The Long and Winding Road to a Classic Vinyl Record

The Long and Winding Road to a Classic Vinyl Record

The long and winding road at Classic Records is the way I describe our daily pursuit of making the best records we possibly can which is often not easy. I have come to learn that everything matters when making records and that it is a challenge just to make a consistently good product. This is due, in large part to the number of variables that are involved. Take as an example that the quality of lacquers used when cutting makes a difference to the sound of the records pressed from stampers that result from the plating the lacquers. In fact, throughout the last three years there has been large variation in the quality of lacquers and hence the quality of the LP’s that result vary as well. I’m not talking about subtle variability here but in fact material issues that result in more or less background noise and sporadic ticks and pops that come from the lacquer material that propagates its way all the way to the finished product. Thirteen years ago we used lacquers from a company named Apollo with great success – they were quiet, cut and plated well and made great sounding records. At some point along the road, Apollos began to get noisy which we could hear by cutting a blank groove on a lacquer and playing the lacquer back on the lathe. We switched to Transco lacquers, which were not as quiet as Apollos originally had been but were quieter than Apollos had become. We used Transcos for many years with highly consistent and good sound results while continually experimenting with Apollo and other lacquers in the quest to always use the best possible lacquers at any particular point in time. All was well until, one fateful day when Transcos became noisy as a result of their supplier of nitrocellulose acetate, the material lacquers are coated with, delivering material that was not filtered as rigorously as it had been in the past and chemistry problems with the materials used to make nitrocellulose acetate. Further complicating the matter these problematic lacquers, even when we used hand-selected examples, often had problems in plating during the silvering process, requiring sides to be recut. On a tip from the plating plant, we sourced and began importing MDC brand lacquers from Japan, which for a while, were both quieter and plated more consistently than Transcos.
Instinctively knowing that MDC might fall back into the inconsistencies they previously had experienced, I began working with Transco’s ownership to help encourage them not to give up the battle to solve the materials problems and return to making consistently quiet master lacquers for the record industry. My instinct was right, in that, possibly the result of increased demand for MDC lacquers while Transco was struggling, MDC lacquers became more noisy and harder to plate requiring many more recuts. Volume is always an issue in providing a consistently good product, which is true at the pressing level as well which I will address later. I am happy to report that Transco has taken the control of the manufacture of its microcellulose acetate in-house by hiring the original chemist and buying the formula from their previous supplier. A local supplier who uses the highest quality materials and filtering is now strictly making Transcos microcellulose under the supervision of their chemist. Transco’s efforts and perseverance have paid off and I am thrilled that we are again using Transco lacquers with great success – they cut, plate and sound great! The point of this part of the story is that materials matter crucially in the final sound quality of an LP. Also, I want all to know that Classic Records has and will always pursue quality down to the materials level, which no other vinyl company is currently doing.

Another variable is vinyl formulas, which according to some Self Proclaimed Experts (SPE’s ) on well known vinyl enthusiast websites, only number two or three. In fact, there are four suppliers worldwide, each of which have somewhere between three and twelve different formulas each! We have, for years pointed out that vinyl formulas sound dramatically different. Some have more clarity in different frequency spectrums while others have better bass definition and still others sound warm and tube like but lack a little of the sense of “reality” that audiophiles so long for. We have again embarked on listening to a dozen different vinyl formulas and the variation is as great as I have ever heard. Other companies that produce LP’s use the vinyl that the pressing plant they contract with has available. Vinyl pressing plants strive to have consistency in manufacturing and hence their choice of vinyl is driven not by sound quality but by consistency in their pressing process and a minimum of rejects. I don’t mean to suggest that pressing plants have no interest in sound quality, just that it is not at the top of their list of objectives. They would like to make quiet records but quiet is only necessary and far from sufficient as a motivation in making the BEST sounding records possible.

Now for the bad news, over the past five years there have been dramatic changes in the market for vinyl pellets used to mold vinyl records. One of the major suppliers for decades, Kaiser, simply shut their doors and stopped producing vinyl pellets. A few of the top people that lost their jobs set up a new company, to produce vinyl pellets in Columbia (South America) and after years of struggling to make a consistent formula, now market and sell a variety of formulas under the brand name Kenan. We are experimenting with great success with a number of Kenan formulations. Add to the mix that Rimtec Corp. , a major producer of high quality vinyl pellets that Classic Records had used up until the third quarter of last year, announced that they would no longer be making vinyl pellets with lead and cadmium, important mold release additives. Vinyl formulas that are lead free are both harder to press consistently and sound different. Rimtec Corporation continues to make colored vinyl pellets which use no lead or cadmium but no more of the original leaded formula that we had used for many years. By the way, even if you ate a ground up record you should have no fear of lead poisoning from the amount added to vinyl pellets, although you may have digestive issues thereafter. We have listened to the unleaded material and it sounds great and we’ll have more to say about this and other issues that come up along the long and winding road in the future.

Stay tuned….

Classic Records
PO Box 93896
Los Angeles CA 90026
US

Rhino announces Doors vinyl box set

Update: There seems to be some confusion over what mixes will be used. New or original? Digital or analog? Also it looks like there will be 7,500 copies of the box released.

From the official doors website…

These LPs will be the original MIXES, but completely REMASTERED by Bernie Grundman, Bruce Botnick and Jac Holzman personally, then pressed onto 180g virgin vinyl at a high-end audio LP manufacturing facility (the same one that does, I believe, Chesky, Mobile Fidelity, Telarc, etc. – but don't quote me on this).

Don't confuse the vinyl LPs (as elucidated above) with the 40th Anniversary CDs, which contain the brand new 40th Anniversary MIXES.
__________________
Thanks – Jeff
Jeff Jampol
The Doors Music Co.
Los Angeles, CA
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http://thedoorsvinyl.shop.musictoday.com/Dept.aspx?cp=1234_10585

The Doors Vinyl Box Set
$150.00

The Doors and Rhino Records are pleased to announce a seven LP box set of 180-gram HQ vinyl reissues of the six studio albums by The Doors in stereo, plus a mono version of the debut album. The entire set will be remastered and personally supervised by Jac Holzman, founder of Elektra Records and production supervisor for The Doors, and Bruce Botnick, The Doors’ engineer/co-producer/mixer for all six studio albums. All albums are exact replicas of the original releases, including all artwork, packaging, and inner sleeves. The box set will be available for a short time in a limited edition run of 5,000.

Please click on product image for full track listings.

Track Listings:
THE DOORS – STEREO VERSION
1. Break On Through (To The Other Side)
2. Soul Kitchen
3. The Crystal Ship
4. Twentieth Century Fox
5. Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)
6. Light My Fire
7. Back Door Man
8. I Looked At You
9. End Of The Night
10. Take It As It Comes
11. The End

STRANGE DAYS
1. Strange Days
2. You’re Lost Little Girl
3. Love Me Two Times
4. Unhappy Girl
5. Horse Latitudes
6. Moonlight Drive
7. People Are Strange
8. My Eyes Have Seen You
9. I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind
10. When The Music’s Over

WAITING FOR THE SUN
1. Hello, I Love You
2. Love Street
3. Not To Touch The Earth
4. Summer’s Almost Gone
5. Wintertime Love
6. The Unknown Soldier
7. Spanish Caravan
8. My Wild Love
9. We Could Be So Good Together
10. Yes, The River Knows
11. Five To One

THE SOFT PARADE
1. Tell All The People
2. Touch Me
3. Shaman’s Blues
4. Do It
5. Easy Ride
6. Wild Child
7. Runnin’ Blue
8. Wishful Sinful
9. The Soft Parade

MORRISON HOTEL
1. Roadhouse Blues
2. Waiting For The Sun
3. You Make Me Real
4. Peace Frog
5. Blue Sunday
6. Ship Of Fools
7. Land Ho!
8. The Spy
9. Queen Of The Highway
10. Indian Summer
11. Maggie M’Gill

L.A. WOMAN
1. The Changeling
2. Love Her Madly
3. Been Down So Long
4. Cars Hiss By My Window
5. L.A. Woman
6. L’America
7. Hyacinth House
8. Crawling King Snake
9. The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat)
10. Riders On The Storm

THE DOORS – MONO VERSION
1. Break On Through (To The Other Side)
2. Soul Kitchen
3. The Crystal Ship
4. Twentieth Century Fox
5. Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)
6. Light My Fire
7. Back Door Man
8. I Looked At You
9. End Of The Night
10. Take It As It Comes
11. The End

Sand ‘n Surf…Burgers ‘n Bongos…Rock ‘n Roll…THE SUNDAZED PROFILE!

Sundazed are one of the most vinyl friendly labels around. They release records not only on the LP format but also on 7" and 10". Unusually at this price level they also go to the trouble of sourcing from the original analog master tapes wherever possible. This is their story…

Sand 'n Surf…Burgers 'n Bongos…Rock 'n Roll…THE SUNDAZED PROFILE!

Bob Irwin got into the CD reissue business while it was in its infancy. Along the way, he not only explored the field…he has nearly single-handedly defined it. By the mid-'80s, the major labels were churning out painful-sounding CD issues of their best- selling vinyl titles. Rhino had matured from its Wildman Fischer origins and was well on its way to becoming the home of Top 40-centric pop reissues. Bob Irwin was manager and buyer for a chain of music retailers in upstate New York. His stock, while soundly rooted in chart product and deep catalog classics, also reflected his musical roots (Bob was and remains a topnotch guitarist) and his passion for record collecting. The stores Bob managed quickly earned a reputation for having most everything anyone wanted and then some, and the eclectic and interesting inventory attracted a similarly eclectic and interesting customer base. It was then that Bob realized just how much certain kinds of music – music that had once been available, music that people remembered, music that customers wanted to own – had fallen through the cracks of the record business. You could easily find the big hits, the best-selling artists, the top-40 oldies, the deep blues and classical standards…what was missing were pop and rock's more interesting side roads and cul de sacs: the interesting byways of the pop charts, garage, psychedelia and rockabilly. Acting on an educated hunch that he couldn't possibly be alone in his all-over-the-map musical tastes, Bob began Sundazed Music in 1989. Shaped by his own tastes and interests and tempered by the collective, unfulfilled wants of his customers, Bob started making CDs the way he'd always wanted to hear them: clean and complete. Sparked by the very same impulse that compels us to make tapes of interesting things for our friends, Sundazed began collecting critical accolades – and loyal customers – right out of the chute. Sundazed's success comes from more than a happy collision of need and product. The company absolutely thrives on attention to detail, from meticulous tape research, to no-excuses mastering and manufacturing, to exhaustive and engaging liner notes and graphically-innovative design. And uniting all of that is Sundazed's secret weapon: fun. "The music we deal with was made to be fun," claims Irwin. "Its creators wanted their audience to laugh, dance, scream, jump around and blast it at ear-splitting volume for the general purpose of annoying adults. We try to capture and preserve as much of that joy as we possibly can, while maybe adding some extra fun of our own in the process." That fun, that music, and that high-quality product soon came to the attention of the folks at Sony Music, whose Legacy division had just been formed to lend some legitimacy and structure to their reissue program. Legacy reached out to contact Bob Irwin, offering him the position of producer and consultant. Bob has become an indispensable asset to that label, responsible for just about every major rock reissue from the Sony/Legacy—and now the Sony/BMG Legacy—imprint. His work for the label includes more than 300 titles from such musical titans as Simon and Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Carole King, Bob Wills, George Jones and John Denver. It's an impressive roster that stretches out over the horizon, far as the eye can see. Bob Irwin also moonlights for Arista Records, where he's spruced up the back titles of Patti Smith, the Box Tops, Delphonics, Lee Dorsey, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. Bob also spends a lot of time remastering the historic jazz catalog of Verve Records, including landmark sessions by Billie Holiday, Wes Montgomery and John Coltrane. Rapidly approaching its 20th anniversary, Sundazed Music continues to thrive no matter what trends the Wall Street pundits may predict for business. The Sundazed physical plant: ultra-sharp mixing and mastering studios, topnotch in-house graphic design, sales and publicity, bookkeeping and shipping – long ago outgrew its two-room origins and now occupies two complete office buildings. The Sundazed distribution network is the envy of the music industry, aggressively and intelligently placing Sundazed releases in prime locations around the globe. And the Sundazed catalog continues to branch out in intriguing directions – offering the best work of musical giants such as Dick Dale, Buck Owens and Link Wray and the now-legendary 60's garage-rock pioneers like the Shadows of Knight, the Trashmen and the Remains, as well as major works by Alexander "Skip" Spence, Roger McGuinn and the Lovin' Spoonful. The successful launch of its Euphoria! jazz subsidiary is particularly near to the label's heart with its cornucopia of improvisational fretboard magic by the likes of George Van Eps, Kenny Burrell, Hank Garland, Herb Ellis, Jimmy Raney, Chuck Wayne, Joe Puma and Joe Pass. Sundazed remains dedicated to the vinyl medium in LP, ten-inch and seven-inch form. Whether it's exact reproductions of storied works by Johnny Cash, the mono pressings of Bob Dylan's early albums and an unreleased live gem by NRBQ, or fabled longplayers by Otis Redding, Love with Arthur Lee, MC5 or the Rascals, Sundazed Music will never abandon vinyl. While struggling in vain to shrug off the mantle of respectability generated by an avalanche of great press, Bob Irwin has managed to keep Sundazed fun and fascinating, not to mention a little bit unpredictable. It's also an ever-changing sandbox in which he can look forward to making castles each and every day.