A List of Mind-Blowing Outliers

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky – Our 4+ Shootout Winner from 2019

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound throughout — QUADRUPLE PLUS (A++++) on the first side and Triple Plus (A+++) on the second. Side one has by far the better music – it’s where the most exciting, most percussive movements can be found – and this pressing, with Beyond White Hot sound for that side, is guaranteed to be bigger and more lively than you ever imagined (because that’s how we felt about it, hence the fourth plus).

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

Both sides show up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave side one that fourth plus!

This Angle Melodiya pressing of Bizet’s Carmen, rearranged by Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin for strings and 47 percussion instruments, has two incredible sides. Demo Quality Sound barely begins to do it justice. If you have the system to play it, this copy is a KNOCKOUT.

But boy is it a difficult record to reproduce. You better have everything working right when you play this one — it’s guaranteed to bring practically any audiophile system to its knees. Speed, resolving power and freedom from distortion are what this record needs to sound its best. Is your system up to it? There’s only one way to find out.

And if you have any peaky audiophile wire or equipment in your system, the kind that is full of detail but calls attention to itself, you are in big trouble with a record like this. More than anything this is a record that rewards your system’s neutrality. (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues – Volume III – The Best Sounding Copy We’ve Ever Heard

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  • A KILLER copy with DEMO DISC Shootout Winning QUADRUPLE Plus (A++++) sound on the second side and Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first
  • This Limited Edition Sheffield Lab Direct Disc recording has some of the best sound we have ever heard for this title
  • It doesn’t get any better than this, with CLARITY and that JUMP OUT OF THE SPEAKERS quality we desire from a Hot Stamper
  • Many copies of this album tend to sound a bit thin and somewhat bright; on this copy, the sound is rich, full, and tonally correct from top to bottom and the horns sound especially wonderful

Please note: we award the Four Plus A++++ grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side two here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it a fourth plus!


What do Hot Stampers give you for this album? It’s very simple. Most copies of this album are slightly thin and slightly bright. They give the impression of being very clear and clean, but some of the louder brass passages start to get strained and blarey. This copy is rich and full. The sound is balanced from top to bottom. You can play it all the way through without fatigue.

Trumpets, trombones, tubas, tamborines, big bass, drums — everything has the true tonality and the vibrancy of the real thing. The reason this record was such a big hit in its day because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around. That’s also the reason this is a Must Own record today — the sound holds up!

Just listen to that amazing brass choir on Oh Lord, I’m On My Way. It just doesn’t get any better than that. If ever there was a Demo Disc, this is one! (more…)

Stravinsky / The Rite of Spring / Monteux – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

The ULTIMATE Rite of Spring has arrived. This early pressing takes the sound of the recording to a place we never thought it could go. With Four Pluses (A++++) it’s more than a full grade better than any copy to ever make it to the site. After hearing this copy we had to lower the grade on our supposedly White Hot (but too noisy to sell) reference LP. 

The space and dynamic power of the sound of this side one were something we had never heard before on Stravinsky’s groundbreaking work. Lush when quiet, clear and undistorted when loud, not one Rite of Spring in a hundred can do what this record can! (more…)

Steely Dan – Katy Lied – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper side one is an ABSOLUTE KNOCKOUT. Even our usual top grade of A Triple Plus was not enough to tell the story, so we awarded this side one the rare Four Plus (A++++) grade. The sound is HUGE — big, bold, dynamic, and lively. The clarity and transparency exceeded all our expectations; we felt as if we were hearing every last Steely Dan-sweated detail. The overall sound is natural, relaxed, and musical. The highs are as sweet as they come (which is not as sweet as they should have been, more about that later) and the bottom end has the weight and punch this music needs to rock.

(Although rocking is not quite what Steely Dan are up to here. Cameron Crowe calls it “…absolutely impeccable swing-pop”, a four word description that gets to the heart of the music far better than any combination of words containing the word “rock”. )

One quality this copy had that no other copy in our shootout managed to convey: on Chain Lightning the voices stretch from wall to wall and fill out the space between the speakers like we have never heard before! Wow. On this copy that song is a Demo Disc Quality Thrill like you will not believe.

A Tough Nut? You Better Believe It

This is one of the TOUGHEST NUTS TO CRACK in the entire Steely Dan catalog, if not THE toughest. We manage to do this album about once a year; it takes us at least that long to find a dozen or so clean, decent-sounding original copies. Most copies are beat and most copies don’t sound good anyway.

It’s easy to blame DBX for the bad sound of so many copies, but this is a cop-out. Most of the bad sound comes from ABC’s bad pressings. This music can sound awfully good; more than enough proof can be provided by simply playing this amazing side two.

Side Two

This side two earned an A++ gradfe. It was one of the few copies we played with real extension on the top end, a serious shortcoming on practically every copy we auditioned. The music on this side comes ALIVE like nobody’s business.

You will have no trouble hearing why we fell in love with this copy. The sound is so RICH and FULL. This is, more than anything else, what Katy Lied really gets right. The pianos and congas and toms have tremendous weight and body, along with plenty of rhythmic energy to drive the music. Everything is working so well you may find yourself singing along with abandon to classics like Everyone’s Gone to the Movies and Chain Lightning. We did.

Michael McDonald is a wonderful accompanist. His soaring harmonies on this album are breathtaking, even more so here than on Aja.

Of special note is Phil Woods’ sax solo on Doctor Wu. On most copies it is too thin, with not enough body, too much bite and sourness or hardness, but here it is smooth and natural — easy on the ears you might say. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.  

A knockout Top Copy, with a side one so jaw-droppingly amazing that we awarded it the rare Four Plus (A++++) grade. The sound is incredibly rich, full-bodied and open with excellent clarity — you will be FLOORED.

Please note that we do not have a graphic for the above chart to indicate the Four Plus grade, since we award it so rarely. Our rating system usually only goes to three pluses, but this side one was so amazing we had to give it a fourth!

This is a superb recording, and on a pressing like this it is true Demo Disc material! Not too many of our Hot Stamper titles are going to ROCK you the way this one does. We put it in a class with Led Zep II, Sticky Fingers, Nevermind, and Back In Black — elite company to say the least!

If you’re a fan of BIG DRUMS in a BIG ROOM, with jump-out-of-the-speakers practically direct-to-disc sound quality, this is the album for you. The opening track on side one has drums that put to shame 99% of the rock drum kits ever recorded. The same is true of I Know I’m Losing You on side two. It just doesn’t get any better for rock drumming, musically or sonically. Micky Waller is brilliant throughout. Kenney Jones, who only plays on the showstopping “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, is clearly out of his mind).

Some of the best rock bass ever recorded can be found here too — punchy, note-like and solid as a rock. If you have the system for it you are going to have a great time playing this one for your friends, audiophiles or otherwise. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Capriccio Italien & Rimsky-Korsakov / Capriccio Espagnol / Black / London Festival

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•Incredible sound on both sides of this London Phase 4 pressing with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
•These pieces are some of THE BEST on record – not only do they have incredibly powerful DEMO DISC sound, but the performances are superb in every way as well
•The energy and excitement of these works are brought to life by Stanley Black and the London Festival Orchestra like nothing you have ever heard
•This White Hot pressing may make you reevaluate virtually every classical recording in your collection

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Carole King – Tapestry – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Please note that we do not have a graphic for our chart to indicate the Four Plus grade, since we award it so rarely. Our rating system usually only goes to three pluses, but this side one was so amazing we had to give it a fourth!

This White Hot pressing gives you TRULY KILLER SOUND for this classic album! It’s not easy to find great sound for Tapestry. Most pressings are either dull and veiled, or hard and edgy in the midrange — not exactly the kind of sound we’re after.

This kind of sound is not easy to find on this album. As we said above, the typical copies are either dull and murky or edgy and downright unpleasant, and on half the ones that DO sound good the vinyl is thrashed! On a copy like this, though, the sound gets out of the way and lets you focus on the MUSIC — and make no mistake, this album is a true classic.

We went nuts for this album during our big shootout. Since most of the time we’re playing testosterone-fueled, raging classic rock, it was a nice change of pace for us — and certainly easier on our poor eardrums! Our man JT makes an appearance playing acoustic guitar on a number of tracks, most notably You’ve Got A Friend, and his pals Russ Kunkel and Danny Kootch turn up too, with Kootch handling most of the electric guitar duties.

What’s surprising, if you haven’t played this album in a while, is how good non-hit tracks like “Home Again” can be. But there aren’t many of those non-hits on this album, and that’s a good thing; almost every song was a hit or received a lot of radio play. The quality of the material is that good. (more…)

Cat Stevens – Tea For The Tillerman – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2019

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

We award this pressing our very special Four Plus (A++++) grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take the recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we usually had no idea even existed.

It sold for $1200 and was, to our way of thinking, surely worth every penny. One out of ten thousand audiophiles has ever heard Tea for the Tillerman sound this good, maybe fewer. Maybe none.

We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

This is one of the few White Hot copies to have been put up on the site over the years. It takes many, many — way too many — copies to find one that sounds like this. When it does, you know it. It ain’t rocket science. This copy is ALIVE with musical energy. (more…)

Ravel & Dukas / Bolero & Sorcerer’s Apprentice / Ansermet

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

We are rarely able to find quality recordings (or performances) of either Bolero or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, so this pressing comes as an especially welcome addition to the classical offerings on the site. 

The sound is clear, with wonderful depth to the stage. As a rule, the classic ’50s and ’60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande in Victoria Hall are as big and rich as any you may have encountered. These recordings strike us as the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made.

Bolero (Ravel)

ZERO compression. ZERO distortion when loud. Which means it has ZERO compressor distortion, something not five out of a hundred Golden Age recordings can claim. Nice extended top too.

The strings are never dry nor shrill, and the brass is neither sour nor brash, but gets big and stays clear. No other copy could do all of these things.

There is depth and richness here to beat the band, as well as clarity and tonal correctness that let you forget the recording and just enjoy the music.

The timbre of the brass is right on the money. As we have noted before, the brass of the Suisse Romande is some of the best to have ever been committed to analog tape. (more…)

Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This BEYOND White Hot side one (A++++) has nothing less than MASTER TAPE SOUND. Our Four Plus ranking is rare enough, but in this case it has the added benefit of conferring upon this very pressing the status of the BEST SOUNDING STEELY DAN RECORDING we have ever heard.

There is no recording better in the Steely Dan catalog, and I don’t think there’s a copy anywhere that’s any better than this one. (more…)