Here’s the story of my first encounter with a Hot Stamper Zep II.
I had a friend who had come into possession of a White Label Demo pressing of the second album and wanted to trade it in to me for the Mobile Fidelity pressing that I had played for him once or twice over the years, and which we both thought was The King on that album.
To my shock and dismay, his stupid American copy KILLED the MoFi. It TROUNCED it in every way. The bass was deeper and punchier. Everything was more dynamic. The vocals were more natural and correct sounding. The highs were sweeter and more extended. The whole pressing was just full of life in a way that the Mobile Fidelity wasn’t.
The Mobile Fidelity didn’t sound Bad. It sounded Not As Good. More importantly, in comparison with the good domestic copy, in many ways it now sounded Wrong.
Let me tell you, it was a milestone event in my growth as a record collector. I had long ago discovered that many MoFi’s weren’t all they were cracked up to be. But this was a MoFi I liked. And it had killed the other copies I had heard in the past.
So I learned something very important that day. I learned that hearing a good pressing is the best way to understand what’s wrong with a bad pressing..
Needless to say, the trade didn’t go through: he kept his copy and I was stuck with mine. But I knew what to look for. I knew what the numbers were in the dead wax. And I started hunting them down.
Our Review of the Mobile Fidelity Zep II
This pressing has to be one of the worst audiophile remastering f*ck-ups in the history of the world. There is NOT ONE aspect of the sound that isn’t wrong. Not one I tell you!
The highs are boosted, the upper midrange is boosted, the mid-bass is boosted, the low bass is missing — what part of the frequency spectrum is even close to correct on this pressing? The answer: none.
I used to sell the Atlantic German import reissue LPs years ago. At the time I thought they were pretty good, but then the Japanese Analog Series came out and I thought those we’re the best.
Boy was I wrong. Those Japanese pressings, I realize now, are way too bright.
Surprisingly, the German reissues sound more or less correct to me now. The best of them are tonally balanced from top to bottom, which is more than you can say for most pressings of Led Zeppelin II. (Some of the titles from that series are of course awful. There are no groups of records that do not have winners and losers among them and those who do not appreciate that fact are setting a very low bar for the quality of the records they own.)
And of course the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl pressing is an absolute DISASTER — a ridiculously bright, ridiculously crude, completely unlistenable piece of garbage. This is the guy who cut the record and he, like so many before him, really screwed up.
The Jimmy Page remaster from 2014, mastered by John Davis, is very, very good. Not without its faults, mind you, but in the top one or two per cent of all the remastered records we have ever played. Our review is coming, hopefully sooner rather than later. If you want a good Zep II and don’t have the $1000+ that a Robert Ludwig mastered pressing commands these days, give that one a try.
It actually — gasp! — fixes a problem with the mastering on the originals for at least one track, which came as quite a shock, I can tell you that. More on the subject in my review. If you think you know which track it is, do drop me a line.