One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:
I have to commend you once again. I have never heard Maiden Voyage like this before. The transparency on this copy is superb! I gave up listening to my reissue a while back. It had a heavy veil hanging over it that was obvious. Yet as the listener I yearned to hear past it because the music itself is so wonderful. Thanks for digging up this treasure. It will bring many hours of enjoyment now and in the future.
Records are a tangible investment for the listener. When you find a great copy you hang on to it because it engages you. It moves you in a real sense. A collector who collects for value of first issue is a collector too. However they collect as one would coins, stamps or baseball cards. The value is attributed to what is perceived not what is experienced. I do not slam anyone for this. If joy is found in this manner then, so be it.
I collect records to enjoy the music and if that means digging thru a number of pressings to find the best one or paying the bucks from someone like Better Records, so be it. If a reissue is better than an earlier pressing I will hold on to the re issue. This is a rarity but does happen. I can think of at least 20 LPs I have that I still favor the reissue over all others. Both collectors are valid. They simply have different goals in mind.
Mark, thank you for your letter. We actually have a commentary about this very subject, entitled Collecting for the Sake of Collecting — Records Versus Hot Stampers, which we have reproduced below.
It discusses why Record Collecting as it is commonly understood is not something in which we can muster much interest these days, although we used to, and is certainly not something we recommend to our customers, “as it is commonly understood” being key to our point here.
Anyone can collect records: originals, imports, audiophile pressings, picture discs, the TAS List, what have you. There are literally millions of records for sale at any given time. (A single collection for sale as of this writing contains more than 3 million records.)
Some people see them as an investment. We do not. We think audiophile-oriented music lovers should pursue good sounding records for the purpose of playing them and enjoying them, understanding that the better their records sound the more enjoyable they will be. Collecting records primarily to build a record collection that can be sold at a profit in the future should be the last thing on anyone’s mind.
Most of the following was written in response to a customer who wanted to know how original our Hot Stamper pressings were since he preferred to collect first pressings — which were also worth more money should he decide to sell them at a later date. We asked:
Why would you want a first pressing if it didn’t sound as good? Or, if a later pressing sounded better, why would that make any difference in your desire to buy it? Isn’t the idea to get good sound?
An Awful Collection
If you buy records principally to collect original pressings, you will end up with one awful sounding collection of records, that I can tell you without fear of contradiction. On the other hand, if you want the best sounding pressings, we are the only record sellers on the planet who can consistently find them for you. This is precisely the service we offer, unique in the world as far as we know. Hence the name Better Records.
Anyone can sell originals. Only we can sell the best sound. (Others could of course, but none of them have ever bothered to try, so the result is the same.) Finding the best sound is far more difficult and far more rewarding to both the seller and the buyer, as any of our customers will tell you.
Hot Stampers — The Opposite of Collectible
The collector game cannot really be played with Hot Stampers. If anything they are just the opposite of a collectible, due to the fact they have practically no established or verifiable value. Their value is purely subjective; they exist only to provide listening pleasure for their owner. No other concerns have any real bearing on their worth.
I can understand why a record collector would be confused by this notion of subjective and limited value. Collecting records is mostly about buying, selling and owning various kinds of records. It’s not primarily about playing music; this seems to be a less important aspect of collecting. (I’ve known record collectors who didn’t even own a turntable!)
So all those funny numbers in the dead wax and on the label and the spine of the cover are just numbers, man. They don’t mean anything to me and they shouldn’t mean anything to you — that is, if you care about the sound of your music. If you want to collect a record because it has one set of numbers in the dead wax or the label or on the cover rather than another set of numbers, that’s your business. I guess that’s what most record collectors do. I, for one, want no part of it. I just want good sounding records. They can have any numbers they want.
Get Good Sound, Then Good Records
It’s easy to be a collector; you just collect stuff. To get your stereo and room to sound good, and know the difference when they do, that is very very hard. I’ve been at it for thirty-five years and I still work at it and try to learn new things every day. I know there’s a long way to go. Until you get your stereo, room and ears working, collecting good sounding records is all but impossible. You will very likely waste a fortune on “collector records”: the kind with Collector Value and very little else. This is the opposite of a Hot Stamper: All its value is tied up in its Music and Sound, which is where we think it should be.
This commentary from a while ago points out how misleading the stamper numbers for records can be: The Book of Hot Stampers
This commentary has more to say about the subject of Records as an Investment.
Our Hot Stamper Commentary (2009)
I CAN’T RECALL EVER HEARING THIS MUSIC SOUND BETTER! We just finished another big Maiden Voyage shootout, and while once again we didn’t come up with too many winners, we did manage to find this this KNOCKOUT copy with two amazing sides and quiet vinyl. It’s exceedingly difficut to find great sounding copies of this album without surface issues, but the music is so darn good that it’s always well worth the trouble when you play one like this.
The Maiden Voyage Magic
Side two has A+++ MASTER TAPE SOUND — it can’t be beat! You won’t believe how clean, clear, open, and transparent it is. Most importantly, the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS, and the dynamics are INCREDIBLE. Too many copies we played left us cold and bored; this one kept us engaged throughout. It’s got the silkiest highs and the breathiest brass we’ve ever heard for this album. Most copies we played this against couldn’t even come close to the richness, sweetness, and warmth we heard here. The bass — essential to this music — is Right On The Money.
Side one is wonderful as well, the best we played this time around at A++ – A+++. I don’t know if you could find a better one, but side two is just a touch better sounding so we kept the grade just shy of the full A-Triple-Plus. The sound is dramatically better than what we heard on copy after copy; it’s smooth, sweet, rich, full, clean, clear, and natural. It’s got the kind of presence and transparency that allow the soundfield to really open up, letting you identify and follow the contributions of each group member.
One Of The Great Blue Notes
This is one of the greatest Blue Note jazz records of all time — 5 big stars in the All Music Guide, which should surprise no one. Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember one time playing around with the stereo, listening for different effects as I made minor changes in the tracking weight, the VTA, adjustments to the Hallographs, and the like, and at one point, I noticed that the ensemble seemed to be really coherently connected. Each of the players was balanced with the others. It was a striking effect and it made me realize that musical values can often be overlooked while chasing after audiophile effects of one kind or another. When I heard the ensemble come together, it made me appreciate this album even more. Tony Williams on drums deserves a special nod. His cymbal work on the first track is completely original and spontaneous in the best jazz tradition.