Finding Hot Stampers is all about doing shootouts for as many different pressings of the same title as you can lay your hands on.
Lately we have achieved the best results by going about it like this:
If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album at key moments of your choosing.
Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that others do not do as well, using a specific passage of music — the acoustic guitar John beats the hell out of on Norwegian Wood just to take one example — it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces that passage.
The process is simple enough. First you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.
Admittedly, to clean and play enough copies to get to that point may take all day, but you will have gained experience and knowledge that you cannot come by any other way. If you do it right and do it enough it has the power to change everything you will ever achieve in audio.
The kind of notes I take can be seen below. 4×6 Post-its work great for this purpose, using one per side. We go through thousands of them every year. Without specific notes on your records about exactly what you heard as you played them, you cannot possibly keep track of which pressings have the qualities you were listening for, and in what amounts. Extensive notes like the ones you see below are a must.