Record Collecting: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask….Part 2: Audiophile Vinyl LP Records

Whilst audiophile pressings of vinyl records are nothing new in recent years there has been a real upsurge in the amount of records claiming to be of audiophile standard. This piece is not going to get bogged down in the science side of things (as in why they sound so good) but rather concentrate on giving an overview of the key labels to look out for.

Audiophile: What does it mean?

Essentially it means a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction, i.e, not those who are content with a tinny transistor radio or low resolution MP3!

Audiophile Record Labels: The Ones To Look Out For

Firstly the idea of superb sound reproduction is not a new one, classical record buyers were hip to this way back in the ’50s, seeking out early stereo pressings, for example, Decca’s legendary SXL Series which is favoured by many audiophile collectors because of its incredible dynamic range, and remains very sought after with some titles fetching thousands of pounds. However, Decca is not the only collectable label in this area, also look out for the Columbia SAX series and the HMV ASD series, original stereo pressings on these labels not only sound incredible but can also command very high prices.

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The distinctive label has silver writing on a black background with the iconic ‘ffss’ logo in a circle at the 12 o’clock position and a wide silver band just above the spindle hole, around the rim are the words “Original Recording By…”, for more info on this title click here

What about rock/pop albums, what should I look out for?

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs or Mobile Fidelity were the first label to concentrate on issuing vinyl on new or ‘virgin vinyl’, although standard practice throughout the ’60s the oil crisis and economic downturn in the ’70s meant that cheaper alternative were used, resulting in poor audio reproduction, flimsy vinyl, pops and crackles were common on records manufactured during this period. Mobile Fidelity mastered their records using ‘half-speed’ technology, meaning that the vinyl is pressed from disc lacquers cut at 1/2 normal playing speed allowing for (warning it gets technical here) extended frequency response and better transient attack, in other words it sounds fantastic!

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1980 US limited edition half-speed mastered ‘Original Master Recording’ audiophile issue of the 1969 16-track LP pressed in Japan on Super High Definition Vinyl & taken from the original stereo master tapes, complete with original series insert & gatefold catalogue card stiffener, unique pasted picture sleeve variant, more info here
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2008 US exclusive limited edition 9-track GAIN 2™ Ultra Analog Half-Speed Mastered LP pressed on 180gram VIRGIN VINYL, Santana’s 2nd longplayer originally released in 1970, mastered from the original stereo master tapes, superbly presented in individually numbered deluxe gatefold pasted card sleeve, more info here

Whilst Mobile Fidelity is still going strong some of its 1970’s contemporaries are no longer with us, and as these audiophile editions were pressed in relatively small numbers in the first place, they are now not just coveted for their sonic superiority but also because of their scarcity. Nimbus (who went onto become the first CD manufactuer in the UK) launched a vinyl sub-label entitled Nimbus Supercut, released in editions of only 1000 and only available via mail order through ‘What Hi-Fi’ magazine, needless to say they’re not that easy to find!

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Rare limited edition 1984 UK Nimbus Records Supercut audiophile pressing of the classic 1975 5-track LP, with ‘Nimbus England’ machine stamped in the run-out groove, custom gold stickered picture sleeve, illustrated lyric inner & postcard. This edition was mastered and pressed exclusively for readers of ‘Hi-Fi Today’ magazine & available by mail order only, yes they do sound great but try finding one!

Other labels operating throughout the ’70s and ’80s also include Columbia Records Mastersound series, Nautilus Super Discs, Dunhill Records, Audio Fidelity and Acoustic Sounds Analogue Productions.

What labels should I look out for now?

From the UK ‘Pure Pleasure’ has a huge catalogue ranging from Jazz, blues, classical, OST’s and more, with their reissues always pressed on 180g virgin vinyl and remastered from the original master tapes wherever possible.

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Speakers Corner from Germany has a similar catalogue to Pure Pleasure and take the same level of attention to detail in their reissues.

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Anything pressed on Analogue Productions is worth hunting down, this is the label run by the US based Acoustic Sounds website, a site for the true audiophile junky!
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Jennifer Warnes’ 1992 LP The Hunter was given the deluxe audio makeover by Impex, not as well known as some of the other audiophile labels but with mastering by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering From the Original Master Analog Tapes on 180 Gram Vinyl it’s a real connoisseurs choice.

You can look through our extensive range of audiophile vinyl LPs at eil.com, for full list click here

Here’s some of the audiophile labels discussed above (and more) that you may want to look out for

Analogue Productions, Audio Fidelity, Pure Pleasure, Impex, Speakers Corner, Diverse, Classic Records, Sundazed

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, Gearbox, Org (Original Recordings Group).

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