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Contemporary Jazz
Albums in Stock

  (Item #: allcontemporary) 



Visit this link to find our in-stock Contemporary Jazz label albums.


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Marty Paich

One of Our Favorite Arrangers

  (Item #: allmarty_paich) 



MARTY PAICH is one of our favorite arrangers. Some of the better albums showcasing Marty's arrangements are Spirit’s first release (1967), Art Pepper Plus Eleven (1959), Ella Swings Lightly (1958) and Whisper Not (1966), and the amazing The Hi-Lo’s And All That Jazz (1958). Copies or commentaries for all of them can be found on our site.
See more entries in our Favorite Engineers and Arrangers series


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Prog Rock and Art Rock

  (Item #: allprogrock) 



Below are links to help you find the PROG ROCK and ART ROCK albums on the site. Both genres are described in the commentary below.
Our PROG ROCK Albums with Hot Stampers

Some of the PROG ROCK Albums We've Reviewed
Our ART ROCK Albums with Hot Stampers

Some of the ART ROCK Albums We've Reviewed


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Super Hot Stamper

Gene Ammons
Blue Gene

  (Item #: ammonblueg_1904) 

Our Price: $199.99

  • This wonderful Prestige jazz classic boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the best sounding Ammons records we know of - it's huge, rich and Tubey Magical, with a solid bottom end and energy to beat them all
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record - this pressing has it all
  • "Some ballad performances in his oeuvre are a testament to an exceptional sense of intonation and melodic symmetry, powerful lyrical expressiveness, and mastery both of the blues and the bebop vernacular that can now be described as, in its own way, 'classical.'"
See all of our Gene Ammons albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

The Association
Insight Out

  (Item #: associnsig_1901) 

Our Price: $99.99
Sale Price: $79.00 (You save $20.99 / 21%)


  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides - Windy and Never My Love are simply amazing here - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The Tubey Magical sound, the lively, tight playing by The Wrecking Crew, not to mention some killer Chart Topping '60s pop, make this THE Association record to own
  • With this copy the Sound of the Sixties will fill your room like never before - wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with layers upon layers of depth
  • "The harmonies and choruses are among the most beautifully textured singing in a rock outfit this side of the Beach Boys."
See all of our Association albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Chet Baker
Chet

  (Item #: bakerchet_1810_1902) 

Our Price: $199.99
Sale Price: $149.00 (You save $50.99 / 25%)


  • With Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and fairly quiet vinyl, this is one of the better copies from our most recent shootout
  • This wonderful album of ballads has Mile Davis' rhythm section supporting Chet and other greats such as Kenny Burrell and Bill Evans
  • These guys are playing live in the studio and, on a copy that sounds this clear, you can really feel their presence on every track
  • "...this Riverside issue captures the gifted but troubled trumpeter at his best. It might even qualify as Baker's most satisfying and representative recording."
See all of our Chet Baker albums in stock


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Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Phil Urso - Picture Of Heath

A Killer Copy from 2005

  (Item #: bakerpictu_2005) 



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

This is an exceptionally nice original Pacific Jazz Black Label Mono LP with SUPERB SOUND. Pure Pleasure just did a 180g reissue of this album, but the real thing is THE REAL THING! This copy has the PRESENCE, the DYNAMICS and the LIFE of real jazz. I can't think of a more fun west coast jazz session that sounds as good outside of the best Contemporary records. This one gets a top recommendation.

More Chet Baker / More Art Pepper


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Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Phil Urso - Picture Of Heath

Pure Pleasure Debunked

  (Item #: bakerpictu_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

Putatively remastered from the original analogue master tapes by that notorious hack Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios, this pressing is dramatically flatter and less musical than any original pressing (or Japanese pressing!) that we have ever played. The CD may very well be better.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

More Chet Baker / More Art Pepper


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Chet Baker & Art Pepper - Playboys

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: bakerplayb_2015) 



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

Side one is White Hot, side two nearly so, and both contain swingin' West Coast Jazz from 1956. These 1983 reissues on Boplicity are dynamic and lively, perfectly suited to the energy of the music. The 1956 All Tube mono recording here has this Hot/Cool jazz sounding the way it should.

More Chet Baker / More Art Pepper


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Super Hot Stamper

Chet Baker
Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe

  (Item #: bakerplays_1901_1) 

Our Price: $129.99

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big, rich, smooth, open, natural, with plenty of tight bass - what's not to like? This copy is killin' it
  • Some of the best jazz guys of the day back up Chet on this one: Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans, Herbie Mann and more
  • "...the timelessness of the melodies, coupled with the assembled backing aggregate, make Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe (1959) a memorable concept album."
See all of our Chet Baker albums in stock


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Chet Baker - Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: bakerplays_2017) 



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

This is a wonderful Chet Baker record that doesn't seem to be getting the respect it deserves in the wider jazz world. You may just like it every bit as much as the Chet album, and that is one helluva record to compare any album to, in our estimation about as good as it gets in most respects.

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The Beatles - Abbey Road

We Was Wrong -- The MoFi Can Sound Great!

  (Item #: beatlabbey_mofi_wrong) 



This Minty MoFi is the Killer MFSL Abbey Road of All Time. We’ve never done a shootout like this in the history of Better Records. Picture it: five Mobile Fidelity copies of Abbey Road, ostensibly identical limited editions, pressed on premium virgin vinyl in Japan. Longtime readers of the site will not be surprised to learn that they all sound different, and in very different ways.

Why is this shootout a first? Simple: we never had five open copies in stock at any one time. Having done a big shootout for the Brit copies in January (2007), we knew how good this album could sound. How would the MoFi stack up to the best Brits? We decided to find out.

More Abbey Road


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Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Beatles For Sale

  (Item #: beatlforsa_1811) 

Our Price: $49.99

  • This British Parlophone copy is guaranteed to give you an entirely new appreciation for the band's fourth album
  • An underrated album that sounds much better than most audiophiles think it does - better music too
  • "...the group were starting to take in new influences; in this case, they were adding folk music into the mix thanks to their new-found friendship with Bob Dylan. Dylan's reflection in Lennon's work was nearly immediate, thanks to tunes like "No Reply", "I'm a Loser", "Baby's In Black" and "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party"."
See all of our Beatles albums in stock


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White Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Beatles For Sale

  (Item #: beatlforsa_1901_1904) 

Our Price: $299.99

  • Off the charts sound for the band's classic fourth album; Triple Plus (A+++) on side two, Double Plus (A++) on the first - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Superb energy and presence - the band is RIGHT THERE and full of the LIFE the best Beatles pressings always have
  • An underrated Beatles album - Allmusic gives it Five Big Stars and we like it every bit as much as they do
  • I'm A Loser, Baby's In Black, Rock And Roll Music, I'll Follow The Sun. Eight Days A Week, Words Of Love, Every Little Thing, I Don't Want To Spoil The Party, What You're Doing and 4 more - 14 tracks in all (!)
See all of our Beatles albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Beatles For Sale

  (Item #: beatlforsa_1904_1) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • There's superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER to be found on both sides of The Fab Four's very well recorded fourth album - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Especially rich and spacious, this is the album that moves away from the mostly midrangy sound of A Hard Day's Night and With the Beatles
  • A criminally underrated album by the Fab Four - Allmusic gives it Five Big Stars and we like it every bit as much as they do
  • I'm A Loser, Baby's In Black, Rock And Roll Music, I'll Follow The Sun. Eight Days A Week, Words Of Love, Every Little Thing, I Don't Want To Spoil The Party, What You're Doing and 4 more - 14 tracks in all (!)
See all of our Beatles albums in stock


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The Beatles - Beatles For Sale

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: beatlforsa_2009) 



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

MASTER TAPE SOUND ON SIDE ONE! We feel Beatles For Sale is a criminally underappreciated album, and a killer copy like this will show you exactly why. The startling presence and immediacy allow the emotional qualities of these lovely songs to really come through. The clarity of the vocals is going to blow you away. No matter what copy you’ve been listening to, I’m completely confident that this one will slaughter it. We play a ton of these every year, but there’s a good reason you don’t see too many of them hit the site -- most of them bore us to tears.

More Beatles For Sale


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Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Help!

  (Item #: beatlhelp_1812) 

Our Price: $49.99

  • This copy offers excellent sound for all 14 songs - a very good sounding British Help! indeed
  • The energy, presence and clarity on this copy are way beyond compare
  • If you were as disappointed as we were by the new Stereo and Mono Heavy Vinyl, try the real thing on Parlophone
  • You know side one, but most of the songs on side two are classics as well: Act Naturally, It’s Only Love, You Like Me Too Much, Tell Me What You See, I’ve Just Seen a Face and -- wait for it -- Yesterday (!)
More Help! / More by The Beatles


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The Beatles - Help

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: beatlhelp_2013) 



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

Folks, you may have noticed that not many copies of Help with knockout sound make it to the site very often. They're just not easy to find, but we're happy to report that our last shootout produced some real knockouts! If you like your Beatles albums to sound rich, natural, lively and clear -- and who doesn't -- you can't go wrong here.

More Help


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The Beatles - Let It Be

Heavy Vinyl Debunked

  (Item #: beatlletit_180_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame and another Heavy Vinyl Beatles LP debunked.

At the end of a recent shootout for Let It Be (June 2014) we decided to see how the 2012 Digitally Remastered Heavy Vinyl pressing would acquit itself when played against the 12 (yes, twelve!) British copies we had just spent hours critically auditioning.

More Let It Be


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Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Let It Be

  (Item #: beatlletit_1811_1902) 

Our Price: $39.99

  • You'll find very good sound on this Hot Stamper UK pressing of Let It Be from start to finish - quiet vinyl too
  • A late-period album with real rock 'n' roll power - we love the "live-in-the-studio" rockers like I’ve Got a Feeling
  • If all you have is the Heavy Vinyl pressing or the MoFi, you will not believe how good this album can sound on a real UK Parlophone such as this one
  • AMG: "...it's an album well worth having, as when the Beatles were in top form here, they were as good as ever."
More Beatles / More Let It Be


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Super Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Let It Be

  (Item #: beatlletit_1811_1903) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this UK pressing is bringing out the best qualities Let It Be's sound - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • There's no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ - here is some of the most realistic, natural Beatles sound you can get
  • Copies like this one make good on the promise that Let It Be captures the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out
  • "The album is on the whole underrated... it's an album well worth having, as when the Beatles were in top form here, they were as good as ever."
More Beatles / More Let It Be


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The Beatles - Let It Be

Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: beatlletit_2013) 



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

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a MIND-BLOWING A++++ SIDE ONE for this White Hot Stamper 2-pack! At its best, this album has the real power of live music, but it takes a special pressing to make it happen. Both of these copies had one stunning side and one that just didn't impress us, so we've paired them up to give you incredible sound for the entire album!

More Let It Be


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The Beatles - Let It Be

John's Really Digging a Pony. Are You?

  (Item #: beatlletit_dig_a_pony) 



What blew our minds about the Shootout Winning side one we played recently was how outrageously big, open and transparent it was on the song Dig a Pony. As the song started up the studio space seemed to expand in every direction, creating more height, width and depth than we'd ever experienced with this song before.

But there is no studio space; the song was recorded on Apple's rooftop. The "space" has to be some combination of "air" from the live event and artificial reverb added live or later during mixing. Whatever it is, the copies with more resolution and transparency show you a lot more of "it" than run-of-the-mill pressings do (including the new Heavy Vinyl, which is so airless and compressed we gave it a grade of F and banished it to our Shame Hall).

More on Let It Be


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The Beatles - Let It Be

Listening In Depth

  (Item #: beatlletit_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about the business of critically evaluating copies of Let It Be.

This is the first time we've discussed individual tracks on the album. Our recent shootout, in which we discovered a mind-boggling, rule-breaking side one, motivated us to sit down and explain what the best copies should do on each side of the album for the tracks we test with. Better late than never I suppose.

More on Let It Be


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Super Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Magical Mystery Tour

  (Item #: beatlmagic_1901_1) 

Our Price: $199.99

  • This vintage German pressing earned outstanding Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides - it's pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl to boot
  • Some of the best Beatles sound money can buy - Geoff Emerick, Eddie Kramer and Ken Scott all deserve kudos for their fine work here
  • Wonderfully Tubey Magical sound for I Am The Walrus, Strawberry Fields Forever, The Fool On The Hill, Baby You're A Rich Man, Penny Lane and more
  • Until you play one of these True Stereo German pressings, you can't have heard MMT sound as big and lively as this LP - we guarantee it
  • A Top 100 album and Psych Masterpiece that knocks us out every time we do the shootout for it
More Magical Mystery Tour / More by The Beatles


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The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour

Our Shootout Winner from 2007

  (Item #: beatlmagic_2007) 



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

THE BEST SOUNDING MMT EVER! Hot Stamper copies of this album are a regular feature on this site, but we’ve NEVER heard one like this -- on EITHER side! We had no choice but to award this album the very rare grade of A++++ (Four Pluses!) on both sides.

More Magical Mystery Tour


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The Beatles Heavy Vinyl Sgt. Pepper’s

Well, I Guess If You Don't Know Any Better...

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_180_debunk_2015) 



Sonic Grade: D

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

You might agree with some reviewers that EMI's engineers did a pretty good job with the new Pepper. In the March 2013 issue of Stereophile Art Dudley weighed in, finding little to fault on this title but being less impressed with most of the others in the new box set. His reference disc? The MoFi UHQR! Oh, and he also has some old mono pressings and a domestic Let It Be. Now there's a man who knows his Beatles. Fanatical? Who wouldn't be? We're talkin' The Beatles for Chrissake.

More Sgt. Pepper


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Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts...

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_1905) 

Our Price: $49.99

  • An excellent copy with solid Hot Stamper sound on both sides
  • With all the Tubey Magic of a fresh tape and top quality mastering, this is clearly the best way to hear Sgt. Pepper
  • Most pressings - especially the new ones - have a mere fraction of the richness, smoothness, transparency, space and energy of this LP
  • A Top 100 Title - "It's possible to argue that there are better Beatles albums, yet no album is as historically important as this."
More Sgt. Pepper / More of The Beatles


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Hot Stamper (Quiet Vinyl)

The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts...

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_1905_2) 

Our Price: $69.99

  • An excellent copy with solid Hot Stamper sound on both sides - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • With all the Tubey Magic of a fresh tape and top quality mastering, this is clearly the best way to hear Sgt. Pepper
  • Most pressings - especially the new ones - have a mere fraction of the richness, smoothness, transparency, space and energy of this LP
  • A Top 100 Title - "It's possible to argue that there are better Beatles albums, yet no album is as historically important as this."
More Sgt. Pepper / More of The Beatles


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Super Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely...

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_1905_4) 

Our Price: $99.99

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy was getting Pepper to sound the way we like it
  • Huge, spacious and detailed, with the Tubey Magic of a fresh tape, this is the way you want to hear Sgt. Pepper
  • Most pressings - especially the new ones - have nothing like this kind of Tubey Magic, space and energy
  • A Better Records Top 100 - "It's possible to argue that there are better Beatles albums, yet no album is as historically important as this."
More Sgt. Pepper / More of The Beatles


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White Hot Stamper

The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_1905_5) 

Our Price: $599.99

  • A stunning copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Huge, spacious and detailed, with the Tubey Magic of a fresh tape, this is the way to hear Sgt. Pepper in all its analog glory
  • Most pressings - especially the new ones - have nothing approaching the Tubey Magic, space and energy of this LP
  • A Better Records Top 100 - "It's possible to argue that there are better Beatles albums, yet no album is as historically important as this."
More Sgt. Pepper / More of The Beatles


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The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band

Our Shootout Winner from 2005

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_2005) 



Drumroll please... FREAKISHLY GOOD SOUND ON BOTH QUIET SIDES! This White Hot Sgt. Pepper’s is absolutely stunning with huge amounts of LIFE, ENERGY, PRESENCE, and IMMEDIACY! The huge soundfield will fill up your living room -- and then some!

Side One is a TUBEY MAGICAL MONSTER! We rate the first two tracks an A++ because the bass is a bit more bloated than we would like. But in true champion form, the bass tightens up during "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" to earn its THIRD PLUS and to show the world what tonal balance sounds like. The top end is silky and delicate with lots of extension. The vocals here are virtually strain free, which is a miraculous feat for any Beatles album.

More Sgt. Pepper


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The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_2009) 



This British Import Parlophone pressing has, without a doubt, ONE OF THE BEST SIDE TWOS WE’VE EVER HEARD. I guarantee you’ve never heard A Day In The Life sound as good as it does here -- we sure haven’t! The superb presence, clarity, and transparency allow elements to come through that are lost on all but the very hottest copies. Take a listen to how clear the piano comes through in the mix and compare it to any other copy you can find to see what I’m talking about.
More Sgt. Pepper


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The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_2013) 



We are calling this White Hot Stamper 2-pack set THE ULTIMATE SGT. PEPPERS EXPERIENCE. These two sides give you EVERYTHING you could ask for from this album. Side one earned the rare Four Plus A++++ grade and side two was a killer A+++; both sides play a very quiet Mint Minus throughout. The sound is so big and rich throughout that we would be very surprised, shocked even, if you've ever imagined that Sgt. Pepper could sound this powerful and REAL.
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The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

UHQR Debunked

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

We charge hundreds of dollars for a Hot Stamper Sgt. Pepper, which is a lot to pay for a record. But consider this: the MoFi UHQR typically sells for more than the price we charge and doesn’t sound as good.

Of course the people that buy UHQRs would never find themselves in a position to recognize how much better one of our Hot Stampers sounds in a head to head shootout with their precious and oh-so-collectible UHQR. They assume that they’ve already purchased the Ultimate Pressing and see no need to try another.

See all of our Beatles albums in stock


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The Beatles' Sgt. Peppers on LP

Practical Advice on What Pressings to Avoid

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_rules) 



Chris, our erstwhile customer, sent us a letter a while back describing his search for a good sounding Sgt. Pepper.

The first thing that comes to mind when reading his letter is that many record collecting rules were broken in going about his search the way he did. But then I thought, What rules? Whose rules? Where exactly does one find these rules? If one wants to avoid breaking them they need to be written down someplace, don’t they?

See all of our Beatles albums in stock


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The Beatles - The White Album

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: beatlwhite_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with plenty of What to Listen For (WTLF) tips.

It's exceedingly difficult to find audiophile quality sound on The White Album. The Beatles were breaking apart, often recording independently of each other, with their own favorite engineers as enablers, and George Martin nowhere to be found most of the time. They were also experimenting more and more with sound itself, which resulted in wonderful songs and interesting effects. However, these new approaches and added complexity often result in a loss of sonic "purity."

More of The White Album


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Jesse Belvin - Mr. Easy

Our Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: belvimreas_2016) 



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

Zero distortion. zero smear, huge amounts of space and breathy rich vocals - what's not to like? Marty Paich and Art Pepper lend a hand, and with Al Schmitt behind the board the sound is 1960 Living Stereo Tubey Magic at its finest.

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Buffalo Springfield - Last Time Around

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: buffalastt_2013) 



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

It's really shocking how good this album can sound on the right pressings. When you get hold of one and know how to clean it right, some of these pressings are a damn sight better than the vast majority of audiophiles think! And the music, of course, is CLASSIC. The best side one and the best side two in our last shootout, unfortunately, were less than impressive on their flipsides. We've paired them up to give you the best sound we can find for the entire album! And if you want to hear exactly what you're paying for, just turn either copy over and prepare to be underwhelmed.

More Buffalo Springfield


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Yes, You Too Can Get an Old Buffalo Springfield Record to Sound This Good!

  (Item #: buffalastt_commentary) 



Not long ago we found a White Hot Stamper pressing of Last Time Around that really blew our minds. We were surprised to hear
...some of the breathiest, silkiest vocals we’ve ever heard on ANY Buffalo Springfield album, with startling presence and immediacy to boot! This side two had BY FAR the most energy and life of any side of any copy we've ever played. Man, does it ROCK.

Even as recently as 2010 we would not have expected to find that kind of sound on a vintage '60s pop/rock album. We know better now.

More Buffalo Springfield


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Super Hot Stamper

Donald Byrd
The Cat Walk

  (Item #: byrd_catwa_1905) 

Our Price: $199.99

  • This pressing of Donald Byrd's brilliant 1962 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last - fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for capturing the jazz energy of this superbly sympathetic ensemble
  • These sides are lively and fun, with the kind of sound RVG managed pretty consistently to get on tape
  • 4 stars: "Donald Byrd and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams worked together on several recordings between 1958 and 1961, and The Cat Walk (released on LP in 1962) is among the best. Byrd's playing throughout is typically sleek and lyrical, and Adams' sturdy, husky baritone sound is the perfect counterbalance, making The Cat Walk an essential Byrd purchase."
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Black, Green, Yellow...

Which Color Sounds the Best?

  (Item #: contemporary) 



Our Hot Stamper commentary from a recent shootout we did for the wonderful Helen Humes album Songs I Like to Sing discusses the sonic characteristics we find most commonly associated with the various Contemporary labels, to wit.

This Contemporary Black Label Original LP has that classic tube-mastered sound -- warmer, smoother, and sweeter than the later pressings, with more breath of life. Overall the sound is well-balanced and tonally correct from top to bottom, which is rare for a black label Contemporary, as they are usually dull and bass-heavy.

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Crack The Sky - Animal Notes

  (Item #: crackanima_fame) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Both sides are big and rich in the same way that all the best Classic Rock albums from the '70s are. It has plenty of rock ENERGY; here the sound jumps out of the speakers like practically no other copy we heard.

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Crack The Sky - Crack The Sky

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: crackcrack_2010) 



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

This White Hot Stamper pressing of the first and best album by the legendary-but-now-mostly-forgotten American Prog band Crack The Sky shows just how amazingly well recorded their debut really was.

This is Big Production rock that pulls out all the stops and then some, with a massive Beatlesque string section, horns, synths, backward guitars and every other kind of studio effect that they could work out.

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Debunking the
Sham Audiophile LP

  (Item #: debunk) 



Visit this link to see why we believe that the vinyl pressing capable of communicating the most sublime qualities of recorded music through its superior fidelity is almost never going to be the one marketed directly to the audiophile community.

If you find this in any way hard to believe -- and how could you not? -- we encourage you to read our commentaries, many of which can be found by clicking on the link above. (There are literally hundreds of commentaries discussing the shortcomings of specific audiophile pressings peppered throughout the site, but the ones we've linked should do for a start.)

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The Doors - The Doors

What to Listen For

  (Item #: doorsdoors_wtlf) 



What to Listen For? you ask?

ENERGY and RAW POWER. Few audiophiles have any idea how well recorded this album is, simply because most pressings don't do a very good job of encoding the life of the master tape onto the vinyl of the day, regardless of whether that day is in 1967 or 2017.

The first Doors album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most powerful recording in the entire Doors catalog.

More by The Doors


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White Hot Stamper

The Doors
Strange Days

  (Item #: doorsstran_1902_1905) 

Our Price: $399.99

  • This phenomenal copy of Strange Days has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • A stunning sounding pressing of one of the most difficult-to-find records in the world of Hot Stampers
  • Demo Quality sound for so many classics: When The Music's Over, Moonlight Drive, Love Me Two Times and more
  • ... if The Beatles had Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club and The Beach Boys had Pet Sounds, then The Doors' answer was Strange Days. This experimentation can be heard in the very first notes of the title track, as Ray Manzarek's spacey keyboards set the tone for Morrison's eerie, distorted warning, "Strange days have found us." It's the perfect introduction to a perfectly strange album."
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Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: eno__takin_listen) 



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This album is all about sound, pure sound itself if you will: the sound of the instruments, their textures, and the textures of the soundscape Eno has created for them.

With the subtle harmonics of Eno's treated sounds captured onto vinyl intact, the magic of the experience far exceeds just another batch of catchy songs with clever arrangements. It truly becomes an immersive experience; sounds you've never heard in quite that way draw you into their world, each sound more interesting than the next.

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Super Hot Stamper

Ella Fitzgerald
Whisper Not

  (Item #: fitzgwhisp_1801_1905) 

Our Price: $129.99

  • Both sides of this stereo 2-pack have outstanding sound, with a Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a solid Double Plus (A++) side two - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big, balanced, lively and musical, these two sides had some of the best sound we heard in our most recent shootout
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • "These fine-tuned arrangements also provide the perfect launching pad for Fitzgerald to place her own stamp on material associated with other singers."
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Ella Fitzgerald - Whisper Not

Our Shootout Winner from 2006

  (Item #: fitzgwhisp_2006) 



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

THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST ELLA FITZGERALD RECORDS I’ve heard in a very long time! I’m telling you, this is Ella at her best! Having just played a lovely sounding copy of Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie, an album that tends to err on the bright side, I now realize that this album has the opposite problem -- it's a little bit smoother in places than it should be. Of course that's a much more tolerable problem than the reverse.

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Ella Fitzgerald - Whisper Not

Our Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: fitzgwhisp_2016) 



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

Both sides of this original stereo pressing are White Hot - Triple Plus all the way! Breathy, tubey, big and clear, this is the best sound we have ever heard for Whisper Not. Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin. "These fine-tuned arrangements also provide the perfect launching pad for Fitzgerald to place her own stamp on material associated with other singers."

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The Hi-Lo’s - And All That Jazz

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: hilosandal_2012) 



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

This Columbia Six-Eye LP has TWO STUNNING SIDES, easily the best we heard in our entire shootout! This is a superb recording, and a copy like this is a true Demo Disc. The vocals are perfection, and every instrument sounds correct and REAL here, with the transparency and clarity to put you right there with the players.

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Helen Humes - Songs I Like to Sing

Our Yellow Label Shootout Winner from 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.

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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.

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Helen Humes

Getting the Balance Right on Mean to Me

  (Item #: humessongs_exercise) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Mean to Me is a favorite test track for side one, with real Demo Disc quality sound. Roy DuNann at Contemporary was able to get all his brass players together in one room, sounding right as a group as well as individual voices. The piano, bass, and drums that accompany them are perfectly woven into the fabric of the arrangement. What makes this song so good is that when the brass really starts to let loose later in the song, with the right equipment and the right room you can get the kind of sound that is so powerful you would almost swear it's live.

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Super Hot Stamper

Jefferson Airplane
Surrealistic Pillow

  (Item #: jeffesurre_1810_1904) 

Our Price: $249.99
Sale Price: $199.00 (You save $50.99 / 20%)


  • This outstanding stereo copy of the band's sophomore release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) from first note to last
  • It's the rare copy of this '60s Psych Classic that has this kind of freedom from distortion, as well as clarity, openness, and spaciousness
  • An incredibly difficult album to find with audiophile sound, but this copy has the goods and will beat whatever you throw at it
  • 5 stars: "Every song is a perfectly cut diamond ... a groundbreaking piece of folk-rock-based psychedelia that hit — literally — like a shot heard round the world..."
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Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick

Ruthless When It Comes to Accuracy

  (Item #: jethrthick_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

From 2009 to 2010 this was our single go-to record for testing and tweaking the system.

Although we now use an amazing copy of Bob and Ray (the big band version of The Song of the Volga Boatmen located therein has to be the toughest test we know of bar none), we could easily go back to using TAAB. It's absolutely ruthless when it comes to the slightest hint of artificiality in the sound of the system.

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Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection

Elton's Masterpiece

  (Item #: john_tumbl_2012) 



The best copies of this album are so good they belong on the list of the Ten Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time, how about that!

This copy really delivers on the sound side — you get stunning immediacy, big-time presence, tons of depth to the soundfield, full-bodied vocals, amazing transparency, and BOATLOADS of Tubey Magic. Elton John fans, today is your lucky day. The vocals are full and present, with not a trace of the phony EQ that plagues the typical pressing. The entire mix is stunningly high-res, with no attendant sacrifice in richness or Tubey Magic.

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Barney Kessel - Some Like It Hot

Our Shootout Winner from 2005

  (Item #: kessesomel_2005) 



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

Original Contemporary Black Label Stereo LP from 1959 with DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND!

For those of you who appreciate the sound that Roy DuNann and, in this case, Howard Holzer, were able to achieve in the ’50s at Contemporary Records, this LP will be a Must-Own unless you already have it. Their stuff just doesn't get any better than this. Tubey magic, richness, sweetness, dead on timbres from top to bottom -- this is a textbook example of their sound at its best.

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Barney Kessel - Some Like It Hot

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: kessesomel_2018_) 



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

This is absolutely the right sound for this music. There was simply nothing that could beat the Triple Plus side, in any area of reproduction. If you like the sound of relaxed, All Tube jazz recordings, you can't do much better than Some Like It Hot. Many of the copies we played suffered from blubbery bass and transient smearing, but the clarity and bass definition here are surprisingly good.

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Michel Legrand - After the Rain

An Amazing Pablo Jazz Album You Never Heard Of

  (Item #: legraafter_2013) 



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

This album is PURE MAGIC! I know of no other jazz album like it. It's lyrical and moody, yet comes to life at a moment's notice when the horn players start to feel the spirit. If you're familiar with the music he wrote for The Thomas Crown Affair (he won an Academy Award for "Windmills of Your Mind"), you may have a good feel for subtle, impressionistic, often moody quality of After the Rain . Or check it out on youtube (while trying to imagine the sound being at least one million times better).

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Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues (S9)

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: mayor_volume_1_2010) 



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

WOW! Here's a stunningly good sounding and shockingly quiet copy of The Big One -- Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues' first Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP aka S9. We've been comparing and contrasting pressings of this album for a long time and this is one of the very best -- and QUIETEST -- copies we've ever had the good luck to stumble on. The sound is BIG, RICH and FULL OF ENERGY. We gave side one an A++ and side two our top grade of A+++. It is ridiculously tough to find this record anymore, let alone a pressing this amazing. Who knows when we'll find another copy, let alone one that sounds like this!

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Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues

Implore You to Turn Up Your Volume

  (Item #: mayor_volume_1_loud) 



S9 is hands down the best example of a recording that truly comes to life when you Turn Up Your Volume.

There's not much ambience to be found in their somewhat dead sounding studio, and very little high frequency boost to any instrument in the soundfield, which means at moderate levels this record sounds flat and lifeless. (You could say it has that in common with most Heavy Vinyl pressings these days, if you wanted to take a cheap shot at those records, which, to be honest, I don't mind doing. They suck; why pretend otherwise?)

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Lincoln Mayorga - The Missing Linc

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: mayormissi_2012) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Hall of Fame.

Super Hot, and definitely not your typical Sheffield pressing. Some of them are aggressive, many of them are dull and lack the spark of live music, some of them have wonky bass or are lacking in the lowest octave -- they are prey to every fault that befalls other pressings.

Which should not be too surprising. Records are records. Pressing variations exist for every album ever made. If you haven't noticed that yet, start playing multiple copies of the same album, while listening carefully and critically.

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White Hot Stamper

Lincoln Mayorga
and Dist. Colleagues (S9)

  (Item #: mayorvolume_1_1903_1905-) 

Our Price: $499.99

  • A stunning Shootout Wining pressing of this famous audiophile recording, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Both sides of this copy will be awfully hard to beat for sound - get your VTA right and the bottom end on this LP will turn into a Bass Demo Disc like nothing you've imagined
  • It's nearly impossible to find this album in this kind of clean condition, and even tougher to find one that sounds like this
  • One of the rarest Hot Stamper records bar none -- only a handful have ever made the site
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Paul McCartney & Wings - Wild Life

  (Item #: mccarwildl) 



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

This Minty Apple British/Domestic 2-Pack has two AMAZING sides on QUIET VINYL! We were not all that familiar with the album going into this shootout, but after spending the day listening to copies like these we found ourselves LOVING IT!

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Super Hot Stamper

The Moody Blues
Days of Future Passed

  (Item #: moodydayso_1904) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • This outstanding pressing of The Moody Blues' Masterpiece earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • The sound is huge, rich and lively throughout - you need this kind of space for the orchestral parts to work
  • An Album Experience beyond practically anything that had come before (Sgt. Pepper excluded)
  • 4 1/2 stars: "Days of Future Passed became one of the defining documents of the blossoming psychedelic era, and one of the most enduringly popular albums of its era."
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Lee Morgan - The Cooker

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: morgacooke_2015) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame from 1957(!)

Both sides are open, spacious and transparent, with a lovely and quite extended top end. Just listen to the trumpet solo on ’A Night In Tunisia’; you can really hear the leading edge transients. The baritone sax played by the estimable Pepper Adams also sounds particularly nice throughout the record.

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Super Hot Stamper

Marty Paich Big Band
What's New

  (Item #: paichwhats_1710_1905-) 

Our Price: $69.99
Sale Price: $39.00 (You save $30.99 / 44%)


  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides, this copy has Tubey Magical Big Band sound to die for
  • If you large group swinging West Coast Jazz is your thing - think Art Pepper Plus Eleven - you will really get a kick out of this one
  • With All Tube 1957 engineering from the legendary Bones Howe at Radio Recorders, this record's audiophile credentials are fully in order
  • Amazon 5 Stars: "...there's a wonderful, almost nostalgic, fifties West Coast Jazz vibe warmly glowing throughout."
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Art Pepper - At The Village Vanguard Vol. 4

Our Shootout Winner from 2007

  (Item #: peppeatthe_2007) 



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

This Minty Contemporary Demo LP has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC! The highlight of this pressing is the well-defined DEEP bass -- all the intricacies really come to life. The sound is rich and sweet! And holy crap, that piano sounds really nice. On More for Les, Pepper switches from sax to clarinet and the result is a wonderful, bluesy track that is completely original. The clarinet sounds like it is in the room with you.

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Pepper, Klemmer, Griffin, et al. - Ballads By Four

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: peppeballa_2011) 



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

Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides of this wonderful Galaxy original pressing. There are four extended ballads, two on each side, and each of them is played with real passion and skill by this group of veteran horn men and their respective rhythm sections. The recording itself is one of the best I've heard on Galaxy, the other top Galaxy title being Art Pepper Today. Joe Henderson is the leader not mentioned in our listing title, so with his addition we have four of the best saxophone ballad players, backed by a top rhythm section, all performing material that has stood the test of time. This is the kind of record the world needs more of!

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Art Pepper - Friday Night At The Village Vanguard

Our Shootout Winner from 2007

  (Item #: peppefrida_2007) 



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

This Original Contemporary LP has EXCELLENT MUSIC AND SOUND! The real highligh of this volume is the version of Caravan -- just listen to Art playing both alto AND tenor! There’s also a great version of Pepper’s bossa-influenced track Labyrinth. The sound is rich and full-bodied. Listen to the cymbal crashes to hear how extended the top end is. The piano has real weight to it, but the sax sounds a little bit compressed and the bass could be a bit tighter.

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Art Pepper - Gettin’ Together

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: peppegetti_2011) 



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

TWO GREAT SIDES on VERY QUIET vinyl, including an As Good As It Gets A+++ side two! This album, and this copy in particular, deliver some serious Art Pepper Contemporary Magic. We're big fans of Pepper and this label, and we love the sound Roy DuNann was able to get out of these guys. On the best pressings, such as this one, there's just nothing between you and the music! You will have a very hard time finding a much better sounding jazz record than side two of this copy -- anywhere.

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Art Pepper - Intensity

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: peppeinten_2008) 



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

Intensity is right -- this is some SERIOUSLY GOOD SOUNDING alto saxophone led quartet jazz. AMG was right to give this one 4 1/2 stars -- the musicianship is top notch and Pepper’s playing is INSPIRED throughout.

The real surprise was how well recorded this album from 1963 is. I can't recall a more DYNAMIC Contemporary. Pepper's sax gets seriously LOUD in some passages. This is very much a good thing. Not only is he totally committed to the music, but the engineers are getting that energy onto the record so that we at home can feel the moment to moment raw power of his expression.

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Art Pepper - ...The Way It Was

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: peppeitwas_2010) 



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

This Contemporary Yellow Label LP has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC ON BOTH SIDES! It’s airy, open, and spacious with superb clarity and an extended top end. The beautiful reading of Autumn Leaves on side two is DEMO DISC QUALITY!

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Art Pepper - Landscape

Reviewed in 2007

  (Item #: peppelands_2007) 



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

Recorded in Japan in 1979, this is a really interesting album. There are a lot of stinkers in the Art Pepper catalog from this era. (Acoustic Sounds released a few of them on 180 gram as a matter of fact. What a waste of good vinyl.)

But this album is actually quite good. Art plays in an energetic staccato style, which is counterbalanced by the long flowing lines of George Cables at the piano. Cables is actually pretty amazing on this record: this is the best I’ve ever heard him play. He’s not very good as a leader, at least on the records I’ve heard, but he and Art get along very well together.

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Art Pepper - Living Legend

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: peppelivin_2010) 



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

SUPERB SOUND AND MUSIC! Art Pepper’s saxophone sound is Right On The Money, breathy and airy with clearly audible leading edge transients. The lineup on this LP is stellar, with Hampton Hawes on piano and keys, Shelly Manne on drums, and the great Charlie Haden on bass guitar.

We've mentioned plenty of times what big fans we are of Contemporary Label Jazz LP's and this record is another sonic triumph for engineer Roy DuNann. The sound is warm and lively, with superb clarity and virtually no distortion. The top end is wonderfully extended, allowing you to really appreciate some fantastic cymbal work by Shelly Manne.

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Art Pepper - Meets The Rhythm Section

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: peppemeets_2009) 



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

This LP has AMAZING SOUND on both sides with each rating A+++ or something very close to it. This one has all the tubey magic of the best black label originals, without their bad vinyl and bloated bass. I get black label original Contemporary pressings in all the time, but few of them are mastered right and most never make it to the site. Some are pure muck. Some have bloated bass that is hard to believe. Don’t buy into that record collecting slash audiophile canard that Original Equals Better. It's BS.

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White Hot Stamper

Art Pepper + Eleven
Modern Jazz Classics

  (Item #: peppemoder_1903_1) 

Our Price: $299.99

  • A Big, Bold and Lively copy of this exceptional album with a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is rich, warm and full-bodied, yet both clear and open - the brass is phenomenal on this fairly quiet pressing
  • Here is the Tubey Magic of the originals without the problems that make the average original much less involving
  • A longtime audiophile favorite - 5 stars on Allmusic: "This is a true classic. Essential music for all serious jazz collections."
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Super Hot Stamper

Art Pepper + Eleven
Modern Jazz Classics

  (Item #: peppemoder_1903_1904) 

Our Price: $149.99

  • A Big, Bold and Lively copy, with both sides rating Double Plus (A++) for this album, one of Art Pepper's true Must Owns - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is one DYNAMIC jazz record -- drop the needle on any track and prepare yourself to be very impressed
  • Here is the Tubey Magic of the originals without the problems that make the average original so much less involving
  • A longtime audiophile favorite - 5 stars on Allmusic: "This is a true classic. Essential music for all serious jazz collections."
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Art Pepper + Eleven - Modern Jazz Classics

Black Label Original with Very Good Sound (!)

  (Item #: peppemoder_2008) 



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

SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND AND QUIET VINYL ON THIS BLACK LABEL ORIGINAL! Clean early copies like these don’t grow on trees, and ones that actually sound good are even more difficult to find. The sound is full-bodied and energetic with more tubey magic than the average later copies.

As tends to be the case with these Black Label copies, the bass could stand to be tighter. The later copies offer an extra degree of resolution, but we know some people prefer these early copies for their richness and sweetness (which, as we've written about extensively, comes at price).

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Art Pepper + Eleven - Modern Jazz Classics

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: peppemoder_2015) 



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

On a great copy such as this one, you can really pick out each of the musicians and follow them throughout the course of each song. When you're able to appreciate everyone's contributions, you can really get a better sense of how much work went into making this album. It's nothing short of epic!

This is one DYNAMIC jazz record -- drop the needle on any track and prepare yourself to be very impressed. The sound is full-bodied and energetic with tight bass, breathy brass, and lots of ambience.

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Art Pepper + Eleven

The Originals Are Better, Right?

  (Item #: peppemoder_original) 



Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

We used to get the original Contemporary pressings in all the time, but so few are mastered right practically none ever make it to the site. Some are pure muck; others have bass that's so bloated it's hard to tell if it's electric or acoustic. And where's the presence? We dropped the needle on a few Black Label copies of this title and were entirely underwhelmed.

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Art Pepper + Eleven - Modern Jazz Classics

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: peppemoder_yellow_2008) 



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

Oh Yeah! This Contemporary Yellow Label LP DESTROYED the competition in our big shootout this week, rating ABOVE A++ on BOTH SIDES. We didn’t hear better sound for either side on any other copy we played. Drop the needle on any track and prepare yourself to be BLOWN AWAY! The sound is full-bodied and energetic with tight bass, breathy brass, and lots of ambience.

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Art Pepper - One September Afternoon

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: peppeonese_2012) 



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

AN EXCELLENT A++ SIDE TWO for this album -- this is an excellent recording from 1980, one of the best of the later Art Pepper period during which Art was signed with Galaxy and was devoting his remaining years to playing and recording as much as possible. The album is engineered by Baker Bigsby, as is Art Pepper Today (1978), my personal favorite Art Pepper album and amazing sounding if you can find the right pressing (we're working on it!).

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Art Pepper - Saturday Night At The Village Vanguard

Reviewed in 2007

  (Item #: peppesatur_2007) 



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

This very nice looking Contemporary LP has pretty good sound and excellent music. We played all four volumes of Art Pepper’s Village Vanguard series recently, and this copy was our favorite of the bunch. It features an intense live version of Pepper’s tune The Trip, from the wonderful album of the same title, as well as extended versions of the tunes You Go To My Head and Cherokee.

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Super Hot Stamper

Art Pepper
Smack Up

  (Item #: peppesmack_1803_1903) 

Our Price: $149.99
Sale Price: $99.00 (You save $50.99 / 34%)


  • An outstanding Contemporary stereo pressing boasting Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is a classic from Pepper - all the songs were written by saxophonists and he tears into them with gusto and naked emotion (the two hallmarks of his playing style)
  • One of the best Contemporary titles for sound quality - as usual you can thank the brilliant engineering of Roy DuNann
  • "Pepper is very much on top of his game throughout, ably demonstrating a capacity for precision and intimidating passion. Nowhere is proof more readily available than on these sides, which project Pepper at the peak of his craft."
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Hot Stamper

Art Pepper
Smack Up

  (Item #: peppesmack_1811) 

Our Price: $49.99

  • An outstanding Contemporary-mastered stereo pressing boasting Hot Stamper sound on both sides - fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This is a classic from Pepper - all the songs were written by saxophonists and he tears into them with gusto and naked emotion (the two hallmarks of his playing style)
  • One of the best Contemporary titles for sound quality - as usual you can thank the brilliant engineering of Roy DuNann
  • "Pepper is very much on top of his game throughout, ably demonstrating a capacity for precision and intimidating passion. Nowhere is proof more readily available than on these sides, which project Pepper at the peak of his craft."
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Art Pepper - Smack Up

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: peppesmack_2009) 



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

WOW -- the first Smack Up Hot Stamper to hit the site in over two years! We love this album and wish we could find more great copies, but it sure ain't easy. Here's a Contemporary Yellow Label pressing that's very good on side one and INCREDIBLE on side two. The first track on side one doesn't sound quite as good as the rest of the material, but by the second track this thing is SMOKIN'.

More Smack Up / More Art Pepper


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Art Pepper - So In Love

Our Shootout Winner from 2016

  (Item #: peppesoinl_2016) 



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

Baker Bigsby, one of our favorite engineers, recorded about half the album at Kendun right here in LA, specifically the songs Blues For Blanche, So In Love and Stardust. Is there a difference in the sound of those tracks compared to the others on the album? We'll leave that little game to be played by those of you who are so inclined.

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Straight Life  (Item #: peppestrai_2018) 


This Jazz Classic boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound, or close to it, from first note to last. The two long ballads, "September Song" at over ten minutes, and "Nature Boy" at just under ten, give Art and the boys a chance to stretch out and take it to another level.

Art Pepper’s saxophone sound is just right - present, breathy and airy with clear leading edge transients. The lineup on this LP is truly stellar, especially for 1979, with the legendary Tommy Flanagan on piano, Billy Higgins on drums, and the great Red Mitchell on bass.

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Art Pepper - ... The Way It Was

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: peppethewa_2013) 



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

This Contemporary Yellow Label 2-pack has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC and QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES! It’s airy, open, and spacious with superb clarity and an extended top end. The beautiful reading of Autumn Leaves on side two is DEMO DISC QUALITY! Both of the copies in this White Hot 2-pack have one side rated A+++ and one side that just didn't meet our standards, so we combined them to give you excellent sound for the entire album.

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Art Pepper - Today

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: peppetoday_2015) 



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

Side two is huge, rich and energetic like no other. Side one was nearly as good, with especially rich, Tubey Magical sound. Musically this is the best of Pepper's later period, and exceptionally well recorded by Baker Bigsby. Today has been a personal favorite of mine for close to 30 years.

Side two of this copy is White Hot, which is where the extended ballad Patricia is, in our opinion the single most beautiful song Art Pepper ever recorded. It's ten solid minutes of emotion, at the end of which you may be as exhausted as he no doubt was. The big finish for the song is unbelievable on this copy.

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Art Pepper - Today

Phil DeLancie Digital or George Horn Analog?

  (Item #: peppetoday_ojc) 



Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning (usually old) records.

We've wanted to do Art Pepper Today for more than a decade, but the original Galaxy pressings were just too thick and dark to earn anything approaching a top sonic grade. Thirty years ago on a very different system I had one and liked it a lot, but there was no way I could get past the opaque sound I was now hearing on the more than half-dozen originals piled in front of me.

So, almost in desperation we tried an OJC reissue from the '90s. You know, the ones that all the audiophiles on the web will tell you to steer clear of because it had been mastered by Phil DeLancie and might be sourced from digital tapes.

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Art Pepper - The Trip

Our Shootout Winner from 2007

  (Item #: peppetrip_2007) 



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

This Autographed copy of The Trip has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC! The title ain’t lying -- this album is a TRIP! We dropped the needle on this Contemporary Yellow Label pressing and immediately stopped listening critically and began just enjoying the music and the sonics. That’s the sign of a truly exceptional album. The sound on this album is so alive and so real, you’ll feel like there’s a West Coast Jazz quartet in your living room.

The key word here is NATURAL. No phony boosted top, just smooth sweet sound everywhere you listen.

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Are All MoFis Created Equal?

A Pair of Pink Floyd LPs Proved They Aren’t

  (Item #: pinkfdarks_mofi_2016) 



Many audiophiles are still under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, with their strict "quality control", managed to eliminate pressing variations of the kind we discuss endlessly on the site.

Such is simply not the case, and it's child's play to demonstrate how false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things: good cleaning fluids and a machine, multiple copies of the same record, a reasonably revealing stereo, and two working ears. With all four the reality of pressing variations for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

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Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Quick and Easy Listening Test

  (Item #: pinkfdarks_test_2014) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Breathe is my favorite test track for side one for any version of Dark Side Of The Moon, Half-Speed or otherwise. When the voices come in about halfway through the song, you can tell that most copies are too bright simply by listening to the vocals on this track. The cymbals might sound wonderful; lots of other instruments might sound wonderful; and there might be plenty of ambience, detail and transparency. But all of that counts for nothing if the voices don't sound right. And on most copies the voices sound bright, aggressive, grainy and transitory. (This is the case with the new 180 gram 30th Anniversary copy I regret to say.)

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Return to Forever - Romantic Warrior

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: returroman_2011) 



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

This White Hot Stamper Romantic Warrior has a side one that will blow your mind. It’s 100% guaranteed to bring any stereo to its knees! Turn this one up and prepare yourself for the kind of sound that perhaps one out of a hundred records has to offer, with cymbal crashes that really crash, bass that threatens to move your house off its foundation and energy that is hard to believe was encoded into a thin piece of vinyl decades ago. But here it is! This copy is all that and more.

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Return to Forever - Romantic Warrior

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: returroman_depth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Romantic Warrior.

Romantic Warrior is my favorite JAZZ/ROCK FUSION album of all time. As good as the music is, the sound is even better. This is the Jazz/Rock Demo Disc that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my experience, no record of this kind is more DYNAMIC or has better BASS. Not one. Demo Disc doesn't begin to do this kind of sound justice.

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Jack Sheldon - Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: sheldjacks_2017) 



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

If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz -- and what red blooded audiophile doesn't -- you can't do much better than Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any Big Band record you own right out of the water.

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