What We’re Listening For

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Long After Dark

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  • A STUNNING sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both sides are brimming with Petty’s unique brand of “meat and potatoes” rock and roll
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • Rich and full-bodied with tight bass, and brimming with Petty’s unique brand of straight ahead rock and roll, best exemplified by the radio smash You Got Lucky
  • Rolling Stone raves “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play a finely crafted brand of meat-and-potatoes rock. They shudder to a stop for the occasional ballad or showy guitar figure, but the next surging chorus is never far away. They’ve been honing that sound for five albums now, and Petty has gradually hoisted himself into the company of such masterful travelers of Route 66 as Seger and Springsteen. …overall, Long after Dark is Petty’s most accomplished record.”

Long After Dark boasts the monster rocker You Got Lucky and very good sound considering that the album was recorded in 1982, not an especially good year (or decade) to be recording rock music. (more…)

Tears For Fears – The Seeds Of Love

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More Art Rock

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  • A superb vintage UK copy of the band’s masterpiece, boasting Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard, and on this record that is saying a LOT
  • A tough record to find in audiophile playing condition – copies without audible marks were not easy to come by
  • The band’s Magnum Opus, a Colossal Production to rival the greatest Prog, Psych and Art Rock recordings of all time (Whew!)
  • 4 stars: “Thanks to the duo’s uncompromising stubbornness, expansive creative vision, and Dave Bascombe’s final production, The Seeds of Love has dated better than either of its predecessors and is inarguably Tears for Fears’ masterpiece.”

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Rod Stewart – Atlantic Crossing

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  • You’ll find truly exceptional Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this vastly underrated Rod Stewart classic
  • One of the few to hit our site over the years, and for that we apologize – Atlantic Crossing should be enjoyed by everyone in Hot Stamper form
  • This is some of the best Muscle Shoals rock- and soul-inflected pop from producer Tom Dowd we know of
  • It’s the last consistently good record Rod Stewart made – I bought it when it came out and I listen to it to this very day
  • AMG awards 4 1/2 stars and raves, “Three Time Loser and Stone Cold Sober catch fire,” and on this copy we guarantee they do

The copies we liked best were the biggest and richest, the least thin and dry. Many of the brighter copies also had noticeable sibilance problems, which the richer and tubier ones did not. (more…)

Elton John – Elton John

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  • Stunning DEMO DISC sound throughout – Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and close to that on the first
  • An original UK pressing with sound this good is a Must Own for all right thinking audiophile record lovers, not just Elton John fans
  • No modern record ever sounded like this – these sides are HUGE, with sound that positively jumps out of the speakers
  • Some of the most remarkable string arrangements (and Tubey Magical string sound) ever recorded for a pop album
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Even with the strings and choirs that dominate the sound of the album, John manages to rock out on a fair share of the record. …Elton John remains one of his best records.”

Folks, if you’re looking for Classic Rock that still appeals to sophisticated adults forty plus years after it came out, this is the album for you. It’s one of the four Classic Elton John records (five if you count GYBR) that belong in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection.*

It’s full of analog Tubey Magic — the richness, sweetness, and warmth are nothing short of stunning. The transparency, clarity, texture, dynamics, energy, spaciousness, and three-dimensionality of this recording are really something to be heard. The piano has real weight, the vocals are breathy and full, and the string tone is some of the best we have ever heard on a pop album.

Drop the needle on Border Song. When it hits the big “Holy Moses” chorus, you can pick out and follow all the different voices. The sound of the harp on Sixty Years On is positively sublime. (more…)

The Who – Tommy

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  • Outstanding sound for all four sides with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on side one and solid Double Plus (A++) grades on the remaining three sides
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl too – they don’t come our way with audiophile quality surfaces like these very often, almost never in fact
  • Our early Black Label British Track pressing here has the rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that has the power to immerse you in the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy named Tommy
  • Top 100, and clearly our pick for the best sounding album The Who ever made – when you play a copy that sounds as good as this one we think you’ll have no problem seeing our point
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Townshend’s ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music.”

*NOTE: On all four sides, a very small warp is not audible.

I know of no other Who album with such consistently good sound — song to song, not copy to copy, of course. Just about every song on here can sound wonderful on the right pressing. If you’re lucky enough to get a Hot Stamper copy, you’re going to be blown away by the Tubey Magical Guitars, the rock-solid bottom end, the jumpin’-out-of-the-speakers presence and dynamics, and the silky vocals and top end.

Usually the best we can give you for The Who is “Big and Rockin,” but on Tommy, we can give you ’60s analog magic that will all but disappear in the decades to follow.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum. (more…)

Christopher Cross – What to Listen For

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Hot Stamper Albums with Choruses that Are Big and Clear

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

There’s one test on side two that few copies do well on. The mostly instrumental section in the middle of Ride Like the Wind has a huge chorus singing in a wonderfully reverberant studio. Only the most transparent, most distortion-free copies let you clearly hear all their voices bouncing off the walls.

Take any two copies and listen for just this one effect and you will soon see that no two copies reproduce the reverberations identically, and many barely reproduce them at all.

Overall

The sound is full, rich, lively and even Tubey Magical in the best tradition of the glossy Pop Productions that were all the rage in the late-’70s. If you like Michael McDonald, Toto, The Doobies, Hall and Oates, The Bee Gees and countless other bands we have lovingly found a home for in our Hot Stamper sections you will no doubt find much to like here.

A guilty pleasure you say? When a record sounds this good there is nothing to feel guilty about!

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Journey – Escape

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  • This outstanding copy of the band’s 1981 release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • This copy was big and bold, with huge choruses that really come alive – just the way we like our Journey albums to sound
  • A #1 album jam-packed with hits: Don’t Stop Believin’, Stone in Love, Who’s Crying Now and Open Arms
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Outside of the singles, there is a certain electricity that circulates through the rest of the album. The songs are timeless, and as a whole, they have a way of rekindling the innocence of youthful romance and the rebelliousness of growing up, built from heartfelt songwriting and sturdy musicianship.””

We’ve been trying to find good sound on Journey records for close to a decade, and finally we have something to show for all that work — killer sound on their only Number One album, with monster jams like Don’t Stop Believin’, Stone in Love, Who’s Crying Now — the first three tracks on side one! — and the big closer for side two, Open Arms.

Most greatest hits albums don’t have this many classic rockers. Not sure how we’ll fare with the rest of their catalog, but this one is a good place to start if you’re a fan of the band.

The vocals on Who’s Crying Now are sweet and breathy like no copy you’ve heard. Texture without grit — now that’s hard to do on a Journey album. (Or Queen, see below.) (more…)

The Monty Alexander 7 / Jamento – Listening for Speed and Smear

What to Listen For – Smear

What to Listen For – Speed

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Clear piano notes, first and foremost. Any smear or loss of speed (a problem with hi-fi equipment since the beginning of time) detracts from the fun. 

Next, the tonality of the best copies is rich and solid; accept nothing less.

And, finally, the proper reproduction of the percussion instruments is critically important to the energy and drive of the music. The better you hear them — without losing the weight and richness of the piano — the more you will enjoy your copy of the record.

No two copies will reproduce all these elements equally well. On high quality equipment with the volume turned up good and loud the winners are easily separated from the losers. (more…)

Heart / Dreamboat Annie – What to Listen For

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On the best copies the music just JUMPS out of the speakers. There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through. In a nutshell those are the ones that earn the name Hot Stamper. 

Dreamboat Annie is yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Allow me to borrow some of the commentary from our Abraxas Hot Stamper (the necessary changes having been made).

This is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock records. It’s also one of those recordings that demands to be played LOUD. If you’ve got the big room, big speakers, and the power to drive them, you can have a LIVE ROCK AND ROLL CONCERT in your very own house.

When the boys behind Heart (superb musicians all) let loose with some of those Zep-like monster power chords — which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and “safe” mixes — I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don’t like the sound of horns, so there you go.)

Big and full, clear and present, with full extension in both directions, this album can really ROCK — but only on the right copy. If you’re an audiophile who loves classic rock, you just haven’t lived until you’ve heard Magic Man and Crazy On You on a White Hot Stamper pressing. (more…)

801 Live – When Clarity Obscures the Point

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Some audiophiles get worked up listening for details in their favorite recordings. Is that where the music is – in the details? Lots of details come out when one copy is brighter than another.

Brighter ain’t necessarily better. Most of the time it’s just brighter. 

This album isn’t about clarity. It’s about the sound of a live Rock and Roll concert. It’s about the raw power of one of the most phenomenal rhythm sections ever to be captured in performance.

Next time you try out some audiophile wire or a new tweak, play this record to make sure you haven’t lost the essential weight and power of the sound. This album doesn’t care about your love of detail. It wants you to feel those bass notes going right through you. If the new wire can’t get that right, it’s got to go.

Our Hot Stamper Commentary for 801 Live Circa 2007

This is a one of my All Time Favorite records — a Desert Island Disc if there ever was one. I treasure this album. And I just now finally figured out how to tell the good ones from the not-so-good ones. I confess I was listening for the wrong things in the shootouts I was doing over the last few years, and in that I have the feeling I was not alone. I think this is a fairly common Major Audiophile Pitfall that we all get stuck in on occasion.

In this case I was trying to find a more transparent copy, one with more shimmer to the cymbals and air around the instruments. The first track is a little opaque and I wanted to be able to hear into the music better. I tried many import and domestic copies, but none of them seemed to have the particular qualities I was looking for. They all sounded different, but I could not for the life of me find one that sounded clearly better. (more…)