[This commentary is from 2007 and admittedly a bit long in the tooth for the brave new world of Heavy Vinyl we currently find ourselves in. Classic Records has been gone for quite a while and when that happened we said good riddance to their bad records.]
Mike Hobson finally figured out why his pressings often don’t sound good and/or are noisy. We’ll let him explain it. If you want the whole story (which goes on for days) you can find it on the Classic Records web site. While you’re there, remember the sound.
One day, while out for a run, I had an epiphany and rushed home to dig out a JVC pressing from the 1980’s pressed for Herb Belkin’s Mobile Fidelity. The Mobile Fidelity UHQR pressings were always revered as sounding better than the standard weight pressings from JVC – but why I thought? To find out, I cut a UHQR pressing in half and guess what I found? First, it weighed 195 grams and IT WAS A FLAT PROFILE! I cut a 120g JVC pressing in half and found that it had the conventional profile that, with small variations, seems to be a record industry standard and is convex in it’s [sic] profile – NOT FLAT.
So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings! [italics added]
There was no need to saw up a record; Mofi actually explained in the booklet for every UHQR how its shape differed from a conventional disc. Here is one of the images they used in the technical specs booklet that came with most UHQRs. Yes, it’s flat. (The later ones didn’t have the booklet because the whole project was such a disaster that they didn’t want to spend the money to print them for records they were selling below their cost. When I first got in the audiophile record biz in the late ’80s I was buying boxfuls of sealed UHQRs for $9 each.)
Let’s Get Real
UHQRs were junk then and they are junk now. They are plain and simply bad sounding records. The UHQR pressings may have been revered in their day, may even be revered now, but they are truly awful sounding records, Tea for the Tillerman probably being the worst among them.
Do UHQRs sound better than the standard weight pressings MoFi was pressing at the time? Some do and some don’t, but what difference does that make? Bad sound is bad sound; whether one bad record is slightly better than another bad record is not particularly helpful to know.
With One Exception
Crime of the Century. Yes, the right UHQR pressing of this album can truly sound amazing. The “right” pressing is also very hard to find.
[NEWSFLASH: The last time we played the so-called “good stamper” pressing of the UHQR, it sounded as phony and wrong as any other Mobile Fidelity pressing, with that same ridiculous boost to the top end that practically anything mastered by Stan Ricker always seems to have.]
Back to Our Story
But the second false conclusion drawn from this experiment is the statement I added italics to : “So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings!”
Is that really the reason? The only reason? Couldn’t it have something to do with the mastering? Does Mr. Hobson not know that most of the UHQR pressings are different masterings than the non-UHQR MoFi pressings? That he’s comparing apples to oranges?
This is the rest of this part of his story. (As I say, it goes on for days.)
But, there is a difference in the original Blue Note Mono flat profile and the JVC UHQR profile. While both are flat across the groove area, the JVC pressing had a groove guard! I sent half of the JVC UHQR pressing to our Super Vinyl Profile die maker and had a new set of dies made with a variant of the JVC UHQR groove guard. In mid 2007, RTI installed the new dies and immediately had success with the groove guard Flat Profile producing records which did not sound any different than non-groove guard Flat Profile pressings! We immediately changed over to pressing on what we are now calling Classic Records Super Vinyl Profile II (SV-P II) at RTI. Problems with stitching and non-fill were dramatically reduced and the reject rate at RTI also declined to below normal levels. Finally, we had found our way to greater consistency in terms of pressing quality!
Anyway, it seems he’s found a new way to press his records that makes them sound better. I sure don’t hear much improvement. Classic Records always sound like Classic Records to me. We’ve discussed the sound of quite a few of them on the site.
and we can’t forget this one