Reviews from Our (Mostly) Pre-Shootout Days

Paganini / Concerto No. 1 / Rabin – Reviewed in 2011

This is a rare and very nice looking Capitol LP. The violin sounds rich and sweet, although the sound of the orchestra is a bit “old school” with too much congestion and distortion during the louder sections to qualify as a Hot Stamper were we to put this record in a shootout.

Which makes it a “good, not great” vintage classical record, best played on an Old School Stereo system.

The much more revealing systems of today, like the one we employed to audition this very copy, simply make it too easy to spot its many faults.

Vintage Vinyl

We are not fans of vintage vinyl because we like the sound of old records. Lots of old records don’t sound good to us at all, and we review them by the score on this very blog.

We like old records because they have the potential to sound better than every other kind of record, including the ones that have been made and marketed to audiophiles over the course of the last thirty years or so.

We wrote about that subject in a commentary we call The Big If. An excerpt:

The best of the best vintage recordings are truly amazing if you can play them right. That’s a big if. In fact, it may just be the biggest if in all of audio.

We go on to discuss the wonderfully accurate timbre of the better vintage pressings, in contrast to the consistently inaccurate tonality of the Modern Heavy Vinyl pressing. It’s a long story but we think it is well worth your time if you are an audiophile looking for better sounding vinyl.


AMG Biography

Michael Rabin managed to be one of the most talented and tragic violin virtuosi of his generation. Hailed as a child prodigy, his talent matured gracefully into an adult level, but he failed to follow in his emotional growth, resulting in a cutting short of his career. He never reached the age of 36, yet remains one of the most fondly remembered of virtuoso violinists for listeners and fellow musicians such as Pinchas Zukerman, with whom he shared a teacher.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.


New to the Blog? Start Here

What exactly are Hot Stamper pressings?

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

Brahms / Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3 / Rubinstein and Szeryng – Reviewed in 2010

More Top Quality Violin Recordings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Titles Available Now

3S/ 4S RCA Shaded Dog.

Third in a series of masterpieces for violin and piano.

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

The sound is actually quite decent when you INVERT the ABSOLUTE PHASE. If you cannot or will not do that, this record will not sound good — it’s somewhat hard and bright.

It will never be a Top Shaded Dog but it is a good one with the absolute phase inverted.


Arnold / English, Scottish and Cornish Dances

Hot Stamper Pressings of TAS List Super Disc Albums

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

  • The rare and highly regarded TAS List Heavyweight, Lyrita mastered as per HP’s preference
  • Full, spacious, with a HUGE hall and amazing clarity
  • Super Hot on both sides, you had better watch your levels – this copy is extremely dynamic
  • This pressing is clearly a Demo Disc for Size and Space as well as a Demo Disc for Dynamics

This Lyrita-mastered title is a member of HP’s famous TAS Super Disc list.

It includes Eight English Dances, Four Scottish Dances and Four Cornish Dances.

The sound is uncolored and natural, with a mid-hall perspective, and very little multi-miking to be heard, all to the good. 

It’s extremely fast, dynamic and clear, in those respects very much like live music. The top end is right and the overall sound balanced.

The woodwinds on the second track of side two are especially lovely.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.


New to the Blog? Start Here

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

Chopin / Scherzo No. 2 / Auer – Direct to Disc

More of the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings with Hot Stampers

This is an IMMACULATE RCA Direct-to-Disc LP with SUPERB SOUND! This recording is every bit as good as the famous RCA Beethoven Direct Disc and ten times as rare. You will have a very hard time finding a better sounding solo piano recording.  [Or so we thought in 2008.]


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

(more…)

Haydn / Symphonies 100 & 101 – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound

The New York Times review for these performances called them “matchless” and we see no reason to disagree! With Super Hot Stamper sound for No. 100, “Military”, we’re confident you will have a very hard time finding better sound and music from Haydn than is found on this original Black Label Vanguard Stereophonic Demonstration Disc.

Side one, containing Symphony No. 100, “Military,” is smooth and rich and full of tubey magic, the kind of analog sound that has not been recorded for more than thirty years. Because the top end is not boosted and phony like most audiophile pressings, you can play a record like this at much more realistic levels without fatigue or harshness.

Try that with the average Reference or Telarc.

The sound is a bit distant, mid-hall we would call it, but wide and full of depth the way these vintage recordings often are.

(more…)

Love – Revisited

More Love

More Psych Rock

This is a very old review. The sound of this “greatest hits” compilation, on even the best copies, is unlikely to be good enough to qualify for Hot Stamper status these days. We will never really know of course, as we no longer buy these pressings or take the time to clean and play them. Love is a very well recorded band, one that deserves to be heard on top quality vintage pressings.

Our review from way back when:

This album was made from dub tapes and has some of that dubby sound (smeary, veiled, lacking in space), but in its defense we can say that it was very well mastered from those copy tapes and for the casual fan of the band is worth picking up if the price is right.

We had a chance to shootout a handful of copies recently and didn’t hear any others that could compete with this Elektra Original Pressing. We are HUGE fans of Love and this copy will show you why.

Both sides are lively and full-bodied and the bottom end is KILLER throughout. In short, it’s EXACTLY the sound you want for this music. Give it a chance and you’ll hear for yourself!

Compared to some other copies, this one had more impact, more power and more energy. The vocals are full-bodied and rich with excellent presence. Most copies we heard were pretty blurry down low, but you can actually make sense of the bass on this one. (more…)

The Ray Brown Trio – Soular Energy

This Concord Jazz LP has excellent sound.

There is also a half-speed mastered audiophile version of this record cut by Stan Ricker himself.

Now hold on: half-speed mastering by its very nature causes a dramatic loss of bass definition, not to mention the fact that much of the deep bass usually goes completely missing. This is a record built around the sound of Ray Brown’s double bass. Do you really want the lowest octave of bass to disappear and the bass above it to turn to mud on a record that features a bass player as its leader? It’s crazy, right?

I’ve never heard the half-speed and don’t plan to track one down in order to audition it, but I guarantee you that this “full-speed” mastered version will blow the doors off any version mastered by Stan Ricker.

There is plenty of commentary on the website about his incompetent mastering and I recommend you take a moment to read some of it before you buy any half-speed mastered record. (We of course do not offer such records, with the exception of John Klemmer’s Touch, which is a half-speed mastered record that actually does sound good, superb in fact.)

(more…)

Prokofiev / Piano Concerto No. 3 / Graffman – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

This Plum Label Original pressing is one of the TOP VICTROLA TITLES! The sound is excellent, with real weight to the orchestra, powerful dynamics, deep bass, and solid piano tone.

Add to that a wonderful performance by Gary Graffman and the San Francisco Symphony, and you have one truly OUTSTANDING record. (If you can add 1 or 2 db to the top end, it’s even better.) 

Here are some of the reviews and commentaries we’ve written for Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.

(more…)

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 3 – Years Ago We Liked a Mono Pressing

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concertos

CBFR-1/CBFR-2. This Mono pressing sounds SUPERB, much smoother and more natural than I remember the Stereo pressings sounding. What’s interesting about these Monos is they’re not mastered by Robert Fine. They are mastered by someone with the initials J.J., who apparently does all the Mono mastering. The reason Mercury Monos can sound as good as they do is because they have their own separate microphone feed and their own separate Mono tape recorder dedicated all to themselves. (London did the same thing and that’s why so many London Monos are amazing sounding.)

I don’t think you can find a better sounding Rachmaninoff 3rd on Mercury than this one. 

[Of course we no longer agree with that.  The best stereo copies are in an entirely different league. The mono can be good, but it cannot be great in the way the stereo pressings can be.] (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 2 / Katchen / Solti

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Rachmaninoff

Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

This is a twenty year old review of a pressing we have not played in many years, so please take what we say with a very large grain of salt.

Beating that in mind, if you see one for cheap in your local record store, give it a good look and, for the five bucks they will probably be asking, take a chance to see if the record actually does have the sound we heard all those years ago.

Folks, what we are offering here is THE SLEEPER Hot Stamper pressing of all time. Side one earned an amazingly good grade of A++ with side two every bit as good. The buyer of this album is going to be SHOCKED when he sees what pressing it is. 

For those of you who cherish pressings for their best sound and performances — as opposed to the typical audiophile collector who prefers the “right” original labels on his records, of course produced only in the “right” countries — this is the record for you.

Hold it up for your (right-thinking or otherwise) audiophile friends to witness before you put it on your table and BLOW THEIR MINDS.

How did this kind of sound get produced so cheaply, so late in the game? From what tape, by what engineer? It is a mystery to me, one that is very unlikely to be explained to anyone’s satisfaction. (more…)