Thanks everyone for all the great sounding vintage LP’s. The WHITE HOT DOORS STRANGE DAYS I recently purchased is off the chart! Keep up the great work.
The Butterfly and Small Red E labels are so contemptibly thin and harsh they are not worth the vinyl they were pressed on.
You would be much better off with the DCC Gold CD than any of the reissue vinyl we’ve played.
This a Must Own Record, a 1967 recording with unbelievable RAW POWER. Most audiophiles very likely have no idea how well recorded this album is, simply because most pressings don’t do a very good job of translating the energy and life of the master tape onto the vinyl of the day.
The second Doors album is without a doubt one of the punchiest, liveliest, most POWERFUL recordings in the entire Doors catalog, right up there with their debut.
I’m guessing this statement does not comport with your own experience, and there’s a good reason for that: not many copies of the album provide evidence of any of the above qualities. Most pressings are opaque, flat, thin, veiled, compressed and lifeless. They sound exactly the way so many old rock records sound: like any old rock record.
Botnick Knocks It Out of the Park
But this album is engineered by Bruce Botnick. The right pressings give you the kind of low-end punch and midrange presence you hear on Love’s first album (when you play the right gold label originals). Botnick engineered them both, and what’s even more amazing is that The Doors second is in many ways an even better recording than Love’s!
All tube from start to finish, the energy captured on these Hot Stampers has to be heard to be believed. Not to mention the fact that the live-in-the-studio musicians are swimming in natural ambience, with instruments leaking from one mic to another, and most of them bouncing back and forth off the studio walls to boot.
But the thing that caught us most by surprise is how much LIFE there is in the performances on the better Hot Stamper copies. Morrison pulled out all the stops on songs like Love Me Two Times and the last track on the album, When the Music’s Over. Unless you have a very special pressing there is almost no chance you will ever hear him with this kind of raw power.
Top 100? If we could find more than a sporadic few clean, good sounding copies each year it would surely make the list, joining the other three of the band’s first four albums on there now.
We rate the DCC LP a B Minus
We used to really like the DCC pressing of this Doors album. Now… not so much. It’s a classic case of Live and Learn.
Keep in mind that the only way you can never be wrong about your records is simply to avoid playing them. If you have better equipment than you did, say, five or ten years ago, try playing some of your MoFi’s, 180 gram LPs, Japanese pressings, 45 RPM remasters and the like. You might be in for quite a shock.
Of course the question on everyone’s mind is, “How does our Hot Stamper copy stack up to the famous DCC pressing?” After all, it’s the one we were touting all through the ’90s as The One To Beat.
Well, to be honest, the DCC is a nice record, but a really special original copy throws a pretty strong light on its faults, which are numerous and quite bothersome.
The top end on the copy I played was a touch boosted, causing a number of problems.
For one, the cymbals sounded slightly tizzy compared to the real thing, which had a fairly natural, though not especially extended, top end.
But the real problem was in the midrange. Morrison sounded thinner and brighter, more like a tenor and less like a baritone, with a somewhat hi-fi-ish quality added to the top of his voice. Folks, I hate to say it, but if someone had told me that the record playing was half-speed mastered, I probably would have believed it. I detest that sound, and the DCC pressing bugged the hell out of me in that respect.
Morrison has one of the richest and most distinctive voices in the history of rock. When it doesn’t sound like the guy I’ve been listening to for close to forty years, something ain’t right.
The bottom end was also a tad boosted — not in the deep bass, but more in that area around 100-200 cycles, causing the sound to be overly rich. None of the originals we played had anything like it, so I’m pretty sure that’s a bit of added EQ Hoffman introduced for reasons better known to him.
Not So Fast There, O Hot Stamper Guru
But wait a minute — don’t all records sound different? Is it really fair to paint his version with such a broad brush on the basis of having played only one copy?
Of course not. Perhaps other copies sound better. (Maybe they sound worse. Think about that.) So here’s our offer to you, dear customer: We absolutely guarantee our Hot Stamper copies will handily beat the DCC pressing or your money back. We’ll even pay the return domestic shipping if for some reason you are not 100% satisfied with the sound of our Hot Stamper. Now there’s an offer you can’t refuse, for those of you who love this album and have a bunch of money burning a hole in your pocket.
If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1967 All Tube Analog sound can be, this copy will can do just that.
It’s spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)
The Doors first album is yet another obvious example of MoFi’s predilection for a sucked-out midrange.
Scooping out the middle of the midrange has the effect of creating an artificial sense of depth where none belongs. Play any original Bruce Botnick engineered album by Love or The Doors and you will notice immediately that the vocals are front and center.
When the DCC Doors first album was released on vinyl, we noted that the vocals were finally back where they belonged. After having lived with the MoFi for so many years we’d almost forgotten.
And now of course we can’t tolerate the smear and opacity of the DCC. We like to think we’re simply setting higher standards these days.
The midrange suckout effect is easily reproducible in your very own listening room. Pull your speakers farther out into the room, and also farther apart, and you can get that MoFi sound on every record you play. I’ve been hearing it in the various audiophile systems I’ve been exposed to for many years.
Nowadays I would place it under the general heading of My-Fi, not Hi-Fi. Our one goal for every tweak and upgrade we make is to increase the latter and reduce the former.
And note also that when you play your records too softly it results in an exaggerated, artificial sense of depth.
That’s one of the main reasons we play them loud; we want to hear which pressings have real presence and immediacy. They’re the ones that are most likely to win our shootouts. If you have any of our killer Hot stampers you surely know what I’m talking about.
It gets marked the sonic grade it earned.
If a Big Red E label pressing sounded better to us on side two, if it somehow managed to sound better than any of our Gold Label originals, then it would earn the top grade on side two.
Here is how we described a killer copy we had not long ago:
With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy is practically as good as it gets. The sound on this Gold Label pressing is incredibly powerful — big, rich, full-bodied, present and lively. It’s HUGE, RICH, and FULL-BODIED, exactly the way it should be.
But note that side two was clearly not as good as side one. Even the best early pressings cannot be relied on to get both sides right. The pressing above is proof. We discuss the issue in the commentary below.
What are the sonic qualities by which a Pop or Rock record — any Pop or Rock record — should be judged?
Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.
When we can hear a good many of the qualities mentioned above on the side we’re playing, we provisionally award it a Hot Stamper grade. This grade is often revised over the course of the shootout, as we come to more fully appreciate just how good some of the other copies are.
Once we’ve been through all our side ones, we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner. Other copies have their grades raised or lowered depending on how they sounded relative to the shootout winner.
Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides of each pressing match up.
That’s why the most common grade for a White Hot Stamper pressing is Triple Plus (A+++) on one side and Double Plus (A++) on the other.
Finding the two best sounding sides from a shootout on the same LP does happen, but it sure doesn’t happen as often as we would like (!) There are just too many variables in the mastering and pressing processes to ensure that level of consistency.
But some pressings pull it off, triumphing over all comers and winning the shootout for both sides. These very special Triple Triple pressings have their own section, separate from our White Hot Stamper pressings. If you want the ultimate in audiophile sound for any particular title, this is where you will find it.
At the time of this writing there were about four times as many records with one White Hot side as there were records with White Hot Stamper sound on each side.
Record shootouts may not be rocket science, but they’re a science of a kind, one with strict protocols we’ve developed over the course of many years to ensure that the sonic grades we assign to our Hot Stampers are as accurate as we can make them.
The result of all our work speaks for itself. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing — or your money back.
A letter from a good customer tells of his experience playing a top copy of the album.
Just when I thought you guys could not surprise me, you did it again. Morrison Hotel was not in my collection when I was growing up although I was familiar with some of the tracks on the album. I picked up a SHS 2/1.5 copy; it was good and I added it to my collection. I saw the WHS 3/3 copy come up on the site and thought I would give it a try because of my past experience (Jackson Browne, Beatles – White Album, Crowded House).
Holy smokes, my intuition was correct: the 3/3 copy transforms the musical experience. I don’t know how or why this happens; how a SHS side 2 that sounds good goes exponentially up with a WHS 3 copy; it just does. When one gets a WHS 3/3 in single album as opposed to a 2 pack; it is a musical treat beyond compare. Thanks as usual. (more…)
Here is THE BIG SOUND that makes Doors records such a thrill to play. Morrison’s vocals sound just right here — full-bodied, breathy and immediate. The transparency makes it possible to easily pick out Bruce Botnick’s double tracking of Morrison’s leads.
For a thrill just drop the needle on Not To Touch The Earth. Halfway through the song the members have sort of a duel — Robbie Krieger wailing on the guitar in one channel, Ray Manzarek pounding on the keyboards in the other, and John Densmore responding with drum fills behind them. On the average copy, the parts get congested and lose their power, but when you can easily pick out each musician, their part will raise the hair on your arms. It’s absolutely chilling, and it will no doubt remind you why you fell in love with The Doors in the first place. Who else can do this kind of voodoo the way that they do?
Check out the piano on Yes The River Knows on side two (such an underrated song!) or the big snare thwacks on Five To One to hear that Hot Stamper magic. The overall sound is airy, open, and spacious — you can really hear INTO the soundfield on a track like Yes The River Knows. The opaque quality that so many pressings of this album suffer from is nowhere to be found here. Not only that, but you will not believe how hard these sides rock. (more…)
In our experience, the Gold Label stereo originals with 1B/1B stampers are terrible sounding.
We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.
Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best.
If you’re an audiophile looking for top quality sound on vintage vinyl, we’d be happy to send you the Hot Stamper pressing guaranteed to beat anything and everything you’ve heard, especially if you have any pressing marketed as suitable for an audiophile. Those, with very few exceptions, are the worst.
And if we can’t beat whatever LP you own or have heard, you get your money back. It’s as simple as that.
Tom Port / Better Records