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Brewer & Shipley - Tarkio

Do All the Robert Ludwig Mastered Copies Have Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: brewetarki_RL) 



Even though all the original Pink Label pressings are mastered by Robert Ludwig, they have a marked tendency to be dull, thick and opaque. The sound is just too smooth. The best copies however have the top end and the transparency to let you hear all the guitar and vocal harmonics, surrounded by the large acoustic of the studio.

This time around we discovered something new: one specific stamper that seemed to be the only one with the potential for an extended top end. This special stamper did not always fare well; some copies with it were mediocre. We have always found this to be the way with the "right" stampers; they often let us down and sometimes they really let us down hard.

More Brewer and Shipley


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Oliver Nelson - The Blues and the Abstract Truth

Mastering Better Than The Master

  (Item #: nelsoblues_rvg) 



Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts concerning the sound of old records.

For those of you who are still holding on to the idea that the original pressings are better, our Hot Stamper LPs may come as quite a surprise. Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn't he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what needs fixing and what needs to be left alone?

More Oliver Nelson


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Bloomfield / Kooper / Stills - Super Session

All Things Are Never Equal

  (Item #: bloomsuper_equal) 



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

Can the Red Label reissues sound any good?

Why yes, they can, and here's why. Every once in a while, when it comes time to stamp out some more copies of slow but still-selling records, "back catalog" as they are known in the trade, someone has to go into the vault and find a tape with which to master. Maybe that person finds a real master tape. Or maybe that person finds a master tape and makes a really high quality dub of it to master from.

More Al Kooper / More Stephen Stills


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Frames of Reference, Carefully Conducted Shootouts and Critical Listening

  (Item #: beethsepte_shootouts) 



The sound we were hearing on this copy during a recent shootout was both rich and sweet, with easily recognized, unerringly correct timbres for all seven of the instruments heard in the work. The legendary 1959 Decca Tree microphone setup had worked its magic once again. And, as good as it was, we were surprised to discover that side two was actually even better! The sound was more spacious and more transparent. We asked ourselves, how is this even possible?

Hard to believe but side two had the sound that was TRULY Hard To Fault. This is precisely what careful shootouts and critical listening are all about. If you like Heavy Vinyl, what exactly is your frame of reference? How many good early pressings could you possibly own, and how were they cleaned?

More Shootout Advice


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"In Defense of the Beginner..."

Shootouts Are a Bitch

  (Item #: youngzuma_shootout_letter) 



One of our good customers wrote to tell us of a shootout he conducted a while back. This is his story.

Tom:

In defense of the beginner audiophile: I am a spoiled owner of many of your Hot Stamper LPs. (So please don’t tell anyone where I live!) You endlessly bash us newbies as not being able to tell the difference in sound between two sides of a record. Fair enough – usually we can’t. In our defense, it is very difficult to tell differences between two sides of an album if BOTH sides sound like s__t! Where I come from this is the norm; two crappy sides.

See all of our Neil Young albums in stock


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A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers

The More Mistakes the Better, Part Three

  (Item #: mistakes_part_3) 



"The essence of success is that it is never necessary to think of a new idea oneself. It is far better to wait until somebody else does it, and then to copy him in every detail, except his mistakes."
~Aubrey Menen

Indeed, if only that were practical. Our approach to Hot Stampers and How to Find Them is certainly a revolutionary new idea, and undoubtedly the only way of discovering records with superior sound quality.

But even if we were to publish all of our secrets, the stamper numbers and labels and countries of origin of all the best pressings we've ever played, every last one, that would still not be the answer.

Thinking About Hot Stampers


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Dopey Record Theories

Putting Bad Ideas to the Test

  (Item #: mitchcourt_theory) 



In a recent listing for one of our Hot Stamper 2-packs we noted that side two of record one has Joni sounding thin, hard and veiled. If you look at the stampers you can see it's obviously cut by the same guy (no names please!), and we're pretty sure both sides were stamped out at the same time of day since it's impossible to do it any other way. What accounts for the amazing sound of one side and the mediocre sound of its reverse? If your theory can't account for these huge differences in sound, your theory must be seen for what it is: hopelessly, fundamentally flawed. Mistaken. Inadequate. "Dopey" works too.
More Court and Spark


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Testing New Paradigms and Old

  (Item #: paradigms) 



It is our strongly held belief that if your equipment (regardless of cost) or your critical listening skills do not allow you to hear the kinds of sonic differences among pressings we describe, then whether you are just getting started in audio or are a self-identified audio expert writing for the most prestigious magazines and websites, you still have a very long way to go in this hobby.

Purveyors of the old paradigms -- original is better, money buys good sound -- may eventually find their approach to records and equipment unsatisfactory (when it isn't just plain wrong), but they will only do so if they start to rely more on empirical findings and less on convenient theories and received wisdom.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Rubber Soul


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Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Obvious Differences Don't Seem to Register

  (Item #: rimskscheh_reviews) 



There is a newly remastered 33 RPM pressing of the album which has garnered rave reviews in the audiophile press. We have played it and will report our findings at the appropriate time.

Have you noticed that in many of the reviews for the new pressing, the original used for comparison is a Shaded Dog? In our experience almost no Shaded Dog pressings are competitive with the better White Dog pressings, and many of them are just plain awful, as we have mentioned previously on the site. At best one out of three would qualify to be offered as a Hot Stamper; most simply would not make the cut.

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)


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2-Packs

The Best Case for Dramatic Pressing Variations

  (Item #: eagleeagle_2-pack) 



Just today (3/16/15) we put up a White Hot Stamper 2-pack of the Eagles' First Album. One of the two pressings that made up the 2-pack had a killer side two, practically As Good As It Gets.

What was interesting about that particular record was how bad side one was. Side one of that copy -- on the white label, with stampers that are usually killer -- was terrible. The vocals were hard, shrill and spitty. My notes say "CD sound. " When a record sounds like a CD it goes in the trade-in pile, not on our site.

More of the Eagles


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Joni Mitchell Blue

Play The Game, Not the Album

  (Item #: mitchblue_game_2007) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises, one we created all the way back in 2007. If you want to learn more about doing your own shootouts this listing has lots of good advice.

In 2007 we mentioned to our customers that we would not be carrying the new 180 gram Rhino pressing of Blue.

Some people are already upset with us over this decision, actually going so far as to question our motives, if not our sanity. Without a doubt we feel this will end up being the single most controversial stance we've ever taken. I predict that a great number of audiophiles are going to get really upset over our criticism of this new pressing.

More on Joni Mitchell's Masterpiece, Blue


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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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After You've Played 100 Copies of the Album...

What's Left to Learn?

  (Item #: wrong_1410) 



A common misconception of many of those visiting the site for the first time is that we think we know it all.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We definitely don't know it all. We learn something new about records with practically every shootout.

Case in point: the record you do not see pictured to the left. (The record we recently learned something new about -- this, after having played scores and scores of copies over the years -- will remain a secret for the time being. At least until we find another one.)

More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series


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A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers

The More Mistakes the Better, Part Two

  (Item #: mistakes_part_2) 



Wise men and women throughout the ages have commented on the value of making mistakes. Here is one of our favorite quotes on the subject.

If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.

We can thank Tallulah Bankhead for that one. When I think of the 20 odd years (early '70s to early '90s) I wasted trying to figure out how audio works before I had learned to develop critical listening skills, it brings to mind that old Faces' song, "I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger."
Thinking About Hot Stampers


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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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Ambrosia and Its Elusive Hot Stampers

"Press on" - Sage Advice from Calvin Coolidge

  (Item #: ambrosomew_mistake_2014) 



“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Calvin Coolidge

If you substitute "finding Hot Stamper pressings" for the words "the human race" you will surely appreciate the point of this commentary.

More Ambrosia


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A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers

The More Mistakes the Better, Part One

  (Item #: mistakes_part_1) 



I was reading an article on the web recently when I came across an old joke Red Skelton used to tell:

All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner.

Now if you're like me and you play, think and write (hopefully in that order) about records all day, everything sooner or later relates back to records, even a modestly amusing old joke such as this. Making mistakes is fundamental to learning about records, especially if you, like us, believe that most of the received wisdom handed down to record lovers of all kinds is more likely to be wrong than right.

If you don't believe that to be true, then it's high time you really started making mistakes.

Thinking About Hot Stampers


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Table / Arm / Cartridge Set-up Advice

  (Item #: set-up) 



Click here for advice on how to go about adjusting tracking weight, Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA), azimuth, Anti-skate and the like.

This link will take you to more advice for improving the sound of your playback.



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Jellyfish's Bellybutton and Direct Metal Mastering

How Big Is Your Sample Size?

  (Item #: jellybelly_dmm) 



The problem with the typical copy of this record is gritty, grainy, grungy sound -- not the kind that's on the master tape, the kind that's added during the mastering and pressing of the record. When that crap goes away, as it so clearly does on side one of the copy we played recently, it lets you see just how good sounding this record can be. And that means REALLY good sounding.

While during the shootout I had completely forgotten that all the domestic pressings of Bellybutton are direct metal mastered. (The import pressings are clearly made from copy tapes and are to be avoided.) It was only afterwards, when looking for stamper variations, that I noticed the DMM in the dead wax .

See more entries in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series


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Joe Jackson's Jumpin’ Jive

Get Rid of Grit and Grain The Right Way

  (Item #: jacksjumpi_advice) 



Jumpin' Jive is one of the clearest examples of an album where it is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to make sure your stereo is running on good electricity before you make any attempt to play it. This is the kind of recording -- bright, full of energy -- that will bring most stereo systems to their knees. Of course, when you play a good copy and it really sounds good, it's a record that rewards all the time and effort you've put into your system.

So much of the aggressiveness, grit and grain that we hear in immediate, high-energy recordings such as this are really the fault of the electricity feeding the stereo, not the fault of the record or even the equipment used to play it.

More Audio Advice


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Hot Stamper Shootouts

The Four Pillars of Success

  (Item #: shootout_1) 


Finding Hot Stampers is all about doing shootouts with as many copies of the same title as you can get your hands on. There are basically four steps in this process and you have to be successful with all 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.

Thinking About Hot Stampers


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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 followed by 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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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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