The Science of Hot Stampers – Incomplete, Imperfect, and (Gulp!) Provisional

 

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We have a section on the website you may have seen called We Was Wrong. This section is devoted to discussiing the 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. If you haven’t found that out for yourself firsthand yet, one thing’s for sure, you haven’t been in this hobby for very long.

We’re so used to the conventional wisdom being wrong, and having our own previous findings overturned by new ones, that we gladly go out of way in listing after listing to point out just how wrong we were. (And of course why we think we are correct now.)

A common misperception among those visiting the site is that we think we know it all. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We learn something new about records with every shootout.

Each time we go back and play a 180 gram or half-speed mastered LP we used to like (or dislike), we gain a better understanding of its true nature. (The bulk of those “audiophile” pressings seem to get worse and worse over time, a subject that has been thoroughly discussed elsewhere on the site.)

Record cleaning gets better, front ends get better, electronics get better, tweaks get better — everything in your audio system should be improving on a regular basis, allowing you to more correctly identify the strengths and weaknesses of every record you play. (I almost forgot: your ears get better too!) If that’s not happening, you’re not doing it right.

What follows is a typical excerpt from a recent listing.

Well, folks, we couldn’t have been more WRONG. It’s not the first time and it sure won’t be the last. We happily admit to our mistakes because we know that all this audio stuff and especially the search for Hot Stampers is a matter of trial and error. We do the trials; that’s how we avoid the kinds of errors most audiophiles and audiophile record dealers make when it comes to finding the best sounding records. Of course, being human we can’t help but make our share of mistakes. The difference is that we learn from them. We report the facts to the best of our ability every time out. Every record gets a chance to show us what it’s made of, regardless of where it was made, who made it or why they made it. (Like anybody cares.)

If we used to like it and now we don’t, that’s what you will read in our commentary. Our obligation is to only one person: you, the listener. (Even better: you, the customer. Buy something already!)

Starting in 2007, on virtually every shootout we do now, if the notes are more than six months old we toss them out. They mean nothing. Things have changed, radically, and that’s the way it should be. With each passing year you should be hearing more of everything in your favorite LPs. That’s the thrill of this hobby — those silly old records just keep getting better! (I wish someone could figure out how to make digital get better. They’ve had twenty five years and it still leaves me cold. You too I’m guessing.)

We don’t really have the resources to put all the records we were wrong about into this section, so this must be considered a mere taste of that much larger pool.

Keep in mind that the only way you can never be wrong about your records is simply not to play them. If you have better equipment than you did, say, five years ago, try playing some of your MoFi’s, 180 gram LPs, Japanese pressings, 45 RPM remasters and the like. You might be in for quite a shock.

It’s all good — until the needle hits the groove. Then you might find yourself in need of actual Better Records, not the ones you thought were better. (To that end we have a section devoted to Debunking the Pseudo-Audiophile LP that contains a great deal more title-specific information along these same lines.)                                                           

 

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