tubey Magical, assuming you have a top quality pressing.

As is always the case with rich and smooth sound, transparency is key. The sound should not be thick and dark, it should be both rich and clear.

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough gets hot in the higher frequencies with the volume cranked. Rock With You is just the opposite; the louder you play it the better -- the more right -- it sounds from top to bottom.

Working Day and Night
Get on the Floor

Side Two

Off the Wall

On the better copies the multi-tracked chorus and background vocals are as breathy, rich, sweet and Tubey Magical as any pop recording we know of. An extended top end opens up the space for the huge, dense production to occupy. There is Midrange Magic To Die For exceeding anything to be found on Thriller.

The top end at the start of a side is sometimes lacking so pay attention to see if more top end can be heard later on in the song.

Watch for smear on the horns. They are rich and smooth and on some copies their transient bite will get blurry.

Girlfriend

Girlfriend can achieve the status of a top Demo track on the better copies, no question about it. Turn it up to hear some of the biggest, tightest, most note-like bass on the album. The best copies pull off that monstrous bottom end without bloat, while maintaining some of the loveliest, most tubey rich mids on the album.

On the better copies the stage is wide and the vocals as breathy as on any track on the album. Potentially the Demo Disc track of side two.

She's Out of My Life
I Can't Help It

Some of the richest, silkiest, breathiest vocals on the album can be found here, my personal favorite track from Off the Wall.

Nothing on Thriller -- no matter how hot the stamper -- has this sound. It is the rare recording from the '80s, even the early '80s, that can compete with the best of those from the '50s, '60s and '70s. For those of us who play records by the thousands this is simply inarguable; the preponderance of evidence is so overwhelming that what might pass for a mere observation must rightly be seen as something much stronger, a fact.

One can only despair for the CD listeners of the world who will never experience a top quality pressing of this album in the original analog.

It's the Falling in Love
Burn This Disco Out

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Michael Jackson had recorded solo prior to the release of Off the Wall in 1979, but this was his breakthrough the album that established him as an artist of astonishing talent and a bright star in his own right. This was a visionary album, a record that found a way to break disco wide open into a new world where the beat was undeniable, but not the primary focus — it was part of a colorful tapestry of lush ballads and strings, smooth soul and pop, soft rock, and alluring funk.

Its roots hearken back to the Jacksons' huge mid-'70s hit "Dancing Machine," but this is an enormously fresh record, one that remains vibrant and giddily exciting years after its release. This is certainly due to Jackson's emergence as a blindingly gifted vocalist, equally skilled with overwrought ballads as "She's Out of My Life" as driving dancefloor shakers as "Working Day and Night" and "Get on the Floor," where his asides are as gripping as his delivery on the verses.

It's also due to the brilliant songwriting, an intoxicating blend of strong melodies, rhythmic hooks, and indelible construction. Most of all, its success is due to the sound constructed by Jackson and producer Quincy Jones, a dazzling array of disco beats, funk guitars, clean mainstream pop, and unashamed (and therefore affecting) schmaltz that is utterly thrilling in its utter joy.

This is highly professional, highly crafted music, and its details are evident, but the overall effect is nothing but pure pleasure. Jackson and Jones expanded this approach on the blockbuster Thriller, often with equally stunning results, but they never bettered it.