Sage Advice from Calvin Coolidge
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge
If you substitute “finding Hot Stamper pressings” for the words “the human race” you will surely appreciate the point of this commentary.
Our story today revolves around the first Hot Stamper listing we had ever done for Ambrosia’s second — and second best — album. It took us a long time to find the right pressing.
Do you, or any of the other audiophiles you know, keep buying the same album over and over again year after year in hopes of finding a better sounding copy?
We do — have been for more than twenty years as a matter of fact — and here’s why.
Around 2007 I stumbled upon the Hot Stampers for this record — purely by accident of course, there’s almost no other way to do it — and was shocked — shocked — to actually hear INTO the soundfield of the recording for the first time in my life, this after having played copy after frustratingly opaque copy for roughly thirty years.
Yes, the stereo got better and that helped a lot. Everything else we talk about helped too. But ultimately it came down to this: I had to find the right copy of the record. Without the right record it doesn’t matter how good your stereo is, you still won’t have good sound. Either the playback source has it or it doesn’t.
It’s not what’s on the master tape that matters; it’s what’s on the record.
The Worst Mistake
This may seem pretty obvious, but how many audiophiles do you know who actually own multiple copies of the same album? How many of them are still hunting around for more? I’ve been buying duplicate copies of my favorite albums for decades, but I’m obsessive. Fortunately for me, with the advent of Better Records in 1987, I’ve had an outlet for the pressings I choose not to keep.
A few audiophile friends have multiple copies, but most audiophiles I know usually stop after one, at most two or three, and they often make the worst mistake one could ever make: they buy an audiophile pressing and figure that that’s the one to keep, tossing out their original, or never bothering to buy an original in the first place.
Hearing Is Believing
Those of you who take the time to read our Hot Stamper commentary, whether you buy any of our special pressings or not, no doubt know better. At least I hope you do. The only way to understand this Hot Stamper thing is to hear it for yourself, and that means having multiple copies of your favorite albums, cleaning them all up and shooting them all out on a good stereo. Nobody, but nobody, who takes the time to perform that little exercise can fail to hear exactly what we are on about.
Or you can join the other 99% of the audiophiles in the world, the ones who don’t know just how dramatic pressing variations for records and CDs can be. An unknown but probably quite large percentage of that group also doesn’t want to know about any such pressing variations and will happily supply you with all sorts of specious reasoning as to why such variations can’t really amount to much — this without ever doing a single shootout!.
Such is the world of audiophiles. Some audiophiles believe in anything — you know the kind — and some audiophiles believe in nothing, not even their own two ears.
How to Play Ambrosia
This record will bring any stereo to its knees. On most days this record would bring my stereo to its knees. Everything would have to be working at its absolute best before I would even attempt to play this album. It’s not enough to have the stereo warmed up and cookin’, with everything in the house unplugged. The electricity from the pole needs to be at its best, not that grungy garbage you get in the middle of the day or around dinner time, when all your neighbors have their appliances going. You need that late-at-night, two o’clock in the morning everybody-has-gone-to-bed-and-turned-off-all-their-stuff electricity for this bad boy.
If everything is cookin’ and you’re at the top of your game, this is the album for you. It’s an Audiophile Extravaganza for all the right reasons. To be properly expressed, every musical idea needs the right instrumental complement, and each instrument in that complement needs to be recorded properly to produce the desired effect, the one that will express the idea. This album is overflowing with fresh musical ideas, layers and layers and layers of them. I hear more of them every time I have occassion to revisit a new batch of Hot Copies.
Detail Freaks Beware
This is the kind of record that will eat the detail freaks alive. If your system has any extra presence, or boost in the top end — the kind that some audiophiles mistake for “detail” — this record with beat you over the head with it until blood runs out of your ears. You need balance to get the most out of this album. The more your system is out of whack, the more this album will make those shortcomings evident. Once you have balance, then you can unleash the energy in a way that’s enjoyable, not painful. When this record is sounding right, you want to play it as loud as you can. It’s pedal to the metal time. This music wants to overwhelm your senses. When the system is up to it, it can, and will.
There is no question that this band, their producers and their engineers sweated every detail of this remarkable recording. They went the distance. They brought in Alan Parsons to produce and engineer it. The result is an album that stands tall. It’s not prog. It’s not pop. It’s not rock. It’s Ambrosia — the food of the gods.