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John Is Pretty Sure Hot Stampers Don’t Sound Good: “The only problem I have with my evaluations is that I never heard his records.”

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.

John

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…)

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…)

Warning: Hot Stampers May Cause Cognitive Dissonance

 

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.

If you live in America and you try one of our Hot Stamper pressings and you then decide you don’t like it, we will cover the shipping cost both ways, and refund 100% of the money you paid. (more…)

Hot Stamper Sharing Can’t Get Off the Ground, I Wonder Why?

In 2014 somebody on the Hoffman forum tried to get a Hot Stamper thread going under this heading:

Cheap_Hot_Stampers – Revealed

If you have a “hot stamper” record – one that smokes and takes no prisoners, I mean a BADASS pressing, show it here with matrix info, label or other identifying features so we can all hunt with a bit of a head-start.

I know these records are out there, just looking for a place to show off their analog glory.

Here is a recent find that fits the bill and then some: Traffic: Best Of Traffic UK. Matrix # ILPS 9112 A-1/B-1

We know the record well. If it sounds the way the copies we played over the years have sounded, we would say it can be good, not great, and if it qualified for Hot Stamper status, it might — might — earn a plus and a half or so.

We don’t even bother to pick them up for cheap nowadays, if that tells you anything.

He got very little support in his endeavor. The thread closed after a while with practically nothing in it.

Could it be that the folks on the Hoffman forum have a poor grasp of the amount of effort, time and money it takes to find Hot Stampers and, having committed to neither the effort, the time nor the money, find that they have nothing of any value to contribute to this list?  

Yes, that could be. That definitely could be. Thank god it doesn’t keep them from criticizing those of us who, working in concert with a staff of ten or so, have devoted ourselves to the task and found them by the thousands.

By the way, we know that Traffic title ver well. The Pink Label original is by far the best pressing in our experience. No copy we have ever heard on the label promoted by this poster would qualify as much more than a bargain Hot Stamper in comparison to the Pink Label and Pink Rim label pressings that we sell, although of course not having heard his copy we can’t say it’s not fabulous.  It’s just not very likely to be fabulous. If you want fabulous click on these two links:

(more…)

“This BBC film on audiophiles in 1959 is a masterpiece”

Here is the article

Here is a link to the video itself.

“Do they like music? Or are they in love with equipment?”

The excellent BBC Archive account on Twitter has unearthed an audio gem.

A 1959 film called ‘Hi-Fi-Fo-Fum’ purports to reveal the burgeoning audiophile scene, with more than a little tongue-in-cheek humour for good measure.

“There is a man in Wimbledon who will go on adding to his equipment until he can hear the sigh of the conductor as the piccolo misses its entry,” says the introduction. He sounds like our kind of man.

“Is it a religion or a disease? An American psychiatrist calls it ‘audiophilia'”, reveals the voiceover, as men – and it’s largely men – shuffle in and out of hi-fi shops before rushing home for earnest listening sessions. It was ever thus.

“Do they like music? Or are they in love with equipment?”, wonders our narrator, as one excited punter buys a new tweeter for “6 pound 4 pence”.

And while much has changed – you don’t see many shops with individual listening booths nowadays – much has stayed the same. “A dream of perfection… of machines more sensitive than the ears they play to,” reminds us that arguments about audio frequencies that the human ear can’t hear are nothing new.

The video also shows the early music critic. “With a dozen different recordings of every work, how do we find the best?” wonders the voiceover. “Rely on the critic, nothing escapes him,” comes the reply.

His verdict? “Comparisons are odious but inevitable…” Well, quite.

Now the Story Can Be Told!

There is an active thread on Audiogon discussing Hot Stampers:

Better Records’ White Hot Stampers: Now the Story Can Be Told!

A few customers made the case for some of the Hot Stamper pressings they own
and, this time, for the first time in the history of the world wide web, none of them
were mercilessly attacked for their iconoclasm. (more…)

Classic Tracks: “She’s Not There”

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Classic Tracks: “She’s Not There, The Zombies

If one of the defining characteristics of a Classic Track is its immediate recognition, then The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” is as classic as it comes. One of its atypical characteristics, the distinctive opening bass notes and subsequent line that continues throughout the track, surely helped the band win the 1964 Hert’s Beat Competition, which earned them a recording contract with Decca Records. On the map and on their way.

The band had gotten together when they were 15-year-old schoolmates in 1961 in their hometown of St. Albans, England. Keyboardist Rod Argent recruited some of the members, as lead vocalist Colin Blunstone remembers, based on the alphabet. “We sat in class in alphabetical order, and I had a guitar,” Blunstone recalls.

Then after they won the competition, according to Blunstone, and just two weeks prior to their big recording session, producer Ken Jones said, “You could always try to write something.” (more…)

Wired Investigates the World of Hot Stampers


Check out our Wired interview.

Why Audiophiles Are Paying $1,000 for This Man’s Vinyl

Collectors of so-called “Hot Stamper” LPs think a thousand bucks is a bargain to hear a classic rock opus sound better than you’ve ever heard it before—stoned or sober.


Go to the comments section and read the 300 plus postings that can be found there. The writers of these comments appear 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 are using to play it, as if you didn’t know already!

FURTHER READING

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