Specifically, what are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged?
The criteria we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings are a good place to start:
Energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, correct tonality, fullness, space, Tubey Magic, and on and on down through the list.
When we can get all, or most all, of the qualities above to come together on any given side, we provisionally award it a grade of “contender.” Once we’ve been through all our copies on one side we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side.
Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides matched up.
For some records we offer advice on what to listen for track by track.
It may not be rocket science, but it is a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we’ve developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them.
The result of all our work speaks for itself. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on any of our Hot Stamper pressings — or your money back.
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.