Today’s vinyl-loving audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making more than forty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just audiophile fads, each with a track record of underperformance that seems to worsen with each passing year? Would you really want to defend this piece of junk in 2023?
In my formative years in audio, starting in the mid-70s, it would never have occurred to me to buy more than one copy of a record. I didn’t need to do a head-to-head comparison in order to find out which one sounded better. I approached the subject Platonically, not scientifically: the record that should sound better, would sound better.
Later on in the decade, a label by the name of Mobile Fidelity would come along claiming to actually make better sounding pressings than the ones the major labels put out, and cluelessly I bought into that nonsense too. (To be fair, sometimes they did — Waiting for Columbus and American Beauty come to mind if you don’t have properly-pressed, properly-mastered originals, but my god, Katy Lied, Year of the Cat and Sundown have to be three of the worst sounding records I’ve ever played in my life.)
And isn’t it every bit as true today as it was in the past that the audiophiles who buy these “special” pressings, like the ones I bought back in the 70s and 80s, rarely seem to notice that many of them don’t actually sound very good? (Some of the worst can be found here, the worst of the worst here.)
Turns out there are no easy answers. There are no quick fixes. In audio there’s only hard work and more hard work. That’s what gives the learning curve its curvature — the more you do it, the better you can do it.
And if doing all that work is also your idea of fun, you just might get really good at it.
If you actually enjoy playing five or ten or even fifteen copies of the same album to find the few that really sound good, and the one that sounds amazing — because hearing your favorite music the way it was meant to be heard is a positive thrill — then you just might end up with one helluva record collection, worlds better than one filled with audiophile pressings from any era, most especially the present.