Top Artists – The Beatles

The music is great, but how’s the sound? We weigh in with our two cents’ worth.

Letter of the Week – “…you sell a product that is singular and unique. And completely worth every penny.”

Beatles, Beatles, Beatles

Hot Stamper Beatles Pressings in Stock

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

Hey Tom,   

I never thought, not even for a second, that in my life I’d EVER buy a record for $300. Never Ever! But here I am. Most records I’d come across in my life were from used/antique stores, and so they were warped, brittle, noisy, or out of tune (a fact I didn’t notice until I graduated from a music college). But your Beatles “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper” – music I’ve known my ENTIRE LIFE- sound like new as Hot Stampers.

I appreciate the fact these records, although expensive, are sold simply on the basis of quality. In a increasingly fake, plastic “if this one doesn’t work just return it for another broken one” world, you sell a product that is singular and unique. And completely worth every penny. I appreciate the fact you evaluate the record’s sound (i.e. mastering) as a musician would – focusing on tonal correctness – prizing the record’s ability to accurately reproduce a recording of how instruments actually sound in real life. On its face, it seems so simple, yet it is of utmost importance. Thanks!

Kyle M.


Letter of the Week – “I literally sat there with what I am sure was a dazed looked on my face, with open mouth and all.”

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

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

Hey Tom, 

They say the first time is the best…

I have now purchased and enjoy well over 50 Hot Stampers. My first one a few years ago was The Beatles Let It Be. I was very skeptical to be honest, but there was a money back guarantee, so I went for it. It was $250, I think. It was an A+ on Side 1 and A+++ on Side 2.

It arrived and I put on my serious listening ears, put on Get Back on Side 2 (A+++) and dropped the needle. Instantly, I was like a dog hearing a new sound for the first time. My head was cocked a little and I was trying to fathom exactly what I was hearing. I was hearing presence, breathing, clarity in voices before they started playing and I literally sat there with what I am sure was a dazed looked on my face, with open mouth and all. I could not believe it. Everything jumped out of my B&W’s. The sound was something that no CD could duplicate, no matter how clean the CD sounded. I have an all tube, all analog system and I sat there in amazement. I played The Long and Winding Road next and the instruments literally had me teared up from how it much jumped out at me.

Well, I was hooked and I have since bought a lot of Hot Stampers and I enjoy them all. Along with some of my Japanese vinyl [ouch], there are by far the most treasured LPs in my entire collection. You can bet when friends come over, we choose records from the Hot Stamper stack. I really have a ball watching the look on their face when they hear it for the first time.

As I once wrote, I appreciate the fact that Better Records provides a service. They go out and buy numerous copies of an LP. Then some of them sit and listen to them all to narrow down to the best of the best. I have no problem paying their price, as I know they have a definite cost involved and the end result is a phenomenal sounding LP. they provide a great service to us audio nuts.

I buy very, very few records elsewhere, mainly some import copies but by and large, Better Records are the best. Keep up the great work.

Bryan S.

Thanks Bryan, happy to be of service, as always.

Customers Weigh in on the Virtues of Our Hot Stamper Beatles Pressings

More Commentaries and Reviews for the Music of The Beatles

The Beatles / A Hard Day’s Night – It’s (Almost) All About the Midrange

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for A Hard Day’s Night

This music has a HUGE amount of upper midrange and high frequency information. (Just note how present the tambourines are in the mixes.) If the record isn’t cut properly, or pressed properly for that matter, the sound can REALLY be unpleasant. 

One of our good customers made an astute comment in an email to us — the typical copy of this album makes you want to turn DOWN the volume. Sad but true.

It’s (Almost) All About The Midrange

There are two important traits that all the best copies have in common. Tonally they aren’t bright and aggressive (which eliminates 80 percent of the AHDN pressings you find) and they have a wonderful warmth and sweetness in the midrange that really brings out the quality of the Beatles’ individual voices.

When comparing pressings of this record, the copies that get their voices to sound both present and warm, smooth, and sweet, especially during the harmonies, are always the best.

All the other instruments seem to fall in line when the vocals are correct. This is an old truism — it’s all about the midrange — but in this case, it really is true.

After Years of Searching, We Finally Found an Old Beatles Record that Sounds Pretty Good

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Beatles for Sale

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Beatles

On the Yellow and Black Parlophone label! This is best sounding early label pressing we have ever played. Not a Shootout Winner, but a perfectly enjoyable copy of one of the best sounding Beatles albums we play on a regular basis.


We just played another original pressing of For Sale and this copy had a Triple Plus (A+++) side one, mated to a Double Plus (A++) side two. For Sale is still the only studio album with top quality sound on the original pressing that we have ever played, but now we can say with some authority that if you have a bunch of originals, you might just have one with killer sound like the one we had. There was a later pressing that also earned our top grade, a subject we touch on in this commentary for Kind of Blue.

Before this, the only Beatles record we would sell on the Yellow and Black Parlophone label was A Collection of Oldies… But Goldies. That title does have the best sound on the early label. In numerous shootouts, no Black and Silver label pressing from the ’70s was competitive with the best stereo copies made in the ’60s.

Until now, it was clearly the exception to our rule. From With the Beatles up through Yellow Submarine, the best sounding Beatles pressings would always be found on the best reissue pressings.

Here are the notes for the best sounding For Sale on the early label we played in our recent shootout.

For those who have trouble reading our writing, the basics are:

Side One

Track one is clear enough, a bit recessed.

Track two is clear, open and lively, with good space, but not as weighty as the best.

Side Two

Track one is relaxed, solid and musical, with good size.

Track two is full, solid and musical, with good bass.

We Was Wrong

A very good sounding record, with few of the problems we heard on the other early label Beatles pressings we’ve played in the past. Most of them had the kind of old record sound — compressed, congested, harmonically distorted, bandwidth limited, etc. — that kept them from making the cut.

For Sale here is one we have to admit defied our expectations. A classic case of Live and Learn.

But that’s the reason to play records, not judge them by their labels, right? How else would you possibly learn anything about their sound? And you have to play them head to head against other copies, a normally crude process we’ve refined over the last twenty years into a science we like to call the Hot Stamper Shootout.

The Bottom Line

Will we ever buy another one? Probably not. The right later label pressings always win the shootouts, and the second tier copies on the later label will tend to be cheaper to buy, in better condition and pressed on quieter vinyl.

If you really must have an early label pressing, like this guy, you will have no trouble finding one in good shape.  Well, maybe not no trouble, because buying records over the internet is a major pain. Let’s just say it can be done.

Cleaning the record is another matter. For that you need a lot of expensive equipment and plenty of time on your hands.

Some Current Thoughts on Old Paradigms

It is our strongly held belief that if your equipment (regardless of cost) or your critical listening skills (regardless of the esteem that you may hold yours in) do not allow you to hear the kinds of sonic differences among pressings we describe, then whether you are just getting started in audio or are a self-identified Audio Expert writing for the most prestigious magazines and websites, you still have a very long way to go in this hobby.

Purveyors of the old paradigms — original is better, money buys good sound — may eventually find their approach to records and equipment unsatisfactory (when it isn’t just plain wrong), but they will only do so if they start to rely more on empirical findings and less on convenient theories and received wisdom.

A reviewer we all know well was clearly stuck years ago in the Old Paradigm, illustrated perfectly by this comment:

It’s not my pleasure to be so negative but since I have a clean UK original (signed for me by George Martin!) I’ll not be playing this one again. Yes, there are some panning mistakes and whatever else Martin “cleaned up” but really, sometimes it’s best to leave well-enough (and this album was well-enough!) alone.

We are not aware that he has subsequently recognized the error of his ways. We can’t imagine how anyone can have a system in this day and age that can obscure the flaws of the original Parlophone pressings of Rubber Soul (or any other Yellow and Black label Parlophone pressing for that matter). The reviewer quoted above apparently does (as do some of our customers, truth be told), but we have something very different indeed. One might even consider it the opposite of such a system.

Our system is designed to relentlessly and ruthlessly expose the flaws of every record we play. Only the best of the best can survive that level of scrutiny. Our system (comprising equipment, set-up, tweaks, room, room treatments, electricity) operates at the Highest Level of Fidelity we are able to achieve. In addition, we are constantly making improvements to our playback system in search of even better sound.

Real Progress

But wait a minute, who are we to talk about being easily fooled? Bear in mind that as recently as 2000-something we were still recommending the DCC and other Heavy Vinyl pressings, records that I can’t stand to listen to these days. My system couldn’t show me how sterile and lifeless they were then, but it sure can now.

It’s amazing how far you can get in 10 years if you’re obsessive enough and driven enough, and are also willing to devote huge amounts of your time and effort to the pursuit of better audio. This will be especially true if you are perfectly happy to let your ears, not your brain, inform your understanding of the sound of the records you play.

If we approached this hobby like most audiophiles, that money buys good sound and original pressings are usually the best, there would be no such thing as Hot Stampers.

Old thinking and wrong thinking can really slow down your progress.

Follow our advice and you will be amazed at the positive changes that are bound to come your way.

Training Your Ears

Of course, we should note that it helps to have a dedicated full time staff doing shootouts, including a full-time record cleaning person. All of the members of the listening panel were musicians with well-trained ears when we hired them.

From the start they had no trouble appreciating the differences between pressings.

I, on the other hand, am not a musician. Over the years I simply tried to get my stereo to sound more like live music. As it improved over time, it allowed me to hear more and more of what was really on my records. I slowly gained the skills I needed to do the kind of critical listening comparisons that are currently the heart of our business.

Let me be the first to admit it was slow going for about the first twenty years.

It has been my experience that most audiophiles are in that same non-musician boat. The problem seems to be that stereos are not nearly as good at teaching these skills as musical instruments are. Unless you are of an experimental mind and are willing to devote a great deal of your time and money to the audio game, you are unlikely to develop the skills necessary to critically evaluate recordings at the highest levels.

Unfortunately, playing into this vicious cycle, those same critical listening skills are the very ones you need to make your stereo revealing enough so that even subtle differences between pressings become not just clear, but obvious.

Better ears lead to better stereos, but some stereos make it hard to develop better ears.

That’s why I made so many mistakes and learned so little in my first twenty years as an audiophile. 

Yes, I made a lot of mistakes, but an empirical approach to this hobby means that eventually you will find a better way. Now I know that making mistakes is a real key to progress, and thank goodness for that, because we’ve sure made our share of them.


Letter of the Week – One Customer’s Ten LP Shootout for Abbey Road

Reviews and Commentaries for Abbey Road

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Letters from Customers Who Did Their Own Shootouts

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

Hey Tom,   

I just played a couple of songs from the Abbey Road album $850.00 I just purchased and I am blown away by the sound. The texture and clarity of the bass drum in Come Together is much more pronounced than any of the copies of the 10 Abbey Road copies that I have including the MoFi and [Japanese] Pro Use albums. The album is so much better in all areas.

It was well worth the money and I am grateful to have it as it is my favorite album.

I like forward to hearing all of the songs. Wishing you all the best.



That’s great news. Looking back through some of the emails we’ve exchanged, I see that I told you we would send you the best sounding Beatles records you ever imagined, and by the looks of it, that has turned out to be the case. Glad to hear you like our records as much as we do. We charged $850 for that copy because it sounded like at least $850 worth of great sound and music.

Enjoy your new Beatles records and thanks for your business and support.

Best, TP


Letter of the Week – “I have never heard such transparent, full-bodied sound on any previous copy.”

More of the Music of The Beatles

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

Well, I feel there is little I can say that could do justice to how this copy of the White Album sounds. It is simply mind-blowing! And it’s exactly the kind of sound reproduction that this masterpiece deserves. I’ve listened to quite a few pressings of this album before, but I have never heard such a transparent, full-bodied sound on any previous copy. And of course, the White Album is not exactly the most transparent recording to begin with.

Truly marvelous, and a privilege to be able to listen to the best sound of the best music there is!

You guys are real treasure hunters! Many thanks for the great service!

Bogdan P.


Glad you liked our White Album. It’s amazing how good it sounds once you know which pressings are the good ones and which to avoid.

Hint: it’s the originals are to be avoided, but don’t tell that to the average record collecting audiophile. They will think you have lost your mind.

Best, TP


The Beatles / Sgt. Peppers – Practical Advice on Pressings to Avoid

beatlessgtHot Stampers of Sgt. Peppers in Stock Now

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

Chris, an erstwhile customer from a very long time ago, sent us a letter describing his search for a good sounding Sgt. Pepper.

The first thing that comes to mind when reading his letter is that many record collecting rules were broken in going about his search the way he did. But then I thought, What rules? Whose rules? Where exactly does one find these rules? If one wants to avoid breaking them they need to be written down someplace, don’t they?

Wikipedia maybe?

Sadly, no, not at Wikipedia, or any place else for that matter — until now. As crazy as it sounds, we are going to try to lay down a few record collecting rules for record loving audiophiles, specifically to aid these individuals in their search for better sounding vinyl pressings. And by “these individuals” we mean you.

See if you can spot the rules that were broken by Chris in his fruitless search for a good sounding Sgt. Pepper. Note that this letter came to us long before the new Beatles CDs and vinyl had been remastered.

Hi Tom

A few months ago, I purchased a new UK import of Sgt Pepper. Too bad it turned out to be digitally remastered. I had been checking your site for this album over the last few months, but only saw two: a sealed MFSL UHQR for $1000, and a hot stamper for $500, both out of my price range. So then I started looking at Ebay, and recently purchased two “sealed” versions of Sgt Pepper – a USA Apple, which cost me $170, and a USA Capitol (original rainbow label) for which I paid $80.

Tonight, I wanted to copy one of the Sgt Pepper’s to Hi-rez (192/24) DVD audio. Both sealed records from Ebay were cleaned with Last RCM record cleaner on a VPI 16.5, and treated with LAST record preservative. (My usual routine)

First I tried the Capitol (rainbow). It even had “mastered by Capitol” stamped on the run-out area, usually a good sign, I thought. The sound was quite good, except for two things:

1) the sound level drops about 3 db in the first track where they sing “We’d love to take you home with us , we’d love to take you home” (3 db drop occurs) followed by “I don’t really want to…” 2) the record has thousands of audible ticks. No kidding, when I recorded it, and looked at the waveform in Adobe Audition, there are really about 20 little ticks per second. If I try to clean it up manually, one click at a time, (my usual routine), it will take an eternity to finish the job. (slight exaggeration) [sic] So I tried the $170 sealed “Apple” purchased from someone named “sealedbeatles”.

This record is a total disaster. It has no high end. It’s like someone turned the treble all the way down (if my system had a treble control). I looked at the spectrum of a few seconds of music, and the level at 8 khz is the same as the level at 60 khz, down about 90 db. (duller than poor AM radio). The record is loaded with surface noise too. The record is totally useless.

Finally I tried the UK digitally remastered Parlophone, purchased probably from Music Direct, or some place like that. It sounds harsher than hell, and oddly has a tone actually recorded on the record at about 70 Khz, which you can “see” poking up from the noise floor in its spectrum.

I’m still looking.


There is almost no chance Chris would be successful with this approach.

The following would have been my five pieces of advice had he told me in advance what he was planning to do.

1) Avoid Sealed Records

There’s a very high probability that any given sealed record won’t sound especially good. The average record has, by definition, sound that is best described as average. For this reason we do not recommend you buy any sealed record if you expect it to sound especially good; i.e., better than average.

Neither is it likely to play quietly for that matter. A sealed record should play quieter than the average used record, but there is no guarantee that it will. Our Hot Stampers are always 100% guaranteed to satisfy in every way, surfaces included, or your money back.

2) Avoid Half-Speed Mastered Records

Chris saw a UHQR of Sgt. Pepper on our site and wanted it but could not afford it. NOBODY should want that record at that price. It’s not very good, not for that kind of money anyway. {We only sell Hot Stamper pressings we have actually cleaned, played and auditioned ourselves these days, and that has been true for more than a decade. Like I say, this is an old letter.}

3) Avoid Domestic Beatles Records

So Chris went out and bought two domestic Beatles records, which turned out to be awful sounding.

Well of course they did. Have you ever heard a good sounding domestic Beatles record? There are a few out there but they are pretty rare. We know of some; they can sound good but they are not remotely in the same league as our Hot Stampers. We wouldn’t waste our time on them.

4) Avoid Record Cleaning Fluids We Don’t Recommend

We only recommend two: Walker Enzyme Treatment and The Disc Doctor. [Now only one, Walker. Now that Lloyd Walker has passed, we are the exclusive distributors of the Walker fluids and will be making them available as soon as we can get our operation set up to produce them.]

If you’ve tried either or both and still prefer another record cleaning fluid, fine by me. But if you haven’t tried either or both, stop using whatever you are using right now and order one or both. If either of them doesn’t make your records sound better than what you are currently using, send what’s left back to us and we will refund your money. You don’t have much to lose and a great deal to gain.

I am frankly astonished at how poorly most record cleaning fluids on the market today work. More often than not they actually make the records I’ve cleaned sound WORSE — quieter maybe, but worse! Disc Doctor and Walker make your records quieter and they make them sound better. It’s crazy — CRAZY — to use anything else if you haven’t tested what you are currently using against them.

What else? Oh yeah, this one:

5) Avoid Digitally Remastered… Anything

Not much more needs to be said here I’m guessing. We are not big fans of digital remastering at Better Records. We like to say “good digital beats bad analog any day,” but the goal of Better Records is to get you good analog. Bad analog is what those other guys sell.

Final Thoughts

Some approaches to this audio hobby tend to produce better results than others. When your thinking about audio and records does not comport with reality, you are much less likely to achieve the improvements you seek.

Without a good stereo, it is hard to find better records. Without better records, it is hard to improve your stereo.

You need both, and thinking about them the right way, using the results of carefully run experiments — not feelings, opinions, theories, received wisdom or dogma — is surely the best way to acquire better sound.

An empirically-based approach to audio is sure to result in notable improvements to your playback. This will in turn make the job of recognizing high quality pressings — the ones you find for yourself, or the ones we find for you — much, much easier.

I was guilty of a great deal of mistaken audiophile thinking myself starting in the ’70s. (Like many audiophiles I have met over the years, in my early days I found myself in a cult.)

I’ve learned a thing or two in the nearly fifty years I’ve been involved with audio and records, and much of what I’ve learned I’ve written about on this blog. I hope you find some of it useful on your way to better analog sound.


Letter of the Week – “I am blown away with the White Album you sent.”

More of the Music of The Beatles

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

Hey Tom, 

I am completely stunned. I am blown away with the White Album you sent. It is as if I am there in the studio. The music has so much more shading, tone, and phrasing that gives it much more meaning and enjoyment; which has been lost on me for 40 years.

I can now hear it and I get it. Wow! You guys never cease to amaze with what you find. Thanks as usual.

Mike H.


Glad you liked our White Album. It’s amazing how good it sounds once you know which pressings are the good ones and which to avoid.

Hint: it’s the originals are to be avoided, but don’t tell that to the average record collecting audiophile. They will think you have lost your mind.

Best, TP

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More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

More Customer Letters Extolling the Virtues of Our Beatles Hot Stampers

Listening In Depth to Let It Be

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

This is the first time we’ve discussed individual tracks on the album. Our recent shootout [now many years ago], in which we discovered a mind-boggling, rule-breaking side one, motivated us to sit down and explain what the best copies should do on each side of the album for the tracks we test with. Better late than never I suppose. 

These also happen to be ones that we can stand to hear over and over, dozens of times in fact, which becomes an important consideration when doing shootouts as we do for hours on end.

On the better pressings the natural rock n’ roll energy of a song such as Dig A Pony will blow your mind. There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ — just the sound of the greatest pop/rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out.

It’s the kind of thrill you really don’t get from the more psychedelic albums like Sgt. Pepper’s or Magical Mystery Tour. You have to go all the way back to Long Tall Sally and Roll Over Beethoven to find the Beatles consistently letting loose the way they do on Let It Be (or at least on the tracks that are more or less live, which make up about half the album).

Track Commentary

Side One

Two of Us

Dig a Pony

On the heavy guitar intro for Dig a Pony, the sound should be full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with plenty of bass. If your copy is too lean, just forget it, it will never rock.

What blew our minds about the Shootout Winning side one we played recently was how outrageously big, open and transparent it was. As the song started up the studio space seemed to expand in every direction, creating more height, width and depth than we had ever experienced with this song before.

But there is no studio space; the song was recorded on Apple’s rooftop. The “space” has to be some combination of “air” from the live event and artificial reverb added live or later during mixing. Whatever it is, the copies with more resolution and transparency show you a lot more of “it” than run-of-the-mill pressings do (including the new Heavy Vinyl, which is so airless and compressed we gave it a grade of F and banished it to our Hall of Shame).

In addition, Ringo’s kit was dramatically more clear and present in the center of the soundfield just behind the vocal, raising the energy of the track to a level higher than we had any right to believe was possible. The way he attacks the hi-hat on this song is crazy good, and the engineering team of Glyn Johns and Alan Parsons really give it the snap it needs.

These are precisely the qualities that speed and transparency can contribute to the sound. If you have Old School vintage tube equipment, these are two of the qualities you are most likely living without. You only need play this one track on faster, better-resolving equipment to hear what you’ve been missing.

On the line after “All I want is you”, the energy of “Everything has got to be just like you want it to” should make it sound like The Beatles are shouting at the top of their lungs. If you have the right pressing they really get LOUD on that line. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “[My wife] jumped out of her seat on the couch after the percussive intro to Shout was over and the song launched.”

More of the Music of Tears For Fears

Hot Stamper Pressings of Help Available Now

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

Hey Tom, 

I know you must have a TON of e-mail traffic to sort through but wanted to send accolades for the latest shipment of hot stampers from you! Simply incredible!

I don’t know how you managed to get the TFF Big Chair LP to play SO clean because it looks atrocious. If I would have seen that in a used record store I would have put it back but when the stylus touched down, dead silent surface and throughout the whole record. The sound is incredible as advertised. I played it for my wife who is enjoying these pressings with me and praises you after reading your descriptions. She jumped out of her seat on the couch after the percussive intro to Shout was over and the song launched.

The Beatles Help album was also incredible. Compared to the MoFi I have it now sounds overly bright and goosed. The UK 1970’s press sounds more cohesive and even across the spectrum. That title was missing from my others of that same pressing era.

All the jackets that have come with the LPs so far have been very nice. The TFF was crisp and new.

I am HOOKED on your hot stampers, Tom. My system is up to reproducing these as you hear them and with the play grades you rate them at.