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Miles Davis - In Person - Friday Night

Why Pick Nits?

  (Item #: davisinper_nits) 

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

Normally our notes for the sound of the records we are shooting out against each other fall into two categories: what the record is doing right and what the record is doing wrong. You'll note that in this case there was nothing wrong about the sound to write about.

The secret is TUBES - they work their magic on this music like nothing else can.

See more entries in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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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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Turning Skeptics into Believers

One Hot Stamper at a Time

  (Item #: skeptic_1) 

Years ago we received a letter from a fellow on our email list who found our prices for vinyl curious, and which he considered a bygone technology at the time. Can’t say I agree with that assessment. It sure would be nice to demonstrate for him how much better records sound than the supposedly superior technologies that have -- for most people, perhaps even for this gentleman -- replaced them.

Wait, there is a way! A Hot Stamper, 100% Guaranteed to Satisfy or Your Money Back. One click is all it takes. Which is pretty much what I said in my reply to his letter which you can read below.

Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions

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Records We've Played Vs. Records We've Heard

What's the Difference?

  (Item #: playing_vs_hearing_) 

Please note that we should, but often don't, make a vitally important distinction between two words we tend to use interchangeably on the site. There is a difference between the sound of records that we've played and the sound that we've heard.

The stereo, the listening room, our cleaning technologies and who knows what else are all undergoing constant changes. This means that we may have played a better pressing in the past but couldn't hear it sound as good as it does now. The regular improvements we make in all areas of playback make sonic comparisons over time all but meaningless.

More Orchestral Recordings

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Why Didn't Those @!#&/?% Record Companies Produce More Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: santasant1_press) 

A while back we received a letter from a good customer of ours lamenting how rare Hot Stamper pressings are.

Why were so many copies produced without HOT STAMPER sound when it was obviously possible is beyond me and quite frankly upsets me. But that is the way it is.

Our answer can be found below.

See all of our Santana albums in stock

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Stravinsky / The Firebird

What We Say and What We Almost Never Say About the Sound

  (Item #: stravfireb_90226_learn) 

Another entry in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series.

For our recent shootout of The Firebird we had three minty, potentially hot copies of the Mercury with Dorati, as well as our noisy ref. (We have a noisy reference copy for just about every major title by now. We have been doing these shootouts for a very long time. After thirty years in the record business we have accumulated a World Class collection of great sounding records that are just too noisy to sell.)

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

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Ray Charles - The Genius After Hours

Top Quality Remastering Was Possible in 1985

  (Item #: charlthege_remastering) 

Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on records.

Proof positive that there is nothing wrong with remastering vintage recordings if you know what you're doing. These sessions from 1956 (left off of an album that Allmusic liked a whole lot less than this one) were remastered in 1985 and the sound -- on the better copies mind you -- is correct from top to bottom.

More Ray Charles

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Gino Vannelli - Powerful People

The Most You Can Hope For

  (Item #: vannepower_summation) 

Like most of the better audiophile records -- from long ago as well as those being produced today -- the most you can hope for from these reissues is that they can fix a few problems you might be saddled with on the particular pressing you own.

But if you work at it, the "right" plain old record, properly cleaned and played, will show you sound that the audiophile edition can barely begin to reproduce. Having auditioned by the thousands the kinds of records you see on the site, the reality of this truth is irrefutable to us now, and has been for a very long time. Our customers know exactly what we are talking about; they've heard it for themselves. That's why they keep coming back.

More Gino Vannelli

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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.


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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Conversation of the Week (2008)

... they seemed to be incredulous! ...

  (Item #: Schopenhauer_2016) 

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident."

Arthur Schopenhauer

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Elton John - Elton John

Live and Learn

  (Item #: john_elton_learn) 

A classic case of Live and Learn. Scroll down to read what we learned from our recent shootout. To illustrate how the game is played we’ve copied some of the previous commentary into this listing to show the change in our understanding from 2004 to today.

Folks, if you’re looking for Classic Rock that appeals to adults with sophisticated tastes forty plus years after it was made, this is the album for you.

More Elton John

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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

with The Beatles

  (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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Graham Nash's Wild Tales

and Their Mysteries Many and Deep

  (Item #: nash_wildt_wtlf) 

What hurts so many pressings of this album is a lifeless, compressed quality and a frustrating lack of presence.

Were the stampers a bit worn for those copies? Or was it bad vinyl that couldn't hold the energy of the stamper? Or perhaps some stampers just weren't cut right? These are mysteries, and they are mysteries that will always be mysteries, if for no other reason than that the number of production variables hopelessly intertwined at the moment of creation can never be teased apart no matter how hard one thinks about them.

As we like to say at every turn, thinking is really not much help with regard to finding better sounding records.

More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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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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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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Is the Average Record Really Worthless?

We Do the Math (So You Don’t Have To)

  (Item #: bloodblood_average) 

What follows is an excerpt from a much older letter in which the writer made the case, as best he could, that spending lots of money on records is foolish when for a dollar one can buy a perfectly good record at a thrift store and get exactly the same music and decent enough sound.

We think this is silly and, with a few rough calculations, a heavy dose of self-promotion and not a little bullying, we set out to prove that the average record is worthless. Prepare to confront our sophistic logic. (Yes, we are well aware that our reasoning is specious, but it's no more specious than anybody else's reasoning about records, so there.)

More Blood, Sweat & Tears

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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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Dirty Little Secrets of the Record Biz, Part 2

Master Tape? Yeah, Right

  (Item #: nevermind_2_tapes) 

Let me ask you one question. If so many of the current labels making 180 gram reissues are using the real master tapes -- the real two-track stereo masters, not dubs, not cutting masters, not high-resolution digital copies, but the real thing -- then why do so many of their records sound so bad?

If you're honest you'll say "I Don't Know..." because, and here I want you to trust me on this, you don't know. I don't know either. Nobody does.

More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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Turning Skeptics into Believers

One Record at a Time

  (Item #: skeptic_2014) 

We recently received this letter from a fellow on our email list who finds our prices for vinyl curious, and which he considers a bygone technology at this point in time. Can’t say I agree with that assessment. It sure would be nice to demonstrate for him how much better records sound than the supposedly superior technologies that have -- for most people, perhaps even for this gentleman -- replaced them.

Wait, there is a way! A Hot Stamper, 100% Guaranteed to Satisfy or Your Money Back. One click is all it takes. Which is pretty much what I said in my reply to his letter below.

  more Info

Confirmation Bias

Why You Won’t Hear What You Don’t Want to Hear

  (Item #: loggisitti_bias) 

After doing our first shootout for this album a few years back I can honestly say I had never heard this music sound remotely as good as it did on the best Hot Stamper pressings. More importantly, from an audiophile point of view, I can honestly say that I never imagined it could sound as good as I was hearing it. The sound was just OUT OF THIS WORLD.

It’s why we link the Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary to so many of our Hot Stamper listings. The revolutionary changes we discuss are precisely what make it possible for any audiophile (this means you) to hear better sound than you ever imagined for all your favorite albums.

All you have to do is do all the stuff we do.

More Loggins and Messina

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The Music of Leonard Bernstein

Hot Stampers Revealed

  (Item #: bernsmusic_stampers) 

Looking to pick up a Hot Stamper locally on your own? Easy -- all the best Decca and London copies (UK pressed only of course) are 1L on both sides. I suppose it's only fair to point out that all the worst copies are 1L on both sides, the reason being that all the copies are 1L on both sides, regardless of how they sound. And here you thought we were actually trying to be helpful.

But we are being helpful. We're being honest with you. Stamper numbers are often misleading. They're misleading in the same way that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The numbers only tell a part of the story, and more often than not they tell the wrong part of the story.

More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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Cat Stevens Albums - Lee Hulko Cut Them All

Good, Bad and Otherwise

  (Item #: steveteafo_hulko) 

Is the Pink Label Island original pressing THE way to go? That’s what Harry Pearson -- not to mention most audiophile record dealers -- would have you believe.

But it’s just not true. And that’s good news for you, Dear (Record Loving Audiophile) Reader.

See all of our Cat Stevens albums in stock

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Heavy Vinyl Production

And the Unpredictability of Random Processes

  (Item #: stochastic) 

Those in the business of producing the highest quality remastered recordings on LP are crashing smack into a problem fundamentally unavoidable in the manufacturing of the vinyl record -- randomness.

Record producers can control many of the processes (variables) that go into the making of a high quality record. But they cannot control all of them. The word for such a situation, one with random, uncontrollable aspects, is "stochastic."

See more entries in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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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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... finding the HOLY GRAIL copy...

  (Item #: ambroambro_testimonial) 

Our good customer Ed likes doing his own shootouts, and to that we say Hear Hear -- more power to ya. He had about a dozen copies of Ambrosia's debut on hand and thought he might actually have one or two that were pretty special. Then he popped for one of our Super Hot Stamper copies and heard why we've been such big fans of the album. Here is his story.
More Ambrosia

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The Dirty Little Secret of the Record Biz Part 3

Hits That Are Made from Dub Tapes

  (Item #: nevermind_3) 

The sound of some songs on some greatest hits albums can be BETTER than the sound of those very same songs on the best original pressings.

How can that be you ask, dumbfounded by the sheer ridiculousness of such a statement? Well, dear reader, I'll tell you. It's a dirty little secret in the record biz that sometimes the master for the presumptive Hit Single (or singles) is pulled from the album's final two track master mix tape and used to make the 45 single, the idea being that the single is what people are going to hear on the radio and want to buy, or, having heard it sound so good on the radio, go out and buy the album.

More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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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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Santana's Tubey Magic

Is It Really Just a Matter of EQ?

  (Item #: santainner_tubeymagic) 

This listing for a Hot Stamper of Inner Secrets has extensive commentary addressing two somewhat controversial subjects: tube vs. transistor mastering, and the playing of music at very loud levels.

One of the most interesting findings to come out of this comparison was the idea that some copies had tubey magic, especially in the midrange, while some sounded more like they were mastered using transistor equipment. The sound was more along the lines of what you would expect from a mid-’70s rock record made by a major label like Columbia: a bit more presence in the vocals; a little more grain; sound that’s not quite as rich and sweet, etc.

More Santana

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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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A Skeptical Approach to The Audio Game

In Other Words, Prove It

  (Item #: skeptic) 

I am first and foremost a skeptic. I belong to skeptical organizations, subscribe to numerous skeptic magazines and love to read books on science and skepticism. (I get a lot more out of these publications than I do the audiophile rags, that's for damn sure.) This philosophy has come in very handy in the world of audio, where most of what passes for better sound is anything but.
More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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Audiophilia 101

What Kind of Audio Fool Was I?

  (Item #: audiophile101) 

Today’s audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making as a budding audiophile more than thirty years ago. Heavy Viny, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition -- aren’t these all just the latest audiophile fads, each with a track record progressively more dismal than the next?
See more commentaries on Record Collecting

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Building a Store of Knowledge

One Record at a Time

  (Item #: knowledge) 

We recently ran across the commentary below in a reply to a Hot Stamper testimonial for Honky Cat. Based on our own experience, we give a quick and dirty primer on how one can build up one’s knowledge of records, stampers, labels, pressing variations and the like.

We don’t really give out much in the way of specific information about any of those things; we just tell you how it can be done. It’s your job to go out and do it. It's simple; just follow our lead. How tough can it be?

See more commentaries on Record Collecting

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Can This Machine Turn YOUR Records into Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: rcm) 

The short answer is of course not. (Maybe "you wish" might be more to the point, but there's no need to rub it in so we won't even go there.)

A bad record is a bad record no matter how clean it is. Most record collections are swimming in mediocre-at-best LPs (especially collections made up of audiophile pressings) and no machine can fix bad mastering from bad tapes pressed on bad vinyl, or any combination thereof.

More Audio Advice

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Which One's Pink?

And What Do All Those Numbers Mean?

  (Item #: stampers) 

An erstwhile customer sent us an email a while back asking this question: "What is the FULL stamper matrix for this record... all the way around the dead wax?"

I replied that we never give out stamper numbers for the records we sell. The only way to find out the stampers for our records is to buy them. And while we're on the subject, you might enjoy reading this commentary I wrote a while back pointing out how misleading the matrix numbers can be: The Book of Hot Stampers.

  more Info

A Frequently Asked Question

What Exactly Are Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: hot) 

Hot Stampers are pressings that sound dramatically better than the average LP.. Discovering these extraordinary records and making them available to the music loving public is the work of every member of the staff here at Better Records.

Here we lay out the basics of how we go about Finding Hot Stampers. The most important thing to keep in mind is this: if we can do it, you can do it.

We also have two FAQ sections: one for general questions about the business end of things, and one to answer your questions about Hot Stampers in more detail.

More Shootout Advice

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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.

Straight Answers to Your Hot Stamper Questions

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The Dirty Little Secret of the Record Biz

  (Item #: nevermind) 

The dirty little secret of the audiophile record biz is that record dealers can’t possibly know for certain what the sound quality is for any sealed record they sell, audiophile vinyl or otherwise. They turn a blind eye to the fact that some copies are simply not going to measure up to the sound of the review copy that they might have auditioned and described.

But wait a minute. That’s giving much too much credit to audiophile record dealers.

Thinking About Hot Stampers

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The Science of Hot Stampers

Incomplete, Imperfect, and (Gulp!) Provisional

  (Item #: wrong_) 

We have a section on the website you may have seen called Live and Learn. This section (50+ strong!) is devoted to the discussion of records we think we got, uh, wrong.

Oh yes, it's true. But it’s not really a problem for us here at Better Records. We see no need to cover up our mistakes. The process of learning involves recognizing and correcting previous errors. Approached scientifically, all knowledge — in any field, not just record collecting or music reproduction — is incomplete, imperfect, and must be considered provisional.

What seems true today might easily be proven false tomorrow.

See more entries in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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