hot-stamper-letter

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


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Letter of the Week – “I had NO IDEA there was this much difference between copies.”

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

Hey Tom,   

Wow! this copy of Exile on MS is amazing! It sounded fantastic before my amps even were warm.

The drums sound like they are in the same room as the room with the microphone; the horns sound like……. well like… horns.

The copy I had before was brand new and sucked. This $350 copy is worth the dough and I am surprised. I

am tempted to stop buying vinyl at all unless it has been pre-tested by your team (this will be tough).

I had NO IDEA there was this much difference between copies.

Brian S. 


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Letter of the Week – “I never owned a copy that had as much bottom end along with vocals that seem to jump out of my speakers.”

More of the Music of Jethro Tull

Records that Sound Better on the Right Import Pressing 

Records that Sound Better on the Right Reissue Pressing

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

Hey Tom,   

Just a quick note to express my complete satisfaction with my latest purchase from Better Records.

I just received my copy of the WHS of Jethro Tull’s This Was LP. Needless to say, I have several copies of this album, both domestic and UK versions. One is a Pink Label UK which I purchased from you a while back.

I was so completely blown away at how much better this LP sounds. Both are great, but this one is simply unbelievable.
I never owned a copy that had as much bottom end along with vocals that seem to jump out of my speakers.

Thank you again for your work finding these superior copies of albums I never thought could sound this good!

Hope to purchase again soon,
Regards
D B

Dennis,

So glad you enjoyed this copy as much as we did, and you even had a Pink Label to play against it, a record not many audiophiles own.

Stand Up and Benefit are the same way, the original pressings are not the way to go, but try telling that to the average audiophile who only buys original pressings. They can read labels and they know which are the earliest ones, but they rarely have the equipment and the listening skills to know that the right reissues are CLEARLY better, something you heard right from the start I suspect.

Thanks for your business and enjoy your Hot Stampers. We’re thrilled to hear you are thrilled!

Best, TP


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Letter of the Week – “I am in awe. I have NEVER heard this album sound so good…”

More of the Music of The Allman Brothers

More Southern Rock

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

Hey Tom,  

Oh. My. God.

Apologies for sounding like a 13-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, but … screw it, that’s the way I feel. I’ve just finished sides one and four of the Allman’s “Live at Fillmore East,” and I am in awe. I have never never NEVER heard this album sound so good, and I’ve been listening to it for almost 40 years, in every format one can.

It’s not just the drums (and cymbals!), it’s the whole thing. It’s energetic, the bass is powerful yet refined, the soundstage is HUGE, and it’s got more air than any live rock recording I’ve ever heard. 

You’ve outdone yourselves on this one, gentlemen. Well worth my $500, and probably a steal at twice the price … but don’t get any ideas!

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Letter of the Week – “This pressing I believe is as close to a live performance of any Beatle album I have heard.”

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

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

Hey Tom, 

I just played the shootout winner of Let It Be which I just purchased for $700.00.

The sound is amazing and definitely reflects the description posted on the track list.

How much would it cost to hear the Beatles live today?

This pressing I believe is as close to a live performance of any Beatle album I have heard. I have really enjoyed all the albums I have purchased from your company.

With warm regards.

Ed B

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Letter of the Week – “The instruments fill my room like they would in a live performance.”

More of the Music of Neil Young

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

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

Hey Tom, 

I have really been enjoying the Neil Young “After The Gold Rush” and CSN&Y “So Far.” They are like the “Workingman’s Dead” LP. Just a thrill to hear. The instruments on “After The Gold Rush” fill my room like they would in a live performance. Addictive.

AJ

Addiction is the name of the game!

If you’re an audiophile who is not addicted to good sound and good music, you won’t be one for long.

And if you have been in this game for a very long time like I have, you have no doubt met self-identified audiophiles with systems that haven’t been improved in twenty years, and are rarely used.

I like to think those are the audiophiles who own lots of audiophile records, the ones that are designed to show off stereo equipment and typically have little in the way of musical value.

Audiophiles with vintage pressings of real music rarely abandon the hobby in my experience.

And if you have Hot Stamper pressings, why would you ever give up on hearing music that sounds as good as our records sound?

Thanks for your letter.

TP


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Letter of the Week – “…the $900 White Album is blowing my mind…”

More of the Music of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for The White Album

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

Hey Tom, 

Loving the recent records… the $900 White Album is blowing my mind… keep thinking I’m going to have to wipe Paul McCartney’s spit off my toes…

And the K. D. Lang… words fail for the sound here (not to mention the music) – it’s MASSIVE and lush.

Also, I’ll include the new AP Kind of Blue UHQR with this return for you to hear. I have been burning in a new phonostage, and my previous impressions were a bit rough and ready given that I was having to use a temporary phonostage at that time… so now I’d say that while yes there is more air in this issue/pressing than the claustrophobic and downright weird MoFi, this doesn’t sound natural; instruments (esp. horns) have no edge to them; piano and horn fade together in a single midi-like tone… see what you think and let me know.

Dear C.,

Looking forward to hearing it. Nothing could be more wrong sounding than the new MoFi Kind of Blue, but AP could certainly give it a run for its money in the weird Audiophile Remastering Race to the Bottom that these awful labels are currently involved with in the production of Heavy Vinyl LPs.

What you describe are the trademark sounds of bad mastering equipment, which is all that Analogue Productions has available to them it seems.

I defy anyone to name one good record this company has ever released. I sure can’t.

As you may have read elsewhere on this blog:

As long as Analogue Productions is around, at least no one can say that Mobile Fidelity makes the worst sounding audiophile records in the history of the world. They are certainly some of the worst, but not so bad that they have never made a single good sounding record, which is the title that Chad Kassem holds (to the best of our knowledge. Obviously we have only played a small fraction of the records released by him. In our defense let me say that that small fraction was all we could take.)

Thanks for your letter. That White Album was indeed killer. For $900 it had better be!

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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 – “This is worth every dollar. I’m extremely pleased.”

Progressive Rock Albums with Hot Stampers

More Debut Albums of Interest

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

Hey Tom, 

I played McDonald & Giles last night

WOW!

Massive improvement over my US first pressing I bought new back in the day. I could tell it was produced with care but I was pleasantly surprised just how nice it is.

This is worth every dollar. I’m extremely pleased.

I hope you can find a better cover for me.

A question: I have pressings of Ziggy and Aladinsane. Also a very nice UK RCA 1st pressing of Pinups.

They are much better than the US versions I have played since the early 1970’s (yes, still in great shape as I’ve always had decent playback equipment)

Sonically these 3 are not at the same level as McDonald & Giles. Do your white stampers of these titles have the warmth, detail and impact of that one?

Happy listening

Greg

Greg,

Ziggy has the potential to sound better than M and G, but that’s what good cleaning and shootouts are for, to find the best copies.

All you can do is keep buying them and improving your cleaning technology, eventually you should find something better, maybe even much better.

And the next top quality Ziggy we find will sell for $1000 or more.

So there is probably not much we can do for you there, sorry!

TP


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Charles Mingus / Ah Um – Uncleaned Originals vs. Cleaned Reissues

More of the Music of Charles Mingus

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Charles Mingus

The letter below sheds some light on a vitally important mastering issue: specifically, the answer to the question, Which are better sounding, originals or reissues?

The letter finishes this way.

“Incidentally, just a couple of days ago I conducted my own shootout between the Red Label “Mingus Ah Um” I bought from you a few weeks back and my pristine, Six Eye White Label Promo original. To my surprise, you were absolutely right about the greater clarity of the former (starting with the snare drum on the first track).

“If I had to choose between them when selecting half a dozen “desert island” LPs (and “Mingus Ah Um” would definitely be one), the Red Label version would be the pick. Much obliged for the edification.”

We of course could not agree more. We wrote back:

Once you hear the sound of “old school mastering” and get to know it, you can recognize it for what it does right and what it too often does wrong. Then, and only then, can you appreciate what is really happening when switching from newer to older pressings, what is being gained and what is being lost.

It’s the kind of Home Audio Exercise we constantly talk about on the site. And there’s a good reason for that.

As we never tire of saying, hearing is believing.

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We do not want to give the wrong impression about Ah Um. At least one of the original stereo pressings, properly cleaned, assuming we have a few to play, will win the shootout every time.

Which one will win we never know. But one of them will.

No Red Label pressing from the ’70s will beat a top quality Six-Eye.

But if you have an original and it is not cleaned right, which is almost always going to be the case, since most cleaning fluids and machines these days do not do a very good job of making your records sound the way they should, then our Red Label reissue can beat your copy. Which is what our letter writer found to be true.

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