We Get Letters

Letter of the Week – Finding a Way Out of the Heavy Vinyl Trap

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One of our good overseas customers had this to say about the records he was purchasing before he found out about the superiority of our Hot Stamper pressings:

  Hey Tom, 

I am of the opinion not that Heavy Vinyl is the problem, it is how the music is treated [processed] until it is pressed on the Heavy Vinyl. In any case, Heavy Vinyl is a crime against the environment. It is pure marketing.

But less than a year ago I was in the same trap. Unfortunately I need to admit that.

KR Hans

Hans,

Glad to see you have taken Step One: recognizing and admitting you made a mistake when you bought all those rarely-better-than-mediocre Heavy Vinyl reissues. You believed the reviewers and the forum posters and found out the hard way that none of them are to be believed.

The next steps are the easiest ones to take. Stop believing those people, buying the records they recommend, and take all the money you were wasting on that crap and buy yourself some amazing sounding Hot Stampers with it.

Like the old saying goes, if you find yourself headed down the wrong road, stop, turn around and start walking in the other direction. Record collecting is easy once you understand it.

It took me 30 years, from about 1975 to about 2005, to figure it out, but thankfully we all are here now, with this very blog to help everyone on the journey of a lifetime that lies before us.

Knowing how to find good vinyl pressings has taken this hobby to levels unimaginable to my younger self, and it can do the same for you. (more…)

Letter of the Week – The MoFi Kind of Blue “It sounds f*cking atrocious.”

More on Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

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One of our good customers recently moved his stereo into a new house.

  Hey Tom, 

Interestingly, the electricity and spatial characteristics are so much better in the new place that I’ve had a complete sea change regarding the MoFi Kind of Blue. If you recall, I previously found this oddly EQ’d and unrealistic, but also wasn’t as hell bent against it as you are (though I certainly have been against other crappy heavy vinyl from MoFi, Analog Productions, Blue Note, etc.).

Well, now I can’t stand it. It sounds fucking atrocious. The difference between it and my humble hot stamper copy is night and day. Whole collection sounds better, and is awesome to rediscover again, but this one really stood out. Onwards and upwards!

Conrad,

That is indeed good news. That record is Pass/Fail for me. If anyone cannot tell how bad it is, it’s a sure sign that something is very wrong somewhere. Glad you are hearing it as I am hearing it. It is, as you say, atrocious.

TP

Conrad followed up with these remarks:

The MoFi KoB never sounded right or real, but now it sounds downright puke. Will hang onto it and use as a test record for fun on other systems. As bad as it is, as I’ve said before, you have no idea how much worse their Junior Wells Hoodoo Man Blues is. My god; you’d suspect your system is broken, playing that.

Bloated asphyxiated subaquatic delirium.

Cheers, C

Well said! (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Meeting Robert has energized me to upgrade my vinyl rig to an MC with a nicer table.”

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

Tom,

Meeting Robert [Robert Brook] has energized me to upgrade my vinyl rig to a MC with a nicer table. (Currently I use a VPI Traveler with Clearaudio Artist v2).  Robert also showed me how my supposedly fancy new 180g “audiophile” pressing can often be used to wipe the floor by classic pressings.  The extra deep bass and dynamics to the drums on his copy of Who’s Next vs my new one was particularly eye opening!
Yes, Robert Brook has been making a lot of progress lately and has some good records to play on his much better sounding rig. His blog is definitely worth reading. Here is a link.

Who’s Next is a record we know well, an overview:

Who’s Next… to Remaster the Album Badly?

I’ve purchased a VPI Classic 3se with the 3d arm, and I’m led to believe that the Dynavector is a great match for it.  A friend of a friend has this exact set up and is very happy with it. Robert says you also use a Dynavector for your record shootouts.

Yes, most cartridges would have put us out of business long ago with their wacky EQ, the opposite of what we need to do out job. We talked about it here:

Hi-Fi Beats My-Fi If You Are At All Serious about Audio

Once you get your system to that “accurate” and more revealing place, you may find yourself in the same position as our friend Dan here:

Making Audio Progress – Step One: Weed Out the Heavy Vinyl

Best, TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here (more…)

Turntable Tweaking Works Its Magic Once Again “I’m sitting in shock!”

More Letters

More Turntable Setup Advice 

Hi Tom,

Just wanted to give you a big thank you for the commentary on turntable tweaking. I constantly learn important advice on the audiophile subject from your website. I check it everyday.

Lately I have been thinking my audio sound was lacking. It didn’t sound as good as I remember it. After reading the turntable tweaking advice I reset up the tonearm. VTF, VTA, and azimuth. I have “magic” in my sound now.

Listened to some Neil Young, [Ten Years After] A Space in Time. Very Tubey.

Listened to my Miles Davis Kind of Blue. It sounded better than I ever heard it. I’m sitting in shock!

The killer was Chicago 2. I love 25-6-to 4 so I was blown away and normally I’m not interested in the rest of that side of the album but I sat through the rest of it and was enthralled by the vocals. Memories of Love is one track I was never interested in but it sounded so good I loved it. When you want to listen to every record in your collection you know you’ve done something right.

Anyway I want you to know we audiophiles appreciate the time you take to put up your advice and commentaries. I just got a huge upgrade and it didn’t cost me a cent. Only some time and I learned a little more.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – Wish You Were Here ‘Where should everything be on the “stage?'”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Wish You Were Here Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Wish You Were Here

One of our good customers had some questions about the Hot Stamper pressing he had purchased:

  Hey Tom, 

Hope you are fine! Please let me ask for a bit of help/advice. It may seem to be a stupid question, but it is essential to me to get clarity about my room and treatments.

It is about Wish you were here, the song on side two of the album. Got the white hot and it is sounding phenomenal.

Now my questions: It is about 1) the „huuhh“ followed by the 2) harrumph and the following 3) two tunings of the guitar.

1) Until yesterday the „huuhh“ was coming out between the loudspeaker, with small changes in the room treatment it is now coming from right, which sounds good. The accoustik guitar intro came before and comes after the changes from between the speakers. So my question: Should the „huuhh“ come from the middle or from the right. When coming from right the sound in general sounds more dynamic to me.

Hans,

Let me tell you what I can say without going back to the studio to play the record. These are some things that are generally true.

This is probably correct I am guessing. The reason for that is that the guitar is miked but not the vocal, meaning the vocal may be displaced in the soundstage due to phase issues. It is off-axis to the mic, and therefore “out somewhere,” not where the guitar is, because only the guitar is directionally miked.

2) The harrumph comes from the right side, right?

3) The two guitar tunings: first comes from the upper middle of the stage, the second comes from the right upper side, correct? Especially those two guitar tunings are in my opinion extremely fragile to changes, really minor changes in room acoustic and speaker placement, I would say half of a cm or so are enough for changes where they come from.

Would be great, if you can give me some input here. All in all, if half a year ago somebody would have told me my stereo sounds like it does now, I would have told him, that’s impossible. Now, I want even more, and the more I do, the more I am convinced that the room with the treatments together with speaker placement are the critical point.

All of this gets at the same questions – where should everything be on the “stage?”

The danger is making these judgments with one record is that you never want to optimize one record, only to find out it sounds good but others you own don’t. Here is an old commentary about that:

In 2005, I Fell Into a Common Audiophile Trap

This one is a tough test too:

The Blood, Sweat and Tears Turn Up Your Volume Test

So the best thing to do is get all your hardest test records out and start playing them and making notes as you make changes to your system.

You are correct that speaker placement is very important. Room treatments too. I would add electricity to that list.

I said so in my review of the 45 RPM Tillerman:

Recently I was able to borrow a copy of the new 45 cutting from a customer who had rather liked it. I would have never spent my own money to hear a record put out on the Analogue Productions label, a label that has an unmitigated string of failures to its name. But for free? Count me in!

The offer of the new 45 could not have been more fortuitous. I had just spent a number of weeks playing a White Hot Stamper Pink Label original UK pressing in an attempt to get our new Playback Studio sounding right.

We had a lot of problems. We needed to work on electrical issues. We needed to work on our room treatments. We needed to work on speaker placement.

We initially thought the room was doing everything right, because our Go To setup disc, Bob and Ray, sounded super spacious and clear, bigger and more lively than we’d ever heard it. That’s what a 12 foot high ceiling can do for a large group of musicians playing live in a huge studio, in 1959, on an All Tube Chain Living Stereo recording. The sound just soared.

But Cat Stevens wasn’t sounding right, and if Cat Stevens isn’t sounding right, we knew we had a Very Big Problem. Some stereos play some kinds of records well and others not so well. Our stereo has to play every kind of record well because we sell every kind of record there is. You name the kind of music, we probably sell it. And if we offer it for sale, we had to have played it and liked the sound, because no record makes it to our site without being auditioned and found to have excellent sound.

And as for your stereo being so much better than you thought it could ever be, I wrote about that twenty years ago!

The Myth of Diminishing Returns in Audio

Hope all this helps! Feel free to email me anytime.

Best, TP


FURTHER READING

(more…)

Letter of the Week – Blood, Sweat and Tears “It felt like time slowed down for a minute or two.”

More Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. (Bold added by me.)

  Hey Tom, 

I have a Hot Stamper experience I would like to share. In February 2020, pre-covid restrictions, the Audio group I belong to had a meeting at an Audio vendor. I have been to a few, at other showrooms, but all visits were not what you would write home to mom about. I make sure I have two or three Hot Stampers with me to play on what is always very expensive equipment. Most of the time, surprisingly, they sound so-so. Or just BLAH. On equipment that cost so much more than what I have invested my system. Sometimes ten times as much. Even in brick and mortar stores the equipment is not always set up and tweaked very well. On two occasions the first thing I did when returning home was put my Hot Stamper on my system to make sure everything was right.

However the visit in Feb. 2020 was at the VPI listening house, and certainly was not one of those. A mile or two from their factory they have a sprawling ranch house with several listening rooms. All of the turntables are VPI, with a wide variety of electronics. Other equipment manufacturers were on hand to show off their stuff. All the rooms on the first floor sounded wonderful.

Then I wandered downstairs to the basement where a very impressive large horn speakers system was being listened to. The big McIntosh amp, 300 watts. And VPI’s top of the line turn table. $40k. Unknown cartridge. The music was house albums and sounded wonderful. Found a seat and listened for a while.

Then had the salesman put on one of the Hot Stampers I brought with me. BST. Without sounding spooky or spiritual, when the salesman lowered the tonearm on the LP, I swear it felt like time slowed down for a minute or two. I heard several gasps, comments like “oh my”, and I could not believe the sound that came out of those horns, provided by the BST Hot Stamper. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.”

More Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

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Hot Stampers of the First Album Available Now

One of our erstwhile customers asked me a question not long ago:

  Hey Tom, 

Some audiophile guy professes to me that he prefers his Japan and German pressings of Dire Straits’ 1st LP over the UK press. How can I tell him in a kind way that he is wrong?

You can’t, in a kind way or any other way. You have to play the two pressings for him, on his stereo or yours, and that’s simply not possible unless he lives near you, which is rarely the case, audiophiles being few and far between. 

Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

All forums — whatever their benefits — cannot overcome this problem.

Next time someone posts an opinion about a record, ask yourself “What does his system sound like?”

If you don’t know the answer, why would you put any stock in his opinion? For all you know his system sucks and his critical listening skills are non-existent. He might have a pair of JBL 100s in the basement and a Dual turntable for all you know (or the modern equivalent of same). He may hate the records whose sound you love and love the records whose sound you hate.

I Look Forward to Being Proven Wrong

Along those lines, I had a new customer tell me that this record was one of the better Heavy Vinyl reissues he had heard recently. Rather than just paint every Heavy Vinyl pressing with the broad brush of disgust I normally reach for when doing reviews for these new pressings, I though maybe I should give this one a listen.

It might change my mind. It might help me see the light. Maybe I could even learn a thing or two instead of being so relentlessly negative about modern reissues. They can’t all be as bad as you say, can they?

So I took his advice and ordered one up right then and there.

For thirty bucks, I learned a lesson worth a great deal more than the money I sunk into such a worthless piece of vinyl on the say-so of someone whose stereo I had never heard, which is this: never believe a word you read about audio or records, no matter who says it, or where you read it, except under the following circumstances.

What circumstances, exactly?

To my mind there is only one circumstance when it makes sense to believe what somebody — anybody — tells you about the sound of a record: If that advice comes with a 100% money back guarantee of the purchase price if you are not happy with the sound of it.

It can’t get any more simple than that, now can it?

Do any of these guys ever put their money where their mouths are? Not a one of them ever has to the best of my knowledge, and why would they? Plenty of downside, but no trace of upside. To quote Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther from Victim of Love, “I could be wrong, but I’m not.”

Of course we do things very differently here at Better Records. Yes, we have strong opinions. Lots of them.

But we back those opinions up with a full money back guarantee. The upside for us is huge — a satisfied customer, our favorite kind — and the downside is practically nil — whatever record someone returns just goes back up on the site, sells to someone else and we never see it again. Voila, another satisfied customer!

I don’t know how Chad Kassem would react to you trying to return his Tea for the Tillerman, but I doubt he would take too kindly to the idea.

And speaking of not being wrong, we actually go out of way to point out when we are. Better to be a scout rather than a warrior.

There are way too many warriors on audiophile forums as it is. (more…)

Letter of the Week / … At Fillmore East “Nice to hear this music that I am so familiar with sound so good!”

More Allman Brothers

More Southern Rock

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

Hey Tom,  

Just played The Hot Stamper copy of The Allman Bros. Live at the Fillmore East. It was really nice to hear this music that I am so familiar with sound so good! The midrange is smooth with lots of air around the instruments. The bass is much better than it is on my copy and the drums sound great as well. It is truly great to listen to well recorded music on vinyl that easily beats any CD out there now or ever.

Thanks,
James S.

Count Basie / 88 Basie Street: “Crystal clear, musical as hell, huge sound, dynamic… What a record!”

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

Hey Tom,   

Good Lord, this Basie! Holy smokes!! Crystal clear, musical as hell, huge sound, dynamic …. wowow.

What a record!

I agree completely, it’s a knockout.

This is the only one I like as well, maybe a bit better

Farmers Market Barbecue

Dennis Sands’ engineering is a bit more natural to my taste, bigger space, all the players sound like they are in the same room more.

Both are great though. (more…)

Letter of the Week / … At Fillmore East “I am in awe. I have NEVER heard this album sound so good…”

More Allman Brothers

More Southern Rock

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

Hey Tom,  

Oh. My. God.

Apologies for sounding like a 13-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, but … screw it, that’s the way I feel. I’ve just finished sides one and four of the Allman’s “Live at Fillmore East,” and I am in awe. I have never never NEVER heard this album sound so good, and I’ve been listening to it for almost 40 years, in every format one can.

It’s not just the drums (and cymbals!), it’s the whole thing. It’s energetic, the bass is powerful yet refined, the soundstage is HUGE, and it’s got more air than any live rock recording I’ve ever heard. 

You’ve outdone yourselves on this one, gentlemen. Well worth my $500, and probably a steal at twice the price … but don’t get any ideas!

Keep it up, and thanks,

Bill