All About Hot Stampers

Listening in Depth to Crosby Stills & Nash – Now with Bonus CD Advice

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Reviews and Commentaries for Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Debut

More Crosby / More Stills / More Nash

Although millions of copies of this album were sold, so few were mastered and pressed well, and so many mastered and pressed poorly, that few copies actually make it to the site as Hot Stampers.

We wish that were not the case — we love the album — but the copies we know to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound are just not sitting around in the record bins these days.

Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the Joe Gastwirt-mastered CD. It couldn’t be any more awful. (His Deja Vu is just as bad.)

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

What’s magical about Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young? Their voices of course. It’s not a trick question. They revolutionized rock music with their genius for harmony. Any good pressing must sound correct on their voices or it has no value whatsoever. A CSN record with bad midrange reproduction — like most of them — is a worthless record.

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The Beatles / Let It Be – Listening In Depth

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

This is the first time we’ve discussed individual tracks on the album. Our recent shootout [now many years ago], in which we discovered a mind-boggling, rule-breaking side one, motivated us to sit down and explain what the best copies should do on each side of the album for the tracks we test with. Better late than never I suppose. 

These also happen to be ones that we can stand to hear over and over, dozens of times in fact, which becomes an important consideration when doing shootouts as we do for hours on end.

On the better pressings the natural rock n’ roll energy of a song such as Dig A Pony will blow your mind. There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ — just the sound of the greatest pop/rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out.

It’s the kind of thrill you really don’t get from the more psychedelic albums like Sgt. Pepper’s or Magical Mystery Tour. You have to go all the way back to Long Tall Sally and Roll Over Beethoven to find the Beatles consistently letting loose the way they do on Let It Be (or at least on the tracks that are more or less live, which make up about half the album).

Let’s quickly review, in general terms, some of the qualities we listen for in our record shootouts.

Select Track Commentary for Let It Be

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The Doors – Waiting For The Sun on DCC Heavy Vinyl

More of the Music of The Doors

More Hot Stamper Pressings of Psych Rock Albums

We rate the DCC LP a B Minus

We used to really like the DCC pressing of this Doors album. Now… not so much. It’s a classic case of Live and Learn.

Keep in mind that the only way you can never be wrong about your records is simply to avoid playing them. If you have better equipment than you did, say, five or ten years ago, try playing some of your MoFi’s, 180 gram LPs, Japanese pressings, 45 RPM remasters and the like. You might be in for quite a shock.

Of course the question on everyone’s mind is, “How does our Hot Stamper copy stack up to the famous DCC pressing?” After all, it’s the one we were touting all through the ’90s as The One To Beat.

Well, to be honest, the DCC is a nice record, but a really special original copy throws a pretty strong light on its faults, which are numerous and quite bothersome.

The top end on the copy I played was a touch boosted, causing a number of problems.

For one, the cymbals sounded slightly tizzy compared to the real thing, which had a fairly natural, though not especially extended, top end.

But the real problem was in the midrange. Morrison sounded thinner and brighter, more like a tenor and less like a baritone, with a somewhat hi-fi-ish quality added to the top of his voice. Folks, I hate to say it, but if someone had told me that the record playing was half-speed mastered, I probably would have believed it. I detest that sound, and the DCC pressing bugged the hell out of me in that respect.

Morrison has one of the richest and most distinctive voices in the history of rock. When it doesn’t sound like the guy I’ve been listening to for close to forty years, something ain’t right.

The bottom end was also a tad boosted — not in the deep bass, but more in that area around 100-200 cycles, causing the sound to be overly rich. None of the originals we played had anything like it, so I’m pretty sure that’s a bit of added EQ Hoffman introduced for reasons better known to him.

Not So Fast There, O Hot Stamper Guru

But wait a minute — don’t all records sound different? Is it really fair to paint his version with such a broad brush on the basis of having played only one copy?

Of course not. Perhaps other copies sound better. (Maybe they sound worse. Think about that.) So here’s our offer to you, dear customer: We absolutely guarantee our Hot Stamper copies will handily beat the DCC pressing or your money back. We’ll even pay the return domestic shipping if for some reason you are not 100% satisfied with the sound of our Hot Stamper. Now there’s an offer you can’t refuse, for those of you who love this album and have a bunch of money burning a hole in your pocket.

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George Benson – Bad Benson and Bad Audio

More of the Music of George Benson

More Recordings Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder

Some notes about this shootout from years back may be instructive.

White Hot Stamper sound on side two, which means this copy has the power to show you just how well-recorded the album really is, and how much energy and drive there is to both the sound and the music.

No other side of any copy earned the full Three Plus White Hot grade, so this is a very special side indeed. [Now that we are much better at our jobs — see the advice at the end of this review — this happens only a few times a year.]

We didn’t run into any awful CTI originals the way we do with the typical rock record from the ’70s, but it’s the rare copy that has a real top end, or much in the way of transparency, or freedom from smear. This copy has all three, without any sacrifice in richness or Tubey Magic.

Rich, full-bodied sound is not hard to find on Bad Benson; most copies had the goods in the bass and lower midrange.

Your Old Stereo (If You Had One in the Seventies)

On the other hand, clarity, top end, transparency and freedom from smear were hard to come by on all but a few copies. Most copies sound pretty much like your old ’70s stereo system — you know, the one you had with the three-way box speakers sitting on concrete blocks.

Fat, blurry down low, thick, opaque and smeary, that sound was everywhere. Pleasant, but not much more than that.

[This seems like an apt description for the records currently being pressed on Heavy Vinyl, wouldn’t you say?]

We’ve come a long way since then. Some pressings still have that sound to a degree, but with so many audio revolutions taking place over the last twenty years, now we can get dramatically more out of even those sub-optimal copies.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Revolutions in Audio, Anyone?

Making Audio Progress 

Unsolicited Audio Advice

Humble Pie / Performance – Rockin’ The Fillmore

More Humble Pie

More Peter Frampton

  • This original pressing on the custom A&M label is ROCKIN’ with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Performance is one of the best sounding – perhaps even THE best sounding – Hard Rock concert albums we’ve ever heard
  • Engineered by the legendary Eddie Kramer, what other live rock record sounds this good?
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… [O]ne of the classic double-live albums of the ’70s: a two-LP set from a band that were earning a reputation as in-concert monsters, grinding out a living on a circuit that brought them from coast to coast in America… this was heavy, improvised blues rock where live moments trumped the studio… “
  • A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

Can you imagine if Frampton Comes Alive sounded like this? If you want to hear some smokin’ Peter Frampton guitar work from when he was in the band, this album captures that sound better than any of their studio releases, and far better than Comes Alive on even the best copies.

Grungy guitars that jump out of the speakers, prodigious punchy deep bass, dynamic vocals and drum work — the best pressings of Rockin’ The Fillmore have more live FIREPOWER than any live recording we’ve ever heard. Who knew?

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To Understand Records, Consider These Three Ideas

We think sitting down to play a Hot Stamper pressing is the best way to appreciate its superior sound, in the same way that hearing a great sounding LP played back on a top quality audio system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog.

To expand on the basics discussed in our FAQ, consider checking out the three commentaries linked below:

  1. Are There General Rules for Acquiring Records with the Highest Quality Sound?

  2. Sometimes Progress Means a Record Sounds Worse Than It Used To

  3. The Limitations of Rules of Thumb

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Letter of the Week – “I was dumbfounded when the horn blast opening the title track practically leapt out of my speakers.”

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Customer Letters that Extoll the Virtues of Our Beatles LPs

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

Hey Tom,   

Just wanted to say I was blown away by this copy. Having lived with the MoFi pressing since the box set first came out in the 80’s I was dumbfounded when the horn blast opening the title track practically leapt out of my speakers. I am so impressed that I just placed an order for 3 more Hot Stamper Beatles vinyl. It’s time to replace the MoFi.

Honrado L.

Thanks for writing, Honrado.

You’re not the only person who wants to get rid of their half-speed mastered records after playing a Beatles pressing that is mastered in real time and pressed properly.

And, if you are still buying modern pressings that are not half-speed mastered, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl too.

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Letter of the Week – “Wanted to drop you a note and let you know [I’m] not a skeptic any more.”

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

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

Hey Tom, 

Wanted to drop you a note and let you know you have me now not a skeptic any more.

Case in point, over the 12 days of Christmas I acquired a [original] Led Zeppelin IV from you. I also received one from a family Member.

You are absolutely correct in that not all pressings sound the same.

I played both copies in a shootout and yours hands down was the better of the two.

The most recent purchase has me sitting staring at my speakers in amazement.

Both the Rumours and the But Seriously Folks are AMAZING!

Kevin

Kevin,

Thanks for taking the time to prove that the stampers are not the end-all and be-all of top quality sound.

Having an original pressing doesn’t guarantee you the best sound, but we sure as hell do.

Best,

TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

David Bowie / Let’s Dance – Energy Is Key

More of the Music of David Bowie

More Records that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

With Let’s Dance the name of the game is ENERGY, and boy does this copy have it! Both sides have the deep, punchy bass and sweet, extended highs that Bowie’s music needs to come ALIVE. With that big bass and smooth top end, this is one record you can turn up GOOD and LOUD without fear of fatigue. On a big pair of dynamic speakers you will really get your money’s worth from the best Hot Stamper pressings. 

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Let’s Dance.

Here are some albums on our site you can buy with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

Side One

Modern Love

This track has a tendency to be a bit brighter than those that follow. To find out if your Let’s Dance is killer, see how the title track sounds.

China Girl
Let’s Dance

The best sounding track on the album and one of the handful of best sounding Bowie tracks ever recorded. With a truly Hot Stamper copy, try as you might you will be very hard pressed to find better sound. Demo Disc Quality doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Without You

Side Two

Ricochet
Criminal World
Cat People (Putting Out Fire)

The best sound and music on side two. A top Bowie track.

Shake It (more…)

The Beatles 10 Copy Shootout – “I was near a nervous breakdown.”

More of the Music of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for The White Album

Our good customer Erik in Germany purchased one of our hottest Hot Stamper White Albums ($700) and decided to do his own shootout with the ten — count ’em, ten — copies he had on hand.  

He makes a point to mention that it’s worth the seven hundred bucks he paid (plus international shipping and customs, let’s not forget, so add another 20-25% on to that figure). Some skeptics may think he’s suffering from Cognitive Dissonance, but we say there’s nothing dissonant about the kind of sound Erik describes hearing in the testimonial he sent us, as follows.

[We should note that we now prefer the right UK pressings of the album over our previous favorite, the right German pressing. A textbook case of Live and Learn.]

Hello my friends,

I want to say THANK YOU for the Beatles White Album Hot Stamper. I’m so amazed and lucky – I can’t describe it. You graded it correct (A+/A++/A++/A++ to A+++) and it is worth the price, the sound is exactly “sweet, breathy vocals; well-defined bass; stunning clarity; warmth and richness; immediacy; astonishing transparency and spaciousness; clear transients; loads of ambience and more.”

I’m at the source here in good old Germany concerning the German Apple pressings, collected 10 copies (also a UK first issue and one in a box). 4 were crap, half a dozen had the condition for a shootout. But not one single side reach a rating above A-, I was near a nervous breakdown. Now this problem is solved and I can simply enjoy the album in the future.

Kind regards

Erik

Erik, so glad to hear our copy of the White Album so easily vanquished all comers. We live for letters like yours!

Best, TP


FURTHER READING

Customers Really Seem to Love Our Beatles Hot Stampers

Is This the Worst Sounding White Album?