audiophile quality vinyl best sounding vinyl

Chicago – Chicago VI

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  • An outstanding copy of Chicago VI, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key and these sides have the horns sounding clear and really jumping out of the speakers
  • VI was propelled to the top of the charts for five full weeks by two of the band’s best tracks: “Just You ‘n’ Me” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day”
  • 4 stars: “Chicago VI is an undeniably strong effort – supported at the time by its chart-topping status…”

The background vocals on these sides are breathy and clear, a far cry from the typically smeary, dark voices we heard on most of the pressings we played, all originals in this case.

More often than not the brass lacks bite and presence, but these sides had the Chicago horns leaping out of the speakers. What is a Chicago record without great horns? Without that big bold sound you may have something, but it sure ain’t Chicago.

The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key — it has to have just the right amount of transient bite yet still be full-bodied and never blary. In addition, on the best of the best pressings you can really hear the air moving through the horns. (more…)

Chopin – 24 Etudes / Vasary

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  • This stunning album of some of Chopin’s greatest piano pieces has superb sound, boasting a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • This magnificent sounding (and surprisingly hard to find) pressing is yet another example of a classical “sleeper,” one that can hold its own with practically any solo piano recording you have ever heard
  • As expected, Vasary performs with consummate skill, bringing out nuances in the work that may have escaped others – the results are captivating
  • “… an extraordinarily impassioned work, belying its technical utility.”

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Foreigner – Double Vision

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  • This outstanding copy of Foreigner’s sophomore release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from beginning to end – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you own the Half-Speed or any modern reissue, you won’t believe how much bigger, clearer and more energetic this pressing is
  • Keith Olsen produced and engineered – he’s the man behind the amazing sound of Buckingham/Nicks and Fleetwood Mac (1975)
  • 4 stars: “Foreigner promptly followed up its blockbuster debut with the equally successful Double Vision LP in 1978, which featured the FM mega-hits “Hot Blooded” and the driving title track.”

As I’m sure you know, there is a Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed Mastered version of this album currently in print, and an older one from the days when their records were pressed in Japan (#1-052).

We haven’t played the latter in years; as I recall it was as lifeless and sucked-out in the midrange as most of the other MoFis of that period, notably The Doors (#051) and Trick of the Tail (#062). Is there any doubt that the new MoFi will be every bit as bad or worse? If any of our Hot Stamper customers have purchased the current release, I would be interested in hearing how you think it stacks up against this copy. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – The Woman In Red

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  • The Woman In Red finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly good sound, perhaps the best sound Stevie Wonder got after about 1976 – we were shocked as you no doubt are
  • A superb collection, including I Just Called To Say I Love You and Love Light in Flight
  • “An ingenious jump from his trademark, spectacular, blend of Funk, R&B and Soul,contaminated with Pop, Disco, Gospel and Reggae, to a brand new Synthpop/Pop-soul sound that characterizes his ’80s works.”

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Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees

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  • With insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish, this copy will be very hard to beat — exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy that’s this lively, solid and rich… drop the needle on the title track and you’ll see what we mean
  • “Arguably the first consistently strong album Fleetwood Mac ever recorded [not true, Kiln House is] … 1972’s Bare Trees is also the album where the band finally defines its post-blues musical personality.”

This period of Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House (1970) through Mystery to Me (1973) — both are albums I would put at the top of my list to take to my Desert Island — has always been my favorite of the band. I grew up on this stuff, and I can tell you from personal experience that it is a positive THRILL to hear it sound so good!

Until not that many years ago we simply were not able to successfully shootout Bare Trees, Fleetwood Mac’s wonderful album from 1972. The pressings we were playing just didn’t sound very much like Hot Stampers to us. British, German, Japanese, domestic originals, domestic reissues; all of them left much too much to be desired.

Thankfully we can tell you that the best copies sound a whole lot better now than they did then. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Softly, As I Leave You

More Frank Sinatra

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  • With two insanely good sides, each with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this early stereo pressing was one of the best copies we played in our shootout
  • Big, rich and natural, the newer material for this album was recorded in 1964, with Sinatra’s voice in very fine form
  • This is one of the few Sinatra records where the second label pressings can still sound quite good – that is rare in our experience
  • “The highlight of the record was the hit title song, which featured a subdued but forceful and steady backbeat. The rhythm itself was indicative of Sinatra’s effort to accept the new popular music.”

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Jimmy Smith – At Club Baby Grand

More Jimmy Smith

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  • Jimmy’s superb live release from 1956 makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from top to bottom
  • A killer early mono pressing, with a strong bottom end, lovely richness and warmth, real space and separation between the instruments, and wonderful immediacy throughout
  • There is a mark that makes 25 pops, which would be a deal killer if this record were not so rare and so good – it’s literally the first copy we’ve ever found that could be played on an audiophile turntable
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded trio occupies
  • “It’s all Jimmy Smith in full flight, bubbling over with cascading notes and breathless detours, and if his studio work is generally more structured and considered (but only a little more so), this set shows him in what was his natural habitat, astounding an audience in a small club.”

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Rick Nelson – Garden Party

More Rick Nelson

More Country and Country Rock

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  • Garden Party finally returns to the site after four long years, here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This is an incredibly rich, Tubey Magical recording, and when you get a good copy with enough clarity and top end extension to bring it to life it can sound very good indeed
  • If you like the sound of albums engineered by Stephen Barncard (think Deja Vu, American Beauty and Tarkio for starters) then you are going to find much to like about the sound of this album
  • “Rick Nelson’s Garden Party rocks a lot harder than the title track would lead one to believe, and is also as much of a showcase for the Stone Canyon Band as it is for Nelson.”

It’s tough to find copies without marks, or ones that play this quietly.

The music is quite enjoyable — even the younger guys around here were getting a lot out of it. Drop the needle on the title track (a top ten single) or “Are You Really Real?” to hear these guys at their best. Rick’s Stone Canyon Band at times featured future members of Poco and The Eagles, so that should tell you something.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. The harmonic coherency, the richness, the body as well as phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum. (more…)

J.S. Bach – Organ Music Volume 2 / Weinrich

More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish, this copy is practically as good as it gets
  • The size and power of a huge organ captured on tape in Living Stereo All Tube Analog
  • The organ is so effortlessly clear and relaxed you will soon forget you are actually sitting in your listening room, not a church
  • For those of you who know your organ recordings on Living Stereo, it’s Volume 2 that clearly has the better sound

Some audiophiles buy organ records to show off their subwoofers. Exceptional pressings of exceptional recordings such as this one will allow you to do that, but the best of them have musical qualities far beyond simple demonstrations of bass fundamentals. Carl Weinrich understands this music perfectly and makes it come alive in a way I’ve rarely heard by other performers.

For those of you who think technology marches on — which of course it does in some ways — this 1963 recording shows that the RCA engineers were capable of capturing the authentic sound of the instrument with the vintage tube equipment available to them. In my opinion they could do it better back in those days.

Musically speaking there aren’t many organists in Carl Weinrich’s class. The only other Bach organ records of this caliber that we know of are the two volumes that Karl Richter recorded for Decca in the mid-’50s. You can’t go wrong with any of them. At least one belongs in any serious audiophile’s collection. (more…)

Neil Young – Time Fades Away

More Neil Young

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  • A stunning vintage pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Front Row Center sound on both sides
  • A huge step up from every other copy we played in our shootout – full-bodied, smooth and musical, the classic sound of Neil Young at his performing peak
  • Never released on CD, this is one of the toughest Neil Young albums to find in the bins, especially with sound like this
  • 4 stars: “Time Fades Away ranks with the bravest and most painfully honest albums of his career — like the tequila Young was drinking on that tour, it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised by its powerful effects.”

Unlike most “live” albums this one was made direct to tape, with no fixes or overdubs, and on the best pressings that warts-and-all approach really pays off. There’s good weight, real openness, and the tonality on these better copies is both rich and sweet. This kind of sound can put you right in the front row.

Finding a copy like this is no walk in the park. The stamper numbers are all over the map, providing little if any guidance. Also, since the album didn’t sell all that well and was never released on CD, there just aren’t that many clean copies floating around. Complicating matters even further, the eight songs here were recorded at seven different shows, so the sound, of course, varies a bit from track to track. It took a long time and a lot of work to make sense of it all, but you Neil Young fanatics are going to get a thrill out of the sound on a Hot Stamper copy — guaranteed. (more…)