Month: May 2022

Sonny Rollins and The Original Jazz Classics Series – Not a Good Match!

More of the Music of Sonny Rollins

Pictured is OJC 029, one of the earliest Sonny Rollins titles they picked to remaster.

Too bad they didn’t do a very good job with it.

The copy we auditioned did not impress us sonically, so don’t expect to see Hot Stampers of this title on OJC coming to the Better Records website any time soon.

The music might be wonderful — we unreservedly follow the maxim de gustibus non est disputandum — but the sound of this pressing is unlikely to ever be of audiophile quality.

There may be great sounding pressings of the album – how could we possibly know there aren’t without playing every version ever pressed? — but we’re pretty sure the OJC will always fall short of the mark.

We created two sections for the OJC label: one for the (potentially, it’s what Hot Stampers are all about) good sounding OJC pressings and one for the (probably, see the paragraph above) bad sounding ones.

If you know of a great sounding pressing of the album, feel free to let us in on what pressing you have and we might just pick one up and give it a listen.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best. (more…)

Mendelssohn and Bruch / The World of the Great Classics, Vol. 3

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • A superb Decca reissue with Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • A spectacular Demo Disc Quality Orchestral recording – big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic
  • The violin is so sweet and present, so rich, natural and real, you will forget you’re listening to a record at all
  • The glorious sound of these truly great 1958 All Tube “Decca Tree” recordings from Kingsway Hall is faithfully captured in all its beauty on this very disc

This is one of the ALL TIME GREAT violin concerto records. In Ruggiero Ricci’s hands both works are nothing short of magical. If you want to know why people drool over Golden Age recordings, listen to the violin. Careful, when you hear it you may find yourself drooling too.

The staging of the orchestra and violin is exactly the way we want to hear it in our heads. Whether it would really sound this way in a concert hall is impossible to say — concert halls all sound different — but the skill and the emotion of the playing is communicated beautifully on this LP. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which London recordings are justly famous.

As we noted above, engineering took place in the legendary Kingsway Hall. There is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.


Master Tape? Yeah, Right


Thinking Critically About Records

More Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Let me ask you one question. If so many of the current labels making 180 gram reissues are using the real master tapes — the real two-track stereo masters, not dubs, not cutting masters, not high-resolution digital copies, but the real thing — then why do so many of their records sound so bad?

If you’re honest you’ll say “I Don’t Know…” because, and here I want you to trust me on this, you don’t know. I don’t know either. Nobody does.

Records are mysterious. Their mysteries are many and deep. If you don’t know that you clearly haven’t spent much time with them, or don’t have a very revealing stereo, or don’t listen critically, or something else, who knows what.

They’re mysterious. That’s just a fact.

There is no shortage of records that say “Made From the Original Master Tapes” that simply aren’t. I know this dirty little secret for a fact. I would never say which ones those are for one simple reason: it would make it seem as though others must be, when in fact we have little evidence that very many of them are.

We want them to be — I’m all for it — but how can we know if they are or not? Face it: we can’t.

We must make do — heaven forbid — with actually opening up our own ears and engaging the sound of whichever Heavy Vinyl Reissue we may find spinning on our turntable.  Judging the quality of the sound — no doubt imperfectly — coming out of the speakers.


Turning Skeptics into Believers, One Hot Stamper at a Time

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments

More on the Subject of Hot Stamper Pricing

About 15 years ago we received a letter from a fellow on our email list who found our prices for vinyl curious, as he considered vinyl a bygone technology. [You may have noticed that It has since made quite a comeback.]

Bygone technology? Can’t say I agree with that assessment. It sure would be nice to demonstrate for him how much better records sound than the supposedly superior technologies that have — for most people, perhaps even for this gentleman — replaced them.

Wait, there is a way! A Hot Stamper, 100% Guaranteed to Satisfy or Your Money Back. One click is all it takes. Which is pretty much what I said in my reply to his letter below.


I receive your HTML email regularly. Along with the curious prices of your offerings, I occasionally wonder about the opinions expressed in your e-missives. A Roman senator once said that all mortal things are ‘only perfect in death.’ Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust aside: vinyl (of which I own a considerable library) is merely a bygone technology at this point in time. The opinions expressed on your website rarely credit the writer. Whose words are these? And why should I accept the opinions of someone who only stands to profit from their fanaticism?

Bruce R. 

Bruce, most of us write the commentary, there are five of us fanatics here. (Six if you count our record cleaning person, but I’m not sure how fanatical she is, so let’s go with five.) [There are ten of us now as of May of 2019.] Please keep in mind one very important thing: it matters not a whit what we say about a record, it only matters what you hear on your stereo when you play it. If for any reason you are not happy, we give you all your money back.

(Some number of times a year this actually happens and we really do pay up. If we didn’t your credit card provider would make us refund your money anyway, but that’s hardly the point. It’s our written policy; there’s no fine print — that’s not how we run our business — so we pay. The same record, sold to the very next customer, has never in the history of Better Records ever been returned. Hey, we can find you good records, but we sure can’t fix your stereo for you, know what I mean?)

There’s a great deal of commentary on the site about how easy it is to verify the truth of what we say about pressing variations, and the nice thing about it is that you can actually run the tests using records you already own. A good start is to play side one of any record against side two, and of course the best test if to play two different copies of the same record against each other. If your stereo is even halfway decent, the differences should be pronounced.

You don’t have to take our word for it. Unlike audio reviewers, we actually have something to back up our claims: the record we send you. If you find us to be in error, you get your money back, no two ways about it. This is what makes us unique and successful in the record business — we actually can send you the record that’s as good as we say it is. Would love to have you try one. Like we say, you have nothing to lose.

Hey, I’m a skeptic myself and proud of it. But I know good sound when I hear it. I’ve found it’s best to let my ears guide me in this hobby. If some piece of expensive audio gear sounds good, then it sounds good, whether I like the price or not. I may not be able to afford it — hell, I can’t afford the records I sell either — but that has nothing to do with the fact that it sounds good. Most expensive audio gear doesn’t sound good, but some of it does, and there is no point denying it.

Same goes for our records. They sound amazing. Like you, I wish they were cheaper, but that doesn’t change the fact that they really do sound amazing. If you would let us prove it to you, we would love to be given the opportunity to do so. Even though it happens all the time, we can’t really take credit for turning skeptics into believers. The records do that for us.

Best, TP 


Metallica / Ride The Lightning (45 RPM) – MoFi Debunked

Sonic Grade: F

This review is for the 2008 Warner Brothers 45 RPM 180g Double LP Half-Speed Mastered by Mobile Fidelity from the original analog master tapes.

Compressed, sucked-out mids, no deep bass and muddy mid-bass, the mastering of this album is an absolute disaster on every level.

If you want to know how clueless the average audiophile is, a quick Google search will bring up plenty of positive comments from listeners and reviewers alike. 

Here are some other records that are good for testing the faults of this awful sounding release.

Further Reading

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.


Bud Shank And the Sax Section – We Used to Sell the Dubby Reissues, Ouch

More of the Music of Bud Shank

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bud Shank

I used to sell reissues of this record back in the day some twenty odd years ago. While they aren’t terrible — lackluster is a more apt description — we can clearly hear now that they are made from second generation tapes.

The stage is recessed and collapsed, and the sound never gets big enough nor lively enough to free itself from the speakers. (This happens to be our all-too-common experience with many of the Heavy Vinyl pressings we audition and consequently write mean things about. Can you blame us? We loathe that sound.)

It’s yet another example of a record we was wrong about. Live and Learn, right?

I would not buy any Pacific Records pressing with this style reissue cover. We’ve never heard one sound better than mediocre on our current system.

This record sounds best this way:

In Stereo

On the Right Domestic Pressing 

On the Right Early Pressing

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels


Tony Bennett – Frank Laico Knocks Another One Out of the Park

More Recordings by Frank Laico

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Frank Laico

Amazing vocal reproduction courtesy of the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico at his favorite studio (and ours), Columbia 30th Street studios

We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this

Everything that’s good about Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room! The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “It was a happy revelation to get Monk flying again on your stamper.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently.

Note that he owns the kind of audiophile pressing that seems to be all the rage, but, at least in this case, turns out to be just another example of the emperor’s new clothes.

         Hey Tom, 

The Thelonious Monk is AMAZING. If you ever get another 3/3/3/3 of that, I’ll pay almost anything : )

(I also have a MoFi Ultradisc One Step of Monk’s Dream, which I can barely stand to listen to — just boring, so it was a happy revelation to get Monk flying again on your stamper.)


Thanks for writing. A boring MoFi? Say it isn’t so!

By definition, boring records do not have Hot Stampers. We made that point about a Shootout Winning copy of Revolver way back in 2007.

At the risk of being definitive about things that are better left ill-defined, I would say that the Number One quality we look for in a pressing is the element of Life or Energy. We can put up with many shortcomings, including even some tonality problems, but when a record fails to convey the spirit and enthusiasm of the musicians, it’s pretty much over.

The Monk record we sent you seems to have gotten Monk flying again, and what could be better than that?

Best, TP


If you are still buying these modern pressings, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Masters.

At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy. And if for some reason you do not find that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the best.


Thelonious Monk ‎/ Plays Duke Ellington on OJC

More of the Music of Thelonious Monk

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Thelonious Monk

This title badly needed to be mastered with some tubes in the chain, but that didn’t happen. More on that subject here.

It’s another case of an OJC with Zero Tubey Magic. You might as well be playing the CD. I would bet money it sounds just like this record. And it may even sound better. For something close to ten bucks you could find out.

I suppose if you have a super-tubey phono stage, preamp or amp you might be able to supply some of the Tubey Magic missing from this pressing, but then all your properly mastered records wouldn’t sound right, now would they?

An RCA Direct Disc with Bad Music & Bad Sound, Like Most Audiophile Albums from the ’70s

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

More of the Music of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Hey, the records being marketed to audiophiles these days may have second- and third-rate sound, but at least now they have good music.

That’s progress, right?

This is just an awful Direct to Disc recording with bad sound and pointless music.

The Beatles Medley is particularly misguided. These guys have no idea what to do with The Beatles

This is the kind of crap we newbie audiophiles used to have to put up with back in the ’70s before we had anything resembling a clue.

It clearly belongs in only one place on our site: the Hall of Shame,

Actually, it also belongs on our complete list of Bad Sounding Audiophile Records

What Kind of Audio Fool Was I? The kind that would buy a record like this and expect it to have good music or good sound. Of course it had neither. Practically none of these kinds of records ever did. As clueless as I was, even back in the day I could tell that much.

But over the course of the last forty years I have been wrong about a great deal when it comes to records and audio. You can read more about many of the things I got wrong under the heading: Live and Learn.

Because Audio Progress is real and anyone can achieve it.