Top Artists – Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills – Manassas – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame. 

Our first Hot Stamper shootout for Manassas produced a number of good sounding sides on the original pressings, but we held back our highest sonic grade because even the best of the best still had problems. Most copies we played were a disaster: grungy, veiled, no real top end, grainy, stuck in the speakers, tubby bass — these and other problems were all too common. When a double album sounds like this it makes for a very long day.

After playing four or five bad sounding copies we almost threw in the towel. Everyone kept asking me: Does this record ever sound good?

I said I thought it did, I thought I heard a good copy or two when we listened to them in our preliminary rounds, but hey, maybe I was wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

But then a copy like this one came along, and we got down to the serious business of going through them all, trying to find the few that had the qualities this one did.

What were we listening for exactly? An absence of all the bad qualities mentioned above would be the easiest answer. Once you find a copy without the nasty grit and the grain so many of them have you quickly start to key into the lovely ambience that the best copies have, you start to notice the tubey magic, the richness and sweetness, the extension up top, the kind of transparency that lets you hear into the soundfield and pick out all the players — pretty much the same kinds of things you’re always looking for in a Hot Stamper pressing, except in this case you just had to be willing to look a whole lot harder. (more…)

Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame. 

TWO YEARS LATER, Stephen Stills Hot Stampers are BACK! We’ve had an unbelievably hard time finding copies of this album that lived up to our expectations, prompting much of my crew to argue that it just could not be done. Folks, today is the day where the Doubting Thomases of Better Records are proven WRONG. We didn’t find copies that sounded just as good as I remembered — no, we found copies that went BEYOND what I had hoped for. To the CSN(Y) fans who visit our site, and I know there are lots of you, prepare to be BLOWN AWAY. You are going to freak out over this record!

It’s Been A Struggle To Bring You This Hot Stamper

Many copies of this album tend to be a bit aggressive, with a hard and unpleasant midrange. We’ve been trying to get this shootout going for ages, but it’s taken us a LONG time to find enough copies that had even a taste of the kind of sound we hoped for. I began to worry that I’d never again hear the kind of sound that I was certain I remembered loving back in the day.

Tubey Magical Analog Sound

They sure don’t record music that sounds like this anymore, and even if they did I doubt they could press a record that sounds this good.

Side one is amazingly rich and full-bodied. It’s also incredibly transparent, with lots of separation between the parts. That alone sets it apart from 9 out of 10 copies that we audition around here, which tend to be murky, thick, and veiled. The overall sound here is airy, open, and spacious, with TONS of ambience. Check out the sound of the big organ solo on Love The One You’re With — you can really hear the air moving through the instrument. That’s what a Hot Stamper is all about!

And that’s not even the half of it. Listen to all the texture to the strings, the warmth to the midrange, and the breath in the vocals. The bottom end is well-defined and has substantial weight to it, something you won’t hear on most copies. We’ll keep trying to find those Hot Deja Vu’s, but in the meantime, you CSN fans should consider tiding yourselves over with one of these Stephen Stills Hot Stampers. We guarantee you’ll love it, or your money back of course. (more…)

Bloomfield-Kooper-Stills – Super Session – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More Al Kooper / More Stephen Stills

More Super Session

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Man’s Temptation, track 3 on side one, has got some seriously bright EQ happening (reminiscent of the first BS&T album), so if that song even sounds tolerable in the midrange you are doing better than expected.

Clean Cutting

What you get with this copy is some of the most transparent, lowest distortion, cleanest cutting we’ve ever heard. This copy is high-rez like you will not believe, with an unusually extended top end on both sides.

Turn It Up

Most copies are far too bright and phony sounding to turn up loud; the distortion and grit are just too much at higher volumes. On a copy like this, with more correct tonality and an overall freedom from distortion, you can TURN IT UP and LET IT ROCK.

Season of the Witch sounds amazing at loud levels on this copy, with its big build-ups and quiet breakdowns. It is nothing less than a thrill to just let it blast away at the levels we were listening at. The band is RIGHT THERE.

Side One

A++, big and clear with absolutely ZERO smear! The bass is solid and tight, and there’s more transparency here than on the typical pressing. So good!

Side Two

We awarded this side a rare A++++ grade, reserved for the kind of sound that makes us completely rethink the possibilities of a recording! Super spacious and three-dimensional with an amazingly extended top end, this absolutely blew away everything else in our shootout. Rich and Tubey Magical with incredible energy and no smear at all, this is doing everything we want it to. AMAZING! (more…)

Bloomfield / Kooper / Stills – Super Session – A MoFi Winner

More Super Session

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

Super Session is one of the best-sounding MoFi pressings. The midrange sounds wonderful — silky sweet and transparent. Not having been cut by Stan Ricker, the top end doesn’t have that SR/2 boost. Overall it’s a very nice sounding record, and the music just can’t be beat. 

Stephen Stills – Bill Halverson’s Engineering Masterpiece?

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

When all the elements are working together as they do here, the music on Steve Stills’ first album is postively AMAZING. Until I hear something better, I’m going to have to call this BILL HALVERSON‘s Engineering Masterpiece.* Yes, on the best copies it’s that good.

*We have now heard something even better, an album from earlier in the same year in fact, Deja Vu.

We’ve had an unbelievably hard time finding copies that lived up to our expectations, prompting much of my crew to argue that it just could not be done. We didn’t find copies that sounded just as good as I remembered — no, we found copies that went BEYOND what I had hoped for.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Both sides are rich and full-bodied, as well as transparent, with lots of separation between the parts. Most copies tend to be murky, thick, and veiled. The overall sound here is airy, open, and spacious, with TONS of ambience. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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More Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fam

This is the first White Hot Stamper pressing of Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled LP to ever hit the site, and folks, you are in for shock if you know this album at all. Although for the most part this is no Demo Disc, this super-rare pressing is SO MUCH BETTER than any other version we know of that it just blows our minds. I had my mind blown about ten years ago when I found my first one, and nothing has changed. It’s still the best pressing ever. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Again – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame

This original Plum and Tan Atco label Hot Stamper pressing has TWO AMAZING SIDES and fairly quiet vinyl. A Double Plus (A++) Sound and Mint Minus vinyl makes the copy the Black Swan of this shootout, that’s for sure.

You have never heard a better pressing of what many consider to be Buffalo Springfield’s Masterpiece, Buffalo Springfield Again. We guarantee this copy will blow your mind or your money back! Only one side of one copy had better sound, and that one was noticeably noisier, so we crowning this one King of the Buffalo Springfield Again Shootout for 2007.

This album, like all of Buffalo Springfield’s recordings, has always been a tough nut to crack. We’ve never even attempted a shootout for the first album or Last Time Around, although I do know Hot Stampers for both. Watch for them in the coming months. [Since done, multiple times.]

So many copies of Again sound so bad and play so noisy that most audiophile record lovers probably had written it off many years ago as a lost cause. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Listening for Tubey Magic Down Low

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More Last Time Around

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On even the best copies there’s a bit too much Tubey Magic in the bass I regret to say. Tubbiness and bloat were par for the course. This may explain why so many copies have rolled off bass; the engineer cut the bass because he heard how tubby it was and figured no bass is better than bad bass. 

Which is just not true. Cutting the bass leans out and “modernizes” the sound, making the voices sound thin and dry. This pretty much ruins everything on this album just the way it ruins everything in practically every modern recording I hear. Having your bass under control on the playback side isn’t easy — in fact it’s probably the hardest thing to achieve in audio — but it can be done, and with good bass control the slightly wooly bass is just part of the sound you learn to accept.

It doesn’t actually interfere much with your enjoyment of the music, mostly because all the other instruments and voices sounds so magical. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – 4 Way Street

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this copy will let you do it. It’s not easy to find good sound on even one side of this album, let alone all four!

Three Shootout Winning White Hot Stamper sides out of four! These three sides handily blow other copies out of the water, with the size, space, presence and energy that only the finest pressings are capable of. If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this is the only copy that will let you do it. No other copy we’ve ever played rocked the way this one rocked! For three quarters of the “concert”, YOU ARE THERE. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield

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More Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield

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  • Only the first copy to hit the site in years and boy was it worth the wait — superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Both sides here are big, full-bodied and present with plenty of extension on both ends
  • 4 stars on Allmusic: “… this debut sounds pretty great, featuring some of their most melodic and accomplished songwriting and harmonies, delivered with a hard-rocking punch… The entire album bursts with thrilling guitar and vocal interplay, with a bright exuberance that would tone down considerably by their second record.”

For whatever reason all the mastering engineers who cut this first album rarely managed to put any real top or bottom on the record. Why I can’t imagine. Highs and lows are on the tape; the best pressings prove it.

Listen for Tubey Magic, richness, bottom end, presence and freedom from distortion. The more copies you have tried in the past, the more astonishing the sound of this copy will be to you. (more…)