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A Frequently Asked Question

How can your records possibly be worth these prices?


We freely admit that we paid south of thirty bucks each at local stores for many of the records on our site. We pay what the stores charge, and most good rock records are priced from ten to thirty bucks these days.

Unfortunately for us, the price we paid for the records you see on the site is only a small part of the cost of the 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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Customer Testimonials


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Hot Stamper Shootouts

The Four Pillars of Success


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Record Cleaning Advice


Product Detail


With eight to ten full-time people on staff, the listening crew constantly playing one title after another, the scores of listings going up on the site daily, all-day shopping trips to local stores, internet searches for the rarest titles, and the weekly mailers going out to our customers -- all of this and more runs in excess of a thousand dollars a day. The cost of the records -- the "raw material" of our business -- is rarely as much as the labor it takes to find, clean and play them.

Finding good clean vinyl these days can be a real chore. Someone has to drive to a record store, dig through the bins for hour upon hour searching for good pressings, or, more likely, pressings that look like they might be good, have them all cleaned, file them away and then wait anywhere from three months to three years for the pile of copies on the storeroom shelf to get big enough to do a proper shootout.

Shootouts

Shootouts are a two man job: one person plays the record and someone else (who rarely has any idea what pressing is on the table) listens for as long as it takes to accurately and fairly critique the first side of every copy. Then we start the whole process over again for side two.

This is a huge commitment of labor, with the amount of time and effort going into a shootout obviously the same for every title regardless of its popularity or eventual value. Naturally we would like to be able to streamline the process and cut costs in order to lower our prices and sell more records. We just don't think it's possible. Every record must be carefully evaluated and that process is time-consuming.

No matter how skilled or efficient the musicians may be, from now until the end of time it will take at least an hour to perform Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Shootouts are like that, they simply can't be rushed. It's rare to get one done in under an hour, and some can even take two, which limits the number of titles that we can do on any given day.

The math is simple: $1000 in labor and materials divided by the number of saleable records we end up with (those with Hot Stamper sound and reasonably quiet surfaces). I don't know if we actually lose money on records that sell for under a hundred dollars, but we sure as hell don't make much, not with costs like these. If you know of a better way to do it please drop us a line.

DIY

We encourage any audiophile who wants to improve the quality of his record collection to do some shootouts for himself. Freeing up an afternoon to sit down with a pile of cleaned copies of a favorite LP (you won't make it through any other kind) and play them one after another is by far the best way to learn about records and pressing variations. Doing your own shootout will also help you see just how much work it is.

If you do them right they are a great deal of work. If you have just a few pressings on hand and don't bother to clean them rigorously, that anyone can do. We would not consider that much of a shootout. You probably won't learn much of value and, worse, you are unlikely to find a top copy that way, although you may be tempted to convince yourself that you have. As Richard Feynman so famously remarked, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool."

Here's what one writer had to say after his first attempt at a serious shootout, tackling a big stack of Neil Young's brilliant 1975 release, Zuma.

General Information

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 our original Frequently Asked Questions section.

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 the above comments will be of value.

If you have further questions feel free to contact me at tom@better-records.com. I will do my best to answer them.

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