*We Get Letters

Letter of the Week – “I break out into a cold sweat whenever I think about the fact that I was willing to shell out $2000 for one record.”

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

More on the Subject of Hot Stamper Pricing

One of our good customers had some questions about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

This Zeppelin 2 hot stamper is killing me, Tom. I love it. It’s not perfect, but it’s significantly better than almost any other copies I’ve heard. Enough that I’d stop my quest with this one, I really believe.

But, I break out into a cold sweat whenever I think about the fact that I was willing to shell out $2000 for one record. I never saw this coming. But then, I play it, I love it, and I can’t think of letting it go. (I rationalize the expenditure by reminding myself of all the ~$2000 audio purchases that bring me less joy than this one record does – headphones, cartridges, preamps, etc.)

It’s not like I’m a surgeon or a dentist – I’ve got a limit, and I’m past it. I’m inclined to keep it, but would you please help me conceptualize this? I have some questions maybe you won’t mind answering:

Is this the most expensive record you’ve ever sold?

I don’t recall any record selling for more than that, so yes, probably.

I actually think this thing might hold some of its value. This record in this condition might sell for $700+ on ebay or discogs, even if people can’t actually listen to it. I wonder what this record in this good shape will be selling for in ten years.

This copy might sell for $2000 today! I have seen them go for more than that. The right guy will pay it because it is unlike 90+% of the copies that come up for sale, which are groove-damaged, noisy and scratched.

Have you got “super hot stampers” or other white hots of Zep II on-hand to list?

If so, will the prices be significantly less than the $2K I just paid?

I don’t want to end up feeling even more buyer’s remorse if I felt like something nearly as good was available for significantly less…

There will probably never be a time when the price of that record comes down, unless you are talking about a copy with serious condition issues.

The prices we pay preclude any lowering of prices for good copies. If anything we are going to have to charge more, and that goes for all the big titles. Harvest? Used to be 500-600. Now? 800-1200. This is the world we live in now, and if we can’t charge those prices, we won’t do the shootouts and we won’t have copies to sell of those titles.

Hope all this keeps you from breaking out in a cold sweat.

Best, TP

Further Reading

Letter of the Week – “FINALLY, a copy that does this brilliant, impassioned music justice.”

More of the Music of Sinead O’Connor

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

Hey Tom, 

Man, you guys did it again!!! You NEVER disappoint. 🙂

I just got done spinning Sinead’s “Lion & the Cobra.” OMG. This is an album that almost never sounds good. But the copy you sold me sounds INCREDIBLE. FINALLY, a copy that does this brilliant, impassioned music justice. I sat there (not kidding – embarrassingly) with tears streaming. Ridiculous.

Perhaps even more of a testimony, my 14-year-old son heard it from upstairs, came downstairs to check it out – and actually ended up staying through both sides! We both looked at each other when it was done, and shook our heads in disbelief. AMAZING.

Can’t thank you guys enough – for your dedication to quality in sound reproduction, and for allowing music of incredible quality to be well represented – as it SHOULD be.

Steve M.


Thanks so much for your letter!

Further Reading

Your Shootout Questions Answered – Part Two

More of the Music of The Rolling Stones

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Robert Brook wrote to me recently with some questions about shootouts.

I answered most of them in Part One of this commentary. Here are the questions he posed that remain to be answered.

[I]f you put a shootout together of [redacted stamper] pressings and whatever else you like, does every copy in the shootout grade at least A++ / A++? Are the right stampers that reliable?

I guess I’ve always assumed that even if you put together a shootout with this or any other title, and even if you only include pressings that have won or placed high in the past, at least a couple of them would end up graded no higher than A+ or A+ to A++.

And if that is correct, wouldn’t it be worth buying more UK TML’s to see if any emerge that could win a shootout?

With Revolver, for instance, why not just do shootouts with [the best stampers] if those are the ones that win the shootouts? Why even bother with [later pressings]?


First Question

If I may paraphrase, you’re asking, “do the right stampers always get good grades?”

Yes, almost always. It’s rare for any original Sticky Fingers with the right stampers to earn less than a 2+ grade on either side.

This was not always the case. In the early 2000s, we tried and failed more than once to do a shootout for Sticky Fingers. We just could not get the records clean enough. They were noisy and distorted. (Yes, some of the congestion and distortion you hear on old records is simply grunge in the grooves.)

In 2007 we discovered the Walker Record Cleaning System and started using it in combination with a much more sophisticated machine, the Odyssey. As we refined our cleaning techniques, records like Sticky Fingers got a lot quieter and a lot better sounding. Our first shootout occurred soon thereafter.

I still have the ratings for some of those older shootouts saved on a spreadsheet. Even as late as 2016, there were copies with sides that earned grades of 1+ and 1.5+. That would never happen now.

We’ve made so many improvements to our playback system and room that you might say that “no copy gets left behind.” The wrong stampers, sure, they can disappoint. But it’s been a long time since the right ones did.

In those years, we were just catching on to the fact that blaming the record for the sonic problems we might be hearing was a loser’s game. The better our system got, the fewer problems the records we played seemed to have, a subject we discussed in this commentary for Led Zeppelin IV:

Some Led Zeppelin II’s with RL in the dead wax earn grades of 2+, and those are very disappointing grades considering how much we pay for those copies, often over $1000 and sometimes close to $1500. But an RL-mastered pressing earning less than 2+ is just not in the cards. Sure, an uncleaned one could easily grade out to that, or worse. One that was improperly cleaned could even sound terrible. We’ve had records cleaned by so-called experts that made them sound like CDs. I guess that’s the sound they were going for: quiet and unmusical.

Second Question

With Revolver, for instance, why not just do shootouts with [redacted numbers] if those are the ones that win the shootouts? Why even bother with [later pressings]?

The stampers that tend to win shootouts are hard to find. With only the “right” stampers, it might take us 18 to 24 months to find enough clean copies with which to do a shootout. These days we do Revolver twice a year, at least, and this makes our customers happy, because everybody deserves a chance to own a killer copy of Revolver.

As for the others, there are many reasons we bother with pressings we know can’t win a shootout. As I said in Part One, if the Mastering Lab-cut copies were plentiful and cheap, we would probably put some of them in shootouts. If enough earned good grades, 2+ let’s say, then the time and effort to clean and play them might very well be justified. If too many earned grades of 1.5+, that would not be the case. We would be wasting time better spent on pressings we know to have more potential, a classic case of opportunity costs.

Our customers expect to be knocked out by the sound of our Hot Stamper pressings, and 1.5+ records are rarely going to result in a knockout.

Now in the case of Revolver, some of the UK pressings that will never win a shootout can still earn 2+ most of the time. They are also cheap to find and usually are in very clean condition.

One More Reason

We like to put them in shootouts for the obvious reasons — cheap, plentiful, quiet — as well as one other reason which we only came to appreciate over a much longer period of time.

If I were to play nothing but the one or two stampers that always win shootouts, how would I know what the average UK vintage pressing sounds like? How would I know what the typical audiophile is hearing on his copy of Revolver, even if he’s knowledgable enough to stick with vintage Parlophone pressings?

We need “good, not great” copies to create a baseline, and to show us where the difficult passages may be on any given track.

What does the guitar solo on Taxman sound like most of the time?

How harsh is She Said, She Said as a rule?

We need to know these things and dozens of others.

One of the things White Hot Shootout Winning pressings do is solve all the problems heard on the other copies.

If you don’t hear the other copies, you might mistakenly assume that they have no real problems, or few anyway. Playing the second- and third-rate pressings is what allows you to hear what makes them second- and third-rate.

Once we know the aspects of the mix they have struggled to reproduce correctly, we then compare them to our top copies. This shows us exactly what makes the top copies first-rate. They’re the ones that get everything — or nearly everything — right.


Letter of the Week – “I can’t see myself ever getting bored of the way my music sounds.”

Record Collecting for Audiophiles from A to Z

How to Get the Most Out of Your Records – A Step by Step Guide

Aaron has some comments about the audiophile record collectors he has been watching lately on youtube:

Sometimes I wonder why people are even into records.

I get it that it’s fun to collect them and compare them and brag about them and have a tangible thing you can hold in your hands and put on your shelves.

But for me, those aspects of vinyl listening are a distraction at best, and unhealthy at worst, and I really try to resist their allure.

If somebody’s not doing it for the sound, it’s a dangerous hobby, since it can waste a lot of time and money. If you ARE doing it for the sound, you have to be an empiricist. You have to wonder. You’ve got to be curious! [Aaron wrote a very nice piece about the importance of curiosity, which you can read here.]

He added this in another email to us:

Part of me envies the dudes who can just buy what they’re told to buy, and believe they have it as good as it can possibly be. Sometimes I think it must be nice to just be complacent like that. But, I’ll bet they eventually stop listening to their records. It’s not all that rewarding a hobby if you stop at pretty good sound. I can’t see myself ever getting bored of the way my music sounds.

I’m sure I will have plenty more to say on this blog regarding record collecting, but for now I would just point out that audiophiles collect records for lots of reasons, and if they enjoy having a collection of audiophile pressings, and find that they derive satisfaction from owning and discussing them with other similarly-interested individuals, then more power to them. Who am I to tell them what they should be doing with their spare time?

For me, and obviously for Aaron and other letter writers, Robert Brook among them, the appeal to this aspect of record collecting borders on nonexistent, a subject I have written a fair amount about here on the blog, to wit:

For us here at Better Records, collecting for the sake of collecting has never held much appeal.

We like to play records, not just collect them, and we like to play records with the best sound we can find, using the shootout process we developed over the last two decades. We call those kinds of records Hot Stamper pressings, and finding them, and making them available to other like-minded audiophiles, has been the focus of our work for close to twenty years.

All the collecting we leave to other people who enjoy that sort of thing.

The only kinds of records I like to play are the ones that can give me a thrill, the way live music (sometimes) gives me a thrill.


The Law of Large Numbers Can Help You Find Better Records

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Roy Orbison

More Commentary on the Remastered Heavy Vinyl LP

Presenting another entry in our series of Big Picture observations concerning records and audio.

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

Hey Tom,   

I’m going out of my frigging mind on this White Hot stamper of Roy Orbison Greatest Hits. What a piece of sh*t is my DCC test pressing.



I used to like the DCC vinyl too.

Then my stereo got a lot better, which I write about under the heading Progress in Audio.

Eventually it became obvious to me what was wrong with practically all of the Heavy Vinyl pressings that were put out by that label.

The good ones can be found in this group, along with other Heavy Vinyl pressings we liked or used to like.

The bad ones can be found in this group.

And those in the middle end up in this group.

Audio and record collecting (they go hand in hand) are hard. If you think either one is easy you are very likely not doing it right,, but what makes our twin hobbies compelling enough to keep us involved over the course of a lifetime is one simple fact, which is this: Although we know so little at the start, and we have so much to learn, the journey itself into the world of music and sound turns out to be both addictive and a great deal of fun.

Every listing in this section is about knowing now what I didn’t know then, and there is enough of that material to fill its own blog if I would simply take the time to write it all down.

Every album shootout we do is a chance to learn something new about records. When you do them all day, every day, you learn things that no one else could possibly know who hasn’t done the work of comparing thousands of pressings with thousands of other pressings.

The Law of large numbers[1] tells us that in the world of records, more is better. We’ve taken that law and turned it into a business.

It’s the only way to find Better Records.

Not the records that you think are better.

No, truly better records are the records that proved themselves to be better empirically, by employing rigorous scientific methodologies that we have laid in detail for anyone to read and follow.

Being willing to make lots of mistakes is part of our secret, and we admit to making a lot of them

Knowing what I know now, and having the system currently that I’ve put together over the course of the last twenty years or so, I guarantee you the DCC Gold CD is dramatically better sounding than their vinyl release. They almost always are.

Steve Hoffmann brilliantly mastered many classic albums for DCC. I much prefer the DCC’s CDs to their records.

DCC’s CDs did not have to fight their way through Kevin Gray’s opaque, airless, low-resolution cutting system, a subject we have discussed on the blog in some depth here.

[1] Wikipedia on the Law of large numbers:


Your Shootout Questions Answered

More of the Music of The Rolling Stones

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Robert Brook wrote to me recently with some questions.

Hi Tom,

I read your recent post about Sticky Fingers and the European TML reissues you included in shootouts.

It raised a question for me that I’ve been wanting to ask you for a while now.

The fact that the UK TML earned an A+ to A++ grade and that, with just a one copy sample, you wouldn’t consider that pressing to have shootout winning potential, suggests to me that the US pressings you favor will grade at A++ or higher.

In other words, if you put a shootout together of [redacted stamper] pressings and whatever else you like, does every copy in the shootout grade at least A++ / A++? Are the right stampers that reliable?

I guess I’ve always assumed that even if you put together a shootout with this or any other title, and even if you only include pressings that have won or placed high in the past, at least a couple of them would end up graded no higher than A+ or A+ to A++.

And if that is correct, wouldn’t it be worth buying more UK TML’s to see if any emerge that could win a shootout?

With Revolver, for instance, why not just do shootouts with [redacted numbers] if those are the ones that win the shootouts? Why even bother with [later pressings]?


All good questions! I could go on for days with this kind of inside baseball stuff. I’ve been living it full time for more than twenty years, and it obviously interests you because you are actually trying to hone your shootout skills and figure out how many of what pressings you need to get one going, etc., etc.

Not many others are doing what you are doing in a serious way, so how helpful anyone will find this information is hard to know. Under the circumstances, I should have kept my answers shorter rather than longer but I could not resist going into more detail than might have been advisable. Feel free to skim if you like.

Why not put more TML pressings into shootouts?

If they had pressed plenty of them and they’d ended up sitting in record bins all over town for twenty bucks a pop, we could get a bunch in and see if we could figure which stampers, if any, are able to reach the Super Hot stamper level.

Instead, they are expensive imports that cost as much or more than the copies that we buy with shootout winning stampers. Some audiophiles mistakenly think that they are much better sounding than we they actually are, an error in judgment which has a number of knock-on effects.

One, it raises the prices for these pressings far beyond what they would otherwise be if only these individuals were able to clean and play them the way we do.

The best early domestic pressings of the album are night and day better sounding.

If you think The Mastering Lab pressings are competitive with the right originals, you could not possibly have heard one of our shootout winning pressings. There is no contest. Why would we waste any money on them?

Two, we don’t carry water for these audiophile record reviewers. They think they know a lot more than they do. They clearly have no idea how to do the work that it takes to find the best sounding pressings.

We do not respect the opinions of those who have little understanding of records and their pressing variations. The faulty conclusions they invariably arrrive at lack evidentiary support because they don’t know how to do what we do and can’t be bothered to learn.

Amazing Originals

Regardless of what these folks believe, by now we’ve heard dozens and dozens of amazing originals. This made us extremely skeptical that any other mastering house could compete with the right original’s sound. It was just too good.

We’re not always correct about these things. We were dead wrong about a couple of famous Pink Floyd albums from the “wrong” country that we’d heard good things about. They have been winning shootouts for many years now. Live and learn.

In this case we simply did our due diligence. We got a couple of candidates in, cleaned them up and played them, so that we could know what we were talking about, with evidence to back up what we say. Beyond that we quickly lost interest.

And, finally, shootouts are tedious and difficult. They require a great deal of mental concentration, which quickly becomes fatiguing and is often frustrating.

However, great sounding records are a positive thrill to play. The more potentially great sounding copies there are in a shootout, the more fun that shootout is likely to be.

Playing too many mediocre copies bogs down and drags out the proceedings, and the TML pressings of Sticky Fingers are not much better than mediocre. They may impress some audiophiles — this is not hard to do, audiophiles in general seem to us much too easily impressed — but after playing scores of copies over the last twenty years, we’re pretty sure we know Sticky Fingers about as well as anyone can know it.

The Evolution of Generalities

The right stampers on the right UK Island labels always win the shootouts for our two most popular Cat Stevens titles, Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat.

Although the domestic copies are cut by Lee Hulko, on the same lathe, from the same tape, they may do well, but they never win shootouts up against the best UK pressings.

In 2006 we had an incomplete understanding of the album. We didn’t know it at the time, but we still had a lot more R&D to do. Dozens of shootouts later, using blind testing, the exact same stampers win each and every shootout we do.

If using scientific methods gives you predictable results, you must be on to something that is fundamentally true of reality.

For this reason, we don’t do shootouts for these two titles until we have acquired a preponderance of clean UK copies with the right stampers. Sure, we put other pressings in the shootout to fill out the numbers, but we must have a sufficient number of pressings with shootout winning potential, and not too many of those without it, before we would want to get a shootout going.

One Stamper Rule

There are scores of records that we play that have one specific set of stampers that always win.

Fragile is one. We cannot do the shootout for Fragile until we find enough clean copies with precisely the right stampers. (And no, they’re not A. If you think they’re A, you have never bought one of White Hot shootout winners. They are never A.)

There was a three year period (2017 to 2020) in which we didn’t do a shootout for Deja Vu because we simply could not find enough copies in clean condition with the right stampers. Knowing the right stampers doesn’t do you any good if you can’t track them down.

Kind of Blue is a shootout we would never do without a least a few clean 6-Eye Stereo pressings, as well as some 360s and the one stamper on the 70s Red Label that we like (which is the hardest of all of them to find). We don’t do Kind of Blue nearly as often as we would like because none of the pressings we need for our shootouts is all that common in audiophile playing condition.

Our last shootout for John Barleycorn took place in 2019. We finally managed to do it again just this week. Yes, it takes four years to find enough of the right stampers to do some titles, Barleycorn among them.

Do the right stampers always get good grades?


Letter of the Week – “…the $900 White Album is blowing my mind…”

More of the Music of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Beatles

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

Hey Tom, 

Loving the recent records… the $900 White Album is blowing my mind… keep thinking I’m going to have to wipe Paul McCartney’s spit off my toes…

And the K. D. Lang… words fail for the sound here (not to mention the music) – it’s MASSIVE and lush.

Also, I’ll include the new AP Kind of Blue UHQR with this return for you to hear. I have been burning in a new phonostage, and my previous impressions were a bit rough and ready given that I was having to use a temporary phonostage at that time… so now I’d say that while yes there is more air in this issue/pressing than the claustrophobic and downright weird MoFi, this doesn’t sound natural; instruments (esp. horns) have no edge to them; piano and horn fade together in a single midi-like tone… see what you think and let me know.

Dear C.,

Looking forward to hearing it. Nothing could be more wrong sounding than the new MoFi Kind of Blue, but AP could certainly give it a run for its money in the weird Audiophile Remastering Race to the Bottom that these labels are currently engaged in, owing to their production of one awful Heavy Vinyl LP after another.

What you describe are the trademark sounds of bad mastering choices, which are the only kinds of choices that Analogue Productions makes it seems.

As you may have read elsewhere on this blog:

As long as Analogue Productions is around, at least no one can say that Mobile Fidelity makes the worst sounding audiophile pressings in the history of the world. They are certainly some of the worst, but not so bad that they have never made a single good sounding record, which is the title that Chad Kassem holds (to the best of our knowledge. Obviously we have only played a small fraction of the records released by him. In our defense let me say that that small fraction was all we could take.)

Thanks for your letter. That White Album was indeed killer. For $900 it had better be!


Letter of the Week – “…modern records are “recessed” and “veiled” and “murky,” and the records you sell are “present” and “transparent” and “lively.”

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Tips and Tricks on Making Audio Progress

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

Hey Tom, 

I’m always eager to learn from you guys (i.e., The Masters!) on how to improve sound reproduction when listening to records at home. Can you refer me to additional resources on 1) room treatments and 2) having good electricity?

Any assistance you could provide on these subjects would be greatly appreciated!

Jonathan R


Happy to give you some pointers:

Here is a bit of help from the blog:

More of the same:

The only room treatments we recommend you buy are these:

We know a lot about room treatments, but sharing that knowledge is difficult, it’s too “case by case” to generalize. Most of our stuff is oddball and DIY. All we really know is what works.

Hope this helps.



I really can’t adequately describe how much more pleasurable the experience of listening to records has been since Hot Stampers came into my life. The work that you and your team do in tracking down records, cleaning them thoroughly (so crucial!), comparing them with one another in shootouts, and making them available for the rest of us to enjoy is something along the lines of a sacred mission.

You’ve truly hit the nail on the head in describing modern/current records as “recessed” and “veiled” and “murky,” and the records you sell as “present” and “transparent” and “lively.” My stereo equipment is pretty rudimentary when you get right down to it (although I have made some upgrades recently), but I can still hear—and feel!—an enormous difference between Hot Stampers and what currently masquerades in the marketplace as “audiophile” LPs.


Letter of the Week – How Good Are Record Cleaning Services?

Record Cleaning – An Overview

New to the Blog? Start Here

One of our customers thought he would try a record cleaning service to get some of his records cleaned. Here is what he found.

Hi Tom,

I got my first set of records back from the cleaning service. Very disappointing.

I’m being totally straight when I say you have set a new standard for what I expect a clean record to sound like. As soon as I heard the pressing of Sticky Fingers, and all subsequent records I bought from you, I realized it was possible to get old records really clean. Almost flawlessly clean like a CD I want to say. The sounds on the record are clearer but so are the littlest tiny pops in the groove. I don’t know what you call them to distinguish them from bigger pops, [we call them ticks] but you can hear them so clearly on quiet passages and between songs and really through the song except the loudest parts.

I know not all vinyl is dead quiet but there are few records from the 1980’s I took very good care of and hadn’t played very much that they should have been able to get much much cleaner in my opinion. And the record’s surface is perfect to the eye, so I’m guessing it’s their cleaning methods. All the records have the same defect cleaning wise, except the brand new record I sent. That sounds better than it did and is crystal clear. Overall, no bueno.

Your records were way way better. I guess I’m going to have to get that particular solution system you recommended. Do I need that $4000 German machine to do it right after that? Or are there other ultrasonic cleaners worth investigating? I know some people make their own. Whatever you care to share as I don’t have $4000 dollars.



Sorry to hear of this company’s failings. As you know, I am not the least bit surprised.

I don’t think anyone that offers such a service would know how to clean records properly. Real cleaning is much more difficult than any of these folks think it is. If they knew how hard it is, they would know how expensive the service would have to be and how unlikely it would be that anyone would want to pay such a price to have a record cleaned and its sound improved.

We don’t offer such a service partly because we know exactly how much work is involved.

The Next Best Thing

On a limited budget, the approach we recommend would be a VPI 16.5 machine (buy one used, they last forever) using the Walker Enzyme System in a three step process. This will get you about halfway to where we are and you would like to be: quieter discs with much improved sound.

If you don’t want to scrub your own records, then an ultrasonic machine is probably your next best bet, but in order for it to do a good job, you must use Walker Step 2 and the proper rinse water afterwards.

Some of these machines are not that expensive, under $1k perhaps, and this should be affordable for the average audiophile. The $8, 000 German machine we use makes all our records sound better, but admittedly that is a chunk of change to spend on cleaning. And the time it takes to clean more than a handful of records is considerable.

We have the Walker Enzyme Cleaning System in stock and almost ready to sell. It is the only fluid we recommend. The reasons for that are simple enough — many fluids on the market either don’t do much to quiet records down or make them sound better.

Some fluids we’ve tried will make your records sound worse, which is pretty shocking when you think about it.

Hope this helps give you the guidance you were looking for.

Best, TP


We had awful luck with the one cleaning service we tried, a different one from the one you used. Our records came back sounding terrible and we had to reclean them all in order to restore the sound quality they had apparently removed with their “process.”


Jethro Tull – “Here I was with all these copies at home… went through them all, and yes, yours came out on top.”

More of the Music of Jethro Tull

Reviews and Commentaries for Aqualung

This week’s testimonial letter comes from our good customer Michel, who was blown away by the Hot Stamper pressing of Aqualung we sent him.

Michel did a shootout of his own, comparing our Hot Stamper with everything he could throw at it. The result? Predictable, from where we stand anyway. If we can’t beat our copy, how can he expect to beat our copy?

Note that a well known audiophile reviewer did his own shootout for the album years ago, in which he failed rather embarrassingly to come up with anything resembling a good answer. We are glad to report that our new customer, Michel, succeeded admirably.

To be fair, Michel had a lot of help.

He had a group of experts with many hard-won years of experience on his side. Audiophile reviewers, without exception, at least to our knowledge, simply have neither the time nor the resources to figure out a title like Aqualung. When you’re a one-man band, Aqualung is not a puzzle you are very likely to solve.

We ourselves didn’t solve it until 2008, by which time I had been in the audiophile record business for more than twenty years. Without a staff to find, clean and help play the large numbers of copies needed to unlock  Aqualung’s secrets, not to mention a stereo that’s designed to be exceptionally hard to please, we would be just as lost as everyone else in the audiophile world, reviewers and forum posters alike.

Michel’s letter:

Thank You, Fred

I’ve got a LOT of listening to do ahead of me. Looking forward to it very much.

Reading on your website… omg… there is so much to read there… has been a real treat. I don’t read the intense notes on the LPs I buy until after I have listened to them, so as to be as objective as possible. It is really interesting to discover that LPs with the same stamper do not always sound the same. This is something I never really understood prior to discovering your company.

My sell pile of other copies, both reg. and fancy ‘audiophile,’ is growing. I don’t care what all the “experts” and youtubers say… if I can feel the music and it connects with me making me want to move my body around, then that is the best pressing.

Some of these titles are epic, like Aqualung for example. So here I was with all these copies at home… went through them all, and yes, yours came out on top.

I tried so hard to make it not so, but the proof is in the pudding as they say.

I am not a ‘high class audiophile’ with a mondo expensive system whose power amps costs more then everything I’ve got, but I’ve got a good set of ears, and I play it loud (no distortion) to expose everything… and I let me ears and my feelings do the selecting. All that gibberish people spout out is endless. I do not feel the need to justify how much I spent on this or that….just listen.

I have very much been enjoying my journey with Better Records, and yes I have spent of bunch of dollars, and yes if I tried to resell them I’d never get it back, but none of that matters…. only the sound is what matters to me…. and apparently to your company as well. Discovering BR has been a real blast!

Take Good Care,


What can I add to anything you say? You totally get it.

You know exactly what your money is buying: the feeling you get from this music. You are not buying a collectible, nor an investment, nor anything but the rapture of a purely musical experience, one that you can repeat as often as you like for the rest of your life. What you have now is the beginning of a priceless collection.

Some might argue that the cost of the records you bought is excessive. I often read on forums that paying fifty or a hundred dollars for one record is a ridiculous waste of money. Some audiophiles think that having thirty Heavy Vinyl Jazz pressings that sound “just fine” is a much better use of your money than spending a thousand dollars on one exceptionally good vintage pressing.

We do not hold to that view, for the simple reason that when we play these modern records we feel next to nothing for the music or the musicians. (We feel contempt for those who make such shoddy products; I guess that that might be the strongest feeling aroused by most of the junk vinyl being pressed today.)

Oscar Wilde had a good take on it:

A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

 I think that speaks volumes for what some of us, like yourself, are trying to get out of this hobby. Thanks for writing,