We Get Letters

Letter of the Week – The Band, Leon Russell and Eagles

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

Hey Tom,   

Thank you for my most recent order and the work you do. A few specific observations on the records just received.

The Band, The Band:

This record has been a lifetime favorite of mine, since the early days when I listened to it all the time back in the 1970’s. I of course had a copy, and the MoFi release (which was not made from the Master Tapes because after they made the rock-documentary on the making of this record, someone literally lost the master tape, and the MoFi was made after that unfortunate event!).

When your RL copy arrived yesterday the first thing I noticed was the texture of the album cover. The copy I had was a smooth reproduction and the easy addition RL copy is more richly textured. When I took the album out of the outer sleeve the album cover alone took me back. Then I played it. I expected deeper RL style bass, and it delivers big time. Up on Cripple Creek took my breath away at the opening of the song.

Less anticipated was the enhanced detail in the midrange. I don’t believe I have ever heard the vocals so clear and smooth. Really sounds great, thank you!

Leon Russell and The Sheltered [sic] People:

This too is a record that has been a regular part of my musical diet since the 1970’s. Sadly, I have never been able to find a decent copy, and often played it on CD. I have never seen a copy on the Better Records site, and my guess is they are fairly rare for you as well. The English copy you sold me sounds significantly better than anything I have ever heard. The copy has very little surface noise and the dynamic range is fantastic. The echoing energy in the piano chords Leon bangs out on Sweet Emily is just one example of the richness this copy offers. Thank you!

The Eagles, The Eagles:

I am a huge fan of Desperado and On The Border, owning Hot Stamper versions of each. The direction the band took after On The Border is not for me, so they have always been a 2-album band for me. Damn good 2 album band, but just the 2.

The first album I once had the record and never played it, eventually selling it back to the local record stores. I have a copy on CD for the car, and even that I find myself not listening to it all the way through. After reading all that you guys have written on the record I decided to give it a try.

In short, it has never sounded like this on my system and the band is now a 3-record band in my house. Thank you! (more…)

Letter of the Week – Deja Vu

One of our good customers had this to say about a Hot Stamper pressing he purchased recently:

  Hey Tom,   

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing on the Crosby Still, Nash & Young Deja Vu White Hot stamper A+++ on both sides and absolutely dead quiet. I think It’s a bargain at $800.00. It absolutely trashes my Mofi version into bits and pieces. I don’t even want to mention the Classic records version because it’s painful to listen to. I’m writing up this record today and the Frank Sinatra and Count Basie Live at the Sands tomorrow.

Thanks,

Naz

Naz,

The Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered pressings of Deja Vu are, as you say, practically unlistenable once you know what that record should really sound like, and now that you have a Hot Stamper pressing, you definitely know just how good the record can sound. Demo Disc barely begins to do it justice.

Hey, I was fooled back in the mid-’80s – I used to demonstrate my system with the MoFi Deja Vu! How screwed up is that?

Let’s just say we have made a lot of progress in audio since then. We’ve learned a great deal about record collecting too, practically all of it derived from the thousands of shootouts we’ve conducted over the last twenty years, using tens of thousands of different pressings.

Letter of the Week – – Kind of Blue

Kind of Blue

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

Hey Tom,   

Holy F*CK. Just arrived. Absolutely fantastic! All I can say is wow.

I replied:

Can you believe people take that mediocre MoFi seriously? It’s a joke next to the real thing, as you now know first hand.

And how much better is the +++ version (when they appear)?

Brian E.

Brian,

We just sold a top copy last month, pricey (!) but hearing the record go to another level is a thrill that’s hard to put a price on.

Best, TP

Letter of the Week – Talking Book and Main Course

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

Hey Tom,   

I also my humble apologies for ordering one LP at a time, it started with that (insanely good by the way) 4-star pressing of my wife’s favorite Stevie Wonder record, then, I have been waiting for a solid B-52 pressing for years now, so I had to grab it and just today, I noticed the Bee Gees… just glad nobody snatched it before me, seriously, this is the HARDEST Bee Gees record to get in any condition at all !!

I am still amazed by the negativity I read sometimes about your records and prices… we talked about it before but, for god’s sake, nobody is forced to buy anything. Plus, you have very fair prices for hot stampers that are great pressings of the best records, if the luxury items are not your cup of tea.

Still keeping my eyes open for a 4-star (or maybe 5 stars 😉 Hunky Dory one day. Would not mind a similar grade for a copy of Southern Accent too !!

Cheers,
David

My reply in part:

The ignorance of the audiophile community is really something to behold. I guess I can’t complain, I held many of the same silly ideas about Heavy Vinyl up until about 2000, so give them another twenty years and
maybe they will catch on.

But of course they won’t because I had to work very hard for the last twenty years to get where I am now and most audiophiles don’t want seem to want to do much work at all! (more…)

Letter of the Week – Digital Masters used in new vinyls strangle the sound at birth…

 

Hey Tom, 

I found out from buying into these and older Mobile Fidelity’s… New pressed vinyls… The sound left me cold… Didn’t have the warmth or integrity of the intended sound we all grew up on… And how the engineers and producers wanted us to hear them…

Digital Masters used in new vinyls IMO strangle the sound at birth… They give a lifeless sound that is rather like a CD, flat in its presentation without natural warmth, timbre.. Wooden instruments don’t sound wooden, brass doesn’t sound like brass… piano, the hardest instrument to reproduce other than the full tonal range of the human voice, that doesn’t sound the same in digital…

The FANCY term applied as a Sales Gimmick…the Magic of REMASTERED…means Jack Shit in reality, when worked in the digital domain… from digital masters! Give me analog every time!

Have you noticed how the Music Industry has now begun to go Back to full Analog chain/recording again? The trend is beginning to happen with a number of new recordings specified by the artists or producers… They recognize the power of a better sound captured in the analog process…

For me, original 50s, 60s and 70s music is preferred on first or often better ED2 pressings and wax which was quieter by the mid 70s early 80s..

The MORE I buy and listen to the HOT STAMPERS !the more I value the work and dedication you guts provide! There is no ‘bullshit’ at work here! The concept you have is CLEARLY AND DEMONSTRABLY PROVEN to anyone with a pair of ears willing to listen!

Even better… you don’t even NEED a Top End $10-20,000 record deck/cartridge to FULLY appreciate it… a quality Hi-Fi set up will STILL give you that same difference!

Even with a Hot Stamper in a condition with a little surface noise, clicks etc… the Magical sound overpowers any minor age related faults of the disc to render a beguiling listening experience!

PRICELESS hearing favourite albums in a NEW and hugely better way with the Sound itself being the ONLY CONSIDERATION Compared to a Bog Standard pressing…

Often as you have seen in recent times, I have upgraded Fave albums with TOP 3 Star Best Hot STAMPERS you have when available… replacing cheaper ones I bought 7-8 years ago! (more…)

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

beatlessgt

 

Chris, an erstwhile customer from long 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.
(more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “I’ve listened to it numerous times and it just does not have that sound stage I was expecting.”

xxxxx

 

A customer recently contacted us after making his first purchase and being disappointed with the White Hot Stamper pressing we had sent him.

Hi,

Wondered who I can talk to about this record that I purchased. I’ve listened to it numerous times and it just does not have that sound stage I was expecting.

I am not looking for a refund. In fact, I refuse a refund. However, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak to someone about the factors that make this a “White Hot Pressing.”

I’m sure you need to understand what amplifier, speakers, setting, etc. I am using. Without Going into the details, I have a McIntosh amplifier and Focal 936 speakers. I know how much of a difference equipment makes in the sound of a record.

I love to hear amazing records, some of which I have in original pressings I purchased when they were released and can truly feel it when there is something special about the record. This one does not seem to have it to me, but I am interested in finding and purchasing one from you that gives that amazing feeling.

Please let me know if there is someone I can speak to about finding that record.

Thank you,
Sanjay

I replied with an overwhelming amount of information (and opinions!) designed to help Sanjay understand more about records, as follows:

Sanjay,

Tom here. Let me see if I can help.

The first thing I would need to know is what version of the album do you have that you think sounds better, or, if not better, comparable?

[He had no other pressing, not surprising as our White Hot copies are almost impossible to beat.]

Assuming you don’t have a better copy — we would be very surprised if you did — we would say that it’s likely there are two factors at play:

White Hot does not mean amazing Demo Disc sound. It means the best sound we can find for this recording, relative to the others we play. In other words, the best there is within the limitations of the recording.

We can’t fix the recording, we can only find you the best available pressing. If you were expecting more, something along the lines of Dark Side of the Moon, then I understand your disappointment.

For the band’s first album, we wrote:

It’s unlikely you will be demonstrating your system with this record, but you may find yourself enjoying the hell out of it for what it is — an early example of Roots Rock that still holds up today.

For Green River we wrote:

Green River isn’t ever going to be a knockout demo disc, but a copy like this allows you to enjoy the music as it was recorded. Most copies are so dull, grainy and lifeless that someone would have to wake you at the end of a side!

We have a section for great sounding recordings, it’s this one:

https://www.better-records.com/product.aspx?pf_id=top100

There are no CCR records in this section and never will be.

The second point I would make is that some records are much more difficult to reproduce than others, and require the right equipment to do them justice.   In the listing for your record, under one of the tabs, you can find all of this.

The story of our recent shootouts is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two top sides such as these. The best copies no longer to seem to have the problems we used to hear all the time.

Of course the reason I hadn’t heard the congestion and grittiness in the recording is that two things changed. One, we found better copies of the record to play — probably, can’t say for sure, but let’s assume we did, and, Two, we’ve made lots of improvements to the stereo since the last time we did the shootout.

You have to get around to doing regular shootouts for any given record in order to find out how far you’ve come, or if you’ve come any distance at all. Fortunately for us the improvements, regardless of what they might be or when they might have occurred, were incontrovertible. The album was now playing at a much, much higher level.

It’s yet more evidence supporting the possibility, indeed the importance, of taking full advantage of the Revolutions in Audio of the last ten or twenty years.

Who’s to Blame?

It’s natural to blame sonic shortcomings on the recording; everyone does it, including us.

But in this case We Was Wrong. The congestion and distortion we’d gotten used to are no longer a problem on the best copies. We’ve worked diligently on every aspect of record cleaning and reproduction, and now there’s no doubt that we can get these vintage Creedence records to play at a much higher level than we could before.

This is why we keep experimenting, keep tweaking and keep searching for the best sounding pressings, and why we encourage you to do the same.

A word of caution: Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems . Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).

High-Ranking

This recording ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.

It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be, involving, you guessed it, many of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we tout so obsessively. It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.

If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .

{He sent me a picture of the speaker he uses, the Focal 936. It has 3 6.5 inch woofers.]

I would not want to play a CCR record with the speaker you have. It is doubtful it can move enough air to get the weight of the music right.

We discuss our system and why a CCR record would sound right on our big speakers here:

https://www.better-records.com/product.aspx?pf_id=stereo

On my blog I have a section for:

RECORDS THAT SOUND BEST ON BIG SPEAKERS AT LOUD LEVELS

https://ontherecord.co/category/records-that-sound-best-this-way/records-that-sound-best-on-big-speakers-at-loud-levels/

with 300+ entries at this point, including all the CCR albums.

This is a lot to digest, but after 40 years of audio experience and record collecting, I have learned a few things, and the above information is my attempt to help others with what I have learned:

https://www.better-records.com/product.aspx?pf_id=expert

Please take the time to read all the information I have sent, as well as as much of the following as you can, probably best spread out over the course of a few weeks:

https://www.better-records.com/dept.aspx?dept_id=14-006-016

If you would like specific recommendations about records you are interested in that we think would sound good on your stereo, we are happy to point you in the right direction.

Best, TP

(more…)

Derek Makes the Case for His Hot Stamper Dark Side of the Moon

pinkfdarks

I wanted to comment on the discussion as to the validity of the ‘Better Records’ business model and offerings to audiophiles. As a backgrounder, I am an electrical engineer that grew up in the 60s and 70s listening first hand to many of the classic LPs that Better Records now offers for sale. I was also a musician with perfect pitch (playing French Horn in the Symphony and keyboards in various bands), I had a killer stereo and spent a lot of time in recording studios that produced some of the top acts and albums of the era so I certainly had exposure to the best equipment and listening environments back in the day.

I went on to being a CEO of various telecom/mobile software companies and somewhat lost touch with my musical purist roots. But I had 3 boys and one of them turned out to have the same music bug I had and he has gone on to pursuing a career as a recording engineer, re-introducing me to analog vinyl LPs, pushing me to re-engage in my greatest love, which I eventually did in spades: I tossed out my electrostatics and full digital sound chain and I built a set of Altec 604 monitors driven by a 300B tube amp and a killer turntable, and I went about spending about $30,000 on 1st pressing vinyl from around the world, cleaning them with an ultrasonic platform, and I learned a great deal during that process. (more…)

Chicago and The Hottest Stampers – Are You a Thrillseeker Too?

 

xxxxx

When it comes to sound, I’m a Thrillseeker. I want to hear it LOUDER and BETTER, with more ENERGY and EXCITEMENT, and the reason I spent so many hundreds, even thousands, of hours working on my stereo is that that kind of sound doesn’t happen by accident. You have to work your ass off to get it. And spend a lot of money. And dig through a lot of dusty record bins buying LPs until you find one that sounds the way you want it to.

I don’t play records to drink wine and smoke cigars. I play records to ROCK. Whether the music is rock, jazz or classical, I want to feel the power of the music just as you would feel it at the live event. To me that means big speakers and loud levels. We played Chicago VII as loud as we could… (more…)