Top Artists – The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Tattoo You


A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

THE BEST SIDE TWO WE’VE HEARD, which means we’ve never heard Waiting On A Friend sound this good on any other copy! We just finished a huge shootout for this 1981 Stones album, one that the All Music Guide tags as “essential latter-day Stones”. In the tradition of other late ’70s / early ’80s Stones albums (Some Girls, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock And Roll), the sound is a bit raw at times, but a copy like this one gives you enough energy, body and richness to make for some very enjoyable serious listening.

Side one is big and rich, with more “meat on the bones” as we like to say. The guitars are chunky and powerful, which exactly the sound you want for a song like Start Me Up, which leads things off here. This side one had more extension up top than most copies and more size to the soundfield as well. It doesn’t have all of the presence of the very best copies, but it’s certainly a nice step up from most.

Side two is even better, doing everything side one did and then some, impressing us enough to earn our top A+++ grade. The sound is super clean and clear with amazing immediacy, putting Mick Jagger’s vocals right up front where they belong. It’s also very open, spacious and transparent — qualities that we certainly wouldn’t ascribe to most copies we’ve played. The piano has real weight, the guitars sound just right and the overall sound is usually rich and full.

As with any Stones album, don’t expect any sonic miracles. Hot Stampers aren’t going to turn this into Tea For The Tillerman. If you want to hear an amazing sounding Demo Quality record, this ain’t it, but if you love this music and are frustrated with the sound of the typical pressing I bet you’ll enjoy the heck outta this one. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue

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Black and Blue


  • Incredible sound throughout with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • Hand Of Fate on side one sounds particularly good – it has the meaty Glyn Johns sound we love
  • A full-bodied, solid copy like this lets you appreciate Billy Preston’s contributions on the keys – he’s all over the album, a very good thing indeed
  • “Melody ought to be a tentative experiment with Billy Preston’s jazzy keyboard sound. Instead, it’s a triumph, Jagger’s voice swooping and snaking around Preston’s piano and harmonies.”

This is in fact one of the better sounding “later period” (1976) Stones records we’ve played, that’s if we’re talking about the better copies of course, like this one. The best pressings are big, open, dynamic and full-bodied, with exceptionally lively percussion. As always, credit goes to the recording engineers, Glyn Johns et al., as well as Lee Hulko at Sterling, the original mastering engineer (who’s cut about as many good sounding records as anyone we can think of). (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue – The Stones Album You Don’t Know

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Emotional Rescue


A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and one of the better late-period Stones albums, in this case from 1980. 

Side two of this copy ranks up there with the very best we’ve ever heard, earning an A+++ grade and DESTROYING our preconceived notions about the kind of sonics we might get from the ultimate copies. This one DOES IT, plain and simple. It’s got serious punch down low, superb clarity, all the extension up top, and a HUGE open soundfield that lets you hear every last detail. She’s So Cold sounds amazing, we’ve never heard it sound better.

We had a great time shooting this one out — we had forgotten how good the music was and were pleasantly surprised by how good the better copies can sound. It’s tough to get great Stones sound, I’m sure most of you know that, but there’s lots of it here and a bunch of good songs. She’s So Cold, Summer Romance, Dance, the title track… not a bad line-up, and probably the last great album these guys put out. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – A MoFi Disaster to Beat Them All – Now With Video

If you click on the heading you can read some of the silly comments people are making about this awful pressing, one of the worst sounding versions of Sticky Fingers ever committed to vinyl. When you stop to consider how awful most pressings are compared to the only version that actually has ever sounded good to us, the original domestic LP,  that’s really saying something.

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a joke. It’s so compressed, lifeless, and lacking in bottom end that it would hardly interfere with even the most polite conversation at a wine tasting. I consider it one of the worst sounding versions ot the album ever made. It’s an Audiophile Record in the worst sense of the word.

A well-known reviewer actually — I kid you not — was still defending the sound of the MoFi as late as 2010. In one of his reviews earlier in 2008 he used it to test a piece of equipment he was evaluating(!). What could be more preposterous? Like I say, I kid you not.

In 2010 he wrote this:

Mo-Fi’s half-speed mastered edition (MFSL 1-060) was controversial when issued in 1980, with its jacked up lower bass, icy top end, sucked out midrange and low overall level. I’ll tell you though, as my system has improved, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. It offers outstanding focus and clarity and its portrayal of inner detail and transient snap is unsurpassed. Admittedly the sound is not for everybody.

It’s not for me, that’s for damn sure.


The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones

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The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones


  • You’ll find outstanding Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on this vintage pressing of The Stones’ 1964 release
  • Both sides of this Red Label British Decca Mono are doing it right – they’re big, rich and spacious with a huge bottom end
  • This is the real, honest sound of the early, early Stones – it is what it is, and trying to fix it will almost surely ruin what’s good about it
  • “Set against the dependency on covers and the inexperienced vocalist, however, is a truly cooking and imaginative band. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman provide a brawny frame for the intermeshing guitars of Richards and Brian Jones as the ensemble lovingly deliver some of their favourite shots of rhythm ‘n’ blues.” – BBC

The best word I could use to sum up both the sound and the music on this record is HONEST. If you want to hear how early Rolling Stones records sound when they sound right, this is the ticket. This is the real sound of the early, early Stones.

Probably what any modern engineer would want to do to the album would only end up making it worse. It is what it is and that’s good enough for us. Since the tapes are now more than 60 years old, no modern reissue will sound remotely as good as this one.

The Stones wanted their stuff to sound like the old Blues albums they grew up on and revered, and with that sound in mind you can’t argue that they didn’t succeed here. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – No. 2

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No. 2


  • This vintage Decca pressing has outstanding sound – both sides did very well in our recent shootout, earning Double Plus (A++) grades and playing fairly quietly
  • This Mono pressing (made from the mono tapes) will show you the real, honest sound of the early, early Stones 
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “…[No. 2 includes] one of the group’s best blues covers, their version of Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” which wasn’t released in America until 1973 and features some killer slide playing by Brian Jones.”

This vintage UK Decca mono pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Let It Bleed and Visions of the Emerald Beyond

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

Hey Tom, 

This LET IT BLEED is a gorgeous monster. Everything just jumps off the page, so to speak. I have been listening to a first pressing Decca, which I have owned for years, but your copy made it sound egregiously insipid. As I kept turning up the volume, the room seemed to be nodding its head and egging me on to keep increasing it. I never reached the point where too much was too much. Great copy.

The Mahavishnu EMERALD was brilliant. It brought out all the exciting dimensions of my system. The exquisite strings floated above the musical melee which tattooed its obligato deliriously across its raucous underbelly. The sound reached out like tongues of flame making the speakers completely disappear in their rocking wake. This is an amazing record that projects and dances the music in every direction and then some. Everything is alive. So completely alive. A real treat. A great recording that tells me my system is completely responsive. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Axis: Bold As Love “What a mind-blowing experience!”

Axis: Bold As Love

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

Hey Tom,    

Well, you found another INCREDIBLE Hot Stamper with “Axis: Bold as Love.” What a mind-blowing experience! This was at least my fifth copy of this album and it shamed all other sad sacks I had bought. I really don’t know how you do it, but I’m infinitely grateful that you do. The notion of a “great sounding Hendrix album” almost sounds like an oxy moron, but again you struck sonic gold and unearthed one of those rare few that offer a deeply satisfying listening experience – to put it mildly!

My appreciation for Hendrix’s towering musical achievements has doubled, maybe even tripled, from hearing this Hot Stamper. That’s quite a feat for an artist I already considered to be one of the best ever! All this because of those magical Hot Stamper grooves. This goes to show what a difference amazing sound can have on the ability to appreciate an album or artist.

Oh, and I once owned a copy of the abysmal Classic pressing. Among its many other failings is the decision to re-release it in mono. Mono!? “Axis” is one of the creative examples of stereo mixing known to man! Reducing this album to mono is a travesty, but I guess that didn’t bother Classic Records.

Anyhow, keep ’em coming, Tom! You indeed sell the best sounding records in the world.

Dan L.

The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock N’ Roll

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It’s Only Rock N’ Roll


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

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll is no slouch if you get hold of a good one. It can be a bit gritty and grainy at times, but you gotta believe that’s the sound the Stones heard in the booth and were totally cool with. Andy Johns engineered and he’s made as many super-tubey, super-rich and super-smooth recordings as anybody this side of Bill Porter. 

The Stones didn’t want that sound this time around. The Stones wanted this sound.

This album may have some of The Rolling Stones best music on it, but those looking for the best sounding Stones album should look in the direction of Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed. They’re simply better recordings. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Exile On Main Street

Exile On Main Street

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

Hey Tom,   

Wow! this copy of Exile on MS is amazing! it sounded fantastic before my amps even were warm. The drums sound like they are in the same room as the room with the microphone; the horns sound like……. well like… horns. The copy I had before was brand new and sucked. This $350 copy is worth the dough and I am surprised. I am tempted to stop buying vinyl at all unless it has been pre-tested by your team (this will be tough). I had NO IDEA there was this much difference between copies.

Brian S.