Turning Master Tapes into Mud Pies – The Magic of the Electric Recording Company

More of the Music of Love

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Love

““It’s magical what they’re doing, recreating these old records,” Fremer said as he swapped out more Electric Recording discs.”

Swapped them out? Anyone with an ounce of respect for Love’s music would have tossed them into the nearest trash bin.

Our Story Begins

We did a shootout for Love’s Forever Changes earlier this year, and it was our good luck to get hold of a copy of the Electric Recording Company’s pressing of the album in order to see how it would fare against our Gold Label Stereo original pressings.

As you can see from the notes, to say that we could hardly believe what we were hearing clearly understates the depth of our befuddlement.

We simply have no context for a record that sounds as bad as this record sounds. We’ve never heard anything like it, and we’ve played a lot of records in the 35 years we’ve been in business. After critically auditioning thousands upon thousands of pressings in our shootouts, all day every day for the last twenty years, we’ve worn out scores of cartridges and even our Triplanar tonearm.

But this is new ground for us. A quick recap:

  • Incredibly dull,
  • Has no top or space at all,
  • One of the worst reissues I’ve ever heard.

You get the picture. What more needs be said? Last year I wrote the following:

Pete Hutchison of The Electric Recording Company makes some of the worst sounding records I have ever played in my life.

If you play me one of his awful records, and don’t tell me who made it, I can judge the record on its merits, the way we judge all records. We test records blindly for precisely this reason. We let the record tell us how well it was made, what it does right and wrong relative to other pressings of the same album, comparing apples to apples.

His records tell me he loves the sound of the murkiest, muddiest vintage tube equipment ever made, and wants every record he produces to have that sound.

In my book that is an egregious case of My-Fi, not Hi-Fi. We wrote about it here.

It’s astonishing to me that anyone takes this guy seriously.

In the Washington Post video, we did a little comparison on camera for two pressings of Quiet Kenny, a record I will have more to say about in Part Two of this commentary. Here is Geoff Edgers’ description in the article of how it all went down.

The first is from the Electric Recording Co., based in London, which produces roughly a dozen albums each year on vintage equipment painstakingly restored by owner Pete Hutchison. ERC makes just 300 copies of each reissue and charges $376 per album. The stock sells out immediately. Then the records pop up on eBay for as much as $2,000.

[Sunshine] English, [our assistant at the turntable] has agreed not to reveal which copy is being played so the shootout can be truly blind. She lowers the needle onto the ERC edition of “Quiet Kenny.” Port groans loudly. “Listen to that bass,” he says. “Blah, blah, blah, blah. Who wants to play a record that sounds like this?”

Next up is a copy pressed by Analogue Productions, the Kansas-based label founded by Chad Kassem. Port says that Kassem “has never made a single good sounding record” since AP’s founding in 1991. (Kassem calls Port a “f—ing loser.”) This blind listen gets better marks, which surprises Port when he’s told it’s an Analogue.

“That’s the best-sounding Analogue Productions record I’ve ever heard,” Port says. “Because it’s not terrible.”

Later on in the article, Edgers writes:

We talk more about ERC and how coveted Hutchison’s records are in the market. He agrees to try song two on the ERC vinyl, but things don’t get better. I suggest that maybe English adjust the arm on the turntable. The vertical tracking angle, or VTA, as he calls it. “Nothing can fix this record,” he shouts back. “It’s junk. And that guy should be ashamed of himself.”

If you go to the video embedded in the article on their site, about thirty seconds in I have this to say about the ERC pressing:

“This guy’s a mud pie maker. That’s junk.”

Which seems obvious to me. Apparently others, including the audiophile quoted at the top of this commentary, see things differently.

A few questions come to mind.

This is the muddy sound audiophiles want?

Has anyone else called out the awful sound of this guy’s records?

Can everyone be in on the grift?

Is there not a single self-identified audiophile with ears that operate well enough to tell him how bad this guy’s records sound?

Let me add an additional thought to the quote at the top of this commentary:

Any reviewer who claims to be writing for audiophiles and has ever said anything nice about this guy’s work is clearly not qualified to do his job.