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Monday, February 18, 2008

New Vinyl Has Me a Bit Perplexed

After all the writing I've done recently about ditching my CDs and not wanting to put cash into a stereo upgrade I've been lusting after for years that I didn't think I'd use, I've done a partial about face. I'm still ditching a ton of CDs (and LPs too, for that matter,) but I decided to finally sink some money into upgrading my stereo. This is due in part to the fact that all my thrifted gear from the 70s is finally giving up the ghost, but I digress...

Anyway, I'm focusing mainly on records, as that's what I still enjoy listening to and it's what I'm keeping the most of. That said, I'm not new to this. I've owned a record cleaner for a few years. I know how to set up a turntable and properly care for the vinyl disc.

What I'm discovering is just how lousy modern record pressings are. Now, I'm someone who can deal with noisy vinyl. A lot of what I own has come from the thrifts and is in much less than fantastic condition. I can listen past pops and clicks, especially on a platter I've spent less than a dollar on. But when I plunk down $15+ for a new album and rip off the shrink wrap (and all the stickers bragging about the weight of the pressing,) that sucker better sound like a new record. Saddly, that's rarely the case.

Now, I know how records are made. I know it's as much an art as a science and I know if you want perfectly quiet, you might as well snag the CD. What I'm talking about is this Amy Winehouse LP I have that first time on the turntable has some terrible surface noise during the first couple of songs on both sides. Or the new Dungen album with what sounds to my ears like the distortion from an LP being repeatedly played with a mis-tracking tonearm.

Those are just two instances off the top of my head. I can say for certainty it's not my table as it plays other records just fine. I was still buying new vinyl on into the 90s and even then it sounded fine. I guess I just don't understand what the deal is. Maybe it's too many people jumping into the vinyl bandwagon assuming people either aren't going to play the things or that they have no idea new records aren't supposed to snap crackle and pop.

Speaking of suspect vinyl pressing, I believe I've written before about all these reissues showing up in shops of a seemingly suspicious origin. What I mean is, there are legit reissue labels like Sundazed, Simply Vinyl, 4 Men with Beards, etc. Then there are these other LPs that don't have any information about their origin. They look like photocopies of the originals. Some are colored vinyl, some claim 180g wax. They retail for about $9-$15 and they have a lot of stuff that isn't even out on CD.

Well, I believed the name of the company was Scorpio and I've had that confirmed. What I didn't know was that they have a website ( and are apparently on the up and up. I find it a little weird that they claim to be legit when they have some real "who the heck owns that" type obscurities, but that's what they claim.

What I can tell you about them is, their discs are mastered from DATs or CDs and are really hit or miss as far as it goes. Sound quality can vary from really great to pretty dull and unimpressive. The biggest problem they have is a high rate of warped records. It's happened to me, and even the next batch of that title was warped as well.

Still, I have a bunch of their stuff, as sometimes it's the only way to find it without paying collector's prices. However, I think they are aiming mostly at the hip-hop DJ market, which is pretty smart. Why ruin your original JB vinyl, when you can get a Scorpio for $9?

Anyway, fun stuff and if you're into the fetishism of vinyl (not *that* kind, you perv) you can pick up that stuff with confidence. If you're looking for the "magic" of vinyl, you might want to pass though.

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