I recently got 5 LPs from a fine German record company, Speakers Corner: Ella Fitzgerald, Michel Legrand, Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. Speakers Corner does everything right. What you get is even better than the original LP releases–because the pressings are of much higher quality.
Many companies reissue vinyl at cheaper price points but caveat emptor: you might be getting pressings from digital files. Labels like Speakers Corner, Mobile Fidelity, Analogue Productions and Impex Records require much more work and attention to detail, hence you pay a premium price.
Not all vinyl is created equal. Good vinyl is like good food: it just tastes better. It’s like comparing a good bottle of Pinot Noir or French Burgundy wine to jug wine in half-gallon bottles. And of course, you pay more for quality vinyl. What you hear is more palpable, more solid, as close as you can get to hearing the original master tapes or being in the same room when the music was recorded. The master tapes done in the 1950s and 1960s on tube equipment recording into mono or two-track is usually better than the later 16 or 24 track using transistor gear. The signal path is simpler, and nothing gets in the way. Classic tube microphones by Neumann and Uher captured voices and other instruments impeccably. In the world of audiophilia, older technology usually sounds better. And it’s always better than MP3s! These labels make the effort to always source the original master tapes, even sometimes getting obstructed by repertoire owners–labels I mean–who would rather just send them a digital file.
Not to mention the cover art and graphics, which have great visual impact and which conjure up the great album cover art designers: Reid Miles at Blue Note, Izzy Sanabria at Fania, photographers Herman Miller, William Claxton and Chuck Stewart, and the unforgettable photography of Francis Wolff, co-founder of Blue Note. This is part of the excitement of buying a vinyl album that you will never get from iTunes! Look at the cover art here and believe.
High quality vinyl has a quiet playing surface, no rice crispies of snap, crackle, and pop. In 1973 when the first oil crisis hit with the OPEC price increase, a barrel of oil went from $18 to $53. Record companies had no choice but to not use virgin vinyl but rather to use cheaper vinyl to cut costs.
These records sound as good as vinyl gets. If you have a decent (hopefully belt-drive, they’re better) turntable you will definitely hear the difference.