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

Just got shipping notification, so now the story can be told! 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, 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 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.
I went to the site. Led Zeppelin I $399 Hot Stamper. $599 Almost White Hot Stamper. Anybody else think this is excessive?
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. 
Anyone with a large collection of records knows that some records stand out as being truly great examples of recording, mastering,  and pressing.  Big deal.  I can’t think of a better way to turn off budding audiophiles interested in vinyl than telling them they have to spend $200+ for a single record.   It doesn’t matter to MC because he never listens to music anyway, except for Year of the Cat and Jennifer Warnes, along with his other seven records.
Better records model is nice but I am not that eager to go after a single used lp for that money even knowing the sonic benefits.
I do search for originals, best condition i can find, enlarging my library, so many things i do not have, and you never know, with some luck i could come across with a special one, happened before.


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?

Let me share a little secret with you, you probably already own white hot stampers in your collection. 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. 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 !

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.

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. Their records are CLEAN and that is why they sound better. Records that are damaged or worn do not apply. That is the secret to great sounding records. You know the saying " cleanliness is next to Godliness. 
What local record store?
Ever heard of Discogs?
There are gobs of the popular stuff around. I am happy to see that someone can make a living finding gems.
Not interested.
1812? I’d rather sit by the hill with the cannons.
Since I got the ultrasonic cleaner it is a whole new world here. On a pace with getting the first vax jab. Even my first LP, Sgt. Pepper’s mono sounds great.

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.

MC- I hope for your sake that the record proves to be what you hope for. I don’t begrudge anybody for using Tom Port, though I’ve never done business with him ( I think he started by selling DCC at blow out prices).
Most of what he stocks and sells, not surprisingly, are classic rock and warhorses since that’s where the market is. And there is no question that different pressings sound different and that two copies of the same pressing can sound different. Sometimes, the problem rests with the recording itself, and no amount of variation on the manufacturing side (or even the mastering side) will fully overcome the shortcomings despite the copy to copy differences. Sadly, for bands like LZ, the recordings just aren’t that good to start with. I easy have a dozen good copies of LZ1, from the Classic 45 (very audiophile detail but lacks the overall cohesiveness of the Piros mid-’70s SHForums fav, or the Japanese 2nd or 3rd press); LZ2- the RL Monarch is probably the most bombastic, but a good early UK plum rocks hard with more pronounced bass; III- the plum 5/5 Peter Grant credit is to my ears the best among those I have here, including a Canadian TG (which used to be a bargain but is hard to find), the Classic 33 and a few others.
The quest for me at this point isn’t quite as easy-- I filled a slot recently (still waiting for it to arrive given shipping issues from Germany)- an original Vertigo Swirl of Cressida Asylum. Even with that, I didn’t go the full distance by buying a German pressing rather than the UK which goes for 1k (or more) in the market.
I have a hard time with 4 figure records-- crazy money, to be sure, I’m not against spending money on records, but don’t even like the idea of regularly handling such expensive records and I buy them to play them, not to "collect".
The stuff I’ve been chasing for the last several years- small or private label jazz from the early 70s-- so-called "spiritual" or "soul" jazz has also gotten to be nutty money. A clean copy of Bobby Hamilton Dream Queen is now a 4 figure record. Some of the Strata -Easts are getting costly. A Milt Ward is also rare as well as expensive.
Like anything, you pay more for something desirable in the market. I’m not in the trade in the sense that I buy and sell records. One thing I have found, for whatever it’s worth, is that by having a broad palate for different kinds of music-- I opened up the range of what I listen to considerably in the last decade--- a lot of the records I’ve bought have increased considerably in value. I didn’t buy them as investments, and their value may go down by the time I pass this mortal coil. At that point, it won’t matter to me anyway.
Good luck and good hunting. (Which is, for many, part of the fun- the pursuit, the gotta have it, hunt it down, relentless won’t rest until I find it in great playing condition chase).
PS: cleaning- don't get me started... :)
I am only interested in promo and test pressings. 
Better get RTR deck and look for master tape dubs than paying hundreds of dollars for maybe slightly better sound. 
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 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.
Finding a "White Hot Stamper" isn't rocket science.

You just need to buy 20 or so copies of Aja or whatever and listen.
That's what stamper guy and his crew do-find every  AA1006 and cross your fingers.
That's what your $400 is paying for- hassle and time sorting thru the mess.

Something I REALLY want, I will go thru 3-4 max to find my personal "stamper". They're at least the same pile of junk stamper guy sends his scouts buying from my neighborhood store.

I only wish I had the vision 20 years ago to offer such a service. Stamper guy has developed a niche, along with his writing skills hyping up an album. Some of it is a little goofy but it must be working.

If I had a top notch 50k+ setup, I would throw down on a couple of classics.
Still not interested.
And I wouldn't listen to Rumours or Year of the Cat even at the original sessions.
Much less repeatedly at home when so much good music is available. 
I'd rather be out anyway.
Inna- the tapes for a lot of these more obscure records are gone. I'm trying to find out if the original master tape still exists for Alice Coltrane's Ptah the El Daoud. It's a marvelous recording that was done in the Coltrane family's home studio that was completed after John died. That record and several others were recorded by Alice there before she went into the ashram. The ambience of the thing is great. Copies are scarce on the market, and command money because it wasn't reissued-- the last extant pressing was 1974 if memory serves. 
The missing tape issue isn't uncommon. Sometimes safeties are used and that may be the source of the dubs. Leave aside the copyright issues- purely on the basis of access to music, tape narrows what is available to me. Otherwise I would have already gone that route. I'm aiming for good quality sound, but also interesting music and tape limits the latter by a wide margin. That isn't to say I could not come up with 100 tapes that probably are available if I choose to do that, but still....
Bill, of course you are right. Is it worth having Studer to play 100 tapes ?
Well, why not ? And maybe eventually more than 100.
So, yeah, if someone wants to reach for the stars and cover everything possible, one got to have both deck and turntable.
I once had 10 original US copies of Bitches Brew, some did sound a little better than others. You know what, when I found first pressing Japanese promo, I discovered in a few seconds that it sounded better than any US that I had. I bet, test pressing, either the original US or the Japanese would cost a fortune in VG+ or better condition.
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.  

For the person who loves Year of the Cat, run and grab a original British pressing of Past, Present and Future, great sounding recording, awesome performance everything you are looking for a lot less than you would pay Tom. 
this is a case for...wait for in this example, n will always be greater than 30....

"Things like the importance of warming up and demagnetizing."

Cartridge? Record? Amplifier?
I typically sit on the sidelines on this forum, but I want to echo what MC is saying here. Better Records delivers easily the best sounding records in the marketplace.

I can see some of you have done your own shootouts so I'm sure you can appreciate the level of time and commitment it takes to put together a catalog of great sounding records the size of what Tom and his crew have.

I don't begrudge anyone who doesn't want to spend the kine of money it takes to buy from them, and I"m all for finding my own great sounding copies of records I care about, but sometimes it's harder to find a great sounding copy of a particular title than one might think, and in those instances I am glad to have BR as a resource.

I'd like to suggest this to the doubters - try buying just one or two records from BR and  really give them your full attention. I've learned A LOT about what makes a record sound good and what doesn't listening to Hot Stampers, and that's VERY helpful when you want to track down your own great sounding records or unearth the gems in your collection.

Forgive me if I"m mistaken, but I think one thing not discussed here is that the way your records sound will have a VERY BIG influence on how your system sounds, and this can also influence the choices you make with gear. Tom has a very special ear for sound, and BR's records are a wonderful resource for seeing the way forward with your analog system. If BR's records sound better with a new piece of equipment or a tweak, then chances are that equipment or tweak will take you in the right direction.

If you're interested in reading more, check out my website where I have quite a bit of content on this and related subjects.
Sweet. Why you been hiding? (I can imagine.) Thanks for posting. And thanks for the link!
Better Records is a terrific resource! Bought many records from Tom over the years. There is indeed a difference heard between Tom's hot stampers and your average copy. If you want the best, you gotta pay, no two ways about it. Unless you want to spend all your time seeking out your own hot stampers.
Thanks for the post millercarbon, I'm new to Audiogon. I always wondered why my original Chrysalis copy of Blondie Parallel Lines sounded way better than my MFSL of the same! Still learning.
Interesting change of pace on this topic.  I have never dealt with Tom Port or Better Records.
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.
 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 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!
I found what has to say about demagnetizing.

"It's critically important to demagnetize your speakers and cables at least ten minutes before listening."

What is that all about? Aren't speakers supposed to function on magnetism, some of them at least? What material are those cables made of? How does their magnetism work?

You should also talk to your records before playing them or they won't sound right, even the ones from better-records.
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.
" shows once again ingenuity and quality wins in the end."

Does Tom know Eric?
A "Cut-Out" is NOT synonymous with a "Promotional" LP. Yes, some of the LP's sent to radio stations and product buyers at record stores in advance of street date had one corner of the cover clipped off, but many didn't, having instead a white label (which is why those are referred to as "White Label Promos" amongst record collectors) in place of the colorful one found on commercial copies, or sometimes just a "Promotional Copy" stamp on the cover (with a commercial label on the LP).

The term "Cut-Out" refers not to the clipped cover, but the album being cut-out of the label's catalog, discontinued. When an album was discontinued, all copies remaining in stock at the record company's warehouse had a corner of the cover clipped off, and sold for peanuts to distributors specializing in "remainders".

When Stereo became big in the last 60's, all the mono Kinks, Beach Boys, etc. LP's could be found in drug stores and other general-interest retailers for 59 cents! Since the "stereo" copies of many LP's were not true stereo but instead "Monaural recordings electronically reprocessed for Stereo" (the worst sounding records ever made), we collectors scoured the markets for the Mono cut-outs. Some of my Mono Kinks album covers have not a clipped corner, but instead a small metal rivet installed. 

So non-Promo cut-outs are generally not the first LP's of any given album pressed, but in fact the last. Some labels (WEA---Warner/Elektra/Asylum---for one) would plaster a sticker on the shrinkwrap identifying the LP as a budget-priced LP (WEA used the term "Super Saver Series", CBS "Nice Price"). These LP's were no different from those shipped before the titles became budget-priced, the sticker just having been applied after the fact.
All true, but not so much. Thru this post, reading each one, no one mentioned the secret trail-off codes. That's probably OK too. 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)? There are definite differences in where the disc was mastered and pressed. During the vinyl hey-day (mid-late 60's thru early-mid 70's) U.S. stampers may have been used to press up to 5000 copies to keep up with demand. Something' going to get lost there. Japanese, German and even U.K. stampers were limited to about 500 or so (your mileage may vary). There is also the sound preferences around the globe. Japanese pressings are tweaked to an almost sterile sound, they really love the almost pure laboratory nuances. German pressings, loud, bawdy and bass happy. U.K. pressings, well, polite is a appropriate description. So, depending on the music, these pressing may be more suitable to your listening preferences for a specific music type or title. Keep in mind, as with all things, exceptions to the rules are always prevalent. So many variables, so little time. AB
I've been collecting records for decades and I agree that the sound quality of different vinyl pressings can vary from brilliant to abysmal depending on many factors.  That is why I have at least 5 copies each of Kraftwerk Autobahn, King Crimson Starless and Bible Black, Pink Floyd Dark Side, etc.  I agree in theory with what Better Records does and that the product they offer could be as they advertise, a record that is a better than average sounding pressing, if not the best example of a particular album.  If people are willing to pay $$$ for those pressings, more power to them, but I can't afford it.  How can you ask $500 for a copy of Supertramp Breakfast in America?  Buying 50 copies of the album, cleaning each one, then listening to each one to find out which copy sounds the best would certainly make that exorbitant price tag seem reasonable.  Would it sound better than the copy I bought for $1 from HPBs?  I will never know and die a happy man.  Besides, record hunting is my job, not theirs.
@arizonabob- you are right. However, the first pressing is not always the best sounding copy in my experience. And I’m not talking about audiophile reissues done later but just stuff that was remastered or reissued along the way. I think it varies, depending on the record- every one is sui generis, you can take account of different pressing plants within the same country bearing the same deadwax info and they sound different too. Condition is of course a huge factor. Some records that are bombastic are inherently noisy; some of the stuff cut by Bell Sound sounds amped up. Some are chewed up from kludgey tone arms. Given the inflated price of vinyl and the very loose standards for grading, it can be a crap shoot unless you are lucky or deal with a trusted seller--
I found a stash of Nathan Davis records from the early ’70s after he returned from Paris that a guy basically got from a dumpster when the studio and plant closed. They were cheap and got expensive fast. Pressed on the thinnest vinyl I’ve ever encountered. Had a few bad ones- but the seller replaced them.
I don’t know that there is any easy answer or rule of thumb- place of origin? Some of the UK Islands were mastered by Sterling in NY. Searching out the best sounding iterations is different than collecting, though they overlap--- sometimes, the best sounding one is the earliest pressing from the country of origin and is also collectible. And sometimes, the records were produced in such small runs that you don’t have much choice except over the condition of the copy, particularly small to private label stuff or obscurities that never found a market and were pressed once (apart from much later reissues, some of dubious origin). Then there’s the vinyl quality itself, which declined precipitously in the ’70s in the U.S.
FWIW, I used to think that Japanese pressings were usually EQ’d brighter and relied on safeties but some jazz and early prog is good on Japanese-- as is some rock. I think you hunt, compare and try to find what matches your fervor, budget and what’s available- thus, folks with a dozen copies of the same record as part of the quest.
If you like a record enough of course you could buy many copies, keep them all and decide for yourself what to listen to and why. I have a few of those in the works. Maybe even sell your own designated “hot stampers”. You might decide that some are even “white hot”. No keeping the best one for yourself though. That would be very naughty!😼
Or if you want to pay top dollar for someone else that you trust to do that for you, then more power to you there as well. Enjoy!
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!

I play records only once these convert to digital for future playback while I listen.  
Some records are just too valuable to put through the ringer of being replayed repeatedly and risk of damage.

Does that make me a bad audiophile?

Once properly tagged the files link to a myriad of related information on the internet. I learn a lot about what I am listening to that way.

I can usually tell which version of a release I have several copies of is which by listening even when streaming off my music server.  
Never dreamed these things would be possible back as a kid. 
The fun in searching yourself for the original ones you want is unsurpassed. I have my list of wanted,  with all required info, matrix, wax, manufacturing and so on (information found relatively easy).
I have learned what to expect from honest grading and country of origin, UK, German & Japaneese pressings are higher on my list and do not care that much for their sonic signature, if any. A good clean with Walker Prelude and they sound fresh and real.
Throughout these years i have collected same titles up to five times and i can say that i enjoy all of them for their uniqueness. 
I even chase some quadrophonic lp's for their different information portrayal.
Now listening to ELP-Trilogy original UK that sounds better than the MFSL from 1995.


"I play records only once these convert to digital for future playback while I listen."

I used to do that and then I read somewhere, probably on Audiogon, that I should play it two times. First pass to remove whatever minuscle debris is left from stamping, then clean the stylus, and only then play the record for posterity. Not that I can hear the difference, but it makes me feel knowledgeable. Finally.
Maybe easier and cheaper to upgrade the equipment than spending so much time and money hunting for a slightly better sounding pressing ?
But there are really bad sounding pressings that are not acceptable.
I have a few Japanese pressings from 70s and 80s, they don't sound like arizonabob described. Jazz rock. and couple of acoustic music. 
Glupson almost every record I own or buy is used and played but yes sometimes NEW vinyl historically may require a few plays to be their quietest. It depends.

I do clean most used records thoroughly before the big play unless on inspection it looks and then sounds like it is clean to start with.  I hate when my digitized vinyl includes noise from the vinyl. It’s the only dead giveaway what the source was. 
Then it’s always interesting to see if my Picard auto tagging software is able to scan and recognize the track I digitized and auto tag it.  Sometimes yes sometimes no. Often I have to resort to other means like drag and drop to get things autotagged 
"Often I have to resort to other means like drag and drop to get things autotagged"

This may be the world's first opportunity to use the word "semi-autotagged".

I did not even know that such a program exists so I always write all the metadata in by myself (Korg Audiogate and Mp3tag).
Digitizing vinyl? defeats the whole purpose of buying vinyl.

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!

I believe the pressing of 1812 MC is referring to is this one:
SPA 108 - TCHAIKOVSKY - 1812 Overture ALWYN London Symph Orch.
Found copy of it on ebay from a UK seller, in mint condition. Only paid $25. Whether or not it is a hot stamper, too soon to tell, as it has not been played.

I did pick up a copy of Falla / The Three Cornered Hat (Complete Ballet) / Ansermet - Super Hot Stamper. It was very difficult to find elsewhere...paid $169.
Fact is I get a lot more mileage out of my vinyl by digitizing and tagging it in my music library. It’s at my fingertips to play then wherever I go. Anywhere in the house or outside, in the car via CarPlay via Plexamp streamer or away typically with headphones. It’s a slam dunk. Sound quality is not an issue. I still keep all my records and CDs that I convert. Not getting rid of anything. Just no reason to bother to playa record more than once anymore which the records tell me they approve of. They are not fond of going through the ordeal of being played with that nasty stylus digging in throughout 🙏

They also stay clean longer this way. They are neat freaks you know! Delicate little buggers.

The only down side is it is still a time consuming process to do right but I got it down pretty good. I play both sides and it’s all a wrap within 15 minutes or so after. So many records still to go though. I only bother to convert the best copies.

Maybe I will see if I can stash and share a file somewhere so people interested can give a listen. 
Digitizing vinyl? 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:
SPA 108 - TCHAIKOVSKY - 1812 Overture ALWYN London Symph Orch.
Found copy of it on ebay from a UK seller, in mint condition. Only paid $25. Whether or not it is a hot stamper, too soon to tell, as it has not been played.

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. 
audioguy85, read my post carefully. Bad pressings I get rid of. I meant very slight difference between pressings and huge cost and/or effort often involved. If money is no object - be my guest and do both, there are record dealers that will get you if not anything but most.
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. I've been buying original releases from the late 70's on and as others have noted, a lot of these originals sound much better than later releases so it stands to reason that all us old timers have white hot stampers in our collections already. 
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'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.