We Get Letters

Letter of the Week – “I’m still listening to the copy you sold me every few days, and loving it…”

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

Hey Tom, 

I noticed that a Super Hot of Zep 2, and now a Nearly White Hot, both sold out within hours of you listing them, despite some jaw-dropping prices.

Meanwhile, I’m still listening to the copy you sold me every few days, and loving it at least as much as I did on the first play. I’m still wincing at the price, but also feeling very glad you reached out to me about it. So, thanks again.

Aaron

Aaron,

Just think how many times you will play that record in your lifetime. A few bucks a play, for an experience like that, what a bargain!

TP

More Letters

More Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II


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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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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

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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

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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

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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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Letter of the Week – Remain In Light and Station To Station “People let me tell you…it’s sent a chill up and down my spine…”

Hey Tom, 

Just got my Super Hot Stampers of Remain In Light and Station To Station;. I was very much looking forward to the arrival of theses LPs…I was not disappointed. Verily, I was completely floored!

First, my apologies. I have been reading your website for over two years, gleaning information to help me find Hot Stampers, or at least good sounding records. I had not made a purchase until this past week. I was starting to feel guilty; you have given me so much great direction and guidance over these years, and I had not supported you in the proper way.

So I made a modest purchase of these two records, to assuage my guilt and support your efforts. You will be getting much more business from this satisfied customer.

I have Remain In Light on LP, CD and even the FLAC file release. My new Hot Stamper truly puts these recordings to shame. No, really, TO SHAME! If this ever gets on the Better Records Testimonials: “People let me tell you…it’s sent a chill up and down my spine…”!

I really can’t believe how well balanced the sound is: great bottom end, mids are pronounced and the shrillness is GONE! No smear anymore! Breathtaking.

My copy of Station to Station is just as wonderful.

I’ve been convinced of “Hot Stamper” recording for quite some time now, thanks to Tom and the BR crew; I’ve found some great recordings after conducting my own modest shoot-outs. Found some real gems. But the best results that I have ever got, and there are only a few, have now been easily matched and outstripped by my first BR purchase!

Rob

More Talking Heads

More David Bowie

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Letter of the Week – Back In Black “It really beats the pants off of my George Marino remaster…”

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

Hey Tom,  

I’ve been spending time this week listening to the seven records that arrived from you last week, and have been having a fabulous time doing it. So I thought I’d write to say THANKS – you guys really know how to pick ‘em!

Top honors in the batch definitely goes to the AC/DC Back in Black Hot Stamper. Wow, does it ever ROCK! And it’s not even the best one you had – which makes me wonder just how amazing the best copies sound. It really beats the pants off of my George Marino remaster, to say nothing of my old Canadian pressing.

The sheer energy that leaps off the vinyl is incredible. To me, this record supports again the hypothesis that I first tested when I bought my Joni Mitchell Hot Stamper from you last fall: That I don’t have to wait until I manage to put together a really topnotch stereo system before I can enjoy at least some of what Hot Stampers have to offer.

Obviously, as my system gets better I imagine I’ll enjoy them even more; but even with my current budget-ish system, recently much improved with Aurios and an EAR 834p (both recommended by you – thank you!), the Back in Black Hot Stamper shines. There’s truly nothing finer than listening to a record that sounds that good!

Anyway, all in all, it’s a pleasure purchasing from you, so thanks again. I’ll be back for more once my budget allows. (more…)

Curtis Counce LP Testimonial – Wow, It Beat the Fantasy 45!

Many years ago, our good customer Victor sent us this note to tell us how much better his real Contemporary jazz album sounded compared to the Fantasy 45 180g pressing he owns.

We should point out that we sold him a sealed ’70s reissue, something (selling sealed records) we stopped doing a decade or so ago, and that we really have no way of knowing what the record actually sounded like. Given our experience with anything released on the consistently dreadful Analogue Productions label, what were the chances that they could actually beat the real thing? As a practical matter, the answer should be obvious: none, of course.

None? Too harsh you say? Here are two of their worst crimes against jazz-loving audiophiles, crimes they committed using 2 Heavy Vinyl discs mastered at 45 RPM for all the world to hear:

  1. Jazz Impressions Of Black Orpheus by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
  2. Sonny Rollins Plus 4

Yes, they had the temerity to charge money for their crappy, pointless reissues. The key takeway here is that any label that would release records that sound as bad as these cannot be trusted to do anything right.

Having played many of their remastered releases, we are still waiting for the record on AP that is not either a disaster or, at the very least, clearly worse sounding than many other pressings which are widely available.

And I will never tire of pointing out how bad the two albums linked below are, so bad that I wrote many hundreds of words about their astonishing awfulness.

  1. Steppenwolf – Gold: Their Great Hits
  2. Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman

After playing the above four, what would possess us to ever play another?

Now to the letter.

Hi Tom,

Wanted to let you know I did a comparison between the yellow label Contemporary label Curtis Counce, Counceltation Vol. 2 (which I bought sealed from you) and a Fantasy 45 rpm from Analogue productions: Curtis Counce – You Get More Bounce With Curtis Counce – which is in fact the same album but with a different title and cover. 

Well I was very anxious to try this comparison, but was not expecting the results. The yellow label was so transparent and tonal weight to the Fantasy 45 rpm there was no contest. The 45 rpm sounded like someone turned on a high bypass filter. The yellow label was balanced throughout. Clean.

I am a subscriber of the Fantasy 45s and own all of them. Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice sounding ones in the series, but this is a prime example that not all records are as well mastered.

Regards,

Victor

Victor,

I had every confidence that the real Contemporary pressing would trounce that 180 gram reissue, 45 RPM 2 LP pressing or no 45 RPM 2 LP pressing. The more I play these Heavy Vinyl reissues the less I like them. As we say, the real thing just can’t be beat. Thanks for doing the shootout for us. You can be sure that our Hot Stamper Contemporary jazz pressings will make mincemeat of anything on that Fantasy 45 Series. We guarantee it.

More Contemporary Label Jazz

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts