The Law of Large Numbers Can Help You Find Better Records

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Roy Orbison

More Commentary on the Remastered Heavy Vinyl LP

Presenting another entry in our series of Big Picture observations concerning records and audio.

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 sh*t is my DCC test pressing.



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 in this group, along with other Heavy Vinyl pressings we liked or used to like.

The bad ones can be found in this group.

And those in the middle end up in this group.

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 of a 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[1] 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.

[1] Wikipedia on the Law of large numbers:


Letter of the Week – “…modern records are “recessed” and “veiled” and “murky,” and the records you sell are “present” and “transparent” and “lively.”

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Tips and Tricks on Making Audio Progress

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

Hey Tom, 

I’m always eager to learn from you guys (i.e., The Masters!) on how to improve sound reproduction when listening to records at home. Can you refer me to additional resources on 1) room treatments and 2) having good electricity?

Any assistance you could provide on these subjects would be greatly appreciated!

Jonathan R


Happy to give you some pointers:

Here is a bit of help from the blog:

More of the same:

The only room treatments we recommend you buy are these:

We know a lot about room treatments, but sharing that knowledge is difficult, it’s too “case by case” to generalize. Most of our stuff is oddball and DIY. All we really know is what works.

Hope this helps.



I really can’t adequately describe how much more pleasurable the experience of listening to records has been since Hot Stampers came into my life. The work that you and your team do in tracking down records, cleaning them thoroughly (so crucial!), comparing them with one another in shootouts, and making them available for the rest of us to enjoy is something along the lines of a sacred mission.

You’ve truly hit the nail on the head in describing modern/current records as “recessed” and “veiled” and “murky,” and the records you sell as “present” and “transparent” and “lively.” My stereo equipment is pretty rudimentary when you get right down to it (although I have made some upgrades recently), but I can still hear—and feel!—an enormous difference between Hot Stampers and what currently masquerades in the marketplace as “audiophile” LPs.


Letter of the Week – “There is an airiness to the recording where the instruments seem to float in a 3D space in the soundstage.”

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

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

Hey Tom, 

I wanted to give you my impressions of the hot stamper (vs. the Speakers Corner Decca reissue) before going out of town for a bit.

Crank it up. Sounds really good turned up loud so I knew I was going to be in for a treat. There is an airiness to the recording where the instruments seem to float in a 3D space in the soundstage. I also noticed an improved clarity of the instruments themselves; in particular, the triangles, flute, and strings.

Yes, these differences are obvious to us, because we already have the best pressings, so the heavy vinyl stuff is always wrong or worse in some way that is not hard to hear. Back to back it does not take a pair of golden ears to hear these kinds of differences.

Funny, we discussed this yesterday and as you said, until you compare multiple pressings you might think you already have a great recording. Another big difference I noticed was the tightness and solidity of the bottom end. The Decca [Heavy Vinyl reissue] seemed to smear the low frequency content compared to the London.

This happens a lot. The smear is everywhere on these newly remastered records but sometimes you can hear it most clearly in one area or another. In this case you heard it most clearly in the bass, but it’s everywhere.

The ONLY thing I miss is the flow of the full ballet. The ballet seems to tell a nice complete story where the suite just gives me the reader’s digest version — sort of a greatest hits if you will, and does not allow one to immerse themselves in the whole experience. Ideally, a hot stamper of the full ballet would be pretty amazing I am guessing.

We can definitely get you the complete ballet at some point, but these shootouts take years to get going.

I would say your best bet is to return the record since it doesn’t seem to be the way you want to hear the music and we can put you on the want list for the next complete version we find.


Did Carlos Santana want to make music or produce fireworks?

More of the Music of Santana

Reviews and Commentaries for Abraxas

Our good customer Aaron has lately been putting a great deal of time and money into the pursuit of perfect sound. His progress in audio since he discovered Hot Stampers and the kind of high quality vintage equipment we’ve recommended he use to play them has been remarkable.

In 2022 he wrote to tell us that the Super Hot Stamper Abraxas we had sent him and the Mofi One-Step he already owned were comparable in sound quality. Knowing what an awful label Mobile Fidelity is, and what a foolish idea Half-Speed Mastering is, you can imagine that we might have been a wee bit skeptical of this estimation, and we asked him to clarify his position.

Aaron also has made many improvements to his system since then. He carefully listened to both versions of Abraxas again and reported his findings. We believe that there is much to be learned from the kind of shootout that Aaron did for the album.

Hey Tom,

Oh it’s a fascinating comparison! Here’s some data points, with the final one being the most relevant to your question.

I did another series of shootouts yesterday with my new vintage amp and speakers, and I included Abraxas in it. The bass on the onestep is monstrous and unreal. Sometimes the cymbals and chimes leap out of the speakers. I understand why people go gaga for this record. If you listen for sound, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Then I put on the hot stamper. The bass was back under control. Driving, but not dominating. The overall character was lighter and less ponderous. It was more listenable, more musical, and overall it was a relief to be less distracted by the fireworks. The vocals are back in front where they belong, and more palpable.

But, the hot stamper simply doesn’t grab ahold of you the way the onestep does.

When you describe the sound of the MoFi One-Step of Abraxas, with bass that’s “monstrous and unreal. Sometimes the cymbals and chimes leap out of the speakers,” all I hear in my head is a classic case of smile curve equalization, the kind MoFi has been using since the day they produced their first rock record in 1978, Crime of the Century. Years ago we noted:

We get these MoFis in on a regular basis, and they usually sound as phony and wrong as can be. They’re the perfect example of a hyped-up audiophile record that appeals to people with lifeless stereos, the kind that need amped-up records to get them to come to life.

I’ve been telling people for years that the MoFi was junk, and that they should get rid of their copy and replace it with a tonally correct version, easily done since there is a very good sounding Speakers Corner 180g reissue currently in print which does not suffer from the ridiculously boosted top end and bloated bass that characterizes the typical MoFi COTC pressing. [Of course, we no longer recommend anyone buy Crime of the Century on Speakers Corner. The better our system gets, the less we like them.]

That’s the sound of MoFi all right. The Hot Stampers we offer would never have those “qualities,” if you care to call them that.

Leaping cymbals and chimes? Are they supposed to do that?

Also, the bass on our early pressing would have to be “back under control” or we wouldn’t have sold it to you as a Hot Stamper.

Unsurprisingly, without all that extra added bass, the sound is “lighter and less ponderous.” Saints be praised.

Smile Curve Redux

With the smile curve adding to the top and the bottom, what suffers the most? The midrange. There’s less of it relative to the  now-boosted frequency extremes. We described the effect here:

The Doors first album they released was yet another obvious example of MoFi’s predilection for sucked-out mids. Scooping out the middle of the midrange has the effect of creating an artificial sense of depth where none belongs. Play any original Bruce Botnick engineered album by Love or The Doors and you will notice immediately that the vocals are front and center.

The midrange suckout effect is easily reproducible in your very own listening room. Pull your speakers farther out into the room and farther apart and you can get that MoFi sound on every record you own. I’ve been hearing it in the various audiophile systems I’ve been exposed to for more than 40 years.

Nowadays I would place it under the general heading of My-Fi, not Hi-Fi. Our one goal for every tweak and upgrade we make is to increase the latter and reduce the former.

Or as Aaron might have phrased it, “The vocals are back in front where they belong, and more palpable.” You sure got that right.


Aaron was impressed with how much more musical our pressing is, noting: “It was more listenable, more musical, and overall it was a relief to be less distracted by the fireworks.”

Then he concludes with this, sending my head into a spin: “But, the hot stamper simply doesn’t grab ahold of you the way the onestep does.”

Ah, but there is one final paragraph to his letter, his saving grace, one that sums up the differences nicely.

I would no longer describe the choice between the onestep and the hot stamper as a toss-up. That implies they are similar, and they aren’t. They are two fundamentally different sounds, which is all the more baffling to witness since the music is clearly the same. I think it is fair to say this – as my system changed (“improved” would be a debatable term for it – the gear I use now sells for 1/4 what my old gear sells for!), and as my tastes evolved, and perhaps, as my listening skills developed, I now far prefer the Abraxas hot stamper for listening. I’ll break out the OneStep when I want to show off my stereo, but it won’t be what I reach for when I want to enjoy listening to music.


Aaron is saying that there is one clear choice when it comes to wanting to play Abraxas, and a different one for when he wants to show off his system.

Show it off to whom? Somebody who doesn’t know much about sound? Some clueless audiophile who’s impressed by phony, boosted bass and treble? Someone who knows what the MoFi One-Step of Abraxas is selling for these days?

Yes, I can see that such a person might be impressed. People were impressed with the Bose 901 back in the day. “The sound is coming from everywhere!” they exclaimed. If only live music could be more like the Bose 901. If only every copy of Abraxas had all the extra bass and top end that the MoFi has, wouldn’t that be wonderful?

No, MoFi didn’t “restore” or “improve” the sound of Abraxas. They ruined it. Any Columbia engineer who wanted to release Abraxas with that kind of sound in 1969 would have been escorted to the parking lot and told to take such foolishness elsewhere.

Anybody with a cheap ten band equalizer can produce that sound. Did Carlos Santana want to make music or produce fireworks?

If you have a good copy of the album, you know that he could actually do both.

One Test to Rule Them All

There is only one true test, and you hit it right on the head: which pressing would you rather play?

Anything else is audiophile BS.

Thanks for writing,

Best, TP


Getting rid of crappy expensive audiophile equipment and buying cheaper but better sounding gear selling for a quarter as much money is a sign that you are definitely going about this whole audio thing the right way.

Further Reading


Fleetwood Mac – “Tom likes forward-sounding records, mastered for FM broadcasts. Steve masters for home stereos.”

More of the Music of Fleetwood Mac

More Reviews and Commentaries for Rumours

One of our good customers played some Hot Stamper pressings for a friend of his and wrote to tell us about  the experience.

Dear Tom,

There’s some fascinating sociology here with how contentious your business model is. It really tweaks people.

I recently made a friend who’s always been a vinyl enthusiast. He’s got a fantastic collection. My friend has worked with Steve Hoffman on a few projects in the past, and holds him in very high regard, both professionally and personally.

We got together over Thanksgiving and I brought along my hot stampers. We listened to them on his gorgeous Linn stereo. One by one, he could appreciate the differences in them, and confirm what I was hearing.

I put my Rumours hot stamper and then his Steve Hoffman remaster. I put my Mahavishnu alongside his first UK pressing. I played my Abraxas Hot Stamper against the MoFi OneStep, which he had heard of, but never actually heard.

We debated the sonic merits of each, noting the different decisions that different mastering engineers had made. In all cases, he heard what there was to like about the hot stampers. Despite the evident sonic differences, which we could both hear and agree to, we disagreed over whether that meant Better Records was really on to something.

My friend’s reasons to resist becoming a customer really had nothing to do with the listening experience we had just shared. “Tom likes forward-sounding records, mastered for FM broadcasts. Steve masters for home stereos.”

Or, “a 1A-1A pressing that’s been well cared for will sound the best by definition because that’s closest to what the artists intended.”

Or, “Tom says there’s variance from one biscuit to the next. That’s clearly absurd.”

All this, despite having heard the records! Now, to my friend’s credit, he did allow that he might have a look at the site and try one out, if a record he really loves pops up at a reasonable price. (As far as I know, he hasn’t done it yet…)

Anyway, I had to agree with him – your business model makes no sense in light of all our preconceptions about how to find great sounding records.

And, even when you hear hot stampers for yourself, the defensive walls still stay up. It’s possible to deny what you’re hearing.



A quick note about 1A/1A. There was a time when we might have had 6-8 original pressings of a title, some 1A’s, some 1B’s etc. I would have loved to have let you borrow them and have your friend spot the 1A pressing, since it’s the best. It is of course impossible to do that, but then you just lose friends when you embarrass them that way, and who cares what somebody else likes or doesn’t like, thinks or doesn’t think about records? I sure never have. The records sound the way they sound. Opinions, as you found out for yourself, have been known to vary.

Hoffman’s fans are true believers. Try blindfolding the guys on his forum and playing them a variety of pressings, of his stuff and others. They would not do a good job of knowing which is which by ear, which are the ones you’re supposed to like and which are the ones that shouldn’t sound good, your friend included.

But most audiophiles will never submit to this test because the rug might be pulled out from under them. That is a risk they cannot take. The only tests they are willing to submit to are the ones where they know what the answers are in advance, and, to make matters worse, the only answers they will accept are the ones guaranteed to corroborate their biases and prejudgments.

When Geoff Edgers of The Washington Post wanted to test me with a batch of mystery pressings, I said “Bring it on. I do this for a living, and I’ve been at it for twenty years. I know good sound when I hear it.” He went on to play me two of the best sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings I have ever heard (here’s one of them), and some of the worst. (Reviews for those are  coming, but there are only so many hours in a day and finding the motivation to critique mediocre Heavy Vinyl pressings has hampered my productivity.)

The book you see pictured below explains everything — and I mean everything — having to do with hot stampers and the one psychological trap that every audiophile must guard against above all others: motivated reasoning.

Hoffman’s Rumours is simply not competitive with the right original pressings when played back on accurate and revealing equipment. I have personally done the demonstration for a number of people.

No one with an open mind could fail to hear how much better the real thing is compared to his remastered modern version. His is a good record. Our top copies are great ones, amazing even — at least that’s what our customers tell us.

That comparison, should you wish to do your own, would show you how much more energy the band had in 1977 than was left in the tank by 2009.

Same band, same tape, clearly different energy level. We all know the story of where that passion came from during the troubled recording of the album in 1977. How some portion of it was lost by the time Hoffman’s record came out in 2009 is the story that no one seems to want to talk about.

Certainly the heavy vinyl crowd doesn’t want to hear about it. Some might even talk themselves into believing that all that passion may have been good for FM radio broadcasts but would surely be less appropriate for home stereos.

A Different Approach

I have not been a True Believer since I extricated myself from the Fulton audio cult I was in all through the 70s. Since then I have taken to heart the opposite philosophy and approach, a purely evidence-based one. It has helped me achieve things in audio that I would have never achieved otherwise.

The scientific method works. I do not believe anything else does. There is no shortage of theories out there in audio land, and when we put them to the test, we often find out just how silly they are. We happily share the data with our readers on this very blog, which, of course, you can read to your heart’s delight free of charge.

You will not make many friends pointing these things out to your fellow audiophiles. Eventually they will want to burn you at the stake. Such is the way of all heretics, myself included, perhaps especially. (I’m not sure what stage of truth we are at, but it is definitely not stage three.)

As the only real skeptic who ever became an audiophile record dealer — which seems to be more of a contradiction in terms with each passing year — I can’t take credit for being scientifically minded and requiring evidence for the things I believe. It’s simply the way I am and have been as far back as I can remember.

I also do my best not to make excuses and come up with flimsy rationalizations when the evidence shows that what I wanted to believe turns out to be wrong.

Based on my forty years of experience in the audio game, I believe that no one can succeed who does not approach audio and records skeptically. I implore everyone to test this proposition for themselves and let the evidence be your guide.

As for taking a chance on Hot Stampers, you do get your money back if you don’t see things our way. But apparently even that is not enough for most audiophiles.


Letter of the Week – “Your Rubber Soul and ELO sides are clearly better than anything I ever heard…”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Rubber Soul Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

“…and comparisons to Gold CDs, Legacy, MFSL, Nautilus or DCC series are pointless.”

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.

All the best,
Ben P.

Ben, thanks for your letter. Naturally we agree with everything you say, including how good the B-52s’ first album can sound on the orignial pressing. The reissues are a joke, but that’s what most folks who own the album are playing because the originals are too hard to find and expensive when you do.

Best, TP

Further Reading

Letter of the Week – Finding a Way Out of the Heavy Vinyl Trap

More Heavy Vinyl Commentaries and Reviews

Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

One of our good overseas customers had this to say about the records he was purchasing before he found out about the superiority of our Hot Stamper pressings:

Hey Tom, 

I am of the opinion not that Heavy Vinyl is the problem, it is how the music is treated [processed] until it is pressed on the Heavy Vinyl. In any case, Heavy Vinyl is a crime against the environment. It is pure marketing.

But less than a year ago I was in the same trap. Unfortunately I need to admit that.

KR Hans


Glad to see you have taken Step One, which is recognizing and admitting you made a mistake when you bought all those rarely-better-than-mediocre Heavy Vinyl reissues.

You believed the reviewers and the forum posters and found out the hard way that none of them are to be trusted.

The next steps are even easier. Stop believing these people, buying the records they recommend, and take all the money you were wasting on that crap and buy yourself some amazing sounding Hot Stampers with it.

Many of our customers went through the same process you have, and it seems they are as pleased with the results as you are.

Like the old saying goes, if you find yourself headed down the wrong road, stop, turn around and start walking in the other direction. Record collecting is easy once you understand it.

It took me 30 years, from about 1975 to about 2005, to figure it out, but thankfully we all are here now, with this very blog to help everyone on the journey of a lifetime that lies before us.

Knowing how to find good vinyl pressings has taken this hobby to levels unimaginable to my younger self, and it can do the same for you. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “The extra deep bass and dynamics to the drums on Who’s Next vs my new one was particularly eye opening!”

More of the Music of The Who

Reviews and Commentaries for Who’s Next

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


Meeting Robert [Robert Brook] has energized me to upgrade my vinyl rig to a MC with a nicer table. (Currently I use a VPI Traveler with Clearaudio Artist v2).  Robert also showed me how my supposedly fancy new 180g “audiophile” pressing can often be used to wipe the floor by classic pressings.  The extra deep bass and dynamics to the drums on his copy of Who’s Next vs my new one was particularly eye opening!

Yes, Robert Brook has been making a lot of progress lately and has some good records to play on his much better sounding rig. His blog is definitely worth reading. Here is a link.

I’ve purchased a VPI Classic 3se with the 3d arm, and I’m led to believe that the Dynavector is a great match for it.  A friend of a friend has this exact set up and is very happy with it. Robert says you also use a Dynavector for your record shootouts.

Yes, most cartridges would have put us out of business long ago with their wacky EQ, the opposite of what we need to do out job. We talked about it here:

Once you get your system to that “accurate” and more revealing place, you may find yourself in the same position as our friend Dan here:

Thanks for your letter!


Letter of the Week – “a magical tonal balance filled with glimmers of insight.”

More of the Music of Willie Nelson

More Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Willie Nelson

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

Hey Tom, 

I just wanted to give a quick thanks for helping me pull out of the modern reissue scam. Willie Nelson’s Yesterday’s Wine was my wake up record.

I listened as close as I could to the Speakers Corner press trying to find some kind of merit. I thought there was something wrong with me or my equipment.

The hot stamper of the same record I recently received had a magical tonal balance filled with glimmers of insight.

Thanks for getting me on the right track to truly hearing analog.



You are very welcome.

Nothing could make us happier than to get another audiophile away from the fast-food-quality sound of the modern Heavy Vinyl LP.

Once you hear what you are missing, really hear it, there is no going back.

You are on a new road now, one that will lead to a great deal more musical enjoyment.

For everybody else who comes to this blog, if you are stuck in a Heavy Vinyl rut, we can help you get out of it. We did precisely that for Guy and a bunch of other audiophiles, and we can do it for you.

You may of course not be aware that you are stuck in a rut. Most audiophiles aren’t. The best way out of that predicament is to hear how mediocre these modern records sound compared to the vintage Hot Stampers we offer. Once you hear the difference, your days of buying newly remastered releases will most likely be over.

We’ve written a fair amount about the ear-opening effects of playing a Hot Stamper pressing for the first time. More on the subject here.

Even if our pricey curated pressings are beyond your budget, you can avail yourself of the methods we use to find killer records on your own.

Thanks for your letter,


We Get Letters – “It almost seems as if it is another recording altogether, so much more alive and dynamic.”

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Teaser and the Firecat

Our good customer Roger likes doing his own shootouts, having acquired many of the so-called audiophile recommended pressings over the years.

Like us, he knows firsthand that those recommended records have little hope of standing up to the real thing, the real thing of course being an old record we charged him a lot of money for, or, to put it another way, a Hot Stamper. Can it possibly be worth the three hundred clams it cost him?

Let’s hear from Roger on that subject.

Hi Tom,

Just the usual note to let you know of my latest LP shootout: Cat Stevens Teaser and the Firecat. Since you recommend this recording so highly, I was looking forward to comparing your Super Hot Stamper (SHS) to a British Sunray pressing I had and my Mobile Fidelity Anadisq. Since I had previously found, as you have, that the MFSL version was thin and bright, I bought a UK pressing, finding it much more full, warm, and dynamic, and my recent comparison confirmed that.

The MoFi is hideously bright and edgy, making guitars sound like zithers and Cat’s voice thin and reedy, like he had a head cold. Yep, that about sums it up, Cat Stevens and His Zither Band. It makes me wonder whether the ear-damaged MFSL engineers ever heard a good pressing of this record–even the UK was leagues better.