This blog comprises the contributions of a small group of lifelong, committed and enthusiastic music lovers. Our aim is to appeal to that hopefully not insignificant group of vinyl aficionados who recognize top quality recorded sound when they hear it.
Some of you reading this introduction fit that bill. Others, not so much. Either way, we hope to post something worthwhile to share with all of you.
During the day we’re also the guys who operate Better Records, a web-based business selling the best sounding records in the world, pressings of superior sound quality affectionately (and somewhat controversially) known around these parts as Hot Stampers.
We specialize in finding, cleaning and playing old LPs; nothing unusual there. The unusual part is that we then do something nobody else has figured out how to do: We grade the quality of their sound.
Regarding the variations in LPs, many of you may not be aware that in actuality no two records sound the same, even those with the same matrix numbers, labels and all the rest. We ignore all that stuff and just listen to what’s stamped in the grooves. We’re looking for that rare, special pressing that has the life of the music in it. With more than ten years of Hot Stampers behind us, doing record shootouts has become our life’s work.
You see, we really like playing records. That’s how we find the hundreds and hundreds of Hot Stamper pressings you see on our site. Every one is a record that at some point we threw on our turntable and listened to.
Over the years we’ve managed to get our record shootouts down to a science. Our staff of five devotes its time to cleaning and playing as many pressings of an album as we can get our hands on. As we listen, we begin to recognize what the best sounding copies do for the music that the other copies we are playing don’t. It’s as simple as that. All that’s left if for us to describe what we heard in our listings.
For those who want the ultimate in analog sound there is no other way to do it. Whether we find the record for you or you find it for yourself, we know of no other way to find the best sound. In fact we strongly doubt there is one. The process couldn’t be simpler, or more time consuming.
There are only three steps.
Step one: Get a stack of records, the bigger the better.
Step two: Carefully clean them.
Step three: Listen to them critically. Determine which ones sound the best and in what ways.
That’s all there is to it. We call such critical comparisons of pressings “shootouts.” It’s what the five of us spend most of our day doing. That and shopping for more raw material, the kind of material that, once properly cleaned, may turn out, if we’re lucky, to have Hot Stampers.
When it comes to audiophile quality sound, we don’t have special powers. We have critical listening skills, acquired mostly from playing thousands and thousands of records. That’s how we learned what we know, and our plan is to share some of that hard-earned knowledge with you.
In our blog we will be discussing Hot Stampers, shootouts, records, equipment — anything and everything that has to do with listening to music, on vinyl, with the highest quality sound. If that’s your thing, we encourage you to check back with us from time to time here at On The Record.
In the meantime, feel free to check out the hundreds of commentaries on our blog concerning these subjects and many more besides.