It’s a question that gets asked a lot and, to be honest, there is no definitive answer. Both an original pressing and vinyl reissues have their disadvantages and advantages, and personal circumstances also play a huge part. Below we aim to dispel the myths, give some advice, and take you through a bit of history so you can decide what will be right for you when deciding to buy a specific record on vinyl.
First of all, let’s define what we mean by an original pressing and a reissue pressing:
The Original Pressing
An original pressing typically refers to a vinyl record that was made from the initial batch of lacquers in the production process and cut from the original master recordings. As they are the first records to be pressed, many consider these to be the definitive edition and best sounding records. You can then get, 2nd, 3rd and 4th pressings, etc, if the record proves to be popular and they continue to make copies of the record. These extra pressings may be created using different lacquers if the first set have worn out. The more the original master tapes are used, the more wear and tear there is likely to be, so, in theory, later pressings may not have the same quality. It’s all open to interpretation on how much quality is lost throughout these processes and different people will give you different answers.
The Reissue Pressing
A reissue pressing is a record that has been rereleased, usually a while after the album was originally produced. This is why you get so many reissues of classic albums, say, from The Beatles, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, etc. The big difference is that the reissues don’t necessarily have to use the same original master recordings to create them. The variances could be from the sourcing of the masters, the packaging, and even the thickness and type of vinyl used. Reissues can also feature different tracks or bonus material compared to the original pressing, in some cases.
The Changing Qualities of Vinyl Over The Years
To further understand the nature of original pressings and reissues and what suits you, it’s good to look back at the changes over the years. Original pressings may not always be the best quality if taken from a certain decade; vinyl quality and consistency of recordings can vary wildly between decades. Here’s a bit of background and the reasons why.
Pre-1970s vinyl is generally considered as some of the best original pressings you can get. You can even find reissues that were created pre-70s which sound fantastic. A couple of reasons why original pressings sound so good from this period is because it was a golden age for record production and basically the only medium that people bought their records on. Care was taken to produce them and the competition was rife, so record companies would compete to create the best mixes and production techniques. There was also a very skilled labour force and many production plants of which were still relatively new and in perfect working order.
If we now look at 70s pressings, a lot changed over this decade; this had a detrimental effect on vinyl and the types of presses available. Many great sounding records were still pressed in the 70s, but due in large to energy consumption problems on a worldwide scale, alternative methods by some record production companies were looked at to reduce costs. Instead of the ‘pure’ or virgin’ vinyl of the last decade, some companies started to recycle old, unsellable records or scraps, melting them back down and using them to create new records. Many an audiophile will tell you that records using this process just don’t sound as good. Also, in many cases, the thickness of records were reduced, again, cutting costs.
The 1980s is where things start to get even worse. This is where we see an influx of new ways to listen to music in the way of cassettes and the shinier, flashier, CD. People were now able to easily listen to their music on the go. With record companies putting a lot of their efforts into advertising and producing these new technologies, vinyl sales swiftly declined with record pressing plants closing down left, right, and centre. Some engineers wouldn’t put as much effort into producing the vinyl original pressings, and even less so into any reissues. Talented vinyl engineers started to disappear. Reissues were sometimes recorded from ‘digitally remastered’ sources, meaning they were recorded from digital sources such as CD’s themselves or other computerized means. Some would say this changed the warmth and soul of the sound from the original pressings, even if they were, technically, from a more ‘perfect’ sound source. Engineers and producers could chop and change things more easily, distracting from the original sound and the way the record was intended to be heard.
There’s not much to say about the 1990s as vinyl was pretty non-existent compared to previous decades for most music-genre circles (Dance music genres being the ones that thrived). Then, gradually throughout the 2000s and up until today, something strange happened. People started buying vinyl again. Whether it was the owning of something physical that people missed due to the takeover of streaming and downloading, pining for the past, or record companies wanting to make more money, there are many reasons for this change which are too many to discuss here. The good news was… vinyl was back.
But with this increased popularity in the noughties, there were a few issues. The pressing plants being used were full of old technology that either needed replacing, updating, or both. Records were, and are, being made, but demand is so great that it can be hard for the presses to cope, so some are inevitably rushed. Much of the highly-skilled staff of times gone by are no longer around so a new generation of engineers were needed who are still in a learning curve. Some, therefore, see original pressings and reissues in the noughties as suffering because of this learning process. This isn’t to say all new reissues and original pressings are bad – far from it – and over time, things are getting better as new record plants and technologies are brought in and more skilled engineers are developed.
Should I Buy An Original Pressing Or A Reissue?
Whether you’re going to buy an original pressing or reissue, depends entirely on you. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Take a look below to see what different scenarios may come up and how they can affect your choice.
This is the big one. Usually, original pressings are going to be expensive compared to reissues. And I’m not talking by just a bit. In some cases, you might be able to pick up a reissue for about £20, but the original pressing could cost £100+, and that’s on a low scale. It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend. Just remember that most classic albums are usually reissued by the big labels at a fraction of the price and effort of hunting out an original if you can’t afford it.
How Much Does It Matter To You?
How much of a vinyl aficionado are you? If you’re the type of person who wants the best of the best, has an expensive turntable and can afford to, the original pressing might be right up your street. If you’re just getting into vinyl with a relatively cheap setup, the latest Pink Floyd reissue of Dark Side of the Moon might be better for you than an expensive original pressing. Don’t worry, if you get more into records you can always save up and get that original later on!
Were The Original Master Recordings Used For The Reissue?
Usually, if the master tapes are in good working order and have been looked after over the years, the best vinyl reissues will come from the original master recordings. These can sound just as good as the original pressings. However, if the master tapes are not available or the record company is looking for a cheaper and more time-efficient way to reissue, they may opt for a more digital method or even record straight from CD. There’s a reissue of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black out there which some vinyl enthusiasts regard as awful, with well-talked-about distortion on some of the tracks. Sometimes the masters won’t be able to be used because of other reasons like they have been lost or destroyed. It recently came to light that there was a huge fire in a universal studios vault in 2008 which destroyed the masters for albums by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elton John and Iggy Pop, amongst many, many others.
Where, When and Who It Was Pressed By
This is getting deep now, and would only be for vinyl enthusiasts or those looking to really get into vinyl. With knowledge comes power, and research into the year the record was produced, who it was produced by and where it was pressed can really help in finding the best pressing. The website Discogs is great for finding out more details about an album, as well as a myriad of message boards and facebook groups where you can ask questions and mingle with like-minded vinyl fans who may be able to help you find the best recording of the reissue you’re after. We visited Abbey Road studios recently to listen to the half-speed reissues of Brian Eno’s early albums that were supervised by mastering engineer Miles Showell. His work on reissues is top-notch, for example, so it’s all about knowing who to look out for.
Have A Listen!
If you’re able to, have a listen to both the original pressing and the reissue side by side. It’s not worth forking out the big bucks on the original if you’re ears are just as content listening to the cheaper reissue. Also, a lot of the original copies could be worn or warped, so this is something else to look out for. Discogs can help with their quality rating system, but you should take this with a pinch of salt.
Thickness Of Vinyl
Many reissues these days come on 180-gram vinyl, meaning it’s usually a lot thicker than say, original pressings created in the 80s, as mentioned earlier. There is contention about whether this makes much difference (you can read about it here in more detail on our article about the ongoing evolution of vinyl production), but the heavier a record is, the more likely it’s going to sit flat on your deck and not warp.
Another point that can damage reissues or any vinyl for that matter, is when buying online. Records would have to come through a delivery system and, in some cases, won’t be packaged properly or affected by changes in temperature on the journey. This is why it’s always recommended to buy from record shops where possible, as, even if a record has been damaged or is warped, it’s much easier to return. Also…you should always support your local record store! One more tip for newer reissues…they usually come with a download code so you can listen to the music on the go!
So, there we have it. Buying original pressings or reissues is all about personal preference, circumstances and research into the product. Just like anything, the more effort you put into it, the happier you are going to be with what you get. We’d all like an original pressing of The Beatles’ White Album but it’s never going to happen – be happy with what you have and what you comes your way!
GORDON LINDBERG says
One question, what about buying used records in good shape that are clearly made from the 70’s?
Jamie Parmenter says
Hi Gorden, thanks for the question! Like anything when buying used vinyl, you just have to look out for the quality of the record itself and maybe do a little research into the pressing if you’re able to. If you’re buying off Discogs, you can check the info on there or ask the dealer questions. If you’re buying from a record store or record fair, ask to hear the record, check for marks, etc and try to find out what pressing you’re listening to. It’s all a matter of research, asking the right questions and listening if possible. At the end of the day, if it sounds fantastic to you, that’s all that matters!
Laurence Agate says
Useful article thanks. I just discovered my complete vinyl collection (mostly 70’s) which I had left in the ‘safe’ hands of a family member for many years while I worked abroad has been ‘lost’. To say I’m gutted is an understatement, even though I have many of those albums in digital form it’s not the same. Some I will likely never be able to replace as they are rare, but those I can replace I will. Wether to hunt down originals or go for re-issues, remastered, half speed etc has been confusing the hell out of me, this article helps some.
Jamie Parmenter says
Hi Laurence, I’m so sorry to hear about your records, that’s heart-wrenching! I hope you can at least find some alternative copies out there. Like I mentioned in the article, if you like Pink Floyd the latest album reissues are really well done. I’m glad the article was able to help out.
I am just now learning how to navigate the complex waters of vinyl identification, variances, and, of course original pressing vs. reissue and this article helped me quite a bit, thanks! BUT (here comes the ‘but’) I need something else cleared up. Whenever I go to Discogs to look up an album (and THAT site can be quite intimidating!) I’ll see words like ‘runout’, ‘matrix’, different countries where it was pressed, Compton Pressing vs. Hauppauge pressings (this was on a specific LP that I’m researching) etc etc. You get the idea. There’s SO much data that I now know what the word ‘audiophile REALLY means, and I’m just a wannabe, lol! I’m not necessarily buying as an investment but part of me WANTS the original pressings, however; you’ve made a very logical case for buying 180-gram vinyl too.
If you could send me a few links to websites that would help me to better understand the vinyl evaluation process, I would appreciate it since this would take up too much of your time to answer here. I just need to unravel a few more ‘mysteries’ of the album buying process…
Jamie Parmenter says
Hi Debbe, thanks for commenting – I’m glad you found the article useful. You are right, getting into vinyl can seem like a never-ending rabbit hole! There is A LOT of information out there and it can be daunting knowing where to look. I’ve been thinking about following up this article and doing a more in-depth piece about some of the points you raise, different pressings, terms, evaluating vinyl and tips for buying from Discogs. So, if you can wait a week or so, I’ll get something up on the site and let you know!
Hi Jamie, how can you tell when a record is remastered or reissued using a digital source?
Jamie Parmenter says
Hi Ian, thanks for the comment! Sometimes they will list it somewhere on the record outer sleeve, usually the back, showing if it’s reissued or remastered using a digital source. If it doesn’t, another option is to ask at the source. Simply contact the record label or find the name of who remastered/reissued the record which is usually on the cover somewhere. There may be an email address or you can search on google. A lot of the time they are very helpful and will give you all the details you need. Some would say it’s more likely to be from a digital source if you can’t see it listed anywhere on the cover. I hope this helps!
Manel Navarro says
Official and legal vinyl reissues sound great. Besides, they have sometimes pictures, the lyrics and interesting comments and are, in general, cheaper than mint/near mint original vinyl copies. That’s my opinion.
I recently bought a John Cougar Mellencamp box set, and it was complete garbage. The vinyl sounded grainy and many of the songs weren’t even complete (the drum solo of Jack and Diane was missing, are you kidding me?!!!) I am a newbie, and I was shocked. Needless to say, there is a lot to look for before making that purchase. This article was very helpful.
No problem. Just check for each record to make sure there is no visible damage
Hello, Jaimie: Thanks for this very helpful article. It explains a lot of things about a vinyl that I was
clueless about. Question: When a seller says that the LP has been ultrasonically cleaned, should I watch
out for anything? It seems good to get the dirt off an old LP, but are the labels in danger, etc.?
Jamie Parmenter says
Hi Barbabra, I’m glad the article helped! If a seller is using a professional ultrasonic cleaner, this should make sure the sound and cleanliness of the record will be the best it can be with consideration to the age/any prior damage to the record, etc. The labels shouldn’t be in danger unless they are using a cheap ultrasonic cleaner, or possibly a homemade one which can happen. It all boils down to how much you trust the seller – if they are on a site like Discogs, check the reviews to see how previous sales have gone.
Jamie: Thanks very much for your reply. I did wind up buying a 1958 LP from a Discogs seller. As per your excellent advice, I checked the seller’s feedback first. That ultrasonically cleaned LP looked like a brand-new disc in mint condition. So, ultrasonic cleaning, when done correctly, seems a real perk.
Please keep writing your informative articles. You explore vinyl issues no one else is talking about.
Jamie Parmenter says
Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad the LP you bought was in great condition! What album did you buy?
Joseph Tominsky says
Jamie: At my local record store, I had a conversation with the employee about a record I just purchased on eBay for $30; it was a Barnes and Noble 2015 exclusive version featuring two extra tracks. Now the only listing of that same record is over $170; I am not interested in selling the album and I know the record dealer on eBay is just trying to turn a profit. The employee showed no interest in the conversation which was a disappointment to me. And why I am glad to have found this forum, Your discussion of vinyl (original or reissue) is the type of info I am looking to read,
Jamie Parmenter says
Glad you’re enjoying Vinyl Chapters, Joseph! Record Stores are usually a great place to meet like-minded people and talk to friendly staff so sorry you had this bad experience. Hopefully, it’s a one-off!
Jeff Stanley says
I’m curious has anyone ever considered making available a digital version of a vinyl pressing played on a really excellent system? I just purchased a new release on vinyl as many artists are now doing that, but rather than get the actual vinyl and playing it back on my mediocre system, I wonder if a digitized capture of the vinyl playback would actually be better? What I’m really after when listening to vinyl is all of the extra sound information imparted from the process of making the record as well as the interaction of the needle and the speaker movements and I don’t see why this can’t be captured digitally.
Eddie Harrison says
You mention that pre 70’s vinyl sounds very good. I beg to differ on some 1960’s 45’s. (especially mid 60’s through early 70’s) Even ones that look virtually unplayed, a fine gloss to them, and looking like new, no marks or wear, still have distortion on the highs and deep bass portions of the songs. I heard that styrene vinyl is the worst out there, but I also agree that the flimsier 45’s of the 80’s can sound bad too, such as off-centered pressings and minor warps, noise in the grooves. Please clarify, thanks.
Eddie Harrison says
I did the same, sold my 45’s about ten years ago (most were re-issues, but some were original releases) and I regret it. I am buying them again and all will be original labels. I highly recommend buying original and the price tag will be higher, but a great copy will sound fabulous!!
Hi, Jamie: I’m a great fan of Max Roach and BeBop. I have the CD, but I wanted the original pressing of the LP. Did my homework and chose the original pressing that was digitally cleaned from an A-1 seller at discogs. In advance, I learned a lot from your article that helped me in that choice. The sound is amazing: Max Roach, drums; Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Ray Bryant on piano, and George Morrow, bass. (1956) Roach’s first album after his good friends Clifford Brown (trumpet) and Richie Powell (piano) died earlier that year in a car accident.
Gavin Dann says
One thing which struck me towards the end of your article (great read btw) was about ordering vinyl online and supporting local record shops. Yes, I’d love to purchase locally if I could but the kind of music I like is only ever available in small quantities, if at all. Surely the independents would still have the same issues with transportation when ordering in? I’ve had one or two disappointing ebay experiences which I returned but generally online shopping has been ideal for me and in fact I’d say most independents do most of their business through online orders.
Larry W says
Very informative article.
While I have been collecting vinyl for many many years – up until 1 month ago, I owned approx 1,000 LPs of a variety of Genres – mostly Jazz; R&B and Jazz vocals.
I recently acquired a pristine collection of approx 1,200 LPs (33rpm). While I randomly previewed the collection, I purchase the entire lot for $2.00 each. As I am cataloguing them, I discovered approx 60 Original Master Recordings, including the Beatles while Album and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
Here is an even greater shocker, neither of these albums would need be regular listening for me as I have NEVER been a Beatles fan (the last two Beatles albums I owned (Abby Road) I gave to my son.
Again, I thoroughly enjoyed your article and learned a lot! – Now what to do with the 60 Original Master Recordings.
By-the-Way, how can one be certain?
Daniel Brownstein says
I realize this comment is months old, but do you still have those and are you looking to sell them?
Matt Jones says
Not really a simple question to answer, some re-issues sound miles than the originals as the 20-30 years of technology ie half speed masters and better gear can improve the sound significantly (see 2014 beatles mono) probably the best versions of most of the beatles records. But there are also moments where the re-issues are done badly (see rem green). Totally depends on the source analogue tape source sound warm, but digital source can give you more detail, the mastering engineer (see some good ones bob ludwig, kevin Gray, Bernie Grundman) and the technology used, and then also the pressing plant and label. As an audio engineer, some advice is have a listen and do your research. There are terrible re-issues and terrible originals, hope you get the good ones
Mr. Jones: Thanks for your very balanced view re: re-issues and originals. Another consideration might be
the cost of “perfection,” one’s budget and what one can live with. I’ve hungered after some versions that cost mega
bucks but I ust didn’t have the money and made my peace with a sound that was still pretty good. Best wishes.
Brie Joy says
Can a vinyl record be repressed and rereleased if the song writer in control of the publishing rights says no? Especially if she is legally allowed to re-record and is selling more that way.
Formerly analog equipment of recording new era” Digital audience. Change mention renowned artist how many reissues of classic titles. Furthermore when say “original” or initial release chosen. By the label “Stars” many never concurred what master was definitive…mention Doors,Prince,Styx and The Cure. Fans assume there listing to “ideal variation of composition it’s the opposite. Admire Fleetwood Mac they release from vaults, alternate versions of popular. Release also sound engineer preference what is appropriate. Least were able to her some original songs (original lengths) not abridged time is moving. On bands now sound digital and Hip hop for USA market. Thanks Recommend listen to remastered edition of Carly Simon Torch (1981) Danish pressing ideal. Shirley Horns titles reissued by Dutch label dynamic criticism (High End is bright) along Stings early titles German on 200 mg vinyl.
I have just acquired over 100 years of analog music history and I need help! 100’s of Edison, Columbia and other brands of 2&4 min “wax” cylinders, about 500 10″-12″ 78 rpm Edison, Victor, Standard + other brands- Plus about 400 vinyl records from the 1940’s-1990’s. I have been on Discogs learning about masters, pressings, issue #rs, matrix…the whole gambit. I do have working Edison crank cylinder players & the proper reproducers for the different cylinders & a Standard Model A Talking machine along with a few models of modern/vintage record players. I’m a reseller but I always educate myself about the items I sell as to never mislead my buyers or overvalue an item. I have such a diverse collection, like a mini-museum, I don’t know how to ferret out the most valuable ones. I’m a seasoned reseller of high end collectables- but new to all the aforementioned “records”. Any advice on how to approach all this in a systematic & efficient manor? I know there are some real gems in all of it, and experience tells me the rest is not worth my time. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.
Robert Noah says
Yes sir please follow up with more information. Thanks
Oh, I’m fortunate enough to have a very knowledgeable local record store owner and he’s the one that shared this article, so shout out to Mike @LaughingSamsDiscs.
Jeff B says
I have many copies of “Abbey Road”. I have a first pressing LP on Apple that has a 1/1 mother and stamper. It’s a thin and wobbly vinyl but sounds loud, deep and with great bass. It sounds as good as my new remastered one.
Jeff B says
I bought Oasis “Whats the story Morning Glory?” on heavy remaster. Terrible. To make it worse, they turned it into a double LP. Ugh
I know this is an old question but it’s a really good one so I thought I’d chime in and respond to Jeff based on having listened to thousands of digital LP captures done on dozens of different setups, including the same people capturing the same LPs multiple times as they made incremental equipment upgrades. I’ll try to keep this short (ha!) but the answer is yes it can be much better (with some caveats).
It’s possible to capture all the information of the best vinyl playback digitally. The caveat is that the part of the system being captured is everything up to and including the phono preamp stage (excluding using digital RIAA/eq curve, which is not very common ime). The amplifier or speakers on the end making the capture is irrelevant, and hopefully not even really used during the capture anyway. What you use for those items on your end def matters.
You get a digital capture of a high quality LP using high end turntable, cartridge and stylus profile, it’s properly aligned and setup, great sounding phono preamp and then properly digitally recorded with at least a reasonably-good ADC. They also give you the LP and you play it and that digital capture of it on your “mediocre system.” Benefits will depend on everything after your phono stage. An extreme example: playing them both through a bluetooth speaker, prob no benefit. A very nice receiver or a nice preamp/amp combo driving competent speakers positioned properly, you will probably hear at least some benefits from the digital capture, and I don’t mean audiophile magic words either. Measurable benefits can include more stable/accurate pitch, better channel separation, better high freq response and less phase distortion, especially if comparing a spherical/conical stylus to a nice elliptical/fine line, to name a few.
The other caveat: the best upgrade my system has had to this day was taking the time to really dial in my listening and speaker positions. If you don’t think things sound as good as they should, start there, regardless of the source.
My last comment was supposed to be a reply to Jeff Stanly but it didn’t seem to post under his comment, sorry.
Rigo Gonzalez says
Do you have a web site or source we’re to buy Vinyl… I bought the collection of Depeche Mode for my son, couldn’t fine two albums. Thanks.
I find a lot of items at Discogs. Look at the seller ratings which will help you choose.