Letter of the Week – “Just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing?”

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

Hey Tom, 

I am an avid vinyl cat and have been all of my life. I am super curious about your vinyl. I have a pretty good ear myself for top-shelf LP’s but I am just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing? Or maybe you have and I just have not noticed?

Thanks so much for a response and much respect for what you are doing and selling…


Dana, we explained it here, in a little commentary we like to call The Book of Hot Stampers.

We give out little in the way of stamper numbers, no information about cutting engineers as a rule, although we do break that rule from time to time. Here is an excerpt of a listing for Rock of Ages from way back when:

What We Thought We Knew

In 2006 we put up a copy with with what we implied were Hot Stampers (before we were using the term consistently) on at least one side:

Side One sounds tonally right on the money! This is as good as it gets… Robert Ludwig mastered all of the originals of these albums, but some of them have bad vinyl and don’t sound correct.

I only played side one of the album, so I can’t speak for the other sides, but what I heard was sound about as good as I think this album can have.

There are some truths along with some half-truths in the above comments, and let’s just say we would be quite a bit more careful in our language were we writing about that copy today.

One side is no indication whatsoever as to the quality of the other three, and without the kind of cleaning technologies we have available to us today, I wouldn’t want to make a “definitive” sonic assessment for any of them.

When you play uncleaned or poorly cleaned records you’re hearing a lot of garbage that has nothing to do with the sound of the actual vinyl. (Note that we are joking above: there is no such thing as a definitive sonic assessment of a record, from us or anybody else.)

Ludwig cut many bad sounding records. Roxy Music Avalon original domestic pressings are RL. They’re made from dubs and sound like it.  Same with Dire Straits’ Alchemy.

Some RL Houses of the Holy sound amazing and some only decent. It’s the nature of the beast.

We tell you how the records we are selling sound; nobody else can do that.

Robert Ludwig‘s initials are just part of the picture, and so we just leave him out because it’s easier that way.

If you buy any copy of Led Zeppelin II or Back in Black or The Band from us, you are getting an RL cutting because those are by far the best pressings that we know of. We would not sell anything else.

Beyond that it does not seem to be an issue for us or our customers.  They want the best sound and they expect that we know it when we hear it, regardless of who cut the record or what vintage it is.

Hope this helps,


Note the large dynamic speakers he is using as monitors. A man after my own heart!

It’s why we direct all our customers to our

Recordings that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels 


  1. This made my jaw drop: “[maybe not! Aso of 2022 we may have found a great sounding Zep II cut at Masterdisk by somebody else]”. What a thrilling prospect! Before I even knew about your blog, I realized that every record I played had something to teach me. Led Zeppelin 2 was my go-to for learning about stereo setup, collectability vs listenability, how records are cut and pressed. For a while, I bought every copy I could find of Zep 2. Most sucked, compared to an RL. One copy, a generic pressing from the mid-70s, sounded amazing. I’ll have to look if it has Masterdisk.

    1. Aaron,
      Turns out I was wrong. All our copies are RL. And you copy from the mid-’70s should not sound amazing — maybe good, but compared to the good originals? Not even close. Play it again and I think you will hear that it leaves a lot to be desired.

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