Hot stampers - Here comes the full Potato

Well we’re all losing high frequencies as we get old, but it’s still not hard to hear differences between great, good, indifferent and poor kit/recordings. Isn’t it?


Everyone may well be hearing something different.
For me a truly well recorded LP (I’m not talking about audiophile re issues) will sound decent on an average system, as opposed to an OK recording on a high end system.
Why? The music is either there or it isn’t. (Hi Fi is a tool not a magician)

A stunning model can look amazing with an OK camera… An average model will look OK with a great camera. Same meat different gravy. Quality in Quality out
(Within reason)


@malbec I’m pretty confident that I could play you two versions of the same LP (and therefore the recording quality should be equal, albeit the source tape might be a copy of a copy etc but lets not complicate things), and I think you’d easily be able to distinguish between the one that had been mastered and pressed really well and the other only average. Without trying to throw words at this the most obvious difference is one will just sound more convincing than the other.

Personally I tend to place a huge amount of store in the mastering process which can make or break how a recording sounds on the finished product. Yes the performance needs to have been recorded well enough but if is poorly mastered and compressed to shit then all those lovely dynamics that were there will be lost on replay and can’t be reproduced no matter the capability of the playback system. And conversely I’ve heard some fairly average recordings transferred really well retaining all the dynamics of the sound in the room (that can be captured), and are a joy to listen to despite not being the very best of the best in recording terms.


Sadly the option of ‘high quality’ may simply not be a choice: Think anything from Jamaica / Africa / Punk / Most private or DIY pressings / Most pop etc (There are odd exceptions) Of course they are interesting but… To the dismay of many, in terms of quality the very finest recordings were made for Jazz and Classical with a smattering of blues.

Why? As noted above the major labels when backing stereo really threw everything at the recordings to elevate them at a time when all the elements of pressing were new…They were having to convince a market to go to the great expense of buying another amp / speaker / cart etc.

Hey but what about my great sounding rock & pop music?

Bottom line is Volume doesn’t equal a quality recording. Yes, they were often pressed ‘hot’ to ‘stand out’ of the jukebox or the airwaves but this is only one quality - Dynamic range for example (Due to the attention grabbing requirements of marketing, yes marketing) is minimal. In addition records selling in the millions have a lot of variation in terms of quality (See stampers above) Of course there are exceptions to this and bands that insisted on ‘Good sound’.

To counter this, consider how good the Doors or Led Zep would sound if recorded in 1960 at Decca and mastered / plated and pressed at Decca under the same stipulations and QC as their classical SXL output of the time?

Why didn’t they do that then? Cost. The best recordings were reserved primarily for ‘Serious listening’. Pop / Teenager / Dancette / skint did not meet the criteria.

As a music lover I listen to some terribly recorded stuff and I’m cool with it, ‘thats how it is’. As an audiophile (Feel weird calling myself one of those) if I want to ‘really hear’ something, I’ll go with 1st pressing classical (Stereo) and Jazz (Often MONO)


My guess is how people listened to music back in the day

The people who had the best stereos were more likely to be into jazz and classical and were far more demanding on quality

Most rock,punk,reggae of the 70s was mainly listened to by the strap cashed youth.

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This makes sense

Kind of, it’s one thing to supply a demand but another to create a demand which is what the majors had to do with Stereo. Of course they went for the market with the most disposable income which also may have been the most musically discerning.


Yep better mastering and pressing QC will only go so far (but still a long way audibly from most of the dross that is dynamically compressed).

I have a tape compilation of 60s surf rock and it is dynamic as fuck, albeit with some fairly basic low brow recordings as the source.

The Doors stuff is a good standard but yes imagine if they’d thrown the state of the art at it. Led Zep seems to have been selectively compressed at points in songs to throw it at you sonically. I do have III on reel tape and it’s soooo much better than vinyl in terms of DR and a convincing listen, but still a million miles away from being a well recorded production in relation to the Capitol/ Decca/ RCA classical and jazz stuff.

The frustration I have is that while most recordings aren’t to the high standards that you reference, but nearly all of them even at reduced recording cost could be a lot better just by mastering them with greater care for the end result.

Interestingly that led zep reel guy has sounds superb,especially whole lotta love

Yes & not even 7.5 ips. But much better than any LP version I’ve heard.

You want quality and mass market numbers, fuck that said every record company exec up and down the land. Cheap, cheerful and adequate will do. Cynical, but probably not far off the truth.

It still happens today with mass produced music, have a listen to a top ten album, ooof.

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Mastering is a key element, no doubt. If the original tapes were remastered today (As they were for Classic on 200g) even then the vitality of the sound would be sub par due to: Correct placement of mic’s, desks used, (And limiters!!!) cutter heads etc etc…How stoned are the engineers?, studio time / budget, skill of the tape tech, condition and quality of equipment used etc are all major factors in simply capturing the sound well before mastering.
I used to work for a mastering and editing co, we were sent tapes. What was on those tapes was all there was to play with unless we were asked to add / detract shit.

Possibly contentious but the imperfection of the mastering is part of what makes these recordings what they are for me. To have pushed those bands through the more regimented processes required for these golden age recordings would not have resulted in the same album.

This is precisely what the Audiophile cottage industry is attempting to do though (with Less QC and budget)

I’d rather have a poor recording of a great performance than a great recording of a poor performance (If I have to chose). Modern stuff annoys me as they have all the tools to do it properly for peanuts, but performers like Adele are deliberately messed up to remove dynamic range for some reason (and since radio stations can apply their own compression, the loudness argument carries no weight for me),

This brief note highlights what received the time / effort and resultant QC cost at EMI (Columbia / HMV)

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The Loudness wars were very real - See psychoacoustics

Some bumf here

Oh I get that it’s real, my argument is that there is no need to make it part of the final media given that radio stations, even Spotify, now routinely modify levels in real-time to maintain consistent levels.

Radio Stations give less of a shit about sound quality by the day. Ever done a Digital vs FM comparison?

??? Are we still talking about sound quality of vinyl records???

Lots of different things being discussed here under the title of Hot Stampers. :upside_down_face:
I don’t really like the term Hot Stamper it implies that record labels created some stampers of superior quality when in fact consistency would be their goal. There are records where everything in the manufacturing process worked exactly as hoped and top-quality records were pressed but narrowing it down to specific pressing runs is IMO often very speculative.
Regarding the reference to Rubber Soul A-1 cut this was not a hot stamper but was down to Harry Moss cutting the lacquer with too much bass which as stated caused returns because people with Dansettes had skipping problems, often because they didn’t change (didn’t know how to) the factory 1g tracking weight on the arm. It is even now not considered the best pressing of Rubber Soul that accolade goes to Hazel Yarwood’s A-5 cut, done to replace the Harry Moss cut.
As for the other topic of lack of mastering QC on Doors albums etc…
I think they were pretty much state of the art at the time when they were recorded. We are talking about sixties recordings made on 4 track equipment it is the limitations of that equipment that is often the problem not the lack of quality control by the cutting engineer.

I don’t believe this would even be possible to do at the time. it was a completely different process recording orchestral and acoustic jazz compared to studio recordings of pop/rock bands using amplified instruments.