hot stamper vinyl

Sometimes the Most Fundamental Questions in Audio Are Simply Overlooked

big_speakers

This commentary is about two things — knowing the kind of music you like, and getting the kind of sound you want.

If you believe what you read on the various sites where audiophiles freely dispense advice about everything under the sun regarding music, recordings and equipment, you are asking for trouble and you are surely going to get it. You will encounter an endless supply of half-truths, untruths and just plain nonsense, more often than not defended tooth and nail by those with typing skills but not much enthusiasm for the tedium of tweaking and critical listening. 

What kind of equipment are these people using? How deep is their experience in audio? Truth be told, I was pretty misguided myself during the first ten (or twenty, gulp) years I spent in audio, reading the magazines (I still have my Stereophiles and Absolute Sounds from the ’70s in boxes in the garage), traipsing from stereo store to stereo store, trying to figure out what constituted Good Sound so that I could manage to get my own equipment to produce something like the best I heard.

Most of the time what I heard made me want nothing to do with that kind of sound.

Questions

I sympathize with those who have trouble making sense of this hobby. It can be very confusing, especially to the neophyte. It takes a long time (with plenty of effort and money expended along the way) to be able to answer some of the most fundamental (and most often overlooked) questions in audio:

1) What kind of music do you like?

2) What kind of sound do you prefer?

Armed with answers to the above two, the next question to be asked is:

3) What equipment will best be able to give you the sound you prefer on the music you like, within the limits of your budget, room, Wife Acceptance Factor, etc.

If you haven’t been doing this audio stuff for at least ten years you probably don’t know the answers to those last two questions. In other words, you still have a lot to learn. (I know people who have been doing it for far longer than that and still don’t have a clue.) I may not have all the answers, but after being in audio for more than thirty years, about half of that full-time (full-time being sixty to seventy-plus hours a week), I can say without embarrassment that I have some of them. And for the most part I got them the old-fashioned way: I earned them.

Do You Like Rock Music?

Then make sure you buy speakers that can play rock music.

Don’t buy screens, panels or little boxes with subs.

They may be cheap, they may have pretty good Wife Acceptance Factor, but they do a piss-poor job of playing rock music, so do yourself a favor and avoid them. Rock needs dynamic drivers, the more the better and the bigger the better. There is no substitute for piston power when you want to rock.

When you walk into your audio showroom and for your budget they show you a little two-way box with a six or eight or even ten inch woofer, walk out and go somewhere else. Find another way. That speaker won’t play the music you love, not properly anyway. It cannot do the job you need it to do, and that makes it mostly a waste of money.

Teach Yourself

So how do you learn about all this stuff?

Audio friends and fellow travelers can be very helpful. You might also get some tips and ideas from magazines and websites.

But ultimately it’s up to you to teach yourself. Much of the commentary on the site has to do with the real nuts and bolts of the recordings we review — exactly what to listen for, precisely which sonic strengths and weaknesses can be found in which songs, and the like. This is what we listened for, it’s how we separated the wheat from the chaff, and we offer it on the site as a guide to help you recreate the very same magic on your own stereo in your own home.

There are scores of pages of this kind of commentary throughout the site. We even created a special section for some of it, called Audio and Playback Advice with another group of links to Home Audio Exercises.

Why Do We Bother?

What other record dealer on the planet would bother? But we do it for a reason. We charge a lot of money for our best LPs. We want to help you understand and appreciate what makes our pressings special, so that when you buy them, you do so secure in the knowledge that the price will be more than justified by the quality of the sound when you get it home. Ultimately the records must speak for themselves. If we are going to charge hundreds and hundreds of dollars for fairly common rock records like After the Gold Rush or Rumours, those records better deliver, and deliver in a big way.

Jascha Heifetz Plays the 1st Movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (Brilliantly)

Amazing! If only the sound of the original records were better!

[Oh but they are, or they certainly can be. We admit we was wrong! We review a killer copy of LSC 1992 right here on our site.]

For more Heifetz, click here.

Jack Sheldon – Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band Comes with Many Covers

xxx
xxx
xxx

If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red-blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any Big Band record you own right out of the water.

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If you large group swinging West Coast Jazz is your thing — think Art Pepper Plus Eleven — you should get a big kick out of this one.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. There was practically nothing that could beat it, in any area of reproduction. (more…)

Chet Baker – It Could Happen To You – Reviewed in 2010

xxxxx

 

This is a very nice looking RARE original Riverside LP. Side one has good sound but side two really shows you how WONDERFUL this record is. The sound on side two is rich, full and transparent, with lots of tubey magic. Hard to imagine it could get much better. 

Queen – The Game – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

xxxxx

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

Two SUPERB SIDES with side one beating all comers to achieve White Hot Stamper status! Throughout this copy you get solid bass, tubey magic, breathy vocals and BIG BOLD sound!

But watch out: this side one kicks it up to a whole ‘nother level, with BIGGER energy, BIGGER bass and even more PRESENT and breathy vocals from Mr. Mercury. This is without a doubt some of the best sound we have ever heard for Queen, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

When reading the above it’s best to keep this in mind: The Game may be the BEST SOUNDING record Queen ever made. The Dirty Little Secret of Queen’s recorded output is that they are mostly pretty mediocre, and often downright dreadful.

Do you see a lot of them going up on the site? No? Well, there’s a reason for that. As much as people love Queen, we just can’t seem to find pressings that do their music justice. Take A Night at the Opera for example. Is this a good sounding record? I’ve played twenty of them over the last ten years — imports, domestics, the DCC, the MoFi – and NONE of them sounding particularly good to me. Don’t rely on your memory. Pull out your own copy and listen closely; you should hear the distortion and smearing and transistory grain that’s there on all the copies I’ve played. It’s a record that’s trying to sound good but just doesn’t, so far anyway. Hope springs eternal.

[This is no longer true, the Hot Stampers were discovered a few years back!] (more…)

Cannonball Adderley – Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!

xxxxx

  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a superb Double Plus (A++) side two, this pressing one of Adderley’s most enjoyable albums will be very hard to beat
  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than practically any other we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • Joe Zawinul (Weather Report) wrote the title song, which became a big hit for Adderley (and later The Buckinghams), and he plays on the album
  • 5 Stars: “Adderley’s irrepressible exuberance was a major part of his popularity, and no document captures that quality as well — or with such tremendous musical rewards — as Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”

Don’t worry about surface noise on this copy. With the audience making so much noise, you’ll never get a chance to hear it. If you do it will be barely audible under the music and crowd sounds.

I dropped the needle on a copy of this record a year or so ago and heard amazing you-are-there live jazz club sound, and, more importantly, a hot session from one of our favorite saxophone players of all time, the man who contributed mightily to the likes of Kind of Blue, Somethin’ Else, Know What I Mean? and many more. For an Alto player Cannonball is just about as good as it gets.

Fast forward one year and we now have in our possession enough copies to do a proper shootout – originals and reissues on a variety of labels.

These were of course two of the best sides we played. They’re big, rich and natural. The music does manage to sound like a live club, even though it’s live in the studio, playing to an audience. (The AMG review has more on that.)

For mainstream jazz it’s hard to think of any album on our site that would be more enjoyable. (more…)

Tears For Fears – The Seeds Of Love – A Near Perfect Pop Masterpiece

tearsseeds_1510s_1448982243
tearsseeds_1510s_1448982243

The band’s MAGNUM OPUS, a Colossus of Production to rival the greatest Prog, Psych and Art Rock recordings of all time. (Whew!)

When it comes to Genre Busting Rock I put this album right up at the top of the heap, along with several other landmark albums from the Seventies: Roxy Music’s first, The Original Soundtrack, Crime of the Century, Ambrosia’s first two releases, The Yes Album, Fragile, Dark Side of the Moon and a handful of others.

The Seeds Of Love is clearly the band’s masterpiece, and being able to hear it on a White Hot Stamper pressing is nothing short of a THRILL.

I have a long history with this style of Popular Music, stretching all the way back to the early ’70s. I grew up on Bowie, Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, The Talking Heads, Ambrosia, Peter Gabriel, Supertramp, Yes, Zappa and others, individuals and bands that wanted to play rock music but felt shackled by the constraints of the conventional pop song. Nothing on Sowing the Seeds of Love fits the description of a Conventional Pop Song.

Which albums by The Beatles break all the rules? Side two of Abbey Road and the whole of The White Album, which is why both are Desert Island Discs for me. Can’t get enough of either one.

The Discovery of a Lifetime

When I discovered these arty rock bands in my early twenties I quickly became obsessed with them and remain so to this day.

My equipment was forced to evolve in order to be able to play the scores of challenging recordings issued by these groups and others in the ’70s. These albums informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on. I’ve had large dynamic speakers for the last four decades precisely because they do such a good job of bringing to life huge and powerful recordings such as these.

Tears For Fears on this and their previous album continue that tradition of big-as-life and just-as-difficult-to-reproduce records. God bless ’em for it. (more…)

Graham Nash’s Wild Tales

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from 1974. 

Like the man’s first album, no one pays much attention to this music nowadays, but Better Records is trying to remedy that situation by making available to the audiophile public numerous copies of this album, every one of which is guaranteed to turn you into a fan. This is not new music, but it may be new music to you, so “discovering” it will be every bit as much fun for you in 2016 as it was for me in 1973.

This is not an “audiophile” record. It ain’t never going to make the TAS List or get a mention by anyone in the Audiophile Press Corps. This is a record for music lovers who care about good sound. If you’re reading this, that’s you. Us too, and proud of it.

From one audiophile to another, this is a great record that belongs in your collection. (more…)

The Beatles – The Original A Hard Day’s Night on CD

xxx

 

The Old CD – You Know, the Original Mono One that Everybody Used to Like…

I have the early generation mono CD of this album. Although my car has a very good stereo system, you would never know there was any magic to the sound of these recordings by playing that CD. The whole thing is hopelessly flat and gray.

It starts to perk up by the song Things We Said Today, the 10th(!) track. Before that it just sounds compressed, with all the voices and instruments mashed together. There’s no transparency to the sound. It reminds me of listening to this music on the radio. If that’s the effect George Martin was going for with the old mono mix, he succeeded brilliantly. I prefer the twin-track unapproved stereo mixes found on the LPs.

Making Mistakes and Other Advice from Better Records

A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers

Wise men and women throughout the ages have commented on the value of making mistakes. Here is one of our favorite quotes on the subject.

“Making a different mistake every day is not only acceptable, it is the definition of progress.”
~Robert Brault

Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and most cogently in this commentary from way back in 2005.

We believe that the only way to really learn about records is to gather a big pile of them together, clean them up and listen to them one by one as critically as you can.
(more…)