Chicago and The Hottest Sounding Vinyl – Are You a Thrillseeker Too?

When it comes to sound, I’m a thrillseeker.

I want to hear it LOUDER and BETTER, with more ENERGY and EXCITEMENT, and the reason I spent uncountable hundreds of hours working on my stereo is that that kind of sound doesn’t happen by accident.

You have to work your ass off to get it.

And spend a lot of money.

And search for those pressings that have the sound you need.

And be very lucky.

I don’t play records to sip wine and smoke cigars. I play records to ROCK. Whether the music is rock, jazz or classical, I want to feel the power of the music just as you would feel it at the live event.

To me that means big speakers and loud levels. We played Chicago VII as loud as we could.

“(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long” just KNOCKED ME OUT on this Hot Stamper copy, which had the best Side Three we played during the entire shootout. Exhilaration and adrenaline rush is right. As we said in our review:

How can you write a better song than (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long? That track, with its huge buildup of strings and wall to wall brass, just KILLS. It’ll send shivers up your spine at the live music levels we were trying to play it at. It actually has some real dynamics built into the mix, which is not something pop songs are even supposed to have.

But sometimes they do; the best copies are proof that that kind of sound is actually on the master tape. Not many audiophiles (besides the listening panel here at Better Records) will ever get the chance to hear it sound as powerful as we heard it that day. I built a stereo system dedicated to playing records like Chicago VII. It was a thrill all right.

The above commentary was prompted by Ed’s letter about the Hot Stamper pressing he had recently bought.

What follows is Ed’s story of looking for love (or a good sounding record, whichever you prefer) in all the wrong places, and finally finding that special feeling, the feeling you get when you hear something right, which to us is the very definition of a Hot Stamper. Now to Ed’s story.

Dear Tom,

As you know Chicago is one of my all time favorites. I relate having played trumpet along with the albums blaring when they were first released. So I couldn’t resist the opportunity to grab your recent Hot Stamper of Chicago 7. It arrived yesterday and I rushed up to my “music room” and dropped the needle on “Wishing You Were Here”. Oh Wow……never heard it like this. The tonality was just simply beautiful. The three dimensionality was incredible. The extension of bass to highs was simply total and balanced. The voices were “right there”. I thought that this is what happens when you are hearing through to the master tape on an LP that hasn’t destroyed or even impaired the original sound. It pulls you from the first song to the next and on. It draws you into the music and makes you forget about all the “stuff” around it.

This journey to the Hot Stamper level of audio reminds me of skiing. You wake-up having packed carefully for your trip. You travel hours, maybe even fly to the mountain. Then you drive up the mountain to the lodge and haul everything to the changing room. After struggling to put on the ton of clothing and equipment you trek across to the lifts and travel to the very top of the mountain. At the top you are now temporarily exhausted and wonder if all this effort and work could in any way be worth it… Then you jump off and fly down the mountain and realize that yes, it was worth it. The exhilaration and adrenaline rush is an immediate flash back to why you do this. It’s the Holy Grail!

Well, getting a Hot Stamper gives me a similar feeling. The work to build a great sounding stereo system: the mixing and matching of components and voicing of the sound to your room and your preferences is part of the “trip to the mountain”. For me the years of not really understanding that the source material was so variable and generally defective has made the journey a lot worse. I envy those who discover Better Records early and never have to travel the quest to good sound by looking in the wrong places. But better late than never. As you say “Life is too short to listen to crappy records.”

So when I put that Chicago 7 Hot Stamper onto the table and drop the needle on a groove it is just as exhilarating as jumping of the top of a snow covered mountain on skis. The words that come into my head are… yes… that’s why I do this crazy hobby!

Best regards and thanks for helping my hike up the mountain,

Ed Z


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