Broke protocol and read a post and so let me offer my condolences, and compliments, having to go to all that trouble only to wind up corroborating every single thing I have been saying. Sometimes darn near word for word. Way to go, guppy.
Showing 50 responses by millercarbon
I have two questions for @millercarbon:I use the Walker Enzyme 4step -
1. Normal detergent type wash.
2. Walker Enzyme wash.
3-4. Rinse, rinse.
This was recommended to me by Tom Port. This is what he uses on all his records. Main difference being he uses a very expensive RCM while mine are by hand. I do use a VPI 16.5 but only to suck off the final 2 rinses. The process I use does include a rinse between the washes but it isn’t really a true rinse just tap water so I don’t count that. Also wipe partially dry with a clean towel after each of the first two steps.
Before this I used Disc Doctor. Walker is quite a bit better and if I am honest probably accounts for a fair amount of the difference between a Hot Stamper and any normal audiophiles good clean record. Nowhere near to what some have claimed, that this is all it is, but it is there.
The Walker system is expensive if you buy the full kit. Refills are much cheaper. So I bought the refills, use my own brushes, use my own distilled water, and get virtually all the same results as the kit for a fraction of the price. I am way more frugal than anyone would ever expect of a guy willing to spend $400 on a record. I will spend- but only when I have to, and only when it’s worth it.
2. You’ve mentioned Raven Audio and I am very intrigued by that company. I have a Prima Luna Dialogue HP Premium integrated that I have really enjoyed. Recognizing that Prima Luna is Chinese made while Raven is U.S. made, what are some of the other differences between comparable models from each company? I would prefer to buy U.S. made but that factor alone is not enough for me to switch. Would love to hear your thoughts and those of others.
Without hearing them side by side it is hard to say exactly how they differ. I can tell you though I do not prefer Raven simply because they are made in Texas!
There is a tendency when looking at tube amps to focus on the tubes. Everyone does it. Until you mod a few and then gradually over time determine what really sets them apart is the transformers. The one thing nobody can do anything about and yet it is the beating heart of a tube amp. I don’t know for sure about PL but would bet you a bundle theirs are made in China. The Raven on the other hand are built here in the USA and if you watch the video you can see the look on Dave Thomas’s face when he talks about how this was the one thing he knew they had to do was use those transformers.
So that’s one. Here by the way is the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gcd76DZmbdY I will summarize a few of the high points.
Next to transformers we have connections. Amps made in China are hand soldered. Hand soldering is a skill. It looks simple but it takes great skill to perform a quality solder connection. There’s a point, if not this video then another, where Dave talks about the different levels of quality and what it costs at each level. The really high quality work is more expensive even in China.
Then there is the solder used. People prefer silver solder because of the sound. But consider what this means- even solder has a sound! Use the same solder everywhere and this sound imparts to the component. So Raven uses silver solder, but different types, not all the same solder throughout the amp.
Same for resistors. They use all the same top brands as everyone including PL. Very good high quality resistors. That each impart their own sonic signature. Dave has found by listening that using the same brand resistor three times in a circuit begins to color the sound. So he mixes them up.
At this point I have to ask, have you ever even heard a manufacturer of anything talk about their obsession with sound quality and going into such detail? I know from talking to Keith Herron and some others that it is done. Not saying Dave Thompson is the only one on planet Earth doing this. Which one of the haters will leap at in an instant. Not saying that at all. Just pointing this out as something I consider highly relevant in deciding what to buy.
We’re talking tube amps here so we have to talk tubes. Dave Thompson has socked away a huge collection of very high quality NOS tubes. He is the tube equivalent of a vintner with the finest wines from all over the world stashed down in his cellar. Listen to the part of the video where he talks about how they thought it would be one tube but listening tests led them to select another. Compare to PL where they treat tubes as totally interchangeable.
That right there is a key difference. I’m no amp designer but I know enough to understand there are tradeoffs in everything. You build an amp to allow plugging in any tube any condition anywhere you pretty much automatically build an amp that is not optimized for any tube any condition any time. Raven does make the Osprey for people who want to try tube rolling - and with Dave’s extensive selection you will not be shooting in the dark but with his sage guidance. The Osprey can be user-modified to run a lot of different tubes, something Dave can help you do over the phone.
What else? Powder coating. Hard to tell on video but those who have seen them in person are impressed.
Maybe one of the biggest reasons I would go with Raven is I know who I’m dealing with: Dave Thompson. No it is not exactly a one man show but basically it is Dave Thompson. Who is PL? Does anyone even know? Are they Belgian? Chinese? Kevin Deal? Face it, PL is a multi-national corporation with so many layers you never will know.
So like I said before, I do an awful lot of research and due diligence before putting my hard earned dollars on the line.
Not asking anyone to switch. I myself have a Melody, same deal, designed in Australia, made in China. Bought 15 years ago, before the narrative was totally discredited. Now fortunately there’s ample reasons of pure sound and build quality to choose Raven. Being made right here in the USA is just the icing on the cake.
pgueeze- Don't wait, you WILL regret it! The one I saw 6 months ago was only listed a couple days and when I saw it, sold! Then 6 months goes by and NOTHING! Mine is A+++ across both sides. The one listed now is very close to that. I have some just like it, A+++ on one side, A++ and a half on the other. You will never know. But that slight half a + lowers the price considerably! Mine cost $400. This one only $250! Very close, for a lot less.
The smooth, rich, deep detail, layers and layers, you won't believe. MoFi is pathetic. Parsons created one of the great recordings of all time. But you will never know it till you hear it.
For years I bought the hype of MFSL and other reissues being audiophile quality. For sure these were almost always much higher quality vinyl. Surface noise was indeed very quiet. This was easy to hear, and good enough to keep me convinced. For years, decades, I was quite certain the only difference between a good and a bad pressing was this sort of obvious noise. If there were no warps, skips or pops then it must be perfect. Right?
Then I started to notice, quite by accident, that cut-outs sounded a lot better than most other records. Cut-outs are where the cover is cut, a notch or a corner, sometimes also with a sticker or embossed with the warning Promotional Not For Resale or something similar. These would go to radio stations and such and tended to be among the earliest copies pressed.
If you know anything about records at all you should know they use a stamper to literally stamp out copies. Well obviously over time the stamper is going to wear out. Equally obviously the finest most subtle details will be the first to go. So no wonder the early pressings sound better.
Unfortunately there are no serial numbers or other markings to know which are early and which are late. Some people make a big deal of the scribbles in the "hot wax" which is typically insider engineer type info. This tells you almost nothing in terms of sound quality. Might help weed out the crap stampers but it will not help at all to identify the really good sounding copies.
One way I know for sure is by comparing some of my old records to the Hot Stampers. In every case so far they are absolutely identical. Only one way to tell them apart- play and listen. Then it becomes obvious. Absolutely unambiguously obvious.
Probably what happens is the first few hundred copies have pretty much all the detail that ever was on the stamper. These are White Hot Stampers. Then gradually over time as this detail wears away they are producing Super Hot Stampers, and then Hot Stampers. From that point on, from say a thousand to a hundred thousand, are all the vast majority of what we consider "good" pressings.
This is all assuming everything else is up to snuff. One tiny detail anywhere not quite right and it won’t matter how new the stamper or how good the engineering. Which details? Wish we knew. Something tells me even Tom Port, who being in the business he is probably knows more than anyone, never really knows for sure. Record pressing is after all very much like making virtuoso violins, where details as fine as what pigments were used in the varnish wind up influencing the resulting sound. The craftsmen who ran those old record machines are about as long gone as Stradivari himself- and their secrets gone with them.
That at least is how I figure it. This would explain how it is that even as obsessed an audiophile as Chad Kassem who bought an entire lathe and pressing plant and had it relocated and restored like some fine work of art, even he does not seem to be able to match some of these old records. Which is amazing, considering they were the CD of their day.
The info on Better-records.com is spot on. There are always exceptions, sure. But for the most part it really does come down to a choice- you can have quiet vinyl, or you can have tubey magic. Quiet vinyl we have in abundance. Tubey magic they just don't seem to be able to make any more.
The last MoFi I bought will probably be the last MoFi I ever buy. Year of the Cat on MoFi is so stepped on, so devoid of life and presence and detail I sent it off to Tom for entertainment value. Some clown on discogs thought it was worth $20! Pure crap, even compared to my random average beat up played a million times copy. My White Hot Stamper is expected to be delivered tomorrow. I can hardly wait!
Having never heard a Hot Stamper, I would say that, yes, this is excessive. However, I may change my mind once I do hear one.
That's the idea. That is why they have a no-questions 100% money back guarantee.
My first was Fleetwood Mac Rumours. Already had 3 copies- original release, Nautilus half-speed mastered, and a "audiophile" 45 RPM reissue. When I heard the White Hot Stamper it was so much better it was hard to believe. Still, $300, come on! Let Tom know yeah it is good but not worth $300. No problem, you can return it. Just like that.
Only funny thing, could not bring myself to ship it back. Sat there one week, two. Finally, okay, it has to go back. But just one more play first. Then it hit me: no way! No way you are sending this back! Nothing else on the shelf sounds this good!
Had a guy up from Portland last year, loves Fleetwood Mac, had me play him 2 tracks from the 45. "That's gonna be hard to beat!" he says. Then we listen to the same 2 from my White Hot Stamper. "Wow. You were right." It had been a while since I played the 45. Was really happy with the sound, it was the best yet- until I got used to the sound of A+++. Playing it for him, was actually hard to take. It is that big a difference.
Do you truly believe that out of the hundreds of thousands of records that are pressed of a title, that only a handful are of these magical sounding copies.
Yes. Demonstrably true. The Fleetwood Mac A+++ above is head and shoulders better than three other copies, two of them so-called "audiophile" pressings. I have many, many examples now. These records have been scrutinized down to the hot wax and Tom's Stampers are identical. So it definitely is the case that some copies simply sound way, way better than others.
Also, one of the first things I did even before ordering was my own shootout of records I had multiple copies of. Sure enough, they were not all the same! Most of them were very close. But there were ones where one copy had way more presence and detail than the other. There were ones where one copy sounded really, really good, except it was spitty with sibilance. So it is absolutely incontrovertibly true that record companies do not stamp out identical copies.
So for the most part record companies stamp out nothing but inferior copies and only a few are of high quality and worth listening to. Yea right!
This is the logical fallacy of the straw man. Never said most records aren't worth listening to. In fact if you read the OP it clearly says Clair deLune sounds great. Totally worth listening to. Just nowhere near as good as a Hot Stamper. I realize it might be a bit much to get your mind around, but the world is not nearly so cartoony black and white as you make it out to be.
I bought a hot stamper from Better Records, Supertramps Breakfast in America. I own a test pressing of the album that sounds better and an original pressing that I purchased when the album was released which sounds just as good as the hot stamper.
That's great. But I have to wonder. Most who actually bought one know Hot Stampers are graded. You do not buy a "hot stamper". You buy A+ (Hot Stamper), A++ Super Hot Stamper, or A+++ White Hot Stamper. They are even graded by side. Often times one will be A++ on one side, A+++ on the other.
These differences might not be readily apparent. If your system, or ears, are not up to it you might not notice at all.
Tom has some great tips scattered around his site. Things like the importance of warming up and demagnetizing. Most of it I already knew about but wasn't doing that often. Now in the last year since Tom made me more aware there is now a whole ritual series undertaken before serious listening sessions. Which with me almost all are serious listening sessions.
You might want to review some of this and see if it helps.
The reason why Better Records may sound better than the copy you own is because it is cleaned to perfection! Every bit of dirt, gunk, smoke residue or whatever else is found in a record groove has been removed.
This is certainly true, to an extent. Tom uses and recommends the Walker Enzyme 4 Step. After hearing how good his Stampers sound I changed to Walker. Sure enough, it is a big improvement over Disc Doctor, or whatever I had before. I'm using the same brushes just changing the cleaning solutions to Walker. The difference is all in the solutions, and the Walker are superior.
However, there's a lot more to a Hot Stamper than mere cleaning. The 45 was cleaned the same way. All my records now are cleaned with Walker. I do the full 4 steps, only the final rinse is on a VPI vs what Tom uses. They are pretty darn clean. It is not that simple.
Whart raises a good point and something I had to think about a lot. Stereo Review used to have this standard format for music reviews where they would rate the recording and the performance. The recording being the record/playback part of how it sounds. The performance being the quality of the music. Two very different things.
Hot Stampers add another level to this because now in addition to the quality of the recording we are also now giving weight to the quality of the pressing, as something distinctly separate and different from the recording. That is to say you can have an absolutely fabulous pressing, but if the recording quality (reference the master tape) is poor it is not going to suddenly magically improve just by being pressed real good. Stones, cough cough, Springsteen...
Read through enough of the descriptions on better-records.com you will find this mentioned, and even some full articles expanding on it. This came up with my second one Peter Gabriel, So. A completely different sounding recording from Rumours yet also crazy good. Way better than I ever heard it anywhere else.
The Beatles Help, Elton John GBYBR, Honky Chateau, these are not going to magically transform into audiophile reference material. They do however sound so much better than anything I ever heard before it is literally like taking a step back in time to be there in the studio with them. Elton is right there in front of me, easily as spooky real as any other vocal on any really good recording. Nilsson Schmilsson, now there is a bona fide audiophile reference! Some of these tracks it is flat-out insane how good they sound. Transform your system, they will!
Several times now this level of improved sound quality has allowed me to really enjoy some music way more than I ever thought possible. Classical for example was one that was always sort of there on the shelf but never with any real desire to play. Now the 1812 is so emotionally powerful I can’t explain. It just is!
This is another area where Tom shines. This particular recording, he noted that not only is it A+++ quality, it is also (in his opinion) one of the best performances. Not being into classical that long I couldn’t say but the feeling comes across in the performance, for sure.
There’s definitely two sorts of audiophiles, the ones who enjoy listening to everything in the world once, and ones like me who crave spellbinding, have a hard time finding it, but when we do are happy to play it over and over again. A highly specialized market niche, for sure.
A common thing posted all over the site is something along the lines of only one in 20 copies is Hot Stamper quality. This is probably true for Tom. Based on my experience however it is probably more like one in 100.
Tom Port does not personally go around scouring record stores for Hot Stampers. He has people all over the country who know a Hot Stamper is worth real money. So when these folks find a gem they can sell for $20 on discogs vs $50 or more to Tom, guess where they go?
Which I know from having bought a record from a guy who has sold to Tom. So this guy, he scours around and does the same thing. He probably went through 20 copies of Steve Miller Book of Dreams to find the one he sold me, claiming it was Hot Stamper quality. Well it was awfully good, and after cleaning it up properly was probably right about Hot Stamper quality. Not A+++ for sure, but maybe A+.
But that's not the point. The point is he went through a whole lot of copies before finding this one. This is probably the case for all the copies sent to Tom. When Tom does a shoot-out with say 20 copies and says only one in 20 is White Hot, that is 1 in 20 out of 1 in 20, which is actually 1 in 400.
Some of them like Year of the Cat, the same guy who got me Book of Dreams said it is very hard to find a good copy of YOTC. A lot of records are like that. If they were popular then a lot of copies, which means a lot were stamped out which means a lot of worn stampers. Also means a lot of people playing them a lot. My copy of Honky Chateau is really surprisingly quiet, until you get to Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters which sounds like it was played a million times.
The interesting change of pace on this topic is that, AFAIK, this is the first time I have come across a thread expressing support for Better Records business model. The typical thread on this topic is a negative thread upset at their pricing structure.
What I found interesting is Tom tells me that years ago they used to have to charge much more. Because cleaning and listening, doing shoot-outs consumes so much time, and for the volume they were selling they had to charge a lot more. As volume grew he has been able to afford a professional cleaning machine, people and facilities to improve efficiency. With this he has actually been able to lower prices, a lot.
Which usually I am pretty good with business economics, and figuring the dwindling supply of choice records must make finding them harder and therefore more expensive, this came as a surprise. But it shows once again ingenuity and quality wins in the end.
As far as the prices being "too high" besides audio I've been into high end cars, watches, bicycles, telescopes, marine invertebrate aquariums, and probably half a dozen others my tired old brain is forgetting just now. I have yet to find the niche where the people hooked aren't complaining about the high cost of entry. In other words, situation normal.
Thru this post, reading each one, no one mentioned the secret trail-off codes.
No one that is except the OP himself:
Some people make a big deal of the scribbles in the "hot wax" which is typically insider engineer type info. This tells you almost nothing in terms of sound quality. Might help weed out the crap stampers but it will not help at all to identify the really good sounding copies.arizonabob again-
Even if you’re lucky enough to find that 1A stamper, how was it treated in it’s former life (assuming buying a ’pre-owned’ copy)?
They are all pre-owned, bob. Logically impossible not to be, if you think about it, since playing is the only way to judge, therefore they are all used records.
Might want to spend some time on the site checking it out. The info is scattered around and not always easy to find what you want, but altogether represents an incredible treasure trove of how to get the most out of your system and records, how to listen and evaluate, and not only in terms of sound quality but also what you just mentioned, condition. All Hot Stampers are graded both for sound quality and condition.
There’s standard text on every single item saying these are old records, Mint - - is about the best they ever are. In addition to this, anything more than normal groove wear type noise is always noted. There will be a comment like, "a soft pop plays 6 times at the beginning of track 2" or some such. There are also sometimes what they call "White Hot With Issues" which means A+++ sound quality but a scratch, tic or pop, some kind of issue that would probably make them toss a lesser quality record except for the rest of it sounding so good.
These things are incredibly highly particularized. In the first place they are not for casual listeners. Who cares? Why do you think so many people stream? They want to hear a lot of different crap! In that case as Obi Wan would say these are not the records you are looking for. They even go so far as to rate them side by side, and sometimes with the issues thing even track by track.
One time I ordered INXS and it was A+++ on side 1, A++ on side two. Before shipping they said sorry our mistake it is the other way around. Well my favorite song on there, one of my main reasons for getting it, just went from White to Super Hot. So I passed. (They would also have been happy to let me return it.) It is easy to imagine someone who wants a record really bad for one great song they absolutely love, and they find it and get a great deal because the record has "Issues" but the issue is a track they don’t care about. Score!
Digitizing vinyl? Ugh...it defeats the whole purpose of buying vinyl.
Correct. The thing with vinyl, the noise is of a nature that is obvious and easy for anyone to hear. Even the most rudimentary novice audiophile, if the pop is loud enough, they will hear it. The thing with digital, the noise is interwoven right into the signal. This greatly annoys skilled experienced discerning listeners, those who have refined their knowledge base of all the different ways music can sound good or bad. For us digital is far noisier than vinyl. But most have a hard time explaining how, typically falling back on stuff like vinyl is warmer. The disciples of digits then seize on this and say we like it cuz it's colored. Whatever. Point is you digitize records you get the worst of both worlds: obvious surface noise and insidious digital noise.
Lol, upgrading equipment before looking to upgrade vinyl? Nope! A bad sounding pressing is a bad sounding pressing, no matter what you play it on! Get a pressing that sounds right and its magical!
Exactly. Why I was chasing down the best sounding recordings even as far back as the 1970's. Technics, Kenwood, JBL and lamp cord. Not even a detachable power cord. Because there were none back then. But with the right record we were spellbound. Literally. Friend and I sat up one night listening to the Crime of the Century MoFi and on a rowdy college campus (WSU) for 40 minutes we were in our own little world.
Imagine if someone told me back then, a guy will come along find ordinary copies that sound ten times better than this MoFi, which frankly is hopelessly stepped on. Would have been every bit as skeptical then as a lot of these guys are now. So I get it. But it's true.
I believe the pressing of 1812 MC is referring to is this one:
Just went and looked to be sure and yes, that's the one. The performance is terrific. Use the Walker Enzyme 4step method to get the most out of it. Then if you like it enough to try a White Hot like mine will blow your mind! For only about 12 times the price too! 😂😂 Damn they are expensive! But then you hear what one does, it is like a whole system upgrade. Beyond a whole system upgrade. Which makes it a bargain, I guess.
I get where you're coming from. In most people's experience the difference between pressings, unless you get a really bad one, the differences in actual sound quality are very slight. That is not what we are talking about here. The difference between what you would consider the best copy you ever heard and a White Hot Stamper is not, "Okay, yes, I think I hear a difference, yes it is slightly better." That is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about, "Wait, you're telling me that's the same record? Let me look at that! No way. No freaking way! That is insane how good that sounds! I never heard anything like that from any record anywhere ever! Where did you get that? Seriously. Tell me the truth!"
Uh, he listens and finds the best.
"No way! I don't believe it! This is not even close!"
The words, "slight difference" never come up. Ever.
I tested the waters of Better Records and bought one of the lower priced offerings and was not really blown away but it does sound quite good.
A fair assessment. The least expensive Hot Stampers (A+) are quite good. Probably better than most records you ever heard but I could easily imagine having ones in the collection that are every bit as good.
Super Hot (A++) are quite a bit better than that. The ones I have are all head and shoulders above what I had before. The ones that really shine though are White Hot (A+++) these cost a small fortune and sometimes depending on the original source recording frankly may not be worth it. What something is worth depends entirely on your love for the music and the sound quality. What I mean is no matter how good the pressing you can only get to where the master tape was, and that will be that, and they are not all created equal.
Where it really gets mind blowing is when it all comes together. Like Tom Petty Souther Accents, one I really liked the music but never really thought the recording quality was that great. Until I get a White Hot and oh my God this is one of the best records, EVER!!! Had no idea. None whatsoever. Shelley Youkas or whatever his name was, the recording engineer, man he got it dynamic, punchy, extended, and beyond spread out wide and deep this is a total tour de force demo disk!
Or Nilsson Schmilsson, Coconut, holy crap! I defy anyone to bring me their copy of either of these and put them up against my White Hot Stampers and not be confessing, apologizing, and back-pedaling big time.
We got so much snow here in Redmond UPS is not delivering and so I have to make do with writing about it. Arrgh!
I’ve heard plenty of Better Records’ "White Hot Stampers." As MC says, they are simply amazing. When played back on a highly resolving system, there is nothing like them. These recordings go back a long way, back into the early 1940s mono era, to the great modern stereo recordings that we are all familiar with. Once you hear them, especially on a highly resolving system, you will be on the hunt for them yourself.
That’s what happened with Mike when he came up from Portland the first time. Played his favorite tracks from Fleetwood Mac Rumours first on the 45 and then my White Hot Stamper.
He was seriously impressed with the 45. "That’s gonna be hard to beat," he said.
Before this I had been telling him how the Better-records.com experience has changed my point of view. I used to think the smart thing to do was put all the emphasis on making the system sound great, because then everything sounds better. Which is true. But listen to a few White Hot Stampers, it is a game changer. Now the question becomes, Why put all this time and effort into a great system only to play mediocre recordings? Why indeed. Now I feel like, why would I want to waste my time on crap when I can be listening to treasure?
Of course it is one thing to talk, quite another to actually experience. After hearing his same two tracks on my White Hot Stamper he said, "Well, you were right. Definitely worth the money."
It’s not just a better record. It’s a better system. More to the point, it’s a better musical experience.
The one I got from your friend, Steve Miller Book of Dreams, it was supposed to be Hot Stamper quality level. I’m not complaining, it is a little better than my other random Steve Miller pressing. Once I cleaned it up real good. Put it in a proper sleeve. Then with a better cover it would be pretty close to Hot Stamper level. Like I said, not complaining. I didn’t pay Hot Stamper price either. Just giving a fair Assessment.
Because until you hear one it is pretty much impossible to explain. Here we have a guy who lives for this kind of thing, has even sold some to Tom, so for sure he knows quality. Yet still there is a big gap between what he thinks is a Hot Stamper and what you actually get with the real deal.
Besides off the charts sound quality they are also impeccably clean, in a new high end sleeve, with a cover that is at least mint (one of them was still in the original shrink wrap!) and the whole thing in a heavy vinyl sleeve, along with their business card with the A+++ ratings on it. For each side.
That is another thing that blew my mind. I never dreamed the album covers would be so minty perfect!
But of course as you said, a highly resolving system helps. As we both know, thanks to Krissy neither of us has any problem there! 😉😍
A lot of my early audiophile years were spent needlessly worrying about my oh so fragile vinyl. So all my records were dubbed to open reel tape. At 7.5ips my Pioneer RT-1011L was very good, but if you sat and listened in a quiet room it was still pretty impressive how much better the record sounded. Tape is good. Records? Spellbinding.
Dubbing was nice. It allowed me to listen to more music with fewer interruptions, and kept my valuable records safe from harm at wild parties, of which there were quite a few back then. One guy shattered my turntable dust cover when he nearly passed out after a big bong hit.
So it’s not like there’s no value in dubbing to tape. But, digital? To quote Brando https://youtu.be/VKcAYMb5uk4?t=8
Seriously though, all these people worrying about record wear, this is like not driving a new GT3 for fear of rock chips. Reality check: it was made to drive. Records are made to play. So play them. Over and over again.
Yeah, like I said, no pressing can be any better than the master tape. Elvis and Carly Simon are probably like the Beatles and Elton John, they can sound pretty darn good but never really amazing because the recordings themselves were never really amazing. That is why I have avoided buying Springsteen and the Stones, it is just too well known that their recording values suck.
Although to be honest I have almost bought Darkness on the Edge of Town, it was mastered at The Mastering Lab in LA and while I am not certain it was by the famous Doug Sax just the electronics alone at that place count for a lot.
This raises another reason why I am so keen on Tom Port and Better-Records.com I had already started noticing many years ago that certain recording and mastering engineers had superior sound. Even as far back as Styx Equinox, which was one of the first where I really liked the sound way back in the 70's. Years later when I started making the connection, looking at the album sure enough there is Mastering Lab in the credits.
Tom Port has noticed this same thing and has a bunch of mentions of this peppered all over his site. Most of us know Alan Parsons but it wasn't until Tom that I was aware he had mastered Year of the Cat. Tom discovers new stuff too, as mentioned before Shelley Youkas work on Southern Accents.
This kind of knowledge deepens appreciation and also the connections help improve your odds of finding a really good recording. I am not into Elvis enough to know for sure, but most all these artists be they Elvis, Sinatra, Torme or whoever, they all made many different records and not all with the same engineer.
Unfortunately while his site has a wealth of information the articles are pretty well scattered around, with a lot of the comments "buried" in particular record reviews. What worked for me, spent a lot of time browsing, reading comments, reading suggested articles, just kind of wandering around.
It's not the best site to go for an impulse purchase. But it is a great site to use the other way- study, take your time, think about every aspect of what you are buying. With Rumours for example, I knew that was one I had since it came out, timeless tunes, awesome quality, already spent $$ on three copies, always worth the improvement. So I knew the quality was there on the master and that made it easy.
Nobody knows quite what qualities you are looking for but you. The trick is to take what you know, study what Tom has on the site, and only buy when all the stars align. It is not, repeat not, for everyone. Even when it is, not every record is. Kind of like the Porsche 911, even though it is the best car in the history of cars, not for everyone. And even when it is, then they still have to agonize - C4S? GT3? Turbo S? Horses for courses.
And speaking of Fleetwood Mac’s "Rumours," I may have sent you a "special" CD of it. If so, get out your old Oppo and compare it with your White Hot Stamper. You may be pleasantly surprised. :-)Yes you did Frank, and I tried it, and it was an interesting experience. Because on the one hand I could tell the source was indeed something special. But while special, it was still the Oppo.
How to explain? Let's see. Imagine you sent me Jennifer Warnes. No not some really good recording. Jennifer Warnes, herself. Wow, how great is that!?! So we go into my listening room and I sit down and just as she is about to sing from out of her pocket comes a garden hose. WTF? Oh, didn't he say? I can only sing through this garden hose. Unless you have a blanket or pillow? Then I can go in the other room and sing with that over my face. But no actual in-person singing.
Of course I would keep her around for the company- and thanks a lot for that! But I would listen to the record.
Love Springsteen songs. One of the very best live acts ever. Well in his prime anyway. Still great for background, in the car, etc. Ghost of Tom Joad on vinyl is pretty good. I will probably go for Darkness some time when Tom has a good one and I've saved up enough for another White Hot.
Which speaking of, a little birdie tells me there are some outstanding quality Rolling Stones albums, and Led Zeppelin. So I stand corrected on that. But not Bruce. Springsteen remains the King of Great Song, Bad Recording.
Wow mc, think of all the great music you don’t have or listen to because you perceive the sonics to be less than 5 star.
Read Robert Harley’s The Complete Guide to High End Audio. There, among many other great things, you will find his description of music. It is an interesting form of communication. With language, the information in the printed words is fully conveyed no matter the shape (font) of the characters, or how clearly they are printed, or in what color, or even how fast you read them. Hec you can eve leav ou a lo of letrs and stil get the message across. With music the meaning depends entirely on all these things. And more.
Music lives and breathes in the details. Supple vibrato and tremolo is the mark of a talented musician. Exquisite control of pitch and dynamics, the choice of whether to pick a note sharply or softly, every tiny little nuance, this is music.
There really is no way to separate the music from the medium. Live is live, recorded is recorded, and recorded and played back poorly is just not great music.
There was a story some years ago in Stereophile, anecdote really, guy who made turntables was doing a demo at a show. Some people bring their own records to play. One time a nice old man asked to please play his special record. One of these very old ones from back before RIAA was standardized, different records required different EQ. Which this guy knew, and had brought his to their room because they had the flexibility to pay it right.
So he sets it up and puts it on and it is some strange whatever he never heard, certainly not the greatest demo disk that's for sure. The old gent is sitting dead center rapt with emotion tears streaming down his face.
So, yeah. What it's all about.
Already said- if you can find one you really love, and will enjoy hearing it sound like never before, enough to be worth it to you. In other words exact same as anything else.
How many do you have?
Don't know. Not like I keep a list or anything. Going from memory:
Rumours, So, GBYBR, DSMIOTPP, Honky Chateau, Nilsson Schmilsson, Little Touch of Schmillson, Southern Accents, Damn the Torpedoes, Mel Torme Swings Schubert Alley, several Tchaikovsky, couple Mozart, Beatles Help, Neil Diamond Taproot Manuscript, maybe a couple more.
Are all those WH pressings also great masters?
Like I said, they are great pressings. Already said some like the Beatles are what they are. The recording chain from artist to listener is a long and winding road. Let me know if you need more help navigating.
Currently at work, but just got notification UPS has finally delivered! About a week late. We did have a lot of snow here, but come on, man! Another one, Sinatra-Basie, is also on the way.
Listening last night to Taproot Manuscript, A++, what an experience! This is another one I have had a copy of for a very long time. But not a copy like this! Can't wait to get the system nice and warm and hear my White Hot Year of the Cat! Was just playing my old copy last night, so still fresh in my memory. Let's see how Tom does this time!
First impression, gotta say, the cover is mint. Like time machine mint. That thin shrink wrap plastic records used to come in? Really meticulous types would carefully cut along the opening with a razor blade so as to preserve that plastic? Even though, unless you were very careful, it would get torn just in the normal back and forth of playing? Well whoever had this was so careful it is still perfectly cut just along the opening.
Not the only one like this either. Rumours was like this, except that one the plastic had been torn just a little. Not all are like this. Most are just really impressively crisp and mint. This kind of gets pushed to the side in all the talk about sound quality. They also come complete with the original inner sleeve.
Tom packages these in a way that really helps preserve this crisp mint condition. The cover, record, and inner sleeve all come packaged in a large clear plastic sleeve. Your impeccably cleaned record is of course in a new high grade audiophile sleeve. This packaging makes it easy to remove and replace the record without touching the album cover. Sweet!
Back to sound quality. I'm writing this while eating dinner, warming up, and demagnetizing the system. The XLO demagnetizing tracks are on a CD burned just for this, the tracks repeating half a dozen times. Pretty much all CD is good for anyway, but it is good for that, might as well admit it, and use it.
Give it another 15 min and we will be ready for some warm-up sides. Wouldn't dream of putting a White Hot on a system that isn't ready for it. Couple three sides oughta do it. Then Zero-stat, run the Radio Shack Bulk Tape Eraser over all the cables, and the record, spray Static Guard, turn the damn CDP off, dim the lights, and get ready for the needle drop.
Someone was asking, when it comes to buying these things, what I recommend. Well here it is, short and not so sweet: If you think this kind of prep is over the top, or worse if you think it's nuts, or worst of all if you tried and can't hear any difference, then my recommendation is stick with your record store records. But if you are already doing these, or if you try a couple and appreciate the improvement, then my recommendation is, these are the records you are looking for. Go for it.
It's cute the way you kids think. Like toddlers stacking blocks of wood, imagining it's the Empire State Building.
Five minutes and even the worst listener will understand just how far off you are. Like, look. I went to see Picasso. I brought home the refrigerator magnet of Starry Night. No matter how much I want to believe, it's just not the same.
But you go on. Tell yourselves you found oil on canvas. Anyone can see it's crayon on paper. But you go on. I'm getting a kick out of it. Seriously. Cracks me up.
So now, the record itself. Visually perfect. Records are physical things and leave lots of little clues. Many times putting a record on the platter the spindle hits the label and this will leave little pressure tracks spiraling in towards the spindle. Not a one of those. Then just sliding in and out, the paper label rubs against the paper sleeve and this sort of polishes the label. No hint of that. This record has the distinct appearance of having never been played.
Certainly this is not the case. Tom played it once, at the very least. Just saying, it looks remarkably fresh and new.
The first little bit of each side is a little noisy. The rest has what I would call fairly normal surface noise- exactly as described before I bought it.
Been trying to get Tom on the phone to talk about this, no luck so far. Oh well. Here we go anyway.
First I want to say, the copy I had sounded just fine. Could play it for anyone, they would be impressed. In no way, shape or form would anyone ever consider it a poor copy. I would call it average, most would call it good. None would call it bad.
Okay, with that out of the way. The first thing I notice with the White Hot Stamper, everything is much more palpably present and floating with huge vast amounts of air around it. When strings come in they are rich and vibrant, so much so they make what was on the other copy seem strident, thin and screechy. Just a huge difference.
It is playing at the usual volume, but the sound is so much more clean and clear it makes me want to turn it up. Now I know the usual puppets eager to argue will say See! It needs to be turned up! No. It does not need to be turned up. It makes me WANT to turn it up. When I do turn it up, it sounds not just better, it sounds crazy better!
Thank God for Moabs.
Last two tracks I really do turn it up and good thing too when the lead guitar comes in on Year of the Cat it is soaring electric high above so clean and clear and I'm thinking what could be better and Parsons and Stewart have thought of that, it's called a saxophone and damn if it doesn't pack even more energy than the lead guitar solo!
Anyone ever wonders why Alan Parsons earned so much respect, one listen to what I just heard and you will know. Waited a good 6 months for this. Cost a small fortune. Worth every minute. Worth ever penny.
My pleasure. Really wish you could hear it. Not as killer quiet as Patricia Barber 1Step. Not as dreamy liquid as Jennifer Warnes The Well 45. Yet in many ways better than either of em. And those are some mighty fine records. Tom Port coined the term, tubey magic. Or if he didn’t coin it, at least uses it a lot to describe a sound that is crisp and clean, yet full and warm, in equal measure. This record is a prime example of tubey magic.
Doug Sax was one of the greatest mastering engineers in history.
Almost missed this: You almost bought Sheffield Labs??! You are hereby officially invited to take up as much of my thread as you wish expanding on that comment!
One of my most treasured recordings, Michael Ruff, Speaking in Melodies, is a Sheffield. Live studio recording, some of it direct to two-track, one of the most "you are there" sounds around. Janis Ian, Breaking Silence, the audiophile classic demo disc has a big section of small print on the back listing all the care taken, that it is all tubes, and of course "mastered by Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab on all tube electronics." There’s even a bit in there somewhere about the tube mic used on Janis Ian.
Could this be a gauge for Better-Records buys?
For sure it is a gauge of some kind. Thing of it is, the chain of events and components that runs from the performer to the listener is way longer and with way more links than most of us know. Maybe more than we can know.
Here, for example, are some of the liner notes from Breaking Silence:
Tracks were recorded at Nightingale Studio on a Studer 820, 24-track machine, 30ips, non-Dolby, at the elevation of +6/250nu using Ampex 499 tape.
Okay. So that is just to give everyone some idea all the many links in the chain. Just a few of em anyway.
And think of it, all we have at this point is a master tape. We say "master tape" like it’s nothing. But look what goes into producing it! All the above details amount to is the tip of the iceberg!
The darn thing still needs to be pressed into albums! A process that itself is every bit as technically challenging as recording and mastering. All so we can drag a needle through it, something Peter Ledermann says, "This should not work!"
Now the thing is, most of us have at one time or another noticed technical bits like the above on various audiophile recordings. How many have ever seen similar details describing the cutting lathe, mother, stamper, etc? Anyone? Beuller?
Not talking about in general. We all know in general. Just like we all know in general they record, mix, master. We know they cut wax on a lathe, stamp out records. Where have you ever seen an album list the exact equipment used? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NP0mQeLWCCo
So yeah, like I said, a gauge of sorts. Just as it is possible to have a great sounding system with not so great speakers- resting on a foundation of outstanding upstream components- it is possible to have a not so good pressing sound great simply because it is the last link in an unusually strong recording chain.
Picasso, Van Gogh, whatever. Wasn't even Starry Night. The Night Cafe. Like it matters. Leave it to an audiophile to go off topic just to show off and get a dig in. Even when they agree, even when it detracts from the point they're trying to make, just got to show off and get the dig in. So mind-numbingly boringly repetitious.
Tom said get ready to be slashed to death. Then said pleasantly surprised it hasn't degenerated quite as fast or as much as usual.
He's right. First time I brought this up it was something like 99 to 1 insults and arguments. This time several here have bought them, heard them, and agree. Based on my personal experience there's way more who agree than are willing to post about it and endure the barrage of bullying blowhards. Too bad about the bozo's but the good news is, they don't seem to be able to stop the good news getting out.
Ahh, it doesn't work that way. The hot wax markings you're talking about are the same for every single one of the hundreds of thousands, or maybe even millions, pressed off that stamper. If finding a Hot Stamper was that easy there would be no need for Tom.
This is not the case. My copy of Rumours is exactly the same as my Hot Stamper, right down to the hot wax. The sound however is nowhere near the same.
This comes up over and over again. I've explained it at least twice now in this thread alone. Tom has explained some more on his site. Sadly, even people who read these comments ignore the information and repeat the false narrative. You cannot find a good sounding record merely by looking at it. Only by playing can you tell.
Now as for your finding a really good sounding copy, good luck. I became a Better-Records.com "Good Customer" by letting everyone know how great they are. Someone came back and posted that they bought one based on my review, and they agree it is everything I said it was. Tom saw that and said, "Anything I can do for you?" This all happened around the time I was watching his site daily for Year of the Cat. So I said, can you find me a YOTC?
What he said, That's a hard one. Not a lot of good sounding copies out there. Don't come up that often. Might take a while.
Wound up taking a good 6 months, at least.
So those are your options: search record stores until finally convincing yourself the least crappy one is good (what most do), visit better-records.com at least twice a day using search (I recommend bookmark the Al Stewart search) and if you see one do not hesitate, just buy it immediately! Or devote 3 to 5 hours a day posting millercarbonesque level commentary and see where that takes you.
I would go with checking the website regularly. Search around on it, all kinds of great info, and lots of other great records too.
Fremer is right, as far as he goes. The way I think of those kind of hot wax stamper things is, you can use it to avoid buying a whole lot of crap that may have come off a crap stamper. A crap stamper will stamp crap from the first pressing until forever. But a really good stamper, one where everything was done right, that still does not guarantee every record pressed is magically A+++ level sound quality. I bet even if you somehow had the first hundred or thousand or whatever copies pressed, even that would be no guarantee. It might well be that the first really good A+++ copy is not #1 or #32 or even #576 but #2389 off that stamper. Might be, then again might not. Point is we just don't know. Would have to be there playing them as they come off in order to know. Never happen. Certainly not gonna happen now, 50 years after the fact. So all we can do is play, listen, evaluate, choose.
Yeah it is pretty cool. I was just over at Mike Lavigne's place the other night. Mike has this vast collection of recordings. Some of em on multiple records AND also on tape! One record, he was telling me how the original sounds better than the later reissue because even though the reissue was made with much greater care and attention to detail it was made from a tape that was much older and tape degrades just sitting there not even being played. Records, everyone loves to complain about surface noise but one thing about a record, it does not degrade just sitting there.
Look, when the entire human race was sending the first Voyager spacecraft out and knew it would ultimately one day be the first thing to leave the Solar system and who knows maybe encounter extraterrestrial life, and we wanted to communicate, how did we do it? Put a record on it. Because Carl Sagan knew it would not degrade, and anyone anywhere could play it. Cool as cool can be.
It is arguable that every audiophile-quality LP is a White Hot Stamper .....
Is that you never bought or heard one, and so are as a matter of fact blathering pure ad copy and amply embellished imaginings. Am I right? Tell me I'm not right. Or if I am wrong then which ones did you buy? The answer is none, right? Right?
I am gonna say none. I am gonna say so certain it is none not gonna wait. Will take my lumps if proven wrong. Which I won't be.
Do you honestly think you said one thing we don't already know? For damn sure I have heard it all before. That is the whole point of the thread. To let people know and make them aware the ad copy is just that: ad copy!
The stories are nice- but they are just that: stories! Not saying the stories are lies. Not saying they didn't take every care, do their best to get it right. Bought a lot of those records myself. I'm sure they did do everything they say they did. That is not the question.
Here's the rub: we are not talking about who did what. We are talking about how it sounds! For all your wordy words of regurgitated ad copy the sad fact is you have no way of knowing until you listen! If you have not listened then you just don't know. Too late now to edit your post. So what you should do, copy it, remove it, and paste into a new post this time with: "Of course I have never heard one and so have no idea what I am talking about BUT.." and then continue on with your uninformed opinion piece.
Could you do that for me please?
Yes inna, it is a lot of work. And then even after finding something way better than average you listen to A+++ and your jaw drops. The range of quality between pressings is that big.
Pristine "White Hot" copies are rare birds. I’ve heard from a reliable source that Tom goes through as many as forty to fifty copies sometimes in order to find one that is suitable to be sold on his site.
Right. And even those few may not be. Remember that guy you hooked me up with? Easily the most seriously devoted record bin diver type I ever met. First thing he said, near impossible to find a really good YOTC. Nevermind White Hot. Merely really good.
A while later he called saying he found a Hot Stamper worthy Steve Miller Book of Dreams. Wanted a lot for it, but less than a Hot Stamper, way less than a Super Hot Stamper, and way way way less than a White Hot Stamper.
So I decided to take a chance. And let’s be honest, it does sound better than my random copy of Steve Miller Fly Like An Eagle. Not hugely better. Not Hot Stamper better, but better. Good enough I am not about to complain. It feels silly having to explain this, but some of the kids around here need to hear it: this is an accurate assessment. When the accurate assessment is positive you do not become a fanboy. When the accurate assessment is negative you do not become a hater. I tell it like it is, and let the chips fall where they may.
And again, this is not to pick on him. Just trying to set some people straight. Because even this accomplished bin diver, who has found records good enough Tom Port bought them, even this guy who represented to me this was Hot Stamper quality, this copy is just not there. Not even close.
This is the hard part to get across to people. We can try and explain it in math terms, probabilities. Then some yahoo genius can’t find his way out of a wet paper bag thinks that means they are everywhere. They are not everywhere. Another brilliant midwit with a record that doesn’t skip and sounds slightly better than all his other crap thinks that means all his not crappy crap is Hot Stamper level.
In truth? Not even. But the only way to really understand is to pay the price, play the record, and listen. Instead it’s all, "I learn through the mouth by talking."
Not you Frank. Just using your example as a launch pad for blasting off on the wanna bees posting above.
I have that one Frank. Not the Hot Stamper, but even a regular copy is as you say pretty spectacular. The one you linked to "with issues" if you read the detail it is not much of an issue, just some light ticks. Otherwise, double-LP, A++, would be a lot more.
The site is chock full of info but to me it seems to be sort of scattered around. Tom sent me a link to a page I will probably be using a lot going forward. It's a list of "Well recorded albums that should be more popular with audiophiles" which is different than a Top 100 (which he also has) in that these are both well recorded and a little less popular, and so a little less expensive. If you can call anything on his site less expensive- it is a very relative term!
I have found there is a lot of stuff like strings, brass, sax, in other words classical, jazz, big band, that I never cared for simply because they were so poorly recorded. My Super Hot Stamper of Sinatra-Basie was a revelation. Never ever in my life dreamed sax and stuff could sound so tonally correct, warm, and real! There's a flute- OMG it actually sounds like a real flute! With all the dynamics and everything!
So when I look at this list and see Sinatra I Remember Tommy, and from Tom's comments this is an even better recording than Sinatra-Basie, well I want that record! Eventually. These things are expensive. Pick and choose. Not for everyone. Etc. Etc.
I have a home. But since you are shamelessly virtue signaling we have a lot of homeless here in Seattle thanks to all the rampant virtue signaling going on here. If you send me as much as you can spare I will pass it on to the ones I see every day. I know you won't. Virtue signalers never actually do anything but signal. I just enjoy calling them out on their rank hypocrisy.
So, ’Virtue signaling’ causes homelessness??
You think it doesn't? Here's how it works. At any given point in time there are people who for whatever reason simply are not productive enough to be worth more than a few dollars an hour. But libtards want to feel virtuous, so they jack up the minimum wage to $15, then $20. Why not $150? Nevermind. Libtards want to be seen to be doing something.
All the studies show this one thing alone, minimum wage laws, increases unemployment. The biggest increase is at the lowest end, those with the least skills. They are the ones who wind up unemployable, because they simply are not worth $20/hr. And so just this one example of virtue signaling costs us millions in homelessness.
You clearly have never thought this (or anything) through. I got a lot more. Just remember the line from Tropic Thunder: "Never go full libtard." You go there all the time. Just stop. Please. If not for me, do it for your own good.
I had fully expected the hot stamper to be a marketing trick and corresponded with Tom in advance ensuring that if I was unhappy I could return it per his guarantee
Thanks for clarifying with "correspond". If you say "talked" with Tom the midwits here cannot figure out that could mean email. There's a small aberrant group here who live to mock, and we can only dream of the day they back off to the level of tomfoolery. Hang around longer you will notice a pattern. They never contribute anything of value. They insult and deride constantly. They travel around in packs.
It may take a while but if you search around you will find threads that run for pages with nothing but these same sad losers bantering back and forth. Because of this an awful lot of people avoid posting at all. When they want to know something they ask me directly. Happens all the time. They get the same great high quality information, only without the distasteful experience of having to wade through these miscreants excrement to find it.
All - My comment about giving a twenty to a homeless person was not intended to interject a political or social comment into the thread. It is just my preferred act as opposed to buying something of unknown quality.
So you give it all away. Great. More virtue signaling.
I take ownership of my choice.
You did it so guess what? You own it. Goes without saying. When you feel the need to say it, guess what? Virtue signaling!
I gladly spend a few Benjamin’s (and more) on audio gear or media that has credibility or an viable assurance behind it.
That’s a put down. While virtue signaling. Is there anything you have to say other than, "Look at me! Look what a great person I am"?
All you’ve done is confirm you are just like all the others worried how other people see them, while throwing their Benjamin’s (and more!) as you say out the window instead of actually helping all the people you want so badly for us to believe you care about.
Stop. Just stop. Please.
Glimmer? You must have forgot to take your arc welding helmet off again. Flip it up, what you call a glimmer is a Fox Searchlight beacon of enlightenment that can be seen around the world.
Not a week goes by I don’t get multiple PM requests for advice, and many times with a little "sure enjoy your posts" or "don’t let the haters get you down" or "yours are the most informative on the site" thrown in.
For some strange reason the same people who earned their way onto the Hateful18 list (and let me check, yes, you are on there!) never seem to understand it is precisely their constantly off-topic demeaning blather that got them there in the first place. Like what you did just now. You in your own words say I am informative and concise, yet even my best post is to you nothing more than an opportunity to throw yet another insult my way.
Shame on you, buddy. Not me. Shame on you.