I know for a fact that Kasey Chambers first two albums, "The Captain" And "Barricades and Brickwalls" are superior in audio quality from the import EMI Australia label vs. the domestic label. I have owned both on both formats and the imports are far less glare and more natural sounding. I have also bought a few Limited edition imports of Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, and Wishbone Ash. I have found them to be superior too.
Broadly speaking, for analog recordings, the pressing of a given artist is best when it is from the country that the master tape resides in. Most American acts will sound best on American pressings. British acts on British pressings, etc. The primary reason is that record companies guard their greatest asset, their master tapes, quite closely. They tend to send safety masters overseas and these are at least a generation removed from the original. Japanese LP pressings are most sought by those that have the greatest issue with surface noise, as the vinyl formulations used are generally superior and quieter than American or European pressings. Of course imported products always carry a premium price wise. But on the used market, most Japanese pressings of American jazz artists are much less expensive than the originals. A really nice pressing of Cannonball Adderly's "Something Else" on U.S. Blue Note can fetch from $500.00 to well above $1000.00. A first pressing Japanese King of the same record will sell for a mere fraction of this.
In the digital world things can be quite different. The Japanese "mini lp"s are true premium products, both in the care taken in the packaging and the pressing chain itself. Some sound quite a bit better than their domestic counterparts and some do not IMHO. They are all packaged much better and this, with the cachet of having an imported product, may well justify the premium in pricing. The JVC XRCD recordings are a different beast all together. The pressing chain has been agonized over, refined and refined again. Most of these are far and away the best digital versions of whatever the material is. The painstaking effort is immediately reflected in stunning, drop-dead gorgeous, sound quality. Try one and you will be lost.
I was a little perplexed when reading the question because you started talking about CDs and jumped to LPs.
There is a big difference between domestic(US) and some European and Japanese LP pressings. The issue dates back to the 70's when the environmental lunatics determined that the process for producing superior quality LPs caused too much pollution. The manufacturers were forced to change the way the vinyl was made, and this resulted in poorer quality vinyl for LPs. Some European countries adopted these laws too, and their vinyl also was of poorer quality.
Holland, and Japan, for example continued to press LPs with the old recipe for vinyl and therefore were able to produce better sounding LPs.
The new DSOTM is a good example. It is pressed in Holland. Did you ever wonder why Holland was chosen? It wasn't due to the admittedly nice scenery. The quality of the vinyl is better than the UK, and production costs are cheaper than Japan.
This has nothing to do with the manufacture of CDs though. I don't know why an import CD would cost more other than the cost to swim across the ocean. That's a lot of work!
Are you serious about the "Something Else" LP? I have a beautiful original copy and never dreamed it was worth so much! How exciting.
Easy, oh yes, check e-bay for the exciting fantasy world of record buying. First pressings are running into four figures for many older Blue Note releases. Funny thing is that more copies of "Something Else" were pressed than almost any other Blue Note. This is now standard pricing, but who would have thought that folk records are now into four figures? Do a search, a first pressing of Nick Drake's first album "Five Leaves Left" just went for a cool grand even. Yes, you read that right, $1000.00. And we think that power cords are expensive!
The vinyl formulation is one element of the quality difference. I think another factor is the manufacturing and production standards. The Japanese are renown for attention to detail and LP's, in contrast to CD's, are almost a handmade product. Note the handwritten alphanumerics on each LP!
I have many Japanese CDs including Blue Note. CDs in Japan cost in the area of US$18-$25 each, so although you're paying a premium in US terms you're actually paying the standard Japanese price. I have, however, seen mini-LP japanese CDs selling for as much as $34 in the US but generally they go for less. Most of my Japanese CDs were purchased directly from Japan. I first started doing this because some titles (mostly jazz) were only available in Japan. It seems that Japanese consumers had more choice in American jazz than we in the US had, maybe they were bigger fans. At least there must have been a better market for US jazz.
As far as sound quality, many Japanese CDs are superior in sound quality but there is no guarantee. Certainly the question needs to be considered about the value of the additional $10-$20 in cost. The additional cost is easier to handle if there is no other choice to purchase a title.
PS: Japanese manufactured DCC and MFSL CD titles are also going for a premium over the same US manufacured titles.
I periodically check eBay to see what my stuff is worth.
I'll never sell any of it though. I like getting a little redemption for holding onto my jazz vinyl for 4 decades.
The sad part is, when I croak, my wife and kids will sell my collection for next to nothing in a yard sale....or give it away.
manufacturing is now a myth. consolidation in the music industry has caused the labels to manufacture their discs in fewer plants and export to various territories. several years ago the source material was also different in different countries. the japanese were the first to upgrade the source material, and today catalogue and new releases are the primarily the same, no matter who the label is. the additional cost to the consumer for the mini-lp is the packaging, and the cost of additional royalties if there are additional music tracks. as a collector, its still worth it,but the reality today is the the source and the manufacturing standards are the same in the u.s.,u.k.,and japan.
Do to many of the US manufacturers re-grinding thier old vinyl that didn't sell, and NOT REMOVING THE LABELS.
As for vinyl and loonatic fringe, I resemble that remark, but, I fail to see how vinyl chloride monomer, the offender in vinyl is effected by the pressing process.
The monomer is an issue when in it's monomeric form. Not in it's processed polyvinylchloride form aka PVC.
All vinyl is basic pipe grade vinyl, modified in one way or another and plasticizers with carbon black added for static disappation and color.
So I doubt the vinyl formulation would be that different, I would guess attention to detail of the masters, recording and pressing process.
Also the run numbers in non US countries tend to be less and often times the master is not over used, or used up when the piece of vinyl comes to you.
my 2 pence worth,
Viridian is right on this one: Many Japanese pressings, while sometimes quieter, do not necessarily contain greater detail,"air" or spaciousness. For example, I have (one of my favorite recordings) 3 copies of John Mclaughlin's "Belo Horizonte": one U.S. pressing, one West German pressing, one Japanese pressing. I thought the Japanese would be the best..also cost me the most.. the U.S. pressing is better, and the West German pressing is the best. I have compared pressings of Weather Report albums from U.S., Japan, Holland, U.K... normally Holland comes in first.. Sometimes Japan is better.. also with Santana "Caravansarai" Holland is best over U.S. Now with progressive rock acts like Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Genesis, U.K. pressings are ALWAYS better, and sometimes Japan even better than U.K.
Hey Mitch, where did you say that you lived? What's your wife's name? And how's that cough?