Hot Stampers and Good Sounding Records Are Not the Same Thing

More of the Music of Stevie Ray Vaughan

More of the Music of Pink Floyd

They are barely even related. Here’s why.

A good customer wrote to us recently to say that he was not happy with the Stevie Ray Vaughan White Hot Stamper pressings we had sent him.


I also have a couple more returns for you: SRV Couldn’t Stand the Weather and SRV Soul to Soul. While these are good, they’re just not quite up to White Hot Stamper quality like some of the other records clearly are.

I took the opportunity to reply at length. The most interesting part is at the top if you don’t want to read the whole thing.

Dear Sir,

You appear to be conflating two concepts, Hot Stampers and Good Recordings. They are not the same thing. They are barely even related.

Hot Stampers are especially good sounding pressings of specific albums that we found through shootouts.

The recordings of these albums may be better or worse than others you are familiar with. That has nothing to do with how hot the stampers are of the pressings we sell.

It works this way: if you had a hundred copies of The Dark Side of the Moon, the median pressing– the one that would have ranked number 50 out of 100 — would sound substantially better than either of those two SRV albums.

Pink Floyd: amazing recording. 

SRV: good, not great recording.

We would never sell an average pressing of DSOTM. We only sell the best sounding versions of it.

We would never sell the average version of any SRV album. We only sell the best sounding versions of them.

But no SRV album is ever going to sound like a good Dark Side of the Moon!

Add in to the mix the fact that you know that your system is not designed to play these kinds of records and it’s easy to see why you don’t think they are worth the money. If I had your system I would be returning them too.

They need to be played on big speakers at loud levels. Nothing else can do them justice. In an old listing for Soul to Soul I wrote the following:

These killer sides get Stevie’s room-filling guitar to sound about as rich and powerful as a recording of it can. When playing this record, first make sure the volume is up good and high. Now close your eyes and picture yourself in a blues club, with the volume ten times louder than your stereo will play. Electric Blues played at loud levels in a small club would sound pretty much like this album does, a bit messy but also real.

If you’re one of those audiophiles who insists on precise soundstaging, with layered depth and pinpoint imaging, forget it. That’s not in the cards. The producers and engineers were going for the “live in the studio” sound with this one (and most of his other albums it seems), which means it’s a bit of a jumble image-wise.

You are probably better off not buying these kinds of records, at least for now, as it is unlikely you will find them worth the prices we charge. We both understand that Zep IV is in that category. It needs just the right big speaker system and carefully designed room to sound right. Took me more than 35 years to build those two things. And I have been doing this full time for about 25 of those years!

Due to complaints and returns over the years from our customers, we created a section for these Difficult to Reproduce Recordings.

Also, some of them we just know took us a long time to get to the place where we could play them right, even after more than 40 years in the hobby. The Joe Walsh solo albums would be good examples. There are scores of others.

I wrote a commentary about these issues, which you might find of interest:

CCR – “it just does not have that sound stage I was expecting.”

The part that is most relevant is this:

Some records are much more difficult to reproduce than others, and require the right equipment to do them justice. In the listing for your record, under one of the tabs, you can find all of this.

The story of our recent shootouts is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two top sides such as these. The best copies no longer to seem to have the problems we used to hear all the time.

Of course the reason I hadn’t heard the congestion and grittiness in the recording is that two things changed. One, we found better copies of the record to play — probably, can’t say for sure, but let’s assume we did, and, Two, we’ve made lots of improvements to the stereo since the last time we did the shootout.

You have to get around to doing regular shootouts for any given record in order to find out how far you’ve come, or if you’ve come any distance at all. Fortunately for us the improvements, regardless of what they might be or when they might have occurred, were incontrovertible. The album was now playing at a much, much higher level.

It’s yet more evidence supporting the possibility, indeed the importance, of taking full advantage of the Revolutions in Audio of the last ten or twenty years.

Who’s to Blame?

It’s natural to blame sonic shortcomings on the recording; everyone does it, including us.

But in this case We Was Wrong. The congestion and distortion we’d gotten used to are no longer a problem on the best copies. We’ve worked diligently on every aspect of record cleaning and reproduction, and now there’s no doubt that we can get these vintage Creedence records to play at a much higher level than we could before.

This is why we keep experimenting, keep tweaking and keep searching for the best sounding pressings, and why we encourage you to do the same.

If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound.

This guy gets it. Oddly enough he bought a killer Dark Side of the Moon.

The long and the short of it is that you should be buying records that will play well on your current system. It’s the only one you have. As good as it is, it can’t do everything. When you eventually get a different system, then you might want to try some of the Hot Stamper pressings that are not working for you now. I suspect that most of the ones on the Difficult to Reproduce list will probably not be to your liking until that happens.

But the good news is that that leaves hundreds of others that will sound great now.

Best, TP

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