Straight Answers to Your Questions
Many of the basic questions concerning Hot Stampers, including our grading system, 2-packs, coupons, the mailing list, as well as more general ordering and payment information, can be found in the original FAQ.
We recommend that you read it before continuing on with this one. The Hot Stamper FAQ below deals specifically with the kinds of issues that potential customers, as well as skeptics and forum posters (god bless 'em!), have raised with us over the years.
We think sitting down to play a Hot Stamper pressing is the best way to appreciate its superior sound, in the same way that hearing a vintage LP played back on a top quality audio system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog.
What Exactly Are Hot Stampers?
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.
Are Hot Stampers a good investment?
Hot Stampers sure sound better than other records, but do they have any real "collector" value?
Not really. On the surface they look just like any other pressing, so their market value cannot be established or verified in any meaningful way. The value of a Hot Stamper pressing is almost purely subjective: they exist only to provide listening pleasure to their owner. Yes, a Pink Label Island pressing of In the Court of the Crimson King is worth big bucks, but is it worth the $850 we charged recently if you were to try and resell it? Probably not.
I understand why a record collector would be confused by this notion of subjective and limited value. Collecting records is mostly about buying, selling and owning various kinds of records.
Are all Hot Stampers exceptionally good sounding records?
Not necessarily. What makes a Hot Stamper hot is reasonably good sound. At the very least a Hot Stamper should sound quite a bit better than any other pressing you have heard.
Not every album was well-recorded; the records made from those recordings will display most of the limitations that are baked into the master tape. A good engineer can fix an awful lot of problems in mastering, but, to mix a few metaphors, making a silk purse out of a sow's ear is rarely if ever going to be in the cards.
Why don't you give out the stampers of your "Hot Stampers"?
When it comes to stampers, labels, mastering credits, country of origin and the like, we make a point of rarely revealing any of this information on the site, for a number of good reasons.
The idea that the stampers are entirely responsible for the quality of any given record's sound is a MYTH, and a rather convenient one too, once you stop to think about it. Audiophiles, like most everybody else on this planet, want answers.
What makes you guys think you know it all?
We definitely don’t know it all. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. If we knew it all we couldn't learn anything from the piles and piles of records we listen to every day. With practically every shootout we learn something new about our favorite records. That, more than anything else, is what makes the kind of tedious, time-consuming, mentally exhausting work we do fun. Case in point: a Columbia Pressing we played not long ago.
What if I like the copy I own as much as the Hot Stamper?
You get your money back, no questions asked.
Even if you actually like our copy better than yours, but don't think the difference in sound quality justifies the price, the same policy applies: you get your money back. If you simply don't like the music or have issues with the recording itself, you get your money back. If the record plays noisier for you than it did for us, you get your money back.
How much better will a Hot Stamper sound on my system?
That's a tough question, because it involves two things I can't know: how good your stereo is, and how good your critical listening skills are. Really, the only way to find out is to try a record or two and see if the sound quality justifies the price to you. Which is why we offer a 100% money back guarantee: the record has to perform to your satisfaction or we give you all your money back.
How can your records possibly be worth these prices?
We freely admit that we paid south of thirty bucks each at local stores for many of the records on our site. We pay what the stores charge, and most good rock records are priced from ten to thirty bucks these days.
Unfortunately for us, the price we paid for the records you see on the site is only a small part of the cost of the finished "product." The reality of our business is that it costs almost as much to find a Carly Simon or Gino Vannelli Hot Stamper that sells for a hundred dollars as it does to find a Neil Young or Yes Hot Stamper that sells for five times that.
Are Hot Stamper pressings quiet?
They're about as quiet as vintage LPs ever are. Some surface noise is always going to be audible on an old record. We believe we sell the quietest vintage pressings in the world, but they are certainly not silent.
Lately we've been adding this text to our listings to clarify our position on surface noise:
Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any original pressing will play, and since only the right originals have any hope of sounding amazing on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Aren't Hot Stampers just original pressings?
They certainly can be, but quite often they are not, which shouldn't come as a surprise to any serious record collector, and definitely not to any member of our listening crew. Reissues come out on top in our record shootouts fairly regularly.Yes, most of the time the original will beat the reissue, but most of the time is far from always, and since we have to play a big pile of copies anyway (and always with the person doing the sound grading kept in the dark about the pressing being auditioned), why not evaluate both the originals and the reissues at the same time, and do so strictly on the merits?