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How To Search Our Site  (Item #: search-guide) 

Here is what you'll find when you visit our Site Search page. Click on this image to start searching, or look below for search tips.

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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.

More Audio Advice

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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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A Frequently Asked Question

Are Hot Stamper pressings quiet?

  (Item #: hot_stampers_faq_1) 

They're about as quiet as vintage LPs ever are. Some surface noise is always going to be audible on an old record. We believe we sell the quietest vintage pressings in the world, but they are certainly not silent. Lately we've been adding this text to our listings to clarify our position on surface noise:

Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any original pressing will play, and since only the right originals have any hope of sounding amazing on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions

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A Frequently Asked Question

How can common records possibly be worth these prices?

  (Item #: hot_stampers_faq_2) 

We freely admit that we paid south of twenty bucks each at local stores for most of the records on our site. We pay what the stores charge, and most rock records are priced from five to twenty bucks.

Unfortunately the cost of the records you see on the site is only a small part of the cost of that finished "product." The reality of our business is that it costs almost as much to find a Carly Simon or Gino Vannelli Hot Stamper that sells for a hundred dollars as it does to find a Neil Young or Yes Hot Stamper that sells for five times that.

Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions

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A Frequently Asked Question

How much better will a Hot Stamper sound on my system?

  (Item #: hot_stampers_faq_3) 

That's a tough question, because it involves two things I can't know: how good your stereo is, and how critically you listen to it. Really, the only way to find out is to try a record or two and see if the sound quality justifies the price to you. Which is why we offer a 100% money back guarantee: the record has to perform to your satisfaction or we give you all your money back.
Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions

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Becoming an Expert Listener

Challenging Yourself 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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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 2-packs

Top Quality Sound from Start to Finish

  (Item #: 2-packs) 

Our unique Hot Stamper 2-packs combine two separate LPs, usually with Super Hot Stamper (or better!) sound for each side, giving you top quality sound for the entire album. In addition, on the two other sides you'll get a chance to hear what a more typical pressing (read: non-Hot Stamper) of the album sounds like.

Sometimes 2-packs include a record with two very good sounding sides, one of which has condition issues, but these are much more rare than the 2-packs we put up with records that just don't sound very good on one of their sides. Same vinyl, same press, very different sound. This is an undeniable reality in the world of records, at least for those of us who play them by the thousands. Our empirical findings may break all the rules -- rules shmules -- but that doesn't make them any less true.

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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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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) 

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?
Thinking About Hot Stampers

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Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades

  (Item #: grading) 

A quick overview:
  • Every record you see on the site has been put through our unique cleaning process.
  • We then evaluate each record 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.
  • Which means that the typical pressing will not receive a Plus Rating for sound.

Read below to learn more about our 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 play 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 audio system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog.

Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions

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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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