Stevie Nicks – Speculate Shmeculate

More Hot Stamper Pressings of Albums with Stevie Nicks Performing

Thinking Critically About Records

The sound of the typical copy can best be summed up in three words: thin, hard and bright.

When the sound is thin or hard or bright, the fun factor of this mainstream rock drops to zero.

Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around and Leather And Lace both sound great on the radio, why not on Warners vinyl?

We sure can’t blame Sheffield Labs, the original cutting house: all the copies we played — good, bad and otherwise — were originals and mastered by them.

Could it be the vinyl?

It could. It could be a lot of things, but speculating about them doesn’t really get us or you anywhere, so I’m going to stop doing it and just say we played a big pile of records and heard a lot of unpleasant sound. If you have the record you probably know what I mean.

Our Approach

In order to do the work we do, our approach to audio has to be fundamentally different from that of the audiophile who listens for enjoyment. Critical listening and listening for enjoyment go hand in hand, but they are not the same thing.

The first — developing and applying your critical listening skills — allows you to achieve good audio and find the best pressings of the music you love.

Once you have a good stereo and a good record to play on it, your enjoyment of recorded music should increase dramatically.

A great sounding record on a killer system is a thrill.

A Heavy Vinyl mediocrity, played back on what passes for so many audiophile systems these days — regardless of cost — is, to these ears, an intolerable bore.

If this sounds arrogant and elitist, so be it.

We set a higher standard. Holding our records to that higher standard allows us to price our records commensurate with their superior sound and please the hell out of the people who buy them.

For those who appreciate the difference, and have resources sufficient to afford them, the cost is reasonable. If it were not we would not grown to have a staff of ten doing the work we do. We would have gone out of business years ago. Businesses that do not satisfy the needs of their customers do not stay in business for long.*

Hot Stampers are not cheap. If the price wasn’t more than justified by the better sound quality and quieter surfaces, who in his right mind would buy them? We can’t really be fooling that many audiophiles, can we?

Some folks think the whole Hot Stamper thing is hogwash, a case of mass hysteria, a psychological syndrome that does exist and cannot be ruled out as a possibility. Maybe our customers are as delusional as most forum posters think they are.

Keep in mind that virtually none of the folks who write about us have ever heard one of our records, so that should help you decide how much confidence you should put in whatever explanations they might have to offer.

We think the best way to understand their skepticism is through the prism of cognitive dissonance. Here is an excerpt from our much longer piece on the subject:

This whole Hot Stamper thing makes no sense. It’s not possible. Your customers are wrong. They are deluding themselves. You guys are the ones who are suffering from cognitive bias, not me. You hear what you want to hear on these old records and you ignore what’s good about the new ones.

I’m pretty sure that must be what’s going on. How can everybody else be wrong and somehow you get to be right? That’s really absurd. You should be ashamed of yourself for ripping off gullible audiophiles who are too stupid to realize that what you are selling is the worst kind of snake oil. Either that or false hope. You’re cynically preying on those who have more money than sense and laughing all the way to the bank. That’s on you. There’s a sucker born every minute, and that’s why you will never run out of customers. Hah!

Fair enough. Well said. You figured out this whole thing must be a scam. Awesome. Good job.

As a bonus, you’ve just saved yourself a huge amount of work and avoided a lot of mental anguish. You proved yourself right without lifting a finger. (Well, you did some typing, so I guess that counts as lifting a finger. But it sure was easier than playing a record and critically listening to it. That sh*t is hard.)

Now that all that Hot Stamper stuff is out of the way, please allow me to point you toward the one book that explains all the problematical thinking we humans constantly engage in, this one.

In my experience, no other book explains more about audio and the audiophiles who pursue it, myself included. I guarantee that if you read this book you will never be the same. It is that eye-opening.

Kind of like playing your first Hot Stamper. Nothing is ever the same again. Even if it is a scam.

*Those in the business of making Heavy Vinyl pressings these days are giving some portion of the public what it wants, the portion of the record-loving public that doesn’t have very good playback equipment or especially well-developed critical listening skills. If you have either, you should have given up on the stuff a long time ago.

In 2007 we found ourselves in such a place and we’ve yet to have any doubts concerning the mediocrity of those records. When we play Heavy Vinyl pressings these days we are often dumbfounded, at a loss to understand their appeal, but twenty years ago we liked many of them just fine, so who are we to talk?

Further Reading

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