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The premise of this guy's business model is not BS at all. Every cut (lacquer) definitely sounds 
different and there are audible differences in stampers, for instance with early RCA Living Stereo 
LPs. In the case of Mercury, about which I can speak first hand, the original stereo pressings 
(designated with an "I" and something like "A1" in the deadwax) are VAST superior-sounding to later 
pressings because the early ones were pressed by RCA at the same Indianapolis plant that was doing 
the superb Living Stereo vinyl. After Philips took control of Mercury, they forced all pressing to 
the company-owned plant at Richmond IN, which was inferior. However, under strict orders to put 
quality above cost and carefully monitored, Richmond did produce some good-sounding cuts in the 
early "RFR" pressings. But, by the mid-60's, quality was awful across the board. The same is true of 
Command Classics. The original pressings were quite good, but late MCA/ABC pressings done out in 
California are terrible. In the case of RCA, most people say anything pressed with the Dynagroove 
system is inferior to previous cuts. RCA then went to paper-thin vinyl, which was also noisy at 
first but got quieter over time.

In the pop/rock world, in almost all cases, the first pressing with a verified cut by the listed 
mastering engineer is almost always superior to subsequent pressings. In the case of a huge hit, 
several very good mastering engineers may have cut lacquers, and there will be debate over which 
sounds the best. Also, in the case of mega-hits like for instance Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours," the 
same 2-track tape was used to cut _many_ lacquers. Even though Ken Perry at Capitol cut most of 
those lacquers, the earlier pressings sound better because the tape had been run through the machine 
fewer times. This is even more true with digital masters, for instance Bruce Springsteen "Born In 
the USA." If you believe in such things as "clones" in the U-Matic days, then theoretically there 
should be no differences, but there are because "cloning" added jitter and error-correction and thus 
the U-Matic tapes got to sounding worse as they went down the line.

I also see a lot of record-club dreck out in the used vinyl market, and you have to be careful to 
spot it. Some is clearly labelled on the sleeve, "Manufactured for the Columbia Record Club" and the 
like. But much is more subtle. One has to look closely at the deadwax and know the cutting marks of 
the various mastering engineers.

Bottom line, if you can afford a house-priced LP playback system, you're not going to flinch at 
paying top dollar to a guy who will hunt down the very best pressings in the very best conditions.

And by the way, there are differences in CD editions because different glass-master machines add 
more or less jitter (this shouldn't be a problem under modern conditions, but it was in the 1990s), 
and different component materials mean different discs behave mechanically differently in various 
players, adding error-correction and jitter in some cases. People forget that CD manufacturing and 
playback are mechanical processes, and bits may well be bits going in but they can get mangled in 
the mechanics.

Finally, in the age of remastering and reissuing, there are HUGE sonic differences in playback and 
transfer chains when analog sources are involved. Almost nothing from the pre-transistor era gets 
remastered using similar equipment to what produced it, and I hear errors with playback EQ curves 
all the time. Furthermore, a modern CD reissue will have very different EQ in the remastering chain 
from most LPs. Those of us who deal with old tapes often see cutting EQ notes on the boxes. There 
were regularly large (+/-5 or 6dB) cuts and boosts at various frequencies, in order to make records 
sound louder and to make them more trackable. This was less that case with classical, but 
compromises often needed to be made in low frequencies to allow trackability, and a low-pass filter 
was often in the cutting chain to prevent blowing out the cutterhead with the steep HF boost in the 
RIAA curve. This is why a competently-produced CD reissue should always sound more similar to the 
master tape (for better or worse) than "golden era" vinyl.

People who can't hear these kinds of differences wouldn't be interested in high-quality used vinyl 
and can stick to earbuds and all you can eat streaming. People with the ability and equipment to 
listen carefully do tend to care about sound quality and seek out their favorite versions of old 
gems.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Chris Bishop" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, March 06, 2015 7:56 AM
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Another vinyl fad


> http://www.wired.com/2015/03/hot-stampers/
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