audiophile vinyl

Michael Jackson – Triumph

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  • Triumph finally returns to the site with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you’ve heard one of our amazing Hot Stamper pressings of Off the Wall – the best sounding record Michael Jackson ever made – then you know exactly the Tubey Magical sound of the best copies of Triumph
  • 4 stars: “Released during the summer of 1980, just as the hits from Michael’s Off the Wall were sliding off the charts, Triumph became the Jacksons’ first Top Ten pop album since 1972’s Lookin’ Through the Windows…”

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Country Joe and The Fish – I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin-To-Die

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it – As Good As It Gets in our experience – on both sides of this copy of the band’s sophomore release
  • The best pressings with this label (you’ll find out when the record arrives!) are the biggest, most open, most clear, and the least compressed, which makes them especially energetic and fun
  • Finding clean copies of Country Joe’s albums is no walk in the park, but here’s one, and it sounds great too
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Country Joe & the Fish’s second album, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die”, is quite similar to their first in its organ-heavy psychedelia with Eastern-influenced melodic lines…”

Some copies we played had more Tubey Magical sound, but that quality comes at a price. Those pressings tend to be crude, with gritty vocals and a noticeable lack of transparency and space.

In other words, they sound pretty much like an old record.

This pressing, on the other hand, gives you much more of what sounds to me like the Master Tape, with less of the bad mastering equipment and bad vinyl coming between you and the music. (more…)

Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper – The Live Adventures Of…

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  • This Columbia 360 label pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • All FOUR sides here were doing everything right — clean, clear, spacious and present with a big bottom end, just the right sound for this raw live blues-rock music
  • Great material to be found here, including covers of well-known tracks by Paul Simon, The Band, and Traffic
  • 4 stars: “One of the seminal live albums of the late ’60s… The idea of musical spontaneity both in live performance and in the recording studio had reached a certain apex in 1968… But it was the union of Bloomfield and Kooper that can truly claim an origination of the phenomenon, and this album takes it to another level entirely.”

Outstanding sound for this double LP of superb live blues-rock! We rarely have a copy of this title on the site, so if you’re a fan of Super Session, you should jump on this one right away. There’s some great material to be found here, including covers of well-known tracks by Paul Simon, The Band, and Traffic. Some of the tracks here (recorded on the second night) feature none other than Carlos Santana!

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David Bowie – Station To Station

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this is one of the more outstanding copies to come out of our most recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is a dense, difficult recording to find the right sound for, which means you really need Hot Stampers on Station to Station to enjoy it
  • Superb presence and energy – with Nearly White Hot sound on side two, this is a great copy for the classic, radio-friendly TVC 15, Stay and Wild Is the Wind
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Station to Station is an avant-garde art-rock album … its epic structure and clinical sound were an impressive, individualistic achievement, as well as a style that would prove enormously influential on post-punk.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.

Full, punchy and present, with a wide open soundstage and powerful dynamics, this is the right sound for this album, and if you know the album at all, you know that good sound on Station to Station is far from easy to find. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Everything is so clear. I can hear every word clear as day”

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

Hey Tom, 

I am sitting by the door in anticipation as I type this. It’s my birthday to boot, so it will make an awesome present, once the dang Fed Ex guy gets here. Right before I hit send, the doorbell rang. I had been playing records all day in anticipation, warming up my system for this album. Everything was sounding great, and my stereo was begging for some Supertramp.

I was going to listen to my old copy first to compare it. Ah, NO F***ING NEED. Holy hell. This copy you just sent me blew the windows out of my house, and didn’t rip my head off while doing so. Everything is so clear. I can hear every word clear as day, the bass is tight and clear, every instrument in its place and sounding magnificent.

This is truly an incredible pressing and it is night and day [better] even though my old copy was still a $250 Hot Stamper. Thank you. Your services are greatly appreciated. (Not by my neighbors however). Looking forward to my next one already.

Jeremiah H.

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Shostakovich – Symphony No.1 / The Age Of Gold Ballet Suite / Martinon

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The Symphony No. 1 concludes for about the first inch on side two and is excellent as well, with many of the same attributes, as rightly befits a true Golden Age Classic from 1959
  • Recorded in Kingsway Hall with the London Symphony, this Decca licensed title has orchestral sound to rival the best you’ve heard
  • “This is an example of what art as recorded sound should strive to be. A triumph for all participants.”

The second picture you see is the original Living Stereo release.

Our Story

The first copy of the album I got my hands on and needle-dropped blew me away with its big, open, clear, solid orchestral sound. Close to three years later, when we had enough copies to do this shootout, sure enough it won. That rarely happens — in a big pile of records there’s almost always something better than whatever we’ve heard — but it happened this time.

Imagine if I had played one of the bad sounding or noisy ones to start with. It’s unlikely I would have been motivated to pursue the title and consequently the shootout we just did would have never happened. Lucky for us all that that first copy was so good.

These sides are “real” sounding, with a clean bottom and clean lower mids. Little to no smear. The sound is full-bodied and rich, yet clear and clean, and spread out on a huge stage – it’s yet another example of proper Orchestral Reproduction.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage.  (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides
  • The “naked” sound of the real thing – the real voices and the real guitars and the real everything else, in a way that would never happen again
  • Bill Halverson worked his magic, but only the best pressings let his genius shine the way it does here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “4 Way Street, released in April of 1971: a live double-LP set, chock-full of superb music distilled down from a bunch of nights on that tour that more than fulfilled the promise of the group.”
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills. Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

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Dire Straits – Love Over Gold

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  • This outstanding British import boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The open, spacious soundstage, full-bodied tonality and Tubey Magic here are obvious for all to hear – huge, punchy, lively and rockin’ throughout
  • This Hot Stamper is far more natural than any other pressing you’ve heard – we guarantee it
  • “Certainly a quantum leap from the organic R&B impressionism of the band’s early LPs and the gripping short stories of Making Movies, Love Over Gold is an ambitious, sometimes difficult record that is exhilarating in its successes and, at the very least, fascinating in its indulgences.” – Rolling Stone

This modern album (from 1982, which makes it 38 years old, but that’s modern in our world) can sound surprisingly good on the right pressing. On most copies, the highs are slightly grainy and can be harsh, not exactly the kind of sound that inspires you to turn your system up good and loud and really get involved in the music. I’m happy to report that both sides here have no such problem – they rock and they sound great loud.

We pick up every clean copy we see of this album, domestic or import, because we know from experience just how good the best pressings can sound. What do the best copies have? REAL dynamics for one. And with those dynamics, you need rock solid bass. Otherwise, the loud portions simply become irritating. (more…)

Graham Nash – Wild Tales – A Forgotten Classic

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard on Nash’s underrated second album
  • The sound is Classic 1973 Analog – smooth, rich, warm and tonally correct, with real energy and the kind of natural sound that’s a hallmark of the better Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recordings
  • Filling out the band: Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Dave Mason, Neil Young, David Lindley and too many others to list
  • “Nash speaks from his heart on Wild Tales and those that are willing to get past its sparse arrangements will be able to accept it for the masterpiece of folk-rock that it is.”

This is a criminally underappreciated album, and perhaps that has to do with just how poor the average copy sounds. When you get a copy like this one you cannot fail to appreciate how powerful and deeply emotional these songs are. Drop the needle on the title track or Grave Concern to see what I mean. To read what another fan, and much better writer, had to say about the album, click on the Rave Review tab above.

The sound has the LIFE and ENERGY of rock and roll. This is Graham fronting a band, and on the best copies the recording and the music both work together to make them sound like they’ve been playing together forever. This is not the Big Production that Nash’s first album was. Been there done that; who needs the headache?

Working Their Magic

This is an album where top players got together and worked their magic on a bunch of good songs, playing for the most part live in the studio, which is practically the only way to communicate the feel of a real band (cf. Almost Cut My Hair).

What happens when you clean and play a bunch of copies? You come to recognize what the best ones are doing that the average ones aren’t. And the effect of that understanding on this particular title was simply to recognize the nature of this project, that these are a great bunch of well-crafted songs played with energy and enthusiasm by a very talented group of top flight musicians, totally in sync with each other. This is what they were trying to do, and really, what more can you ask for?

This copy had the kind of transparency that allowed us to really hear into the soundfield and pick out every instrument and recording effect. If your stereo is up to it you can hear some of the band members talking during the music and before the songs. (more…)

Ray Charles / All Time Great Country and Western Hits – Better Sound than the Originals? Can It Really Be True?

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More Soul, Blues and R&B

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  • With three nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • What was especially shocking about this shootout is that in some ways the best sounding copies of the reissue not just the equal of, but actually best their original album counterparts
  • 22 classic songs on two LPs, including huge hits like I Can’t Stop Loving You, You Don’t Know Me, Oh Lonesome Me, Bye Bye Love, and much more – no wonder AMG gave both discs 5 stars
  • This is some big, bold, absolutely glorious Tubey Magical analog – the tape to disc transfer is Hard To Fault (HTF), making a mockery of the audiophile remasters to come

The music is wonderful. Just listen to that swingin’ horn section behind Ray on Hey, Good Lookin’. They are hot! And Bye Bye Love just plain ROCKS.

Both these LPs have the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)