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Old 12th Jul 2018, 3:31 pm   #1
Martin Bush
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Default First pressings

Hello all

Hopefully this qualifies for discussion here.

I buy a few records here and there and usually look either for new pressings or ones that appear to be from around the time of release, avoiding obvious cheapo reissues etc.

However I've always been puzzled by the term "first pressing" - what does it really mean and are there any benefits in terms of audio or anything else?

Martin
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Old 12th Jul 2018, 3:50 pm   #2
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Default Re: First pressings

I presume first pressing is from a new die or stamper, not sure of the correct term. The die will wear and later pressing from it will have slight inaccuracies.
How much this will affect performance will depend on the amount of wear on the die, the equipment used to play it and the listener.
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Old 12th Jul 2018, 3:59 pm   #3
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Default Re: First pressings

How very subjective.
Could it be the first disc made from a new die?
Could it be a disc from the first day of production with a new die?
Could it be any disc from the first die made throughout its entire production life?
Any ideas?
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Old 12th Jul 2018, 4:51 pm   #4
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Default Re: First pressings

Is this similar to 'A1/B1' (a pre-occupation of record collectors)?

These are the codes stamped in the run out groove area. A and B are obviously the sides, but the number afterwards is the serial number of the stamper, or so I was told.

The thinking is that the lower the number, the more likely a reasonably fresh and uncopied version of the original master tape was used to make it. This is where the degradation takes place apparently, in the endless duplication of master tapes as they are distributed through the manufacturing network. Low numbers also suggest that the record was made soon after the particular work was released, which is only important for certain material I'd think.

I've got an 'A1/B1' copy of 'Dare' by the Human League, which is also a great album. Ho hum, the CD still sounds better to me!
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Old 12th Jul 2018, 5:24 pm   #5
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Default Re: First pressings

I've heard of some collectors who try to find promo copies as they normally will be early pressings when the master plates are new.
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Old 12th Jul 2018, 6:35 pm   #6
Edward Huggins
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Default Re: First pressings

References to "pressings" need to be treated with caution when it comes to buying brand new 180 gram premium vinyl re-issues. Most out of copyright (and many later titles) have nothing to do with coming from the original metal masters or 15/30ips studio tapes, but are nothing more than dubs off existing CD/SACDs or Digital Files (hopefully high bitrate) and often are 2, or sometimes 3, steps removed from the original source....
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Old 12th Jul 2018, 6:54 pm   #7
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Default Re: First pressings

Extra Virgin Vinyl is also good too. The recycled stuff often has paper fibres from the labels of returned discs mixed up in it.

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Old 12th Jul 2018, 8:04 pm   #8
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Default Re: First pressings

This topic has always interested me and this is my understanding of the sequence in record production.
1. Lacqer Master
2. Metal Master and Metal Mother
3. Stamper
4. Vinyl Pressing
So in my opinion No 4 would be first batch of pressing from this Stamper.
The Stamper would be good for only so many pressings (can’t remember how many). I understand that more than one Stamper would be made depending on how many records to be made.
Now this is were it can be problematic for any future “new” pressings.
If the original Stampers are not available, for different reasons!!. “New Stampers” can be made from Vinyl pressings not original Lacger or Metal Master.
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Old 12th Jul 2018, 9:07 pm   #9
jamesperrett
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Default Re: First pressings

Quote:
Originally Posted by John10b View Post
The Stamper would be good for only so many pressings (can’t remember how many). I understand that more than one Stamper would be made depending on how many records to be made.
Now this is were it can be problematic for any future “new” pressings.
If the original Stampers are not available, for different reasons!!. “New Stampers” can be made from Vinyl pressings not original Lacger or Metal Master.
Back in the 70's there was a good article in one of the Hifi magazines about the process (possibly Hifi For Pleasure). I seem to remember that stampers were normally only good for 10-20000 copies although there was a mention of a Bridge Over Troubled Water stamper that was used for over 100,000 copies.

Not sure about the making new stampers from vinyl pressings idea - even brand new mint condition vinyl has the odd blemish here and there. Nowadays (certainly for the labels I work for) we find the best copies that we can, transfer them to digital and use digital tools to remove as many blemishes as possible. A new laquer is then cut from those digital files.
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Old 12th Jul 2018, 10:46 pm   #10
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Default Re: First pressings

I can only say I have read that this is a technique used many years ago, it may not be used today as you pointed to your own studio experience.
As a point of interest what do Record Companies wishing to reissue old analog standards on vinyl by great singers from the 50's and 60's do?
Do they have access to original master stampers or audio tapes or do you get a digital file via CD and Press records that material?
I have always be cautious about buying “new “ vinyl records because I don’t want a digital copy of an original analog recording.
Cheers
John
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Old 13th Jul 2018, 11:19 am   #11
Edward Huggins
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Default Re: First pressings

As I implied earlier, "Out of Copyight" material is nowadays just copied/dubbed off a CD or a File sourced from a CD or LP (which itself may have been a re-issue) so you are hearing 2nd or 3rd generation content. The companies issuing these will have no direct or legal access to the originals held by the 1st generation pressing companies EMI, Decca, Philips, Blue Note et al. Just how carefully these copies are made is the issue.
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Old 13th Jul 2018, 1:00 pm   #12
John10b
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Default Re: First pressings

I completely agree with Edward, I suppose we just have to be vigilant when or if we buy “new” records. However I fear that by just looking at the record and associated markings will not tell us the full history of the record.
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Old 13th Jul 2018, 1:23 pm   #13
Ted Kendall
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Default Re: First pressings

Even in period, popular albums would go through several cuts - a lacquer was only good for one pull, each mother was only good for so many stampers, each stamper was only good for so many pressings, so "catalogue" recuts were frequent.

Most masters these days are kept in digital form, usually in addition to the analogue original. From the durability point of view, this is only sensible, and cutting from a digital copy of the master is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Apart from anything else, the brick wall filter keeps ultrasonics out of the cutter head. Heads cost serious money to fix and new ones haven't been made for years.

Cutting from a commercial CD could be a different matter altogether, as you are stuck with the decisions of the CD mastering engineer, good or bad.

There is of course a boutique market in tape-to-vinyl cuts on restored valve kit, some of which are then sold for telephone numbers in facsimile sleeves to collectors. Magnificent artifacts...
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Old 13th Jul 2018, 8:59 pm   #14
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Default Re: First pressings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Studio263 View Post
Is this similar to 'A1/B1' (a pre-occupation of record collectors)?
It's far more complicated than that. The codes which are engraved in the run-out area of the LP, at least as far as EMI and Decca are concerned, will tell you which lacquer, which mother and which stamper were used to make that particular copy. In the case of Decca it will also tell you which engineer cut the lacquer. This is all well-documented on the internet for EMI, Decca and American Columbia (CBS) but there is little information for European labels like Deutsche Grammophon and Philips.
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Old 13th Jul 2018, 9:26 pm   #15
jamesperrett
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Default Re: First pressings

Quote:
Originally Posted by John10b View Post
As a point of interest what do Record Companies wishing to reissue old analog standards on vinyl by great singers from the 50's and 60's do?
Do they have access to original master stampers or audio tapes or do you get a digital file via CD and Press records that material?
Ted Kendall can probably answer this better than I can as most of my work is concerned with the 70's onwards. In my case I'll receive the analogue master tapes if I'm lucky but projects are often taken from vinyl or cassette. Everything is transferred to digital as the main destination is normally CD and download nowadays. The projects that end up on vinyl are nearly always mastered digitally. I say nearly always as I have one project in the works that has been fully analogue all the way through and the artist is hoping to keep it that way if possible.
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Old 14th Jul 2018, 8:38 am   #16
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Default Re: First pressings

The recent "Beatles in mono" vinyl box-set was done all-analogue from the original master-tapes but I don't see that they could be called "first pressings" which must surely be the first copies produced by the first stamper made from the first viable lacquer at the time of the recording.
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Old 14th Jul 2018, 2:39 pm   #17
John10b
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Default Re: First pressings

I would tend to agree with you, but as in life it’s not that simple could it be that they have made brand new stampers etc from the original tape and thus made new record hence “first pressings “, interesting.
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Old 14th Jul 2018, 2:44 pm   #18
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Default Re: First pressings

I think Refugee in post #3 got it right, very subjective. They could be the first pressing of this new run but perhaps not new stampers.

Unless they state on the box what their interpretation of first pressings are it could be many things.
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Old 14th Jul 2018, 2:53 pm   #19
John10b
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Very true Frank.
Cheers
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Old 14th Jul 2018, 2:54 pm   #20
barretter
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Default Re: First pressings

To a record collector there is only one "first" pressing and that is a copy from the very first batch of records released at the time of recording. Can you imagine how many stampers were made for the production of Beatles' LPs. They can't all be "first pressings" and there is nothing subjective about it. It is recorded in the codes engraved in the "dead wax".
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