Letter of the Week – Fleetwood Mac – How We Go About Our Shootouts and Lots More Where That Came From

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

  Sorry to say I will be returning this White Hot Stamper. Did a lot of
  research before ordering, understand and fully appreciate what you’re
  doing, seriously sad to not be keeping it. Pretty obviously you are
  crazy dedicated to this so wanted to fully explain why. Especially
  since there’s still good odds I would like to try again.

  First let me say it was quite the experience unpacking and seeing a
  cover still in its original shrink wrap. Probably quite a few would
  consider that alone worth the price. I never even slipped it out of
  the excellent plastic sleeve you shipped it in, that’s how much
  instant respect I have for the unbelievably unlikely existence of this
  thing. It truly is amazing. I bought it for the music not the cover,
  but still….

  The reason I will be returning this is Side 1. Monday Morning was a
  disappointment, but I really think we are kind of at the mercy of the
  master here. Warm Ways is a whole lot better, and yes quite a bit
  better than my copy, with a fair bit more inner detail and palpable
  presence but overall not much more than I have got from some good 45
  or heavy vinyl pressings.

  Just so you know, yes I do follow all your suggestions. Warm up,
  demagnetize, anti-static, all of that and more. Have a demagnetizer
  much more effective than the Talisman. Been doing all this stuff over
  20 years now. Because I hear and appreciate. Cables elevated off the
  floor. Every wire from the breaker to the speaker been cryo’d. Yes I
  pulled the wire out of the house, drove it down to Cryo One, had them
  do it all.

  Part of the problem. I hear how much better Side 1 is, it goes into
  that frame of reference. For over $300 it needs to be at least as
  great an improvement over my copy as I can get from warm-up,
  demagnetize, etc. Its not.

  Well your rating did say Side 2 was a bit better. Frankly, I think you
  could stand to correct that. Side 2 is a whole lot better. Right from
  the first track its just way more lively, present, dynamic, punchy,
  you name it. Not sure why you say Say You Love Me is “rich and sweet
  and tubey” probably that is one of the stock phrases you use
  throughout the site because this track offers, relative to the others
  on this side, less of this.

  Which brings me to Landslide, and World Turning. These two tracks
  totally deserve all the most glowing Better Records accolades! Simply
  superb sonics. Better even in some ways than my MoFi 45 of Brothers in
  Arms. Now this is what I was hoping for! The spellbinding sound of
  these two tracks is almost enough to make me forget Side 1.

  Almost. And its not like the rest of Side 2 is bad. Honestly, when it
  gets to this level (of pressing quality) you can hear so deeply what’s
  going on it becomes inescapable we are at a level where we are at the
  mercy of the mastering engineer. Or if not him then someone even
  further along up the recording chain. You know what I mean. I know you
  know what I mean. Because, in reading one of your glowing reviews was
  the comment, basically, “but get real, its Springsteen.” Because for
  whatever reason he could never be bothered to turn out a good recording.

  So I know. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It might
  very well be no copy of Fleetwood Mac ever pressed gonna have a Side 1
  that sounds as good all the way across as this Side 2. But I figure if
  anyone would know that it would be you.

  And that’s kind of where I am. The copy I have right now is worth to
  me only a fraction of the price. If the whole thing sounded like Side
  2 though, then I would be a happy camper. The price would still be
  dear, but worth it. Find me a copy like that, same price, don’t bother
  posting it, its sold. Or credit this one down a whole lot. I’d prefer
  the first option. If it even exists.

  Sorry for the email. Guy like you I would love to get on the phone.
  Which with my schedule, no chance until Wed or Thurs, and I didn’t
  want to wait. But I still would like to talk. You know the records and
  now you know a little about me. Maybe you can help me find the few
  select copies I just can’t live without. I got the feeling if anyone
  can, its you.

  Best regards,

  Chuck M.

Chuck,

A few quick thoughts:

Since every stereo plays every record differently, it’s hard to know why
our copy did not sound as good to you as it did to us. When it comes
back I will personally play it against our 3+ ref copy and see how it
holds up.

2.5+ means it came in second in the shootout. Maybe it didn’t deserve
that grade, I will find out!

The other issue is a much more subtle one. We play all the side ones
against all the other side ones, so comparing side one to side two is
something we would never do, it’s apples and oranges in a way, many side
ones of albums simply do not sound as good as their side twos, and vice
versa, and we note that in some of our listings.

We could honestly say that about a great many records if we took the
time to do it.

On F Mac’s self-titled album I am not aware that that is the case, but
it could be!

We play tracks one and four on side one to test with. They are the
hardest tracks to get right in our experience.

Monday Morning has huge amounts of bass and a slightly gritty vocal, so
it’s very difficult to get that song to sound right and easy to spot
when it does sound right.

Warm Ways is a piece of cake and sounds at the very least “good” most of
the time, so it’s not much of a test for us, although richness,
intimacy, space and transparency are obviously better on this track on
the better copies.

Anyway, I will check it out when it comes back and hopefully get back to
you before too long.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best, TP

Tom,

Had Fleetwood Mac all packed to send back, couldn’t quite do it. Last
night I pulled it out for a second listen. This time, instead of going
head to head with my other copy I had a more normal listening session of
playing increasingly good SQ records. I have a pretty good memory for
these things which is probably what was bugging me and keeping me from
sending it back. Sure enough, listening again you can clearly hear much
deeper into the recording than probably anything else I have. This is by
far the most I’ve ever paid for any one record, I was actually nervous
handling it, probably just psyched myself out. Plus, and this is still
sinking in, this is a very unusual and highly specialized niche item
we’re talking about. Much as I’d wish for a copy where both sides sound
as good as Side 2 on this one does, I can tell by now you wouldn’t be
selling that one for the same price anyway!

Bottom line, keeping Fleetwood Mac. And, just now ordered your Super Hot
Stamper of Peter Gabriel’s So.

After searching Discogs for a copy why would I want to spend any money
rolling the dice against long odds when I can just get one known superb
sound and pristine cleaned?

Thanks by the way for your thoughtful reply. Helluva business model.
Admire your dedication.

Regards,

Chuck

Chuck,

A very interesting experience you went through!  I know exactly what
it’s like with early impressions and quick backs and forths. Long,
in-depth listening really separates the men from the boys. We only have
so much time to play every record, but we have heard so many of these
titles scores of times that it makes it easier to know what’s going on
in just a few minutes. Seems like we were not too far off on F Mac!

Anyway, thanks for the kind words and we look forward to serving you in
the future.

By the way, don’t expect So to sound much like that Mac album. Night and
day different approach to sound as I am sure you know.

Best, TP

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