heavy-vinyl-letters

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…)

What Willie and Nat Can Teach Us about Heavy Vinyl

More of the Music of Willie Nelson

Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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

Hello team,

I’ve been a little distracted here, I got married over the weekend! So, haven’t done as much listening over the past couple of weeks. However, I did have a chance to listen to Stardust and Love Is The Thing. They were both different than their Classic Records and Analogue Productions counterparts. Willie sounded a little smoother, more organic, and more integrated.

The strings on Love Is The Thing were very different, more pronounced and emotional, but Nat’s voice, and the sound overall, sounded a little strident, maybe “too” hot.

I’d like to send them both back to you, and if you have a chance to send back the discs I sent to you I’d very much appreciate it. All told, the two big sets of Better Records are really incredible, and only serve to make my want list grow. Here’s to you and the next set!

Doug,

We now have the update for those two titles.

I, along with the two other guys in our listening panels, sat down to play the Heavy Vinyl you sent us, and the long and short of it is that we were astonished that records that sound as bad as those two actually were approved for release.

Nat is wrong six ways from Sunday, and Willie is not so much wrong as just not very good.

Nat: “F”, one of the worst heavy vinyl disasters of all time, and Willie: “D” sound, more like a bad CD than a record. There are many pressings of this album that are not good, but this version is probably worse than most of them, hence the D grade.

The old Classic pressing is probably better, and it would earn about a C grade. {I honestly do not remember exactly what pressing Douglas sent us. All I remember is that it was on Heavy Vinyl.]

I suspect the CDs of both these pressings are much better sounding than this vinyl. The DCC gold is definitely better by a long shot, and the plain old Willie CD is probably a step up as well. 

A FURTHER UPDATE

The DCC Nat King Cole CDs which I recommended earlier now drive me up a wall. Can’t stand the Hoffman remix. Sorry for the error!

I will be writing a review with more depth down the road, taken from my notes. How these records can be enjoyed by anyone is beyond me. Some of the worst sound I have ever heard, and I have heard plenty! (You can find more than 250 reviews for bad audiophile records here. These are records that no audiophile in his right mind should even consider buying.)

Take any or all of the above for what it’s worth.

Best, TP

Whoa!

I am surprised! Very different take from what I’m hearing at home – would it be okay for me to take another week or two to do some more A/B listening of Stardust and Love Is The Thing on my system?

I’d like to reread “what to listen for” and really do a deep comparison of a couple tracks on each.

* Really * appreciate your time and feedback!

Douglas

A few weeks went by and we asked Douglas how his shootout went. He replied:

Howdy Tom,

Life has been a little crazy but my buddy Miguel Nelson (who turned me on to Better Records) came up and we listened to Willie and Nat, and our experience lined up pretty well with yours. The new pressings offered clarity, separation, and a quiet background, at the expense of the warmth, emotion, organic integration, subtlety, range and impact, which the Better Records copies offered in spades!

Douglas

Douglas,

That’s what we heard. Glad you heard it too.

Clarity, separation and a quiet background are what people like about the sound of CDs.

Warmth, emotion, organic integration, subtlety, range, impact and a whole lot more are what people like about Analog.

The vintage pressings we offer have the more of all of these analog qualities than other pressings. That’s what makes them Hot Stampers.

They are right in a way that the typical Half-Speed Mastered or Heavy Vinyl pressing rarely is.

The more critically one listens, the more obvious the differences become.

The real thing just can’t be beat, and you can be pretty sure that the real thing is an old record.

Here are some letters from customers who took another listen to the records we’d sent them and belatedly recognized the superior sound of our Hot Stamper pressings the second time around.


FURTHER READING

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Kenny Burrell – “After returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it…”

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Kenny Burrell

Reviews and Commentaries for Midnight Blue

A good customer had this to say about a recent shootout:

By the way, side 2 of Midnight Blue bested every other copy I played including the 45 RPM Blue Note AP reissue. The 45 RPM is very good. You know that technically it is right, but at the same time it’s missing something.

When I listened to the [Hot] stamper copy you dug up for me I found it a little noisy at first and wasn’t sure if I could live with it. However after returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it…

I know what you mean about these modern reissues “missing something”. No matter how well mastered they may be, they’re almost always missing whatever it is that makes the analog record such a special listening experience. I hear that “analog” sound practically nowhere else outside of the live event (and, of course, the vintage LP). 

Thanks for your letter. 
TP

Our Classic Records Review

Pretty flat and lifeless. You would never understand why audiophiles rave about this recording by listening to the Classic Records pressing.

We played it up against our best, and as expected it was nothing to write home about. Since Rudy has remastered and ruined practically all the Blue Note CDs by now, you will have your work cut out for you if you want to find a good sounding version of Midnight Blue. This sure ain’t one.

Of course we would be more than happy to get you an amazing sounding copy — it’s what we do — but the price will be five to ten times (or more) what the Classic costs. In our opinion it’s money well spent.

Since the Classic conveys very little of what the musicians were up to whilst recording the album, our advice is to cross it off your list of records of interest. It’s thirty bucks down the drain.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to Their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

The Modern Heavy Vinyl Reissue – Audiophile Blessing or Curse?

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

Two editorial points to make up front:

The run of the mill heavy vinyl pressing is so lifeless and opaque that we think the run of the mill CD, on average, will sound better.

If you’re an audiophile who is currently collecting and playing Heavy Vinyl pressings, you are making the worst choice possible: second- or third-rate sound quality coupled with the hassle and expense of the modern LP.

In this letter Dan tells us of his disappointment with the new reissues he’s been trying:

I can’t tell you how many modern reissues I’ve bought over the past couple months that have lost, and lost badly, to just my one single original or early pressing of an album. Reissues by AC/DC, The Who, ZZ Top, The Rolling Stones, and Patti Smith have all failed miserably against my merely average sounding originals.

As a result, I have almost zero interest in buying anything that’s reissued nowadays. But I believe you said in a recent commentary that the less audiophile pressings you have in your collection the better. So I suppose the fact that I’m weeding these out from my collection is good news as far as my ears and stereo are concerned. But it’s still a sad state for the audio industry as a whole. It’s too bad we can’t tell a different story. I don’t know what in the mastering/pressing process needs to be different, but something does.

Dan

Dan, I agree that it is indeed a sad state that we find ourselves in, but is it really any different than it used to be? Audiophiles used to like half-speeds, they used to like Japanese pressings, they used to like direct discs with questionable sound and even more questionable music.

Now they like Heavy Vinyl and Multi-Disc 45 RPM pressings. Same wine, different bottle, if you ask me.

The path out of that morass is exactly the path we have taken and charted for everyone, free of charge.

With our approach to finding the best sounding records, cleaning them the way we do, playing them against each other the way we do, using the sound improving devices and equipment we recommend, we know you can succeed.

If we can do it you can do it. (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 – “It sounds like you’re listening to some kind of cultural artifact in a black box…”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. I’ve edited it a bit.

Hey Tom, 

Curious your thoughts on Analog Productions reissues? From the few I’ve heard, they seem to be among the better ‘new records’ out there, at least when they’re not involving digital in the process. 

Conrad,

How is it that you missed all my posts about their records? This link will take you to them: Analogue Productions.

I feel like I attack them too much, but apparently not!

Simply put, they may be the worst record label of all time.

Certainly no label is worse, some may be as bad, the electric recording guy in England is probably tied for most awful, Mobile Fidelity is up there too, but there are so many contenders for Worst Audiophile Record Label of All Time, how could you possibly know where to begin?

Not one record of AP I have ever heard was not awful, and if there are others that are not awful that I have yet to audition, those are very likely to be worse than a plain old copy easily found in a record store or on the web.

Curious to know what record of theirs you like. I find the very idea almost unimaginable

TP

Haha, enjoyed reading some of that.

I’m in the odd position that I can both entirely see what your criticisms are, and to a good extent share them, and yet, at least with the jazz records I’ve heard from them, I’m also hearing things I like.

They have absolutely no ambience… I have no idea why they’d do this, as it seems deliberate, like they thought this would improve things to a more ‘modern’ sound..?

And yes, this can have the effect of robbing the music of energy, life, interest etc. It sounds like you’re listening to some kind of cultural artifact in a black box, rather than a living piece of music.

On the other hand, the 45s esp. and even the 33s have a lot of presence and dynamic range, don’t sound too veiled (other than due to this bizarre remastering to remove ambience), and have a certain energy of their own – a kind of intensity. Maybe it’s the almost (or sometimes literal, since not all are all-analogue) digital effect; they’re going for that cleanness.

Or perhaps it’s the intensity of being slightly uptight and unnatural… but it’s interesting to hear. I know that sounds nuts, but it’s hard to describe; you have to accept you’re listening to a ‘re-presentation’, not the actual recorded sound.

On the other hand, several MoFi I’ve heard have this very fake ‘audiophile’ sound, with exaggerated mixing, overly thick, etc., and these AP I’ve heard at least sound more natural than this (at least on my system), for all their shortcomings.

I guess we can’t really compare experiences without knowing exactly the records we’ve each heard, and the AP pressings never hold a candle to any of the hot stampers I have received from you. It’s not close; my system and ears clearly know the difference. However, I don’t expect them to, and part of my relatively positive feeling about them is biased by knowing they’re dirt cheap at around $30 a pop.

It could be that your system is revealing their shortcomings more than mine, although I can readily hear the absolute difference between APs and hot stampers; or perhaps my system is tuned somehow to present them in a more favorable light… or perhaps this is just a matter of personal judgement about what we can listen to; I take them for what they are: cheap attempts to modernize the sound of master tapes. They’re nothing on hot stampers, but I’ve heard FAR worse.

Hope I don’t lose all credibility with you for writing this; different systems, different records, different pressings, different ears/moods/etc… just know that the above doesn’t mean I can’t hear and profoundly appreciate the quality of hot stampers! Wouldn’t have dropped what must be approaching $15k by now if I couldn’t, and I cherish every record I’ve bought from you. Keep up the good fight!

C

I can’t agree with much of what you’ve written, other than our Hot Stampers being amazing in every way. I believe you are trying to find reasons to justify the purchases of these modern remastered records, despite the shortcomings of their sound. My stereo is not forgiving enough of their faults to play them for enjoyment, and my ears are not forgiving enough of their sonic irregularities to find them much more than tolerable.

I took off my rose colored glasses a long time ago, and I certainly have no intention of putting them back on.

Our stereo is designed to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of every record we play. Bad records sound awful on it, and mediocre records are a waste of time. There are some heavy vinyl pressings that are neither awful nor mediocre, and you can find our reviews for them here

Years ago, we started to notice that most of the new Heavy Vinyl pressings were sounding worse and worse, and by 2007, when Blue came out, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We decided to take a stand and we have never questioned for a moment the decision we made.

This is what progress in audio in all about. As your stereo improves, some records should get better, some should get worse. It’s the nature of the beast for those of us who constantly make improvements to our playback and critically listen to records all day.
In those days, it was obvious to us that vintage pressings were getting better sounding, or at least some of them did. (We call the good ones Hot Stampers.)

The Heavy Vinyl pressings kept getting worse. They became less and less competitive, and eventually none of them sounded as good as the records we could offer our audiophile customers.

The kind of mediocrity that is rampant in the record business is simply not going to cut it here at Better Records. You may find these modern records to be interesting as artifacts, but we want to listen to music that sounds so real you can forget you’re listening to a record at all. You sure can’t do that with the records these companies are making today.

The EQ anomalies and compression and inability to breathe like vintage records call attention to these remastered discs’ manifold shortcomings the instant the needle hits the groove.

They are a disgusting ripoff, plain and simple. We find their sound insufferable. You should too.

Thanks for your letter,

TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

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Letter of the Week – “I TRULY ENJOY THE SOUND of all those Hot Stampers.”

More of the Music of Neil Young

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

Hey Tom, 

Just to let you know my response on Neil Young records (and others) I purchased from Better Records. I just read your comment:

“Which brings up a sore subject: the Classic Records 2 LP set of the Greatest Hits on Heavy Vinyl. The song Comes a Time is on it. Do you think it sounds even remotely as good as it does here? If you do, you don’t need Better Records, you need better equipment.”

I do have that record, sent it back twice as I thought I got a mispressing in view of the terrible sound quality. No luck. Now the only purpose it serves is that the cover is on the wall — I think I can still further upgrade my equipment, but already for several years I TRULY ENJOY THE SOUND of all those Hot Stampers I got through your company.

Yes they cost something but they do deliver also true joy!

Rens J.

Letter of the Week – “It really beats the pants off of my George Marino remaster…”

More of the Music of AC/DC

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper LPs to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

More Audiophile Records Mastered by George Marino

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

Hey Tom,  

I’ve been spending time this week listening to the seven records that arrived from you last week, and have been having a fabulous time doing it. So I thought I’d write to say THANKS – you guys really know how to pick ‘em!

Top honors in the batch definitely goes to the AC/DC Back in Black Hot Stamper. Wow, does it ever ROCK! And it’s not even the best one you had – which makes me wonder just how amazing the best copies sound. It really beats the pants off of my George Marino remaster, to say nothing of my old Canadian pressing.

The sheer energy that leaps off the vinyl is incredible. To me, this record supports again the hypothesis that I first tested when I bought my Joni Mitchell Hot Stamper from you last fall: That I don’t have to wait until I manage to put together a really topnotch stereo system before I can enjoy at least some of what Hot Stampers have to offer.

Obviously, as my system gets better I imagine I’ll enjoy them even more; but even with my current budget-ish system, recently much improved with Aurios and an EAR 834p (both recommended by you – thank you!), the Back in Black Hot Stamper shines. There’s truly nothing finer than listening to a record that sounds that good!

Anyway, all in all, it’s a pleasure purchasing from you, so thanks again. I’ll be back for more once my budget allows.

Martin H.

Martin,

Happy to help! We’re convinced that the better your system sounds, the bigger the difference will be between our Hot Stampers and everything else out there in record land.

Sometimes the difference is so great that even a modest system makes glaringly obvious just how much better a Hot Stamper pressing is than anything being pressed these days on modern Heavy Vinyl, famous mastering engineer or no famous mastering engineer.

Regarding the importance of energy in the pressings we audition, this commentary on Zuma may be of some interest.

Here Are More of Our Favorite Records for Testing Energy 


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

There is an abundance of audiophile collector hype surrounding the hundreds of Heavy Vinyl pressings currently in print. I read a lot about how wonderful their sound is, but when I actually play them, I rarely find them to be any better than mediocre, and many of them are awful.

Music Matters made this garbage remaster. Did anyone notice how awful it sounded? I could list a hundred more that range from bad to worse — and I have! Take your pick: there are more than 150 entries in our Heavy Vinyl Disasters section, each one worse sounding than the next.

Audiophiles seem to have approached these records naively instead of skeptically.

(But wait a minute. Who am I to talk? I did the same thing when I first got into audio and record collecting in the Seventies.)

How could so many be fooled so badly? Surely some of these people have good enough equipment to allow them to hear how bad these records sound.

Maybe not this guy, or the “In Groove” guy, but there has to be at least some group of audiophiles out there, however small their number might be, with decent equipment and two working ears, right? (Excluding our customers of course, they have to know what is going on to spend the kind of money they spend on our records. And then write us all those enthusiastic letters.)

The Law of Large Numbers Can Help You to Find Better Records

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Roy Orbison

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

Hey Tom,   

I’m going out of my frigging mind on this White Hot stamper of Roy Orbison Greatest hits. What a piece of shit is my DCC test pressing.

Naz,

I used to like the DCC vinyl too.

Then my stereo got a lot better, which I write about under the heading Progress in Audio.

Eventually it became obvious to me what was wrong with practically all of the Heavy Vinyl pressings that were put out by that label.

The good ones can be found here, along with other Heavy Vinyl pressings we liked or used to like.

The bad ones can be found here.

And those in the middle end up here.

Audio and record collecting (they go hand in hand) are hard. If you think either one is easy you are very likely not doing it right,, but what makes our twin hobbies compelling enough to keep us involved over the course our entire lifetime is one simple fact, which is this: Although we know so little at the start, and we have so much to learn, the journey itself into the world of music and sound turns out to be both addictive and a great deal of fun.

Every listing in this section is about knowing now what I didn’t know then, and there is enough of that material to fill its own blog if I would simply take the time to write it all down.

Every album shootout we do is a chance to learn something new about records. When you do them all day, every day, you learn things that no one else could possibly know who hasn’t done the work of comparing thousands of pressings with thousands of other pressings.

The Law of large numbers* tells us that in the world of records, more is better. We’ve taken that law and turned it into a business.

It’s the only way to find Better Records.

Not the records that you think are better.

No, truly better records are the records that proved themselves to be better empirically, by employing rigorous scientific methodologies that we have laid in detail for anyone to read and follow.

Being willing to make lots of mistakes is part of our secret, and we admit to making a lot of them

Knowing what I know now, and having the system currently that I’ve put together over the course of the last twenty years or so, I guarantee you the DCC Gold CD is dramatically better sounding than their vinyl release. They almost always are.

Steve Hoffmann brilliantly mastered many classic albums for DCC. I much prefer the DCC’s CDs to their records.

DCC’s CDs did not have to fight their way through Kevin Gray’s opaque, airless, low-resolution cutting system, a subject we have discussed on the blog in some depth here.


*Wikipedia on the Law of large numbers:

In probability theory, the law of large numbers (LLN) is a theorem that describes the result of performing the same experiment a large number of times. According to the law, the average of the results obtained from a large number of trials should be close to the expected value and tends to become closer to the expected value as more trials are performed.[1]

The LLN is important because it guarantees stable long-term results for the averages of some random events.[1][2] For example, while a casino may lose money in a single spin of the roulette wheel, its earnings will tend towards a predictable percentage over a large number of spins. Any winning streak by a player will eventually be overcome by the parameters of the game. Importantly, the law only applies (as the name indicates) when a large number of observations is considered. There is no principle that a small number of observations will coincide with the expected value or that a streak of one value will immediately be “balanced” by the others (see the gambler’s fallacy).


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Letter of the Week – “I now have had a listening experience for myself that confirms all the comments you make on heavy vinyl.”

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

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

Hey Tom, 

95% of my record collection are now hot stampers. The other 5% are albums of my youth I am hanging on to waiting for a future shootout. I have no heavy vinyl.

A friend of mine got a 180g Analogue Productions copy of Amos Lee for me as a gift. When I first played it on my system, it sounded clear (no surface noise) but the sound was off (more digital than analog).

I imaged it playing in a reference room of a high end audio store and people sitting commenting how good it sounds. As the record played something was just not right. It sounded overly engineered – if that’s possible.

I pulled out a Bob Dylan (2/2) and listened; then another cut of Amos Lee; then a (3/3) Neil Young. The heavy vinyl just did not sound natural to me.

I now have had a listening experience for myself that confirms all the comments you make on heavy vinyl.

Thanks Tom for Hot Stampers!

Mike

Mike,Thanks for your letter, glad to hear that you hear what we hear!

You carried out your own little record experiment, and discovered the dirty little secret of the Heavy Vinyl pressing: they don’t sound right, at least not up against a real record.

We’ve carried out a few of our own, and you can find a bunch of them here:

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments

You also no doubt improved your critical listening skills, and the better they get, the worse modern records sound. We have written a fair bit about that as well.

Improving Your Critical Listening Skills

With better critical listening skills, you have two options: do your own shootouts, or let us do them for you. There is no other way to find high quality pressings of the music you love.

Thanks for your letter.TP

P.S.

What is lost in the newly remastered recordings so popular with the record collecting public these days ? Lots of things, but the most obvious and irritating is the loss of transparency.

Modern records tend to be small, veiled and recessed, and they rarely image well. But the most important quality they lack is transparency. Almost without exception they are opaque. They resist our efforts to hear into the music and get lost in it.

We don’t like that sound, and like it less with each passing day, although we certainly used to put up with it back when we were selling what we considered to be the better Heavy Vinyl pressings from the likes of DCC, Speakers Corner, Cisco and even some Classic Records.

Now when we play the vinyl those companies produced they either bore us to tears or frustrate us with their veiled, vague, lifeless, ambience-challenged presentation.

It was sometime in 2007 when we turned a corner. The remastered Blue on Rhino Heavy Vinyl came out and was such a mediocrity that we asked ourselves “Why are we bothering?” That was all she wrote.

We stopped selling those third-rate remasters and dedicated ourselves to finding, cleaning, playing and critically evaluating vintage pressings, regardless of era or genre of music.

The result is a website full of great sounding records that should find special appeal with audiophiles who set high standards, who own good equipment and who have well-developed critical listening skills.