Month: August 2020

10cc – The Original Soundtrack – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

WHAT A RECORD! Both sides are lively, energetic, super transparent and full of ambience. There’s more depth to the soundfield, more WHOMP to the bottom end and more texture to the instruments than you’re going to hear elsewhere. The bottom end is KILLER with some seriously meaty, well-defined bass. The drums sound AMAZING — just listen to all that THWACK to the snare. The overall sound is BIG, BOLD, LIVELY, DYNAMIC, and POWERFUL — in other words, As Good As It Gets!

As good as the DCC Gold CD is, this record has all the MAGIC of ANALOG vinyl — and then some. It’s the kind of sound you will never hear coming from a CD or digital source of any kind, trust me. If there isn’t a huge difference in sound between the Hoffman DCC gold CD and your LP, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that you either A): Need a better front end (turntable, arm, cart, phono stage — which of course we are happy to help you with) or B): have a bad copy of the vinyl. (C would be a combination of the two, which, if I can say it without sounding too smug or arrogant, is the most likely scenario. I haven’t run into too many audiophiles who own a hot copy of The Original Soundtrack, or have the kind of system that can play a record like it. As I am fond of saying, this is the kind of record that is guaranteed to bring any audiophile stereo to its knees.) (more…)

B.B. King – Lucille Talks Back

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  • B.B. King’s superb 1975 release finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Unusually rich, full-bodied, lively and present sound which brings out the best in this music
  • “I’m always impressed by how crafted the music sounds on this album while still managing to feel spontaneous and natural. This is exactly what this sort of jazz/blues music should sound like. The percussion, the horns, the guitar solos, the vocals. Everything just sounds so right in a low-key but effective way. All the parts fit together perfectly. …Energy, passion and emotion flow through this album; B. B. King and company make it all sound effortless.”

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Ben Webster – The Warm Moods

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  • An excellent copy of this great jazz “plus strings” album starring our man Ben Webster – Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • The sound is rich, warm and full-bodied, with you-are-there immediacy and impressive dynamics – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • With a wonderful combination of material, performance, and sonics, this is a record you’ll want to play again and again
  • If your collection could use some romantic jazz ballads, look no further, this is the album for you

This is calm, relaxed jazz performed expertly by Webster backed by a small orchestra capably conducted by Johnny Richards.

Drop the needle on any of these great ballads and appreciate how relaxed, natural, balanced and warm the sound is. I imagine this is going to be a record you return to over and over. It’s hard for me to imagine this record ever getting old with such a wonderful combination of material, performance, and sonics. (more…)

The VPI Super Platter and Our Testing Methodologies

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We love it! It’s a big step up over the acrylic platter, which makes records sound more like CDs, kind of thin, vague, edgy. The original TNT type Aries platter is a very similar design to the Super Platter, and so when I got my super platter it was obviously better after the first five seconds of play but not dramatically better. On a customer’s TNT with the acrylic platter it was huge.

The bigger and more powerful the stereo the bigger will be the difference, because it has to do with weight and heft and solidness and those sorts of issues, the kind that so many modern audiophiles ignore. (The CD guys don’t even know what those things are because CDs never have those qualities!)

According to VPI:

This is the most advanced platter VPI has ever made, and it is compatible with the VPI Periphery ring. Made from an acrylic/stainless/acrylic sandwich (just like the HRX chassis) and weighing in at 25 pounds, this is a big bad platter upgrade. It has better bass performance, is ultra quiet and has more stability, great slam and power.

The Super Platter will fit the HW-19 series, all Aries, all Scouts, Scoutmasters and SuperScoutmasters. It’ll even fit all the previous 20 years of TNTs. It just doesn’t fit the HRX because that model has a larger diameter bearing assembly and its own optional super platter.


That’s what VPI says, but what do we have to say about it?

It has been our experience that VPI upgrades tend to be actual sonic improvements over the earlier versions of their equipment, unlike so much of what passes for “better” audio in the land of Hi-Fi, which is often just different and in many cases actually worse.

These are the kind of upgrades we love to do, and the reason is no doubt obvious to all you audiophiles out there. Pop the new platter on and thirty seconds later you can hear the difference. Not sure about the change? Don’t like it? Thirty seconds later you can have your old platter spinning to see exactly what happened to the sound.

It’s the kind of testing we do here all day long with Hot Stamper and other pressings. Take ten copies of any title and play them, making notes as to their strengths and weaknesses. Assign each one am overall sonic grade. Think numbers 2 and 7 are the best of the bunch on side one, but not quite sure which of the two is better? No problem. Take one of them, throw it back on the table, listen for a minute, then pop on the other. That kind of head-to-head shootout is the easiest, most accurate way to find out which record really has the Hot Stamper Magic and which one only appears to.

Not sure if your new turntable or cartridge does everything better than your old one? That’s a tough test. It’s practically impossible to quickly set up the old table or mount up the old cartridge for a head to head. Unless something in the sound is just plain driving you crazy you’re not likely to want to go through the hassle of setting up the old system, and who can blame you — it’s a pain in the ass.

One of the reasons I had never upgraded from my original Aries is that after years and years and scores and scores of hours of tweaking the damn thing, the sound was so right I didn’t want to mess with it. Any new table would be starting from scratch and I just couldn’t bear the thought. I’ve set up a number of TNTs and new Aries 3 tables and to my ear they could not better what I was already hearing, for one simple reason — they hadn’t been tweaked yet. (And none of them had my Triplanar arm, which is pretty hard to beat with a JMW.)

Bottom Line — we love the new Super Platter and recommend everyone who owns the acrylic platter replace it immediately. If you are looking to buy a VPI table you can save hundreds of dollars by ordering it with the Super Platter installed. You will be glad you did.


And one more thing: Aurios (more…)

Mozart / Symphonies No. 40 & 41 / Giulini – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca. They released this title on Heavy Vinyl in 1998; it was one of the few Speakers Corner classical recordings we used to carry and recommend.  It of course has the usual shortcomings.

Below are some thoughts from a recent classical listing that we hope will shed some light on our longstanding aversion to the sound of modern remasterings. The Heavy Vinyl Scorecard in our Commentary sections has a great deal more on the subject as well.


This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in a real concert hall, this is the record for you. It’s what Golden Age Recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but new records do not, ever.

Transparency

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY.

Modern records are just so damn opaque. We can’t stand that sound. It drives us crazy. Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a group — including those that pass themselves off as champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.

It is our contention that no one alive today is capable of making records that sound as good as the vintage ones we sell.

Once you hear this Hot Stamper pressing, those 180 gram records you own may never sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we are in the enviable position of being able to play the best properly-cleaned older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the newer ones. This allows the faults of the current reissues to become much more recognizable, to the point of actually being quite obvious. When you can hear the different pressings that way, head to head, there really is no comparison. (more…)

Bob Seger – Night Moves – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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  • A KILLER vintage pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout for Bob Seger’s breakthrough album (the 8th time’s the charm)
  • A big step up over every other copy we heard – richer, fuller, more dynamic, more lively and just plain more fun
  • Knock the album if you like, but there’s no denying it’s one of Seger’s best and certainly a ’70s classic – every song’s a hit, and deservedly so
  • 5 stars: “One of the universally acknowledged high points of late-’70s rock & roll. And, because of his passion and craft, it remains a thoroughly terrific record years later.”

It’s not easy to find good pressings of this album — it took us plenty of fruitless shootouts before we figured anything out. Most copies out there are thin and dry, which is no way to hear these classic ’70s tracks. We brought in copy after copy that made us think, “I swear this sounds better on the radio!”

Finally, after pulling together a ton of copies from different eras, we started to realize that there were indeed vinyl pressings of Night Moves that sounded right… but they are few and far between, the exception and not the rule so to speak. This copy is one of the better ones we played in our most recent shootout, no question about it.

Knock this album if you like, but there’s no denying it’s one of Seger’s best and certainly a ’70s classic. It may not have the audiophile appeal of Tea For The Tillerman, but it’s a blast when it sounds this good. (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter and the Wolf – Sargent

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SUPERB SOUND! This Orange and Black label British pressing has sweet strings, powerful dynamics, plenty of depth and a wide soundstage.

It’s major faults are a lack of deep bass and some congestion during loud passages.

Sir Ralph Richardson makes a wonderful narrator — the sound of his voice is priceless.

But the real attraction is the First Symphony, commonly known as the Classical Symphony. Sargent plays it with VERVE! He brings energy and excitement to this work. The London Symphony is at the top of their game as well; they play with the precision required to bring the work off with aplomb.

It’s hard to find a good Prokofiev First, and since this is my all time favorite piece of classical music, if you don’t have one, this is a good place to start. 

[We prefer the Previn on EMI but this one is very good and easily found in record stores.]

Andrew Gold / Andrew Gold – A Fab Favorite from 1975

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  • A STUNNING sounding copy and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • These sides are dripping with Analog magic — transparent, sweet and rich from beginning to end and the bass is especially meaty and well-defined
  • Those of you who have tried our Hot Stampers of JT will know exactly what to expect; Garay LOVES BASS and so do we
  • “An abundance of riches can be heard in Andrew Gold’s first solo album. There are great Beatlesque melodies here, as well as heartfelt love songs that are Gold’s specialties. Playing nearly all of the instruments himself makes this a truly “solo” effort.” – All Music, 4 Stars

As audiophiles we all know that sound and music are inseparable. My comments for this copy note how spacious and present and full of energy it is. After dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, you KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not.

As with any pop album there are always some tracks that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it needs to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material. This Hot Stamper copy brings Andrew Gold’s music to LIFE.

This record is dripping with Analog Tubey Magic. It’s transparent, sweet and rich from beginning to end. The bass is especially meaty and well-defined. Val Garay puts plenty on his recordings, one of the reasons we love listening to them. The vocals are present and clear, the studio is huge, and the snare is FAT the way it always is on Val’s recordings. (more…)

The Book of Hot Stampers – We’d Love to Read It!

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I received this email a while back: “Hi Tom, could you please recommend a book which would give the stamper numbers associated with the different pressings of a particular record.”

Let me take this opportunity to give a more comprehensive answer, since the concept of Hot Stampers is not especially well understood by the audiophile community outside of our admittedly rather small customer base. Only those who have spent a great deal of time reading the reviews and commentary on the site are likely to understand the importance of stampers. This is partly my fault, as this issue of stamper variability and quality is spread out all over the place, exactly where, no one really knows.
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Jimmy Smith – Open House

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  • Open House makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish  
  • An RVG live-in-the-studio recording from 1960 is hard to beat for you-are-there immediacy, and this pressing delivers that quality like no other copy you’ve heard – we guarantee it
  • We wish more records had this kind of sound – natural, full-bodied, and REAL in a way that no modern Heavy Vinyl pressing seems to be
  • 4 1/2 stars: “For this superlative outing, the innovative organist is teamed with trumpeter Blue Mitchell, altoist Jackie McLean, tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec, and his regular sidemen. The musicians all seem to be inspired by each other’s presence, making this a highly recommended set for straight-ahead jazz collectors”

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