Hot Stamper Histories

Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life

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Songs In The Key Of Life

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  • This outstanding copy of Stevie Wonder’s epic double album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here you will find Tubey Magical Richness, as well as the kind of immediacy and transparency that few copies have – all qualities essential to getting the best sound from Stevie’s Magnum Opus 
  • A true musical genius (according to Eddie Murphy) here joins forces with other legends including Herbie Hancock, George Benson, and Deniece Williams
  • 5 stars: “…Stevie Wonder’s longest, most ambitious collection of songs… that — just as the title promised — touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder’s career. “

Double albums are usually very tedious work for us, but this one had us smiling and tapping our feet all the way through to the end of the last side. I’m sure you don’t need a rundown of why this is such a great album, but the 5 star AMG review is an excellent read for those who want to be reminded. (Click on the tab above.) (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto #1/ Janis / Reiner – Reviewed in 2005

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Piano Concerto #1/ Janis / Reiner

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is a Minty RCA Victrola Plum Label LP. I used to think that the Classic was better than the Vic, and in some ways it may be, but I hear a lot of midrange magic on this LP that I don’t think you can find on the Classic pressing.[No kidding.] 

Side two sounds even better than side one. Burleske sounds especially good on this copy.

These are our earlier comments for the Classic Records pressing of this title:

I played this side by side with my original Victrola, which is the only RCA stereo release, and the Classic killed it. How Bernie can cut this record right and screw up all the others is a mystery to me.

I highly recommend this one, musically and sonically. Everybody loves Rachmaninoff, especially when Byron Janis is at the keyboard, and the Strauss piece is engaging on its own as well.

Cat Stevens- Tea for the Tillerman – Making Progress in Audio

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More Tea for the Tillerman

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The following comments were written in 2004.

Hard Headed Woman is a song that has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years. If you’ve been making regular upgrades to your equipment and taking advantage of all the new technologies available at the front end, such as: vibration control, electromagnetic stabilization, better arms, better cartridges, better phono stages, better motors, fly wheels, Synchronous Drive Systems, better power cords, better power conditioning, to name just a few, you are no doubt able to reproduce this song much better than you were in the old days.Speaking of congestion, it had previously been our experience that every copy of the record had at least some congestion in the loudest parts, typically the later parts of songs where Cat is singing at the top of his lungs, the acoustic guitars are strumming like crazy, and big drums are pounding away are jumping out of both speakers. 

I used to think that Cat’s voice got hard and harsh when he got loud on the passage that starts with “I know…many fine feathered friends…”. Now he gets even louder, the drums are much more powerful, and yet he still sounds like a real person, not an overdriven recording. (more…)

Ruggiero Ricci / Solo Recital – Reviewed in 2011

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Ruggiero Ricci / Solo Recital

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

EXCELLENT SOUND and quiet vinyl on both sides of this London LP featuring the great Ruggiero Ricci performing solo violin pieces! Side two in particular has a sweet, clear top end that really shows you the detail in the violin. Side one is transparent and tonally correct but a bit dark, without all the clarity and sweetness of side two. Still, a very good side at A+ to A++. (more…)

Dave Brubeck Quartet – 25th Anniversary Reunion – Reviewed in 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This album has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND and even more SURPRISINGLY GOOD MUSIC! Who would have thought that these old goats still could still play jazz at this level? Especially Joe Morello on the drums — this guy drums up a storm, especially during his solos on the first track. He’s always been one of the strongest members of the foursome. But everybody here is good, and they do both their famous songs and some that they’re less well known for.   (more…)

Tom Petty – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Big and punchy with great energy, this copy really rocks. And rockin’ is what this album is all about — this is fun, high-energy music, but it takes a Hot Stamper copy like this to bring it life.

This is the classic first album, with two of their best songs: Breakdown and American Girl. It’s straight ahead rock and roll, with sonics to match.

This is not purely an audiophile album. The sound is a little spitty and transistory as a rule. But when you find a copy with Hot Stampers, the elements start to work together, and the good far outweighs the bad. If somebody tried to EQ this album differently, they’d probably end up taking away some of the Raw Rock Energy. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Talking Book – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Talking Book

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

An A+++ White Hot side two backed with an A++ side one! We just finished our another big shootout for this album, and those of you who are familiar with this record will not be surprised that it was TOUGH. This side two is an entirely different story than most pressings — the sound is big, lively and three-dimensional! 

You could play dozens of copies of this album and never hear a side two this good. Heck, we’ve played hundreds of copies over the years with almost nothing to show for it!

Side One

A++, with a big, rich bottom end and clear, present vocals. So good!

Side Two

A+++, As Good As It Gets! Big and solid, open and spacious, this side is doing everything we could ask it to. Pay particular attention to the kick drum — it sounds just right here! The vocals are breathy and present, and the soundstage is amazingly big and three-dimensional.

Even the hottest copies never reached the sonic heights of InnerVisions or Songs In The Key Of Life, but at least they presented the music in a way that audiophiles like us can enjoy. (more…)

Khachaturian – Spartacus & Gayneh

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This is a Near Mint Decca In The Box British Import LP featuring Spartacus on side one and Gayaneh on side two with the Vienna Phil.

Side Two is the BEST EVER! Just play the Sabre Dance! This famous TAS List LP has a very good side one as well, 90 to 95% the best. This is a record that deserves its Superdisc ranking. It IS a superdisc! 

Rachmaninoff / Concerto #2 – Rubenstein/ Reiner – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Concerto #2 – Rubenstein/ Reiner

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is the earlier pressing, which stretches the Rachmaninoff piece over both sides of the record, resulting in a more dynamic pressing. The sound is tonally right on the money with the superb, rich, sweetly textured strings we have come to expect from RCA in this period. The piano has exquisite tone as well. This is a lovely, lyrical piece of music and the natural sound conveys the qualities of the work perfectly.

Buffalo Springfield – Again – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame

This original Plum and Tan Atco label Hot Stamper pressing has TWO AMAZING SIDES and fairly quiet vinyl. A Double Plus (A++) Sound and Mint Minus vinyl makes the copy the Black Swan of this shootout, that’s for sure.

You have never heard a better pressing of what many consider to be Buffalo Springfield’s Masterpiece, Buffalo Springfield Again. We guarantee this copy will blow your mind or your money back! Only one side of one copy had better sound, and that one was noticeably noisier, so we crowning this one King of the Buffalo Springfield Again Shootout for 2007.

This album, like all of Buffalo Springfield’s recordings, has always been a tough nut to crack. We’ve never even attempted a shootout for the first album or Last Time Around, although I do know Hot Stampers for both. Watch for them in the coming months. [Since done, multiple times.]

So many copies of Again sound so bad and play so noisy that most audiophile record lovers probably had written it off many years ago as a lost cause.

Quiet Vinyl? Uh…, Not So Much

Even with all the latest cleaning techniques, including our $6500 record cleaning machine, most copies of this record do not make the Mint Minus cutoff. Parts of the album will be noisier, and even Mint Minus Minus is tough. Some of our expensive Hot Stamper pressings even have sections in the EX++ range, but the sound so good we are charging good money for them anyway. Like an original Cream or Doors record, quiet vinyl is not in the cards.

All Things Considered

Within the limitations of the recording, there are still copies that are surprisingly DYNAMIC and TRANSPARENT. Listen to all that space around the guitars and voices — who knew it was there?

Listen also especially to the vocal harmonies — you can separate out all the parts much more clearly on these Hot Stamper pressings. You can really hear precisely who’s in there and what part they are playing in the vocal arrangement. I can’t remember ever hearing it sound so clear. The best copies really let you hear into the music.

The bass is also much better defined and note-like. On most copies the sound is lean, and what little bass there is sounds like a smeary blob underneath the vocals. With the better pressings you can follow every note, which is important if for no other reason than the fact that many of the arrangements are fairly simple, so losing the sound of one instrument is losing a lot of what the song has to offer.

Midrange Magic? Check.

Extracting all the midrange magic from a legendary album and Desert Island Disc like this should be the goal of every right-thinking audiophile. Who cares what’s on the TAS Superdisc List? I want to play the music that I love, not because it sounds good, but because I love it. And if the only way to find good sounding clean copies of typically poorly-mastered, beat-to-death records like this is to go through a big pile of them, well then, I guess that’s what we will have to do. The last Hot Stamper listing for this album went up in April of 2006. Here it is almost a year and a half later and we finally have enough good clean copies to shoot out. (You folks who don’t live in big cities with lots of used record stores are really out of luck when it comes to albums like these. I must look at twenty for every one I buy.)