hot stamper vinyl

Frank Sinatra – Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame. 

This nearly White Hot side two showed us just how good sounding this original Tri-Color Reprise original pressing could sound. Don’t get me wrong; they have their share of problems, but the better copies are as musical and enjoyable as many of the best Capitol releases from Sinatra’s prime period. (Most of which sound dreadful by the way, due to Capitol’s awful mastering. Just play an early Beatles album to hear what I’m talking about.)

This very side two was the most tonally correct and musically enjoyable of any second side we played. We call it A++ to A+++. (If we could find ten more clean originals we could probably come up with a Triple Plus side two, but considering how many years it took us to find the copies we had on hand to do our shootout, that is probably not in the cards.)

Check out the great material on the album, with lively, fun (even goofy) arrangements by Neil Hefti: Goody Goody; They Can’t Take That Away from Me; I’m Beginning to See the Light; I Get a Kick Out of You; Tangerine; Serenade in Blue. This is the kind of material Sinatra can really sink his teeth into! (more…)

Bread and Elektra on Vinyl – Balancing Richness and Tubey Magic with Transparency, Clarity and Speed

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Bread.

Manna has the clear signature of Elektra from the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s unmistakably ANALOG, but that double-edged sword cuts both ways. Richness and Tubey Magic (the kind you had in your old ’70s stereo equipment) often comes at the expense of transparency, clarity, speed and transient information (the things your ’70s equipment probably had more trouble with).

We heard a lot of copies that were opaque, smeary and dull up top, so the trick for us (and for those of you doing your own shootouts) is to find a copy with the resolving power and transparency that will cut through the thickness. (more…)

Master Tape? Yeah, Right

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Master Tape? Yeah, Right

Let me ask you one question. If so many of the current labels making 180 gram reissues are using the real master tapes — the real two-track stereo masters, not dubs, not cutting masters, not high-resolution digital copies, but the real thing — then why do so many of their records sound so bad?

If you’re honest you’ll say “I Don’t Know…” because, and here I want you to trust me on this, you don’t know. I don’t know either. Nobody does.

Records are mysterious. Their mysteries are many and deep. If you don’t know that you clearly haven’t spent much time with them, or don’t have a very revealing stereo, or don’t listen critically, or something else, god knows what.

They’re mysterious; that’s just a fact.
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A Good Customer Compares Our Hot Stamper of Rumours to His Original and the Nautilus Audiophile Pressing

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This week’s letter [from quite a few years ago] comes from our good customer Roger, who was blown away by our Hot Stamper pressing of Rumours. Roger did his usual thorough shootout of our Hot Stamper against his own pressings. The results? Another knockout for our Hot Stamper pressing!

Hi Tom,

Just a quick note on the Fleetwood Mac Rumors Hot Stamper I just bought. I have a Nautilus pressing and my original pressing I bought in college when it came out. I have never liked this record as much as Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac, perhaps partly because its sonics were somewhat inferior.

So I played the Nautilus and quickly remembered what a piece of sonic detritus this thing is. How can audiophile labels like Nautilus put out something that is as thin, bright, flat, and compresssed as this thing is? It obviously reinforces your point that most audiophiles are lemmings when it comes to audiophile records. If some audiophile guru said the Japanese pressing of Girl Scout Troup #657 singing the Girl Scout Theme Song was sonic nirvana, it would show up on every internet record website for $50 each.

Next up was my original pressing with an F16 matrix on side one, and man, what a relief after following the Nautilus disaster. In fact, I resisted buying a pricey hot stamper because I always felt my pressing to be pretty darned good, which it was. So I was shocked to hear just how much better the hot stamper was.

I played Dreams on side one and it took all of about 5 seconds of hearing the massive bass and startlingly dynamic cymbal crashes on this track to find the hot stamper worth every penny I paid for it. If the drum kit on Oh Daddy doesn’t get your pants flapping, time for a new stereo. Voices were eerily present, guitars had great detail, pianos had weight just like in real life (we have a piano in our house), and best of all, the highs were arrayed in space and were delicate and detailed.

Since the Nautilus is too thin to make a good frisbee and would probably fetch big bucks on ebay I will stuff it back on my shelf forever, unless I need a good laugh, and add the HS Rumors to my favorite recordings.

Roger


Roger, thanks as always for the insightful review. The sad fact of the matter is that the Nautilus Digitally Remastered Half Speed — Yes, you heard that right — is actually better than the average reissue, and probably better in most ways than the average grainy domestic original, which is pretty much unbearably edgy and gritty, especially if it hasn’t been cleaned right.
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Joan Baez Diamonds and Rust – The Half-Speed that Beats Most Originals

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Sonic Grade: B+

One of the best Half Speed Mastered Records we have ever played.

In our recent shootout we were shocked — shocked — to hear how good our old copy of Diamonds and Rust on Nautilus sounded head to head against the best first pressings. Hard to believe, but it actually beat every one.

If I hadn’t heard it with my own two ears I wouldn’t have believed it. 

OUR MOST RECENT HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY

  • If all you know are the originals you will be surprised at just how rich, natural and Tubey Magical the sound here can be
  • Guaranteed to handily beat the Nautilus Half-Speed as well as the TAS List-approved MoFi (which is awful by the way)
  • Five Stars: “…the real hit was the title track, a self-penned masterpiece and… her finest moment as a songwriter…”

Wonderful sound — rich, full, warm, and sweet. The vocals are full-bodied and breathy. The acoustic guitars are fairly natural for a pop recording from 1975.

Play Jesse on side two to hear the lovely space of the studio, as well as more harmonic extension on the acoustic instruments. Watch out for track two; the EQ on the vocal is always a problem. (more…)

Herbie Mann – Live At The Village Gate on Audio Fidelity Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D-

Hall of Shame pressing and another Audio Fidelity / DCC LP debunked.

A murky mess. Hard to imagine you couldn’t find a common domestic pressing that wouldn’t sound better.. 

“Mann’s hit version of “Comin’ Home Baby” from this live set became his first big hit. Composer Ben Tucker plays second bass on that cut, and Mann’s other sidemen include vibraphonist Hagood Hardy, bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, drummer Rudy Collins, and Chief Bey and Ray Mantilla on percussion. In addition to “Comin’ Home Baby,” Mann and his men perform memorable versions of “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So”; the latter is 20 minutes long. Recommended.” – AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review 

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Our Favorite Female Vocal Album of All Time

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A distinguished member of the  Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

The first “Triple Triple” MONO copy to ever hit the site — A+++ from start to finish. Our knockout mono pressing here was fuller, more natural and more involving than any copy we heard in our shootout. with immediacy to put Ella practically in the room with you, it’s her performance that really comes to life. It’s our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year.

Check out what the lucky owner of this copy had to say about it.

PR Writes

As you probably know, I own superb copies of the stereo. They both fade into pastel in comparison with this mono. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – September of My Years – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Have you been wondering when some amazing sounding Hot Stamper vinyl from The Chairman Of The Board was going to hit the site? Folks, TODAY IS THAT DAY! It is beyond tough to find amazing sounding (and quiet) copies of any of Sinatra’s albums, but we managed to find some STUNNING copies of this lovely album, one that earned Five Big Stars in the venerable All Music Guide.

We have paired up an A+++ As Good As It Gets side one with another copy that contains an equally impressive Triple Plus side two to give you the ULTIMATE September Of My Years White Hot Stamper set. Both White Hot sides play a solid Mint Minus, giving you wonderful sound and quiet vinyl for this male vocal classic.

Most copies suffer from a serious lack of immediacy, and what fun is that? Hot Stamper copies put Frank right up front, with the presence needed to carry his vocals out in front of the orchestra. Even the copies that get the voice right often run into problems with the orchestra, but these A+++ sides get just about EVERYTHING right. The overall sound is rich, lush and warm with astonishing clarity and transparency.

We want to give a special shoutout here to conductor/arranger Gordon Jenkins, who also handled the same duties very capably on Nilsson’s great A Little Touch Of Schmillson In The Night, another male vocal album that can sound amazing and deserves a place in any collection. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – The Concert Sinatra – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This stereo pressing has SUPER HOT stamper sound on both sides, which means it was one of the best copies in our recent shootout, the first we’ve done since 2006 (!).

Folks, when we say that clean, good sounding Sinatra records are hard to come by, we are not kidding. It took us five years to find enough copies of this title to do a proper shootout. In that time an awful lot of bad LPs passed passed through our hands: the monos (never heard a good one), the reissues (ditto), imports, and, most commonly, original stereo pressings in beat-to-death condition. People loved Sinatra and played his records until the grooves were gone.

This album ranks right up there with the best of the Reprise era musically; recorded in 1963, Sinatra was still in his prime.

For audiophiles, the amount of effort that went into the recording, effort that actually paid off, is what will impress the most about The Concert Sinatra. The 73 musicians you see stretched out across the soundstage at Samual Goldwyn Studios behind Sinatra will give you some idea of the size and scope of the sound. With 24 mics feeding 8 tracks of 35MM recording film, this was the sonic equivalent of Gone With the Wind. No expense or effort was spared.

Fortunately for those of us who are still playing records forty-odd years on, this special project took place before the advent of the transistor, which means that all the Tubey Magic of the singer and his all-encompassing orchestra was captured on the “tape”.

Ah, but how much of that sound made it to the record itself, that’s always the rub with records isn’t it?

In this case, plenty. There may be a touch of smear (you can most easily hear it in the strings) but the sound is so RICH and Tubey Magical that you will barely be aware it. Your attention should instead be focused on the superb feel the man has for this music.

One thing to pay special attention to, especially if you have other copies of the album, is that Sinatra’s voice on both sides of this pressing always sounds natural even at its loudest. There is no strain or hardness. That, among many other things, is what separates the best copies from the also-rans (and, of course, all the reissues, which tend to have gritty, harsh vocals which quickly get unbearably edgy in the louder parts). (more…)

Seals & Crofts – Summer Breeze

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  • This superb pressing of Summer Breeze (the first to hit the site in years!) boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from top to bottom – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • With tons of Tubey Magical richness in the midrange – the kind they were still recording in 1972 – this is a wonderful sounding album of folk pop
  • It has taken us years to find the right stampers for this album, and now here they are on the Green Label original in all their glory
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Summer Breeze offered an unusually ambitious array of music within a soft rock context — most artists tried to avoid weighty subjects in such surroundings… the most highly regarded of all of Seals & Crofts’ albums.”

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