A listing for an early domestic Hot Stamper pressing for Sticky Fingers will typically be introduced like this:
If you have never heard one of our Hot Stamper pressings of the album, you (probably) cannot begin to appreciate just how amazing the sound is.
A landmark Glyn Johns / Andy Johns recording, our favorite by the Stones, a Top 100 Title (of course) and 5 stars on Allmusic (ditto).
After hearing so much buzz about it, we finally broke down and ordered a German TML pressing about a year ago. Having played scores of phenomenally good sounding copies of the album over the past fifteen or so years, we were very skeptical that anyone could cut the record better than the mastering engineers who inscribed Rolling Stones Records into the dead wax on the early pressings. (I could find no mastering engineers credited.)
Well, the results were not good. As we suspected would be the case, we were not impressed in the least with what The Mastering Lab — one of the greatest independent cutting houses of all time, mind you — had wrought.
Their version is not really even good enough to sell. It might have earned a grade of One Plus, just under the threshold for a Hot Stamper that we would put on the site these days. Decent, but no more than that.
Wait, There’s More
We subsequently learned that it is the British TML pressingss that are supposed to be the best.
So we got one of those in, an A3/B4 copy.
Better, but good enough? Barely.
Here are the notes for the copy we played. For those who have trouble reading our writing, I have transcribed the notes as follows:
Weighty, a bit veiled or smeary. Backing vox kinda lost.
Very full, rockin’ but not the sparkle/space.
Not as huge.
Not as rich, clear.
A bit pushy/dry vox.
No real space.
This works better.
A bit hard, but full and lively.
Is this the sound audiophiles are raving about?
It shouldn’t be, but apparently it is.
However, it’s not as though we haven’t run into this issue hundreds and hundreds of times before. Audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them regularly rave about one Heavy Vinyl pressing after another being The Greatest of All Time, yet we have never found a single instance in which this was true for any of the modern reissues they have seen fit to crown.
Three Little Words
Our explanation for the mistaken judgments audiophiles and reviewers make so consistently has never been all that complicated. As you may have read elsewhere on this blog:
More evidence, if any were needed, that the three most important words in the world of audio are compared to what?
No matter how good a particular copy of a record may sound to you, when you clean and play enough of them you will almost always find one that’s better, and often surprisingly better.
You must keep testing all the reissues you can find, and you must keep testing all the originals you can find.
Shootouts are the only way to find these kinds of very special records. That’s why you must do them.
Nothing else works. If you’re not doing shootouts (or buying the winners of shootouts from us), you simply don’t have top quality copies in your collection, except in the rare instances where you just got lucky. In the world of records luck can only take you so far. The rest of the journey requires effort.
This bit of boilerplate for Heavy Vinyl pressings seems a perfect match for the TML recuts on regular-weight vinyl we played. The reason for that is not hard to appreciate: good records tend to do a lot of the same things well, and bad records tend to have the same faults.
As a general rule, this pressing will fall short in some or all of the following areas when played head to head against the vintage LPs we offer:
If you would like to hear what you’ve been missing, there’s a chance we have a Hot Stamper pressing of the album in stock. Click here to see.