Stampers and Pressing Information

Some people complain that we never give out stamper information, but that’s just not true. We rarely give out the stampers of the Shootout Winning pressings, but we do give out some of the stampers of records that are best avoided by audiophiles looking for top quality sound. Read on to find out more.

Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne – Our Shootout Winner from 2004

More of the Music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

More Stamper and Pressing Information (You’re Welcome!)

More Reviews and Commentaries for Gaite Parisienne

In 2004 we wrote:

 11S/ 10S are the best stampers we have found for this amazing DEMONSTRATION QUALITY record!

I think that information still holds up. I can also tell you that 5S/5S has never impressed us much. We’re not sure if it’s bad enough to belong in the Bad Shaded Dog category, but audiophiles would be wise to give it a miss at anything over a nominal price.

Side 1 plays nearly NM without a pop! Side 2 opens with a half inch scratch. But think about it — isn’t one side about the right amount for this kind of music? Do you really need to play side 2 after hearing side 1? This copy gives you a good portion of the music with AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUND.

This 1954 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work. 1954. Can you believe it? Four mics and two channels and it blows away 90% of all the classical recordings ever made.

Some old record collectors and tube equipment lovers [not so much anymore] say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be. This record proves it. (And this record proves that sometimes old records just sound like old records.)


FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing?”

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

Hey Tom, 

I am an avid vinyl cat and have been all of my life. I am super curious about your vinyl. I have a pretty good ear myself for top-shelf LP’s but I am just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing? Or maybe you have and I just have not noticed?

Thanks so much for a response and much respect for what you are doing and selling…

Dana

Dana, we explained it here, in a little commentary we like to call The Book of Hot Stampers.

We give out little in the way of stamper numbers, no information about cutting engineers as a rule, although we do break that rule from time to time. Here is an excerpt of a listing for Rock of Ages from way back when:

What We Thought We Knew

In 2006 we put up a copy with with what we implied were Hot Stampers (before we were using the term consistently) on at least one side:

Side One sounds tonally right on the money! This is as good as it gets… Robert Ludwig mastered all of the originals of these albums, but some of them have bad vinyl and don’t sound correct.

I only played side one of the album, so I can’t speak for the other sides, but what I heard was sound about as good as I think this album can have.

There are some truths along with some half-truths in the above comments, and let’s just say we would be quite a bit more careful in our language were we writing about that copy today.

One side is no indication whatsoever as to the quality of the other three, and without the kind of cleaning technologies we have available to us today, I wouldn’t want to make a “definitive” sonic assessment for any of them.

When you play uncleaned or poorly cleaned records you’re hearing a lot of garbage that has nothing to do with the sound of the actual vinyl. (Note that we are joking above: there is no such thing as a definitive sonic assessment of a record, from us or anybody else.)

Ludwig cut many bad sounding records. Roxy Music Avalon original domestic pressings are RL. They’re made from dubs and sound like it.  Same with Dire Straits’ Alchemy.

Some RL Houses of the Holy sound amazing and some only decent. It’s the nature of the beast. (more…)

Cat Stevens – Yes, Sometimes There Is Only One Set of Magic Stampers

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

More Stamper and Pressing Information

More Albums with Stampers that Consistently Win Shootouts

As is sometimes the case, there is one and only one set of stamper numbers that consistently wins our Catch Bull At Four shootouts. We stumbled upon an out-of-this-world copy of the right pressing about two years ago, a copy took the recording to a level we had no idea could even be possible. (We were going to give it Four Pluses, and probably should have, but cooler heads prevailed.)

Since then we have had many copies come in, but none that could compete with the Magic Stamper pressings. And the best part of this story is that, no, the best stampers are not 1U, or 2U, or even 3U.

As a matter of fact, they are far from the stampers found on the earliest pressings. That’s one reason it took us so long to discover them, because they are much less commonly found than pressings with the earlier stampers. By the time these later pressings were mastered, pressed and released, the album’s biggest selling days were over.

For all we know this cutting may have been done just to keep the record in print, possibly undertaken many years after its initial release.

Who knows? Who cares? What difference does it make?

Well, it does serve to make a point near and dear to our hearts: that the idea (and operational premise of most record collectors) that the Original Is Always Better is just a load of bunk. It might be and it might not be. If you want better sounding records, you had better open your mind to the idea that some reissues have the potential to sound better than even the best original pressings.

Of course this is nothing but bad news for the average audiophile collector, who simply does not have the time or money to go through the hassle of buying, cleaning and playing every pressing he can get his hands on.

But good news for us, because we do.

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The Limits of Expert Advice

More of the Music of Neil Young

Reviews and Commentaries for Zuma

Richard Feynman gave a series of lectures concerning the workings of the scientific method. Here is an excerpt from one of them that I would like you to keep in mind as you read the discussion below.

“Now I’m going to discuss how we would look for a new law. In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First, we guess it (audience laughter), no, don’t laugh, that’s the truth. Then we compute the consequences of the guess, to see what, if this is right, if this law we guess is right, to see what it would imply and then we compare the computation results to nature or we say compare to experiment or experience, compare it directly with observations to see if it works.

“If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are who made the guess, or what his name is … If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”

Back in 2015 a mastering engineer by the name of Phil Brown contacted me in reference to a Hot Stamper pressing of Neil Young’s Zuma he had seen in our mailer. (Apologies in advance for not giving out the stamper numbers; we frown on that sort of thing around here.) He wrote:

  Hey Tom,   

I see it’s a featured disc in the newsletter. I’m curious what the matrix numbers are since I mastered it. (more…)

Dick Schory – Out of Polarity Stampers Revealed

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Dick Schory

More Stamper and Pressing Information

Presenting another one of the many pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity on some copies.

An amazing discovery from Better Records. Many copies of this album are REVERSED POLARITY on side two (the side with Buck Dance, one of the better tracks on that side and great for testing).

Yes, once again you heard it here first, folks. We had two 4s copies of the album and both of them had side two out of polarity.  

NEWSFLASH: 7s on side two is out of polarity too. Just played one today. There’s practically no real top end extension until you reverse the polarity.

Excerpts from Our Commentary from Way Back When

Reversing the absolute phase on this record today was a REVELATION. There before me was all the ambience, openness, sweetness, silkiness and warmth I had come to expect from the best pressings of this longtime member of HP’s TAS List of Super Discs, a record that really is a Super Disc when you hear a good one, and this is a very very good one indeed, on side two anyway.

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Bach / Suite No. 2 / Janigro – Reviewed in 2007

Our 2007 listing for this album presented it this way:

A 1S/1S Indianapolis pressing with A1 metal mothers from 1960 with sweet sound.

Perfectly fitting for these Baroque pieces recorded in Italy.

UPDATE 2022

In 2007, we typically did not have the number of copies needed for a shootout, so records such as this one would be auditioned and, if they sounded good, sold on that basis.

We judged records like this one on their absolute sound as opposed to the Hot Stamper shootout approach we use today, which gives us the record’s relative sound.

1S doesn’t mean much to us now, and even back then we knew better than to put much stock in it.

We had been actively selling Living Stereo and other vintage Golden Age pressings starting in the late ’80s. We knew from playing scores of them that often the best sounding pressings had stampers between 10s and 20s. This was true for LSC 1817, 2446 and no doubt many others that I can no longer remember.

This commentary addresses the issue — or should I say the myth? — of the 1S stamper.

Our 2007 Review

For those of you who are fans of this kind of music, you will find much to like on this rare early pressing.

It’s the first stereo recording of Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite for Flute and Strings.

The Solisti di Zagreb comprises 7 violinists, 3 violists, two cellists, in addition to Janigro and one double bass player. This album features three outstanding soloists: Jean-Pierre Rampal on flute, Robert Veyron-Lacroix on harpsichord and Jelka Stanic on violin.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of these older reviews are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding the best sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s. We found the records you see in these listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described in the listing and priced according to how good the sound and surfaces seemed to us at the time.

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Shelly Manne and his Friends – The D4/D5 Stereo Pressings Are Just Awful

More of the Music of Shelly Manne

More Stamper and Pressing Information

In our experience, the Black Label stereo originals with D4/D5 stampers are terrible sounding.

With those stampers, My Fair Lady is undoubtedly a Hall of Shame pressing, as well as another early pressing we’ve reviewed and found wanting.

Both sides graded “No,” our not-especially-technical term for a record that sounds really bad.

Notes for Side One:

Track one is bright and unnatural up top. Track two is not very musical.

Notes for Side Two:

Track one is very weird sounding, thin and small.

(Obviously there was no need to play a second track.)

As you may have read elsewhere on the site, some Contemporary Label originals are very poorly mastered, which should put paid to the idea that Hot Stampers are only, or even usually, original pressings.

In our most recent shootout, the second-best sounding pressing was on the early Black Label. We would love to give out the stampers for that one, but we don’t do that.

Here is the description of our current Shootout Winning Pressing. We didn’t even give out the label of that one because it seems that copies with that label do very well and we want to be able to find more of them.

Click here to read about the various labels that Contemporary used over the years.

Some people like to search for relationships between the sound of the pressing and the label it has, but in our experience that is more often than not a fool’s game once you take into account the confirmation biases and other kinds of bad audiophile thinking that go along with that approach.


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

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Franz Schubert

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.

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The Music of Leonard Bernstein – Hot Stampers Revealed!

More Stamper and Pressing Information

More Albums with One Set of Stampers that Consistently Win Shootouts

Looking to pick up a Hot Stamper locally on your own? Easy — all the best Decca and London copies (British only of course) are 1L on both sides.

I suppose it’s only fair to point out that all the worst copies have 1L on both sides, the reason being that all the copies are 1L on both sides, regardless of how they sound.

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.

This London Phase 4 British import has some of the most SPECTACULAR sound I have ever heard reproduced from disc. The sound is so BIG and BOLD that it handily puts to shame 95% or more of all the Golden Age Shaded Dogs, London Bluebacks, Mercury Living Presence’s, EMI’s and Decca’s we’ve ever played. If we had a Classical Top 100 list, this record would belong in a Top Ten taken from it, right near the top judging by what I heard when I played it.

If you have a system with the speed, power, and size to play this record properly (yes, you will need all three and a whole lot more), it’s hard to imagine it would not qualify as the best-sounding orchestral recording you’ve ever heard.

Demo Disc barely begins to do it justice. What sound. What music. What a record!

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The Beatles / With The Beatles – These Are the Stampers to Avoid

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Stamper and Pressing Information, Gratis

Reviews and Commentaries for With the Beatles

In our experience, the stereo pressings with -2/-2 stampers are terrible sounding. We do not have any on hand, but we doubt that -1/-1 — the original, the first, the one approved by George Martin himself! — is any better.

With -2 stampers this is a Hall of Shame pressing, as well as another early LP reviewed and found wanting.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best.

If you’re an audiophile looking for top quality sound on vintage vinyl, we’d be happy to send you a Hot Stamper pressing guaranteed to beat anything and everything you’ve heard, especially if you have any pressing marketed as suitable for an audiophile. Those, with very few exceptions, are the worst.

And if we can’t beat whatever LP you own or have heard, you get your money back.  It’s as simple as that.

That Old Canard

The early pressings are consistently grittier, edgier and more crude than the later pressings we played. So much for that old canard “original is better”. When it comes to With The Beatles it just ain’t so, and it doesn’t take a state of the art system or a pair of golden ears to hear it.

The audiophile community seems not to have caught on to the faults of the early Beatles pressings, but we here at Better Records are doing our best to correct their all-too-common misperceptions, one Hot Stamper pressing at a time.

It may be a lot of work, but we don’t mind — we love The Beatles! We want to find the best sounding copies of ALL their records, and there is simply no other way to do it than to play them by the dozens.

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