*Big Picture Stuff

The Pareto Effect in Audio – The 80/20 Rule Is Real

More Entries in Our Critical Thinking Series

Ambrosia’s first album does exactly what a Test Disc should do. It shows you what’s wrong, and once you’ve fixed it, it shows you that it’s now right.

We audiophiles need records like this. They make us better listeners, and they force us to become better audio tweakers. Because the amount of tweaking you do with your setup, components, room, electricity and the like is the only thing that can take you to the highest levels of audio.

The unfortunate reality audiophiles must eventually come to grips with in their journey to higher quality sound is that you cannot buy equipment that will get you there.

You can only teach yourself, painstakingly, over the course of many, many years, how to tweak your equipment — regardless of cost or quality — to get to the highest levels of audio fidelity.

And tweaking and tuning your equipment has other, fundamentally more important benefits in addition to its original purpose: making your stereo sound better.

At most 20% of the sound of your stereo is what you bought.

At least 80% is what you’ve done with it.

Based on my experience I would put the number closer to 90%.

This is known as the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, The Law of the Vital Few and The Principle of Factor Sparsity, illustrates that 80% of effects arise from 20% of the causes – or in laymens terms – 20% of your actions/activities will account for 80% of your results/outcomes.

The Pareto Principle gets its name from the Italian-born economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), who observed that a relative few people held the majority of the wealth (20%) – back in 1895. Pareto developed logarithmic mathematical models to describe this non-uniform distribution of wealth and the mathematician M.O. Lorenz developed graphs to illustrate it.

Dr. Joseph Juran was the first to point out that what Pareto and others had observed was a “universal” principle—one that applied in an astounding variety of situations, not just economic activity, and appeared to hold without exception in problems of quality.

In the early 1950s, Juran noted the “universal” phenomenon that he has called the Pareto Principle: that in any group of factors contributing to a common effect, a relative few account for the bulk of the effect.

Further Reading

When it comes to Hot Stampers, maybe money can buy you happiness

But it ain’t a cheap hobby and never will be

New to the Blog? Start Here

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ambrosia

My Stereo (and Thoughts on Equipment)

If Records Are About Money, You’re Going About It All Wrong

New to the Blog? Start Here

Basic Concepts Explained

We get letters from time to time chiding us for charging what strikes some as rather large amounts of money for records that we happily admit do not have much in the way of Collector Value, the implication being that collectible records are of course worth the high prices they command in the marketplace. Hot Stampers, however, are somehow different. Clearly they cannot be worth the outrageously high prices we’re asking.

It is our opinion that the writers of these letters have made a rather glaringly erroneous assumption: That the records we sell are not subject to the same market forces as other records. This strikes us as just plain silly.

As anyone with a grounding in basic economics will tell you, we cannot force our customers to buy anything from us, especially old vinyl records, the kind of thing that most people have found they can easily do without, thank you very much.

We even take the time in many of our commentaries to advise you about What to Listen For in order to help you find your own Hot Stamper copies.

Even better, we implore you to learn how to do it for yourself. No need to spend a penny with us, just look for the Hot Stampers hiding in your own collection. Here’s how it’s done. It’s really not all that complicated. Tedious and time-consuming, yes. Hard as in finding-the-cure-for-cancer hard? Not even close. Fun? If you like that sort of thing, absolutely.

Bottom line: If you don’t like our prices, you have plenty of alternative sources for the recordings we sell. (Not the specific Hot Stampers we offer, mind you. Every record is unique, which of course means you can only buy the copy we are selling from us.)

Pricing Strategies

We price our records just like anyone prices anything: according to what we think it’s worth, what we think we can get for it, how many customers will want it, how long it will take to sell at any given price, how many we have on hand, how hard it is to find another one of comparable quality, how much better or worse it is than others we’ve played, how much work went into finding this particular one, how much we paid for it, and on and on and on until we just have to quit thinking about it and pick a number.

If we pick a good number, it probably sells right away (often within an hour of it going on the site). If we pick a bad number, it probably doesn’t. If we pick a number too low, we can’t meet the demand. If we pick a number too high there won’t be enough demand.

It ain’t rocket science, it’s just nuts and bolts business planning, the kind carried out every day by millions of sellers looking for buyers for their wares.

Money Is at the Root of the Problem

The impetus for this discussion of records as an investment was my stumbling upon a letter that a fellow named Jason wrote us all the way back in August of 2007 and the colloquy that followed. We called it Letter From a Thrift Store Junkie. Jason wrote me, I replied, and then he wrote back to make a few points, one of which was this:

3. Your records are a poor value in terms of investment. Until you convince the whole LP community that your HOT-STAMPER choices are the pinnacle of sound a buyer will never be able to re-sell B S & T for $300. Even if they swear it is the best sounding copy in the world.

Which Prompted My Reply as Follows:

With his last email, the subtext to this tirade has finally become clear. Go back and read through it again yourself. It’s about the MONEY. It’s about how much all the equipment and the records cost and why I don’t need to spend that kind of money to enjoy music just as much, if not more, than you and your customers.

Jason, if your point is that spending lots of money in audio is often foolish, I can’t say I disagree — that’s why we poke fun at reviewers and their expensive equipment.

But the most telling remark is this one: Our records are a bad investment. They can’t be resold for anything close to what the buyer paid for them.

If Records Are About Money…

… then buying them at a thrift store for a buck apiece and getting something halfway decent makes perfect sense. As the Brits say, “that’s value for money.” If we sell you a Hot Stamper for, say, $500, can it really be five hundred times better?

I would argue that here the math is actually on our side. The average pressing is so close to worthless sonically that I would say that it isn’t even worth the one dollar you might pay for it in a thrift store. I might value it somewhere in the vicinity of a penny or two. Really? Yes indeed. Assuming it’s a record I know well, I probably know just how wonderful the record can really sound, and what that wonderful sound does to communicate the most important thing of all: its musical value. A copy that doesn’t do that — make the music come alive — has almost no value. It’s not zero, but it’s close to zero. Let’s assign it a nominal value. We’ll call it a penny.

You see, when I play a mediocre copy, I know what I’ve lost. Jason can’t know that. All he knows is what he hears coming from his mediocre equipment as his mediocre LP is playing. To him it sounds fine. To me it sounds awful. I feel like I must be in hell.

If I’ve actually done all the hard work I talk about on the site, I will find myself in the unique position of knowing what he’s missing, and he is in the (to me) unenviable and quite common position of only knowing what he’s getting. (It may be a litttle or it may be a lot, but it’s certainly nowhere near what I’m getting.)

Ignorance is bliss, and he is welcome to his. Being average is the lot of most of us, right? I’m average in most areas of life and make no bones about it. But I’m not average when it comes to this hobby. Because I enjoy it so much, I’ve worked very hard, for a very long time, four decades or so, to become good at it.

More for Less?

This is precisely what Jason has utterly failed to grasp: that all the hard work we encourage you to do really does pay off. The end result is a dramatic increase in your enjoyment and appreciation of the music you play. Here his obtuseness is at its pig-headed worst. He wants us to believe he gets more out of his records by hearing less? If I understand the formula correctly, it goes something like: Mediocre Pressing plus Mediocre Stereo equals Greater Musical Satisfaction.

Uh, you want to run that by me again?

How Most Records Are Like Frozen Pizza, A Tortured Analogy

Jason, it’s all well and good to eat frozen pizza. Frozen pizza is cheap and it can taste pretty good. But it’s ridiculous to think that no one should bother to go to a real pizzeria and sit down to a lovely meal, a meal prepared by a highly-skilled chef, using the freshest ingredients, perhaps with the added indulgence of a fine bottle of wine or two. You may end up spending five or ten times or twenty times as much money as a frozen pizza would cost, but the result is much more likely to be a meal that is delicious and satisfying beyond words. Beyond even dollars, if that’s more the language you understand. The two meals may appear superficially similar — they both involve pizza — but in actuality they are worlds apart.

Which is more or less how we see records here at Better Records. Any two copies of the same LP can look remarkably similar, identical to the naked eye in fact. But the effect they can have on you the listener is so dramatically different, they might as well be different albums, different recordings, performed by different musicians even.

The group on one pressing may sound bored, just playing by the numbers, there to pick up a paycheck. The other LP’s musicians are tearing the roof off, playing out of their heads at the top of their game. Same album, same recording, different pressings. Hyperbole? Not to me. I’ve heard it. I’m a believer. (The people that make those oh-so-expensive records disappear from the site apparently feel the same way. Some of them even write me letters! And unlike our friend Jason here, they know what they are talking about; they played the record that we wrote about and heard what we heard. No hypnotism involved, not on our part anyway.)


One more thing: If you’re worried about the resale value of your records, you shouldn’t have bought them in the first place.

And Your Point Is?

Buy records for the joy the music and sound bring you. Do not buy records to collect or resell, buy them to play.

They’re an investment in your present happiness and are sure to last you a lifetime. What could be better than that?

Hall and Oates – Remembering the Glorious Sound of Tubes

More of the Music of Hall and Oates

Our Current Rock & Pop Top 100 List

This record has the sound of TUBES. I’m sure it was recorded with transistors, judging by the fact that it was made after most recording studios had abandoned that “antiquated” technology, but there may be a reason why they were able to achieve such success with the new transistor equipment when, in the decades to come, they would produce nothing but one failure after another.

In other words, I have a theory.

They remember what things sounded like when they had tubes. Modern engineers appear to have forgotten that sound. They seem to have no reference for Tubey Magic. If they use tubes in their mastering chains, they sure don’t sound the way vintage tube-mastered records tend to sound.

Transistor Audio Equipment with Plenty of Tubey Magic

A similar syndrome was then operating with the home audio equipment manufacturers as well. Early transistor gear by the likes of Marantz, McIntosh and Sherwood, just to name three I happen to be familiar with, still retained much of the smooth, rich, natural, sweet, grain-free sound of the better tube equipment of the day.

I once owned a wonderful Sherwood receiver that you would swear had tubes in it. In fact it was simply an unusually well-designed transistor unit. Anyone listening to it would never know that it was solid state. It has none of the “sound” we associate with solid state, thank goodness.

Very low power, 15 watts a channel. No wonder it sounded so good.

Stick with the 4 Digit Originals (SD 7269)

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, is full of TUBEY MAGIC, and has consistently good music, look no further. Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track pop recording, this is about as good as it gets (AGAIG as we like to say). It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth most of the time — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE.   


First Question: “How loud do you play your records?”

More of the Music of Stevie Ray Vaughan

More Unsolicited Audio Advice

Our customer, Conrad, wrote us about his experience with Stevie Ray a while back.

Here is the bulk of his letter:

I took another listen to SRV Couldn’t Stand the Weather, this time at VOLUME.

I wanted to make a point about one of his observations. (Bolding and italics added.)

There seems to be a threshold level for this record at which it sounds congested below, but which it comes alive above (and how).


You hit the nail on the head with your revision of the sound of the two sides at loud levels.

We don’t know what our rock and electric blues and even classical records sound like at moderate levels.

We don’t play them that way, and we don’t want to hear them that way. Playing records too quietly obscures their faults.

It also reduces the energy, whatever dynamic contrasts they might have, the ability to play clean in the loudest climaxes or choruses, and on and on down the list.

If someone were to invite me to hear their system, my first question would be: “Do you play your records at realistic levels?”

If the answer were no, I would stay home. What is more frustrating then music that won’t come alive because it is simply not loud enough?

Have you ever been in an audio showroom where they refused to play the system at anything but moderate levels?

Of course you have. They never turn their systems up loud because they know they are very likely to fall apart at loud levels. (The rooms are at fault for a lot of the bad sound. Good room treatments are ugly and have the potential to scare away customers. Stereo stores want you to think you don’t need them, or can get by with some that are pleasing to the eye, but this is not the case.)

They are assuming that audiophiles won’t insist on hearing these showroom stereos at realistic levels (and finding out just how bad they are). Based on my experience, that turns out to be a pretty safe bet.

It took me decades to figure out what was going with these audio salons. You couldn’t pay me to go into one now.


Stop These Things and You Too Will Find Better Sounding LPs

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Some audiophile reviewers prefer to discuss only those records that sound good to them and ignore the rest. We think this does the audiophile community a disservice.

No unlike Consumer Reports, we like to test things. They test toasters, we test records. Like them, we put the things we’re testing through their paces and let the chips fall where they may.

They want to find out if the things they are testing offer the consumer quality and value. We want to find out if the records we are testing offer the record-loving audiophile good sound and music. If they do have exceptionally good sound and at least fairly good music, they go up on our site to be sold as Hot Stampers. The bad records end up on this blog in our Halls of Shame. (Yes, there are two.)

What It Takes

It takes a lot of people and a healthy budget to carry out large numbers of these kinds of tests.

No other record dealers, record reviewers or record collectors could possibly have auditioned more than a small fraction of the records that we’ve played. We’ve been looking for the best sounding records for a very long time. Now, with a staff of ten or more, we can buy, clean and play records in numbers that are unimaginable for any single person or group to attempt.

That puts us in a unique position to help audiophiles looking for higher quality sound.

Yes, we have the resources, the staff and the budget. More importantly, we came up with a new (sort of) and much more successful (definitely) approach.

We’ve learned through thousands and thousands of hours of experimentation that there is no reliable way to predict which pressings will have the best sound for any given album.

The impossibility of predicting the sound of records is one which we’ve learned to accept as simply axiomatic. As a born skeptic, this was never difficult for me to wrap my head around. Early on in my audio career, sometime in the ’80s, I realized it was, in fact, self-evident.

What to Stop

Given the chaotic nature of records, the solution we put into practice mainly comprised these five elements:

  1. We stopped pretending we could know something that can’t be known. [1]
  2. We stopped relying on theories proven to have virtually no predictive effect. [2]
  3. We stopped paying attention to the experts and so-called authorities. [3]
  4. We stopped assuming and speculating. [4]
  5. We stopped worrying about getting it wrong. [5]

It took many years, decades even, to learn what worked and what didn’t work in our pursuit of better records. We came to realize over time that the five things listed above weren’t helping, so we stopped doing them.

What remained was the simplest possible approach to the problem. One that could be taught in a high school science class, if high school science classes were run by experimentally-minded record collectors.

  1. Guess what pressings might be good for a given album.
  2. Buy some of those pressings and others like them.
  3. Clean them up, play them and see if your guess about the sound of the pressing turns out to be right, wrong or somewhere in-between.
  4. Repeat steps one through three until you chance upon a pressing that sounds better than all the others.
  5. Get hold of as many of those as you can and play them against each other under rigorously controlled conditions.
  6. Continue to make other guesses and acquire other pressings to play against the pressing you believe to be the best.
  7. Keep making improvements to your playback system and never stop testing as many records as possible.

That’s it. Nothing to it. It all comes down to experimenting at a sufficiently large scale to achieve success.

Failing Forward

Edison is said to have failed 10,000 times before inventing a light bulb that was useful.

Most audiophiles do not have the time and money, not to say patience, needed to fail again and again this way.

For us, having a full-time staff of ten and a rather large record buying budget, we see failures as just another part of the job. Our successes pay for them — obviously somebody has to, as Milton Friedman famously remarked which partly accounts for our prices being as high as they are.

We don’t make a dime from writing about records that don’t sound good to us. We review them as a service to the audiophile community. We play them so that you don’t have to.


Supertramp and 1977 Ears – There’s No Going Back


More of the Music of Supertramp

Reviews and Commentaries for Even in the Quietest Moments

I grew up on this album. The first Supertramp album I ever bought was Crime of the Century on Mobile Fidelity. (Every audiophile bought that one; MoFi sold over a hundred thousand of them. And why not? The sound was killer on the systems of the day. Lots of slam down low, lots of extra top up high, just what the Old School Stereos of the day, like mine, needed.)

Crisis? What Crisis?, followed in 1975. It was the Supertramp album that sent me over the top. I played that album relentlessly. Before long Art Rock was my thing. Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, Crack the Sky, ELO, Bowie – it’s all I wanted to listen to back then.

A year and a half later EITQM followed in 1977. It too became a staple of my musical diet. Man I played that record till the grooves were worn smooth.

I thought the sound was killer at the time, too. Crisis was a demo disc at my house and this was right up there with it. Now the obvious question is, did I have a good sounding copy, or did my stereo not reveal to me the shortcomings of my LP? Or maybe my ears were not well enough trained to hear what was wrong.

Those of you who have been doing this for a long time know the answer: any or all of the above, probably all, and nobody can know just how much of each.

And there is no way to find out because you are not that person anymore.

Your 1977 Ears… and Mine

Even if you could recreate your old stereo and room, and find your original copy, there’s one thing you can’t do, and that’s listen to it with your 1977 ears. Every time you play a record and listen to it critically, your ears get better at their job. If you do a lot of critical listening your ears should be very good by now. You no doubt listen for things you never listened for before. This is simply the way it works. You don’t really have to try that hard to get better, it happens quite naturally.

So now the half speed sucks when it used to sound good. (Such is the case with practically all audiophile records; the better you get at listening, the worse they tend to sound.)

And now, with your better stereo and better ears, when you drop the needle on some copy you picked up of Even in the Quietest Moments, expecting to hear the glorious sound you remember from your youth, it’s a huge letdown — so grainy, thin, and edgy, with blurry bass.

On top of that the whole sordid mess is stuck somewhere back behind the speakers, like the sound you hear from an old cassette.

It’s not the record you remember, that’s for sure.

The Good News

The good news is that ten years later and more copies than we care to remember we think we’ve got EITQM’s ticket. We now know which stampers have the potential to sound good as well as the ones to avoid. Finding the right stampers (which are not the original ones for those of you who know what the original stampers for A&M records are) has been a positive boon.

Once we figured them out we were in a much better position to hear just how well recorded the album is. Now we know beyond all doubt that this recording — the first without Ken Scott producing and engineering for this iteration of the band — is of the highest quality, in league with the best. Until recently we would never have made such a bold statement. Now it’s nothing less than obvious.


Aaron Copland on Reference Records

Exceptional Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and another Reference Record reviewed and found wanting.

In all the years I was selling audiophile records, one of the labels whose appeal escaped me almost entirely was Reference Records.

Back then, when I would hear one of their orchestral or classical recordings, I was always left thinking, “Why do audiophiles like these records?”

I was confused, because at that time, back in the ’80s, I had simply not developed the listening skills that today make it so easy to recognize the faults of their recordings.

I thought other audiophiles must be hearing something I wasn’t.

I could not put my finger on what I didn’t like about them, but now, having worked full time (and then some!) for more than twenty years to develop better critical listening skills, the shortcomings of their records, or, to be more accurate, the shortcomings of this particular copy of this particular title, took no time at all to work out.

My transcribed notes for RR-22:

  • Lean tonality
  • No real weight
  • No Tubey Magic
  • Blurry imaging when loud
  • No real depth
  • Bright tonal balance

Does this sound like what you are looking for in an audiophile record?

Shouldn’t you be looking for audiophile quality sound?

Well, you sure won’t find it here.

This link will take you to some other exceptionally bad records that, like this one, were marketed to audiophiles for their putatively superior sound. On today’s modern systems [1], it should be obvious that they have nothing of the kind and that, in fact, the opposite is true.

[1] Regarding modern stereo systems:

When I first got started in audio in the early- to mid-’70s, the following important elements of the modern stereo system did not exist:

  • Stand-alone phono stages.
  • Modern cabling and power cords.
  • Vibration controlling platforms for turntables and equipment.
  • Synchronous Drive Systems for turntable motors.
  • Carbon fiber mats for turntable platters.
  • Highly adjustable tonearms (for VTA, etc.) with extremely delicate adjustments and precision bearings.
  • Modern record cleaning machines and fluids.
  • And there wasn’t much in the way of innovative room treatments like the Hallographs we use.

On our current playback system, this Reference Record is nothing but a joke, a joke played on a much-too-credulous audiophile public by the ridiculously inept and misguided engineers and producers who worked for Reference Records.

This is a reference for something? For what? As I wrote about another one of their awful releases, If This Is Your Idea of a Reference Record, You Are in Real Trouble.

It would be hard to imagine that anyone who has ever heard a good vintage classical recording — here are some of our favorites — could ever confuse this piece of audiophile trash with actual hi-fidelity orchestral sound.


Hearing Is All It Should Take, Right?

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Some person on some audiophile forum might feel obligated at some point to explain to you, benighted soul that you are, that the old classical records you and other audiophiles like you revere are so drastically compromised and limited that they just can’t sound any good.

It’s just a fact. It’s science. Technology marches on and those old records belong on the ash heap of history collecting dust, not sitting on the platter of a turntable.

That’s why the audio world was crying out for Bernie Grundman to recut those Living Stereo recordings from the ’50s and ’60s on his modern cutting equipment and have RTI press them on quiet, flat, high-resolution 180 gram vinyl, following the best practices of an industry that everybody knows has been constantly improving for decades.

But for those of us who actually play these records, there is little evidence to support any of this conventional wisdom.

However, the above sentence only makes sense if the following four conditions have been met by the person judging the new pressings against the old ones:

  1. He or she has a good stereo,
  2. A good record cleaning system, and
  3. Knows how to do shootouts using his or her
  4. Well developed critical listening skills

If you have spent much time on this blog, you have probably read by now that the first three on this list are what allow you to develop the fourth.


The best classical recordings of the ’50s and ’60s, similar to the one you see pictured here, were compromised in every imaginable way.

Yet somehow they still stand sonically and musically head and shoulders above virtually anything that has come after them, now that we have high quality equipment on which to play them

The music lives and breathes on those old LPs. When playing them you find yourself in the Living Presence of the musicians. You become lost in the music and the quality of the performance.

Whatever the limitations of the medium, they seem to fade quickly from consciousness. What remains is the rapture of the musical experience.

That’s what happens when a good record meets a good turntable.


Getting It Right When There’s Money on the Line

Another entry in a series of commentaries that fall under the heading of The Big Picture.

John Stossel wrote a piece about prediction markets shortly after the 2022 midterms, explaining why prediction markets are still a good thing even though many of the predictions that were made there for the election did not come true. His take:

Bettors [may be wrong, but] at least adjust their predictions quickly.

Last night, while clods on TV still said “Democrats and Republicans battle for control of the House (CBS),” those of us who follow the betting already knew that Republicans would win the House.

Historically, bettors have a great track record. Across 730 candidate chances we’ve tracked, when something is expected to happen 70% of the time, it actually happens about 70% of the time.

That’s because people with money on the line try harder than pundits to be right.

As you can imagine, this last line was music to my ears.

We’ve built our record business on the fact that we have the experience, the expertise and the staff needed to find the best sounding pressings of many of the most important recordings of all time, from Dark Side of the Moon to Kind of Blue and everything in between.

And, as everyone knows, we charge a premium price for our Hot Stamper pressings, often ten and twenty times their “market value.” This has been known to upset some people.

But can we charge more than our customers are willing to pay and still be in business after 35 years?

Some people must think they are getting their money’s worth, at least, that’s what some of them tell us.

We have to back up our opinions and our descriptions with actual records that deliver the sound we say they will, or we would have gone out of business a long time ago. You can fool some of the people all of the time, etc., etc.


This is in sharp contrast to the audiophile reviewers who tout one new record after another with no guarantee whatsoever that you will find anything like the superior sound they spent an endless number of words describing when you finally get the record on your turntable.

Where do you go to get your money back when the record doesn’t have the sound they told you it would have?

If it’s heavy vinyl, there is nowhere for you to go.

If it’s a Hot Stamper, you send it back to us and we refund your money.

We have to be right almost all of the time if we are going to be successful in the record business. We charge a substantial premium for records that look very much like other pressings, with little in the way of collector value. If we were wrong more than a small fraction of the time, buyers would quickly tire of the hassle of returning our records.


Why You Won’t Hear What You Don’t Want to Hear

More Entries in Our Critical Thinking Series

It’s because of a well documented cognitive error known as Confirmation Bias.

Wikipedia sums it up this way:

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing attitudes. The effect is strongest for desired outcomes, for emotionally charged issues, and for deeply entrenched beliefs. Confirmation bias cannot be eliminated entirely, but it can be managed, for example, by education and training in critical thinking skills.

But hold on just a minute: What about us? Aren’t we as susceptible to this particular critical thinking error as anyone else?

Of course we are. But that’s where our famous Hot Stamper Shootouts come in. They are the only way we manage to (almost) always stay on the straight and narrow.

By regularly revisiting the same records over and over again under blind testing conditions, playing the best recently acquired copies against our reference pressings, and doing so sometimes more than once a year, we make sure our results are as correct as they can possibly be.

We’ve discussed this issue in depth on our site. The commentary below gets at most of it:

After doing our first shootout for this album a few years back, I can honestly say I had never heard this music sound remotely as good as it did on the best Hot Stamper pressings we played. More importantly, from an audiophile point of view, I can honestly say that I never imagined it could sound as good as I was hearing it. The sound was just OUT OF THIS WORLD.

It’s why we link the Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary to so many of our Hot Stamper listings. The changes we discuss are precisely what make it possible for any audiophile (this means you) to hear better sound than they ever imagined on all their favorite albums.

All you have to do is do all the stuff we do.

Let’s Face Facts

Hot Stampers simply do not exist for most audiophiles.

Most audiophiles don’t have the system (power, equipment, room, tweaks) to bring them to life.

Or the listening skills to recognize a Hot Stamper pressing were they to encounter one.

The most damning evidence? Most analog-oriented audiophiles are quite happy with the sound of Heavy Vinyl LPs, the kind that we regularly trash around here. Those records set a decidedly low standard for sound quality, to our ears anyway, so if the typical audiophile is happy with them, what does that tell you about his audio chain and his critical listening skills?

Rock Your Own Boat

Our Hot Stampers will of course still sound quite a bit better on even a run-of-the-mill audiophile system than any Heavy Vinyl pressing you care to name, but if you’re happy with a $30 reissue, what’s your incentive to spend five or ten or twenty times that amount, based on nothing more than my say-so? Even with a 100% Money Back Guarantee, why rock your own boat?

On the site we take great pains to make it clear that there are many ways that an audiophile — even a novice — can prove to himself that what we say about pressing variations is true, using records he already owns. You don’t have to spend a dime to discover the reality underlying the concept of Hot Stampers.

So-Called Skeptics

But perhaps you may have noticed, as I have, that most audio skeptics do not go out of their way to prove themselves wrong. And a little something psychologists and cognitive scientists call Confirmation Bias practically guarantees that you can’t hear something you don’t want to hear.

Which is all well and good. At Better Records we don’t let that slow us down. Instead we happily go about our business Turning Skeptics Into Believers (one record at a time of course), taking a few moments out to debunk the hell out of practically any audiophile LP we run into, for sport if for no other reason.

(They’re usually so bad it’s actually fun to hear how screwy they sound when played back correctly. Who knows — on a ’70s-era Technics turntable running into a Japanese receiver they might sound great. When we buy old audiophile collections, that’s often the sort of table we find collecting dust along with the vinyl. Might be just the system you need to get them to sound their “best.”)