Record Shopping Day Video!
Not sure how much of this video you can stand — nothing could interest me less than a couple of audiophile / vinyl enthusiasts spouting off on what they think about some random records sitting in a local store’s bins — but one or two bits caught my eye. I thought it might possibly be of service to share them with you.
Is there any value to the comments of these two collectors? If you care about what music they like, perhaps. Anything about what to look for on the label or jacket that might correspond to better sound? If it’s there I sure didn’t see it, but I admit to speeding through most of it so I can’t say for sure.
The first bit I refer to above is at 18:42. The album in question is the legendary Kind of Blue. At this point the unseen helmet-cammed audiophile picks up the record, recognizes the original cover, and proceeds to pull the record out to see what era the pressing is from.
Drat! The disappointment in this audiophile’s voice is palpable as he drops the record back in the bin with his dismissive comment that “it’s a later pressing.”
But we here at Better Records would be falling all over ourselves to get our hands on that later pressing. Those late pressings can and often do win shootouts. We would never look down our noses at a Red Label Columbia jazz LP, and neither should you.
Our intrepid audiophile explorer does much the same thing about 23 minutes in. It seems pretty clear to us that he has no respect for such reissues, another example of one of the most common myths in record collecting land, the myth that the original pressing is always, or to be fair, usually better.
This is simply not true, and those of our customers who have purchased White Hot Stamper pressings from us that turned out to be reissues know exactly what I am talking about. This is especially true for the records we sell by The Beatles. No original pressing has every won a shootout.
Let’s get back to Kind of Blue. Is the ’50s original always better, is the ’70s reissue always better, is the ’60s 360 pressing always better? No to one, two and three.
Why? Because no pressing is always better. All pressings are unique and should only be judged on their merits, and you do that by playing them, not by looking at their labels. For us this truth is practically axiomatic. It is in fact the premise of our entire business. Over the course of the 28 years we have been selling records we have never found any compelling evidence to invalidate it.
The day that someone can accurately predict the sound quality of a specific record by looking at the label or cover is a day I do not expect to come, ever.
A Larger Point
But there is a larger point to be made. Let’s assume that the best original Six Eye Columbia pressings can be the best — the most Tubey Magical, the most involving, the most real. You just happen to have a clean pressing, and you absolutely love it.
But is it the best? How could you possibly know that?
Unless you have done a comparison with many copies under controlled conditions, you simply cannot know where on the curve your copy rightfully belongs.
Perhaps you have a mediocre original. Or a mediocre 360 Label copy. Since you haven’t done a massive shootout you simply have no way of knowing just how good sounding the album can be.
If that’s the case, even stipulating that the best early pressings are potentially the best sounding, that lowly ’70s Red Label copy that got tossed back into the record pond could very well have turned out to be the best sounding pressing you ever heard.
But Bad Audiophile Record Collector Thinking prevents the very possibility of such an outcome. A record never auditioned cannot win a shootout, even a simple head to head competition against the copy you alreadyhave in your collection. The result? Your Kind of Blue never gets any better. You’re stuck, at what level nobody knows, especially you.
Our advice is to turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, letting your ears, not your eyes, become your one and only trusted guide to the best sounding pressings.
And please consider us a trustworthy second in line, a source for the best sounding titles that you do not have time to shoot out for yourself.
Here’s more on Kind of Blue.