I tend to agree with Roger that there were some very good-sounding classical LP records made in the
1980s. There were some good reasons, however, why this era is shunned by some collectors.
1. many people don't like the sound of early digital recordings, period. From 1979 onward, many and
then most new classical LPs were made from digital masters. The classical labels wholeheartedly
embraced digital recording early. So the same mentality that left some without a CD player well into
the 1990s would lead them to hate digital-master LPs.
2. this also carried over into the reissue market. Labels would make digital masters for early CDs
(we know how good those sounded, by and large) and then cut a "New Improved Digital Remaster" LP.
Collectors by and large didn't like these reissues one bit, no matter how good the vinyl and
3. there were reissues like Mercury Golden Imports which didn't sound anything like the originals,
although they were pressed on very quiet vinyl. There were also reissues of mono content mastered to
fake stereo and all the quiet vinyl did was show how bad fake stereo sounds.
4. I've heard conflicting stories about the Angel issues of EMI material. One version says that EMI
would send over NAB-EQ dubs for Capitol to cut. The other story says EMI would send over CCIR master
tapes and Capitol's cutting guys would EQ around their NAB playback curve. Either way, I agree with
David Burnham that some of those Angel reissues don't sound right. In contrast, as I understand it,
some, many or most of the London reissues of Decca material were pressed from either plates or
laquers made in England. If I recall correctly, some of the manufacturing was done in Canada, but
maybe that was only the sleeves?
5. Columbia and RCA reissued a few classic titles using gimmicks like half-speed mastering and heavy
vinyl. Some of them sounded OK, but I recall reading a lot of bad comments about RCA not sounding
like the original Living Stereo records.
6. the final net-net for late-era USA vinyl was it was paper-thin and the sleeves were often cheaply
made. Production was sloppy, so you'd get inner sleeves folded over and having scratched the record
in process. Non-warped records were less than common. Stuff from record clubs was even worse, a step
down in quality.
There are some cases with the early digital recordings, where the original LP sounds much better
than the CD. The main reason for this would be early sample-rate conversion equipment and early CD
mastering in general. For instance some people very much prefer the early Columbia 3M Digital
records on their original LPs vs the Masterworks Digital CDs of the late 80s. Same for Telarc and
RCA early digital recordings made with the Soundstream system. By about 1985, many original
recordings were "born" at 44.1/16-bit, so there shouldn't have been any bitrate conversion issues.
However, Decca used its proprietary 48k/18-bit system throughout the 1980s, and EMI may have used
its higher-than-CD-resolution well into the 80s. I think RCA used Soundstream for quite a while,
Finally, you got some specialized audiophile LP reissues, for instance Decca on Mobile Fidelity and
various Polygram material out of Japan, that was of very high quality.
Many of these comments run parallel in the jazz world. Stuff "Newly Digitally Remastered" and then
put on a newly-cut LP usually didn't sound better than originals. This was especially true with
Columbia reissues of 78's where someone had gone nuts with CEDAR and destroyed any ambience or
room-tone in the original recordings, plus lopped off the entire top end.
In the rock world, there are definitely cases of fast-selling albums where later remasters (required
because so many copies had been sold that new laquers and plates were needed) sound better than
original pressings. There are also plenty of the opposite. In general, record-club versions sounded
worse if they weren't pressed from original parts (and they usually still did because they'd be
pressed on warped paper-thin noisy vinyl). The overall quality of rock LPs suffered when duped
cassettes became the go-to mass medium in the late 80s. LP releases of new albums just about stopped
by the time CDs outsold cassettes.
-- Tom Fine