Month: July 2020

The Very Best Sounding Records – One Customer’s Defense of Hot Stampers

There is an active thread on Audiogon inviting members to list what they believe are the

Very best sounding vinyl records in their collection.

One of my customers made the case for some of his Hot Stamper pressings
and, as you can imagine, it was as well received as the proverbial turd in the punchbowl.

Please to enjoy!

Comments or questions? Please send them to

Jewels of Wolf-Ferrari / Santi / Paris Conservatory Orchestra

One of the jewels in the London catalog, with sweet, tonally correct sound and plenty of natural hall. Another good reason to love London records! Colorful, lively and fun music, played with verve and beautifully recorded.

Overtures, intermezzos and preludes — just the good stuff.

The album is made up of 10 shorter pieces. A real standout is the first band on side one.

Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours

More Frank Sinatra

More Reviews and Commentaries for Male Vocal Albums

  • An incredible sounding copy and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • “In many ways, the album is a personal reflection of the heartbreak of his doomed love affair with actress Ava Gardner, and the standards that he sings form their own story when collected together. Sinatra’s voice had deepened and worn to the point where his delivery seems ravished and heartfelt, as if he were living the songs.” – 5 Stars


Peter Green – The Last of a Hundred Deaths

The Last of a Hundred Deaths

We Love the Early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green

This is the first iteration of the band from way back in the day, back when they were playing their unique brand of Blues Rock with Peter Green leading the band — about as far from Rumours as you can get.

If you like British Blues Rock I don’t think any other band can hold a candle to the Mac from this period. Clapton may have been considered a god but Green is the better guitar player; this album is proof of that.


Bill Evans – Montreux II

More Bill Evans

  • This epic live jazz recording finally returns to the site with two excellent Double Plus (A++) sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A killer pressing, with a very strong bottom end, lovely richness and warmth, real space and separation between the instruments and wonderful immediacy throughout
  • Recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, this 1970 release showcases Evans stylings alongside the brilliant talents of Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell
  • “Bill Evans’ second recording at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970 was a highly anticipated concert, finding the pianist in peak form, accompanied by bassist Eddie Gómez and drummer Marty Morell.”


Revolutionary Changes in Audio – What Works for Us Can Work for You

More Commentaries and Advice on Equipment

This listing, like the stereo itself (mine and yours), is a work in progress. It used to be on our website, but now resides here on the blog.

When I first got started in audio in the early- to mid-’70s, the following important elements of the modern stereo system did not exist:

  • Stand-alone phono stages.
  • Modern cabling and power cords.
  • Vibration controlling platforms for turntables and equipment.
  • Synchronous Drive Systems for turntable motors.
  • Carbon fiber mats for turntable platters.
  • Highly adjustable tonearms (for VTA, etc.) with extremely delicate adjustments and precision bearings.
  • Modern record cleaning machines and fluids.
  • And there wasn’t much in the way of innovative room treatments like the Hallographs we use.

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. That includes 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.

We love our modified Legacy Focus speakers, even more now that they have much improved high frequency extension courtesy of Townshend Super Tweeters.

Our preamp and amp are vintage and low power; the Focus can play quite loudly with the thirty watts our amp puts out. We are big fans of Low Power (but not single ended) and are not the least bit happy with the current trend toward high-power amps, whether tube or transistor. (This trend started in the early ’70s with the Phase Linear 400 amp and has only gotten more out of hand with each passing year.)

We tried higher power amps to do the shootouts for Nirvana, AC/DC and their ilk but gave up fairly quickly. Using those amps involves major trade-offs; trade-offs whose costs rarely exceed their benefits. With more power comes less Tubey Magic, sweetness, transparency, three-dimensionality and that wonderful relaxed quality which gives the music its flow and sense of ease.

High power amps do none of these things well, but most speakers today are terribly inefficient and require their use, a choice most audiophiles do not even know they are making when they buy them. I made that mistake myself many years ago. Live and learn.

Most of our wiring — interconnect, phono and power cord — is custom.

Having said that, this commentary is all about why you shouldn’t care a whit about the equipment we use. 

Latest Findings

Prelude Step 4


F for Consistency – Verve on Vinyl

[The commentary below is a bit out of date. Now that we can clean and play every label’s pressings much better than before, some of this commentary is harsher than it needs be and should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, there are still an awful lot of badly mastered and badly pressed Verve LPs of excellent Verve recordings, which may be good for our business but is nevertheless frustrating when it comes time to do the shootouts for them.]

Verve is probably the most poorly mastered label in the history of the world. No other record label that I know of was responsible for so many wonderful sounding recordings which so often turned into lousy sounding LPs. I could list them for days.

For years we would not pick up most Verve titles at anything but a dirt-cheap price, having been burned so many times before. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to play another badly-mastered, noisy LP. Who has the time?

The commentary below concerns a wonderful Wes Montgomery album on Verve. It tells a story that is all too common in our experience: how the typical Verve pressing is so awful it’s hard to believe we would make the mistake of continuing to buy them, seemingly throwing good money after bad.

But we did keep buying them, we hung in there, and from time to time — against all odds — we would stumble upon a wonderful sounding Verve LP. Some Verve pressings were so much better than we could have ever imagined — based on the dismal pressings we’d played before — we had no choice but to call them Hot Stampers. What else could they be? (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Live/Dead

  • A KILLER copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on sides one, two and three and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the fourth side
  • All four sides are incredibly big, rich and full-bodied with super present and breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • “Few recordings have ever represented the essence of an artist in performance as faithfully as Live/Dead. It has become an aural snapshot of this zenith in the Grateful Dead’s 30-year evolution and as such is highly recommended for all manner of enthusiasts.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars


Emmylou Harris / Luxury Liner – What the Shootout Winners Get Right

More of the Music of Emmylou Harris

As is usually the case with Harris’ albums, the sound they’re going for here is clean and clear with plenty of detail.

Only a handful of copies really nail that sound, with most being either dull and recessed or pinched and edgy.

When you get one that manages to have a punchy low end, full mids AND the open, extended top end, the sound gets out of the way and you can really enjoy the MUSIC.

After all, isn’t that what this crazy hobby is about?

Side One

A+++, big, open and FULL. The vocals have plenty of space and texture, the bottom end is punchy and clear, and you can hear all the way to the back of the soundfield. The vocals are the real star of this album, and when they’re upfront and present without getting edgy or hard, you know you have a real winner. As Good As It Gets, White Hot Stamper material all the way.

Side Two

A+++, and every bit as good as side one! Again, it really nails that clear, transparent sound, with wonderful separation of parts. Emmylou is a master of country harmonies, and when all the voices stand apart clearly it’s much easier to appreciate her skill. Combine that clarity with a fuller, more natural tonality than anything hinted at on the typical pressing and you have another shootout-winning side.


The 3 Sounds – Live At The Lighthouse

This Minty Blue Note Liberty Label LP has EXCELLENT LIVE JAZZ SOUND. It’s very transparent, with plenty of deep bass. The piano sounds particularly nice — it has real WEIGHT to it. Both sides play quietly, Near Mint. I imagine you’d have quite a hard time finding a quieter, better sounding copy of this album. The music is wonderful as well — 4 stars in the AMG!

The selection of nine Three Sounds staples gives the group a chance to stretch out… they flourish. The music on Live at the Lighthouse is hotter than some of their studio recordings, pulsating with energy and good feelings, demonstrating that they had worked out any of the problems that hampered Vibrations. It’s their finest set since Black Orchid. — AMG (more…)