Better Records White Hot Stampers: Now the Story Can Be Told!


Just got shipping notification, so now the story can be told!

  Better-Records.com is a small, incredibly valuable yet little known company run out of Thousand Oaks, CA by Tom Port. The business started out many years ago when Tom Port noticed no two records sound quite the same. Evidently Tom is a sound quality fanatic on a scale maybe even higher than mine, and he started getting together with some of his audio buds doing shoot-outs in a friendly competition to see who has the best sounding copy.   

Over time this evolved into Better-Records.com, where the best of the best of these shoot-outs can be bought by regular guys like me who live for the sound, but just don't have the time or the drive to go through all the work of finding these rare gems.

The difference in quality between your average pressing and a White Hot Stamper is truly incredible. If you don't have the system or the ears of course you may never notice. If you do though then nothing else comes even close.   

Tom will say things like only one in twenty copies is Hot Stamper worthy. This doesn't even come close to conveying the magnitude. Last night for example, wife and I were listening to our White Hot Stamper of Tchaikovsky 1812. Then we played another White Hot Tchaikovsky. Then we played the Tchaikovsky tracks from my copy of Clair deLune.  

Without hearing a White Hot you would think Clair de Lune is about as good as it gets. After two sides of Tom's wonders it was flat, dull, mid-fi. Not even in the same ball park. And yet this is quite honestly a very good record. How many of these he has to clean, play, and compare to find the rare few magical sounding copies, I don't even know!  

Copies of Hot Stamper quality being so hard to find means of course they are not always available. This is not like going to the record store. There are not 50 copies of Year of the Cat just sitting around. Most of the time there are no copies at all. When there are, they get snapped up fast. Especially the popular titles. Fleetwood Mac Rumours, Tom Petty Southern Accents, whole bunch of em like this get sold pretty fast even in spite of the astronomically outrageous prices they command. Then again, since people pay - and fast - maybe not so outrageous after all.   

So I spent months looking, hoping for Year of the Cat to show up. When it did, YES! Click on it and.... Sorry, this copy is SOLD! What the...? It was only up a day! If that!  

Well now this puts me in a bit of a spot. Because, see, besides loving music and being obsessed with sound quality, I'm also enthusiastic about sharing this with others. With most things, no problem. Eric makes an endless supply of Tekton Moabs. Talking up Tekton or Townshend or whatever has no effect on my ability to get mine. With Better-records.com however the supply is so limited the last thing I need is more competition. Bit of a bind.   

Even so, can't keep my big mouth shut. Been telling everyone how great these are. One day someone buys one based on my recommendation, Tom finds out, next thing you know I'm a Good Customer. What does that mean? Well is there anything you're looking for? Year of the Cat. That's a hard one. Tell me about it. Might take a while. Take all the time you need. Just get me one. Please. Okay.  

That was months ago. Other day, hey we're doing a shoot-out. No guarantees but should be able to find you one. So for the last few days I was all Are we there yet? Are we there yet? And now finally, like I said, shipped!  

So now I have my Grail, and the story can be told. Got a nice little collection of Hot Stampers, and will be adding more, but this for me is The One. Might not be for you, but that is the beauty of it all. Many of us have that one special record we love. If you do too, and you want to hear it like listening to the master tape, this is the way to go.
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Showing 27 responses by oregonpapa

  • You should change from oregonpapa to proudpapa....!

And to this day, I don't know how I made it out of high school,. *lol*

Frank
I like to hunt for my own "Hot Stampers." One thing I've found over the years is that some records will have one side that is close to hot stamper territory, while the other side sucks. No problem ... just keep hunting until you find its mate where the opposite side is great and the other side sucks. How else does one build a 5000+ record collection?

Frank
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. 

Frank
MC ...

You would love my promo copy of Brubeck’s "Jazz Impressions of The USA," and my "Best of America" LP. The Brubeck album, recorded in the early 50s, never came out in stereo. Paul Desmond’s alto sax just hangs in the air between the speakers in all of the glory that can only come from the soul of Paul Desmond. On the America album, the harmony on "Sandman" is uncanny. Both albums would be considered to be Hot Stampers by my estimation.

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. :-)

Frank
I’ve been collecting records since my high school days. My LP collection probably exceeds 5000 records at this point. They range from early mono pressings of classical, jazz, and early big band singers, to stereo recordings from "The Golden Age."

On the older recordings, so many are not great sounding, but I look at them as a time machine, a history lesson, and a vehicle to revisit my long-ago youth. I still get out my crappy-sounding Earl Bostic and Joe Houston records to remind me of how I got so heavily into jazz. And then the abysmal Charlie Parker recordings to remind me of where it led. 

Personally, I think if one only has pristine-sounding audiophile recordings in their collections, they are missing a lot of what the hobby offers. There were great performers and performances from yesteryear that can and should be enjoyed today. Just think about all of the great blues players from the past. The recordings weren’t that great ... but the music and the soul certainly were. Big Bill Broonzy, anyone??

Frank
  • "I will lay out that kind of dough for a real deal R&R stamper, but not my parents' music!"
Hey! I represent that ...!!!  :-)
+1 for Mapman. 

Here are some tips for the budding record bin divers ...

Philips Golden Imports = These are reissued Mercury Living Presence recordings, Great sounding reissues with better vinyl than the originals. Cheap too. 

Westminister Stereo = Don't pass them up.

RCA Living Stereo  = Gorgeous strings. 

Mercury Living Presence  = Dynamics.

London Stereo = Brass.

Contemporary = Some of the most well-recorded jazz records on the planet. 

Savoy = Some of the mono recordings are to die for. Try the reissues put out by Fantasy in Berkeley ... especially the twofer of Milt Jackson (vibes). 

There's plenty more. Perhaps others would like to chime in on this subject. 

Frank
The only thing I’ve ever bought from Tom Port was a few CDs from his inventory of DCC CDs. Those are some fine-sounding CDs.

On the vinyl records ... there is no way that I could convince myself to pay $300 -$500 for a record, no matter how good it sounds. I’m not knocking Better Records here, or Tom’s customers in any way. I know how good they sound because I’ve heard them. And besides ... Tom is a hard-working person who really tries to get the best sounding recordings to those who want them.

After so many years of record bin diving, thrift store capers, and garage sale rummaging, I’ve accumulated my own stash of "Hot Stampers." They reside on my "demo" shelf. Oh, they may have a tic or a pop or two, but still ... they are great-sounding records.

Dean Martin’s "Dream with Dean" is one for sure. So is Doris Day’s "Day by Day." Then there is that Brubeck promo titled "Jazz Impressions of The U.S.A. Oh, and lest I forget, there’s Jo Stafford's "Jo Stafford Sings The Blues." How about Norman Luboff’s "But Beautiful?" There’s plenty more like these in the collection. I think the most I’ve paid for any of them was the six-bucks I paid for the promo Brubeck album. I bought it still sealed from a used record store.

Frank
"Tubey Magic." A nice term ... and once heard, one will never want to go back.

 MC ... you mentioned strings. When done right on a great recording, played back through a highly resolving system, massed strings just seem to waft over you like a warm wave. Nothing like it. I have an orchestral CD of Bach's "Air On a G String" that does exactly that. Yep, a CD no less. Even CDs, believe it or not, have their Hot Stampers. 

Frank
inna6, >>>

Right you are. I was listening to an early stereo LP of Vic Damon on an original Columbia six-eye tonight. The man was right in front of me.

Frank
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.

 I personally have over 5000 vinyl records. How many super White Hot Stamper copies do I have? A few ... that's it. Oh, I have many great-sounding records, but only a few that I could call A+++ stampers as Tom Port sells.  

Frank
  • "You guys are...whatever you want to call yourselves. Do you print money, anyway?"

My bank called and told me that I was overdrawn. I said, WAIT ...!!! That's impossible, I still have checks left ... !!!
  • Hi Frank!
  • Do you have any idea as to the oldest album in your collection?
  • I know by what you’ve posted, you have quite an eclectic and enviable stash.
  • Just wondering if you can share any rare goodies from the 40’s or 50’s.
  • Hope you are doing well!


Thanks for the good wishes...

Man, ’O Man ... where do I start?

For the "oldest," you’d have to get into the small 78 rpm collection I have.

My main focus as a teen and young man was jazz. So, for the 40s, we can start with the Big Bands and the Big Band singers. Stan Kenton (also 50s & 60s), early Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee, Chris Connor, LIonal Hampton, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Chu Berry, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz (Getz could play anything. A true genius) and tons more. Even The Andrew Sisters and Doris Day.

Morphing away from rhythm & blues as a teen, I left Earl Bostic, Big Jay McNeely, and Joe Houston behind. I still have their recordings in the collection, to be played from time to time to remind me of the transition. Kind of like a history lesson, or a step back in a time machine taking me all the way back to Junior High School.

The collection is full of excellent mono jazz, and jazz vocal recordings. For those who shun mono recordings, you are really missing out on some great-sounding records and performances. One of the keys is to find a cartridge that really digs down into the grooves of those mono records to extract what hasn’t been extracted before. I’ve found the Audio Technia OC-9 MK III to be such a cartridge. At $500.00 from LP Tunes, it is a bargain.

Some of my favorite mono jazz records are early Brubeck, Miles, Clifford Brown, Chet Baker, Jerry Mulligan, The Montgomery Brothers, Howard Rumsey’s Light House All-Stars, lots of Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderly, Sonny Stitt... and way too many more to post here. I admit that I lean toward the West Coast jazz sound. It is just more melodic than the East Coast stuff. I’m addicted to the great vibes players too, especially Cal Tjader, who I consider the best in a long line of "bests."

On the stereo recordings ... I’ve avoided early Blue Notes because of their dual-mono presentations. I think that’s one of the reasons the mono Blue Notes command so much money.

I came late to classical and really late to classic rock. The classical guitar section is pretty impressive. I absolutely love the great guitarists John Williams and Julian Bream. For flamenco, check out Manitas de Plata - one of the greats, if not the greatest. Lots of other great ones, but those are my favorites.

There are tons more ... I could go on and on.

I wonder who will end up with the collection when I finally check out of here. My kids and grandkids aren’t interested. Heck, there isn’t even a CD player among the bunch. I can’t even burn them a CD of any of my music. What a shame.

Frank
If you like blues and live performances, this would be a good place to start with Better Records:

https://better-records.com/collections/on-sale/products/king_blues_2006

I have a copy and the sound is pretty spectcular.

Frank
  • "I expect that millercarbon will inform me when my record arrives"

I don't know whether to laugh or to say shame on you. :-)

Frank

.
inna ...

  • Frank,
  • I think of John Williams as the very best classical guitarist. I prefer him to Segovia and others.


I totally agree with you. I affectionately call John Williams "Mister Perfection." I even have his very first album. Interesting how I discovered him. I was driving in my car back in the early 70s listening to the local jazz station. The DJ came on and said: "Okay folks, I’m going to play something really special, so get your tape decks ready." He qued up John William playing a beautiful rendition of Concierto de Aranjuez. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was so emotionally taken that I had to pull the car to the curb. When it was over, the DJ announced what we had just heard. I wrote it down, and drove directly to the record store and bought it. That was my introduction to the classical guitar. That concerto is one of the most beautiful guitar pieces ever written. I actually heard John Williams in a live concert at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbV9t6U2IIg&ab_channel=Zigeunerbaron

glupson ...

Yes, Times were rough. My folks had just recovered from the Great Depression and we were facing fascism in Italy and Nazi Germany, and Imperialism in Japan. When I was born (1938), Hitler had just taken over Romania and Czechoslovakia in order to take their oil and other resources. Three years later, on December 7th, 1941, we entered WWII.

I lived through all of the rationing and hard times. The sound of air raid sirens is still fresh in my mind. I watched my parent’s friends leave in uniform never to return. I saw the Gold Star flags in the windows.

There was a positive side to America in those days though. Growing up in the 40s and 50s, was when we still had a truly free country. Children were safe roaming the streets. The central government was still small and the power rested with each individual state.

Can you imagine a time when young boys could carry their rifles through the streets, in order to get to places where rabbit hunting was good? No one batted an eye. Can you imagine a sixth-grade teacher who insisted that every boy carry a pocket knife on him at all times, then taught us how to use the oil-stone in the corner of the classroom to hone it to razor sharpness? Can you imagine a time when our currency was backed by precious metal ... with the effects of curbing inflation and stifling the creation of a welfare state? I lived it.

We’ve come a long way, glupson ... and in my opinion, a long way back toward revisiting the grievances expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

Please guys ... if you are under the age of 75, watch the movie "Saving Private Ryan." It will give you a real appreciation for the sacrifices made during those tough times.

Frank
  • A deeply meaningful statement that resonates like few in recent memory.

  • Thank you.

You’re welcome, tvad ...

Yes, it is food for thought. Almost 70 years of putting this collection together and no one in the family cares. In fact, they think I’m nutz.

It will probably be a really good day at the Goodwill store.

Frank
  • Enjoy your grandkids. You know they are nutz with their cellphone addiction, anyway.

Spot on. I have four grandkids. My wife and I stressed education and excellent work ethics. Both of my daughters went through private schools ... at great financial sacrifices. Not easy when you are the sole bread-winner working on a 100% commission basis. They in turn did the same for their four children. The results speak for themselves. One, a speech therapist who works with small children. One, a commercial real estate broker, one, an attorney specializing in acquisitions and mergers - a graduate of the University of Norte Dame with high honors, and was the editor of the ND Law Review. And finally, a surgeon in his third year of residency at the USC hospital in Los Angeles. That’s what I look back on with satisfaction knowing that I’ll be leaving this earthly place better off than how I found it. :-)

Frank
thecarpathian ...

"Frank and anyone interested-
Pick up a copy of the book ’The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer."

I just ordered it through eBay. Thanks for the recommendation. 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
inna
 ...

No, I haven't heard Paco Pena's music. I'll check him out. Oh, and I agree with you about Sabicas. 
Talking about White Hot Stampers, buy this album. Mono, yes ... but it is Zoot Sims at his finest recorded during the Golden Age of MONO.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzJEqi4Te1k&ab_channel=AllThatJazzDonKaart

I can’t speak for the reissues or the CD, but I’ve had the original in the collection for many years. It is pressed on that heavy vinyl that was common in the early 50s. It is one of the best-sounding recordings in the collection. The originals in excellent condition are pricy on eBay ... but as you know, price isn’t everything.

Here's Zoot Sims live. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSMMKEjyLcE&ab_channel=GazellVideos

Frank
I can hardly wait for the results.
Again, talking about really good recordings, here’s another one from the Golden Age of MONO:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8cX-nYcF5U&ab_channel=MegaAlexandroid

Pressed on heavy vinyl from the early 50s.

Here's another one. It is available as a twofer reissue from the guys at Fantasy in Berkeley. The sound is spectacular.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__WVlwijls0&ab_channel=MiltJackson-Topic

Frank
Nice review, glupson. 
au_lait ...

Are you still in Thousand Oaks??
au_lait ...

I'm in Newbury Park. I've been to Record Outlet many times. I've known the owner "Casey" since he worked at the Salvation Army at "Wizzens" in Agoura. He used to keep all of the good rock records for himself, but he saved the good jazz, classical, and opera for me. That's when they used to sell used records for fifty-cents ... and then they would put them on sale from time to time for a quarter each. Those were the days.  : -)

When this Covid thing settles down, and you're in town to visit your mom, send me a message via private message and perhaps we can have a listening session at my place. 

Take care ...

Frank
  • "(this LP quality issue does not seem to be entirely healthy/sane)."


Who said anything about sanity?