hot-stamper-letter

Pink Floyd – “…never heard the details in the guitars and cymbals and keyboards like this.”

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Wish You Were Here

One of our best customers, Roger, received his $150 Hot Stamper [those were the days!] ’Wish You Were Here’ and went straight to work comparing it with the various other pressings he owned: two different CBS Half Speeds. The not-so-shocking results are presented in detail below.

Hi Tom,

I received your Pink Floyd ‘Wish You Were Here’ Hot Stamper and compared it to my CBS Half-Speed (I found a bunch of these Half-Speeds in a bargain bin years ago and did a shootout to select the best one) and the pressing that I considered the best, the Japanese Mastersound Half-Speed, for which I paid dearly.

Drum roll, please while Vanna hands me the sealed envelope………… and the winner is: Surprise — the Hot Stamper!

And it wasn’t even close.

Once I heard the center-of-the-earth bass on the Hot Stamper ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, it was all over. I was amazed at how bright the CBS was, transparent yes, but bright and no bass and no body to the saxophones and voices. The Mastersound was better-balanced in that the highs were tamed, but no real dynamics and the bass was flabby.

I have heard this record hundreds of times, but never heard the details in the guitars and cymbals and keyboards like this.

And did I mention the huge, huge soundstage with a wall of sound like that of other Pink Floyd records? Nice job as usual.

Roger,

Thanks for verifying the accuracy of our Hot Stamper claims once again. The decent sounding Half Speed Mastered records, CBS and otherwise, can be counted pretty easily on one’s fingers. We could debunk them all day long if we wanted to (and had ten times the staff). It doesn’t take long to hear how anemic the sound is compared to The Real Thing, the real thing being, of course, a vintage pressing.

The copy you bought was rated A Plus on both sides, two full sonic grades below the best, so you can imagine how good those copies sound. But since neither you nor I are made out of money, for $150 you now own a copy that will trounce anything you throw at it, especially if what you throw at it is an audiophile pressing.

Those moribund LPs belong on Ebay where all the Technics turntable owners of the world can find them in order to complete their — let’s be honest — silly and ultimately pointless audiophile collections.

Modern equipment shows half-speed foolishness for what it is. You heard it, we heard it, and slowly but surely we are spreading the word to the rest of the audiophile community.

Thanks again; it’s a big job and we need all the help we can get.

Best 
TP


Letter of the Week – “…as if I were sitting in that Southern California recording studio all those years ago.” 

More of the Music of Carole King

More of the Music of The Eagles

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

Hey Tom, 

First a short thank you. I was slow in ordering a record I needed for an audiophile’s friend’s birthday this week, and you guys got it to me. There is a personal service aspect of your team that just adds to the quality of the product. As to that…..

This morning I went to my record collection looking for the right one to listen to with morning coffee at the start of a beautiful Friday. I came across the very first Hot Stamper I ever purchased from you. A copy of Carol King’s Tapestry. I remember the nervousness I felt when making that first “investment”…. Have to tell you, it sounds even better today. The dynamic range, the lingering cymbal clash, the clarity of James Taylor’s acoustic guitar…as if I were sitting in that Southern California recording studio all those years ago. 

BTW… I had a very cool experience last week. My boss is friends with a guy who’s name is Herb Tobin. Herb bought an ocean front house in a small berg north Miami called Golden Beach back in 1982. He bought it from a Miami recording studio that use to be called Criteria, later changing their name to the current The Hits Factory. My boss arranged for us to have lunch with Mr. Tobin on my birthday. By now, you no doubt have guessed the address….461 Ocean Blvd. Not only did Eric Clapton stay there and was so inspired at the turning point in his life that time meant he named the album, and used the image looking back from the beach at the back of the house in 1974 as the album cover. The Eagles also stayed there while recording Hotel California.

We met Mr. Tobin out for lunch and he told me many stories of all the strange, and some unwelcome visitors he has had since 1982. One most welcomed visitor was in the 1990’s he got a call from Clapton’s agent and Eric wanted to bring his wife by and show her the house. They ended up having lunch out on the back patio, where the palm tree is on the album cover. Eric autographed 10 records for Mr. Tobin that day and he had 4 left plus one he had framed. My boss made arrangements with Mr. Tobin in advance and he gave me one…. I am having it framed. I have always loved that record, since ’74. Not looking for agreement, but I have never been able to warm up to any of the Cream, Derek and the Dominos, etc. and anything after what are for me the 4 best (461; Backless; No Reason to Cry; and There’s One In Every Crowd), is simply not my cup of tea. But 461 for me is not only Clapton’s best work, it is one of my top 10 albums of all time. Something totally authentic about it.

Wanted to share a little with you of the impact all your good work makes. (more…)

Bob Dylan – “Never had any idea Blonde on Blonde could sound so 3D and live…”

More of the Music of Bob Dylan

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

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

Dear Tom,

Four 3+ sides that sound unlike any other version of this available, of arguably one of the most important rock records of the century from its top artist… It may be a niche taste compared to Zep etc., but you could probably have charged $2k for this.

Never had any idea Blonde on Blonde could sound so 3D and live… it’s really well recorded.

Reinvigorated my passion for this music which I’ve heard a million times over the decades.

Wow… at $1.3k you definitely underpriced this one!

Dear Conrad,

Awesome to hear. It is a really well recorded album, but how would anyone know that who hasn’t heard it sound like the copy we sent you?

We’d love to charge $2k. It is indeed worth every penny of what you paid. (Some folks think some of our records are worth $15,000, but that may be a bit of a stretch.)

It takes many years to find a copy that sounds like that one. When we get hold of such a copy, we really have no idea whether it’s a diamond in the rough — since all the early 360 pressings we prefer look pretty much the same — or just another run-of-the-mill Columbia pressing with good, not great, sound. Fortunately, once the needle had dropped that copy showed us that it had the right stuff in its grooves.

Thanks for your letter.

Best, TP

P.S.

We talked about this very issue in a commentary describing bell curve distributions (which, as I’m sure you can imagine, makes for some fun reading!)

An excerpt:

Hot Stampers make a lot more sense once one has a better understanding of statistical distributions.

This one piece of information can do more to improve the sound quality of your record collection than any other.

Why statistics you ask? Simple.

We can’t tell what a record is going to sound like until we play it.

For all practical purposes we are buying them randomly and “measuring” them to see where they fall on a curve.

We may be measuring them using a turntable and registering the data aurally, but it’s still very much measurement and it’s still very much data that we are recording (with a healthy amount of interpretation of the data involved, but that’s what we get paid to do, right?).

Many of these ideas were addressed in the shootout we did many years ago for BS&T’s second album. We played a large number of copies (the data), we found a few amazing ones (the outliers), and we tried to determine how many copies it really takes to find those records that sound so amazing they defy not only conventional wisdom, but our understanding of the record itself.

We don’t know what causes some copies to sound so good. We know them when we hear them and that’s pretty much all we can say we really know. Everything else is speculation and guesswork.

We have data. What we don’t have is a theory that explains that data.

And it simply won’t do to ignore the data because we can’t explain it. Hot Stamper Deniers are those members of the audiophile community who, when faced with something they don’t want to be true, simply manufacture reasons why it can’t or shouldn’t be true. That’s not science. It’s anti-science.

Practicing science means following the data wherever it leads. The truth can only be found in the record’s grooves and nowhere else.  If you don’t understand record collecting as a science, you can’t do it right and you certainly won’t achieve much success.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments

Kind of Blue – Don’t Tell This Guy the MoFi Is a Joke

Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

Hot Stamper Pressing of Miles’s Albums Available Now

The MoFi of KOB may be a joke, but don’t bother telling this guy, who appears to be rather new to this whole “reviewing” thing.

He has a record store in Phoenix and a youtube channel called The “In” Groove, wherein he proffers advice to audiophiles about records. Unsurprisingly, he tends to favor audiophile pressings. No doubt he sells lots of them in his store.

To quote the man himself, “I do a review of the best sounding copy’s [sic] of Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue. What are the copy’s [sic] you should own?”

Obviously, literacy is not his strong suit, so writing about records is out, replaced by endless talking about records on these insufferable content-light videos. Everything of interest this gentleman has to say could be written on the back of a napkin and read in the span of the average TV commercial, but that would require stringing together lots of words and arranging them so that they make some kind of sense. It’s so much easier to chat about vinyl while seated in front of some very expensive and no doubt awful sounding (judging by the results of this “shootout”) McIntosh electronics. (I am on record as being opposed to this approach to audio, and have been proselytizing for the benefits of low power amps for more than twenty years.)

Regardless of what he thinks he is doing, in no way does this fellow actually review the best sounding copies, because he’s too inexperienced and ill-informed to even bother with the ’70s Red Label reissue pressings, some versions of which happen to be among the best pressings we’ve heard, a subject we discuss here.

Our Kind of Blue Obsession

KOB is an album we have been obsessed with for a very long time, along with a great many others.

To see a small sampling of other youtube reviewers who seem to know very little about records but are nonetheless comfortable giving out advice “on the copy’s [sic] you should own,” click here.

You may heard that many of these guys who were supposedly devotees of the purest of analog pressings by the purest of audiophile labels got the shock of their lives recently.

Going all the way back to our early days in the record business in 1987, I can honestly say we never bought into the Master Tape Hype of the typical audiophile record, preferring to remain skeptical of facts we had no way to confirm.

And now it turns out the facts weren’t actually facts at all. They were lies.

We advise everyone, Hot Stamper customers and skeptics alike, that the best way to judge records is not to read about them, but to play them.

(more…)

Letter of the Week “I have often found myself listening to things on your albums that I never imagined would be captured on vinyl!”

More of the Music of Sly & The Family Stone

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ry Cooder

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

Hey Tom, 

Please accept my apology. This email has been written in my head many times before now. However, life, and its many responsibilities have forced their own priority and delayed the composition of this message.

I have long been a skeptical person. My personality, and profession encourage skepticism. That skepticism was high when I first purchased a Ry Cooder album from you in 2014. Prior to that first purchase, I had been conducting research to discover what album pressings were likely to contain the best sound. I do not recall where I initially viewed your banner advertisement (possibly stevehoffman.tv, [not a chance!] or audiokarma.org? [maybe]).

Either way, I clicked on the ad for your site and noticed a Ry Cooder album that I have always loved, and I took a chance. Boy was I surprised!

Since then I have purchased many albums from you, and I have been extremely happy with nearly all of them (even 95% accuracy is rare in the physical word, and you have easily achieved accuracy beyond that point). I have often found myself listening to things on your albums that I never imagined would be captured on vinyl!

Just as a side note, I want to thank you for including Sly Stone (a personal favorite), and War in your catalog of albums. Most audiophiles are not focused on those genres, but they are missing some interesting music. Thank you for your excellence!

Justin

Justin,

No apology needed, thanks for joining in the Hot Stamper fun.

Ry Cooder is popular with many audiophiles, but Sly and the Family Stone and War? Not so much.

And both artists are personal favorites of mine.

We created a special section for artists who don’t get the respect from audiophiles that we think they deserve, and we named it Well Recorded Albums that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles so that there can be no confusion as to what kinds of records are compiled within it: great sounding ones with excellent music.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “Are Hot Stampers the only way to get my system to sound this good?”

More of the Music of Steve Winwood

More of the Music of Joni Mitchell

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

Hey Tom, 

Yesterday I was marveling at the bottom-end and overall clarity of my new Stevie Winwood album. I think it’s right up there with Miles of Aisles, which sounded so good it made my wife cry (seriously).

But as always, I came up with a dark thought: Are Hot Stampers the only way to get my system to sound this good?

I have VERY few personally-selected LPs that can compete with a Hot Stamper. Even though I usually buy the “Budget” stampers, it looks like a future of hundred-buck-plus albums for me.

Gordon R.

Gordon,

Yes, our records are expensive, there is no denying that fact. I think you would agree they are worth what we charge, which is typically much more than a hundred dollars each these days. The average record on our site is about three times that much.

Fortunately, if you want more records that sound as good as our Hot Stampers do, we tell you how to find your own.

We recently added some sections to our site for less expensive titles:

Hot Stampers Under $200

Hot Stampers Under $150

Bargain Bin Hot Stampers

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “What a revelation the Hot Stamper is!”

More of the Music of The Beatles

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

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

Hey Tom, 

I have enjoyed your records since I got a “Sgt. Peppers” hot stamper in 2011, and you guys have never disappointed me!

Every time I play one of the hot stampers for my musician friends, I don’t tell them “it’s a special pressing” but just play the record – they always comment on the sound quality, almost always saying “that’s so clear, so clean, etc…” – even my 65 year old father, with no musical background at all, was amazed when I play your Beatles stampers. He said, “in my time, records sounded scratchy and noisy.” What a revelation the Hot Stamper is!

Sorry to gush, Tom, but I’m just a customer for as long as I have hearing!

Cheers! All hail Better Records!

Kyle M.


FURTHER READING

Reviews and Commentaries for Please Please Me

Reviews and Commentaries for With the Beatles

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “absolutely blew me away.”

Reviews and Commentaries for Meddle

Reviews and Commentaries for Pink Floyd

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

Hi Tom,

Got the Meddle album already. I sat down as soon as I opened it and listened to both sides with the volume up. Absolutely blew me away. I heard things on there that I never heard before. Or I just heard them better.

I didn’t have to listen to my other copies. I knew right away this one was IT. Listening to a record like this just gets me thinking what the other Hot Stampers sound like.

Steve


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Letter of the Week – “Talking Old Soldiers is possibly, no IS, the most holographic a vocal and piano recording that I’ve ever heard…”

Can our records possibly be worth these prices?

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

Hey Tom,   

Thank you VERY much for that one. Worth its weight in gold (last checked gold was $58.19 a gram, x 140 grams = $8,146.00) thus an absolute bargain for $750 – and have only listened to side two so far!

My god, Talking Old Soldiers is possibly, no IS, the most holographic a vocal and piano recording that I’ve ever heard, filling the room floor to ceiling and wall to wall with stunning realness right off the fresh master tape. Then into Burn Down The Mission, same thing, holy shxt! Best EVER.

More of those please and I owe you $7396.00. Lol.

All the best,
Mike S.

Mike, thanks so much for writing. As a special one time consideration, please keep the $7396 you owe us.

Best, TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “…the WHS is huge and clear. It had ALL the positive attributes I heard in the others.”

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Dark Side of the Moon

More Customer Letters for Dark Side of the Moon

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

Dear Tom and Fred,

Just a note to say I’ll be keeping the White Hot of DSOTM. Fred, thank you for reaching out to me about it. I really appreciate that.

This is one of those records where I already had a handful of well-regarded pressings. How intriguing that it was such an obscure pressing that won your shootout! [1]

I compared the WHS to my early US pressing (Ken Perry mastered [2]), my MoFi [3], a Japanese “blue triangle” pressing, and of course, the 2016 remaster [4].

Sure, there are tons of sought-after pressings that go for prices even more exorbitant than what I paid you, none of which I’ve heard, so I guess it’s not a proper shootout. But, at least among the ones I have, the WHS bested them all handily. In each of the others I was able to find something that I could appreciate, that on its own compared well to the WHS. This is such a great, and well-recorded, album that any pressing of it is going to have something worthwhile to offer.

The Japanese pressing came closest to the WHS. At the other end of the spectrum the 2016 remaster, noted for its great bass, just sounded clogged and thudding [5].

Compared to each of them, the WHS is huge and clear. It had ALL the positive attributes I heard in the others. Is it 15x better than my next-best copy? Objectively, probably not. But, subjectively, it must be, since I’m keeping it.

Since the hot stamper arrived the day after my Legacy Signature III’s got here, it was one of the first records I played on them. What a great pairing they are! 

This was of course the first mini-shootout I’ve done using the Legacys. What a great window into a record these speakers provide. I switched back to my Bowers and Wilkins 805s and re-ran the shootout, just to see if my impressions would still align. They did, with the hot stamper providing more vividness and a bigger sound than the other pressings did, even on the B&Ws.

But on the bigger speakers the hot stamper stands apart from the others by a wider margin.

Thank you both for all the great records you find, and thank you Tom for the stereo advice. You keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

Aaron

Aaron,

Glad to hear you are a Legacy man now. We love our Legacy Speakers and can’t imagine doing shootouts without them. (The old ones, not the newer models.) The Big Speaker sound, at loud levels, is what allows a record like Dark Side of the Moon to be every bit the immersive experience we know it can be if you have a top quality pressing to play. Now you know it too.

And thanks for doing the shootout so that you know exactly what our best copies of Dark Side are capable of. If you make any improvement to your system, be sure to go back to this Dark Side and hear the change for yourself.

Then play any of these other pressings and note how the gap has widened. That is our experience and we expect you will find the same differences in your listening room as well.

The following notes may be of general interest:

[1} Obscure pressings that sound better than all others are our bread and butter here at Better Records! There are only two sets of stampers for the record you bought that win shootouts, and without those exact stampers you would not have heard the sound you so clearly heard. There is a stamper for the pressing you bought that has the same cover and the same label, made in the same country, but with sound that is pretty subpar. We bought some because we owed it to ourselves and our customers to try every potentially good stamper we knew was out there. We bombed, but we do that a lot and never worry about it. At these prices the winners more than pay for the losers.

This is why it is difficult to take anyone seriously who thinks they know the right pressings of DSOTM. We had to play a dozen or more different ones in order to find the killer copy you now own. Who in his right mind would do such a thing?

[2] As a rule we very much like Ken Perry‘s work for Capitol, but it is doubtful that anyone ever gave him a master tape of DSOTM to work with.

[3] Many, many years ago we did a little shootout for the MoFi, which you can read about here. We should note that the last time we dropped the needle on one we found it way too bright. The Crime of the Century MoFi that I used to sort of like was the same way, way too bright. Our system ten or twenty years ago used to be darker and much more forgiving. Those dark days are gone and they sure won’t be coming back, which simply means that it is the rare MoFi record that we can tolerate anymore. (Here are some of the ones we found the least irritating.)

[4] The Heavy Vinyl pressing that Doug Sax cut may have been made from the real master tape, but it had to go through Kevin Gray’s cutting system, and it’s the rare record that survives that trip. We reviewed his version here, almost twenty years ago now.

[5] We thought it sounded very bright. I didn’t pay much attention to the lower frequencies, the higher ones were just way too boosted.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Making Audio Progress