All About Hot Stampers

A Frequently Asked Question – How much better will a Hot Stamper sound on my system?

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That’s a tough question, because it involves two things I can’t know: how good your stereo is, and how critically you listen to it.

Really, the only way to find out how much better sounding a Hot Stamper pressing is would be to try one or two and see if the sound quality justifies the price to you. Which is why we offer a 100% money back guarantee: the record has to perform to your satisfaction or we give you all your money back.

A fellow wrote me a while back with a long list of his equipment. I replied:

I would like to help you but I know very little about any of the equipment you discuss below other than the 834p, which I do like. I very much like KEF speakers in general — they are neutral as a rule — which means that probably anything you buy that makes them sound better will most likely be a good piece of gear, but what that would be I cannot say, sorry!

The only way to know if your system can resolve the differences between our records and everybody else’s is to try some. You are the ultimate judge of what the value of that difference is and no one else.

All guaranteed of course! Try anything you like and send it back if you don’t feel it’s worth the cost.

And keep in mind that as your stereo gets better, our records get better. This is not true for most audiophile reissues, whose flaws become more obvious the better your system gets.


Just a few days back a fellow asked me why Led Zeppelin III sounds so awful — he’s hated the sound of his copy since he bought it in the ’70s!

I sent him a link to our Hot Stamper pressing, which was priced at many hundreds of dollars, and said that our copy will show you the sound you’ve been missing for 40 years. This is the service we offer. He hasn’t bought it yet and probably never will, but think about what he’s missing: the enjoyment of that music.

Letter of the Week – Songs From The Big Chair and The Beatles / Help

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

Hey Tom, 

I know you must have a TON of e-mail traffic to sort through but wanted to send accolades for the latest shipment of hot stampers from you! Simply incredible!!!!

I don’t know how you managed to get the TFF Big Chair LP to play SO clean because it looks atrocious! If I would have seen that in a used record store I would have put it back but when the stylus touched down, dead silent surface and throughout the whole record!! The sound is incredible as advertised !!! I played it for my wife who is enjoying these pressings with me and praises you after reading your descriptions. She jumped out of her seat on the couch after the percussive intro to Shout was over and the song launched!!

The Beatles Help album was also incredible! Compared to the MoFi I have it now sounds overly bright and goosed. The UK 1970’s press sounds more cohesive and even across the spectrum! That title was missing from my others of that same pressing era. (more…)

Letter of the Week – ELP Tarkus and Hampton Hawes Vol 2: The Trio

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

Hey Tom, 

Just wanted to express my excitement with the ELP Tarkus and Hampton Hawes Trio Vol 2 LP’s! Wow!!! Great sound as described and played quieter than described, beyond near mint ! The ELP only had one moderate pop on the opening of “The Only Way” track 3 on side two. Otherwise dead quiet all through !!!!

I am beyond pleased!!! Looking forward to the next order coming in !!! Lastly, can you show me where you get those terrific rice paper inner sleeves? They are nice and thick ply!! Better than MFSL or Quality RP…!!!

Thanks again!

I will surely be doing business in the future with you and have your accurate descriptions locked in to what I prefer surface wise. (more…)

If you only collect original pressings, you’re more than likely to end up with a collection of mediocrities

Why would you want a first pressing if it didn’t sound as good as a vintage reissue? Or any other pressing?

Or, if a later pressing sounded better, why would that make any difference in your desire to buy it? Isn’t the idea to get good sound?

If you buy records principally to collect original pressings, you will end up with one mediocre sounding collection of records, that I can tell you without fear of contradiction. (The formula goes like this: Average pressing, original or otherwise = average sound.)

On the other hand, if you want the best sounding pressings, we are the only record sellers on the planet who can consistently find them for you. This is precisely the service we offer, unique in the world as far as we know. Hence the name Better Records.

Anyone can sell originals. Only we can sell the best sounding ones. Others could of course, but none of them have ever bothered to try, so the practical effect is the same.

Finding the best sound is far more difficult and far more rewarding for both the seller and the buyer, as any of our customers will tell you. (more…)

This Is Not a Cheap Hobby If You Want to Do It Right

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Rick sent us a letter recently after having played his first Hot Stamper, the first record he ever bought from us. At $300 it wasn’t exactly cheap, but the best things in life never are, and certainly there is little in the world of audio that’s cheap and of much value.

This is not a cheap hobby if you want to do it right, and even tons of money doesn’t guarantee you will get good sound. It’s far more complicated than that. To quote Winston Churchill, it takes “blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Churchill went on to say “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs… Victory, however long and hard the road may be…”

Now, he wasn’t talking about audio, but he could have been, and I certainly am. It takes the serious commitment of resources — money and labor — to get the sound you want. That is the victory I am talking about.

On our Hot Stamper McCartney album, Rick no doubt heard the sound he was looking for — and then some — judging by his letter.

Hi Tom!

Well, I knew you guys were serious upon receiving the LP in 4 layers of wrapping and padding but when I put the disc on I was pretty stunned. Virtually everything was popping and so musical and rich sounding. Nothing like the 3 other pressings I’ve had of this recording in the past, the last of which I actually sailed out the window after 2 minutes of playing.

Every Night just sounds incredible, especially when he drops the bass an octave. And Maybe I’m Amazed gave me goosebumps for the first time since I bought it the week it came out. Also heard something on that track I never did (or could hear) before. During the guitar solo there’s a single high pitched vocal kind of buried in the background. Almost sounds like a mistake, making me think it could be Linda and Paul did what he could. Pretty wild.

My only very slight criticism is there is some surface noise but this is very overshadowed by all the positives. Overall it is superb. Can I give you guys a short list of LPs I’m looking for?

Thanks so much!

Best
Rick M.

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Letter of the Week – Off The Wall, Talking Book, Elton John and Meddle

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

Hey Tom, 

These are absolutely fantastic – mind blowing. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but your Off the Wall pressing was a religious experience. (more…)

Brewer & Shipley – Tarkio – Do All the Robert Ludwig Mastered Copies Have Hot Stampers?

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Even though all the original Pink Label pressings are mastered by Robert Ludwig, they have a marked tendency to be dull, thick and opaque. The sound is just too smooth. The best copies however have the top end and the transparency to let you hear all the guitar and vocal harmonics, surrounded by the large acoustic of the studio.

This time around we discovered something new: one specific stamper that seemed to be the only one with the potential for an extended top end. This special stamper did not always fare well; some copies with it were mediocre. We have always found this to be the way with the “right” stampers; they often let us down and sometimes they really let us down hard.

But this stamper, when it was right, had an extension on the top that no other copy could match. (The Robert Ludwig mastered Band second albums are the same way. Most have no top but boy, when they do, the magic you hear is phenomenal.) (more…)

Letter of the Week – Kind of Blue

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

Hey Tom, 

Listening to Kind Of Blue. Who needs an equipment upgrade with records like these?

So true!

It’s actually one of the common faults of audiophile thinking, present company excluded, that if you can make a record like KOB sound great, you must have a good stereo system.

The opposite is true; the real test is to get difficult to reproduce recordings to sound good, not easy to reproduce recordings.

Either way, KOB is killer, and the MoFi of it is a joke, but don’t tell this guy, who appears to be rather new to this whole “reviewing” thing:

The “In” Groove

To quote the man himself, “I do a review of the best sounding copy’s [sic] of Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue. What are the copy’s [sic] you should own?

He actually does no such thing. He does not in fact review the best sounding copies, because he’s too clueless to even bother with the ’70s Red Label pressings, some versions  of which happen to be our favorites.

After You’ve Played 100 Copies of the Album, What’s Left to Learn?

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A common misconception of many of those visiting the site for the first time is that we think we know it all.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We definitely do not know it all. We learn something new about records with practically every shootout.

Case in point: the record you do NOT see pictured above. (The record we recently learned something new about — this, after having played scores and scores of copies over the years — will remain a secret for the time being. At least until we find another one.)

In 2013 we played a red label Columbia reissue of a famous ’60s rock record (again, not shown) that had the best side two we have ever heard. Up to that point no copy other than the 360 original had ever won a shootout, and we’ve done plenty. Lo and behold here was a reissue that put them all to shame.
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Linda Ronstadt / Heart Like A Wheel – Truly a Country Rock Masterpiece

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them, this copy was giving us KILLER sound for Linda Ronstadt’s Best Album
  • Both sides here are rich, full-bodied and warm, with harmonically rich guitars and real immediacy to Linda’s heartfelt vocals
  • A Must Own Classic, the best album Ms Ronstadt ever made, and a True Country Rock Masterpiece virtually without peer
  • 5 stars: “What really makes HLAW a breakthrough is the inventive arrangements that producer Peter Asher, Ronstadt, and the studio musicians have developed. …[they] help turn Heart Like a Wheel into a veritable catalog of Californian soft rock, and it stands as a landmark of ’70s mainstream pop/rock.”

I’ve been playing HLAW since the year it came out, roughly 46 years by my calculation, and I can tell you it is no easy task to find this kind of smooth, sweet, analog sound on the album. Folks, we heard it for ourselves: the Heart Like A Wheel magic is here on practically every song.

Pay special attention to Andrew Gold’s Abbey Road-ish guitars heard throughout the album. He is all over this record, playing piano, guitar, percussion and singing in the background. If anybody deserves credit besides Linda for the success of HLAW, it’s Andrew Gold.

A key test on either side was to listen to all the multi-tracked guitars and see how easy it was to separate each of them out in the mix. Most of the time they are just one big jangly blur. The best copies let you hear how many guitars there are and what each of them is doing. (more…)