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Commentary Overview

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Commentary Overview

We discuss practically anything that concerns recordings or their reproduction here for those who want to collect better sounding records and hear them at their best.

For further reading, be sure to check out our On The Record blog.


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Sinead O'Connor - I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: oconnidono_depth) 

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got.

This is widely considered one of the best albums of the '90s, a brilliant and unique piece of work. I positively love this album. The emotion is every bit as naked and compelling as that found on Joni's Blue, and I do not say that lightly. I know the power of Blue, and this album has that kind of power. This is some heavy heavy stuff. Hearing it sound right is a thrill I won't soon forget.

See all of our Sinead O'Connor albums in stock

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Set-up Discs, Part One

Start with a Large Scale Orchestral Recording

  (Item #: setup_orchestral_recording) 

Classical music is surely the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge set-up. The Liszt recording you see pictured is a superb choice for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like.

One of the reasons $10,000+ front ends exist is to play large scale, complex, difficult-to-reproduce music such as Liszt’s two piano concertos. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you choose to, it would surely be the kind of record that can show you the sound your tens of thousands of dollars has paid for.

More Set-Up Advice / More Audio Advice

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Cat Stevens Catch Bull at Four

Sometimes There Really Is Just One Set of Magic Stampers

  (Item #: stevecatch_stampers) 

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

As is sometimes the case, there is one and only one set of stamper numbers that consistently wins our Catch Bull At Four shootouts. We stumbled upon an out-of-this-world copy of the right pressing about two years ago, a copy took the recording to a level we had no idea could even be possible. (We were going to give it Four Pluses, and probably should have, but cooler heads prevailed.)

More Catch Bull at Four / More Cat Stevens

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Bob and Ray - Throw a Stereo Spectacular

Our Favorite Record for Cartridge Setup

  (Item #: bobanthrow_setup) 

Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment -- we seem to do them almost weekly these days -- has to pass one test and one test only -- the Bob and Ray Test.

This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: The Song of the Volga Boatman.

More Setup Advice / More Audio Advice

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Prokofiev / Lt. Kije / Abbado (45 RPM)

Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: prokoltkij_45_2015) 

A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Japanese 45 RPM remastering of our favorite recording of Prokofiev's wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to these. Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can't recommend the record any more highly.

Most of what's "bad" about a DG recording from 1978 is ameliorated with this pressing. The bass drum (drums?) here must be heard to be believed. We know of no Golden Age recording with as believable a presentation of the instrument as this.

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

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"In Defense of the Beginner..."

Shootouts Are a Bitch

  (Item #: youngzuma_shootout_letter) 

One of our good customers wrote to tell us of a shootout he conducted a while back. This is his story.


In defense of the beginner audiophile: I am a spoiled owner of many of your Hot Stamper LPs. (So please don’t tell anyone where I live!) You endlessly bash us newbies as not being able to tell the difference in sound between two sides of a record. Fair enough – usually we can’t. In our defense, it is very difficult to tell differences between two sides of an album if BOTH sides sound like s__t! Where I come from this is the norm; two crappy sides.

See all of our Neil Young albums in stock

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Conversation of the Week (2008)

... they seemed to be incredulous! ...

  (Item #: Schopenhauer_2016) 

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident."

Arthur Schopenhauer

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The Best Case for Dramatic Pressing Variations

  (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.

More of the Eagles

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Our DOR (Difficulty of Reproduction) Scale

  (Item #: brewedowni_dors) 

We’ve mentioned how difficult some records are to reproduce: how the Revolutions in Audio of the last decade or two have profoundly changed the ability of the seriously dedicated audiophile to get records that never sounded good before to come to life musically in a way previously understood to be impossible.

This is one of those records. But you have to have done your homework if you want to play a record like this, as the commentary below explains.

See more records that rank high up on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

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Joni Mitchell Blue

Play The Game, Not the Album

  (Item #: mitchblue_game_2007) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises, one we created all the way back in 2007. If you want to learn more about doing your own shootouts this listing has lots of good advice.

In 2007 we mentioned to our customers that we would not be carrying the new 180 gram Rhino pressing of Blue.

Some people are already upset with us over this decision, actually going so far as to question our motives, if not our sanity. Without a doubt we feel this will end up being the single most controversial stance we've ever taken. I predict that a great number of audiophiles are going to get really upset over our criticism of this new pressing.

More on Joni Mitchell's Masterpiece, Blue

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Sonny Rollins - Plus 4

Hello Hello Hello...

Is There Anybody Out There?

  (Item #: rolliplus4_2014) 

We recently awarded the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing of this album a place in our Hall of Shame. But that's not enough -- I'm not letting it off that easy!

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding audiophile record in my life, and I've heard a ton of them. It reminds me of the turgid muck that Doug Sax was cutting for Analogue Productions back in the '90s. The CD of this album has to sound better than this. There's no way it could sound worse.

More Sonny Rollins

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Dirty Little Secrets of the Record Biz, Part 2

Master Tape? Yeah, Right

  (Item #: nevermind_2_tapes) 

Let me ask you one question. If so many of the current labels making 180 gram reissues are using the real master tapes -- the real two-track stereo masters, not dubs, not cutting masters, not high-resolution digital copies, but the real thing -- then why do so many of their records sound so bad?

If you're honest you'll say "I Don't Know..." because, and here I want you to trust me on this, you don't know. I don't know either. Nobody does.

More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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Confirmation Bias

Why You Won’t Hear What You Don’t Want to Hear

  (Item #: loggisitti_bias) 

After doing our first shootout for this album a few years back I can honestly say I had never heard this music sound remotely as good as it did on the best Hot Stamper pressings. More importantly, from an audiophile point of view, I can honestly say that I never imagined it could sound as good as I was hearing it. The sound was just OUT OF THIS WORLD.

It’s why we link the Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary to so many of our Hot Stamper listings. The revolutionary changes we discuss are precisely what make it possible for any audiophile (this means you) to hear better sound than you ever imagined for all your favorite albums.

All you have to do is do all the stuff we do.

More Loggins and Messina

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Cognitive Dissonance, or
I Just Paid $600 for This LP

Is That Too Much?

  (Item #: cogdis_2014) 

Don, our letter writer this week [the year was 2006 or 2007 if memory serves], applauds us for being able to convince our customers to pay forty times the going rate for some of the records we sell -- and like it!

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Don’t Kid Yourself

Records Are Not That Kind of Investment

  (Item #: money_2014) 

We get letters from time to time chiding us for charging what seems like rather large amounts of money for records that admittedly do not have much in the way of Collector Value, the implication being that collectible records are of course worth the prices they command in the marketplace. Hot Stampers, however, somehow are different. They tell us that our Hot Stampers can't possibly be worth the outrageously high prices we're asking.

It is our opinion that the writers of these letters have made a rather glaringly erroneous assumption: That the records we sell are not subject to the same market forces as other records are.

See more commentaries on Record Collecting

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Bonnie Raitt on Heavy Vinyl

DCC + RTI = Audio Enervation

  (Item #: raittnicko_enervation) 

The no-longer-surprising thing about our Hot Stamper pressings of Nick Of Time is how completely they MURDER the DCC LP. Folks, it's really no contest. Yes, the DCC is tonally balanced and can sound very good, but it can't compete with the best original pressings. It's missing too much of the presence, intimacy, immediacy and transparency that we've discovered on the better original pressings.

As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound. Modern remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing.

More Bonnie Raitt

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Better Records’
Record Collecting Axioms

  (Item #: axiom) 

In an old commentary for a shootout we did for Carole King’s Tapestry album we took shots at both the CBS Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile pressing and the Classic Heavy Vinyl Audiophile pressing, noting that both fell far short of the standard set by the Hot Stamper copies we'd discovered. This finding (and scores of others just like it) prompted us to promulgate the following axiom of audiophile record collecting, which we are calling...
See more commentaries on Record Collecting

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Record Myths, Canards & Flat Out Misunderstandings

  (Item #: myth) 

Click on the link below to read about some of the widely held beliefs about records that we believe are not well supported by evidence. "Evidence," as we are using the term, is simply our evaluation of the sound we heard from the records that we’ve critically auditioned in our Hot Stamper Shootouts.

In these commentaries we present the evidence we've gathered contradicting the theories, rules of thumb and guidelines that audiophiles and record collectors have adopted to help them in their pursuit of better sounding records.

We prefer to think of these erroneous beliefs as Myths, Canards and Misunderstandings. Not unlike the superstitions of the past and present, the audio world is overflowing with them.

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Outliers & Out-of-This-World Sound

  (Item #: bloodblood_outlier) 

A while back we did a monster-sized shootout for Blood, Sweat and Tears’ second release, an album we consider THE Best Sounding Rock Record of All Time. In the midst of the discussion of a particular pressing that completely blew our minds -- a copy we gave a Hot Stamper grade of A followed by Four Pluses, the highest honor we can bestow upon it -- various issues arose, issues such as: How did this copy get to be so good? and What does it take to find such a copy? and, to paraphrase David Byrne, How did it get here?
Thinking About Hot Stampers

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A Skeptical Approach to The Audio Game

In Other Words, Prove It

  (Item #: skeptic) 

I am first and foremost a skeptic. I belong to skeptical organizations, subscribe to numerous skeptic magazines and love to read books on science and skepticism. (I get a lot more out of these publications than I do the audiophile rags, that's for damn sure.) This philosophy has come in very handy in the world of audio, where most of what passes for better sound is anything but.
More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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Building a Store of Knowledge

One Record at a Time

  (Item #: knowledge) 

We recently ran across the commentary below in a reply to a Hot Stamper testimonial for Honky Cat. Based on our own experience, we give a quick and dirty primer on how one can build up one’s knowledge of records, stampers, labels, pressing variations and the like.

We don’t really give out much in the way of specific information about any of those things; we just tell you how it can be done. It’s your job to go out and do it. It's simple; just follow our lead. How tough can it be?

See more commentaries on Record Collecting

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Can This Machine Turn YOUR Records into Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: rcm) 

The short answer is of course not. (Maybe "you wish" might be more to the point, but there's no need to rub it in so we won't even go there.)

A bad record is a bad record no matter how clean it is. Most record collections are swimming in mediocre-at-best LPs (especially collections made up of audiophile pressings) and no machine can fix bad mastering from bad tapes pressed on bad vinyl, or any combination thereof.

More Audio Advice

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Company Better Records Searches and Sells
Most the Best Prints of Vinyl Albums!

  (Item #: newspaper) 

Recently we were contacted by a Russian reporter who wanted to do a story on Better Records and our Hot Stampers. How could we possibly turn down the chance to spread the word to our liberated friends on the other side of the world about these amazing sounding pressings? Note that the key feature of the article is how high the prices are. This is apparently big news in Russia, yes? The full newspaper page shows three records, each of which is many hundreds of dollars. Crazy Americans? Maybe so, but we say put that on your revolving object and spin it if you don't believe these are the most musical records. You will see that each cent spent for them is justified.

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Mobile Fidelity

The Little Label That Couldn’t

  (Item #: mobilefidelity_debunk) 

MOBILE FIDELITY remastered a large number of classic Rock and Jazz albums. Some of them are good, some not so good, but they all have one thing in common: they sell for a lot more money than most other pressings. (Except ours of course!)

In my opinion the primary reason for this is that audiophiles as a whole still believe that MOFI’s meticulous care with their half-speed mastering approach, as well as the dead quiet Japanese vinyl they originally pressed on, are the Gold Standard of record production.

And their pressings often do sound better than run of the mill domestic product. But are they really the best version ever?

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Reviewer Malpractice

There Oughta Be a Law...

  (Item #: reviewer) 

We’ve devoted a section to criticizing the worst of the reviewers who write for the audiophile mags and sites.

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Revolutionary Changes in Audio

What Works for Us Can Work for You

  (Item #: revolution) 

This listing, like the stereo itself (mine and yours), is a work in progress. Please check back for the commentary we expect to be adding in the future.

Our reason for having this kind of commentary on a site ostensibly devoted to the selling of records is simple: the better your stereo sounds, the better our records sound, and, more importantly, the bigger the difference between our records and the copies you already own. Also those LPs recommended by "audiophile" record dealers, which tend to be on Heavy Vinyl, at 45 RPM, half-speed mastered or, even worse, Japanese pressed. We have no interest in any of them. Why? On our system they rarely sound better than second-rate.

More on The Stereo

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The Beatles on Vinyl

Is Your Stereo System
Up to the Challenge?

  (Item #: beatles_test) 

The sound of the best pressings of The Beatles -- when cleaned with the Walker Enzyme fluids on the Odyssey machine -- are truly revelatory.

So much of what holds their records back is not bad mastering or poor pressing quality or problems with the recording itself. It's getting the damn vinyl clean. (It's also helpful to have high quality playback equipment that doesn't add to the inherent limitations of the recordings.)

See more of our commentaries on The Beatles

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The Science of Hot Stampers

Incomplete, Imperfect, and (Gulp!) Provisional

  (Item #: wrong_) 

We have a section on the website you may have seen called Live and Learn. This section (50+ strong!) is devoted to the discussion of records we think we got, uh, wrong.

Oh yes, it's true. But it’s not really a problem for us here at Better Records. We see no need to cover up our mistakes. The process of learning involves recognizing and correcting previous errors. Approached scientifically, all knowledge — in any field, not just record collecting or music reproduction — is incomplete, imperfect, and must be considered provisional.

What seems true today might easily be proven false tomorrow.

See more entries in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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