- Boasting two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this vintage copy was giving us the sound we were looking for on Scaggs’s self-titled LP
- Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record – but here they are!
- ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digitally sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
- 4 1/2 stars: “…the record is pitch-perfect, from the Jimmie Rodgers cover ‘Waiting for a Train’ and the folky ‘Look What I Got!’ to the extended 12-minute blues workout ‘Loan Me a Dime,’ which functions as much as a showcase for a blazing Duane Allman as it does for Boz.”
- Boasting superb Double Plus (A++) grades from top to bottom, you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds remotely as good as this original 360 Stereo pressing
- This copy has the ideal combination of openness and transparency balanced with the richness and solidity of vintage analog
- When Janis starts singing, watch out – her voice positively jumps out of the speakers, something we didn’t hear her do on many of the other copies in our shootout
- Features “Try,” one of Janis’s All Time Classics – and with these grades you can be sure it sounds positively amazing here
- Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
This Columbia 360 Stereo pressing is the cure for Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues!
Drop the needle on the great song “Try” and just listen to how crisp, punchy, and big the drums sound. The bottom end has real weight and the top end is silky and extended. The overall sound is rich, full, and smooth.
Energy is the key element missing from the average copy, but not on this bad boy (or girl, if you prefer). The electric guitars are super Tubey Magical and the bass is solid and punchy.
On many copies — too many copies — the vocals are pinched and edgy. Here they’re breathy and full — a much better way for Janis to sound. There’s a slight amount of grit to the vocals at times and the brass as well, but the life force on these sides is so strong that we much preferred it to the smoother, duller, deader copies we heard that didn’t have that issue.
On copy after copy we heard pinched, squawky horns and harsh vocals; not a good sound for this album. Janis’s voice needs lots of space up top to get good and loud, and both of these sides have it in spades.
Few other copies had this combination of openness and transparency on the one hand, and full, rich tonality on the other.
- Boasting roughly Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on all FOUR sides, this vintage UK import copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner (side two actually won the shootout)
- Both of these early Black Label British Track pressings have the rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that has the power to immerse you in the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy named Tommy
- Top 100, and clearly our pick for the best sounding album The Who ever made – when you play a copy that sounds as good as this one we think you’ll have no problem seeing our point
- 4 1/2 stars: “…Townshend’s ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music.”
- This is a Must Own Who Classic from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection
- It’s our pick for the band’s best sounding album. Roughly 150 other listings for the Best Recording by an Artist or Group can be found here
I know of no other Who album with such consistently good sound — song to song, not copy to copy, of course. Just about every song on here can sound wonderful on the right pressing. If you’re lucky enough to get a Hot Stamper copy, you’re going to be blown away by the Tubey Magical Guitars, the rock-solid bottom end, the jumpin’-out-of-the-speakers presence and dynamics, and the silky vocals and top end.
Usually the best we can give you for The Who is “Big and Rockin,” but on Tommy, we can give you ’60s analog magic that will all but disappear in the decades to follow.
Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.
- A superb 360 Label pressing of Santana’s debut album with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
- The drums have real snap to them – fast, clean percussion is critical to the energy and drive of Santana’s music and this copy has the top end and the speed to bring it all together
- A Must Own album, clearly their Masterpiece, and one of the truly groundbreaking debuts in rock history
- It’s also a personal favorite that knocked me out when I first heard it back in high school – over the decades it has become even more impressive, especially these days with the revolutions in cleaning and playback quality letting it sound as big and bold as it does
- “Santana combined Latin rhythms with jazz-inspired improvisation, hard-rock guitar and lyrical, B.B. King-style blues – and even had a hit single, “Evil Ways. The combination of rock guitar and funk percussion was undeniable.” – Rolling Stone
- We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Santana’s first album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.
Santana’s first album came out of nowhere and rocked in a way that few music lovers (especially those who knew nothing about Tito Puente) had heard before.
In one sense it had something in common with Led Zeppelin’s debut from early in 1969. Zep’s first album took the blues and added heavy metal guitars. Santana took African and Latin rhythms and added his own style of heavy guitar.
Each is a landmark recording in its own right. It’s hard to imagine any collection of popular music that would be without both.
Folks, you owe it to yourself to hear what a great band Santana were back in the day. Hot Stampers of any of the first three records will do the trick. If you’ve got the stereo that can play loud rock and roll, we’ve got the records that sound like Santana playing live in your listening room. Take it from someone who likes to listen to his music at fairly loud levels, Santana’s first album is truly a thrill. (more…)
- An incredible copy of Zep II with killer sound from start to finish – this one is guaranteed to rock your world like no other!
- The surfaces are mostly audible between tracks and in the quietest sections, and no Inner Groove Damage (which is almost always present on “Thank You”)
- The sound is freakishly good – we created a Top Ten list just to put this album on it
- Years ago we gave up on everything but these killer RL (and SS) pressings, because nothing else can hold a candle to them
- With copies selling for $1000+ on ebay, sometimes $3000+, we’re forced to pay big bucks for Zep II these days, but if any album is worth it, it’s this one
- This is a Must Own Zep Classic from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection
- It’s our pick for the band’s best sounding album. Roughly 100 other listings for the Best by an Artist or Group can be found here.
At least 80% of the copies we buy these days — for many, many hundreds of dollars each I might add, more than a grand on occasion — go right back to the seller. The biggest problem we run into besides obvious scratches that play and worn out grooves is easy to spot: just play the song “Thank You” at the end of side one. Most of the time there is inner groove damage so bad that the track becomes virtually unlistenable.
It’s become a common dealbreaker for the records we buy on the internet. We get them in, we play that track, we hear it distort and we pack the record up and send it back to the seller.
[This was true ten years ago, but we have since found better sources for our copies. The sellers we tend to buy from know not to send us groove-damaged, scratched copies. Something closer to 20% get returned now.]
But this copy plays clean all the way to the end on both sides — assuming you have a highly-tweaked, high-performance front end of course.
For those who wish to find their own Hot Stamper pressings of the album, we say more power to you. Our helpful advice can be found at the bottom of the listing,
- Best of Traffic finally returns to the site on this original Pink Label Island pressing with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- To find a Pink Label UK pressing that plays this quietly came as quite a shock — the superb sound we expected, but vinyl this quiet from 50 years ago? Amazing
- Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows and clear, open, extended highs that let this 1969 release come alive
- This amazing compilation boasts superb sound, often better than the very same tracks on many of the original British releases
- Top 100 and 4 stars: “The entire second side of the LP, comprising ‘Medicated Goo,’ ‘Forty Thousand Headmen,’ ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ ‘Shanghai Noodle Factory,’ and ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy,’ was the kind of progressive rock that would define Traffic and give it its place in the rock pantheon.”
- With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or close to it on both sides, this Boxed Decca UK pressing showcases the Stones at the peak of their Rock and Roll powers – remarkably quiet vinyl too
- Having played a number of Decca pressings of this album, including quite a few that were just plain awful, we doubt that any UK LP is going to win a shootout
- We have a category for records like this: imported pressings that can sound very good, but can’t beat the best domestics
- “Love In Vain” is one of the best sounding Stones songs ever recorded – the acoustic guitar harmonics and the rich whomp of the snare prove indisputably that Glyn Johns is one of the Engineering Greats
- Top 100, 5 stars – Jason McNeil wrote that Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed are “the two greatest albums the band’s (or anyone’s) ever made.” [Add Sticky Fingers to complete the ultimate Stones Trilogy.]
This is, in our humble opinion, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this wonderful early domestic pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of the recording itself, a fact that we consider the very definition of a Hot Stamper.
“Love In Vain” on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings, I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is out of this world.
- Solid Double Plus (A++) sound brings Presley’s 1969 release to life on this vintage RCA pressing
- Both sides here are superb – big, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet exceptionally clear, spacious and open
- We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you own whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market, made from who-knows-what tapes
- 5 stars: “…one of the greatest white soul albums (and one of the greatest soul albums) ever cut, with brief but considerable forays into country, pop, and blues as well. Presley sounds rejuvenated artistically throughout the dozen cuts off the original album, and he’s supported by the best playing and backup singing of his entire recording history.”
Of the handful of Elvis albums to ever make it to the site, this is clearly the critics’ favorite, and one listen will tell you why. This is the album that single-handedly revived Elvis’ fortunes, setting the stage for his record-breaking series of shows in Las Vegas doing pretty much the type of music he had recorded for it.
The next year he would go on tour for the first time since 1957 (!)
- This outstanding copy of Neil’s second studio album boasts superb sound
- The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality Neil is famous for (of which Zuma is the best example), with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY
- Includes some of Neil Young’s most beloved classics: “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and “Down by the River” just to name three
- 5 stars: “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes….”
Although not quite in the league with the best of the best — the likes of Gold Rush, Harvest, or Zuma, all titles we have a devil of a time keeping in stock — the best sounding tracks here are a rough guide for to what was to come as Neil and his producer, David Briggs, got better and better until they were As Good As It Gets by the time they got around to After the Gold Rush in 1970 (for which they seem to get no credit, outside of Better Records’ raves for the album of course).
We absolutely love the Live-in-the-Studio quality that only the best pressings of this album can give, with minimal processing and maximum energy. Man, with a good copy played back on a big pair of speakers this album can ROCK like nobody’s business. Nine minutes of “Down by the River”? A ten minute long version of “Cowgirl in the Sand”? “Cinnamon Girl”? We are so there!
This kind of musical, natural sound is not easy to come by. If you own any copy of the album you know what we mean. (more…)
- In 2021 we came across a superb original domestic pressing of Zep’s debut with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl, especially considering that this is an early Atlantic pressing
- Note that from our perspective in 2023 we would be very unlikely to try another domestic original
- The story of how we came to possess this pressing is told below
- 5 stars: “Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme… But the key to the group’s attack was subtlety: it wasn’t just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos.”
There’s an interesting story behind this copy.
I bought it from an erstwhile customer who also had one of our Hot Stamper imports from years back, and he swore up and down that this original domestic pressing was a step up in class, a true White Hot Stamper pressing.
Well, that turned out not to be the case, and it’s the main reason shootouts on highly tuned, properly calibrated, extremely resolving large audio systems are the only way to separate the winners from the also-rans.
This copy is excellent and is guaranteed to beat any copy you throw at it — unless it’s one of ours with higher grades.
For the real Led Zep magic, you just can’t do much better than their debut — and here’s a copy that really shows you why. From the opening chords of “Good Times Bad Times” to the wild ending of “How Many More Times” (“times” start the album and end it, too, it seems) this copy will have you rockin’ out!
Both sides have the BIG ZEP SOUND. Right from the start we noticed how clean the cymbals sounded and how well-defined the bass was, after hearing way too many copies with smeared cymbals and blubbery bass.
When you have a tight, punchy copy like this one, “Good Times Bad Times” does what it is supposed to do — it really rock! With this much life, it’s lightyears ahead of the typically dull, dead, boring copy. The drum sound is perfection.
Drop the needle on “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” to hear how amazing Robert Plant’s voice sounds. It’s breathy and full-bodied with in-the-room presence. The overall sound is warm, rich, sweet, and very analog, with tons of energy. “Dazed and Confused” sounds just right — you’re gonna flip out over all the ambience!
“Communication Breakdown” sounds superb — the sound of Jimmy Page’s guitar during the solo is shockingly good.