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Super Hot Stamper

The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds

  (Item #: beachpetso_1711) 

Our Price: $299.99

  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from beginning to end -- this pressing has the sound you've been looking for
  • Play this against any and all versions you have -- this will be the last Pet Sounds you buy (unless you upgrade to a White Hot!)
  • Copies that play as quietly and sound as good as this one does are getting expensive and much harder to come by
  • 5 stars: "The group here reached a whole new level in terms of both composition and production, layering tracks upon tracks of vocals and instruments to create a richly symphonic sound."
See all of our Beach Boys albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Barney Kessel
Vol. 3: To Swing Or Not To Swing

  (Item #: kessetoswi_1702) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • Great Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and only the second copy to hit the site in many years
  • Clean, clear and lively with a big bottom end and lots of energy
  • Relatively quiet vinyl throughout -- Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • "Guitarist Barney Kessel's string of recordings for Contemporary in the 1950s included some of the finest work of his career ... highly recommended to fans of straight-ahead jazz." - All Music
See all of our Barney Kessel albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Sonny Rollins
Alternate Takes

  (Item #: rollialter_1701x) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) or better sound on both sides on very quiet vinyl - this copy plays a true Mint Minus
  • One of our favorite Sonny Rollins records for sound, and this side two nearly earned a Triple Plus grade
  • Great alternate takes from the Way Out West and Contemporary Leaders sessions
  • 4 1/2 stars in the AMG: "Hard-swinging and frequently superb."
More Sonny Rollins / More Shelly Manne / More Ray Brown


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Super Hot Stamper

Barney Kessel
Barney Kessel Plays Carmen

  (Item #: kessebarne_1605x) 

Our Price: $69.99

  • Super Hot on side one - listen to all that room around the drums
  • Nearly Super Hot on side two with prodigious amounts of deep bass
  • Not the quietest copy - these original Contemporary pressings rarely are
  • Kessel and his good-sized group have a lot of fun with the wonderful themes of Bizet
See all of our Barney Kessel albums in stock


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Barney Kessel - Carmen

Transparency Is Key

  (Item #: kessebarne_transparency) 



The best Hot Stamper Original Yellow Label Mono pressings have the Tubey Magic we've come to expect from Contemporary circa 1958, with that warm, rich, full-bodied sound that most engineers can't begin to understand. However, some pressings in our shootout managed to give us an extra level of transparency and ambience that the original pressings rarely do.

There's a room around this drum kit. So many copies don't show you that room, not if they have the full sound that a copy like this does. (It's amazing all the detail you can hear in a leaned-out record, but what good is that? The sound is leaned out! If you like that sound buy the OJC or the CD. Leave these wonderful originals to those of us who know the sound we're after.)

More Contemporary jazz


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Barney Kessel - Music to Listen to Barney Kessel By

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: kessemusic_2008) 



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

This Minty Original Black Label Contemporary Stereo LP from 1957 has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND! No other copy we played was in a class with this bad boy -- it does it ALL. For those of you who appreciate the sound that Roy DuNann (and Howard Holzer on other sessions) were able to achieve in the '50s at Contemporary Records, this LP is a Must-Own (unless you already have it, which is doubtful considering how hard it is to find a copy in clean condition).

More Barney Kessel


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Barney Kessel - Music to Listen to Barney Kessel By

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: kessemusic_2017) 



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

This Triple Triple (A+++) mono pressing blew everything else out of the water - nothing could touch it! How can you beat a Roy DuNann recording of five reeds, piano, guitar and a rhythm section that includes Shelly Manne and Red Mitchell? The timbre of the instruments is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you've put into your stereo more than pay off.

The Demo Disc sound on this copy is really something to hear - all tube, live-to-two-track direct from the Contemporary studio.

More Barney Kessel


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Barney Kessel - Vol. 3: To Swing Or Not To Swing

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: kessetoswi_2017) 



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

This Early Contemporary Yellow Label Mono LP sure has AMAZING SOUND!

Man, this music is a blast when it sounds this good. I don’t think there’s a whole lot you could do to make this music sound any better! It’s one of the best early mono Contemporary LP I’ve ever played. It's so tubey magical and Kessel's guitar sound is out of this world.

See all of our Barney Kessel albums in stock


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Barney Kessel - Workin' Out

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: kesseworki_2013) 



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

This is a 2-pack set of original pressings that gives you wonderful sound for both sides of this great Contemporary album, A++ for the first and A+++ for the second. There is a catch, however, one that won't bother some of you at all but will drive a few of you crazy: the side one pressing is in mono and the side two is in stereo. All that mattered to us was that they both sounded great, and a quick flip to the not-so-hot side of either pressing will quickly show you why we paired these up. I imagine there are both mono and stereo copies that sound great on both sides, but we sure haven't been able to find one! Obviously this is not an easy record to come by these days.

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Barney Kessell - Easy Like

Reviewed in 2005

  (Item #: kesseeasyl_2005) 



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

This is an original Mono Contemporary Yellow Label DEMO LP. The record plays EX++ to Mint Minus Minus -- if you can stand some surface noise this is a very good sounding LP. The sound is good; however, it's almost impossible to find quiet pressings of these old Contemporary albums. This is about as quiet as they get!

More Contemporary jazz


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Benny Carter - Jazz Giant

Analogue Productions Debunked

  (Item #: cartejazzg_ap_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

You may remember that Acoustic Sounds did a version back in the '90s, which was a complete disaster. I haven't heard the new 45 RPM version, but I seriously doubt that it sounds like this. We have yet to hear a single Heavy Vinyl 45 that sounds any good to us, judged by the standards we set in our shootouts. (Actually the records themselves set the standards; we simply grade them on the curve they establish.)

More Benny Carter


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Benny Carter - Jazz Giant

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: cartejazzg_2011) 



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

HUGE DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This Contemporary LP sounds AMAZING -- it has a wide and open soundfield that really allows you to hear into the music. Drop the needle on track three (Carter’s Own ’A Walkin’ Thing’) to hear these guys really swinging! The sound is so natural, and it really jumps out of the speakers. This knocked our original Stereo Records pressing out of the ballpark -- it wasn't even close.

More Benny Carter


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Benny Carter - Jazz Giant

The Amazing Sounding Mono Copy We Played in 2005

  (Item #: cartejazzg_2005) 



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

This Contemporary Yellow Label Mono LP has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND! If you like the sound of Contemporary Records, you won’t find a better example than this! Midrange magic doesn’t get anymore magical. I don’t care who remasters this record, I don't think they can do it as well as it was done in 1958.

I haven't heard the new 45 RPM version, but I seriously doubt that it sounds like this. It wouldn't be done on vintage tube cutting equipment, and that sound is the sound we love here at Better Records.

More Benny Carter


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Helen Humes - Songs I Like to Sing

Our Black Label Shootout Winner

  (Item #: humessongs_blk_2007) 



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

This Contemporary Black Label Original LP has AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! It has that classic tube-mastered sound -- warmer, smoother, and sweeter than the later pressings with more breath of life.

More Helen Humes


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Helen Humes - Songs I Like to Sing

Our Yellow Label Shootout Winner (2008)

  (Item #: humessongs_2008) 



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

Side one has OFF THE CHARTS, A+++ Master Tape Sound. It's amazingly tubey magical, yet incredibly clean and clear -- something you can't get from the tube-mastered originals. Helen's voice is PERFECTION -- breathy, full, and sweet. The orchestra sounds JUST RIGHT -- just listen to the nice bite of the brass. The overall sound is super full-bodied and rich and very transparent.

More Helen Humes


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Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

A Boxstar Bomb

  (Item #: londojulieis_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex / Boxstar.

One question: Where's the Tubey Magic?

We would never have pointed you in the direction of this awful Boxstar 45 of Julie Is Her Name, cut by Bernie Grundman, supposedly on tube equipment. I regret to say that we actually sold some copies, but in my defense I can honestly and truthfully claim that we never wrote a single nice thing about the sound of the record. That has to count for something, right?

See all of our Julie London albums in stock


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Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

What a Record!

  (Item #: londojulieis_2016) 



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

We award this copy's side one our very special Four Plus A++++ grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a given recording to a level we've never experienced before and had no idea could even exist. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can't get much more rare than that.

More Julie London


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Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

What to Listen For

  (Item #: londojulieis_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is on Barney Kessel's guitar. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

More Julie London


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Sonny Rollins - Alternate Takes

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: rollialter_2015) 



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

An absolutely killer pressing of one of our favorite jazz albums! The album is comprised of alternate takes from the Way Out West and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders sessions, and as such there is a bit of sonic variation between these tracks and the ones on the actual albums. The best-sounding songs here, particularly the material from Way Out West, sound amazing!

More Sonny Rollins


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Sonny Rollins - Sonny Rollins & the Contemporary Leaders

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: rolliconte_2013) 



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

SUPERB SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This Contemporary Green Label LP has THE BIG SOUND -- rich and so full-bodied with amazing presence and immediacy. The bass is PERFECTION -- deep, rock solid, and note-like. There’s lots of extension on the top end, letting Shelley Manne's fantastic work on the cymbals really come to life. The clarity on this copy is superb -- just listen to those leading edge transients on Sonny's sax. The guitar has the tubey qualities that we love here at Better Records -- it's warm, rich, and sweet with lots of ambience.

More Sonny Rollins


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The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

Our Shootout Winner from 2014

  (Item #: beachpetso_2014) 



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

We've obviously been at this Hot Stamper business for a long, long time. Well folks, today is the day that an amazing A+++ copy of Pet Sounds finally makes it onto the site (we've found a few before, but they always sold before they got a chance to be listed!). I'm not sure if you want to hear the story of how we finally found these good pressings or just snap this one up before the next man does -- I think we all know this record isn't going to last long here!

More Beach Boys


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The Poll Winners - Straight Ahead

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: pollwstrai_2008) 



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

This is a Minty looking Contemporary Records LP with SUPERB MUSIC AND SOUND! We pulled together enough copies to do a small shootout, and this copy was the champion for BOTH SIDES! The sound is very clean and clear, yet tubey magical.

Shelly Manne / Ray Brown / Barney Kessel


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