Hot Stampers

Red Garland Trio – Groovy

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Triple Triple (A+++) pressing recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in ’56/’57 in mono is RICH and REAL like you will not believe. This very record has the best sound and the best music we have ever heard on any Red Garland album.

What makes this vintage piano trio album in mono so special? Allow me to quote a review from a few years back for a pair of recordings that Red Garland made with Miles Davis back in the mid-’50s: Workin’ And Steamin’. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – The Standard Sonny Rollins

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The Standard Sonny Rollins


  • This superb original stereo pressing of The Standard Sonny Rollins from 1965 boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Once again the brilliant engineering of Ray Hall for RCA conveys the vitality of live music for these sessions (which were undoubtedly recorded live)
  • Includes superstars like Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall, and Bob Cranshaw, who’ve lent their talents to some of the greatest jazz recordings of all time
  • Allmusic user rating: 4 stars – “Like The Sound Of Sonny some eight years ago, here’s another classic standard album from The Saxophone Colossus that will remain as bright and timeless as ever.”

This original stereo RCA pressing from 1965 has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, and the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Duke Ellington – The Nutcracker Suite – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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The Nutcracker Suite


A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Columbia Six-Eye Stereo pressing has an A+++ side one backed by a very good side two! This is a WONDERFUL album featuring Duke and his orchestra doing a jazzy interpretation of the famous Nutcracker Suite, and on a copy like this the sound is SUPERB! We pulled together enough copies to have a big shootout for this album and this copy took home top honors for side one. (more…)

Elvis Costello – Armed Forces – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2009

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This White Hot Stamper side one was HEAD AND SHOULDERS better than ANY side of ANY other copy we played. We are awarding it our very special “Four Plus” A++++grade; the sound goes beyond anything we’ve heard before. It’s also one of less than two dozen such records to ever hit the site.

At this point we’ve easily done more than a thousand Hot Stamper listings, so we are talking in the range of the top one or two percent for sound. Most audiophiles will go their whole lives without hearing a rock record sound this good, considering the tens of thousands of records we’ve had to buy, clean and play to find the handful of OFF THE CHARTS copies we’ve reviewed. (more…)

Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s The Way of the World

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  • An outstanding pressing of the band’s 1975 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Both sides are open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield and an energy level that’s off the charts
  • Includes EWF classics, Shining Star and, of course, That’s The Way of The World
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Earth, Wind & Fire has delivered more than its share of excellent albums, but if a person could own only one EWF release, the logical choice would be That’s the Way of the World, which was the band’s best album as well as its best-selling. There are no dull moments on World, one of the strongest albums of the 1970s and EWF’s crowning achievement.”

An excellent copy of this funk classic! That’s The Way Of The World starts off with great music that is, apparently, very difficult to reproduce. Most copies make “Shining Star” literally sound like a cassette, and a bad one at that! No highs, no lows, harsh vocals, and no real energy. When you hear it done right, you immediately remember why you love this song – the vocals are warm and present, the bassline is groovin’, and the energy makes you wanna grab someone and dance!

The title track gives you a much better feel for how transparent this copy is — check out the subtle triangle hits. The horns and strings need to be be dynamic and textured, and on this Super Hot Stamper they certainly are. (more…)

Art Pepper – Today – Phil DeLancie Digital or George Horn Analog?

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Art Pepper Today


Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning (usually old) records.

We’ve wanted to do Art Pepper Today for more than a decade, but the original Galaxy pressings were just too thick and dark to earn anything approaching a top sonic grade. Thirty years ago on a very different system I had one and liked it a lot, but there was no way I could get past the opaque sound I was now hearing on the more than half-dozen originals piled in front of me.

So, almost in desperation we tried an OJC reissue from the ’90s. You know, the ones that all the audiophiles on the web will tell you to steer clear of because it had been mastered by Phil DeLancie and might be sourced from digital tapes.

Or digitally remastered, or somehow was infected with something digital somehow.

Well, immediately the sound opened up dramatically, with presence, space, clarity and top end extension we simply could not hear on the originals. Moreover, the good news was that the richness and solidity of the originals was every bit as good. Some of the originals were less murky and veiled than others, so we culled the worst of them for trade and put the rest into the shootout with all the OJCs we could get our hands on. (more…)

Dean Martin – This Time I’m Swingin’

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This Time I’m Swingin’


  • A wonderful copy that lets this music swing the way it’s supposed to! Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • Classic Capitol big, full-bodied, Tubey Magical sound — Deano’s vocals are present and natural in the best tradition of rat-mate Frank Sinatra in the early ’60s
  • With Nelson Riddle arranging, you can be sure the album has plenty of swing all right — and the brass sounds amazing here
  • 4 1/2 Stars in the All Music Guide: “…an easy swinging collection…”

If you’re a fan of the Capitol Sinatra sound you’ll love this record. It’s an exceptionally difficult title to find in anything but trashed condition. I’ve been a fan of this record for many years but this is the first copy we’ve been able to find that’s clean enough to go up on the site with White Hot Stamper grades.  (more…)

Phil Collins – Face Value – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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Face Value


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

This Minty British LP has two AMAZING SIDES! Song after song, Collins’ songwriting and musicianship shine with this breakout record. The sound on these Hot Stampers is VIBRANT! Side one has SUPERB extention on the top, PUNCHY BASS and excellent texture on the drums and percussion. Side two has BIG SOUND with really spacious strings and vocals. (more…)

Dexter Gordon – One Flight Up – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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One Flight Up


A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Blue Note LP is without a doubt ONE OF THE BEST SOUNDING JAZZ RECORDS WE’VE EVER HEARD! We were auditioning a bunch of jazz records today (4/25/07), and when the needle hit the grooves on this one we were ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY!

I can’t think of one jazz record we’ve ever played here at Better Records with this kind of WHOMP! Everything here is so rich and full — nothing like a typical Blue Note album. (more…)

British Band Classics Vol. 2 – The First Classical Record I Bought as an Audiophile

More the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

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British Band Classics Volume Two was the first Mercury classical LP I ever bought. After hearing it at an audiophile friend’s house I went down to Tower Records and found one in the bin. I think the price was $3.99 for the Golden Import pressing, which of course was the only one available. That was what I had heard, so I had no idea that the original even existed, let alone sounded better and would one day sell for many hundreds of dollars. This was the ’70s, when you could walk into a record store and buy new records, and long before HP created a feeding frenzy for vintage Mercs.

As I’m writing this, I can picture myself in the store. I can still remember that the clerk who helped me find the record commented that I should have come in the week before when the record was on sale for $1 off. I certainly feel like I got my money’s worth that day. This album went on to become one of my personal treasures. I used to marvel at the way the wind instruments actually sounded like the pipes of an organ. (I wasn’t really sure at first that there wasn’t an organ playing somewhere on the record. I didn’t know much about classical music then. ) (more…)