Choosing between Reissue and Original pressings

Reissues have been common since quite some time but these days as vinyl has picked up momentum again, there have been some very high quality reissues from labels like Classic, Analogue Productions, Speakers corner, MFSL, Boxstar etc. For any particular album how do you decide whether buy a good reissue or get a good copy of original pressing from ebay ?

For the sake of discussion lets keep out exceptions where the original pressing is too hard to get or too expensive. In most cases it is possible to buy a copy of original pressing for sane amount of money if one shops carefully on ebay but I have also found that quite a few times a high quality reissue can sound better. Whats the general thought among hardcore vinyl followers here ?

Sometimes the reissues turn out better then an original release. However today I no longer buy re-issued anything, If I have to own it I hunt down an original release , it may have noisy surfaces but at lease the music is a live.
I think the only company you mention that accually did a good job at re-issues was Classic. A couple of examples of poor re-issues was particularly from Speakers Corner and Mobile Fidelity. Speakers Corner with their Mercury Living Presence and decades before Mobile Fidelity with their entire catalogue, a myth has carried on over the decades about their re-issues very few are accually good.
Don't rely on positive chat over the net or favorable reviews ,find the 1 or 2 % that don't like it and put your faith in what they have to say.
At the end of Day: Each his own:- )Unfortunately a lot of Press Plants
closed in the 90's and most Know How is gone. Now only a few do it,
more or less good, but honestly, only a quality shadow from those
records we got in the 80's++. From my experience, most reissues are
horrible from quality, hardly a side which is completely silent. Acoustic
Sounds always made a good job, maybe a few others, too, but in general
these problems have nothing to do with the Playback System. I think,
sooner or later we will find cartridge designers who offer round needles
again, because they are not so sensitive (Lyra Kleos for example is made
for those). But this is like riding a dead horse...MP3 sound with vinyl

Reissues can't be better than an Original, this is technically not possible,
best what can be done is to get it as close as possible to the Original
one, but normally they are worse (you can hear it immediately in the
higher frequencies and in the tonal colors). Listening with a cheap
cartridge and Originals is better than with expensive carts + reissues. It
is a matter of experience....
If I had to choose, in the abstract, between an original pressing and a
reissue, I'd choose the original (assuming, as you are asking us to, that it is
not impossibly priced). Boxstar is a good example. I like Janis Ian's
Between the Lines and have a number of copies, both originals and the
Boxstar 'audiophile approved' reissue. I fired that up a couple months ago
and thought something was wrong, it sounded flat and lifeless. I put one of
the old CBS pressings on, and whooosh! Back came the life. Ditto, on a
similar experience with a not so mainstream jazz recording of Amina
Claudia Meyers saluting Bessie Smith. The original, on Leo Records,
sounds very, very good- particularly the piano. I bought an audiophile
reissue to have as a backup. It sounds dead and at two removes by
The difficulty with the originals (and in both cases mentioned above, the
originals came from an era that was not a high water mark in vinyl quality,
circa 70'-80's), is condition. Buying used, even 'mint' is not mint in my book-
noisy because of what it was played back on in the day, or worse.
I don't know why remastering engineers have to change the sonics in a way
that is sterile. Maybe it is the condition of the master tapes (assuming they
are going back to original tapes, which may be a big assumption).
In some instances, the reissue may be better only because the pressing
quality of the original was so bad. Here, I'm thinking of the Shelby Lynne
'Just a Little Lovin' record- the Lost Highway pressing is just unplayable. It
is defective. And the copies I had were not anomalies in this regard. You
have to buy the 'audiophile' version to get one that's playable. (And even
those have uneven quality control from what I gather).
I'm sure I could think of other examples where the reissue is acceptable as
an alternative~ but often that is because the original is impossibly
How do you know which is better if you had a choice? You don't, without
playing it or relying on someone you trust. I don't necessarily trust
reviewers, having bought a few records based on positive comments about
sonics- either we don't share the same view on what sounds 'good' or our
taste in music is fundamentally different.
I've had decent luck finding some 'pop' records from the late 60's- early
70's that sound really good, but there may be copy to copy variability. Two
examples: the second Blood Sweat and Tears record can sound startling, if
a little bright; ditto a couple sides of Chicago II. (One of the sides on that
record sounds nasty, i can't remember which, and maybe it was my copy,
but even on the same copy, there may be differences in the sound from
side to side). Final observation re a well-known record: I have had
innumerable versions of Tea for the Tillerman, including the UHQR which I
bought new. The best is the pink label on Island, pressed in the UK. The
pink rim is also good. All the other reissues sound ''less good.' But the pink
label is a known commodity and is priced accordingly.
Sorry for the long post.
Postscript: the Classic reissues on 45 can be very good and in the case of
the RCA 'dogs' are quieter than the originals I have. But I had a lot of QC
issues with stitching and 'no fill' and quit buying their records at one point
when they were still newly and cheaply available because I didn't want to
put up with bad pressings. So, even where there could be an improvement,
it turned out to be illusory.
Thanks everyone for writing elaborate posts on this topic. This is a very important subject especially for people like me who has just started building their record collection. When I visit a record shop I see tons of options and it becomes difficult to choose. Apart from the Audiophile reissues there are other variations of the same album, like:

1. First pressing
2. Early pressing
3. Early reissue
4. Pressed in so and so country (mostly specified if it is a Japanese pressing)
5. Early reissue by a famous XYZ label (like MFSL)

First pressings are rare but early pressings are found more often. In such cases do you favour "country of pressing" ? If yes, then how do you rank them ?

Coming over to reissues, an album like Muddy Waters "Folk Singer" has been released by MFSL and Analogue productions and of course there must be the original pressing of it. What do you do in such situations ?

Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" reissue, remastered by Steve Hoffman is generally considered much superior to the original (I havent heard the original though). Question is, if a reputed mastering engineer is involved in a certain reissue (Steve Hoffman, Bernie Grundmann, Bob Ludwig etc), does it make a good case to buy the reissue ?

One more question, is it possible to detect the original pressings from a early reissue ?
First pressing? By that Pani I assume you mean the first stamper.

If so, the desirability of the first stamper escapes me, as with the RCA S-1s. It would seem the critical issue would be how many records a given stamper pressed. So would the fifth pressing from S-10 be worse than the 1500th from S-1?

But I don't know how many records S-1 stamped out, nor do I have any idea how to even guess which pressing a given record might be within its respective stamper's life.

So bottom line, it becomes a matter of auditioning any two pressings of the same record. And yes, I have heard significant differences.
I don't know if there is a general rule of thumb on which pressing or country of origin is best. Others with more or different knowledge are free to contradict me, but here's what I know:
on certain records, I suspect the first pressing is more desirable for collectability than sonics;
there's all kinds of lore (some of which may be true) about the matrix numbers, pressing plants and mastering engineer inscriptions- I certainly couldn't generalize about that, or point to particular examples where I have compared one old record to another and concluded that a later pressing from a different plant sounded better than a first pressing; I know there were preferences among RCA collectors, but I haven't done enough comparisons to make a valid judgment. I do remember comparing a white dog to a shaded dog of one old RCA classical record and the white dog sounded better- this was quite a while ago.
as to country of origin, my guess is to look where the record originated from- Mercurys are probably better from the US; UK stuff, like Island, probably UK. I think out of all the Pink Floyd Dark Sides, it is the UK original that gets the votes for sonics.
As to Japanese reissues, I think the key there was that a lot of records were made of crap recycled vinyl in the late 70's-80's, and the japanese were touting virgin vinyl. But, given what they were working from in the way of masters, I wouldn't necessarily say a japanese reissue is hands-down better.
Does your last question mean, can you hear the difference? I gave you a couple of examples in my earlier post. And the originals were pretty standard issue, generic pressings from major labels of big selling popular records.
As time and my system has improved, I have found most of the MFSL records (old ones that I bought new back in the day) to sound very average, nothing special. I think most were mastered at that time by Stan Ricker. This was true for the UHQR as well as the 'regular' 1/2 speed masters, of which I have quite a number.
On Rumors, I really never grooved on later FWMac, i do dig the early Peter Green stuff, but the copies I have of Rumors are original issues as far as I know (I will double check for you), and they sound pretty good.
I love Muddy Waters, but I never got why the Folk Singer record was so highly regarded musically. I prefer his smokey electric blues thing, but that's a music content issue, not a pressing issue.
Pani, try this website for some insight and strong opinions about the subject. Tom Port is considered a bit nutty by some here but I think he knows more about quality pressings and stampers than anybody. I also buy a lot of records from him.

GMC, the problem with better records is that there are no guidelines other than his ear in picking out the good sounding copies. he trashes most of the well-known reissues which may be right, but after that, he provides zero info on particular release versions, stamper numbers or other indicia of what particular copies sound good. Aside from paying 499 or more for a garden variety mass produced major label issue. Hell, for 500 bucks I can buy quite a few copies and do the same thing. Time-saving, perhaps. And funny to read his comments. But not sure there's real, useable positive info there on what to buy, more negative on what not to buy (which, as I recall, is pretty close to everything except those selected by him).
Whart, I agree that there are no guidlines, anywhere. That is my point. I don't think there are any clear rules or guarantees other than our ears. I pay top dollar to get the copies of the records that are important to me. While I might try to do it myself, time and access to quality copies would make it very difficult. Each copy is going to sound different.
Original copies today can be a 'pot luck'. Even if the vinyl LOOKS good to the eye under good light it may not playback well. Groove damage by an improperly set up cartridge or a worn stylus is not able to be seen under even good light by the naked eye. Damage due to static discharges from all too many previous plays (a severe enough static pop will likely create micro craters in the vinyl groove) also cannot be seen. That said a good condition original esp. pre say 1985 will probably sound good.

New vinyl today as remastered copies can sound fabulous but too can be hit or miss depending on the quality of remastering and the quality of the new pressings. But all in all they should be payable and enjoyable. You do get guaranteed nice clean covers and inside liner sleeves as a bonus.

It's all pros and cons be it sourcing out older vinyl or buying new pressings.

I think that everyone has missed a critical point in the reissue game. Many tapes from 30-40 years ago and older have degraded to the point that you can run them through a pure tube mastering chain like Tim de Paravicini's and it really won't help a bit. Add to that many masters being lost and the reissue folks are working from thrird and fourth generation safety masters which likewise have degraded.

Much of this stuff is gone for good, due to poor storage and volatile tape formulations and all the wishing in the world is not going to bring it back.
I have many first release and japanese pressings from the late seventies only played once straight to nak cassette back in the day

Most remasters don't hold a handle

In jazz blue note, riverside, prestige and impulse have been great

Classic records is hit or miss
I've bought quadrophenia twice and both were horrific - totally congested mess

The latest beatles remasters are as if you put a wet blanket over the proceedings. People swear by them, but probably haven't heard a uk original, german import, or the 1978 bluebox

It's hit or miss and worse no-fill and odd residues, fingerprints, in the old days it was just crackles from impure vinyl
With some luck it can be a view in an era which will never came back. 50 years later we discover, that the Equipment and Brain created something which is unique:
The impression to be a part of that recording session. When one or the other reader wants to change the normal way of spending and spending to get different results but not better ones (from the feeling) do yourself a favor:
Buy a 2. Hand Lyra Dorian / Helikon mono cartridge, look for your favorite record in original mono pressing and listen. But you need an Arm with adjustable VTA...
It can give a fascination and sonic pleasure which is special.
Pressings are really a case by case thing in my experience. As such, SH Forum is a great resource to find out about particular pressings. My go-to site for vinyl related questions.

That said, there are some details that can help you make educated decisions.

1) where the LP was pressed (currently IME: Good=QRP, RTI or Pallas;Bad/Inconsistent=United, Rainbo; Rainbo for example pressed the Beatles reissues which there are tons of QC complaints about).

2) Who remastered the record (Safe bets: Hoffman, Gray, Bellman)

3) Limitations of the original pressings (poor vinyl quality, rolled off in the bass, poor pressing plant)

There have been some fabulous reissues lately, that were clearly superior to my early pressings: QRP's Tea For the Tillerman, MoFi's Music From the Big Pink and the Basement Tapes jump to mind.
GMC- we are on the same page. I like your wall of vinyl at home.
Viridian- excellent point. I did touch on it in my earlier post here, but didn't
spell it out as you did. Which may be one reason why mastering engineers
have to make dramatic changes in the sonics? Or is it also catering to a
brighter, 'clearer' sound that people may prefer after getting used to digital?
Part of the death of good sound is complex multitracking, where having all
the musicians in the same room and a sort of bleed through of the acoustic
is lost. That may be why some of the 'audiophile' recordings like D2D sound
good, apart from skipping the tape altogether. (unfortunately, most of the
natively 'audiophile' records leave me cold, musically).
AudioTomb- are you talking about those new Apple reissues on vinyl?
This subject is one of those that rather turn me off from vinyl to a certain extent. Yes, I heard some original pressing that is noticeably better than more recent reissue or current audiophile reissue. However, if the music is good enough , the difference between pressing is not significant enough to deter me from enjoying the music unless the LP is defective or have way too much surface noise. If I find an album that I like enough on reissue, eventually I might try to locate original album if I think the music is good enough for the premium price asking on some original pressings. My rule of thumb, if it is an album that I really like and I only have one copy, it will eventually fall off my hand one day and get scratched badly. If I have more than one copy, none of the copies will ever get damaged! :)
Stockfisch is the other label that I really like their new LPs as far as sound quality is concerned.
For country of pressing, if the band is a UK band and is first released in the UK before the US, then I'll try to get UK and vice versa. Generally I don't like Japanese pressing very much as they almost always remastered the album first and the typical EQ for Japanese record is usually not to my liking when comparing to the original western counterpart. But that's just me though and I have to confess that my sample size of Japanese pressing is limited but that's what I found so far.
I agree with Viridian about 40 to 50 year old tape loss,music I listen to.I stopped buying reissues years ago.There are so few exceptions it's not worth wasting the money to find out for me anymore.I got tired of wasting 25-30 bucks for an LP and after 2 minutes of play it comes off the TT never to be played again,original better.The tape loss on Zappa's Hot Rats classic reissue is unbearable for me to listen to.Reissued vinyl of 45 year old recordings is just not happening for me or worth the gamble to buy.
There are so few exceptions it's not worth wasting the money to find out for me anymore.I got tired of wasting 25-30 bucks for an LP and after 2 minutes of play it comes off the TT never to be played again...

Yes. That's it in 2 sentences.
Patience is also a vinyl virtue. I've come across 'Reckoning' G. Dead & 'Friday Night in San Francisco' DiMeola, McLaughlin, DeLuca for less than $10 total by accident. These currently sell new as reissues for almost $100. 'Must Have' is a relative term.
Punk and independent pressings from 1960's onward are more often than not on flimsy/low quality vinyl. Reissues (except for those pressed in GZ, or at Archer, EKS or Musicol) seem to be better vinyl, though typically are remastered, which is a whole nuther topic.
Well stated, I came to that realization several years ago.There certainly is good sound to be found in records but the 'hit and miss' factor is frustratingly high.
Many vinyl records are really just mediocre and not worth the chase and expense.For many years I was a strong vinyl advocate.
I listen mostly to jazz from the 1950's and 60's, and original pressings usually sound much better than reissues including the latest reissues by Classic and other labels. Yes, it can be difficult to locate original pressings in good condition. For my tastes, however, I would rather listen to an older copy with a few ticks and pops and a little distortion in the inner grooves than a pristine quiet reissue where the magic has been scrubbed out along with the noise.

Example: I have a stereo 6-eye Sketches of Spain (Miles Davis) that sounds excellent despite a bit of noise and distortion on peaks. I bought a reissue on an audiophile label (I forget which one) and it's quiet and clean, but it doesn't have the natural tonality and coherency of the original.

I have been disappointed with reissues so many times that I hardly ever buy any these days. And don't pay any attention to reviewers who wax poetically about how much better their reissue sounds compared to an original. Without impugning anyone's integrity by suggesting the reviewers simply want to keep the free records coming, let me say instead that the reviewers must prefer quiet pressings that sound flat and uninvolving to less-than-perfect old records that actually sound like music.
I echo most sentiments here. Tick, pops, surface noise or not on original pressings, once the music kicks in the magic begins. With a great majority of reissues, the drive to make a buck on the vinyl revival is obvious - there is no care for the sound quality. Awful vinyl quality, warps, off-center pressings, digital recording and mastering process rendering the record lifeless are the norm in today's offerings. There are exceptions but they are far and few between. My short list is as follows:
- Blue Note "Music Matters" The Definitive 45 Reissue Series. Absolutely flawless. Expensive, but insanely good, and worth every penny.
- Select Mobile Fidelity offerings. These can be hit or miss, but many are tremendous. A few favorites to mention from my collection: Carole King "The Carnegie Hall Concert," Rickie Lee Jones "Pirates," Art Pepper "The Way it Was," McCoy Tyner "Sahara."
- Select Speakers Corner releases. Supertramp "Crime of the Century" is outstanding.

To sum up, my advice would be to seek out original pressings first, and then very judiciously settle for reissues.
I agree with the OP, most of the reissues I've purchased were superior to the original. Most times it's just a matter of the sound being cleaned up, not changed or altered.
Your mention of the Stockfisch label is accurate IMO and I'm often surprised how little attention they get. The selection is limited and proprietary but I've always thought their releases sound very good to great. More Sara K and Chris Jones releases from them would be essentials on my list.
... that's the way it is ...
Viridian makes a good point about the condition of the master tape. Even if stored immaculately it will have degraded over years and decades.

I go for the original, pressed in the country in which the recording was made. There is a feedback process called the 'test pressing', that occurs between the artist and the record label. It only seems to occur in the country of origin. Working duplicate tapes of the master are generally shipped overseas for release in other countries. So the country of origin will usually have the sound that the artist approved (not saying in all cases that that is the best sound, but simply the one approved).

In this age of digital and limited LP releases, there are less differences between the countries if they are all working from the same digital master.

One thing that was a problem for some releases in the 60s was the issue of mono. There was a product designed so that the record labels could produce a single stereo LP that would also play properly in mono; this was so they did not have to do both mono and stereo releases. This product (Haeco CGS) was a processor that messed with phase, which muddies center channel information.

So if the reissue lacks that processing, it may well be that the reissue can sound quite a lot better.

Acoustic Sounds has done quite a lot of work with their pressing machines which are considerably more still during the pressing process. This makes for quieter vinyl. We have been cutting LPs, some of them reissues, where it appears that we are able to turn out masters better than the original. We are using a modified form of our M-60 amplifier for the cutting operation. IOW there are still advances being made in the LP process. If, during the mastering process, you have a good master tape and the original LP in front of you, I would say that there is opportunity to have reissues that can sound better than the original. You just have to listen and see :)
Ralph: any way to discern which records used the Haeco CGS process?
Are they early stereos that had the legend that said something "fully compatible on mono players, but for best results, play on a Stereo"?
Is your last line a tease?
Working duplicate tapes of the master are generally shipped overseas for release in other countries.

These duplicate copies were most probably made out of the original copy ? If yes then obviously they would be inferior to the original because in analog there is always loss when transferring information from one tape to another! So, probably the tape that were being used in other countries were inferior in the first place ?
In the industry they are referred to as "safety masters". As in assuring that the nit wits in the country that I am shipping this tape to will not have the opportunity to ravage the master tape.

They are generally made from the master or a couple generations removed from that. Unfortunately, the record business has been a bit of a seat-of-the-pants enterprise and a substantial amount of the masters of our musical heritage have simply been lost, mis-filed, or severely degraded due to volitile tape formulations, or incorrect storage.

In those cases, safety masters may be the best extant masters. And worse, in some cases, all tapes have been lost.

My copy of Mosaic's "The Complete Pacific Jazz Chet Baker/Russ Freeman" is actually recorded from vinyl records played back as some of the masters were lost. Even more embarrasing, my original 10" Chet/Russ recordings are in better shape than the ones that they used to make the records. Go figgur!
Viridian, It's ironic but it looks like vinyl will turn out to be the longest lasting medium for archiving music. With minimal efforts at storage, a vinyl record can maintain its sound quality indefinitely and even if there is some defect the problem rarely results in not being able to hear the music. The same can not be said of tape or any form of digital storage.
Whart, if you see that, then yes. You might want to read the Wikipedia page on the Heaco.

Pani, correct. That is why the country of origin is so important. ELP released their first LP in the US and the UK. The US Cotillion is quite good, but the Pink Island is much more lively...
I'm surprised that some original LP's from 40 to 50 years ago sell so cheaply for their rarity.IMO this is last chance gas to hear the best sound quality of some of them.As a consumer and audiophile I would rather pay the price for a company to come out with even a standard red book CD recorded off the best expensive state of the art TT and equipment from an original first press or promo and sell it as such like off of a half a million worth of TT and gear.Then I would like to put that recording up against what's out in today's reissues on my modest system.I believe most would be better.