All About Hot Stampers

Letter of the Week – “There is an airiness to the recording where the instruments seem to float in a 3D space in the soundstage.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. My responses are shown as well.

Hey Tom, 

I wanted to give you my impressions of the hot stamper (vs. the Speakers Corner Decca reissue) before going out of town for a bit.

Crank it up. Sounds really good turned up loud so I knew I was going to be in for a treat. There is an airiness to the recording where the instruments seem to float in a 3D space in the soundstage. I also noticed an improved clarity of the instruments themselves; in particular, the triangles, flute, and strings.

Yes, these differences are obvious to us, because we already have the best pressings, so the heavy vinyl stuff is always wrong or worse in some way that is not hard to hear. Back to back it does not take a pair of golden ears to hear these kinds of differences.

Funny, we discussed this yesterday and as you said, until you compare multiple pressings you might think you already have a great recording. Another big difference I noticed was the tightness and solidity of the bottom end. The Decca seemed to smear the low frequency content compared to the London.

This happens a lot, the smear is everywhere on these newly remastered records but sometimes you can hear it most clearly in one area or another. In this case you heard it most clearly in the bass, but it’s everywhere.

The ONLY thing I miss is the flow of the full ballet. The ballet seems to tell a nice complete story where the suite just gives me the reader’s digest version — sort of a greatest hits if you will, and does not allow one to immerse themselves in the whole experience. Ideally, a hot stamper of the full ballet would be pretty amazing I am guessing.

We can definitely get you the complete ballet at some point, but these shootouts take years to get going.

I would say your best bet is to return the record since it doesn’t seem to be the way you want to hear the music and we can put you on the want list for the next complete version we find.

Do you know if the Suites were recorded separately or were they extracted from the ballet?

Rob

The suites are recorded separately as they have their own program and sheet music to match.

Thanks for your letter!

Best, TP

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts


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Eagles / On The Border – A Country Rock Classic from 1974

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

  • An outstanding British SYL copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound for this criminally underrated California Country Rock Classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl for this album, because early UK pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile playing condition
  • If you’ve never heard one of these early pressings, you have simply never heard this album sound the way it should
  • You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love (their first No. 1) offer Glyn Johns magically delicious DEMO DISC quality sound
  • We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot coming from us – we’ve been big fans for decades
  • This killer album from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. On the Border is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind of sound you’ll hear on this vintage UK pressing (the only kind we sell of course).

The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings). (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I never thought I’d spend $600 on ‘it’s only a record.’ But it is worth every goosebump.”

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

  Hey Tom, 

You bastard! You did it again. GREAT pressing of AJA steely dan – promo album.

This is by far the best recording I’ve heard. I am a freak listener. Everything has to sound perfect, I hear everything.

I savor every note, every instrument, every vocal. The separation and presence of each sound is amazing.

Well done. I wish you continued success. I never thought I’d spend $600 and more on “it’s only a record”. But it is worth every goosebump.

Rocco

Rocco,

So glad you liked the record as much as we did. We heard 600 bucks worth of sound and so did you.

Goosebumps are indeed expensive, but you could spend $1,000 or $10,000 on Heavy Vinyl and not even get a single one, so, money well spent!

Thanks for your letter,

Tom

More Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

More Letters


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Humble Pie – What Other Live Rock Record Sounds This Good?

One of the best — if not THE best — rock concert albums we have ever heard. Can you imagine if Frampton Comes Alive sounded like this? If you want to hear some smokin’ Peter Frampton guitar work from the days when he was with the band, this album captures that sound better than any of their studio releases, and far better than FCA on even the best copies.

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

We know about quite a few records that rock this hard. We seek them out, and we know how to play them.

Who knew?  We didn’t, of course, until not that many years ago (2014 maybe?). But we are in the business of finding these things out. We get paid by our customers to find them the best sounding pressings in the world. It’s our job and we take it very seriously.

Did any audiophile reviewers ever play the album and report on its amazing sound? Not that we are aware of.

Do they have the kind of playback systems — the big rooms, the big speakers, the freedom from compression and artificiality — that are required to get the most from a recording such as this one?

Doubtful. Unlikely in the extreme even.

They don’t know how good a record like this can sound because they aren’t able to play it the way it needs to be played.

And when was the last time you read a review of a record that hadn’t just been reissued on Heavy Vinyl?

There was a time when audiophile reviewers wrote about exceptionally good sounding vintage pressings they had come across. Harry Pearson comes immediately to mind, but there were many others following his lead. Now they it seems none of them can be bothered. More’s the pity.

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

And One We Also Just Added to Our Rock & Pop Top 100 List

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Letter of the Week – “The overall tonal balance is fantastic. Big, room filling sound.”

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

  Hey Tom, 

I am taking my time going through all my hot stampers one by one. Still waiting for my cartridge to break in so I know things will only get better!

This album is amazing. I forgot how good it was. Only had the cassette back in the day and loved playing it in the car. The overall tonal balance is fantastic. Big, room filling sound. Jackson’s voice is just so well centered in the mix. I think your rating may have been a bit conservative. Hard to believe it can sound much better. Side 2 is probably my favorite and sounds even better than side 1 to my ears–but it is close. Another winner for sure!

Thanks!

Rob

Rob,

Glad you liked it!

As for the notes about the grades, we don’t keep them around, but we liked two copies better than that one, which just goes to show you can never know how good it can get until it gets that good. That is the only way to know: to hear it for yourself. That is what shootouts are for.

This is something the forum posters cannot understand. They think they have a Hot Stamper when what they actually have (maybe!) is a Good Sounding Record. They don’t know how amazing the record can sound — so much more amazing than the one they own, probably — so they assume they have the best. They probably do not, but who really knows? The shootout is the evidence, and they never bothered to conduct one.

The “probably” you see in two of the sentences is there for a good reason. We make a point of being clear about what we can know and we cannot know, and we cannot know what a record sounds like if we have not played it.

This is obviously true for those of us who try to listen as critically as possible, but we also know that it is important to think about records the right way. Bad Thinking keeps audiophiles from making progress in this hobby just as much as bad equipment and bad records do. We are trying to help, we’re doing the best we can, one Better Record at a time

Like I said, glad you are enjoying yours.

Best, TP

More Jackson Browne

More Letters


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A Frequently Asked Question – Do I already have some Hot Stamper pressings in my collection?

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.

Do I already have some Hot Stamper records in my collection?

Yes, you do. You just don’t know which ones they are.

If you have a good sized collection of LPs, mastered and pressed from the ’50s to the ’80s, you surely do. In fact you must have at least some. The problem is, how can you possibly know which records are Hot Stampers and which aren’t?

Familiarity with the conventional wisdom regarding which labels and stampers are supposed to have better sound is really not much help in this regard, despite what you may have heard, and is often misleading when not outright erroneous.

The only way to recognize a Hot Stamper pressing is through the shootout process.

If you’ve done shootouts for your favorite albums on your own (or with friends), pitting five or ten cleaned copies of the same record against one another, then you definitely have Hot Stampers in your collection, and you know exactly which ones they are — they’re the ones that won the shootout.

One very important fact to keep in mind: Hot Stampers and Good Sounding Records Are Not the Same Thing

And some shootouts are not worthy of the name. Only that rare audiophile who conducts rigorous shootouts of multiple LPs from different eras can know which are the best sounding pressings (keeping in mind that the results from any given shootout, like any scientific finding, are provisional.)

How hot your shootout winners are relative to the records we sell is a much more difficult question to answer, and can really only be answered by pitting our copy against yours, head to head.

Needless to say, we welcome the challenge! And we happily refund your money if you believe your copy bested ours.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Schubert / Symphony No. 9 / Krips – Hot Stampers Revealed!

Looking to pick up a Hot Stamper on your own? Easy — all the best Decca copies in our shootout had the stampers 5G/7G.

I suppose it’s only fair to point out that all the worst copies had those same stampers.

There were a few others as well — it was quite a big shootout — but most of those ended up in the middle of the pack.

And here you thought I was actually being helpful. But we are being helpful. We’re sharing with you an important truth.

Stamper numbers only tell a part of the story, and they can be very misleading, in the sense that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. To know what a record sounds like you have to play it.

This is a subject near and dear to us here at Better Records, and has been for many decades.

We discuss it at length in a commentary you may have seen on the site called The Book of Hot Stampers.

FROM OUR ORIGINAL COMMENTARY

Krips’ 1958 recording for Decca is brought to life on a fairly quiet and certainly quite wonderful World of the Great Classics pressing from 1976. This copy was clearly the best we played, showing us a huge hall, with layered depth that was only hinted at on most pressings, regardless of age.

The strings are remarkably rich and sweet. This pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers of the day were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago.

What was most striking about this shootout, our first for the Krips / LSO performance of the work, was how poorly the original London Bluebacks fared when going head to head with the best vintage reissues. In fact, they were so obviously inferior I doubt we would have even needed another pressing to know that they could not possibly be competitive.

The two we had were crude, flat, full of harmonic distortion, and both had clearly restricted frequency extremes. I remember liking the Blueback pressings I played ten or twenty years ago. Did I have better copies, or was my system not capable of showing me the shortcomings I so clearly heard this time around? Since this is a question that cannot be answered with any certainty, we’ll have to leave it there.

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Franz Schubert


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New to the Blog? Start Here

More Classical and Orchestral Music

More Albums Engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson

More Stamper and Pressing Information

The Story of Blue on Heavy Vinyl – A Milestone at Better Records

Thoughts on the so-called Definitive Vinyl Version

In 2007 a customer took issue with our choice here at Better Records to reject the sale of the newly Remastered Heavy Vinyl pressing of Blue put out by Rhino and mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray.

We actually used to give the record away for free with every purchase of a Hot Stamper Blue, making it easy for our customers to hear for themselves just how superior our Hot Stamper pressings, at every level, were.

We did this partly out of necessity. I had foolishly taken the advice of a Mr. Robert Pincus that the new version was indeed all it was cracked up to be and proceeded to put in an advance order for twenty copies to sell to our customers.

We were still selling Heavy Vinyl in 2007, but it would not be long before we decided to end the practice. Soon thereafter we were only selling records that we had cleaned and played and could guarantee both their superior sound quality and audiophile-quality playing surfaces.

So we had about twenty copies of Blue we did not think qualified as “better records” and decided to just give them away.

After spending quite a number of hours evaluating the new version, I got fairly worked up over the disappointing sound, worked up enough to write a very long commentary about the album, which I entitled Blue, The Game.

Rather than detailing the shortcomings of the new pressing, in this particular commentary, the first of its kind, I decided to take a different tack.

I implored the reader to do his own shootout for the album and tell me what he heard on the various pressings he might have at hand to work with. (Nothing much came of it of course, and not too surprisingly. Shootouts are hard and the vast majority of audiophiles are averse to them in our experience, hence the sorry state of audiophile records and the systems that fail to reveal their shortcomings — but that’s a horse that gets flogged regularly enough on this site. Enough is enough.)

Tom, 

I find it curious you are not carrying the new Joni Mitchell Blue vinyl issue. Even to the point of saying you can do better… for 25 bucks? After clicking on the LP cover and reading the comments from over the years it makes me wonder what your agenda really is. I paid $250 for a wonderful WLP and this Rhino issue smokes it, even as good as it is. I even have a Cd cut from this mastering session off the analog FLAT, not Dolby tapes and this vinyl even beats it…. of course just my opinion.

I have listened on $100,000 systems, all the way down to portable units, solid state and tube and there is no denying this is the definitive vinyl version….. and again for 25.00. What a bargain.

Maybe all you did was look at that Rhino sticker and think back to the Grateful Dead records they did a few years ago (horrible) and just assumed this wasn’t up to Better Records standards.

Thanks for reading. I enjoy your e mails and store….

Tom

Tom,

We don’t review records based on their labels or stickers. And of course we never assume anything about the sound of a record. We talk about this stuff all the time. Here’s a relevant quote:

My approach to reviewing records is pure skepticism: a record sounds good if it sounds good, regardless of how it was made, who made it, or why. I’ve heard lots of expensive so-called audiophile equipment do a pretty poor job of making music over the years, the owners of which had an armful of reasons for why the sound should be truly awe-inspiring. But it just wasn’t. Most fancy gold faceplates are nothing but lipstick on a pig in my opinion.

I heard Blue poorly reproduced at a friend’s house, and this is probably the best explanation for this letter writer’s inability to understand our position on Blue.

And paying $250 for a White Label Demo that apparently doesn’t sound good is the height of audiophile collector foolishness. That money should have gone for better equipment or room treatments or tweaks, something, anything, to make this guy’s stereo and room work better than they do. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I have never heard this album sound so big with such deep and solid bass!”

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

Hey Tom, 

BTW, Close to the edge is amazing. I have never heard this album sound so big with such deep and solid bass! It is really a “tell all” about my setup as you stated in your write up. Jon’s vocal’s can be a bit bright in the title track when turned up loud, so I know where to focus my attention on my setup.

There are are so many things that make playback of the record tricky, your room, electricity, equipment, everything. The better you can play that record, good and loud, the more progress you are making! Thanks again and I am sure I will write again soon

Rob 

Thanks, looking forward to it.

TP

P.S.

We talk a lot about these kinds of challenging records all over the site. This commentary goes into the subject in detail.

Here is another typical excerpt you may see on listings of records that present a challenge to the audiophile no matter how advanced:

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

It also ranks fairly high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.

Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems .

Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the audio enthusiast, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process.

Hot Stamper Pressings of Close to the Edge Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Close to the Edge

More Letters


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Letter of the Week – “The harmony vocals on “Uncle John’s Band” are so much clearer, sounding like three distinct voices…”

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

  Hey Tom, 

I was extremely surprised when I received my WD Hot Stamper. I was expecting an olive (green) Warner Brothers original (I have one) – and this one is the “floral” later label. I’ve read your comments long enough to know it’s the sound, not the label, which dictates quality. Was quite surprised either way! But I shouldn’t have been….

And what a lovely sound! The harmony vocals on “Uncle John’s Band” are so much clearer, sounding like three distinct voices (my peasant original was dark and gritty in comparison); being able to actually hear Micky’s rhythmic contributions to the track, it sounds like a full band, really grooving and live.

The pedal steel on “Dire Wolf”! I could go on and on.

Anyway, great stuff, liked it so much had to write a letter!

Kyle Miller

Kyle,

The person who listened to your copy did not know what label it had. It got the proper sonic grade because no bias could enter into the proceedings, and that is the revolutionary approach we developed for judging records.

But there is nothing revolutionary about it. Scientists have been using blind testing for more than a hundred years!

All we did was incorporate good testing protocols into our record shootouts, and voila, you have Hot Stampers that really are hot and Better Records that really are better.

Even when they have the “wrong” label.

Sometimes the green label copies win shootouts and sometimes the Burbank label copies win. In either case, the best sounding record wins, and that makes for satisfied customers. We call that a Win Win.

Thanks for your letter,

TP

More Grateful Dead

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Grateful Dead

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