June 2021 Editorial

The Price We Pay

[Old vinyl]

Author: Roger McCuaig - TNT Canada
Published: May, 2021

I don't know what set me off, it could have been anything really, but the other day I started thinking, well, more like steaming, about how many of the 2000 vinyl records that I own are never played because the sound quality is so poor that I don't want to hear them! For example, The J. Geils Band album Freeze Frame. I bought this record many years ago and the pressing is so bad that I just never play it. I should just throw it away but, in my head, that's just like throwing away money. I can't bring myself to do it. So it remains in my record shelf and never gets played. Another very frustrating example is Goat's Head Soup. I love this album, it is one of my favorite Stones albums, but the sound is pretty ordinary on my copy.

Many of the records that I purchase are used, which means that typically they are not returnable, and returning new records will often get you a dirty look from the sales person. Nobody likes to waste money but for me the biggest frustration is the waste of time and effort; fighting traffic to go halfway across the city, spending a lot of time digging through the endless shelves of old records and then coming home to discover that you did all that for nothing!

Now, I am not an expert on record manufacturing but some things are pretty basic. The metal “stamper” used to make the records has a limited lifespan. The one thousandth record stamped is not as good quality as the first one stamped. Historically, there has always been record manufacturing plants that would stretch the stamper life past the point where it needed to be changed in order to maintain product quality. Most people don't hear the difference, or don't care, or don't have a stereo system good enough to even make a difference. Then there are the people like us who are in the quest for the best sound. Playing a bad pressing is like a slap in the face. How dare you sell an inferior copy of this artist's creation? How dare you make me waste my time and money?

“Play the record in the shop before you buy it” you say. Certainly a reasonable suggestion, but the fact is, of all the record shops in my area, there is only one that has a system that might be good enough to serve such a purpose. Most of them have a 40 year old plastic turntable with a stylus that wore out eons ago, connected to headphones that belong in the recycle bin. Well, these bad copies are out there and some will eventually come to sit on a shelf in your record collection never to be played. A sad reminder that record production is a business and businesses are always trying to squeeze the most money out of the system. Bad pressings seem to be the inevitable price that vinyl junkies pay for their passion.

DISCLAIMER. TNT-Audio is a 100% independent magazine that neither accepts advertising from companies nor requires readers to register or pay for subscriptions. After publication of reviews, the authors do not retain samples other than on long-term loan for further evaluation or comparison with later-received gear. Hence, all contents are written free of any “editorial” or “advertising” influence, and all reviews in this publication, positive or negative, reflect the independent opinions of their respective authors. TNT-Audio will publish all manufacturer responses, subject to the reviewer's right to reply in turn.

Copyright © 2021 Roger McCuaig - roger@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com