Top Artists – Neil Young

Letter of the Week – “The instruments fill my room like they would in a live performance.”

More of the Music of Neil Young

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

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

Hey Tom, 

I have really been enjoying the Neil Young “After The Gold Rush” and CSN&Y “So Far.” They are like the “Workingman’s Dead” LP. Just a thrill to hear. The instruments on “After The Gold Rush” fill my room like they would in a live performance. Addictive.

AJ

Addiction is the name of the game!

If you’re an audiophile who is not addicted to good sound and good music, you won’t be one for long.

And if you have been in this game for a very long time like I have, you have no doubt met self-identified audiophiles with systems that haven’t been improved in twenty years, and are rarely used.

I like to think those are the audiophiles who own lots of audiophile records, the ones that are designed to show off stereo equipment and typically have little in the way of musical value.

Audiophiles with vintage pressings of real music rarely abandon the hobby in my experience.

And if you have Hot Stamper pressings, why would you ever give up on hearing music that sounds as good as our records sound?

Thanks for your letter.

TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Neil Young – Vintage Analog Transparency, and that Wonderful Feeling of Being There

More of the Music of Neil Young

Reviews and Commentaries for After the Gold Rush

For our review of the new Heavy Vinyl After the Gold Rush we wrote:

Cleverly the engineers responsible for this remaster have managed to reproduce the sound of a dead studio on a record that wasn’t recorded in one. 

This pressing has no real space or ambience. Now the album sounds like it was recorded in a heavily baffled studio, but we know that’s not what happened, because the originals of After the Gold Rush, like most of Neil’s other albums from the era, are clear, open and spacious.

In other words, they are transparent.

Modern records, like the new [now not so new] After the Gold Rush, 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.

Once you hear a top quality 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 different pressings that way, head to head, there really is no comparison.


FURTHER READING

There is an abundance of audiophile collector hype surrounding the hundreds of Heavy Vinyl pressings currently in print. I read a lot about how wonderful their sound is, but when I actually play them, I rarely find them to be any better than mediocre, and many of them are awful.

Music Matters made this garbage remaster. Did anyone notice how awful it sounded? I could list a hundred more that range from bad to worse — and I have! Take your pick: there are more than 150 entries in our Heavy Vinyl Disasters section, each one worse sounding than the next.

Audiophiles seem to have approached these records naively instead of skeptically.

(But wait a minute. Who am I to talk? I did the same thing when I first got into audio and record collecting in the Seventies.)

How could so many be fooled so badly? Surely some of these people have good enough equipment to allow them to hear the limitations of these modern pressings.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “I TRULY ENJOY THE SOUND of all those Hot Stampers.”

More of the Music of Neil Young

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

Hey Tom, 

Just to let you know my response on Neil Young records (and others) I purchased from Better Records. I just read your comment:

“Which brings up a sore subject: the Classic Records 2 LP set of the Greatest Hits on Heavy Vinyl. The song Comes a Time is on it. Do you think it sounds even remotely as good as it does here? If you do, you don’t need Better Records, you need better equipment.”

I do have that record, sent it back twice as I thought I got a mispressing in view of the terrible sound quality. No luck. Now the only purpose it serves is that the cover is on the wall — I think I can still further upgrade my equipment, but already for several years I TRULY ENJOY THE SOUND of all those Hot Stampers I got through your company.

Yes they cost something but they do deliver also true joy!

Rens J.

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

More Neil Young

One of Our Favorite Titles from 1969


  • This outstanding copy of Neil’s second studio album boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality Neil is famous for (of which Zuma is the best example), with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY
  • Includes some of Neil Young’s most beloved classics: “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and “Down by the River” just to name three
  • 5 stars: “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes….”

Although not quite in the league with the best of the best — the likes of Gold Rush, Harvest, or Zuma, all titles we have a devil of a time keeping in stock — the best sounding tracks here are a rough guide to what was to come as Neil and his producer, David Briggs, got better and better until they were As Good As It Gets by the time they got around to After the Gold Rush in 1970 (for which they seem to get no credit, outside of Better Records’ raves for the album of course).

We absolutely love the Live-in-the-Studio quality that only the best pressings of this album can give, with minimal processing and maximum energy. Man, with a good copy played back on a big pair of speakers this album can ROCK like nobody’s business. Nine minutes of “Down by the River”? A ten minute long version of “Cowgirl in the Sand”? “Cinnamon Girl”? We are so there!

This kind of musical, natural sound is not easy to come by. If you own any copy of the album you know what we mean. (more…)

Neil Young / Comes A Time – What to Listen For

More Neil Young

More Country and Country Rock

So many copies we played just sounded flat, with dull guitars and hard vocals. Some made Neil sound like he was singing from the back of the studio. Still others noticeably lacked leading edge transients of any kind, blunting the attack of the various stringed instruments.

Believe me, a Neil Young record with dull guitars is not worth playing, owning or writing about. You won’t find one on our site.

But there’s one very special quality that this recording has that few of his others do: lovely female vocal harmonies. Nicolette Larson is all over this record, adding an extra layer of mellow magic to the proceedings. Maybe it’s the woman’s touch that makes this album so relaxed and heartfelt. Neil is completely and utterly in the zone here, so whatever put him in that special state of mind is fine by me. (To quote Mr. Young himself, A Man Needs a Maid.)

As for the music, all of side one is wonderful from start to finish; I wouldn’t change a note. Side two is not as strong musically, but the sound can be every bit as good if you’ve got the right pressing.

(more…)

Neil Young – Freedom

More Neil Young

  • Freedom finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing was a big step up from every other copy we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Freedom, which was a major critical and commercial comeback after a decade that had confused reviewers and fans, seemed to be a selection of the best tracks from several different unissued Young projects. …[W]hat made it all work was that Young had once again written a great bunch of songs. The romantic numbers were carefully and sincerely written. The long imagistic songs were evocative without being obvious.”

(more…)

Neil Young / After the Gold Rush

More Neil Young

More on After the Gold Rush

xxx

  • This KILLER original Reprise pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • This is the vinyl embodiment of the Classic Analog Rock sound we love – smooth, rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and clear
  • 5 stars in Allmusic, Top 100, and a Demo Disc that is guaranteed to knock your socks off
  • “It’s a magnificent, style-setting album which saw the Canadian’s elevation to rock hero. For those who like their emotion raw.”
  • If you’re a Neil Young fan, and who isn’t?, this classic from 1970 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Folks, a Hot Stamper collection of the Greatest Rock Records of All Time would not be complete without a knockout copy this album. That’s why it’s been a Better Records All-Time Top 100 Title right from the start.

(more…)

Buffalo Springfield / Last Time Around – Extracting the Midrange Magic

More of the Music of Buffalo Springfield

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Buffalo Springfield

Music Does the Driving

So many copies of this album sound so bad and play so poorly that most audiophiles have given up by now and written it off as a lost cause.

But we didn’t. We kept at it. Our main motivation? The music.

Extracting the midrange magic from a album like this should be the goal of every right-thinking audiophile.

Who cares what’s on the TAS Super Disc List? I want to play the music that I love, not because it sounds good, but because I love it.

And if the only way to find good sounding copies of typically poorly-mastered, beat-to-death records such as this one is to go through a big pile of them, well then, I guess that’s what I’ll have to do.

Within the limitations of the recording, there are still copies that are surprisingly DYNAMIC and TRANSPARENT. Listen to all that space around the guitars and voices — who knew it was there?

Listen also especially to the vocal harmonies — you can separate out all the parts much more clearly on these Hot Stamper pressings. You can really hear precisely who’s in there and what part they are playing in the vocal arrangement. I can’t remember ever hearing it sound so clear. The best copies really let you hear into the music.

The bass is also much better defined and note-like. On most copies the sound is lean, and what little bass there is sounds like a smeary blob underneath the vocals. With the better pressings you can follow every note, which is important if for no other reason than the fact that many of the arrangements are fairly simple, so losing the sound of one instrument is losing a lot of what the song has to offer.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

More Crosby

More Stills

More Nash

More Young

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – hard to find this one quiet nowadays, so fans should take note than not many unscratched copies are going to make it to the site
  • The “naked” sound of the real thing – the real voices and the real guitars and the real everything else, in a way that would never happen again
  • Bill Halverson worked his magic, but only the best pressings let his genius shine the way it does here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “4 Way Street, released in April of 1971: a live double-LP set, chock-full of superb music distilled down from a bunch of nights on that tour that more than fulfilled the promise of the group.”
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills. Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

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! (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Self-Titled

More Buffalo Springfield

More Country and Country Rock

  • Incredible sound on both sides of this original ATCO pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish, just shy of our Shootout Winner – unusually quiet vinyl too
  • We rarely have this title in stock, mostly because it is purely a matter of luck when we’ve managed to chance upon enough clean copies of the commonly-abused album to get a shootout going
  • 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…)