Letter of the Week – “This has to be the most dramatic improvement over a typical recording I’ve ever heard!”

More of the Music of David Bowie

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of David Bowie

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

Hey Tom, 

Picked up your SHS of “Ziggy” last week–my daughter is 13 and starting to get into Mick Ronson, and I got this to show her what I think is his best work, not just on guitar, but in essentially creating the overall sound for the “Ziggy Stardust” album.

What I didn’t expect was how fantastic this album sounds. I’ve had other copies and they sound like I’m wearing a blanket over my head. Alongside my HS copy of “Freak Out” (first record I ever bought from you guys, I think), this has to be the most dramatic improvement over a typical recording I’ve ever heard!

Records like this justify Better Records in spades–wow!!

Stephen F.

Stephen, thanks for your letter.

Let’s face it: the average copy is pretty average. We wouldn’t even bother to play the average copy. Who needs it? Audiophiles want something that sounds good and record collectors can find records like these on ebay for under $10 or thereabouts, so no one in either group needs to come to our site to get some run-of-the-mill pressing of a title as common as this one.

Audiophiles come to us for the best, the copies that beat the Remastered Heavy Vinyl Con Jobs, the Half-Speeds, the whatever Audiophile BS pressing may be out there. We take them all on and beat them with ease.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great record from us. It helps — don’t get me wrong, our Top Dollar copies are OUT OF THIS WORLD. But for the price of a good dinner (maybe an especially good dinner), you can have a record that will give you joy and pleasure far out of proportion to its cost.

[UPDATE: The bit about the record costing the price of a dinner is no longer true, unless you are in the habit of spending $1000 or more at dinner. Rarely are Hot Stamper pressings of Ziggy priced under that nowadays. Trying to balance the small supply with the high demand has resulted in the price getting well out of hand, at least for those of us in the middle class. If we could find more of the good pressings and sell them for cheaper, believe me, we would. At under $1000 the record would probably not last a day on the site. At $1500 and up, it’s there for those who love the album enough to pay the admittedly premium price we’re asking.]

Stephen, we look forward to finding you more better sounding pressings of your favorite music.


Letter of the Week – “I did a lot of research on which pressing to purchase and nobody ever mentioned the version that you sell!”

More of the Music of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Abbey Road

Hi Tom,

Tonight’s been really cool.

I got to hear Abbey Road in such a way that I had no idea existed. I put side one of the SHS I just got and my eyes popped out and my jaw dropped and I went ‘WTF’ was that.

Some of the extended bass rumbles on Come Together really made me smile and go ‘whoa.’

I know what my UK 1st pressing sounds like and I always thought that it was special in comparison to others l’d heard, like the MFSL and Japanese Pro Use.

So now I’m listening to yours somewhat in disbelief. The end of side one just about blew the windows out of the house! Then I put my UK copy on. By comparison, it just sounded flat! ….but on its own it sounds good.

What an amazing discovery. You are completely correct in your assessment of these ’69 UK pressings.

Thanks again,


Over the last couple of years I did what I thought was a lot of research on which Abbey Road pressing to purchase for the best experience….and nobody ever mentioned the version that you sell!


This letter warms our hearts. We’ve known that the original Abbey Road pressings are not the end-all and be-all that some audiophiles and record collectors think they are, and of course the same is true for the legendary Toshiba Pro-Use and MFSL discs. Been there, done that, left them in the dust a long time ago. Now you know why. You own the pressing that trounces them all.

The fact that no one recommends the pressings we sell as superior to those commonly touted by the so-called experts just tells us that the work we do is difficult and simply cannot be accomplished without a staff and a budget.

And that what we do is important. Essential even.

As we are the only operation dedicated to this kind of work with either the staff or the budget it takes to succeed, it is not surprising that no one has figured out the key to Abbey Road. It took us a very long time too. As you may have read elsewhere on the blog:

Skeptical thinking has been key to our success from the very start, and it can be key to your success too. To understand records, you need to think about them critically, not naively, in order to get very far in this devilishly difficult hobby we have chosen for ourselves.

Our first big shootout was 2007, and since then we have carried out at least two dozen more for the album, making a lot of Beatles’ fans happy in the process. We helped them spend their money on something that will give them lifelong pleasure.

As for the original sounding flat, you may have seen this too:

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

Compared to what?

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

Now that you have done your own shootout, you know how flat your copy was all along — but, as you say, “on its own it sounds good.”

This is the kind of progress in audio we love to hear about.

Thanks for your letter,

Best, TP

Further Reading

Who Deserves the Credit for Knocking this Copy of Sticky Fingers Out of the Park?

More of the Music of The Rolling Stones

More Reviews and Commentaries for Sticky Fingers

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

Hey Tom,   

All time world champ.  A cut above unbelievable!  All the magic sans the shrillness so common in the multitudinous copies I’ve heard.  Breathtaking finesse and musicianship exploding in holographic dynamics that are clean and tonally real and penetrating.  

What a copy.  Pure gold.  Thank you Tom.  You knocked it out of the park.


Dear Phil,

Fantastic news. We loved it too.

A small correction, if I may:

Some mastering engineer knocked it out of the park. All we did was find the ball, grab it and run with it.

And if you want to find the killer pressing that can sail over the back wall with ease, possibly landing in the bed of a pickup truck never to be seen again, there is only one way we know of to do it: by turning over lots of rocks.

Some of the rocks we turned over for our first big shootout many years ago can be seen in the picture below.

It was taken in the early- to mid-2000s. By that time I had been buying up Sticky Fingers in local record stores for more than twenty years. I didn’t have much to show for my efforts, however, as the records were just too noisy, scratched-up, groove-distorted and just plain bad sounding to qualify for a shootout.

It wasn’t until 2007, with the discovery of the Walker Enzyme Record Cleaning System and the Odyssey record cleaning machine (similar to Keith Monks’ design from the 70s that I used to use) that we were finally able to get Sticky Fingers to sound good enough and play quietly enough to identify the Hot Stamper pressings lurking in the pile of copies you see here.


Further Reading


Letter of the Week – “The most expensive record I ever bought but well worth the dough!”

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

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

I will share with you guys a few more observations.

You will not be surprised to learn that the Led Zep 2 WHS leads the pack. The most expensive record I ever bought but well worth the dough!

Your description says it all: Freakishly good! Firmly trounced my early UK plum and my German RL (side 1) issues

No disapoimtments regarding the sound whatsoever with all others. One has to understand though that a 3/3 is an absolute judgement but a relative one (Bruce Springssteen comes to mind) but if one follows you long enough the prices asked for give a bit of indication so that‘s fine with me.

Christian ended his letter with these thoughts.

You made my life better with your records. I keep learning a lot from you following your site everyday now, enhanced my listening skills and sometimes detect now my own HS (just listening and comparing my two early UK Track Who Tommy inspired by your listing yesterday) and am amazed by the quality but also differences from side to side).



We are so happy to hear that we’ve made your life better with our records, who could ask for anything more?

It wasn’t hard for us to beat your UK and German pressings, the UK original is a joke next to the good RL pressings. I hope you had a chance to play our Hot Stamper against the Heavy Vinyl reissue. If you did, please let us know what you heard.

As for your copies of Tommy have side to side differences, we’ve been going on about that for three decades, but for some reason audiophiles and those who write for them never notice these things.

We are not aware of any audiophile reviewer who can play Big Rock Records the way we can play them, the way they should be played, a subject we discussed in this commentary.

Thanks for your letter,


Further Reading


Letter of the Week – “I wonder if you’ve ever had another customer who doesn’t own a turntable buy a white hot stamper from you?”

More of the Music of Fleetwood Mac

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Aaron has been trying to help his audiophile friends learn the differences between good records and Heavy Vinyl records. This first story concerns Chuck, who sold Aaron the VPI table you see pictured. Aaron writes:

Chuck’s a real record guy. I played him some hot stampers, alongside the same record in heavy vinyl format.

First up was Rumours – white hot up against the Hoffman 45 mastering. He wanted to hear “you make loving fun,” so we did. The drums on the Hoffman are more prominent, and they grab you right away. Way out of balance to my taste. He said, “Hoffman’s done a great job with the drums. But it comes at the expense of Christine’s voice. That’s okay, I never loved her as a singer anyway.”

Next I busted out my holy grail, and played him my Zep 2 WHS. Followed up by the Jimmy Page remastering. The latter is indeed a decent record, Tom, as you say. But the clarity on the drums is superior on the Ludwig. [Clarity is not the word I would have chosen, but that’s another story for another day.]

As Chuck put it, “I never thought of this as a vocal record.” Plant’s voice just has so much more emotion on the hot stamper than on the Page version. He said, “the Page version takes out some of the humanity.” I totally agreed with that. Chuck was amazed that you were able to find and sell me a RL copy with such clean vinyl. I took the record off the table and showed it to him – he was amazed to see how scuffed it looked. It’d grade VG at best visually, but man does it play clean.

So, record after record, Chuck could hear what the hot stampers were doing. And, no doubt, the VPI table is making the hot stampers sound better, and in comparison, the heavy vinyl sounds even duller.

That said, this turntable is so much more revealing than my Clearaudio was, that there is always something delightful to listen to on my heavy vinyl records. They don’t sound worse, they sound better than they used to. It’s just that the gap between them and the hot stampers is only continuing to grow wider.

So, my man Chuck, who sold me his VPI turntable, saw the light. But then he shielded his eyes from it. Even though Chuck’s got a stack of 25 benjamins in his hand right now, I don’t think any of that is headed your way, Tom.


Aaron followed up this letter with one about another friend, Bill, who is now, with Aaron’s help, building his first great stereo. Aaron brought along a killer copy of Clap Hands in order to judge the speakers they would be auditioning in various audio salons. When Ella finally sounded right, that was it.

Bill closed the deal on the spot, and we retired to his home to sip some Japanese whiskey and listen to some music. As we chatted, he asked me more about the copy of Rumours I had played for him at my house last week.

It had made him bury his face in his hands and declare, “money can’t buy that sound.”

When he reminded me of how moved he was by what he heard in my listening room, and feeling loosened up by the whiskey, I confessed to him that, in fact, money CAN buy that sound. Just, a whole lot of money. Sure enough, a WHS of Rumours was available on your site, and he bought it without hesitation.

No turntable, buying hot stampers.

I wonder if you’ve ever had another customer who doesn’t own a turntable buy a white hot stamper from you? It’s actually a really good move. I’m now firmly of the opinion that anybody shopping for a stereo should bring along a hot stamper. Pick a favorite album, and buy a hot stamper to bring with you as you listen to equipment. Even if you don’t own a turntable, a hot stamper is going to reveal the character of the equipment you demo, in a way that no streaming or demo CD can do. The price of a hot stamper is small in the context of helping you to avoid making a bad stereo purchase.



I’m firmly of that opinion too: buy more Hot Stampers!

In order to judge equipment, you must have a record that is right, and one of our killer copies of Rumours is going to be right in ways that few other records are. We even advise you on what to listen for on practically every track on the album here.

I hope that when Bill finally gets a turntable that our Rumours sounds good on it. Judging equipment or turntable setup solely with female vocals — even vocals as good as Ella’s — is not something we recommend, a subject we discussed in some detail here.

When putting a speaker you want to purchase through its paces, you really need a basket of recordings. As a matter of fact, the song Dreams off of Rumours is actually a great test for speakers.

Pay special attention to: the sound of the snare.

When the snare is fat and solid and present, with a good “slap” to the sound, you have a copy with weight, presence, transparency, energy — all the stuff we ADORE about the sound of the best copies of Rumours.

Next time you are on the hunt for new speakers, see which ones can really rock the snare on Dreams. That’s probably going to be the speaker that can do justice to the entire Rumours album, as well as anything by The Beatles, and Neil Young’s Zuma, and lots of other favorite records of ours, and we expect favorites of yours too.

Years ago I played it for a small group of music lovers to demonstrate — to those whose minds were open enough to hear it —  that the real Ken Perry-mastered Rumours pressings just cannot be beat.

Let me know how Bill’s pursuit of better sound goes. With you to guide him, he has a good friend and a real ace in the hole.

And Robert Brook can help too. He has written a great deal about his quest to improve his system, room, setup and all the rest. He has approached the various problems he’s encountered scientifically, methodically and carefully, along these three fronts:

Aaron, as always, thanks for your letter and keep up the good work!

Best, TP

Further Reading

Letter of the Week – “The real point for me is that I can keep enjoying these new listening experiences over and over again.”

Our new customer Michel wrote to tell us how much he likes his Hot Stamper pressing of So.

Hi Tom,

Many of the BR titles I bought I had stopped listening to due to lack of engagement with the music. It just didn’t do it for me anymore. But then I’d buy one of your LPs… it would then destroy my other copies… and now I listen to that LP on a regular basis, enjoying music I love but had stopped listening to.

When I put on a BR record, I am engaged with the music… and of course I keep hearing new nuances, etc. with every play.

Why pay so much for an album?  Well if music floats your boat, then no explanation needed. Just bring your ears to my living room…then you’ll get it!

The real point for me is that I can keep enjoying these new listening experiences over and over again. It is an immeasurable joy really to hear beautiful music reveal itself in all its splendor.

How the f*** does yours sound so much better? Virtually as soon as the music began the difference was obvious.

I remember liking some aspects of the UK… and the same goes for the US… I liked the warmth and rolled back highs in comparison the UK, but it seemed muddy/veiled/mishmashy which was bothersome, so then I stopped listening.

The BR copy somehow has it all. It is by far the most listenable copy of this I’ve ever heard. It can be turned up all the way from start to finish without any worries about what you might hear.

Plenty of shrill-free highs, lots of killer bass… deep low tones with analog warmth, boomy wide room filling sound, etc, etc.  No muddiness in the presentation… clarity with warmth, nothing veiled.

Thank You!!


You make a point that I have been banging on for years. Better sounding pressings are the only way to rediscover music that you’ve lost interest in because the copies you own didn’t have the sound you needed.

If your old copies of So had sounded better, you would have played them, but they didn’t, and so they sat on the shelf.

Knowing the sound was off, you simply stopped playing them. You lost track of So.

Hot Stamper pressings get played. They have the life of the music in their grooves and demand to be heard!

We say music does the driving in this hobby, but that’s not really the whole story for us audiophiles, is it?

Music with good sound is what really does the driving.

Joy to Your World

When you get hold of the pressing that presents the music the way you want to hear it, that’s the record that gets played beause that’s the record that brings joy to the listener.

The other pressings of So sit on the shelf, reminders that badly-mastered, badly-pressed records are the norm, not the exception.

The exceptional pressing is the one that can bring the music you love back from the purgatory of the overcrowded record shelf.

Think of the audiophiles that have thousands and thousands of records on their shelves and never find time to play them. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because there is nothing special about those pressings. Some collectors are so proud of having so many records — look at them all! — but what good are they? To our way of thinking, the man with ten or twenty exceptionally good records is far better off than than the one with a thousand or five thousand mediocrities.

If you want a powerful, immersive, thrilling musical experience, you will need a record that is powerful, immersive, and thrilling.

The thousands of records sitting on your shelf, the ones you haven’t played in years, are the silent reminders that they aren’t nearly as good as you think they are. If they were better, they would call out to you from that graveyard you call a record collection and fight their way back to your turntable.

So Is Back

Now, after all these years, you finally have a pressing of So that demands to be played.

If others of you out there haven’t played your copy of So in a long time, maybe there’s a reason for that.

Thanks for your letter.

Best, TP


Letter of the Week – “One begins to notice what is wrong with them — they sound tinkered with”

More of the Music of Elvis Presley

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Elvis Presley

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased in 2017.

Hey Tom, 

Bless You Tom! Much appreciated! Funny thing is, I never had this album or properly heard it before now. Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I too was buying audiophile pressings and Half Speed Masters and at first, I thought they were great! But before too long, one begins to notice what is wrong with them– they sound tinkered with! I think that is exactly what MoFi did.

I tried these again when I came back to vinyl in 2009. That first year I began buying audiophile pressings but when I played them back I found they were not the holy grail nor the sound I was looking for at all! Certainly not even the claimed ‘Sourced from the Original Master Tape’ was true! More like, from the digital master/remasters or a third generation master. I spent a whole lot before I put the brakes on and went for original recordings/early pressings such as ED1 or ED2.

Now, when I want a record for serious listening of something special, I know the only place to get what I want first time and every time for the best sounding records– Better Records, of course!



Thanks for your letter. “Tinkering” with the sound is what these audiophile labels do. Apparently they know how to “fix” the recordings that the original producers and engineers got wrong.

Or so they think.

Like you, I was fooled.

It took me a while but eventually I started to see where I had gone wrong.

And don’t write off all reissues. You can stick to first and second editions, but by doing that you will miss out on the superior sound of these 150+ reissues. (If I had time to really go deeper into it, I could probably list three times that many.)

Even better, these superior sounding reissues can actually be bought.

Best, TP

This link will take you to our reviews and commentaries for the more than 140 Half-Speed Mastered pressings we’ve played over the years.

Some audiophile records — Half-Speed Mastered and otherwise — are so dreadful sounding that I got pissed off enough to create this special list for them.

Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is clearly a mark of progress.

Judging by the hundreds of letters we’ve received, especially the ones comparing our records to their Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered counterparts, we know that our customers see things the same way.

Further Reading


Half-Speed Mastering – A Technological Fix for a Non-Existent Problem

More of the Music of Joe Jackson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joe Jackson

This commentary was written many years ago. We had a Hot Stamper Section back then, because we were selling lots of other kinds of records including Direct-to-Disc Recordings, Heavy Vinyl, Half-Speeds, OJC’s and various and sundry other kinds of vinyl which we thought would appeal to those in search of audiophile quality records.

In 2011, we stopped selling anything but records we had cleaned and evaluated for sound.

We do a lot of MoFi bashing here at Better Records, and for good reason: most of their pressings are just plain awful. We are shocked and frankly dismayed to find that the modern day audiophile still flocks to this label with the expectation of a higher quality LP, seemingly unaware that although the vinyl may be quiet, the mastering — the sound of the music as opposed to the sound of the record’s surfaces — typically leaves much to be desired. 

Hence the commentary below, prompted by a letter from our good friend Roger, who owned the MoFi Night and Day and who had also purchased a Hot Stamper from us, which we are happy to say he found much more to his liking.

In my response, after a bit of piling on for the MoFi, I then turned my attention to three Nautilus records which I had previously held in high regard, but now find deserving of a critical beatdown. This one is entitled:

The Sound Is Pretty, All Right — Pretty Boring 

(Note that the underlining below has been added by us.)

Hi, Tom:

Just a quick note to let you know I listened to your Joe Jackson Night and Day hot stamper LP. I don’t think I have listened to this record for at least 15 years and forgot how much Joe Jackson was on top of his game then. Great record. And it is aptly named as there is a night-and-day difference in sound between it and the Mobile Fidelity half-speed version I have. I was surprised at how bland and undynamic the MoFi was compared to the hot stamper version. Did MFSL ever listen to this title? What did they compare it to, an 8-track tape version, maybe?

The hot stamper was far more dynamic, warm, punchy, and detailed than the MoFi. The piano had a lot more weight and stood apart in the mix. In fact, I could hear all the instruments stand out in the mix a lot more with the HS version. The MoFi sounded like many, but not all, typical MFSL pressings. The very low bass was raised in the mix as was the extreme treble, like it was equalized, but there was a lot less bass and the treble was recessed and sounded more like a can of spray mist being actuated.

I was surprised at how the music came alive with the HS pressing instead of the blah MFSL. Great job on picking this one. I will be keeping both pressings of this record: the MFSL for its collectability and my ability to sell it for big bucks to some bozo who won’t know the difference, and the HS version, the one I will actually listen to.


A Good Record Doesn’t Just Sit Around

Roger, I have to think that eventually there will come a day when audiophiles will catch on to the fact that most Half-Speeds are a crock, with exactly the kind of pretty but lifeless and oh-so-boring sound that you describe. But it hasn’t happened yet, so maybe that MoFi you are keeping will go up in value. But if I were you, I’d sell it while there’s still a market for bad audiophile records.

I can also tell you that it feels good to get bad records out of your collection. It’s so much more satisfying to have a wall full of good records you know to be good rather than just a wall full of records. And as you say, it’s been 15 years since you played that NIght and Day. A good record doesn’t sit around for 15 years; a good record gets played!

But you owned the MoFi, exactly the kind of record that is easily forgotten.

Three of the Best, Or So We Thought

I just did shootouts with three of the best Nautilus Half-Speeds: Dreamboat Annie, Ghost In The Machine and Time Loves A Hero. None of them sound like the real thing, and especially disappointing was one of my former favorites, the Little Feat album. On the title track the Nautilus is amazingly transparent and sweet sounding. There are no real dynamics or bass on that track, so the “pretty” half-speed does what it does best and shines. But all the other tracks suck in exactly the same way Night and Day does. Cutting the balls off Little Feat is not my idea of hi-fidelity.

My rave for NR 24 is still on the site. Just goes to show how easy it is to be wrong. But it’s never too late to learn. We put audiophile beaters up for sale every week. Each and every one of them is a lesson on what makes one record sound better than another. If you want a wall full of good sounding records, we can help you make it happen. In fact it will be our pleasure. Down with audiophile junk and up with Better Records.

A Failed Technology

The point of this commentary is simply this: if half-speed mastering is a technology designed to improve the sound of records, it has to be recognized for what it is: a complete and utter failure.

There is almost always a non-half-speed-mastered pressing that will be superior to the half-speed. The only exceptions to that rule will be those LPs whose real-time mastering was poor to start with. This is as it should be. You can beat a bad record with a half-speed, but you sure can’t beat a good one. We prove it every week here at Better Records.

Take a look in the Hot Stamper Section and you will find dozens of records that are dramatically better sounding than any half-speed ever made. We built our reputation and practically our entire business on that simple idea. Furthermore, our philosophy is backed up by our commitment to you, the customer. We are happy to refund your money if you don’t see things our way.

We’re confident that you, like Roger here, will have no trouble recognizing the faults of the half-speed when The Real Thing comes along. We’re sure you’ll agree with us that The True Audiophile Pressing is simply the one that sounds better. And to that we say bring it on — the next shootout is about to begin.

A Confession

It’s true: We were impressed with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings even as recently as the early 2000s.

If we’d never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last twenty or more years, perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem to revere.

We’ll never know of course; that’s a bell that can be unrung. We did the work, we can’t undo it, and the system that resulted from it is merciless in revealing the strengths and weaknesses of all the records we play. That system makes clear to us that these newer pressings are second-rate at best and much more often than not third-rate and even worse.

Some audiophile records sound so bad, I was pissed off enough to create a unique circle of vinyl hell to put them in.

Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. Judging by the hundreds of letters we’ve received, especially the ones comparing our records to their Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered counterparts, we know that our customers are hearing things the same way we do.

Further Reading

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. 


Thanks for your letter. Now you know what we know, that there is a huge difference between pressings of an album like Exile, and the only way to find the good ones is to play them until you luck into one.


Further Reading


Letter of the Week – “When the needle hit the record, the room suddenly expanded by two quadrants.”

Our customer Michel wrote to tell us how much he likes the sound 0f his recently purchase Super Hot Stamper pressing of A Night at the Opera.

Hi Tom,
I should title this one “MFSL, Now You Can Kiss My Ass Goodbye” from the song, you know.

A Night at the Opera and Sheer Heart Attack are my two all time favorite Queen LPs. I’ve listened to so many copies of each and decades ago found happiness for sure, like when I got the MFSL.

But later in life, listening more critically, I was never happy… so much going on… always some sort of mish-mash of sound. Turning these LPs up to max volume and jamming out was no longer pleasurable, so I found myself not playing them anymore. [Ouch.]

Recently I purchased A Night at the Opera from BR, a SHS.

When the needle hit the record, the room suddenly expanded by two quadrants. So wonderfully wide and big, the room was just filled with sound…..warmth abundant sound sans mish-mash.

The difference is truly dramatic. The depth is also there… you can feel the sound coming out of the shadows towards you in places. Absolutely stunning sound.
You have cracked the code on this one. This is an analog delight for sure. Many thanks.

Take Care,



Thanks for your letter. I’m not sure how big two quadrants are, but I know a mish-mash when I hear one, and that is indeed the sound found on most pressings of the album, even the UK ones. I might describe it as a combination of congestion and vague imaging, a cloud of instruments, all mashed together.

A lot of records have that problem, especially if they haven’t been cleaned properly.

Later in life it seems you were rather less impressed with your MoFi than when you first bought it.

As I have said again and again on this very blog, it’s axiomatic with us here at Better Records that the better your stereo is at playing records, and the more critically you are able to listen, the worse their records will sound. There is no way their junk half-speed mastered vinyl can sound right on good equipment.

Now you know just how good A Night at the Opera can sound.

We didn’t until about seven years ago. That’s how long it took us to crack the code, but I tell you this with confidence, having played practically every version of the UK pressings ever made: the right stampers are mindboggingly good and there is nothing like them. We wrote about the subject here:

As is sometimes the case, there is one and only one set of stamper numbers that consistently wins our Night at the Opera shootouts. We stumbled upon an out-of-this-world copy of the right pressing many years ago, a copy took the recording to a level we had no idea could even be possible. (We were going to give it Four Pluses, and probably should have, but cooler heads prevailed.)

Since then we have had many copies come in, but none that could compete with the Magic Stamper pressings. And the best part of this story is that, no, the best stampers are not 1, or 2, or even 3.

In other words they are far from the stampers found on the earliest pressings.

That’s one reason it took us so long to discover them, because they are much less commonly found than pressings with the earlier stampers. By the time these later pressings were mastered, pressed and released, the album’s biggest selling days were over.

Why is that, you ask?

Who knows? Who cares? What difference does it make?

Well, it does serve to make a point near and dear to our hearts: that the idea (and operational premise of most record collectors) that the Original Is Always Better is just a load of bunk. It might be and it might not be. If you want better sounding records, you had better open your mind to the idea that some reissues have the potential to sound better than even the best original pressing of the album.

Of course this is nothing but bad news for the average audiophile collector, who simply does not have the time or money to go through the hassle of buying, cleaning and playing every damn pressing he can get his hands on.

But good news for us, because we do.

To see more albums with one set of stampers that consistently win shootouts, click here.

Thanks for your letter!

Best, TP