Some Forum posters at audiokarma.org were raking us over the coals a while back, questioning the legitimacy of our so-called “hot stampers”. If you have an hour or two to kill check it out.
The first entry in the thread is from 2009. The headline reads “Hot Stampers….Anyone own any?”
Even though they were calling us every name in the book I found their comments to be so fascinating and entertaining as to be positively addicting; I couldn’t stop myself from going back over and over again to see what new foolishness might have been added since my last visit.
No wonder people love these forums — you get to rant to your heart’s content. You can even discuss the sound of records you’ve never played and yet no one finds it the least bit strange. Certainly no one will call you on it; it’s about ranting, not reality, and not even really about the sound of records, truth be told. What could possibly be more fun than that?
Hoffman Don’t Play That
There aren’t any on Hoffman’s forum because discussion of the subject is verboten.
If you know of any more threads where we get dragged through the internet mud, send me the links, I’ll put them right here for everyone to read. They are a hoot!
In Defense of Hot Stampers
As I noted in an email to a good customer who stood up for us:
[A] pretty hopeless group over there don’t you think? Pioneer turntables? In this day and age? What time warp did these guys fall through anyway? It’s as if the last thirty years of audio never happened.
He noted in reply:
Yeah, I rarely have time to look at online forums, partly because I am too busy and would rather spend what little free time I have listening to music or spending time with the family, and partly because the forums are infested with losers with far more testosterone than brainpower. There is a famous passage, “There is none so blind as he that will not see.” I doubt that most of these experts could hear the differences between recordings if you pointed it out to them.
So true. We wrote a commentary about the very subject entitled Confirmation Bias – Why You Can’t Hear What You Don’t Want to Hear which went a little something like this:
Let’s face it: Hot Stampers do not exist for most audiophiles.
They simply don’t have the system (power, equipment, room, tweaks) to bring them to life. Or the trained ear to recognize one if they heard it. Most analog-oriented audiophiles are quite happy with the sound of Heavy Vinyl pressings, the kind of BS Vinyl that we regularly trash around here. Those records set a pathetically low standard for sound quality (to our ears anyway) so if the typical audiophile is happy with them, what does that tell you about his audio chain and his critical listening skills?
But perhaps you may have noticed, as I have, that most audio skeptics do not go out of their way to prove themselves wrong. And a little something psychologists and cognitive scientists call Confirmation Bias practically guarantees that you can’t hear something you don’t want to hear.
Which is all well and good. At Better Records we don’t let that slow us down. Instead we happily go about our business Turning Skeptics Into Believers (one record at a time of course), taking a few moments out to debunk the hell out of practically any audiophile LP we run into, for sport if for no other reason. (They’re usually so bad it’s actually fun to hear how screwy they sound when played back correctly. Who knows — on a ’70s-era Technics turntable running into a Japanese receiver they might sound great. When we buy old audiophile collections that’s the sort of table we find collecting dust along with the vinyl. Might be just the system you need to get them to sound their “best”.)
Old School Audio
As for Hot Stampers, the guys on AudioKarma were pretty worked up over the idea that we used to like one stamper and now we like a different one. Can you imagine? When you have a thirty-year-old turntable and a system to match, it’s clear that words like change, growth — dare I even utter the word progress — do not carry much weight in your world.
Putting a Stop to It
Eventually the wickedly engrossing twelve pages of invective aimed at Hot Stampers in general and at me personally had to come to an end, this time stopped by a moderator who summed it up rather nicely this way:
Thread has rapidly turned from a discussion about hot stampers to a non-stop vilification of a single individual, and has now gone into questioning the policies of another forum. ‘All Audio, No Attitude’ indeed.
Even though it’s at the top of every page I must confess I had completely failed to notice their motto. Allow me to offer one that seems a better fit:
All Opinion, Little Evidence
We talk a lot on our site about the need for basing your audio — whether it be equipment, records, tweaks, cleaning methods or any of the myriad other appurtenances associated with our hobby — on evidence.
In other words, don’t believe what you read, believe what you hear. Don’t take anything on faith, find out for yourself.
And you certainly don’t need us to “sell” you on the idea that no two records sound the same. You can easily run that experiment yourself. (Some Audiokarma members have in fact done just that and we say more power to them.) In a recent commentary for an Ambrosia album we wrote:
Understanding Hot Stampers
The only way to understand this Hot Stamper thing is to hear it for yourself, and that means having multiple copies of your favorite albums, cleaning them all up and shooting them all out on a good stereo. Nobody, but nobody, who takes the time to perform that little exercise can fail to hear exactly what we are on about.
Or you can join the other 99% of the audiophiles in the world, the ones who don’t know about pressing variations for records and CDs. Some very large percentage of that group also doesn’t want to know about any such pressing variations and will happily supply you with all sorts of specious reasoning why such variations can’t really amount to much — this without ever doing a single shootout!.
Such is the world of audiophiles. Some audiophiles believe in anything — you know the kind — and some audiophiles believe in nothing, not even their own two ears.
But shooting out multiple pressings of records is work, sometimes hard and frustrating work. You can’t do that kind of work and type on a keyboard at the same time. It’s not about sitting at a computer and opining. It’s about sitting in a listening chair and gathering evidence that can actually back up your opinions. If you haven’t done the work you shouldn’t have much to say about the subject until after you have done the work.
You can’t really talk about the results of an experiment you haven’t run, can you?
Here are some older threads for those who can’t get enough Hot Stamper bashing. Please to enjoy!
And here’s one from Audio Asylum along the same lines: