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FIRST PRESSINGS - WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

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Many people understand the term 'first pressing' when it comes to vinyl records, but how many understand what a first pressing involves? Jon Scanlon takes a closer look for StereoNET.TV

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What’s all this 1st Pressing malarkey?

 

Once you get into vinyl records and start doing a little research, it becomes pretty quickly evident that some pressings are valued more than others.

 

There are the limited runs for a start. If you’ve ever collected anything in your life, you’ll know all about restricted availability being the shortcut to paying higher prices, generally, for just about anything right? 

 

And then there’s the variant offerings – coloured vinyls, or splatter wax, deluxe audiophile editions, and extra goodies included in box sets and so on and so forth, in every imaginable combination.

 

But what are first pressings?  And why do they sometimes command such a premium on price? 

 

Why would you pay just $28 for a brand new modern repressing, and perhaps $50 for something done 45 years ago on flimsy thin wax, in a somewhat beat-up, dirty cover?

 

A couple of definitions up front : a first pressing is the first run of vinyl made after the band or artist have completed their recording of a single, EP or album and released a vinyl record, in a particular country.

 

So you can have first pressings from the USA, the UK, and of course Australia, as each of those countries produced different pressings of a particular record for their markets.

 

Later pressings of these records are then known as ‘second’, ‘third’ and so on pressings – some vinyl albums like Fleetwood Mac’s ever-popular 'Rumours' will have many pressings, in many different countries, and some lesser records will have only one in perhaps a few territories, and some of course only a few hundred copies in their local town.

 

But if you’re Fleetwood Mac, as in our example, you have virtually your entire later catalog constantly in print, being repressed all the time, and your pressing counts are in double, if not triple figures by now for certain titles.

 

 In fact if you go to Discogs right now, as of this episode, there are 444 different pressings of ‘Rumours’ over the last 42 years since it was first released.

Vinyl, cassette, CD, 8 track, reel to reel, DVD-A and mini discs.

 

A frightening number of first presses in all those categories to consider owning….

 

The question is though, why do you want a first pressing of any of them?

 

Well, there’s three main reasons why you might consider that…

 

The first is that the original 1977 albums were mastered by the sound engineer from the original Master Tape.

 

The Mastering Engineer, in this case the legendary Ken Perry from Capitol Mastering in Hollywood California, would have used the only tape available to him at the time in 1977: the final agreed and approved mix of the album from the band’s studio sessions.

 

This means the quality of the source is almost guaranteed: you have the original tape from the band’s recording session, and you have the original mastering engineer the band or label picked for the job behind the desk.

 

Second or subsequent pressings of the album in later years *may not* use the original tapes, or may even have a different Mastering Engineer do a remaster of the music.

 

In other countries, the pressings may be from different masterings entirely (as is often the case here in Australia of course). We’ll get to the complex and absolutely fascinating subject of masterings in a future episode of the Vlog.

 

Suffice to say, it is a perception popularly held that whoever did the original 1st Pressing Master, may well have done a superior job than any subsequent mastering efforts, considering they had access to an original fresh sourced tape, and that special feeling the engineer had with working with the band themselves – that cannot be discounted.

 

The Second reason you might favour a 1st pressing is linked to the idea around 1st Stampers.

 

Stampers are what the vinyl pressing factory uses to press the vinyl itself from the metal parts (metal lacquers). In a complex series of processes which we’ll cover in depth in a future episode of the show,  the first stamper is made from the lacquer; forming a "Mother" press.

 

These stampers used in these giant-steam driven hydraulic record pressing machines have a limited life once in use. It is generally thought that degradation begins around the 1000 pressing mark, and that by the 10000th press, the stampers are exhausted and should be replaced.

 

Now if you’re only pressing 5000 copies total of a record, that’s not going to be an issue.

But what if you’re pressing several million, as in the case of the perennial favourite, Rumours?  You're going to need to machine a lot of stampers, and each one of those have the potential to be further from the original tape sound.

 

So generally, the closer one can get to the early "Mother" press, it is thought, the better quality your final wax pressing is going to sound. This goes for the potential re-issues and remastered copies as well of course, but , this will get confusing fast.

 Let’s just say, if you can get a first pressing from the master tape, and you can get an early stamper, it is thought the sound quality will be optimised. That is the second potential reason first pressings are coveted.

 

Third and last, there’s the collectability factor.

 

Simply, for collectors, quite often the First Edition of something, whether it’s a book, a car, a toy or a vinyl record,  can be more valuable/collectable than a later copy.

 

Whether that’s a nostalgia factor, or just to hold something original and really old, having first pressings of an album is often seen as being desirable by collectors.

 

What are your thoughts on FIRST pressing vinyl?

Edited by candyflip

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Guest Muon N'

Stereonet has TV :ohmy:

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3 minutes ago, Muon N' said:

Stereonet has TV :ohmy:

They are lousy self promoters huh? 🤣

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Thanks Jon, nice info. I didnt know about the degradation of the stampers, and how relatively quickly it happens.

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3 hours ago, glenm64 said:

Thanks Jon, nice info. I didnt know about the degradation of the stampers, and how relatively quickly it happens.

I'm no expert in the area of pressing vinyl records, but this is my understanding to this point.

And I was surprised how quickly it happens too...

 

Can you imagine how many stampers have been made for titles like Rumours, Thriller, and BIA over the last decades ?

 

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very enlightening @candyflip ! well done ! and good on you for sharing a bit of what all is behind this... :)

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A great intro to the waters of YouTube for SNA and for Jon in particular.

 

Awesome!

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There are a LOT more of these coming folks - like it or not.  LOL  

 

I'm aiming for one new episode a week, plus an Apple Podcast of the show for those that don't like the videos.

 

Your own topic suggestions and themes for the shows are most welcome, so send 'em on thru!   :welcome:

The least I can promise is that they will get better and better from here on in.  :thumb:

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@candyflip's done a great job on this new venture and contribution to http://stereonet.tv

Please do subscribe to the channel - and keep up with Jon's episodes.


Rumour has it he'll be chasing SN members around the Record Fair and Show next weekend for interviews too 👍

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I really enjoyed reading it and learned few thinks as well.😄  

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9 minutes ago, V-tek said:

I really enjoyed reading it and learned few thinks as well.😄  

Thank you. Appreciate the comment.

 

More being recorded this weekend, for video (youtube and StereoNet TV, searchable thru Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter), print media (here on SNA) and voice (Anchor Podcast, and others pending) - so no matter how you like to listen, when, or where, you should be able to find something out there.

 

the library will only grow.  🙏

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While on the subject of early pressings on first stampers, don't forget to mention the white lable test pressings, the TRUE first pressings.

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On 10/10/2019 at 7:31 AM, candyflip said:

some vinyl albums like Fleetwood Mac’s ever-popular 'Rumours' will have many pressings

I've got the REAL first pressing of this stuffed away in my brain somewhere.

Saw them live in 77 at the Sydney Rock Arena with Santana and Little River Band😎

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Rather ironically I received a email from themusic.com a few hours ago, relating that the private record collection of the former owner of Classic Records Micheal Hobson is going to be up for sale.

All of the records are the first off the first stamper.

I copy & Paste the email below.

Dear Classic Records LP Buyer,

We have exciting news for you...

Michael Hobson founded Classic Records in 1994 and until it's sale to Acoustic Sounds in 2010 reissued hundreds of rare and collectible recordings as high quality vinyl pressings.  Hobson was a fanatical reissue label owner with a reputation for pursuing the highest quality possible in the mastering, plating, pressing and packaging of Classic Records reissues.

During this process, Hobson was meticulous about keeping the best copies for his personal archive.  Different from the Classic Records Archive copies, which while desireable, were used for reference purposes, the MH Personal Archives contain Classic Records' 1st stamper copies that Hobson collected and coveted for himself. 

Mr. Hobson is allowing TheMusic.com to exclusively sell his personal archive copies (production and test pressing) to the public on eBay.  Some of the titles that will be offered include: Led Zeppelin l, ll, lV, Houses of the Holy; Neil Young Greatest Hits; Dido - Life for Rent, No Angel; Royal Ballet Gala Performances; Gounod Ballet Music; Miles Davis - Kind of Blue... to name a few.

Starting this week, you will receive a weekly update of the LPs available each week for sale on ebay with links to each title.  You are receiving these emails because at some point in the past, you purchased a Classic Records LP and returned a response card to be added to the Classic Records database. If you do not wish to receive these emails, you can simply opt out by selecting the Unsubscribe button below. 

 

We are excited and honored to be able to make these items available to you...  

 

Now if Acoustic Sounds have anything to do with this sale., expect these pressing to go for a ridiculous sum..[ I certainly hope is not the case, as they are the reason I stopped buying special pressings]

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1 hour ago, Tweaky said:
1 hour ago, Tweaky said:

Different from the Classic Records Archive copies, which while desireable, were used for reference purposes, the MH Personal Archives contain Classic Records' 1st stamper copies that Hobson collected and coveted for himself. 

 

Despite the rarefied air and tone of the text, these copies (the Archive Vs. Hobson collected) are exactly the same.

Same stampers, same production run, same vinyl, same mastering.

 

These fall into the 'I was first' collectable category - they won't sound any different to the others from this run, and unless Classic did a lot of runs of their titles (I'm not sure), they will all be the same sound-wise.

I'm sure Hobson kept these in pristine condition, so there's that of course, but I don't come across too many Classic Records titles that are exactly 'trashed'...  ☺️

Edited by candyflip

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TBH, except for the 45 RPM version LP's, like Willie Nelson's Stardust for instance, I didn't find the Classic record pressings that much of a difference from standard pressings, well maybe a bit less surface noise.

 

I agree with your take on the email I received, I just posted it for interest sake as it seemed to fit in the topic of the thread.

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19 minutes ago, Tweaky said:

TBH, except for the 45 RPM version LP's, like Willie Nelson's Stardust for instance, I didn't find the Classic record pressings that much of a difference from standard pressings, well maybe a bit less surface noise.

 

I agree with your take on the email I received, I just posted it for interest sake as it seemed to fit in the topic of the thread.

For the price of a Classic Records (where I usually can’t find any info on the mastering - which I presume is often digital) I can usually get a NM first press or a NM MoFi.

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Classic Records used to use purely analog masters. at least when Micheal Hobson owned it, and all the info about the masters used and the pressings, and in great detail, was readily available on the website when Micheal owned it.

 

He sold the company to Acoustic Sounds, which was up until then purely a specialized seller of both New and Old records [with huge mark up's]

 

For various reasons which would take to long to go into here, I stopped buying Classic Records once Acoustic Sounds took over.

 

I don't know if pressings after the change of hands of Classic Records still stuck to ethos of only using purely analog masters, one would have hoped they did [defeats the purpose of a specialized record label to do otherwise] , but it wouldn't surprise me to find out that somewhere down the line, digital masters started sneaking in, as Acoustic Sounds is all about making a buck first and foremost.

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On 09/10/2019 at 10:31 PM, candyflip said:

What’s all this 1st Pressing malarkey?

 

Once you get into vinyl records and start doing a little research, it becomes pretty quickly evident that some pressings are valued more than others.

 

There are the limited runs for a start. If you’ve ever collected anything in your life, you’ll know all about restricted availability being the shortcut to paying higher prices, generally, for just about anything right? 

 

And then there’s the variant offerings – coloured vinyls, or splatter wax, deluxe audiophile editions, and extra goodies included in box sets and so on and so forth, in every imaginable combination.

 

But what are first pressings?  And why do they sometimes command such a premium on price? 

 

Why would you pay just $28 for a brand new modern repressing, and perhaps $50 for something done 45 years ago on flimsy thin wax, in a somewhat beat-up, dirty cover?

 

A couple of definitions up front : a first pressing is the first run of vinyl made after the band or artist have completed their recording of a single, EP or album and released a vinyl record, in a particular country.

 

So you can have first pressings from the USA, the UK, and of course Australia, as each of those countries produced different pressings of a particular record for their markets.

 

Later pressings of these records are then known as ‘second’, ‘third’ and so on pressings – some vinyl albums like Fleetwood Mac’s ever-popular 'Rumours' will have many pressings, in many different countries, and some lesser records will have only one in perhaps a few territories, and some of course only a few hundred copies in their local town.

 

But if you’re Fleetwood Mac, as in our example, you have virtually your entire later catalog constantly in print, being repressed all the time, and your pressing counts are in double, if not triple figures by now for certain titles.

 

 In fact if you go to Discogs right now, as of this episode, there are 444 different pressings of ‘Rumours’ over the last 42 years since it was first released.

Vinyl, cassette, CD, 8 track, reel to reel, DVD-A and mini discs.

 

A frightening number of first presses in all those categories to consider owning….

 

The question is though, why do you want a first pressing of any of them?

 

Well, there’s three main reasons why you might consider that…

 

The first is that the original 1977 albums were mastered by the sound engineer from the original Master Tape.

 

The Mastering Engineer, in this case the legendary Ken Perry from Capitol Mastering in Hollywood California, would have used the only tape available to him at the time in 1977: the final agreed and approved mix of the album from the band’s studio sessions.

 

This means the quality of the source is almost guaranteed: you have the original tape from the band’s recording session, and you have the original mastering engineer the band or label picked for the job behind the desk.

 

Second or subsequent pressings of the album in later years *may not* use the original tapes, or may even have a different Mastering Engineer do a remaster of the music.

 

In other countries, the pressings may be from different masterings entirely (as is often the case here in Australia of course). We’ll get to the complex and absolutely fascinating subject of masterings in a future episode of the Vlog.

 

Suffice to say, it is a perception popularly held that whoever did the original 1st Pressing Master, may well have done a superior job than any subsequent mastering efforts, considering they had access to an original fresh sourced tape, and that special feeling the engineer had with working with the band themselves – that cannot be discounted.

 

The Second reason you might favour a 1st pressing is linked to the idea around 1st Stampers.

 

Stampers are what the vinyl pressing factory uses to press the vinyl itself from the metal parts (metal lacquers). In a complex series of processes which we’ll cover in depth in a future episode of the show,  the first stamper is made from the lacquer; forming a "Mother" press.

 

These stampers used in these giant-steam driven hydraulic record pressing machines have a limited life once in use. It is generally thought that degradation begins around the 1000 pressing mark, and that by the 10000th press, the stampers are exhausted and should be replaced.

 

Now if you’re only pressing 5000 copies total of a record, that’s not going to be an issue.

But what if you’re pressing several million, as in the case of the perennial favourite, Rumours?  You're going to need to machine a lot of stampers, and each one of those have the potential to be further from the original tape sound.

 

So generally, the closer one can get to the early "Mother" press, it is thought, the better quality your final wax pressing is going to sound. This goes for the potential re-issues and remastered copies as well of course, but , this will get confusing fast.

 Let’s just say, if you can get a first pressing from the master tape, and you can get an early stamper, it is thought the sound quality will be optimised. That is the second potential reason first pressings are coveted.

 

Third and last, there’s the collectability factor.

 

Simply, for collectors, quite often the First Edition of something, whether it’s a book, a car, a toy or a vinyl record,  can be more valuable/collectable than a later copy.

 

Whether that’s a nostalgia factor, or just to hold something original and really old, having first pressings of an album is often seen as being desirable by collectors.

 

What are your thoughts on FIRST pressing vinyl?

 

Very good explanation, each point covered in detail so this post couldn't be any shorter. Maybe in the future candyflip will cover bootlegs - I remember buying a Little Feats bootleg from a live performance , it had a strange name which I can't remember from an 'alternative' bookshop owned by an American draft dodger ( good move). It had a fantastic sound BUT the vinyl used was too soft and after only a few plays the magic was gone.

 

I'm sure candyflip will cover vinyl produced after the beginning of the 80s, mostly it's better to buy the CD version which is much cheaper nowadays as this vinyl is digital, not analogue. However audiophile LPs produced in the 90s' were superb. I sometimes questioned why I was paying £15 upward for an LP - now some sell for hundreds.

 

Over the last few years I have seen mint vinyl copies from the 60s/70's  'in it's original cellophane' sell for crazy money on ebay sites - oh dear! - I well remember the queues at HMV on a Saturday in the 70s' with buyers wanting their money back for badly warped LPs or with rogue pieces of vinyl stamped into the disc, as always caveat emptor.

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Cheers Stuart - I definitely will cover bootlegs and 90's and later pressings at some point soon.

 

I've got so many ideas for shows lined up - just not as much time to do them all (I'd love to produce one every single day, but, you know, paid work and all....)  :afro:

 

Thanks for the feedback! 

Remember the videos of the text above can be found on YouTube, or on Stereonet TV (yes, such a thing exists!... https://www.stereo.net.au/features  and https://www.youtube.com/c/StereoNET)  :welcome:

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