half-speed-letters

Letter of the Week – “You were too kind to the Mofi: yours destroyed it.”

More of the Music of Neil Diamond

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Neil Diamond

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

Hey Tom,   

The Neil Diamond Live is one the best I’ve ever bought from you. You were too kind to the Mofi: yours destroyed it.

My stock copy is worthless. An unusually well recorded live album. You are so right.

And your copy is awesome.

Regards

Will

Thanks, Will!

Glad you liked our copy as much as we did. The MoFi, in our opinion, is not a bad record, but the phony EQ they use causes Neil’s voice to sound unnatural, and an unnatural sounding Neil Diamond is not something that appeals to us.

If any of you out there in audio land are still buying these remastered pressings, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Masters.

At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy. And if for some reason you disagree that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the best.

Letter of the Week – “Your Rubber Soul and ELO sides are clearly better than anything I ever heard and comparisons to Gold CDs, Legacy, MFSL, Nautilus or DCC series are pointless.”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Rubber Soul

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

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

Hey Tom,   

I was a DJ for 20 years and by nature of meeting demand for the newest I was always buying vinyl the day it came out.

Your A++ to A+++ Rubber Soul and ELO sides are clearly better than anything I ever heard then or now and comparisons to gold CDs, Legacy, MFSL, Nautilus or DCC series are pointless.

I look forward to replacing my favorites with your A+++.

Btw the B-52’s 1st LP early pressing, which I bought back in June of 1979, always lept out of the speakers. The entire lp (any track) filled my dance floor well into 1987. I am not surprised it is in your Top 100. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Listening to my very first Hot Stamper purchase was by far the most significant event in my life as an audiophile.”

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased back in 2017 [the bolding of the text has been added by us.]

Hey Tom, 

Listening to my very first Hot Stamper purchase was by far the most significant event in my life as an audiophile. I discovered the Better Records website way back in 2007, but being a hardcore skeptic I didn’t purchase anything until almost two years later. Although I agreed with the premise that different pressings have varying degrees of sound quality, I simply could not believe that any record could sound so much better to justify the prices. Frankly, I thought that the buyers of these records were folks with more money than sense.

What finally drove me to purchase my first Hot Stamper was my attempt to find a decent copy of Carole King’s Tapestry album. I had decided to try the Better Records approach and gathered half a dozen copies, as well as the Classic heavy vinyl reissue that I had read good things about. Talk about an exercise in futility. Despite a thorough cleaning with Disc Doctor, no copy sounded significantly better than any of the others. However, Better Records just happened to have a 1+ copy of Tapestry on sale for $75 at the time, so I decided to take the plunge and buy it, even though I still thought the price was outrageous.

What followed next absolutely stunned and amazed me. Although I was prepared to shoot out the Hot Stamper against my own copies, I knew within the first minute of play that it would be totally unnecessary. The Hot Stamper sounded like a completely different recording. I cannot stress this enough. Everything sounded much, much more lifelike and REAL, as if I was listening to the performance inside the recording studio, instead of sitting outside hearing it through the walls. Of particular note was the fact that I could hear the personality in Ms. King’s voice, with all the attendant subtle inflections and timbre; she sounded like a real person, not just a recording of one. The $75 price was suddenly transformed into a real bargain, and the skeptic in me died completely. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I was dumbfounded when the horn blast opening the title track practically leapt out of my speakers.”

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Customer Letters that Extoll the Virtues of Our Beatles LPs

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

Hey Tom,   

Just wanted to say I was blown away by this copy. Having lived with the MoFi pressing since the box set first came out in the 80’s I was dumbfounded when the horn blast opening the title track practically leapt out of my speakers. I am so impressed that I just placed an order for 3 more Hot Stamper Beatles vinyl. It’s time to replace the MoFi.

Honrado L.

Thanks for writing, Honrado.

You’re not the only person who wants to get rid of their half-speed mastered records after playing a Beatles pressing that is mastered in real time and pressed properly.

And, if you are still buying modern pressings that are not half-speed mastered, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl too.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “It was a happy revelation to get Monk flying again on your stamper.”

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

Note that he owns the kind of audiophile pressing that seems to be all the rage, but, at least in this case, turns out to be just another example of the emperor’s new clothes.

         Hey Tom, 

The Thelonious Monk is AMAZING. If you ever get another 3/3/3/3 of that, I’ll pay almost anything : )

(I also have a MoFi Ultradisc One Step of Monk’s Dream, which I can barely stand to listen to — just boring, so it was a happy revelation to get Monk flying again on your stamper.)

Hello,

Thanks for writing. A boring MoFi? Say it isn’t so!

By definition, boring records do not have Hot Stampers. We made that point about a Shootout Winning copy of Revolver way back in 2007.

At the risk of being definitive about things that are better left ill-defined, I would say that the Number One quality we look for in a pressing is the element of Life or Energy. We can put up with many shortcomings, including even some tonality problems, but when a record fails to convey the spirit and enthusiasm of the musicians, it’s pretty much over.

The Monk record we sent you seems to have gotten Monk flying again, and what could be better than that?

Best, TP

PS

If you are still buying these modern pressings, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Masters.

At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy. And if for some reason you do not find that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the best.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “…so much more engaging and rich than I was used to.”

This posting on an audiophile forum was made not long ago by a good customer who authorized me to print it here. (It started out on Hoffman’s forum but was quickly taken down as the subject of Hot Stampers is forbidden.)

I have added the paragraph titles and the bolding you see. The title is the author’s.

Better Records Hot Stampers: Or, how I learned to stop collecting and love listening

We are witnessing an absolute explosion in vinyl. It’s thrilling, but it has also become frankly overwhelming.

What matters? The experience of listening, of course. But, how do we know, I mean, how do we really know, what listening experiences are going to be sublime?

Too often, collectability becomes our proxy for listening. We’ve all done it – chasing a near mint early pressing, a Japanese or German pressing, a re-press from a label we trust. We all end up with multiple copies of our favorite records, but only listen to one or two of them. And whether we sell them or not, it brings us some comfort to see their going rates on Discogs continue to climb. For me at least, FOMO was a strange driver of my buying habits. I regretted records I didn’t purchase, far more often than I regretted purchases I did make, even as I have about a year’s worth of listening in records still sealed on the shelf. I’m even afraid to open some of them because I can see their value is rising. Isn’t that silly?

My Philosophy Was Off-Base

I love records. Listening to them, curating a collection, is a joyful hobby. It gets at some need I can’t quite name. But, of course, records shouldn’t be only for collecting. They are for the pleasure of listening. My philosophy was pretty off-base. I didn’t even perceive it that way, and here’s what got me to realize it, and get out of it.

Last summer, I came across an original mono pressing of Mingus Ah Um in one of my local shops. It was labelled as a “top copy” and the surface looked pretty good. The price was a little absurd, and considering I had the [MoFi] OneStep and the Classic Records pressings, I wasn’t sure I needed it. But, this is an album I loved, even as a kid, even on digital, and a first pressing held a lot of allure. I took some time to think about it, do some online comparison shopping, and by the time I got back to the shop, it was gone.

In a fit of pique, I bought the copy Better Records was selling. It was listed as a Super Hot Stamper, and it was slightly cheaper than the copy the shop was selling. With a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy, it seemed a safe bet.

An Initially Disappointing Hot Stamper Reissue Pressing

Well, you can imagine my disappointment when it arrived a few days later. Nicely boxed for shipping, I unsleeved what was clearly a later pressing. My disappointment magnified when the needle dropped and the first thing I heard was surface noise. I’ve been conditioned by the heavy vinyl renaissance to equate surface noise with a bad-sounding record.

But then, the instruments kicked in, and from the first notes I could tell I was listening to something really different. It was clear, forward, and dynamic. Nothing harsh, even in the horns, but so much more engaging and rich than I was used to. It was the drum solo partway through the first track that convinced me I was hearing something special in this pressing. I sat and listened to the entire record without doing anything else, and for me, something that holds my attention to where I don’t want to grab my phone or a book is part of what defines a peak listening experience.

Columbia Abraxas Versus MoFi Abraxas – A Toss-up

What next? They also had a Super Hot Stamper of Abraxas listed. Owning the MoFi One Step, along with a few other pressings, and this being another album I’ve loved for years, I decided to take the challenge that Better Records makes, and see if their copy could unseat my others.

The presentation of the hot stamper and the onestep are really different. The hot stamper reaches out and grabs you. The percussion is forward, hitting you right in the chest. The onestep is huger, it fills the room with a massive soundstage.

The instruments on the onestep are less differentiated, except (on my system, at least, which tends to be bright) for the chimes and hi-hat hits, which absolutely stand out on the onestep. The onestep has some tape hiss I don’t hear on the hot stamper early pressing. I love a black background, which my tube preamp doesn’t really have in the first place, so I find that tape hiss a little objectionable, since it further compromises a weak spot in my system.

My thirteen year old prefers the MoFi; I prefer the hot stamper. At this point, the hot stamper is bound to be a lot cheaper than you’d pay for the MoFi, and you can consider it a toss-up between the two – they have different attributes.

I Try Buying a Similar Pressing on Discogs

I’m an empiricist, so naturally I looked up the matrix numbers on Discogs. For $30 I purchased a copy that had matching matrix numbers, at least as close as I could get them. (You feel kinda stupid when you send a discogs seller three messages saying, “but would you say that’s a faint N or a faint Z scrawled in the deadwax?” Enough already. Just buy the stupid thing.)

The discogs copy had a family resemblance to my hot stamper in terms of its sound, and it was also in near mint condition with no evident listening damage. But, the experience is different. The hot stamper simply sounds more real and immediate. I recognize what I’m describing is the complete opposite of A/B double-blind testing, but which is the copy I keep putting on, feeling engrossed and enlivened by with spin after spin? (The miniscule writing in the dead wax was indeed not identical, so the experiment wasn’t perfect, but it was enough for me to have trust that hot stampers are a good value proposition for me. It sure beats buying a stack of copies at $5-$25 and picking out your favorite from them.)

Now I’m now ten Hot Stampers in, and planning to cool it, at least for a little while. I’ve been able to get many of my favorites (Stardust, Rumors, Mahavishnu, some Zeppelin, some Ella, some Beatles) in Hot Stamper format. That’s good enough for me while I start thinking about a speaker upgrade.

I can say this has been true in my experience – no matter how many other pressings of a title you have, if you buy a Better Records Hot Stamper, you can play it in a “shootout” against the rest of your stack of that title, and you will find that either it bests them all, or at very least, it gives you a different presentation that you will value and want to hold on to. For me, this has been true for ten of the eleven purchases I’ve made. Try it sometime. Even if you start with the regular hot stampers, you’ll hear they are different.

Listenability Versus Collectibility

So, although I have a very collectable collection that I hope and expect will hold its value over the years to come, it is with joy, relief, and a sense of relaxation that I shift my record-buying focus now to listenability rather than collectability. As we cope with the ever-growing onslaught of new pressings and inflation in the prices we’re seeing on discogs, listenability is a great way to cut through the noise and put your record-buying money where it matters.

It is really hard to buy for listenability anywhere other than on Better Records. Maybe if you have a friend who wants to sell you some of his records, you could do it. But, if you’re buying on Discogs or ebay, you’re not buying for how things sound. Occasionally, you can hear listening descriptions as part of the seller’s grading, but those are not comparisons to other pressings of the same title. And, as much as I like to support my local record stores, when it comes to listening first as a basis for buying, you can basically forget about it.

I’ve been formulating these thoughts for a while, but not sure why I’d want to post them. I mean, who wants to drive more customers to this guy when I still want to buy his merchandise, and some titles already sell out within seconds of listing, before I can even make up my mind? But, here you have it. Merry Christmas, I guess. Add my voice to the choir – you can buy better records hot stampers with confidence.

Dear AB_BA,

Thanks for writing about your experiences playing our Hot Stamper pressings against others in your collection. We encourage our customers to do their own shootouts. It is the only way to know exactly what the strengths and weaknesses of any pressing you may own might be. Naturally, we enthusiastically welcome the challenge when someone wants to play our records head to head with whatever other pressings they may own.

You liked your MoFi Abraxas about as well as the Hot Stamper, and we are fine with that. As we like to say, as you continue to make progress in all aspects of audio, check back with us in five years and let us know what your MoFi sounds like then. We know our Abraxas will be fine. We’ve been playing Hot Stampers of that title since 2006 or thereabouts and the best originals are still winning our shootouts fifteen years later.

It is a truly extraordinary recording, with guitars that get louder in the mix than 99 out of 100 rock records we have ever heard.

Compared to What?

Shootouts are the only way to answer the most important question in all of audio:

“Compared to what?”

Without shootouts, how can you begin to know the specific characteristics of the sound of the pressings you own?

Are the chimes and hi-hats “right” on the MoFi? I am guessing I would not agree with you that they are better. Having never played their One Step pressing, it’s probably wise that I not comment further.

But…

Any label that would release a record that sounds as bad as this one has some explaining to do.

You bring up a number of good subjects, the kind we have been writing about for decades, and we have a great many commentaries you may find of interest. A couple that spring to mind:

Hot Stampers Versus Collector Pressings

Ah-Um Reissues Versus Originals

(more…)

Steely Dan – “I just figured this was just a bad recording…”

This week’s letter is from our good friend Roger, who, like us, is a GIANT Steely Dan fan. Apparently he had tried every copy of Katy Lied he could get his hands on and practically had given up on the album — until he decided to shell out the princely sum of Three Hundred Clams ($300, probably not the last piaster he could borrow, but a pretty hefty chunk of dough for a fairly common used LP from 1975) to Better Records, with the hope that we might actually find a way to put him in touch with the real Dr. Wu.

Let’s just say it seems that Roger got his money’s worth — and maybe a little more.

The title of his letter is: 

Katy Lied? Are you sure?

I tried your Hot Stamper Steely Dan Katy Lied. You gotta be kidding me. Are you sure this is the same recording? I remember your saying that this one is your favorite SD record and I could never understand why, at least until I heard this secret recording. Other than the HS copy you basically had a choice between the dull and lifeless bland US pressing, or the Mobile Fidelity version, which has those undescribable phasey, disembodied instruments and voices that sound unmusical to me.

I even tried British and Japanese pressings with no luck. I just figured this was just a bad recording, which made sense in light of all the press about the problems during the recording and mixing sessions, and I don’t think I bothered to listen to it again for at least the past 5 years.

But wow, this is clearly in another league. The voices and instruments are in three dimensions, the bass and dynamics are far far better, the saxes are up-front and breathy. I couldn’t believe how good Daddy Don’t Live in that New York City No More and Chain Lightning sounded. Even my subwoofer that I roll off at 30Hz got a good workout. It sounds like live music. So how did you sneak your tape recorder into the studio sessions, anyway?

Roger, we’re so happy to know that your love for Katy Lied has finally been requited after all these years. The reason we go on for days about the sound of practically every track on the album (the green commentary below) is that we love it just as much as you do. (more…)

Comparing a Hot Stamper of Rumours to an Original and the Nautilus LP

More of the Music of Fleetwood Mac

Reviews and Commentaries for Fleetwood Mac

Rumours Remastered at 45 RPM

This letter from quite a few years ago comes from our good customer Roger, who was blown away by our Hot Stamper pressing of Rumours. Roger did his usual thorough shootout of our Hot Stamper against his own pressings. The results? Another knockout for our Hot Stamper.
Hi Tom,

Just a quick note on the Fleetwood Mac Rumors Hot Stamper I just bought. I have a Nautilus pressing and my original pressing I bought in college when it came out. I have never liked this record as much as Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac, perhaps partly because its sonics were somewhat inferior.

So I played the Nautilus and quickly remembered what a piece of sonic detritus this thing is. How can audiophile labels like Nautilus put out something that is as thin, bright, flat, and compressed as this thing is? It obviously reinforces your point that most audiophiles are lemmings when it comes to audiophile records. If some audiophile guru said the Japanese pressing of Girl Scout Troup #657 singing the Girl Scout Theme Song was sonic nirvana, it would show up on every internet record website for $50 each.

Next up was my original pressing with an F16 matrix on side one, and man, what a relief after following the Nautilus disaster. In fact, I resisted buying a pricey hot stamper because I always felt my pressing to be pretty darned good, which it was. So I was shocked to hear just how much better the hot stamper was.

I played Dreams on side one and it took all of about 5 seconds of hearing the massive bass and startlingly dynamic cymbal crashes on this track to find the hot stamper worth every penny I paid for it. If the drum kit on Oh Daddy doesn’t get your pants flapping, time for a new stereo. Voices were eerily present, guitars had great detail, pianos had weight just like in real life (we have a piano in our house), and best of all, the highs were arrayed in space and were delicate and detailed.

Since the Nautilus is too thin to make a good frisbee and would probably fetch big bucks on ebay I will stuff it back on my shelf forever, unless I need a good laugh, and add the HS Rumors to my favorite recordings.

Roger
(more…)

Letter of the Week – “So I say damn you but thank you for steering me in the right direction.”

One of our good customers wrote to tell us about his record collection about 15 years ago. We were still recommending Disc Doctor fluid at the time and it has been a very long while since we sold anything but Walker Record Cleaning Fluid, (which we no longer sell, but we sure as hell think you ought to be using it).

Hi Tom,

Just a note to thank and curse you for opening my ears. On one hand, the
audio enhancements (Aurios, Stillpoints, Talisman and Disc Doctor fluid)
you’ve suggested have greatly improved my stereo system. I also upgraded
my phono cartridge and had the entire front end fine-tuned.

Now, LPs I’d once regarded as mediocre have shown new life and become
much more enjoyable. On the other hand, those I’d once thought sounded
impressive, have revealed themselves to be uninspiring. My entire Steely
Dan collection, for example, has become a major disappointment.

Almost all the half speeds, heavy vinyl and otherwise “audiophile” type
pressings have revealed themselves to be impostors.

What’s an audiophile to do? In my case, all the improvements I’ve made
have resulted in a thinning of the herd, so to speak, but I simply can’t
listen to crappy vinyl anymore. I’ve always maintained that the music
should be the most important thing but, what’s the point of listening to
sub-par pressings when you find yourself becoming easily distracted and
wanting to hear something with some life in the grooves?

So I say damn you but thank you, Tom, for steering me in the right
direction. I’ll have a smaller collection as a result but will
appreciate the sonics of what’s left much more. You are a credit to a
hobby which is, otherwise, drowning in snake oil!

Bob M.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I feel like I wasted a lot of money on inferior albums. I will continue to make wise purchases from you.”

beatlessgt

Hot Stampers of Sgt. Peppers in Stock Now

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

The continuing story of one man’s quest to find better sounding Beatles albums. His story can be seen below. Here is the latest back and forth concerning The Beatles, a band we think we know something about.

Hi Tom
I think I have purchased 6 albums from you. Obviously I believe in your company! Could you tell me which Beatles albums that you test have the best sound.

We used to have a Top 100 Rock and Pop list on the site. We are building a new one that looks like this:

Top 100 Rock and Pop in Progress

There are six Beatles albums in our Top 100. Those are the best sounding.

I have the Sgt Pepper, White, Help, and a Hard Days Night. I have the Beatles Mono Box set which I purchased new. I agree with you that the stereo versions purchased from you are superior.

That set is a bad joke played on the record loving public. Dead as a doornail. A complete ripoff. I have the stereo version and it is just as bad. Here is my review.

I am not impressed by the MOFI pressings. I am still checking each day hoping I won’t miss out on a good Abbey Road pressing.

They are hard to come by these days but some will come on the site before too long.

I always get great info and service from you. I feel like a wasted a lot of money on inferior albums. I will continue to make wise purchases from you. I am trying to spread the word around here to check out Better Records.

Thanks for your kind thoughts and for spreading the word. Perhaps someone you know will be saved the expense of buying inferior Heavy Vinyl pressings. We review the worst of them here, so just point him to this blog and perhaps you will be able to help a fellow audiophile get Better Records.

And of course the best way to help your fellow audiophiles is by letting them hear your Hot Stamper pressings. That’s the only surefire way we know of to convince the skeptics. One listen to your Sgt. Pepper should be all it takes.

Tom

Below is Edward’s original conversation with us. (more…)