You could buy a song on iTunes for $1.29. Or listen for free (with ads) from Spotify or Pandora or other sites. Or, you can go to Better Records and pay $500 or more for a vinyl LP of the same songs.
The online store’s offerings are mostly classic albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or Carole King’s Tapestry. They aren’t obscure bootlegs or limited-edition collectables. But just those two records will cost you a whopping $749.99 and $349.99, respectively.
Just do the math, that’s 2,344% more than the $31.99 Amazon charges for a new vinyl copy of Pink Floyd’s iconic
double album. And 4098% more than a $18.30 CD. ( It is two discs, after all. Correction: As many readers noted, of course The Wall is the Pink Floyd double album, not Dark Side.)
As detailed in a delightful Wired Magazine profile, Better Records owner Tom Port explains why his store has no problem finding customers.
“I’d like to charge $1,500, because that’s what I think these records are worth,” he tells Wired. “But I don’t, because the customers balk.”
We applaud Port’s creativity and dedication to his vision. (And we don’t just mean his ambitious pricing scheme.) It’s a Maker spirit that drives Port for absolute sonic perfection.
Better Records’ products are vintage, but the key attraction is the quality of the actual stamping and how well the vinyl has been preserved. If a record was an early pressing (before the stamp starts developing flaws) and has been meticulously cared for, it might earn the title of “Hot Stamper” from Port.
(The Better Records test player. Credit: Better Records)
His wares are carefully sourced from thrift stores and sites like eBay, then cleaned with a machine like an $8,000 Odyssey RCM MKV, and subjected to a careful listening test.
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“Hot Stampers are records with sound that goes far beyond the average pressing of that album. We find them by cleaning and comparing multiple copies of the same record,” Port writes on his site’s FAQ.
He offers a money-back guarantee to customers who are disappointed by the sound of their pricey purchase.
Port says that true audiophiles feel they get their money’s worth.
On the site’s testimonial page, a buyer named Rich F. raves about his copy of Floyd’s The Wall: “The quality is mind-blowing. I want you guys to know how much pure pleasure you’re able to generate, and it’s priceless.”
Needless to say, you’ll need a fairly serious stereo rig to get the most out of these albums. But if you’re paying $599.99 for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, buying one shouldn’t be a problem.
Audiophiles have a bit of a bad reputation for geeking out over ultra-expensive gear, but many, like Slate’s Fred Kaplan, insist the haters are wrong.
Port also offers some advice that average LP fans, who aren’t going to shell out for pristine vinyl, can use:
- Warm up your stereo for at least 30 minutes before any serious listening. This loosens up the speakers, he says. “Play them loud if you can,” he adds.
- Clean your records frequently. He feels strongly about which products to use. Look into Walker Audio’s Prelude Cleaning System. Warning: It costs $215. Or consider Disc Doctor.
- Unplug other electric devices if you can, to avoid issues with the power going into your stereo system. “We cannot stress this too strongly.”
- Demagnetize your speakers and cables. “The difference in sound before and after is almost shocking,” he writes.
Oh, and that $749.99 copy of Dark Side of the Moon? Sorry, but the site says it’s been sold.