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All About Better Records
An Introductory Guide

  (Item #: BR_help) 

New to our site? This is your first stop to learn about the work we do at Better Records.

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My-Fi Versus Hi-Fi

  (Item #: fidelity) 

We went wild recently over a marvelous copy of the Ted Heath record you see pictured. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound was positively uncanny. This was vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you'll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve upon it.

This is our kind of sound. It's also important to keep in mind that our stereo seemed to love the record. (Stereos do that.) Let's talk about why that might be the case.

Our system is fast, accurate and uncolored. We like to think of our speakers as the audiophile equivalent of studio monitors, showing us exactly what is on the record, with nothing added and (hopefully) nothing taken away.

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Record Cleaning Advice

  (Item #: cleaning_2014) 

Walker Audio Prelude is the only fluid we recommend for serious SOUND ENHANCEMENT and cleaning of your LPs. You have never heard what's really in the grooves of your records until you've cleaned them using Walker's system. There is nothing in our experience that works as well.

We've tried many fluids over the years and a not insignificant portion of them actually made our records sound worse (most often by rolling off the high end). It's not a good idea to assume the record cleaning fluid you use is doing its job properly. Many do not, including some that are very popular.

More Audio Advice

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The Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100 for 2012

Not Just The Usual Suspects

  (Item #: top100_2012archive) 

It was a long time coming, but in 2012 we finally updated our Rock and Pop Top 100 with over a dozen new titles. Those of you who have yet to try one of our Hot Stampers would be well advised to start with something from this list, as a Hot copy of any of these albums is bound to be an ear-opening experience. Click on any of the albums below to find the Hot Stamper copies that are currently in stock.

You can see all of our in-stock Top 100 titles here.

Click here to sort the list alphabetically by artist.

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"The Book of Hot Stampers"

  (Item #: book) 

I received this email a while back: "Hi Tom, could you please recommend a book which would give the stamper numbers associated with the different pressings of a particular record."

Let me take this opportunity to give a more comprehensive answer, since the concept of Hot Stampers is not especially well understood by the audiophile community outside of our admittedly rather small customer base. Only those who have spent a great deal of time reading the reviews and commentary on the site are likely to understand the importance of stampers. This is partly my fault, as this issue of stamper variability and quality is spread out all over the place, exactly where, no one really knows.

More Commentaries

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Conducting Your Own Shootouts

How Novel Patterns Emerge

  (Item #: ambroambro_2014) 

When you sit down to play ten or twelve copies of an album, one right after the other, patterns in the sound are going to emerge from that experience, patterns which would be very likely to pass unnoticed when playing one copy against another or two over the course of the twenty or thirty minutes it would take to do it.

In the case of this album, the pattern we perceived was simply this: About one or two out of that dozen or so will have punchy, solid, rich, deep bass. (There is a huge amount of bass on the recording, so recognizing those special copies is not the least bit difficult if you have a full-range speaker and a properly treated room.)

More Shootout Advice

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Hot Stamper Shootouts

The Four Pillars of Success

  (Item #: shootout_1) 

Finding Hot Stampers is all about doing shootouts with as many copies of the same title as you can get your hands on. There are basically four steps in this process and you have to achieve success with each of the four if you are going to be any good at discovering and evaluating your own Hot Stampers.

We discuss each and every one of them in scores of commentaries and listings on this very site. Although none of it will come as news to anyone who has spent much time reading our stuff, we cobbled together this commentary to help formalize the process and hopefully make it easier to understand and follow.

See more entries in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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How to Become an Expert Listener

Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off

  (Item #: expert) 

Scientific American joins forces with Better Records (or is it the other way around?) to share a few ideas, which turn out to have much in common.

For years we've been writing commentaries about the sound of specific records we've auditioned in order to put them up for sale on the site. By now there are literally hundreds of pages of commentary in which we've tried to explain, often in great detail, exactly what we listened for and exactly what we heard when playing these pressings. We've tried to be as clear as possible about precisely which qualities separate the better sounding LPs from their competitors -- what they do right, and how you can recognize sound that is right .

More Shootout Advice

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New To The Site?
Let Us Explain...

  (Item #: BR_site_help) 

Info for new customers

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Our Playback System ...

And Why You Shouldn’t Care

  (Item #: stereo) 

Below you will find a list of most of the equipment we use to carry out our pressing evaluations,also known as Hot Stamper shootouts. Of course the old 80/20 Rule comes into play here -- 80% (probably more like 90 or 95%, truth be told) of the sound is what you do with your audio system, 20% (or 10 or 5%) of the sound is the result of the components you own.

We like to say it’s not about the audio you have, it’s about the audio you do: how you set up your system, what you’ve done to treat your room, how good your electricity is and all the rest of it. Our current system is described below.

More on The Stereo

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Our Rock and Pop
Top 100 List

  (Item #: top100) 

In 2014 we updated our Rock and Pop Top 100 with ten new titles -- it had been two years since the last update. Those of you who have yet to try one of our Hot Stampers would be well advised to start with something from this list, as a Hot copy of any of these albums is bound to be an ear-opening experience. Click on any of the titles below to find the Hot Stamper copies that are currently in stock.

You can see all of our in-stock Top 100 titles HERE.

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Outliers & Out-of-This-World Sound

  (Item #: bloodblood_outlier) 

How Many Does It Really Take to Find One?

A while back we did a monster-sized shootout for Blood, Sweat and Tears’ second release, an album we consider THE Best Sounding Rock Record of All Time. In the midst of the discussion of a particular pressing that completely blew our minds -- a copy we gave a Hot Stamper grade of A with Four Pluses , the highest honor we can bestow upon it -- various issues arose, issues such as: How did this copy get to be so good? and What does it take to find such a copy? and, to paraphrase David Byrne, How did it get here?

More Blood, Sweat & Tears

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Sonic Grades
and Vinyl Playgrades

  (Item #: grading) 

  • We put all records put through our cleaning process and then evaluate them against other pressings and our Reference Copies.
  • We rate each side's sound quality on a Three Plus scale.
  • Plus ratings are only awarded to sides that sound unusually good.
  • The average record will not receive a Plus Rating for sound.

    Read below to learn about our Plus Rating system for Hot Stampers, as well as info on our vinyl playgrades.

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    Tell Us More About "Hot Stampers"

    Straight Answers to Your Questions

      (Item #: hot_stampers_faq) 

    Many of the basic questions concerning Hot Stampers, including our grading system, 2-packs, coupons, the mailing list, as well as more general ordering and payment information, can be found in the original FAQ.

    We recommend that you read it before continuing on with this one. The Hot Stamper FAQ below deals specifically with the kinds of issues that potential customers, as well as skeptics and forum posters (god bless 'em!), have raised with us over the years.

    We think sitting down to listen to a Hot Stamper pressing is the best way to appreciate its superior sound, in the same way that hearing a vintage LP played back on a top quality system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog. Short of getting you to try one of our records -- 100% guaranteed, no questions asked -- we hope these comments will be of value.

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