Different record labels have different ways to identify. Many of the record manufacturers starting from mid 70's started to put letters in circles either 'P' or 'C' P is usually for the original or the first pressing. Atlantic label for instance has on first pressings 4-digit code while 5-digit is on re-issues.
First pressings may be the best of the generics but I would suggest focusing on the imports for, generally speaking, the best sonics. Identifying first pressings is easiest with the aid of the Goldmine and Jerry Osborne's record price guide books. Pristine first pressings of desireable records usually bring the most money in the collectors market. Please understand though that collecting these types of records has little to do with audiophile playback. I find it amazing that some of the tackiest, worst music is valuable.
First of all,
No recorded source by definition can sound better than original tape.
If the original tape poorly mastered than the engineer is facing lots of trade-offs to re-master it and than release a re-issue thereafter.
All tapes are usually mastered to the artist's or producer's satisfaction. An artist or producer is not neccessarily an audiophile which is obvious in that case.
A first pressing is the one mastered from original tape that is by definition the best to the producer or artist's satisfaction but here is the BUT:...
How to produce a huge number of first-pressing records at the same time of for instance Led Zeppelin that had a high demand all over the world if there's only one original tape was produced? And the answer is that such first pressing realy was not made off an original tape as it's realy obvious. Also it's obvious that speed of mastering of mass production is high(maybe 2x or 3x).
The case with non-mass and non-commercial production is a-bit more trivial and usually has an original quality of an original tape.
For example I have both records of Tom Waits "Swordfishtrombones" and even CD!
--Original on Island 1983 vinyl. Nothing special regular flimsy and light one.
--Simply Vinyl UK reissue 2000 on 180g heavy vinyl
Original has more depth higher level and a-bit higher noise but to say good noise from the studio while reissue has everything blank and quiet. Even Tom's voice sounds thinner than on original album.
I havn't had that good luck with imported pressings. The surfaces are usually quieter but the sonics have not always been to my liking. I have most problems with Japanese pressings, though there are some very good ones out there. My experience is that, very broadly, the pressing from the country where the work was recorded sounds best. The reasons are many. The one that seems to have the most currency is that record companies are reluctant to let valuble masters leave the country so they send dupes of "safety masters" for foreign pressings. These are often a minimum of one generation away from those tapes used in the country of origin.
They should have sent digital tapes! What a theory! The pressings from the country of origin sound best! How can a record be noisier and sound better? Vinylites always floor me. What about all the other links in the record making chain? What if the stampers are of poor quality? What if the job of pressing is awful? What if the raw material used sucks? Does every mastering facility in the USA get a first generation master tape with which to work? So many questions, so little time...
Somebody, anybody, please BUY the guy a pony.
Pbb, "how can a record be noisier and sound better?" The least noise is caused by not turning your sysem on at all. Does yours sound better that way? We all know that surface noise is but one of the myriad distortions in analog playback, why even you have been able to name a few sources of distortion in the mastering, plating and pressing process. Very good. You're finally learing. Just rather slowly. Oh, BTW, I'm not a "vinylite" (great word), I also use a tuner, CD player, open reel tape deck (Revox A77 modified, quite nice) and a Wollensak 8-track player, also modified, of course. No cassettes, yet anyway. Hey, maybe I'm an 8-trackkie.
"Can I always identify first pressing just by looking at the record?"
I can just by looking at the label. I have been buying and collecting lp's for so long now I can tell that way.
I never new about the p or c thing I new there was a code too ,but I never paid much attention to them, only when I knew the code (not often)
Lugnut is right this is a easy way to learn "Goldmine and Jerry Osborne's record price guide books."
I like a lot of old UK progressive groups hence the UK first editions sound much better.
Germany, Holland and yes Japan have wonderful pressings but be sure you are comparing first editions. A first edition domestic will most times sound better that a third reissue Japanese release.
"Also,does it sound better in almost every case?"
The easy answer is yes they do, but the new audiophile labels like DCC and Classic Records reissues can't be beat.
Whats up with this whiny digital geek "get digital master tapes" that is a joke right? because if you have heard good analog you would not say such a dumb thing. Ask Albert Porter, go ahead and e-mail him if you want the truth. Albert has spent thousands on Digital and has given up because he says it is no contest.
Anyway this is a old topic and has been settled long ago.
Some I see are still in denial
Viridian, I started learning long ago and hope to continue on with the process. Noise is noise. Your reductio ad absurdum is delightful, if a bit off the mark. Oh, BTW, to Rockinroni: 1) a sample of one is great, but I wouldn't ask Albert Porter anything, his mind's been made up long ago, and 2)is analog better as an archival medium than digital when one considers that the sound degrades with each dub made? The only thing that has been settled is that audiophiles are a strange lot indeed. Good day.
Pbb, I would take issue with the "noise is noise" argument. It has been consistantly shown that the ear is more sensitive to certain types of distortion than others. IM being a good example of a distortion that is more grating than low order harmonic distortion even when it is an order of magnitude lower. This stems from harmonic distortion being related to the signal musically and IM being unrelated to the signal. I can personally tolerate very large distortions in loudspeakers but not very small ones in electronics. This is surely personal. I find loudspeaker distortions to be consonant with the music and electronic distortions amusical. You raised a great point though. After the signal has been through two dozen cheap op amps and pots in the mixing board, not to mention all of the other violence done to the signal before it even hits the storage medium, wheather analog or digital, why is it that a meter of interconnect makes such a difference?
"How can a record be noisier and sound better? "
Try to compare simple cassette tape with no noise reduction and with and than judge what sounds better even with higher noise. Same with vinyl indeed.
As to import pressings, the ultimate for me is german ones.
As to country of origin having in mind mass pressings I guess neither of the pressing were made of original tape so it doesn't mean that country of origin must have the best quelity.
""Can I always identify first pressing just by looking at the record?"
I can just by looking at the label. I have been buying and collecting lp's for so long now I can tell that way."
Really? Can you tell us how if you do not have all matrix numbers memorized?
""Also,does it sound better in almost every case?"
The easy answer is yes they do, but the new audiophile labels like DCC and Classic Records reissues can't be beat.""
The easier answer after a LOT of comparisons is that they can be beat especially Classics.
"The only thing that has been settled is that audiophiles are a strange lot indeed."
Only those that look in the mirror.
"Vinylites always floor me."
Because they insist on making you hear their analog rigs compared to your digital?
"I havn't had that good luck with imported pressings. The surfaces are usually quieter but the sonics have not always been to my liking. I have most problems with Japanese pressings, though there are some very good ones out there."
This is very true. There are some good ones but a guy can drop a bunch of dough buying Japanese pressing expecting them to ALL be the best pressings like some on here say.
"There are some good ones but a guy can drop a bunch of dough buying Japanese pressing expecting them to ALL be the best pressings like some on here say."Motdathird
"Japan have wonderful pressings but be sure you are comparing first editions. A first edition domestic will most times sound better that a third reissue Japanese release." Rockinroni
Are you talking to me, digitvites always floor me
yes I can pretty well tell the edition buy the label. This is a general rule,(don't be so picky) they change them every time they re-issue their inventories of non-deleted items. It is I know, a little more complicated than that, but it works for me.
You may be right about the Classic records reissues. I have not done as much comparing as you. The ones I have compared, I liked the classic Records reissues a lot, very nice stuff.
I only used this to illustrate that the first ed is not absolutely the best sounding edition.
Rockinroni, I will inform you that to classify me as a digivite, or whatever, is based on a false assumption and about as far from the truth as possible.
""Can I always identify first pressing just by looking at the record?"
"I can just by looking at the label. I have been buying and collecting lp's for so long now I can tell that way."
Now it sounds like maybe you are saying you can tell a re-issue from a first issue. OK. My question is how you can tell a first PRESSING just by looking at the label unless you memorize the matrix numbers, as opposed to a third or fourth pressing within the original issue? It could be difference of semantics here but I assume you know that there are different pressings resulting from using different plates, even within the same issue. I think it well accepted that later runs in the sam eissue are not as good as earlier runs and sometimes worse that the early run of a reissue.
"I think it well accepted that later runs in the same issue are not as good as earlier runs and sometimes worse than the early run of a reissue."
Motdathird, Thanks "Master" for you reply, yes I meant Issue not pressing. I stand corrected, you may call me Grasshopper. Because you are right, I was using the two words as synonyms.
I have a Question for the Master, when the record company re-issues the LP, say for the 3rd time. Are they still using the same plates? If they do, this would be the best explanation for the degradation of the sound. Thanks for your help, Vinylite Guru.
Goodness, you have a very serious 'tude prob' there, Rock. I could not care less about who is right or who is wrong. What I was trying to get at was how to tell first PRESSINGS by merely looking at the label, because I thought that you would be help to us all after saying you could do that. I guess we will have to leave that tutorial to someone else.
Hey, does anyone know if there is guide for reading matrix numbers used by different labels or is that all an enigma wrapped in a riddle?