Top Artists – Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin – Presence – Classic Records Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

This was one of only three Classic Records 180 (later 200) gram titles that I used to recommend back in the day.

Now when I play the heavy vinyl pressing I find the subtleties of both the music and the sound that I expect to hear have simply gone missing. These days the Classic just sounds second-rate compared to the real thing. You can adjust the VTA of your rig until you’re blue in the face, you’ll never get the Classic to sound better than passable.

The average original pressing is better, and that means Classic’s version deserves a sub-standard grade of D. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Breakfast In America and Led Zeppelin IV

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,  

You don’t need any more adulation; you know I am a fan. I just had to send you a note to share an audio phenomena I am experiencing. I recently got Supertramp Breakfast In America 3+ / 3+ and now Zeppelin IV 2.5+ / 3+. These were albums that were always average for me and I previously got copies just to have in the collection. The White Hot Stampers, however, opened up a completely different listening experience. Holy smokes, these albums are really, really good; until I got the WHS’s I just could not hear them. Probably, more accurately, lesser albums were harsh and not engaging. Once you hear copies like these anything less becomes unlistenable. These albums really rock, long live White Hot Stampers! (more…)

Led Zeppelin – II – New Heavy Vinyl Discussed

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Sonic Grade: ?

Can’t give it one, we never played it.

Instead we would like to reprint some of the more interesting observations made by a well known writer concerning the sound of the Heavy Vinyl pressing in question. They are in no particular order and clearly taken out of context — we’re not even providing the reference to the specific songs under discussion. Some you can guess; as for the rest, what difference, at this point, does it really make?

Zep II – With Trees This Ugly, Would You Give the Forest a Good Grade?

Allow us to present: The Trees

the spatial presentation seemed meek

individual cymbal hits in that psychedelic break lacked sparkle

instead of an interruption eruption the changeover was anything but abrupt

overall musical intent wasn’t being fully communicated

spatially mashed together and lacking in detail delineation

You can barely make out the flanging effects on Plant’s voice

should send shivers but just doesn’t

The bass line was homogenized and the attack softened

Textures sounded bland

Microdynamic gestures—very familiar ones—seemed to have been lost

The album’s grit and edge seemed worn down

Page’s guitars… are homogenized

small dynamic differences that communicate intent blend into one level, quelling musical excitement

These are not my words, but I certainly recognize the feeling that must have prompted their writing. It’s the same feeling I have after playing most of the Heavy Vinyl records I’ve auditioned over the past few years, regardless of make or model. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Houses of the Holy

Houses of the Holy

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

The domestic copy you sent me of Houses of the Holy trashed my UK pressing. Side 1 is so engaging. What a difference a good Stamper makes; to be engaged by the music not just entertained. Thanks again.

Mark H.

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti on Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Tonally correct, which is one thing you can’t say for most of the Zeps in this series, that’s for sure. Those of you with crappy domestic copies, crappy imported reissues and crappy CDs, which is pretty much all there is of this recording, will not know what you’re missing.

Compare this title to some of the better Classic Zep releases and I expect you will notice that hearing into the midrange is a more difficult proposition on these songs, with reduced ambience and space around the voices and instruments.

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY. (more…)

Letter of the Week – My Aim Is True, Led Zeppelin II, The Original Soundtrack, Deja Vu and Chicago Transit Authority

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Story for you — last Saturday evening, a designer of a new world-famous tonearm, the owner of an elite high-end audio salon in California and I met for dinner with a well-known reviewer for one of the big audiophile rags, then went back to one of their houses to listen to records I had been asked to bring. About 90% of the two dozen records I had selected were White Hot Stamper versions of classic rock staples.

For the next three hours, I spun disc after disc, to their delight. Particular faves included Elvis Costello’s “My Aim Is True,” LedZeppelin II, 10CC’s “The Original Soundtrack,” CSNY’s “Deja Vu,” and Chicago’s first LP.

Bill (more…)

Letter of the Week – London Calling, Led Zeppelin and Chicago

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Thanks so much for London Calling. Despite having a fair few brilliant records with magic ability to release prodigious amounts of energy (Led Zeppelin, Chicago, BST etc.) I was blown away by the energy captured on this double set and I never thought it would sound soooo good sonically.

I was living in London from 1978 and remember well what a noise this album made. I had it on double cassette and played it constantly, never bought the vinyl at the time but did buy the CD later. I never got the same buzz from the CD and to be honest they didn’t really sound all that good which I put down to the recording. One of my mates at the time was Nick Simonon, the bass player’s younger brother, so I knew they could play really well when they wanted to.

You get to thinking that you’re just getting old and things like London Calling were heard through the heightened emotions of youth and, well, sex and drugs and rock and roll as Mr Dury said. The absolutely brilliant, and I imagine rare, White Hot Stamper has put paid to that, witness a 58 year old singing badly at the top of his lungs as he pogos around the living room! (more…)

Letter of the Week – Tapestry, Sergio Mendes, Led Zeppelin and Katy Lied

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Listening to my very first Hot Stamper purchase was by far the most significant event in my life as an audiophile. I discovered the Better Records website way back in 2007, but being a hardcore skeptic I didn’t purchase anything until almost two years later. Although I agreed with the premise that different pressings have varying degrees of sound quality, I simply could not believe that any record could sound so much better to justify the prices. Frankly, I thought that the buyers of these records were folks with more money than sense.

What finally drove me to purchase my first Hot Stamper was my attempt to find a decent copy of Carole King’s Tapestry album. I had decided to try the Better Records approach and gathered half a dozen copies, as well as the Classic heavy vinyl reissue that I had read good things about. Talk about an exercise in futility. Despite a thorough cleaning with Disc Doctor, no copy sounded significantly better than any of the others. However, Better Records just happened have a 1+ copy of Tapestry on sale for $75 at the time, so I decided to take the plunge and buy it, even though I still thought the price was outrageous.

What followed next absolutely stunned and amazed me. Although I was prepared to shoot out the Hot Stamper against my own copies, I knew within the first minute of play that it would be totally unnecessary. The Hot Stamper sounded like a completely different recording. I cannot stress this enough. Everything sounded much, much more lifelike and REAL, as if I was listening to the performance inside the recording studio, instead of sitting outside hearing it through the walls. Of particular note was the fact that I could hear the personality in Ms. King’s voice, with all the attendant subtle inflections and timbre; she sounded like a real person, not just a recording of one. The $75 price was suddenly transformed into a real bargain, and the skeptic in me died completely. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Led Zeppelin III

One of our good customers had this to say about a Hot Stamper he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Today I opened up a box of records I just bought from you and your staff at Better Records and in it was a copy of Led Zeppelin 3 with an A++ – A+++ side one. I’ve read so many of your testimonial letters with customers gushing over records they’ve bought from you and having bought quite a few now myself I can understand their enthusiasm. But WOW! What a record! My head nearly exploded playing side 1!

And what a great example of a record where proper mastering makes a ENORMOUS difference. Thank you!


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Letter of the Week – What Were Once Vices, Countdown to Ecstasy, Tapestry, Sweet Baby James, McCartney, Houses of the Holy and The Nightfly

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

As a new comer to your business, and to the entire concept of “Hot Stamper” records, I was naturally skeptical. Many of us have invested in a wide variety of vinyl that simple failed to live up to expectations. Initially I was going to order one and only one record from you, and test your bold promises. Instead, I ended up ordering a nice variety to truly put it to the test… investing a couple thousand dollars on faith. In short, I am now your customer for life.

As a point of reference, my system includes a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia powered by 2 mono-block McIntosh tube Amps and a Mc-tube preamp. Most importantly, a Brinkmann mag drive turntable with a Sumiko low output moving coil cartridge. So, not the world’s best system, but enough to discern what is to follow.

I ordered the following:
* Carole King Tapestry, ((White Hot Pressing)
* The Doobie Brothers, What Were Once Vices (White Hot Pressing)
* James Taylor, Sweet Baby James (White Hot Pressing)
* Paul McCartney, McCartney (Super Hot Pressing)
* Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Steely Dan, Countdown to Ecstasy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Donald Fagen, The Nightfly (White Hot Pressing)

I warmed up my amps with the tuner for an hour or so and then sat and listened to some of my other records and reacquainted myself with the music from my system. First up was “What Were Once Vices…”. It was immediately apparent that I was getting a range as wide, if not wider than anything I had ever heard from my stereo. Then when I got to the last song on side one, “Road Angel” the guitar and drum interplay in the instrumental jam completely blew me away. Midway through I took the volume from loud to louder, and it exposed nothing but pure, sweet rock and roll. Literally gave me goose bumps.

I then listened to “Countdown to Ecstasy” and in this instance I owe a clean original copy, so I put it to the test. Back to back. I did not have to go past “Bodhisattva” to know it was no-contest. If I had to apply a percentage, something like 20% more music comes from the Hot Stamper, and this (like all of my orders) is one of my all time favorite albums. (more…)