white hot stampers

Letter of the Week – “It was a happy revelation to get Monk flying again on your stamper.”

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

Hey Tom, 

The Thelonious Monk is AMAZING. If you ever get another 3/3/3/3 of that, I’ll pay almost anything : )

(I also have a MoFi Ultradisc One Step of Monk’s Dream, which I can barely stand to listen to — just boring, so it was a happy revelation to get Monk flying again on your stamper.)

Hello,

Thanks for writing. A boring MoFi? Say it isn’t so!

By definition, boring records do not have Hot Stampers. We made that point about a Shootout Winning copy of Revolver way back in 2007.

At the risk of being definitive about things that are better left ill-defined, I would say that the Number One quality we look for in a pressing is that element of Life or Energy. We can put up with many shortcomings, including even some tonality problems, but when a record fails to convey the spirit and enthusiasm of the musicians, it’s pretty much over.

The Monk record we sent you seems to have gotten Monk flying again, and what could be better than that?

Best, TP

PS

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

At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy. And if for some reason you do not find that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the best.

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Oscar Peterson – A Tribute To My Friends

More Oscar Peterson

  • An incredible sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Both of these sides are clean, clear and lively with a solid bottom end and lots of space around all of the players
  • “With the assistance of guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Niels Pedersen and drummer Martin Drew, Peterson sounds inspired on such themes as “Blueberry Hill,” “Stuffy,” “Cottontail” and even “A Tisket, a Tasket.” – All Music, 4 Stars

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Count Basie – More Hits Of The ’50’s and ’60’s

More Count Basie 

More Jazz Recordings

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  • An outstanding vintage Verve stereo pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, and has more extension on both ends of the spectrum than most of the other copies we played
  • Guaranteed to be dramatically livelier and more dynamic than any Basie title you’ve heard (outside of our Hot Stamper pressings of course) – if you like your brass big, rich and powerful, you came to the right place
  • With 18 pieces in the studio this is a real powerhouse – the sound HUGE

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The Who – My Generation

More of The Who

More Debut Recordings of Interest

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  • My Generation IS BACK and sounds better than we ever thought was possible, with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to it on both sides of this vintage MONO import pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This incredible copy was just BIGGER and RICHER than just about every other we played, with rock energy to beat them all
  • If you want to hear this music EXPLODE out of the speakers and come to life the way The Who wanted you to, this record will do the trick
  • The right stampers make all the difference on this title – the average copy of this later pressing is hardly worth the vinyl it’s pressed on (we know, we’ve learned about them the hard way)
  • “An explosive debut, and the hardest mod pop recorded by anyone. [T]he Who never surpassed the pure energy level of this record”

We recently finished a shootout for this record and this copy blew away the competition. Some tracks do sound better than others, but that’s par for the course with this kind of material. On the best songs, it had all the top-end, bass and presence that was missing from other copies. I’ve never heard these songs sound better than they do here.

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The Poll Winners – Poll Winners Three!

More of The Poll Winners

More Contemporary Label Jazz Recordings

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  • A superb Contemporary stereo pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from the first note to the last
  • Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with plenty of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • Roy DuNann always seems to get phenomenally good sound out of the sessions he recorded – amazingly realistic drums in a big room; Tubey Magical guitar tone; deep, note-like string bass, and on and on
  • 4 stars: “From 1956-1959, it seemed as if guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Shelly Manne won just about every jazz poll. For their third joint recording, the musicians contributed an original apiece and also performed seven standards. Highlights of the fairly typical but swinging straightahead set include ‘Soft Winds,’ ‘It’s All Right with Me,’ ‘Mack the Knife,’ and ‘I’m Afraid the Masquerade Is Over.'”

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Waylon Jennings – I’ve Always Been Crazy

More Waylon Jennings

More Country and Country Rock

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  • An original RCA Victor pressing with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • You won’t believe how natural, rich, tonally correct and Tubey Magical this copy is – until you play it, of course
  • Waylon Jennings’ albums were not made for audiophiles, and many of them in our experience don’t sound very good, so it came as a welcome surprise that this recording from 1978 had just the kind of vintage analog sound we look for
  • 4 stars: “… a solid recording, still possessing the piss and vinegar of Jennings’ best work… necessary for any fan of outlaw country in general and Jennings in particular.”

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Rickie Lee Jones – Pop Pop

More Rickie Lee Jones

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  • An excellent copy of Pop Pop with superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • This import pressing is rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead on correct tonality, and wonderfully breathy vocals – everything that we listen for in a great record is here
  • If you like the sound of her first album, you are going to love Pop Pop
  • This album was only available on import vinyl in 1991, and only for a short time, which is why they are so hard to find (and expensive when you do find them)
  • I was importing these back in the day, and they never played any quieter than Mint Minus Minus – the vinyl of the day was just not that quiet, and they often showed up here in the states with scratches from grit inside the inner sleeve if you can believe that!
  • “Rickie Lee Jones cradles each of these songs with her pleading, gentle voice, backing them with subtle orchestration courtesy of notable performers including Robben Ford, Joe Henderson, and Charlie Haden.”

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Letter of the Week – “Hard to believe it can sound much better.”

More of the Music of Deep Purple

More Recordings Engineered by Martin Birch

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

Hey Tom, 

I am taking my time going through all my hot stampers one by one. Still waiting for my cartridge to break in so I know things will only get better.

This album is amazing. I forgot how good it was. Only had the cassette back in the day and loved playing it in the car. The overall tonal balance is fantastic. Big, room filling sound. Jackson’s voice is just so well centered in the mix.

I think your rating may have been a bit conservative. Hard to believe it can sound much better.

Side 2 is probably my favorite and sounds even better than side 1 to my ears–but it is close. Another winner for sure.

Thanks!

Rob

Rob,

So glad you liked it!

As for the grades, we don’t keep them around, but we liked two copies better than that one, which just goes to show you never know how good a record can sound until you hear a better sounding copy, and we heard two.

This is something the forum posters of the audio world have always had trouble understanding.

They think they have a Hot Stamper when what they probably have is a good sounding record.

The word “probably” in the sentences above and below is doing a lot of heavy lifting here.

Nothing in audio or record collecting could be more important than appreciating how little we can really know and how much there is to learn.***

The forum posters of the audio world simply have no way to know how amazing the recording can sound — so much better than the record they own, probably — so they assume* they have the best.

They probably do not, but no one can actually know for sure, and that includes us.

We do not judge records we have never played (although we do like to make educated guesses about some of them from time to time, for sport if for no other reason).

A shootout would provide some of the evidence they need in order to know where on the bell curve their copy sits, and they have simply never conducted one. They have an anecdote, and not a very trustworthy one. What they lack is data**.

Best, TP

Rob followed up with this:

PS.  Forgot to mention re: Made In Japan.  I remember owning the UK import when it came out in 1972 as I recall. Bought it at the Wherehouse–Sold it years ago and lived through CD versions in the car.  Then I put on the hot stamper.  Man, I did not realize what an amazing album that is.  Had to play all 4 sides on one sitting–it is so good!

Rob

I can’t call myself a fan of the album but I know a great sounding pressing when I hear one.

TP

*More on the subject of assumptions here.

**More on the subject of data here.

***More on the subject of not knowing how much you don’t know here.


FURTHER READING

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Sly and The Family Stone – Greatest Hits

More Sly and the Family Stone

More Soul, Blues, and R&B

  • An INCREDIBLE pressing of this nearly perfect Sly record, with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is huge – big, wide, deep, and open, with a punchy bottom end and rhythmic energy to spare, as well as cleaner, smoother, sweeter upper mids and a more extended top
  • You will find real high-resolution sound on this pressing, not the congestion, opacity and smear you would expect from a greatest hits compilation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This summarizes their first four albums perfectly, adding the singles ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime,’ ‘Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),’ and ‘Everybody Is a Star,’ possibly the loveliest thing they ever recorded… Greatest hits don’t come better than this — in fact, music rarely does.”

Both sides here have lively punchy drums; a big soundfield, front to back and side to side; tonally correct vocals (which obviously are key and sound edgy and thin on most copies), and real resolution to the sound overall, not the opacity and blur you would expect from a greatest hits compilation.

Also, and just as importantly, you lose the sibilance most copies suffer from and the smear on the horns goes away, thank goodness.

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Simply Red – Picture Book

More Simply Red

More Debut Albums of Interest

  • Big, spacious and clear, but also remarkably analog-sounding, with the kind of fullness and richness that’s so rare on records from this era 
  • “Holding Back the Years” was the big hit (#1), but what really sold me on the album was the band’s cover of The Talking Heads’ “Heaven” – not an obvious choice, and a truly inspired one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The band finds a steady R&B groove reminiscent of ’60s Stax house band the MG’s, and, as with the MG’s, it’s all in the service of a big-voiced soul singer, in this case a British redhead.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band’s, this classic from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Finally, Analog Sound for this wonderful music. The average copy of this album may sound like you’re playing a CD, but not this one. Here is the warmth and richness and depth you didn’t know you could find on Simply Red’s Masterpiece (assuming you were even looking).

That flat, opaque, dry CD sound that we all love to hate is nowhere to be found on this pressing.

The domestic pressings can be good, but they sure don’t sound like this killer import.

A recording from 1985 is unlikely to have the Tubey Magic and warmth of an old Columbia. Let’s be serious, the 1980s – unlike the three decades that preceded them — were not known for the naturalness of their recordings. A few would make our Top 100 list (Let’s Dance springs to mind) but the pool of available candidates is shallow, not wide and deep like that of the decades before, in which so many records sound so good we could not begin to squeeze them nto a list limited to merely one hundred. Two hundred would easily make the cut, maybe more.

For the ’80s, it would be hard to come up with even a dozen I should think. Which is neither here nor there. The record must stand or fall on its own merits, not those of other records from the same decade, and fortunately this one stands very tall, with A Triple Plus As Good As It Gets sound on side one and a side two that nearly reaches such rarefied sonic heights. (more…)