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BERIGAN

How common are tiny imperfections in vinyl???

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I swear in the old days of playing records, I didn't notice as many as I have seen since getting back into records after a decade or so...Was just looking at The College Concert of Pee Wee Russell, and Henry Red Allen, an Impulse release. (A-9137) Anyway, it has what looks like 6-8 little "blisters" or possibly dirt that settled during manufacturing. Just guessing there. But I sure don't recall seeing so many glitches on my old Beatles, Adam Ant, etc records. Was there a golden era of defects on vinyl? Or were some labels more prone to this issue? Most of the time I don't hear a problem, but I can feel some of these, a few are like dimples.....

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I expect it's less to do with the era and more with the economy - I have a fair amount of Jamaican produced vinyl in which these imperfections are very common indeed. Beatles & Adam Ant far less so I imagine (I have Beatles vinyl but Adam Ant only on a very old cassette!)

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I remember that from the late 70s on, you never knew what you were going to get. Later pressings of older albums could be quite an adventure...but not always.

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Remember RCA's Dynaflex vinyl? I disliked those ultra-thin, floppy, wobbly albums, many of which were prone to warping. As I understand it, a lot of pressing plants were using reground vinyl at the time, and this might account for the increase in imperfections. Dynaflex allowed them to use less material, and the new technology supposedly removed more of the impurities. The best use I found for my Dynaflex was wobbling along with the Yardbirds song Hot House Of Omagararshid (ya-ya-ya, ya-ya-ya-ya). :D

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As someone making vinyl pressings from the mid '60s 'til the real end, I find this discussion interesting and frustrating at the same time. Sorry, not time to dwell on it.

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Budget labels from virtually all decades had imperfections. If you have any Crown albums, there are always little bubbles in the vinyl.

In my experience, vinyl starts to get bad in the early 70s with certain labels, not with others. from the mid to late 70s, it was almost always pretty bad. MCA and Capitol were the worst. Despite some of the negative claims about Dynaflex here and elsewhere, to me they were never as bad as Capitol and MCA. I have a Dynaflex "Mr. Lucky" that sounds amazing - it is my go-to copy of that album.

It seems to me that most of the mid- to late-70s jazz twofers on labels such as Milestone and Prestige were decent. Verve pressings from that period are another story though.

By the early 80s, pressings in general seemed to get better and remained so until CDs took over. Vinyl from the revival era is dicey, in my experience.

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Agreed. There was a major drop-off in pressing quality in the late '70's, which coincided with the price spikes/gas shortages of the era (oil being the major component of vinyl). Rampant inflation of the late '70's also a major cause.

Though I've never been a student of it, you could tell the majors each either owned or used a particular pressing plant - you could tell by the way the vinyl was indented in the label area. Capitol had a largish circle near the hole (and their vinyl was thicker and harder too; probably poorer quality), Columbia had a rim around the outer part of the label, RCA had a small circle right near the hole, Atlantic had a rim around the outer part of the label, but different than Columbia's - it had a more sloping edge and got very thin near the label. Atlantic pressings could also be very warped, noisy, and off-center. MCA's also had a small circle near the hole, but different than RCA's, and their vinyl was also thicker, harder and noisier.

Fantasy/Milestone pressings were always very good, even the inexpensive OJCs - I think they used Columbia's pressing plants. ECM's pressings, starting from when they were distributed by WB, were off-the-charts beautiful; they seemed to use some audiophile pressing plant, and they encased their discs in rice-paper sleeves.

Dealing with all those noisy, warped, off-center vinyl discs in the late '70's - early '80's, I remember being baffled by the negative reaction to CD's. They seemed like a boon, comparatively.

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New vinyl records today seem to be an even bigger risk. I've bought some LP's in the past few years and I've had to return several because they had pops throughout...then I'd get a different one and it would be near perfect. Expense doesn't seem to matter, I bought a rather pricey 45rpm set and it sounded terrible, then traded it back in and got the 33rpm version which was flawless.

Edited by Shawn

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Remember RCA's Dynaflex vinyl? I disliked those ultra-thin, floppy, wobbly albums, many of which were prone to warping. As I understand it, a lot of pressing plants were using reground vinyl at the time, and this might account for the increase in imperfections. Dynaflex allowed them to use less material, and the new technology supposedly removed more of the impurities. The best use I found for my Dynaflex was wobbling along with the Yardbirds song Hot House Of Omagararshid (ya-ya-ya, ya-ya-ya-ya). :D

Amen to that. I once took a copy of the Brian Auger Oblivion Express LP Closer To It back to Music Millenium six different times trying to find one that wasn't warped. After the sixth copy, they just gave me my money back. That RCA stuff was a complete joke.

Anyone ever try to straighten out a warp? Man, I wrecked a bunch of records trying to do that.

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from the mid to late 70s, it was almost always pretty bad. MCA and Capitol were the worst.

As a Who fan MCA was horrid. Brand new LPs sounded like 25 cent garage sale used vinyl as soon as you broke the seal. We used to joke that you could smell the model airplane glue as the legend was that post oil crisis vinyl was made up of melted down model planes & cars. I'd put MCA on a whole 'nother lower level, but I may not be rational about this.

I ended up with some modern vinyl as I got a good deal on the Smile box which had some included. My copy was poppy on the first and likely last play. I believe impossible (Cary) on FB said his recently scored copy sounded great. I think on Hoffman it was mentioned there were 2 different plants, one good & one evil and I guess I drew the short straw. But as I got a great deal (too) I couldn't be bothered to return it & hope for a pristine vinyl version, especially since I'm indifferent if they include CD versions. (If it had been a flawed hi-res disc I would have returned it.)

Edited by Quincy

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I spent a few years as a disc jockey during the LP era, when one rocked back and forth to cue up a disc. The opening grooves of American Decca albums invariably turned grey and noisy due to the awful material used in their pressings.

Bill Russell knew what to do about bubbles...

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Yeah the Smile LPs sound amazing. Quiet. And I'm just blown away by the bass range. I think my amazement has as much to do with instrumentation and arrangement as it does recording, mastering, pressing quality though!

Pretty excited about the deal I got on that box.

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Having actively lived through the vinyl era from the mid-70s when I started collecting I can't say the EUROPEAN MCA pressings were bad. The German, Frnech and U.K. pressings I came across all thorugh the 70s and 80s all in all were wuite OK.

What bugged me in the pressing quality at that time were some of those late 70s vinyls where the grooves really got very, very close to each other, and there seemed to be huge differences at that time, in some cases - upon looking closer - you could make out each individual groove (those LPs tended to be OK), like it was on LPs from the 50s, and in other cases the grooves looked just like a blur, and those records were much more prone to skip even when new. And I cannot say this was a case of 20-track single LP budget pressings where you had to cram a LOT of playing time on them. Some of these Pickwick (or other) 20-track budget LPs sounded better than some 14-tracks major label close-grooved pressings.

As for actual surface defects, and beyond what TTK says about budget and Crown labels, there were some awfully crappy pressings elsewhere too, not necessarily among budget labels. Straight from the late 50s and all through the EP era, I've found an obscenely high share of duds full of blisters and bubbles among SONET pressings (Danish), for example. Strange how they ever made it to secondhand bins where I came across them later on. Any half-intelligent new record buyer would have returned them right to the shop?? Or did they have a habit of disintegrating and blistering later on due to old age? Any Scandinavian here who knows?

Among more recent pressings, I still am surprised at the kind of pressing defects that seep even into normally carefully made reissues on collectors' labels.

For example, an LP I have from the Swedish Dragon label has a sort of "wart" somewhere that invariably causes it to skip except with the most careful pickup/weight setup.

And one of my Tal Farlow "Ed Fuerst" LPs has a nasty blob of some foreign matter (looks like some grain that you can actually feel) that makes the record pop on that side for several spins (no skips, though, though the bulge in the surface feels much worse than on the Dragon LP). (Yeah, failed to check the records close enough when buying them brand new)

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There were some exceptions, but Xanadu vinyl generally sucked. And you can add a lot of Muse LPs to that comment also.

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I've bought a number of new LPs recently (new titles and reissues) and it is hit or miss.

Bubbles aren't the issue, however. It seems like warps are the rule, rather than the exception. I've NEVER had a problem with old vinyl being warped, but it seems like every third new LP I unwrap has some degree of warp-age. Which is a huge bummer.

I've come to be less picky about it, as warps are so prevalent. None of them are so bad as to cause sound issues, thankfully.

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That's funny, I've bought quite a few Muse LPs that didn't make it to CD - Bill Hardman and others - and never found serious quality issues. Certainly no worse than other 70s-80s vinyl pressings. Xanadu is harder to comment on because a lot that I purchased were beat up in the first place. But my experience with second-hand Muse LPs has been pretty good.

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That's funny, I've bought quite a few Muse LPs that didn't make it to CD - Bill Hardman and others - and never found serious quality issues. Certainly no worse than other 70s-80s vinyl pressings. Xanadu is harder to comment on because a lot that I purchased were beat up in the first place. But my experience with second-hand Muse LPs has been pretty good.

As far as Muse goes, there were exceptions. But I remember try to find decently pressed copies of Jaki Byard's solo album on Muse and the Art Hodes/Milt Hinton Muse LP and having no luck whatsoever.

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remember Jubilee? Incredibly noisy one with that Duke tribute LP (Hall Overton/O Pettiford, I think). Also, bad pressings of that singer who was on Touched By an Angel - can't think of her name, as I am having a senior moment.

Edited by AllenLowe

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It's along time since I've listened to a new LP, but back in the 1980s we would, as producers, be provided with test pressings to which we would listen carefully, in order to detect faults on the metal discs from which the LPs would be pressed. Often there would be much to-ing and fro-ing with the factory before satisfactory results were achieved. I can't imagine that this level of care could possibly remain in today's economic climate and 'post-industrial' world.

The other problems that exercised us with the production of LPs was that of over-modulation at the end of the side, especially if it was long, producing distortion if not handled carefully at the disc cutting stage, and excess high frequency at the original recording stage which could produce a signal that most average domestic quality record players could not easily handle. A Pablo LP that I have of a Zoot Sims date on which he plays 'Never Let Me Go' was so carelessly cut that it is almost unplayable..

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And I'm staring to get back into vinyl again now... why was that? :)

There is a lot of crappy vinyl out there. As much as we like to romanticize those days, there were a lot of reasons CDs took off and took over so quickly and completely.

I remember my brother buying Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" and having to return it 4 times because he couldn't get one to play over the first few notes of the opening track. Eventually, we taped a few quarters onto the headshell and played through the speedbump. Took the quarters off and it played fine from then on.

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I have one Muse LP by Joe Bonner which has an awful degree of surface noise.

I have a lot of Atlantic US pressings from the 1970's which are noisy, due to the label re-using their pressing platters as log as possible.

I even had an LP or two with visible enclosures of tiny pieces or paper and the like - which of course caused some kind of bump whenever the stylus went over it.

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I even had an LP or two with visible enclosures of tiny pieces or paper and the like - which of course caused some kind of bump whenever the stylus went over it.

Ahh, the old re-grind with the paper bits! I had a few of those back in the day. It was very noticeable with red labeled records. The red labels stood out from the black vinyl. They almost always caused a skip.

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remember Jubilee? Incredibly noisy one with that Duke tribute LP (Hall Overton/O Pettiford, I think). Also, bad pressings of that singer who was on Touched By an Angel - can't think of her name, as I am having a senior moment.

Della Reese.

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As bad as a lot of American pressings were, in the 1950s many Canadian pressings were even worse. A company called Sparton had the license to press ABC Paramount product in this country and what a disaster! They'd import the jackets from the States, emboss them with the Sparton logo, then press the discs from American masters. The results were generally pretty bad and once stereo was introduced forget it. We'd have to buy ABC Paramount and Impulse albums in mono since the stereo pressings were simply unplayable. Then there was London Records of Canada which pressed Atlantics: same problem. The major labels were generally pretty good. There were seldom problems with the Canadian editions of Columbia, RCA Victor or Capitol albums. But Decca pressings were just as bad here as they were in the U.S. I smiled at Chris Albertson's comment above where he mentions how Decca LPs turned grey after a couple of plays. Canadian Deccas did the same thing. I guess it was a company policy to use the cheapest vinyl. Funny thing though, I remember one odd case with a Columbia issue. When the Thelonious Monk Big Band at Philharmonic Hall was first released I happened to get my hand on an American pressing. Everything was great until the end of Side One. The side closed with Monk's touching solo rendition of Darkness on the Delta. The music was gorgeous but the distortion made it unplayable. I then tried a Canadian pressing and it was perfect, so the flaw was obviously not in the master.

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