Live music is hard to beat.
I’m so glad this music from the early ’60s does nothing for me because I sure wouldn’t want to try and find any of these old records!
A few months back Richard Metzger posted on the Dangerous Minds website a story recounting his lifelong search for better sounding pressings of his favorite albums.
The third paragraph evinced a deep understanding of this hobby of ours, as you can see:
Please allow me to state the obvious right here at the outset: Most people WILL NOT GIVE A SHIT about what follows. One out of a hundred maybe, no, make that one out of a thousand. Almost none of you who have read this far will care about this stuff. If you are that one in a thousand person, read on, this was written especially for you. Everyone else, I won’t blame you a bit if you want to bail.
The story of my life! Part One of Richard’s life story can be found here.
After reading Richard’s post, I contacted him and offered to send him a Hot Stamper pressing of a record of his choosing, about which he was of course free to say anything he liked. (This is still America, right?)
That record turned out to be Aja and it seems he was pretty pleased with the copy we sent him.
I hope to have some comments to add when time permits.
Speaking of Aja, we’ve been playing that one since the day it came out in 1977. We’ve written extensively about the album since we started doing shootouts for it around 2006. Here is the link to some of our Reviews and Commentaries.
If you are interested in a Hot Stamper Steely Dan album, we have some of those too, but probably not Aja, because copies of Aja are getting very hard to find nowadays and the ones we do find with killer sound sell quickly.
The picture below was taken many years ago. That particular shootout involved 16 copies, but finding 16 copies of the album to do a shootout nowadays would take us at least two years, and maybe three. They are not sitting in the bins like they used to be.
However, since we have easily played more than a hundred pressings over the years, closer to two hundred by now I would guess, we know when Aja sounds right and when it doesn’t. That’s why it was so easy to know how bad this version was when we first played it back in 2007.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out the interview Wired conducted with me a few years back.
If you have some time on your hands, maybe too much time on your hands, go to the comments section and read the 300 plus postings that can be found there, the writers of which seem to be offended by the very idea of Hot Stampers. They also decry the obvious shortcomings of analog vinyl itself, as well as the ridiculously expensive equipment some credulous, misguided audiophiles use to play it, as if you didn’t know already!
Here is one that I found to be especially interesting from a psychological perspective:
Bad, mismatched system setup. Customer base probably has the same. Also evaluation process is questionable. Uses a mediocre solid state amp and looks for “tubey magic” because of some misplaced concept of “accuracy” as I discussed before.
Yes, there is a lot of bad stuff out there, and it does give the stereo industry as a whole a bad name. I have heard some pretty crappy, expensive setups in my day.
I was listening to Phoebe Snow’s “Second Childhood” on my best system last night. Boy, I love my new turntable!
The only problem I have with my evaluations is that I never heard his records. My comments are probably correct, but it would be interesting to audition a few of his “golden” albums just to confirm he hasn’t really found anything. The reason I am confident that he probably does not have anything is because virtually every repressing I’ve heard is better than the original. Claiming otherwise hurts his credibility.
There is one sentence in the paragraphs above that should raise a giant red flag and help you to appreciate how reliable John’s analysis of our stereo and methods might turn out to be. If you didn’t catch it the first time through, give it another shot. Okay, here goes:
“The reason I am confident that he probably does not have anything is because virtually every repressing I’ve heard is better than the original.”
That’s so strange! Virtually every repressing I’ve heard is worse than the original. What gives?
If I may paraphrase our writer: the reason I am confident that he probably does not know anything about records or audio is that he thinks repressings are always better than vintage pressings. We’ve critically auditioned tens of thousands of records, including many hundreds of repressings, admittedly on our “bad, mismatched system setup,” and I guess we must have gotten it all wrong over the 34 years we’ve been in the audiophile record business. The shame of it all!
Obviously, John knows he does not need to try one of our Hot Stampers. You can see him talking himself into the wisdom of doing nothing with each succeeding paragraph. It’s so easy for him to be right by pretending to know something he can’t possibly know.
And if he did ever order one, and had at least a halfway decent stereo to play it on, it would turn his world upside down so fast it would make his head hurt, and the possibility of that happening would be very, very upsetting. It makes no sense for John to risk such an outcome.
Even if our records were as cheap as the ones he is buying, it would not justify the psychological damage that would result. He would basically have to start his collection over again, as this good customer did. A few hundred others just like him have done the same, and they’re the ones that will be keeping us in business for years to come. To paraphrase another famous saying, “They’ve heard the future, and it works!
Better for John to follow the path he is on. It’s working for him. Why would he want to rock his own boat? (more…)
One of our erstwhile customers asked me a question not long ago:
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.
There are way too many warriors on audiophile forums as it is. (more…)
Check out the article that Wired wrote about Better Records and Hot Stampers.
If you have time, go to the comments section and read any of the 300 or more postings claiming that the very idea of Hot Stampers is absurd, not to mention the atavistic, borderline fetishistic attachment to vinyl that these self-described “lovers of sound” engage in, and don’t forget how ridiculously expensive the equipment they own must be, making a real trifecta of audiophile insanity.
As if you didn’t know already!
But all of this is true only under one condition: that you have never played one of our Hot Stamper pressings.
Once you have played one, even the most skeptical audiophile often finds himself becoming as fetishistic about old records as we are, and have been for fifty years.
We sure get a lot of Letters from folks who seem to like our old records. Can there really be that much Kool-Aid to go around? Can one sip really change your life?
Good news: there exists a way to find out.
This Monster Power Pop Debut by the Knack is an AMAZINGLY well-recorded album, with the kind of Wall to Wall Big Beat Live Rock Sound that rivals Back in Black and Nevermind — if you’re lucky enough to have a copy that sounds like this! (If you’re not then it doesn’t.)
This is a Rock Demo Disc that is very likely to lay waste to whatever rock demo disc you currently treasure. My Sharona is simply STUNNING here. You just can’t record drums and bass any better!
And let’s not forget the song Lucinda. It’s got exactly the same incredibly meaty, grungy, ballsy sound that Back in Black does, but it managed to do it in 1979, a year earlier!
Mike Chapman produced this album and clearly he is an audiophile production genius. With a pair of Number One charting, amazing sounding Pop albums back to back — Blondie’s Parallel Lines in 1978 and this album early the next year — how much better could he get? The answer is: None more better. (more…)