king_tapes

Letter of the Week – “…as if I were sitting in that Southern California recording studio all those years ago.” 

More of the Music of Carole King

More of the Music of The Eagles

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

Hey Tom, 

First a short thank you. I was slow in ordering a record I needed for an audiophile’s friend’s birthday this week, and you guys got it to me. There is a personal service aspect of your team that just adds to the quality of the product. As to that…..

This morning I went to my record collection looking for the right one to listen to with morning coffee at the start of a beautiful Friday. I came across the very first Hot Stamper I ever purchased from you. A copy of Carol King’s Tapestry. I remember the nervousness I felt when making that first “investment”…. Have to tell you, it sounds even better today. The dynamic range, the lingering cymbal clash, the clarity of James Taylor’s acoustic guitar…as if I were sitting in that Southern California recording studio all those years ago. 

BTW… I had a very cool experience last week. My boss is friends with a guy who’s name is Herb Tobin. Herb bought an ocean front house in a small berg north Miami called Golden Beach back in 1982. He bought it from a Miami recording studio that use to be called Criteria, later changing their name to the current The Hits Factory. My boss arranged for us to have lunch with Mr. Tobin on my birthday. By now, you no doubt have guessed the address….461 Ocean Blvd. Not only did Eric Clapton stay there and was so inspired at the turning point in his life that time meant he named the album, and used the image looking back from the beach at the back of the house in 1974 as the album cover. The Eagles also stayed there while recording Hotel California.

We met Mr. Tobin out for lunch and he told me many stories of all the strange, and some unwelcome visitors he has had since 1982. One most welcomed visitor was in the 1990’s he got a call from Clapton’s agent and Eric wanted to bring his wife by and show her the house. They ended up having lunch out on the back patio, where the palm tree is on the album cover. Eric autographed 10 records for Mr. Tobin that day and he had 4 left plus one he had framed. My boss made arrangements with Mr. Tobin in advance and he gave me one…. I am having it framed. I have always loved that record, since ’74. Not looking for agreement, but I have never been able to warm up to any of the Cream, Derek and the Dominos, etc. and anything after what are for me the 4 best (461; Backless; No Reason to Cry; and There’s One In Every Crowd), is simply not my cup of tea. But 461 for me is not only Clapton’s best work, it is one of my top 10 albums of all time. Something totally authentic about it.

Wanted to share a little with you of the impact all your good work makes. (more…)

Carole King / Tapestry – CBS Half-Speed Reviewed

More of the Music of Carole King

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

The CBS Half Speed is brighter and thinner than the good sounding pressings we sell — can you imagine a worse way to present this often intimate music?  

I had a much darker and less revealing system in 1980 than I do now. Pretty much everybody had a system that suffered from those afflictions. I thought my system was a near-perfect State of the Art dreadnaught that did everything right. Obviously I didn’t know how much there was to learn.

And the reality is that no matter how hard I worked or how much money I spent, I would never be able to get very far so one simple reason: most of the revolutions in audio had not yet come to pass. It would be at least another thirty years of constant improvements until I would have anything like the system I do now.

Those Stone Age Stereos of the Seventies were better suited to the audiophile pressings being made to play on them, the ones put out by the likes of CBS and Mobile Fidelity. However, as bad as our stereos were back then, even in 1980 when this album came out I could hear it was too bright.

If my Mobile Fidelity records sounded fine to me in 1980, and they did, I was a huge fan and true believer, and this CBS record sounded too bright, I’m figuring it would ridiculously bright played back on my much more revealing stereo today.

What Are the Chances?

The chances of there being Hot Stamper Half-Speed Mastered pressings of Tapestry may be vanishingly small, but we can’t say the number is zero. There could be some, but considering how bad an idea Half-Speed Mastering is, would they have much chance of beating our Hot Stampers?

As a practical matter I would have to say the chances are zero.

If you are still buying modern pressings, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered Records.

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Letter of the Week – “Listening to my very first Hot Stamper purchase was by far the most significant event in my life as an audiophile.”

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased back in 2017 [the bolding of the text has been added by us.]

Hey Tom, 

Listening to my very first Hot Stamper purchase was by far the most significant event in my life as an audiophile. I discovered the Better Records website way back in 2007, but being a hardcore skeptic I didn’t purchase anything until almost two years later. Although I agreed with the premise that different pressings have varying degrees of sound quality, I simply could not believe that any record could sound so much better to justify the prices. Frankly, I thought that the buyers of these records were folks with more money than sense.

What finally drove me to purchase my first Hot Stamper was my attempt to find a decent copy of Carole King’s Tapestry album. I had decided to try the Better Records approach and gathered half a dozen copies, as well as the Classic heavy vinyl reissue that I had read good things about. Talk about an exercise in futility. Despite a thorough cleaning with Disc Doctor, no copy sounded significantly better than any of the others. However, Better Records just happened to have a 1+ copy of Tapestry on sale for $75 at the time, so I decided to take the plunge and buy it, even though I still thought the price was outrageous.

What followed next absolutely stunned and amazed me. Although I was prepared to shoot out the Hot Stamper against my own copies, I knew within the first minute of play that it would be totally unnecessary. The Hot Stamper sounded like a completely different recording. I cannot stress this enough. Everything sounded much, much more lifelike and REAL, as if I was listening to the performance inside the recording studio, instead of sitting outside hearing it through the walls. Of particular note was the fact that I could hear the personality in Ms. King’s voice, with all the attendant subtle inflections and timbre; she sounded like a real person, not just a recording of one. The $75 price was suddenly transformed into a real bargain, and the skeptic in me died completely. (more…)

Carole King – “… I felt the earth move under my feet with this record …”

More of the Music of Carole King

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

This letter came in many years ago. Please to enjoy.

Our good customer Roger (and, if he keeps this up, a future editor-at-large) recently purchased the cheapest Hot Stamper Tapestry ($150) from our mailing. As is his wont, he proceeded to do his own shootout with the CBS Half-Speed. We told him in our listing it wasn’t any good, but we’re glad to see he didn’t take our word for it.

There is no substitute for hearing a record on your own stereo, good or bad. (The record, not the stereo.)

Hi Tom,

I heard your Carole King Tapestry Hot Stamper over the weekend and compared it to the CBS half-speed version. I always thought CBS did a pretty good job on this record, at least as compared to a standard US pressing I had, and I avoided buying hot stampers because of this.

So I didn’t expect much when I put this on my turntable, but it was obvious within the first, oh, 2-3 seconds that the hot stamper completely eclipsed the half-speed. I don’t think even a 1/4 speed or 1/100 speed would have sounded like this record. Instruments were startlingly immediate and stood out from the mix, whether it was pianos arrayed in space with weight and body, or the drum rim shots in It’s Too Late, or guitars, or even Carole’s voice. I was amazed, I mean amazed, at the fireworks display type bass on Home Again and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.

I definitely felt the earth move under my feet with this record–it is rare to hear this kind of bass on any recording, no less a pop record. I used to pride myself on not being a bass whore, but I admit I am hopelessly in love with the kind of bass heard on this record. If you like transparent soundstaging you will love this record and there is tons of detail, but not the type of hyper-detail that will drive you screaming from your room.

I have heard the songs on this record literally thousands of times but never like this. And this was the cheap $149 version. Fabulous!

Roger

Roger, thanks as always for the insightful review. We haven’t liked the Half-Speed since the Classic came out more than a decade ago. Although it’s tonally much more correct, the Classic Records pressing just doesn’t cut it, in more ways than I care to recount. This commentary gets at some of it.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Carole King – Tapestry

More Carole King

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

  • This KILLER copy of King’s beloved Tapestry earned top honors – Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Big, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, yet still clean, clear and open – finally, the dark veil obscuring the sound of most copies has been lifted
  • This album is clearly Carole’s masterpiece – it’s loaded with great songs, and they all sound solid and correct here, two qualities which are critically important to the sound of the album
  • 5 stars: “…an intensely emotional record, the songs confessional and direct; in its time it connected with listeners like few records before it, and it remains an illuminating experience decades later. A remarkably expressive and intimate record, it’s a work of consummate craftsmanship.”

Audiophile sound is not easy to find on Tapestry. As we’ve been saying for twenty years, most copies are either dull and murky or edgy and thin, and on half the ones that DO sound good the vinyl is noisy. On a copy like this, though, the sound gets out of the way and lets you focus on the MUSIC — and make no mistake, the music on this album is as good as it gets from Carole King.

We went nuts for this album during our big shootout. Since most of the time we’re playing testosterone-fueled, raging classic rock, it was a nice change of pace for us — and certainly easier on our poor eardrums! Our man JT makes an appearance playing acoustic guitar on a number of tracks, most notably You’ve Got A Friend, and his pals Russ Kunkel and Danny Kootch turn up too, with Kootch handling most of the electric guitar duties.

What’s surprising, if you haven’t played this album in a while, is how good non-hit tracks like “Home Again” can be. But there aren’t many of those non-hits on this album, and that’s a good thing; almost every song was a hit or received a lot of radio play. The quality of the material is that good. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Listening to the copies I purchased from you felt like I had never heard them before.”

More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

More of the Music of Carole King

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

  Hey Tom, 

BTW, given my age, I have probably heard Carole King’s Tapestry and Blood Sweat & Tears – BST a hundred or more times each. Listening to the copies I purchased from you felt like I had never heard them before. Absolutely incredible. Thank you.

Letter of the Week- “A Drastic Improvement to My Music Collection…”

More of the Music of Carole King

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

Our good customer Owais purchased our hottest Hot Stamper Tapestry and wrote to tell us that even his wife agreed that the premium that he paid for it was money well-spent.

I am very pleased with all of my purchases from you. In particular, the Carole King ‘Tapestry’ was breathtaking! You weren’t wrong when you claimed that Side One was the world’s best sounding version.

I have had so many different versions of this album, both in analogue and in digital form, and nothing even comes close. This is my wife’s favourite album of all time and even she had to admit that the premium that I paid for it was money well-spent. 

A big thank you for drastically improving the quality of my music collection!! (more…)

Carole King / Tapestry on Classic Records

More of the Music of Carole King

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

Sonic Grade: C

Years ago we wrote the following:

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic LP, but I remember it as being fairly good. [I doubt I would like it now. These Classic Records pressings rarely seem to age well.]

At the time we had this to say about the sound:

It’s a little rolled off on the top, but it’s a good rolled off, because brightening it up would make it sound modern and wrong. It’s rich and full of body, especially the piano, the way modern recordings almost never are.

Musically it’s hard to fault as well. What’s surprising, if you haven’t played this album in a while, is how good a non-hit track like “Home Again” can be. But there aren’t many of those on this album because almost every song was a hit or received a lot of radio play; the quality of the material is that good.

Heavy Vinyl and the Loss of Transparency

So often when we revisit the remastered pressings we used to like on Heavy Vinyl we come away dumbfounded — what on earth were we thinking? These are not the droids sounds we are looking for. Perhaps our minds were clouded at the time.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “For me it is like the difference between 2-D and 3-D”

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

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

  Hey Tom, 

As a newcomer to your business, and to the entire concept of “Hot Stamper” records, I was naturally skeptical. Many of us have invested in a wide variety of vinyl that simple failed to live up to expectations. Initially I was going to order one and only one record from you, and test your bold promises. Instead, I ended up ordering a nice variety to truly put it to the test… investing a couple thousand dollars on faith. In short, I am now your customer for life.

As a point of reference, my system includes a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia powered by 2 monoblock McIntosh tube Amps and a Mc-tube preamp. Most importantly, a Brinkmann mag drive turntable with a Sumiko low output moving coil cartridge. So, not the world’s best system, but enough to discern what is to follow.

I ordered the following:
* Carole King Tapestry, ((White Hot Pressing)
* The Doobie Brothers, What Were Once Vices (White Hot Pressing)
* James Taylor, Sweet Baby James (White Hot Pressing)
* Paul McCartney, McCartney (Super Hot Pressing)
* Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Steely Dan, Countdown to Ecstasy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Donald Fagen, The Nightfly (White Hot Pressing)

I warmed up my amps with the tuner for an hour or so and then sat and listened to some of my other records and reacquainted myself with the music from my system. First up was “What Were Once Vices…”. It was immediately apparent that I was getting a range as wide, if not wider than anything I had ever heard from my stereo. Then when I got to the last song on side one, “Road Angel” the guitar and drum interplay in the instrumental jam completely blew me away. Midway through I took the volume from loud to louder, and it exposed nothing but pure, sweet rock and roll. Literally gave me goose bumps.

I then listened to “Countdown to Ecstasy” and in this instance I owe a clean original copy, so I put it to the test. Back to back. I did not have to go past “Bodhisattva” to know it was no-contest. If I had to apply a percentage, something like 20% more music comes from the Hot Stamper, and this (like all of my orders) is one of my all time favorite albums.

I won’t go on and on, suffice to say that the experience repeated itself on all of the above.

Even the Fagen copy was WAY better than the 1982 MoFi copy I paid an arm and a leg for. I have always thought that record had a true analog quality, was surprised the first time I learned it was laid down on a digital track. The Hot Stamper even adds to this great sounding record.

Oh and one last… JT’s voice is so unbelievably warm matched perfectly with the clear reverberating guitar, followed by lingering cymbal crashes. For me it is like the difference between 2-D and 3-D. Depth.

Before I go, where I am as a customer going forward. I will always be a visitor to the web site. Obviously, I cannot replace my record collection, but I can supplement it with the occasional gem of a record.

In closing, Thank you to you and your crew. You are doing God’s work! 🙂 Seriously, nothing pleases me more than to relax and listen to my music the way it was meant to be heard.

Best wishes,
Rick

Rick,

Thanks for your letter! We love to hear from our happy customers.


More of the Music of Steely Dan

More of the Music of Paul McCartney

More of the Music of Carole King

More of the Music of Donald Fagen

Carole King / Tapestry – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

More of the Music of Carole King

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

Notice how the third track on side two, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, which Carole wrote when she was only eighteen and which became a big hit for The Shirelles, is actually the best sounding song on the entire album.

I have a theory that this song was recorded toward the end of the sessions, and the reason it sounds so good is that it took them until then to figure out how to do it. This is no Demo Disc by any means. The recording itself seems to have shortcomings of every kind from track to track. Perhaps as they made their way through the sessions they were learning from their mistakes, mistakes that no one could go back and fix without starting all over again, and by the time they got to this track they had it all figured out. Of course that is just a guess, nothing but speculation on my part. Regardless of the cause, see if you don’t hear what I’m talking about. 

Carole, We Love You

We went nuts for this album during our big shootout. Since most of the time we’re playing testosterone-fueled, raging classic rock, it was a nice change of pace for us — and certainly easier on our poor eardrums! Our man JT makes an appearance playing acoustic guitar on a number of tracks, most notably You’ve Got A Friend, and his pals Russ Kunkel and Danny Kootch turn up too, with Kootch handling most of the electric guitar duties.

What’s surprising, if you haven’t played this album in a while, is how good non-hit tracks like “Home Again” can be. But there aren’t many of those non-hits on this album, and that’s a good thing; almost every song was a hit or received a lot of radio play. The quality of the material is that good.