hot stampers vinyl

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper pressing (on BOTH sides!) contains one of my favorite performances of the Classical Symphony, and it also carries the distinction of having the best combination of sonics and performance that we have ever heard on vinyl. (There is a recording by Previn and the LA Phil from 1986 with a performance To Die For; unfortunately it comes with the kind of mid-’80s tear-your-head-off-digital shrillness that makes the CD medium the worn out joke we analog lovers know it to be.) 

The First Symphony happens to be one of my favorite classical works of all time, right up there with The Planets and Pictures at an Exhibition. I wouldn’t want to go to a desert island without all three.

This WHS pressing has exceptional transparency and dynamics, allowing the energy and precision of the performance to shine through. Truly a sublime recording that belongs in any music collection, whether you’re a fan of classical music or not.

If I had to choose one piece of classical music that I would never want to live without, it would have to be the Prokofiev’s First Symphony found on this very side one. It’s a work of such joy that I’ve never failed to be uplifted by it — except when the performance is too slow, which it often is.

This is a difficult piece to pull off. Most of the time either the orchestra is not up to the task or the conductor misunderstands the work. Previn has a spritely take on the piece, which is precisely what it needs and, every bit as important, the London Symphony has the chops to bring his vision to life.

What to Listen for

The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label to the extent that they did back the day. I chock it up, as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles make about the sound of records, to limited equipment, bad rooms and poor record cleaning (not to mention underdeveloped critical listening skills. Woops, I guess I just mentioned them.).

If you had Old School vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I had an Audio Research D-75a and later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record would not be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing the record on a much more revealing modern system.

Which is the only kind of system that can tell you what’s really on the record. That’s the kind of stereo we need to do our job; you, of course, have the option of hearing it any way you like on your system. Here is what we heard on this copy. (more…)

The Beatles – Hard Day’s Night – Track by Track

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Play it against your MoFi or Heavy Vinyl pressing and you will quickly see why those LPs bore us to tears. Who in his right mind would want to suffer through a boring Beatles record?

Drop the needle on any song on the first side to see why we went crazy over this one. The emotional quality of the boys’ performances really comes through on this copy. They aren’t just singing — they’re really BELTIN’ it out. Can you imagine what that sounds like on the title track? We didn’t have to imagine it, WE HEARD IT!

It’s (Almost) All About The Midrange

There are two important traits that all the best copies have in common. Tonally they aren’t bright and aggressive (which eliminates 80 percent of the AHDN pressings you find), and they have a wonderful midrange warmth and sweetness that brings out the unique quality of the Beatles’ individual voices and harmonies. (more…)

David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust – MoFi Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C-

The MoFi pressing is decent, probably better than the average domestic copy I suppose. The colorations and the limitations of their cutting system make it painful for me to listen to it though, especially the sloppy bass and compression. You can do worse but you sure can do a lot better.

MoFi did two of the greatest Bowie albums of all time, Ziggy and Let’s Dance, and neither one can hold a candle to the real thing. If you want to settle for a pretty poor imitation of either or both of those albums, stick with your MoFi. If you want to hear the kind of Demo Disc sound that Bowie’s records are capable of, try a Hot Stamper

David Bowie – Let’s Dance – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

The MoFi pressing is decent, probably better than the average domestic copy I suppose, but c’mon, this album is about punchy bass and drums. Since when does any half-speed mastered LP have punchy bass and drums? Blurry blobby bloated bass and drums is more like it. Compressed too.

MoFi did two of the greatest Bowie albums of all time, Ziggy and Let’s Dance, and neither one can hold a candle to the real thing. If you want to settle for a pretty poor imitation of either or both of those albums, stick with your MoFi. If you want to hear the kind of Demo Disc sound that Bowie’s records are capable of, try a Hot Stamper, And keep a weather eye out — they sell fast.

Beethoven / Kreutzer Sonata / Heifetz – Another Awful Cisco Pressing

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex. 

The Cisco pressing of LSC 2577 is not acceptable on any level. There is no violinist in front of you when you play their record. There is someone back behind your speakers under a thick blanket, and his violin sure doesn’t sound very much like a real violin — no rosiny texture, no harmonics, no real body. I am proud to say we rejected the record out of hand when it was released and never carried it. (The Cisco Peer Gynt was every bit as bad.)

We’ve played dozens and dozens of good violin recordings. We have no problem recognizing good violin sound when we hear it. In the past our top Hot Stamper classical pressings would go directly to our best customers, customers who want classical recordings that actually sound good. not just the kind of Golden Age Recordings that are supposed to. Now that we are able to do more shootouts, we have enough classical recordings to make available to our many Hot Stamper fans.

Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish for this Island import pressing with both sides finishing top of the class — Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The sound here is clean, clear, present and dynamic yet still super rich and musical with lots of Tubey Magic
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on both sides
  • 5 stars on Allmusic: “Eno’s solo debut, Here Come the Warm Jets, is a spirited, experimental collection of unabashed pop songs… Avant-garde yet very accessible, Here Come the Warm Jets still sounds exciting, forward-looking, and densely detailed, revealing more intricacies with every play.”

A great pressing of one of our favorite albums! These are not easy to come by, so we don’t get to shoot these out as often as we’d like. This is not your typical audiophile-friendly rock album, to be sure. There are lots of weird sounds, out-of-tune instruments and other Eno craziness. We’re big Eno fans here — Taking Tiger Mountain and Before And After Science are other big favorites here. If you’ve got a taste for avant-garde art rock, this album should be right up your alley. (more…)

Ten Years After – A Space In Time – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND on BOTH sides of this White Hot Stamper copy! Folks, it just does not get any better than this. It’s been more than two years (08/08) since last we embarked on a Hot Stamper shootout for this great album. I always knew it could sound good, but I sure never heard it sound like this! (I said that last time around too you may recall. Two years is a long time in audio. If your stereo and room are undergoing regular improvements, as they can and should be, the sound will be noticeably better every year, dramatically better after two.) 

This is some of the best high-production-value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of these songs is similar to that of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and the like. In other words, no effort was spared to make the home listening experience as compelling as possible.

Big Production British Rock & Roll

Just listen to the guitar solo on ‘Let The Sky Fall’. It comes complete with multiple guitar parts, acoustic and electric, with some backwards guitar thrown in for good measure! This kind of dense aural soundscape, presented with so many carefully placed elements from side to side and front to back, truly rewards repeated listening.

No matter how many times you play the album you will hear (and hopefully appreciate) something new in the mix. I’ve been playing ASIT for thirty years and I heard lots of things this time around I never knew were there. This is why we keep improving our systems, right? There is never going to be a time when these nearly forty year old recordings have nothing new to offer. (more…)

Loggins & Messina – Full Sail – Choruses that Really Get Up and Going

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

At about the two minute mark the big chorus in Watching the River Run is also a great test for weight, resolution, dynamic energy, and freedom from strain in the loudest parts. When the whole band is projecting, really belting it out, the shortcomings of practically any copy will be most evident. It was a key test every pressing had to pass.  

When the music gets loud you want it to get better, with more size, energy and, especially, emotional power, just they way it would be heard in concert. Any strain or congestion in the choruses results in the loss of serious points. (This is of course one of the biggest issues we have with Heavy Vinyl — it never gets up and it never gets going the way real records do. “Boring” is the adjective we most commonly use to critique the few we hear, and who wants to listen to boring records?)

Practically all copies have a midrange equalization problem, with a lack of lower mids and boosted upper mids, which often thins out the vocals and leads to hardness and honkiness.

The better copies manage to keep the EQ anomalies within bounds while giving us full-bodied pianos; rich, lively vocals, full of presence and brimming with enthusiasm; harmonically-rich guitars, and a three-dimensional soundstage that reveals the space around them all. (more…)

Mendelssohn and Bruch / Violin Concertos / Ricci / Gamba

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Mendelssohn Violin Concerto sound remotely as good as it does here, and the Bruch Violin Concerto on the second side is every bit as good
  • With sonic grades like these, you can be sure this pressing will beat all comers for sound, including the performances by Heifetz, Rybar, and others we’ve been enamored with in the past
  • The violin is so sweet and present, so rich, natural and real, you will forget you’re listening to a record at all
  • The glorious sound of these truly great 1958 All Tube “Decca Tree” recordings from Kingsway Hall is faithfully captured in all its beauty on this very disc

This is one of the ALL TIME GREAT violin concerto records. In Ruggiero Ricci’s hands both works are nothing short of magical. If you want to know why people drool over Golden Age recordings, listen to the violin. Careful, when you hear it you may find yourself drooling too.

The staging of the orchestra and violin is exactly the way we want to hear it in our heads. Whether it would really sound this way in a concert hall is impossible to say — concert halls all sound different — but the skill and the emotion of the playing is communicated beautifully on this LP. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which London recordings are justly famous.

As we noted above, engineering took place in the legendary Kingsway Hall. There is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least. (more…)

It’s Sound Like This that Makes Audiophiles the Laughing Stock on the Music World

Who in his right mind wants a stereo that sounds like this?

If you’re reading this blog, I hope it’s not you, because you will never find a record on our site with sound this bad, at any price.