Well, it certainly can be, but sometimes it isn’t, and failing to appreciate that possibility is a classic case of misundertanding a crucially important fact or two about records. Audiophile analog devotees would do well to keep these facts in mind, especially considering the prices original British pressings are fetching these days.
Simply put: Since no two records sound alike, it follow that the right label doesn’t guarantee the right sound. A recent shootout illustrated both of these truths.
We had a number of Pink Island British pressings to play — if you hit enough record stores often enough, in this town anyway, even the rarest pressings are bound to show up in clean condition from time to time — along with Sunrays (aka Pink Rims), Brits, early Two Tone domestics and plain Brown Label Reprise reissues. All of them can sound good. (We do not waste time with German and Japanese pressings, or any of the later Chrysalis label LPs. Never heard an especially good one.)
What surprised the hell out of us was how bad one of the Pink Label sides sounded. It was shockingly thin and hard and practically unlistenable. Keep in mind that during our shootouts the listener has no idea which pressing is being played, so imagine hearing such poor reproduction on vinyl and then finding out that such bad sound was coming from a copy that should have been competitive with the best, on the legendary Pink Island label no less. (Of course the other Pinks were all over the map, their sides ranging from good to great.)
Hearing one sound this bad was completely unexpected, but hearing the unexpected is what we do for a living, so I suppose it shouldn’t have been. Having dubious looking reissues and the “wrong” pressings beat the originals and the so-called “right” pressings from the “right” countries is all in a day’s work here at Better Records.
Still, a Pink Label Stand Up sounding this bad? I have to admit I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. But we don’t let our heads tell us which pressing sounds the best, an approach to finding good records that most audiophiles to this day apparently subscribe to, if my reading of reviews, forum posts and the like is correct.
We find blind testing using only our ears works much better. This approach regularly leads to our finding amazingly good sounding “unknown” pressings, and, in the case of Stand Up, amazingly bad well-known ones as well.