On this extraordinary copy the bottom end is big and punchy, the top is smooth and sweet, and the vocals are present and breathy. On a transparent copy such as this the drums really punch through the dense mixes clearly, giving the music more life and energy. The piano sounds correct, the sax is full and breathy — you’d be very hard-pressed to find better sound for this album than this. Very hard pressed indeed.
In 2005 we wrote:
This is actually one of the best Supertramp albums but it’s almost impossible to find a domestic copy that won’t tear your head off. The vast majority of them are unbelievably bright and grainy. I’ve been buying them lately because I found a copy or two that seemed to sound pretty good, but most of my money was wasted on aggressive, noisy vinyl.
Side one of this copy is no great shakes — it’s too bright — but side two is actually quite good. The highs are sweet and silky, there’s plenty of bass and the vocals are actually quite natural sounding. I can’t call this a Hot Stamper. The best way to look at it is to say it’s a Relatively Hot Stamper. The average copy is so bad that when a copy like this one sounds pretty good it really sticks out. We’re still in the hunt but haven’t got much to show for our efforts to date, I can tell you that.
The good news is that ten years later and more copies than we care to remember we think we’ve got EITQM’s ticket. We now know which stampers have the potential to sound good as well as the ones to avoid. Finding the right stampers (which are not the original ones for those of you who know what the original stampers for A&M records are) has been a positive boon.
Once we figured them out we were in a much better position to hear just how well recorded the album is. Now we know beyond all doubt that this recording — the first without Ken Scott producing and engineering for this iteration of the band — is of the highest quality, in league with the best. Until recently we would never have made such a bold statement. Now it’s nothing less than obvious.
This is the copy that backs it up all the way. Side two is a real KNOCKOUT. If you know that album at all well you will have your mind blown.
Wah! Nobody seems to want to play with me.
Could it be that the folks on the Hoffman forum have a poor grasp of the effort, time and money it takes to find Hot Stampers and, having committed to neither the effort, the time or the money, find that they have nothing of any value to contribute to this list? Not one other record? Not even one?
Thank god it doesn’t keep them from criticizing those of us who have found them by the thousands!
By the way, we know the record well. The Pink Label original is by far the best pressing in our experience. No copy we have ever heard on the label promoted by this poster would qualify as much of a Hot Stamper in our world, although of course n0t having heard his copy we can’t say it’s not fabulous. It’s just not very likely to be fabulous.
Here is our commentary on the album:
Traffic – Best Of Traffic
Sonic Grade: D
Another MoFi LP debunked.
A well-known reviewer has many kind things to say about this pressing, but we think it sounds like a hi-fi-ish version of a ’70s London, which means it’s opaque and the strings are badly lacking in Tubey Magic. The bass is like jello on the MoFi, unlike the real London which has quite decent bass.
MoFi had a bad habit of making bright classical records. I suppose you could say they had a bad habit of making bright records in general. A few are dull, some are just right, but most of them are bright in one way or another. Dull playback equipment? An attempt to confuse detail with resolution? Whatever the reasons, the better and more accurate your equipment becomes, the most obvious this shortcoming will be. My tolerance for their phony EQ is at an all time low. But hey, that’s me.
What hurts so many pressings of this album is a lifeless, compressed quality and a lack of presence. Were the stampers a bit worn for those copies, or was it bad vinyl that couldn’t hold the energy of the stamper, or perhaps some stampers just weren’t cut right — these are mysteries, and they are mysteries that will always be mysteries, if for no other reason than that the number of production variables hopelessly intertwined at the moment of creation can never be teased apart no matter how hard one thinks about them. As we like to say at every turn, thinking is really not much help with regard to finding better sounding records.
Not surprisingly, we’ve found that cleaning them and playing them seems to work the best. They work the best because nothing else works at all.
What More Can You Ask For
What happens when you clean and play a bunch of copies? You come to recognize what the best ones are doing that the average ones aren’t. And the effect of that understanding on this particular title was simply to recognize the nature of this project, that these are a great bunch of well-crafted songs played with energy and enthusiasm by a very talented group of top flight musicians, totally in sync with each other. This is what they were trying to do, and really, what more can you ask for?
According to the liner notes, this album is reversed absolute phase. They tell you to switch the positive and negative at the speaker for the best transient response and spatial clarity. But get this: most side ones are NOT reversed phase!
That out of phase quality is as plain as the nose on your face when you know what to listen for. There’s an unpleasant hardness and hollowness to the midrange, a lack of depth, and an off-putting opaque quality to the sound.
With our EAR 324p Phono Stage, the click of a button reverses phase. I can’t tell you how handy it is to have such a tool at your disposal. Checking the phase for Discovered Again couldn’t have been easier.
An Amazing Discovery
But get this: most side ones are NOT reversed phase. (All the side twos we played were however.) How about them apples! We could not have been more shocked. Here is the most famous out of phase audiophile recording in the history of the world, and it turns out most copies are not out of phase at all!
We think sitting down to listen to a Hot Stamper pressing is the best way to appreciate its superior sound, in the same way that hearing a vintage LP played back on a top quality system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog. Short of getting you to try one of our records — 100% guaranteed, no questions asked — we hope these comments will be of value.
Are Hot Stampers just original pressings?
They certainly can be, but quite often are not, which of course comes as a surprise to no one who works here. Reissues come out on top in our record shootouts fairly regularly. Yes, most of the time the original will beat the reissue, but most of the time is far from always, and since we have to play a big pile of copies anyway (and always with the person doing the sound grading kept in the dark about the pressing on the turntable), why not just evaluate both the originals and the reissues at the same time, and do so strictly on the merits?
But this discussion begs the question: What IS an original? Is a record with a 1A stamper original and the next record with a 1B stamper not original, or less original? Is any stamper on the original label an original, and all the copies with the second label reissues? To be honest, laying down strict rules about what constitutes an original is a game we have never cared to play.
We are not the least bit interested in how original a pressing may be. On this site we are only interested in one thing, the answer to the question: Which pressing sounds the best? (Also, In what way? So I guess that’s really two things we are interested in.) All the rest of it we leave to our record collecting brethren.
Click on this link to read more about one of the thorniest questions in all of audio: Which have the best sound, Originals or Reissues?
Chris, our erstwhile customer, sent us a letter a while back describing his search for a good sounding Sgt. Pepper.
The first thing that comes to mind when reading his letter is that many record collecting rules were broken in going about his search the way he did. But then I thought, What rules? Whose rules? Where exactly does one find these rules? If one wants to avoid breaking them they need to be written down someplace, don’t they?
Sadly, no, not at Wikipedia, or any place else for that matter — until now. As crazy as it sounds, we are going to try to lay down a few record collecting rules for record loving audiophiles, specifically to aid these individuals in their search for better sounding vinyl pressings. And by “these individuals” we mean you.
See if you can spot the rules that were broken by Chris in his fruitless search for a good sounding Sgt. Pepper. Note that this letter came to us long before the new Beatles CDs and vinyl had been remastered.
The sound is RICH and TRANSPARENT, and unlike a lot of RCA’s chamber recordings and this very side one, not dry. The tonality is Right On The Money. The performers are present and the transients of their instruments are not in the least bit smeared, vintage tubes or no vintage tubes in the recording chain.
RCA is justly famous for its chamber recordings, which tend to be somewhat rare for some reason. Let’s be honest: we did not conduct this shootout with a dozen copies of the album. (It would take us at least twenty-five years to find that many clean pressings.)
What we had were quite a few other Heifetz RCA chamber recordings, as well as some favorites by the Quartetto Italiano and I Musici that we are very fond of and know well.
After twenty six years in business selling vintage vinyl, by now we’ve played scores if not hundreds of good violin recordings. We have no problem recognizing good violin sound (as well as correct violin tone, not exactly the same thing) when we hear it. In the past our top Hot Stamper classical pressings would go directly to our best customers, customers who want classical recordings that actually sound good. not just the kind of Golden Age Recordings that are supposed to. Now that we are able to do classical shootouts on a regular basis, we hope to have enough superb sounding classical recordings for all of our audiophile customers.