Aaron has been trying to help his audiophile friends learn the differences between good records and Heavy Vinyl records. This first story concerns Chuck, who sold Aaron the VPI table you see pictured. Aaron writes:
Chuck’s a real record guy. I played him some hot stampers, alongside the same record in heavy vinyl format.
First up was Rumours – white hot up against the Hoffman 45 mastering. He wanted to hear “you make loving fun,” so we did. The drums on the Hoffman are more prominent, and they grab you right away. Way out of balance to my taste. He said, “Hoffman’s done a great job with the drums. But it comes at the expense of Christine’s voice. That’s okay, I never loved her as a singer anyway.”
Next I busted out my holy grail, and played him my Zep 2 WHS. Followed up by the Jimmy Page remastering. The latter is indeed a decent record, Tom, as you say. But the clarity on the drums is superior on the Ludwig. [Clarity is not the word I would have chosen, but that’s another story for another day.]
As Chuck put it, “I never thought of this as a vocal record.” Plant’s voice just has so much more emotion on the hot stamper than on the Page version. He said, “the Page version takes out some of the humanity.” I totally agreed with that. Chuck was amazed that you were able to find and sell me a RL copy with such clean vinyl. I took the record off the table and showed it to him – he was amazed to see how scuffed it looked. It’d grade VG at best visually, but man does it play clean.
So, record after record, Chuck could hear what the hot stampers were doing. And, no doubt, the VPI table is making the hot stampers sound better, and in comparison, the heavy vinyl sounds even duller.
That said, this turntable is so much more revealing than my Clearaudio was, that there is always something delightful to listen to on my heavy vinyl records. They don’t sound worse, they sound better than they used to. It’s just that the gap between them and the hot stampers is only continuing to grow wider.
So, my man Chuck, who sold me his VPI turntable, saw the light. But then he shielded his eyes from it. Even though Chuck’s got a stack of 25 benjamins in his hand right now, I don’t think any of that is headed your way, Tom.
Aaron followed up this letter with one about another friend, Bill, who is now, with Aaron’s help, building his first great stereo. Aaron brought along a killer copy of Clap Hands in order to judge the speakers they would be auditioning in various audio salons. When Ella finally sounded right, that was it.
Bill closed the deal on the spot, and we retired to his home to sip some Japanese whiskey and listen to some music. As we chatted, he asked me more about the copy of Rumours I had played for him at my house last week.
It had made him bury his face in his hands and declare, “money can’t buy that sound.”
When he reminded me of how moved he was by what he heard in my listening room, and feeling loosened up by the whiskey, I confessed to him that, in fact, money CAN buy that sound. Just, a whole lot of money. Sure enough, a WHS of Rumours was available on your site, and he bought it without hesitation.
No turntable, buying hot stampers.
I wonder if you’ve ever had another customer who doesn’t own a turntable buy a white hot stamper from you? It’s actually a really good move. I’m now firmly of the opinion that anybody shopping for a stereo should bring along a hot stamper. Pick a favorite album, and buy a hot stamper to bring with you as you listen to equipment. Even if you don’t own a turntable, a hot stamper is going to reveal the character of the equipment you demo, in a way that no streaming or demo CD can do. The price of a hot stamper is small in the context of helping you to avoid making a bad stereo purchase.
I’m firmly of that opinion too: buy more Hot Stampers!
In order to judge equipment, you must have a record that is right, and one of our killer copies of Rumours is going to be right in ways that few other records are. We even advise you on what to listen for on practically every track on the album here.
I hope that when Bill finally gets a turntable that our Rumours sounds good on it. Judging equipment or turntable setup solely with female vocals — even vocals as good as Ella’s — is not something we recommend, a subject we discussed in some detail here.
Pay special attention to: the sound of the snare.
When the snare is fat and solid and present, with a good “slap” to the sound, you have a copy with weight, presence, transparency, energy — all the stuff we ADORE about the sound of the best copies of Rumours.
Next time you are on the hunt for new speakers, see which ones can really rock the snare on Dreams. That’s probably going to be the speaker that can do justice to the entire Rumours album, as well as anything by The Beatles, and Neil Young’s Zuma, and lots of other favorite records of ours, and we expect favorites of yours too.
Years ago I played it for a small group of music lovers to demonstrate — to those whose minds were open enough to hear it — that the real Ken Perry-mastered Rumours pressings just cannot be beat.
Let me know how Bill’s pursuit of better sound goes. With you to guide him, he has a good friend and a real ace in the hole.
And Robert Brook can help too. He has written a great deal about his quest to improve his system, room, setup and all the rest. He has approached the various problems he’s encountered scientifically, methodically and carefully, along these three fronts:
- Improving his equipment,
- Teaching himself how to do a better job of dialing in his turntable setup, and
- Learning how to do rigorous shootouts for his favorite albums.
Aaron, as always, thanks for your letter and keep up the good work!