Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

A Frequently Asked Question – Are all Hot Stampers exceptionally good sounding records?

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Not necessarily. What makes a Hot Stamper hot is reasonably good sound. At the very least a Hot Stamper should sound quite a bit better than any other pressing you have heard.

Not every album was well-recorded; the records made from those recordings will display most of the limitations that are baked into the master tape. A good engineer can fix an awful lot of problems in mastering, but, to mix a few metaphors, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear is rarely if ever going to be in the cards.

Records are graded on a curve.

In our shootouts we must compare apples to other apples; there is no other practical way to do it. We find the best sounding pressings we can out of the pile of audition copies we have available to us. We’re confident that the record we call a Hot Stamper will beat any pressing you have ever heard, or that you currently own, and if it doesn’t you get your money back.

We also guarantee that no half-speed mastered record or Heavy Vinyl LP sounds as good as any of the Hot Stampers we offer. We’ve played too many of these so-called audiophile pressings to worry about them being competitive with the records on our site.

It is our strongly held conviction that the better your system gets, the worse — or at the very least the more artificial, veiled, ambiance-challenged, frequency-limited and uninvolving — those records will sound. (more…)

A Frequently Asked Question – What if I like the copy I already own as much as the Hot Stamper I bought?

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You get your money back, no questions asked.  

Even if you actually like our copy better than yours, but don’t think the difference in sound quality justifies the price, the same policy applies: you get your money back. If you simply don’t like the music or have issues with the recording itself, you get your money back. If the record plays noisier for you than it did for us, you get your money back.

Part of the fun of having auditioned so many records over the course of so many years is that we’ve run into scores of amazingly well recorded albums, albums that most audiophiles don’t know well or may have never even heard of. (more…)

A Frequently Asked Question – What makes you guys think you know it all?

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We definitely don’t know it all. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. If we knew it all we couldn’t learn anything from the piles and piles of records we listen to every day. With practically every shootout we learn something new about our favorite records. That, more than anything else, is what makes the kind of tedious, time-consuming, mentally exhausting work we do fun. 

It should be said that most audiophiles, at least the ones I know well, do not have the patience to critically analyze ten different copies of the same record for hours on end. For me (and everybody else who sits in the listening chair) it’s all in a day’s work.

I learned to critically listen for extended periods of time back in the early ’80s. I got heavily into — obsessed with might be more accurate — tweaking my table setup, system components, wires, vibration controlling devices and the like.

Listening for differences in interconnects and listening for differences in pressings calls upon precisely the same set of skills. If you can do it all day, if you actually like tweaking and analyzing the sound of your stereo for hours and hours, you will undoubtedly end up with a much better sounding system, as well as one helluva high quality collection of records (not to mention very finely honed listening skills). Here’s a good way to chart your progress.

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Are Hot Stampers a Good Investment?

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Hot Stampers sound better than other records — plenty of folks who’ve tried them sure think they do — but do they have actual “collector” value?

Not really. On the surface they look just like any other pressing, so their market value as authentic and sometimes pricey Hot Stampers cannot be established or verified in any meaningful way.

The value of a Hot Stamper pressing is almost purely subjective: they exist only to provide listening pleasure to their owner. Yes, a Pink Label Island pressing of In the Court of the Crimson King is worth big bucks, but is it worth the $850 we charged recently if you were to try and resell it? Probably not.  

I understand why a record collector would be confused by this notion of subjective and limited value. Collecting records is often more about buying, selling and owning various kinds of records more than anything else.

For many it’s not primarily about playing or even listening to music. (I’ve actually met record collectors who didn’t even own a turntable!)

Some people see records as an investment. We do not. We think audiophile-oriented music lovers should pursue good sounding records for the purpose of playing them and enjoying them, understanding that the better their records sound, the more enjoyable they will be.

Collecting records primarily to build a record collection that can be sold at a profit in the future should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. (more…)

Frequently Asked Questions – Are Hot Stampers Just Original Pressings?

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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 they 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 give them sonic grades based on the merits of their sound?

But this discussion avoids a fundamental question: What IS an original? Is a record with a 1A stamper original and the next record with a 1B stamper not original, or less original? Is any stamper on the original label an original, and all the copies with the second label reissues? To be honest, laying down strict rules about what constitutes an original is a game we have never cared to play.

We are not the least bit interested in how original a pressing may be. On this site we are only interested in one thing, the answer to the question: Which pressing sounds the best? (Also, In what way? So I guess that’s really two things we are interested in.) All the rest of it we leave to our record collecting brethren. (more…)

Tell Us More About “Hot Stampers” – Straight Answers to Your Questions

Many of the basic questions concerning Hot Stampers, including our grading system, 2-packs, coupons, the mailing list, as well as more general ordering and payment information, can be found in our FAQ.

We recommend that you read it before continuing on with this one. The Hot Stamper FAQ below deals specifically with the kinds of issues that potential customers, as well as skeptics and forum posters (god bless ’em!), have raised with us over the years.

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 vintage LP played back on a top quality audio system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog.

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. 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. (more…)

A Frequently Asked Question – Are Hot Stamper pressings quiet?

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They’re about as quiet as vintage LPs ever are. Some surface noise is always going to be audible on an old record. We believe we sell the quietest vintage pressings in the world, but they are certainly not silent. Lately we’ve been adding this text to our listings to clarify our position on surface noise:

Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any original pressing will play, and since only the right originals have any hope of sounding amazing on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

We continued:

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals. If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

We do a much better job of cleaning our records than we did even a year or two ago. In fact, any record that hasn’t been cleaned since within the last 12 months gets recleaned and replayed in a shootout, and many of them sound better and play quieter than our original grades would indicate. (more…)

A Frequently Asked Question – Do I already have some Hot Stampers 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?

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 for certain 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.

How hot they 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!

There are many more entries in our Conducting Your Own Shootouts series which can help you find the Hot Stampers hiding in your own collection.

A Frequently Asked Question – Why don’t you give out the stampers of your “Hot Stampers”?

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When it comes to stampers, labels, mastering credits, country of origin and the like, we make a point of rarely revealing any of this information on the site, for a number of good reasons we discuss in some depth HERE.

The idea that the stampers are entirely responsible for the quality of any given record’s sound is a MYTH, and a rather convenient one too, once you stop to think about it. Audiophiles, like most everybody else on this planet, want answers. (Continued below.)

But in the world of records, there really aren’t any.

There is only the hard work that it takes to come up with the best answer you can under your present circumstances: your present equipment, your present tweaks, your present room, your present electrical quality, your present listening skills, your present table set-up, etcetera, etcetera.

This is discussed at length in a commentary we wrote long ago entitled: The Science of Hot Stampers: Incomplete, Imperfect, and (Gulp!) Provisional,, reproduced below. (more…)