Top Artists – Led Zeppelin

Letter of the Week – “The most expensive record I ever bought but well worth the dough!”

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

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

I will share with you guys a few more observations.

You will not be surprised to learn that the Led Zep 2 WHS leads the pack. The most expensive record I ever bought but well worth the dough!

Your description says it all: Freakishly good! Firmly trounced my early UK plum and my German RL (side 1) issues

No disapoimtments regarding the sound whatsoever with all others. One has to understand though that a 3/3 is an absolute judgement but a relative one (Bruce Springssteen comes to mind) but if one follows you long enough the prices asked for give a bit of indication so that‘s fine with me.

Christian ended his letter with these thoughts.

You made my life better with your records. I keep learning a lot from you following your site everyday now, enhanced my listening skills and sometimes detect now my own HS (just listening and comparing my two early UK Track Who Tommy inspired by your listing yesterday) and am amazed by the quality but also differences from side to side).



We are so happy to hear that we’ve made your life better with our records, who could ask for anything more?

It wasn’t hard for us to beat your UK and German pressings, the UK original is a joke next to the good RL pressings. I hope you had a chance to play our Hot Stamper against the Heavy Vinyl reissue. If you did, please let us know what you heard.

As for your copies of Tommy have side to side differences, we’ve been going on about that for three decades, but for some reason audiophiles and those who write for them never notice these things.

We are not aware of any audiophile reviewer who can play Big Rock Records the way we can play them, the way they should be played, a subject we discussed in this commentary.

Thanks for your letter,


Further Reading


Letter of the Week – “I wonder if you’ve ever had another customer who doesn’t own a turntable buy a white hot stamper from you?”

More of the Music of Fleetwood Mac

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

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.

When putting a speaker you want to purchase through its paces, you really need a basket of recordings. As a matter of fact, the song Dreams off of Rumours is actually a great test for speakers.

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:

Aaron, as always, thanks for your letter and keep up the good work!

Best, TP

Further Reading

Letter of the Week – “I now have twelve copies in total… eleven of them are useless.”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Led Zeppelin’s Albums Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin III

We love it when our customers take the time and make the effort to do their own shootouts, especially when we win, which is what happens about 99% of the time.

Hey Tom,   

I’ve really been enjoying the LPs that I’ve gotten from you. Especially the Led Zep 3 most recently. Mindboggingly good. My first copy of that record I got Christmas 1970, I now have twelve copies in total… eleven of them are useless.

Think of all the money wasted on bad pressings, which 98% of them are! If not bad, then certainly mediocre.

I want to thank you for this invaluable service. I tell my friends about your service but so far it falls on deaf ears.


If you want to convince them of the reality of Hot Stampers, play them that Zep III you bought. Ask them to bring over their best pressings and then blow that shit right out of the water. That ought to do it.

As I wrote to a customer not long ago, explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

Speaking of deaf ears…

Some folks don’t know what our records sound like and they apparently don’t want to know.

According to my reading of Schopenhauer, I believe the email you see on the left illustrates the first stage that truth must pass through.

All truth passes through three stages.

First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer

More on the subject of truth here.

Further Reading

Led Zeppelin IV – The First Two Tracks on Side One Are Key

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

We always have a great time doing Zep IV shootouts. It’s one of those all-too-rare cases where amazing music and amazing sonics potentially coexist on the same slab of vinyl. You just need to find the right slab and be able to clean it right, a proposition that turns out to be much harder than it might at first sound.

You probably know by now just how tough it is to find audiophile quality sonics on this album. Far too many copies just leave us cold. However, the best pressings, whether British or domestic, are so good, and so much fun at the loud volumes we play them at, that in the end it turns out to be worth all the time, trouble and expense it has taken to find them.

For the simple reason that the best copies ROCK, and it is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to.

If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, it’s quite possible that your neighbors are going to be very upset with you next time you play the album.

Side One

Black Dog

The key to both of the first two tracks is to find a copy with a solid bottom end. Next look for an extended top end, easily heard on all the splashing cymbals.

Now listen for a tonally correct Robert Plant.

The copies with lots of top will typically have him sounding too bright. The copies with little in the way of high frequency extension will have him sounding veiled and dull.

One out of ten copies (with potentially good stampers) will get all three right: the top, the bottom and his voice. When you hear it you know it immediately, but you sure do have to go through a lot of copies before you have much of a chance of hearing it.

Rock and Roll

“[Rock and Roll] was a little tough to record because with the hi-hat being so open and [Bonham] hitting it that hard it was difficult to control. But I managed somehow or another.”

Andy Johns

“The best copies prove once and for all that these are some of most up-front, lively and above all real sounding rock cymbals ever put on tape.”

Tom Port

Further Reading

Letter of the Week – “I break out into a cold sweat whenever I think about the fact that I was willing to shell out $2000 for one record.”

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

More on the Subject of Hot Stamper Pricing

One of our good customers had some questions about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. We’ve added an addendum to the bottom of his letter because it turns out he traded in his $2000 copy for a $2500 copy.

This Zeppelin 2 hot stamper is killing me, Tom. I love it. It’s not perfect, but it’s significantly better than almost any other copies I’ve heard. Enough that I’d stop my quest with this one, I really believe.

But, I break out into a cold sweat whenever I think about the fact that I was willing to shell out $2000 for one record. I never saw this coming. But then, I play it, I love it, and I can’t think of letting it go. (I rationalize the expenditure by reminding myself of all the ~$2000 audio purchases that bring me less joy than this one record does – headphones, cartridges, preamps, etc.)

It’s not like I’m a surgeon or a dentist – I’ve got a limit, and I’m past it. I’m inclined to keep it, but would you please help me conceptualize this? I have some questions maybe you won’t mind answering:

Is this the most expensive record you’ve ever sold?

I don’t recall any record selling for more than that, so yes, probably.

I actually think this thing might hold some of its value. This record in this condition might sell for $700+ on ebay or discogs, even if people can’t actually listen to it. I wonder what this record in this good shape will be selling for in ten years.

This copy might sell for $2000 today! I have seen them go for more than that. The right guy will pay it because it is unlike 90+% of the copies that come up for sale, which are groove-damaged, noisy and scratched.

Have you got “super hot stampers” or other white hots of Zep II on-hand to list?

If so, will the prices be significantly less than the $2K I just paid?

I don’t want to end up feeling even more buyer’s remorse if I felt like something nearly as good was available for significantly less…

There will probably never be a time when the price of that record comes down, unless you are talking about a copy with serious condition issues.

The prices we pay preclude any lowering of prices for good copies. If anything we are going to have to charge more, and that goes for all the big titles. Harvest? Used to be 500-600. Now? 800-1200. This is the world we live in now, and if we can’t charge those prices, we won’t do the shootouts and we won’t have copies to sell of those titles.

Hope all this keeps you from breaking out in a cold sweat.

Best, TP

Additional comments added by Aaron after reading this posting

Hi Tom,

Now that it’s been nearly two years since I bought my first Zeppelin 2 white hot stamper, I can assure you that you were right in encouraging me to keep it. If you divide down its cost by how many times I’ve played it, and the satisfaction it gives me, it is fully worth it. And, I’ve probably still got ten more years of good hearing left in me, and I can’t imagine ever tiring of this record. Not just that, it is a truly special record, and I’ve successfully built an entire system around the goal of playing it back well.

It’s actually worse than the post’s title would suggest. I actually moved on from that first $2000 purchase (a [redacted] pressing) to a $2500 [redacted] pressing last December.

That one record is the gem of my whole collection, and I am so glad I own it. I have a couple other records whose sound impresses nearly as much, but for the combination of music and sound, this one takes the cake. So I believe I am still tied for the title of having purchased the most expensive record you’ve ever sold – a dubious distinction, for sure. That’s all good by me, your records are a fantastic value in my opinion.

I still can’t believe how much I spent on a single record. But, to put it in context, just today my local hi-fi shop sent out their fall sale spectacular flyer. I see that I could spend $2500 to buy a used McIntosh amp that would make all of my records sound bad. So, in my world, that Zep 2 purchase was money spectacularly well spent…



Our world too!

Further Reading

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti on Classic Records

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Led Zeppelin

Sonic Grade: D

An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Rock LP badly mastered for the benefit of audiophiles looking for easy answers and quick fixes.

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 make up the bulk of offerings available for this recording, probably do not know what you’re missing.

What’s Lost

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

Modern records are just so damn opaque. We can’t stand that sound. It drives us crazy. Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a group — including those that pass themselves off as champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.

It is our contention that almost no one alive today is capable of making records that sound as good as the vintage ones we sell.

Once you hear a Hot Stamper pressing, those 180 gram records you own may never sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we are in the enviable position of being able to play the best properly-cleaned older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the newer ones.

This allows the faults of the current reissues to become much more recognizable, to the point of actually being quite obvious. When you can hear the different pressings that way, head to head, there really is no comparison.

Helpful Test Records

The links below will take y0u to other records that are good for testing some of the qualities that the Classic Records pressing lacks. The Classic will fall short in some or all of the following areas when played head to head against the vintage pressings we offer:

A Lost Cause

The wonderful vintage discs we offer will surely shame any Heavy Vinyl pressings you own, as practically no Heavy Vinyl pressing has ever sounded especially transparent or spacious to us when played against the best Golden Age recordings, whether pressed back in the day or twenty years later.

This is precisely the reason we stopped carrying Modern LP Pressings in 2011 – they just can’t compete with good vintage vinyl, assuming that the vinyl in question has been properly mastered, pressed and cleaned.

This is of course something we would never assume — we clean the records and play them and that’s how we find out whether they are any good or not. There is no other way to do it — for any record from any era — despite what you may read elsewhere.

Further Reading

Led Zeppelin / Self-Titled on Domestic Vinyl

More Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin I

  • In 2021 we came across a superb original domestic pressing of Zep’s debut with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl, especially considering that this is an early Atlantic pressing
  • Note that from our perspective in 2023 we would be very unlikely to try another domestic original
  • The story of how we came to possess this pressing is told below
  • 5 stars: “Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme… But the key to the group’s attack was subtlety: it wasn’t just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos.”

There’s an interesting story behind this copy.

I bought it from an erstwhile customer who also had one of our Hot Stamper imports from years back, and he swore up and down that this original domestic pressing was a step up in class, a true White Hot Stamper pressing.

Well, that turned out not to be the case, and it’s the main reason shootouts on highly tuned, properly calibrated, extremely resolving large audio systems are the only way to separate the winners from the also-rans.

This copy is excellent and is guaranteed to beat any copy you throw at it — unless it’s one of ours with higher grades.

For the real Led Zep magic, you just can’t do much better than their debut — and here’s a copy that really shows you why. From the opening chords of “Good Times Bad Times” to the wild ending of “How Many More Times” (“times” start the album and end it, too, it seems) this copy will have you rockin’ out!

Both sides have the BIG ZEP SOUND. Right from the start we noticed how clean the cymbals sounded and how well-defined the bass was, after hearing way too many copies with smeared cymbals and blubbery bass.

When you have a tight, punchy copy like this one, “Good Times Bad Times” does what it is supposed to do — it really rock! With this much life, it’s lightyears ahead of the typically dull, dead, boring copy. The drum sound is perfection.

Drop the needle on “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” to hear how amazing Robert Plant’s voice sounds. It’s breathy and full-bodied with in-the-room presence. The overall sound is warm, rich, sweet, and very analog, with tons of energy. “Dazed and Confused” sounds just right — you’re gonna flip out over all the ambience!

“Communication Breakdown” sounds superb — the sound of Jimmy Page’s guitar during the solo is shockingly good.


Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

More Led Zeppelin

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

  • Insane Rock and Roll ENERGY like nothing you have ever heard – the sound is exceptionally full-bodied, smooth and solid, making it possible to get the volume up good and high where it belongs
  • Here are the Rock and Roll Classics that reign supreme to this very day – Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway to Heaven, When the Levee Breaks, every one sounding better than you’ve ever heard them or your money back
  • 5 stars: “Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1971 is clearly one of their best, and one of their best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

It is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you when you play this copy at the listening levels it was meant to be heard at.

You’d better be ready to rock, because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will make you want to. Zep IV demands loud levels, but practically any copy will punish you mercilessly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels.

I never met John Bonham, and it’s probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel more than a little disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels many audiophiles prefer. The term “hi-fidelity” loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where exactly is the fidelity?

How on earth is a speaker system like this one going to reproduce the 22 inch (or more!) kick drum of John Bonham?


Led Zeppelin / II – Jimmy Page Remasters a Classic, Part III

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

UPDATE 9/6/2023

One of our customers did his own comparison with two pressings he had on hand. (Boldening added.)

I briefly listened to the recent JP copy against the RL pressing I have from Presswell. I think that (according to Robert Brook) the Monarch or Specialty ones usually win your shootouts, and that the Presswells don’t often sound as transparent. The copy I have is pretty good but probably still falls into this category.

Having said that, my main takeaway was the almost complete absence of reverb on the JP copy. This was especially apparent when listening to the big drums and the vocals. The RL cut seems to give a much better sense of the studio and more space around the instruments, on my system.

The imaging and placement of the musicians is clear and distinct, but not as spacious as the RL pressing. The tonality and timbre on the JP cut are very good though, and the mix is not muddy and does not fall apart in loud complex passages like most other modern pressings I have heard. But this may have been his intention: to focus the instruments and tighten up the way the compositions come across without the “echoey” quality of the reverb and the overwhelming bass of the RL cut.

Also the JP cut is a bit more angular sounding and less tubey magic, but that could be my pressing — which is definitely tubey.

The overall sound of the JP is surprisingly good, but it sounds a more compressed to me than the RL, and the dynamic range also seems a bit more constricted.



A lot of what you are hearing I would have to check again, since a lot of what you note is not something that stuck out to me, although it ties in to the one big issue that is fundamental to the difference in sound between the two pressings.

I’ve just been reading what different reviewers have said about the sound of the new album versus the old one, and most of it does not sound very much like the albums I played, but double-checking all this now that I live in GA is going to be hard!

I may have my main guy Riley give it another listen for some things, like reverb and compressed dynamics, and see what he thinks.

Best, TP

Click here to read the original story from January, 2023

Further Reading

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III

More Led Zeppelin

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin III

  • This vintage import pressing was doing practically everything right, earning INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight down low and lots of space around all the instruments, this copy is guaranteed to rock like nothing you have ever heard
  • Drop the needle on “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” turn it up good and loud and Zep will be right there in front of you for the live concert of a lifetime
  • “Gallows Pole,” “Tangerine” and “That’s the Way” are just a few of the tracks that have truly awesome Demo Disc sound
  • 5 stars: “On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this classic from 1970 belongs in your collection.
  • These are the stampers that always win our shootouts, and when you hear them you will know why – the sound is big, rich and clear like no other
  • We’ve discovered a number of titles in which one stamper always wins, and here are some others

Drop the needle on Since I’ve Been Loving You and turn it up good and loud. Robert Plant will be right there between your speakers, and your jaw will be on the floor!

Cue up Tangerine on side two for a taste of rich, sweet, Tubey Magical Analog Sound. The acoustic guitars are lush and delicate, the bass is deep and well-defined, and the vocals are completely natural and free from bad mastering or phony EQ. (more…)