I'm starting this discussion because of a confluence of events which make a decent story-- but end at a place where we can all contribute.
It starts with BDG Syndrome. I'm not sure if it's in Grey's Anatomy or not, but it stands for "Big Dumb Guy". I wanted a little better sound out of my headphones-- so I found head-fi and decided to by a pair of in-ear customs... Keeping this part short-- it lead to HD-650s, Burson 160D, Woo WA6, HD-800, Woo WA5LE, Wyred4Sound DAC2 and there ya go.
At this point I'm well into BDG Syndrome, but enjoying it and posted an innocent image of my WA5LE on FaceBook, expecting to get an ooh or an ahh or something-- but what came back was-- "Digital? Where's the vinyl, dude?" Well BDG took over. I pulled out my 1000+ collection of vintage vinyl, turntable, phono stage-- and it sounded awful.
I like to think of BDG as an exponential quality. Every moment under its spell equates to dollar signs wasted in multiples. A 20 year old plastic $150 dollar turntable is a total disaster when linked to the gear which I've invested money ("invested" is a listed symptom of BDG).
So I bought a VPI Scout, Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood, and Clearaudio Basic+ to add to my rig (see "invested"). Do no small things (another BDGism).
So here we are at the heart of the story. I noticed that of the massive collection I've amassed-- there are certain titles I return to more frequently than others. I'm a classic rock fan-- so I play a lot of Beatles, and I have a lot of Mobile Fidelity Vinyl-- Rush "Moving Pictures" and The Police "Ghost in the Machine". Now- these aren't even my favorite albums by these artists- but I tend to play them more frequently because I like their sound. In fact-- those two particular titles are in the category of Sonic Experiences.
Well last night I put these two titles under scrutiny-- and I noticed in the dead wax they are stamped MASTERDISK. I looked at the other titles by these artists in my collection-- and none of the others are masterdisks, and in fact, two are Manufactured Under License by Columbia House.
Years ago I signed up for 'the club' for a short time, and discovered shortly thereafter Columbia House presses its own records-- on very bad machinery. In fact-- their mastering engineer would cut songs off in the mastering process, which were on the standard label release! I got out of that deal as soon as I could.
But back to MASTERDISK-- after some research, I discovered that Masterdisk was a company the labels hired to produce a master their records (the master then gets made into a stamper, I'm assuming)-- though there could be an artist tie-in too in this relationship, I'm not sure-- and the final mastering at Masterdisk were supervised by three relative legends including Robert Ludwig-- who happened to master the two records in my collection I love so much. Ludwig an industry legend and Grammy winner. Turns out-- if your record was mastered by Masterdisk, they stamped it, then the engineer initialed the pressing by hand in the deadwax. Some of you might know this already, and hopefully can correct any errors. But I found it quite interesting. Masterdisk means nothing more than the company that did the mastering-- so much for any "special edition" theories.
Masterdisk wasn't the only company who did the mastering-- SterlingSound (Ludwig worked there, too) stamped STERLING on their pressings. George Peckham creatively stamped Pecko Duck and Porky Prime Cut on his (including Led Zeppelin IV)-- and the list goes on.
At some point during pressing-- this Masterdisk gets eliminated from the deadwax-- but I don't know when, where, or by whom. Anyone?
On top of this there's the "Hot Stamper"-- which I'm only learning about. These records are among the first pressed after the die is made-- and they are the best available copies of the pressing run. The stamper wears over time, apparently.
Do you have a favorite Masterdisk pressing? Know what the heck I'm rambling about?
Hey, let's not stop there-- what do you look for when considering are looking for a specific pressing of a recording? Let's share some info and buy better records.
Edited by reeltime - 3/20/13 at 9:50pm