Month: August 2020

10cc / The Original Soundtrack – Compare the Gold CD and the Vinyl

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.)

The recording itself is a Tour De Force, one reason I’ve been demonstrating my stereo with it for more than thirty years. The extended suite that opens side one, One Night in Paris, has ambience, sound effects, and incredibly dynamic multi-tracked vocals at its climax that will make your jaw drop.

My Personal Brit Copy

I bought my reference Brit copy at Beanos when I was in England many years ago, for those who have been record shopping there. Not too many of these came across the Atlantic, so British pressings of 10cc are quite rare. It should be noted that most record buyers in England do not take very good care of their records. I found this out the hard way when I got home with suitcases and boxes full of LPs, only to find that many were noisy and full of groove damage. Actually that’s not fair; Americans don’t take very good care of their records either. It’s just that American records are quite common and so we expect them to be treated poorly. By the way, the same guy cut both the Brit copies and the domestics, so don’t expect the country of origin alone tell you what to expect from a given pressing. There are Super Hot copies from both countries and the only way to know how one sounds is to play it. (more…)

Ben Webster – The Warm Moods

Hot Stamper Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Ben Webster

  • 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

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!)

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…)

Prokofiev / Peter and the Wolf – Sargent

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 one of my all time favorite pieces 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.]

Jimmy Smith – Open House

  • 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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Beethoven / Symphony Nos. 4 & 5 / Leibowitz

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

This single disc, taken from the 7 LP Readers Digest Box Set, contains THE BEST sounding recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony we have ever played at Better Records. And that makes it something very special indeed, with nothing short of White Hot sonics and a top performance by Rene Leibowitz conducting the Royal Philharmonic.

Produced by Charles Gerhardt and engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson, to my mind this has always been one of the finest groups of recordings of the complete symphonies of Beethoven , held back only by the usual pressing variations (and the RDG ’60s vinyl). Until we amassed a pile of these sets and got them sparkling clean we had no idea that the recordings could sound this good, good enough in fact to beat all comers — from every major label and then some — in our shootout!

You may have noticed that Beethoven’s symphonies rarely make it to the site. There’s a reason for this: most of the recordings of them don’t sound very good. We are happy to report that, at least when it comes to the Fourth and Fifth, that problem has been solved.

Side Two – Symphony No. 5

A+++. The hall here is HUGE; your speakers will simply disappear. The sound is rich, Tubey Magical and clear, all at the same time. (It’s not quite as clear as the Solti on CS 6092 we will be listing but in every other way it’s better than that record.)

The string texture reminds me of the finest Living Stereos I have heard. The overall sound is as dynamic and exciting as one could hope for, yet Leibowitz manages to make it more lyrical and flowing as well. I know of none better.

One other copy, competitive in most ways with this one, was somewhat more lush and tubey. We felt in the end that the sound on this pressing was actually more correct and lifelike. We like our recordings to have as many Live Music qualities as possible, and those qualities really come through on a record such as this when reproduced on the full-range speaker system we use. It’s precisely this kind of big, clear sound that makes audiophiles prize Decca-London (and RDG!) recordings above those of virtually any other label, and here, unlike in so many areas of audio, we are fully in agreement with our fellow record lovers. (more…)

The Kinks – The Great Lost Kinks Album

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s 1973 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This one knocks it out of the park – it’s lively and rich, with plenty of deep punchy bass, a nicely extended top and a huge three-dimensional soundfield
  • If you enjoy the classic late ’60s Kinks albums such as Village Green, Arthur, and Lola, you are going to love this album
  • 4 1/2 stars: “An aptly titled collection; out of print for many years, there are even some Kinks cultists who have never been able to hear this ragtag but worthy collection of late-’60s and early-’70s outtakes and rarities… Kinks fans will find it quite worthwhile, and should be on the lookout for it…”

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A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers: The More Mistakes the Better, Part Two

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Wise men and women throughout the ages have commented on the value of making mistakes. Here is one of our favorite quotes on the subject.

If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.

We can thank Tallulah Bankhead for that one. When I think of the 20 odd years (early ’70s to early ’90s) I wasted trying to figure out how audio works before I had learned to develop critical listening skills, it brings to mind that old Faces’ song, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.”

The more mistakes you make, the more you learn. The more you learn, the easier it is to recognize good records and happily part with bad ones. 

FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Hot Stamper Customer Reviews

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Key Tracks for Critical Listening 

Making Audio Progress 

We Was Wrong

Prokofiev / Concerto #3 / Hendl – An Old Review of the TAS List Favorite

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Good piano tone and dynamic too. Side two is not as good. It’s more compressed and smeared, but not too badly. If side one gets a 10, side two gets a 7 or so.

Performed by Van Cliburn, pianist, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Walter Hendl. This performance also includes MacDowell’s ”Concerto #2”.