Month: October 2021

Letter of the Week – “So I say damn you but thank you for steering me in the right direction.”

More of the Music of Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Steely Dan

One of our good customers wrote to tell us about his record collection about 15 years ago. We were still recommending Disc Doctor fluid at the time and it has been a very long while since we sold anything but Walker Record Cleaning Fluid, (which we no longer sell, but we sure as hell think you ought to be using it).

Hi Tom,

Just a note to thank and curse you for opening my ears. On one hand, the audio enhancements (Aurios, Stillpoints, Talisman and Disc Doctor fluid) you’ve suggested have greatly improved my stereo system. I also upgraded my phono cartridge and had the entire front end fine-tuned.

Now, LPs I’d once regarded as mediocre have shown new life and become much more enjoyable. On the other hand, those I’d once thought sounded impressive, have revealed themselves to be uninspiring. My entire Steely
Dan collection, for example, has become a major disappointment.

Almost all the half speeds, heavy vinyl and otherwise “audiophile” type pressings have revealed themselves to be impostors.

What’s an audiophile to do? In my case, all the improvements I’ve made have resulted in a thinning of the herd, so to speak, but I simply can’t listen to crappy vinyl anymore. I’ve always maintained that the music should be the most important thing but, what’s the point of listening to sub-par pressings when you find yourself becoming easily distracted and wanting to hear something with some life in the grooves?

So I say damn you but thank you, Tom, for steering me in the right direction. I’ll have a smaller collection as a result but will appreciate the sonics of what’s left much more. You are a credit to a hobby which is, otherwise, drowning in snake oil!

Bob M.


Thanks for your letter. We can assure you that are Hot Stamper pressings of the Steely Dan catalog are amazing sounding. Would love to have you try one.

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Revolutions in Audio, Anyone?

A Confession

Even as recently as the early 2000s, we were still impressed with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings. If we’d never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last twenty or more years, perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem impressed by.

We’ll never know of course; that’s a bell that can be unrung. We did the work, we can’t undo it, and the system that resulted from it is merciless in revealing the truth — that these newer pressings are second-rate at best and much more often than not third-rate and even worse.

Some audiophile records sound so bad, I was pissed off enough to create a special list for them.

Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. Judging by the hundreds of letters we’ve received, especially the ones comparing our records to their Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered counterparts, we know that our customers see things the same way.

Bill Evans – The Bill Evans Album

More Bill Evans

  • A superb copy of Evans’ 1971 release with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • An outstanding later recording for Bill Evans, superior to many of the albums he made around this time – it’s rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, with an especially musical quality, hence the solid grades
  • Balanced, clear and undistorted, this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then, even as late as 1971
  • 4 stars: “Although not as distinctive on the electric keyboard as he was on its acoustic counterpart, Evans sounds inspired by its possibilities and is heard in top creative form throughout the date.”


My Favorite Speaker, Badly Setup

More Commentaries and Advice on Equipment

More Speaker Advice

Here is a picture of someone else’s old Focus speakers, likely very much like our own, but of course we have stands that angle the speakers (an angle that took me months to get dialed in right), and he has his speakers sitting directly on the floor with no spikes underneath them at all, which is a very bad idea!

The speakers are way too close to the back wall and somewhat too close to the side walls too. Lots of other issues but, hey, not my stereo so what difference to me does it make? He clearly has a lot to learn about audio. Which simply means he has lots of work to do, but if you’ve been in this game as long as I have, we both know he will probably never do it. His system as it is stands is probably musical and enjoyable, and for most folks that is enough.

Robert Brook has been experimenting with different aspects of audio lately. His Broken Record blog has lots to say about these issues. I agree with much of what he has written. The Analog Set Up section on his blog is probably a good place to start to see what he has learned by ignoring conventional wisdom and testing every aspect of audio with an open mind. (more…)

Milt Jackson / Joe Pass / Ray Brown – The Big 3

More Milt Jackson

More Joe Pass

  • A superb sounding Pablo recording from 1976 – this copy gives you outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or better from start to finish  
  • We found the sound superb, but even better is the fact that with only three instruments – vibes, guitar (Joe Pass) and bass (Ray Brown) – each of the players has plenty of room to stretch out and have fun with the tunes
  • 5 Stars: “The colorful repertoire — ranging from “The Pink Panther” and “Blue Bossa” to “Nuages” and “Come Sunday” — acts as a device for the musicians to construct some brilliant bop-based solos.”


Jimmy Smith / Bashin’ – The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith

More Jimmy Smith

More Oliver Nelson

  • An outstanding copy of this Big Band Jazz classic led by Jimmy Smith with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • If you own only one Jimmy Smith album, make it this one – with Oliver Nelson’s arrangements ferociously blasting away, at good loud levels the first side here has the power to swing like you will not believe
  • 5 stars: “On the first half of the program, Smith was for the first time joined by a big band. Oliver Nelson provided the arrangements, trumpeter Joe Newman and altoist Phil Woods have a solo apiece, and “Walk on the Wild Side” became Smith’s biggest hit up to that point.”
  • It’s hard to imagine that any list of the Best Jazz Albums of 1962 would not have this record on it

This is tube mastering at its finest. Not many vintage tube-mastered records manage to balance all the sonic elements as correctly as this copy does.

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Bob Seger – Stranger In Town

More Bob Seger

  • One of the few Bob Seger recordings capable of audiophile quality sound – this pressing is big, full and Tubey Magical (for 1978) with plenty of rock and roll energy
  • If you own a radio you know Stranger In Town – more than half of it still gets played on the radio to this day
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…it’s as lively as Night Moves, rocking even harder in some places and being equally as introspective in the acoustic numbers. If it doesn’t feel as revelatory as that record, in many ways it does feel like a stronger set of songs.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.

Stranger In Town and Night Moves are clearly the two Must Own albums for Bob Seger fans, and with sound this good we would count ourselves among those who find his music interesting and compelling. (“Main Street” on Night Moves is one of the best radio-friendly pop songs ever recorded.)

Both these sides had the energy and rock solid weight we were looking for on this Classic Rock Album from 1978. If you own a radio you know Stranger In Town, because more than half the tracks got plenty of airplay, including:

Hollywood Nights
Still The Same
Old Time Rock & Roll
Feel Like A Number

and that monster power ballad, complete with strings (!):

We’ve Got Tonight

All sounding pretty darn good! (more…)

Bach / Suites For Solo Cello No. 2 & No. 5 / Starker

More of the music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

  • With two Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this copy of Starker’s legendary 1963 recording of suites for solo cello will be very hard to beat – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The original on the early label has the potential for better sound, and we have no problem with anyone that wants to put forth the effort to find a clean copy at a good price
  • All we can say to such a person is “Good luck!”
  • The muddy, murky, veiled and lifeless sound of the modern Heavy Vinyl remaster is nowhere to be found here
  • I would bet money that whatever version is currently available has plenty of shortcomings along those lines, which may be acceptable to the mid-fi crowd but is positively ruinous on the high-fidelity systems that our customers tend to have (or why would they pay these prices?)


Esquivel – Other Worlds, Other Sounds

More Exotica

More Easy Listening

  • This early Living Stereo pressing has wonderful Double Plus (A+++) or BETTER sound from first note to last- fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are spacious and open, yet rich and and oh-so-Tubey Magical, with brass that has little to none of the “blarey” quality that plagues so many copies
  • Folks, I can tell you right now, most original Living Stereo Popular (LSP) pressings, of this or any other LSP title, do not begin to recreate the Studio Wizardry found on this 1958 album
  • “Its real significance is as the moment where Esquivel takes control of his production and develops his signature sound… This is the promise of the future.” – All Music, 4 Stars


Be-Bop Deluxe / Axe Victim

If you love the British Tubey Magical, rich (some might even call it overly rich) sound of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie crossed with Mott the Hoople, Axe Victim just might make a wonderful addition to your collection. We would love to find you some Hot Stampers of Ziggy and All the Young Dudes, but they simply aren’t findable at the prices we can afford to pay, so until then, here is that sound in spades. And the music is good too: clever, well-produced, full of rock and roll energy and guitar pyrotechnics. 

The second song on side two boasts a guitar sound so big and dynamic that it single-handedly turns the track into a demonstration of just how good analog recording technology was in the ’70s. This record has the kind of Audio Excitement that’s almost shocking in a way. We hear dynamics such as these so infrequently that it’s easy to forget records (and guitars) can actually get this loud. What a thrill.

It has been our experience that only the British pressings of Be Bop Deluxe’s albums sound like they are made from real master tapes. The domestic pressings we’ve played have been flat and dubby.

The copies that were big, rich and tubey did the best in our shootout. No domestic copies seem to have much of those qualities to speak of.

Side One

A+. The sound here is big and lively and while it could use a bit more space and richness, it’s still a nice step up over the average copy.

Side Two

A++ – A+++, almost White Hot! This is the where the real magic is happening folks. It’s big, rich and super high-rez with a HUGE bottom and and TONS of tubey magic. Overall, it’s positively ROCKIN’!

Both sides are quiet too! (more…)

Tina Turner – Private Dancer

More Tina Turner 

  • Incredible sound throughout with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This vintage pressing is big and rich, with superb clarity and three-dimensional space, this is the kind of sound that most pressings only hint at
  • 4 1/2 stars: “In 1984, a 45-year-old Tina Turner made one of the most amazing comebacks in the history of American popular music… Without question, this was Turner’s finest hour as a solo artist.”