Top Artists – Toto

Letter of the Week – Toto ““…that look,” you know, the one you see when audiophiles are utterly captivated.”

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

Hey Tom, 

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

Bought myself a Super Hot copy of Toto for Christmas. Couldn’t wait that long to play it though. For such a familiar record with so many hits heard so many times I sure don’t remember it ever sounding like this!

It is so true what you say about certain records really being meant to be played loud. This record positively BEGS to be played loud! The sound is so clear and dynamic and open, from the top to the bottom, it hard to believe. There is no edge or glare like you would get on CD. There really is no comparison.

This is my 24th Hot Stamper. I have a lot of really good pressings, that would impress anyone. Good enough it is easy to think, “This is as good as it gets.” At least, until I put on a Hot Stamper. Then immediately it hits me, “What were you thinking?!” The beauty of it is I now have enough to do a full evening listening to Hot Stampers.

I had a group of audiophiles over one time. Some of them came from out of state. After the usual demagnetizing and warmup with some of my good “regular” records I went to Hot Stampers. You should have seen the reaction. They were already listening, but now leaning in, every one of them with “that look,” you know, the one you see when audiophiles are utterly captivated.

Thanks, Tom, and Merry Christmas!

Fantastic letter, thanks so much.

So true about Toto – when a record has a naturally smooth EQ, then the louder it gets the more correct it gets. These audiophile records with their peaky sound and boosted extreme highs can’t be played loud because all that fake EQ hurts your ears when loud.

Thanks all your support and hope to find you more good records in the coming year!

Best, TP

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Toto

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Toto – Self-Titled

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Toto

  • This copy of Toto’s debut boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • Toto’s albums have the kind of analog sound we love here at Better Records – they’re rich, huge and present, with tons of Tubey Magic and wall to wall spaciousness
  • Lukather’s overdriven guitar adds so much power to the music – the perfect combo of Grungy guitars and Rock Star vocals makes Hold the Line a staple of rock radio to this day
  • 4 stars: “Toto’s rock-studio chops allowed them to play any current pop style at the drop of a hi-hat: one minute prog rock, the next hard rock, the next funky R&B. Singles like “I’ll Supply the Love” made the charts, and “Hold the Line” hit the Top Ten.”

This is analog, make no mistake about it. Those smooth sweet vocals, open top and rich full bottom are a dead giveaway that you are playing a record and not a CD. (I understand the CD for this title is awful; bright, thin and downright painful. This is the problem with the CD: if they do a bad job making it, and you no longer own a turntable, what are your options? Squat, pretty much.)

Pop production techniques were very advanced by 1978, providing plenty of natural sounding roomy reverb around the vocals and guitars. Lukather’s overdriven, distorted guitar has near-perfect tonality; it adds so much power to the music.

Just like the Hot Stampers for Aqualung, when the guitar sounds this good, it really makes you sit up and take notice of the guy’s playing. When the sound works the music works, our definition of a Hot Stamper in seven words or less.

Turn up the volume? You better believe it!

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Boz Scaggs and Silk Degrees and Its Rich, Solid Piano – The Forgotten Sound of ’70s Rock

xxxReviews and Commentaries for the Music of Boz Scaggs

What do you hear on the best copies? Well, the first thing you hear is a rich, solid piano, a piano that’s missing from the CBS Half-Speed and 90% of the reissues we’ve played. Like so many recordings from the ’70s this album is surprisingly natural sounding. I’ve had the same experience with Billy Joel’s ’70s records. I was surprised to hear how well recorded they are — and how full-bodied the piano is — after I stopped listening to the audiophile and import pressings and went back to the original domestic copies.

When you get the right ones they’re wonderfully rich and smooth, the way good analog should be.

And these were the kinds of records that we audiophiles were complaining about back in the day. We lamented the fact that these pressings weren’t audiophile quality, like the best MoFis and Japanese pressings. Can you imagine?

This is how bad even good equipment must have been back then.

Of course we got what we deserved. We got lots of phony, hyped-up pressings to fool us into thinking we were hearing better sound, when in fact the opposite was true. I regret to say that nothing has changed — most pressings aimed at audiophiles are still mediocre if not outright awful.

The other record that immediately comes to mind to show you the sound that’s missing from many pressings, both vintage and modern, is Aja. Here’s what we had to say about it:

If you own the Cisco 180 gram pressing, focus on Victor Feldman’s piano at the beginning of the song. It lacks body, weight and ambience on the new pressing, but any of our better Hot Stamper copies will show you a piano with those qualities in spades all the way through. It’s some of my favorite work by the Steely Dan vibesman. The thin piano on the Cisco release must be recognized for what it is: a major error on the part of the mastering engineers.

A full piano is key to the sound of the best pressing of Silk Degrees.

The other thing you hear on the best copies is a smooth, sweet top end, which is likewise missing from the above mentioned pressings.

Most copies lack presence and top end.

Dull, thick, opaque sound is far too common on Silk Degrees, which may account for some audiophiles finding the half-speed preferable.

Of course, our Hot Stampers give you the presence and highs that let this music come to life. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be Hot Stampers now would they?

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Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Boz Scaggs

Hot Stamper Pressings of Pop Masterpieces Available Now

  • A superb copy of Scaggs’ Masterpiece, with amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy brings out of the mix the solid, weighty piano that’s missing from the CBS Half-Speed and 90% of the reissues
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 5 stars: “[Scaggs] hit the R&B charts in a big way with the addictive, sly Lowdown… and expressed his love of smooth soul music almost as well on the appealing What Can I Say.”

NOTE: *On track three there are five light ticks during the outro.

Stunning sound on the better recorded tracks, which I’m happy to say are most of them. And why not? This band is basically Toto with Boz Scaggs singing lead. Paich wrote most of the songs and most of the Toto band (which didn’t exist yet of course) is in the house. (No Lukather, but the guitarists on hand manage to pull it off without him.) Check out the legendary Jeff Porcaro’s twin hi-hats on Lowdown, one per channel, energizing the rhythm of the song big time.

One of the main qualities separating the winners from the also-rans on this title is the quality of the bass. This is rhythmic music, first and foremost. David Hungate just kills on this album; he’s giving a master class on rock and roll bass on practically every track.

And, for us audiophiles, the good news is the bass is very well recorded — big, punchy and well upfront in the mix. The bad news is that only the best copies show you the note-like, clear, rich bass that must be on the master tape. Vague and smeary bottom end is the rule, not the exception, and it’s a veritable crime against Well-Recorded Sophisticated Pop such as this. (more…)

Boz Scaggs / Silk Degrees – David Hungate Gives a Master Class on the Bass

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Boz Scaggs

One of the main qualities separating the winners from the also-rans on this title is the quality of the bass. This is first and foremost rhythmic music. David Hungate just kills on this album; he’s giving a master class on rock and roll bass on practically every track. And, for us audiophiles, the good news is the bass is very well recorded — big, punchy and well up front in the mix.

The bad news is that only the best copies show you the note-like, clear, rich bass that must be on the master tape. Vague and smeary bottom end is the rule, not the exception, and it’s a veritable crime against Well-Recorded Sophisticated Pop such as this. (more…)

Toto – IV

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Toto

  • You’ll find stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this copy of Toto’s Must-Own Masterpiece 
  • Huge and clear with the kind of smooth, rich, Tubey sound you sure don’t hear on too many ’80s pop albums
  • Rosanna and Africa are both knockouts here – we’ve rarely heard them with this kind of weight, scale and energy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It was do or die for Toto on the group’s fourth album, and they rose to the challenge… Toto IV was both the group’s comeback and its peak …Toto’s best and most consistent record.

If more records sounded like this we would be out of business (and the CD would never have been invented). Thankfully we were able to find this TOTO-ly Tubey Magical copy and make it available for our customers who love the album. (more…)

Boz Scaggs / Silk Degrees – CBS Half-Speed Reviewed

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Boz Scaggs

Sonic Grade: D

Ran across this listing from all the way back in 2005. It takes shots at Badly Half-Speed Mastered records like this awful CBS audiophile pressing of Silk Degrees, as well as the audiophiles who complained about plain old domestic pressings at the time. I should know; I was one of them. Ouch. 

Old customers know that we have been relentlessly anti-audiophile-LP for years, since the early ’90s in fact, when those awful Acoustic Sounds jazz records first started coming out.

Hey, here’s a question for you. When was the last time that anybody mentioned a word about those Heavy Vinyl Disasters, badly mastered by Doug Sax with no presence and bloated bass? They’ve rather fallen from favor, have they not? I wonder why. Could it be because they were as ridiculously bad as I said they were, and it just took the rest of the world a little longer to recognize that fact? Perhaps most audiophiles are making progress. It’s just taking them a long long time. 


Hot Stamper Commentary from 2005!

Hot Stampers finally discovered! This is the SWEEETEST, RICHEST, MOST TONALLY CORRECT COPY I have ever heard.

This album has a long history here at Better Records. I used to complain about the CBS Half-Speeds being too bright.

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Toto / Self-Titled – Copy Number Three Finally Showed Us the Magic We Were Looking For

Our firstshootout from way back when [2010?] got off to a very rocky start; we were on the verge of giving up after playing two very bad, sub-generation side ones, cut at The Mastering Lab just like all the rest, but so bad even the CD might be better. If you have an awful copy, we feel your pain.

But Copy Number Three showed us the real Toto sound: the kind of sweetness and warmth we had been hoping to hear and fearing might not exist. Sure, Toto IV has killer sound, but that’s no guarantee that the first album would be recorded (or mastered or pressed) as well. In the world of audio — vinyl, equipment, what have you — there are no guarantees. The average 180 gram remastered audiophile pressing should be all the proof you need.

Good intentions don’t count for much in this business, or anywhere else for that matter.

Enough about bad audiophile records. Copy number three also had jump-out-of-the-speakers presence without being aggressive, gritty or strident, no mean feat for a pop record from this era. Like all the best rock records, the good ones make you want to turn up the volume; the louder they get the better they sound.

Yes, some copies of Toto IV are so rich and sweet you would think they were recorded ten years earlier. The clarity and tremendous dynamics seem a tad more modern, which is a good thing, right?

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Toto