Are you buying new or used?
Its been my experience that most of the new 180 gram reissues are sorely lacking in sound quality compared to original pressings. That's why I attend as many used records shows as possible and go to used records shops too. To look for pristine originals. Usually the condition of the album jacket will tell you if there is gold inside. And if the owner took the time to keep the cellophane on and sliced the jacket open with a razor, chances are it wasn't played a cheap BSR changer with a ceramic cartridge. And every now I then I find a sealed copy of an original pressing - these tend to be more common with releases from the early to mid 80's if there is music from that era that appeals to you.
Of course you can't go wrong with used Japanese pressings (my favorite for sound quality) and audiophile pressings and 1/2 speed master from Mobile Fidelity, Nautilus, CBS Master Works, etc. These types of records were all usually bought from HiFi dealers and not available to the teenagers in the local record/head shop.
Part of the fun of vinyl is the hunt too. Good luck!
blueram, one of the must-read sites for all things LP is Analog Planet. It is run by Michael Fremer of Stereophile magazine, and he has been writing about LP’s and the equipment to play them on for decades. He reviews lots of new release reissues, often comparing them to other pressings of the same title, including originals. Many of his older reviews are available for reading on the site.
Thank you all for your suggestions.
I am buying mostly new, it is hard to find old ones where I live and I like finding out new artists. Yes now I will try to avoid Back To Black, 4 Men With Beards, Plain Recordings and Legacy reissues, also Sub Pop, Jagjaguwar and Dead Oceans. But they do have some good ones, hence I think it would be a good idea if there is somewhere I can check the quality before I spend my money.
I will certainly check out Steve Hoffman. I have visited Analog Planet. But Michael Fremer’s taste of music and mine are too different. Most of the audiophile releases he reviewed are too expensive for me. However, I find it helpful when he reviews an album I listen to.
Here is a new website where listeners are invited to rate their records on sound quality:
Being so new there is not a lot on the site yet, but you can register yourself and help it grow to become more and more useful.
From the site:
"How It Sounds On Vinyl is the first and only database website dedicated to document the sound quality (SQ) of vinyl records. A vinyl record buying/collecting guide for all vinyl lovers, vinyl nuts, or just an occasional vinyl record buyer.
How It Sounds On Vinyl is a one stop spot for all vinyl record buyers to quickly find out the SQ of a vinyl release. Although we do compare different releases of the same albums, our main objective is to provide informations to help vinyl buyers purchase good sounding records, and to avoid spending money on the dud ones. How It Sounds On Vinyl is NOT a music review website."
I've had good luck with Japanese vinyl in terms of production quality. Also, through trail, error, and experimentation some good finds can be had by paying attention to the label and time period. For example, Crown Records put out some good stuff during the 60's. Same thing for Mercury.
The hunt is just part of the hobby. I've found some absolute great records in the "used" bin. My method for checking quality: examine jacket, record sleeves [many times old, well-preserved parchment-like is a good sign], check record for scratches/wear under good light. Does this always have great result? Well, no; but I have been satisfied more often than not. Example: Miles "Porgy & Bess", Bill Evans "Solo Vol. 1" and Wynton Marsalis debut record of the same name. Total outlay for all - under $10!
If you go the used route, be prepared to invest in a some sort of cleaning/restoration regimen. I use the Spin Clean RCM, then finish up with Perfection hand-held steam cleaner. Looks like Perfection brand is discontinued, but another good pressurized spouted steamer should work. Just make sure you have a way to protect the label from steam. I use a small "finger bowl" that covers perfectly. Hope this helps. Good luck and ...
I like the Steve Hoffman website for sure. I also find that in general, some artists vinyl seems to have better sound. Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Neil Young, Dire Straits, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, The Doors. Then others, not so good: Led Zepp, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Allman Brothers. There are always some exceptions.... For instance, David Crosby: If I could Only Remember my Name is wonderful. For Joni Mitchell, I believe Bernie Grundman did Hissing, and Hejira.
I see a lot of recommendations for Japanese vinyl. I would qualify these to the effect that yes, the vinyl formulation used and the pressing quality are both top notch, but often they are mastered way too bright. There are exceptions and some sound superb, but if you dislike overly bright sound I would urge caution where Japanese records are concerned.
Thank you so much for the http://hisonvinyl.com/ info! This is exactly what I am looking for!
I did try the Steve Hoffman but OMG. I really get lost in pages and pages of post. And at the end I wasn’t sure whether or not certain records are worth buying.
I did a search for "Kind of Blue" and it yielded 5 results in seconds http://hisonvinyl.com/?s=Kind+of+blue. This is great! How It Sound on Vinyl provides a quick search and I like that easy to find factor....
Yes, they looked like they are quite new and hopefully they will grow as I find it useful. I hope some of you too. Although Steve Hoffman seems to have more albums I can find but so unorganised and a pain to read through everything. And they have much longer history. Interesting to see how it goes for how it sounds in a few years! :)
+1 thanks for sharing info on the HIS site. Makes it really easy to use their info in conjunction with Acoustic Sounds ... since AS classifies by genre, artist, and label. I quickly located a specific highly rated hisonvinyl recommendation.
Perhaps it's still a work in progress; but the only real drawback is limited coverage. Sure you get 5 results for Miles; but entering search terms like "Hancock", "Coltrane", "Blakey", or "Evans" yields no results.
I agree with paraneer and with fjn04. Good old records in their original pressings are the best. Most reissues disappoint me.
For classical music I would suggest also that you go to a used bookstore and find an old Penguin Guide, old enough so that most of its recommendations are in vinyl. It will not cost much. It’s not the last word on performance or sound, but it is a very good beginning.
You could also check out the good sounding vinyl record lists at the Absolute Sound’s Super LP List, at Arthur Salvatore’s high-endaudio.com and at Stereophile’s annual R2D4 posted on its web site.
The easiest way to sort through the thicket is to pick music you like and then do a little research on best pressings of particular albums. Many of the "audiophile" lists place sound quality first--no surprise- but the music may or may not be to your liking.
A lot of the discussion on the Hoffman forum is devoted to comparing different masterings, which may involve different source material. There is no real rule of thumb-- I can stack up 10 different pressings of the same album and each has different strengths and weaknesses.
If you are after rock records and are on a budget, the old Warner "green label" (followed by the Burbank 'palm trees' label) had some great artists and superb recordings--these are common "bin" records in used record stores and can also be found online fairly cheaply.
The easiest way to use Hoffman's site is to pick a band or album title and do a browser search for "best vinyl pressing of X." You will likely get some search engine hits from the Hoffman site. The most informative threads are those that compare the merits of different pressings rather than ones that have conclusory statements about a single "best" pressing.
One tell-tale is often the identity of the mastering engineer; another is the pressing plant. These are discerned from inscriptions in the deadwax on the record. Learning to decode this stuff is a little like reading hieroglyphics, but once you've spent a little time with this kind of detail, you'll be pretty comfortable knowing what to look for. For certain albums, there are "known" good pressings.
My experience, making direct comparisons of different pressings of the same album, is that there is no easy to follow general rule that is entirely predictive of sonics. So much depends on the original recording, then mastering, the plant and condition of the particular copy as well as your sonic preferences and system bias. I have also found that later issues of particular record can sound better than first pressings, but it is really record by record.