Here’s what we learned when doing our most recent shootout.
Many copies sounded like they were half-speed mastered.
They had a little something phony added to the top of Linda’s voice, they had a little bit of suckout right in the middle of the midrange, the middle of her voice, and they had a somewhat diffuse, vague quality, with sound that lacked the SOLIDITY we heard on the best pressings. These hi-fi-ish qualities that we heard on so many copies reminded us of the kind of audiophile sound we decry at every turn. We’ve played literally hundreds and hundreds of MoFis and other half-speed mastered records over the course of the last twenty years, and one thing we know well is That Sound. (more…)
We think sitting down to listen to a Hot Stamper pressing is the best way to appreciate its superior sound, in the same way that hearing a vintage LP played back on a top quality system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog. Short of getting you to try one of our records — 100% guaranteed, no questions asked — we hope these comments will be of value.
Are Hot Stampers just original pressings?
They certainly can be, but quite often are not, which of course comes as a surprise to no one who works here. Reissues come out on top in our record shootouts fairly regularly. Yes, most of the time the original will beat the reissue, but most of the time is far from always, and since we have to play a big pile of copies anyway (and always with the person doing the sound grading kept in the dark about the pressing on the turntable), why not just evaluate both the originals and the reissues at the same time, and do so strictly on the merits?(more…)
Heavy Vinyl Production And the Unpredictability of Random Processes
Those in the business of producing the highest quality remastered recordings on LP are crashing smack into a problem endemic to the manufacturing of the vinyl record — randomness.
Record producers can control many of the processes (variables) that go into the making of a high quality record. But they cannot control all of them. The word for such a situation, one with random, uncontrollable aspects, is “stochastic.”
Taking the liberty to paraphrase Wikipedia liberally, we would explain it this way.
A stochastic, or random, process, is the counterpart to a deterministic process. Instead of dealing with only one possible way the process might develop over time, in a stochastic or random process there is some indeterminacy described by probability distributions. This means that even if the initial condition or starting point is known, there are many possibilities the process might go to, but some paths may be more probable and others less so.
In other words, although some of the variables can be controlled, there will always be some element of randomness that makes the final result predictable within limits, but not predictable precisely.
An erstwhile customer sent us an email a while back asking this question: “What is the FULL stamper matrix for this record… all the way around the dead wax?”
I replied that we never give out stamper numbers for the records we sell. The only way to find out the stampers for our records is to buy them. And while we’re on the subject, you might enjoy reading this commentary I wrote a while back pointing out how misleading the matrix numbers can be:The Book of Hot Stampers.
He then countered with this bit of information:
Well, ok. I don’t understand the logic, but it’s your show.
Floyd stampers are probably the most uniquely well documented stampers on [a site that no longer exists] that they’re pretty much common knowledge. If I understand your logic, a first pressing may not be a “Hot Stamper” while a 3rd, 4th or 5th might be. Just a function of the stars aligning when that record is pressed. So what’s the diff?
I would think this would be pretty obvious. If we say pressing X is the best, this is information that you cannot get anywhere else, certainly not on the site you sent us a link to. The day that such a site tells you which stampers sound the best is the day that such a site will have any value to those who are not collecting for the sake of collecting, but actually want to find pressings with the best sound to play. (more…)
You might agree with some reviewers that EMI’s engineers did a pretty good job with the new Pepper. In the March 2013 issue of Stereophile Art Dudley weighed in, finding little to fault on this title but being less impressed with most of the others in the new box set. His reference disc? The MoFi UHQR! Oh, and he also has some old mono pressings and a domestic Let It Be. Now there’s a man who knows his Beatles. Fanatical? Who wouldn’t be? We’re talkin’ The Beatles for Christ’s sake.
When I read the reviews by writers such as these I often get the sense that I must’ve fallen through some sort of Audio Time Warp and landed back in 1982. How is it that our so-called experts evince so little understanding of how records are made, how variable the pressings can be, and, more importantly, how absolutely crucial it is to understand and implement rigorous protocols when attempting to carry out comparisons among pressings. (more…)
This Hot Stamper listing from 2006 is a Time Capsule of Commentaries of sorts; it contains write-ups from 2006, 2005 and 2002 all rolled into one. Out of sheer laziness we used to leave the old commentary in the listings, sort of like building the new city on the ruins of the old. For those who don’t mind excavating through the Hot Stamper thoughts of the past, please read on.
Notes from August 2006
DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND of the HIGHEST ORDER!(more…)
Some Forum posters at audiokarma.org were raking us over the coals a while back, questioning the legitimacy of our so-called “hot stampers”. If you have an hour or two to kill check it out.
The first entry in the thread is from 2009. The headline reads “Hot Stampers….Anyone own any?”
Even though they were calling us every name in the book I found their comments to be so fascinating and entertaining as to be positively addicting; I couldn’t stop myself from going back over and over again to see what new foolishness might have been added since my last visit.
No wonder people love these forums — you get to rant to your heart’s content. You can even discuss the sound of records you’ve never played and yet no one finds it the least bit strange. Certainly no one will call you on it; it’s about ranting, not reality, and not even really about the sound of records, truth be told. What could possibly be more fun than that?
Hoffman Don’t Play That
There aren’t any on Hoffman’s forum because discussion of the subject is verboten.
If you know of any more threads where we get dragged through the internet mud, send me the links, I’ll put them right here for everyone to read. They are a hoot!(more…)
Finding Hot Stampers is all about doing shootouts with as many copies of the same title as you can get your hands on. There are basically four steps in this process and you have to achieve success with each of the four if you are going to be any good at discovering and evaluating your own Hot Stampers.
We discuss each and every one of them in scores of commentaries and listings on this very site. Although none of it will come as news to anyone who has spent much time reading our stuff, we cobbled together this commentary to help formalize the process and hopefully make it easier to understand and follow.
If you want to make judgments about recordings — not the pressing you have in your collection, but the actual recording it was made from — you have to do some work, and you have to do it much more thoroughly than most audiophiles and record collectors think is necessary.
Could it be that the folks on the Hoffman forum have a poor grasp of the effort, time and money it takes to find Hot Stampers and, having committed to neither the effort, the time or the money, find that they have nothing of any value to contribute to this list? Not one other record? Not even one?
Thank god it doesn’t keep them from criticizing those of us who have found them by the thousands!(more…)