DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

It’s a Vinyl World, After All (2009)

Any audiophile into vinyl should have this DVD.

Published on January 20, 2009

It’s a Vinyl World, After All (2009)

It’s a Vinyl World, After All (2009)

Michael Fremer’s Guide to Record Manufacturing, Cleaning, Storage, Handling, & Collecting in the 21st Century
Studio: Music Angle
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: English DD 2.0
Extras: Interviews with two pressing plant managers – Pallas & RTI, More on two other record cleaning machines, Vintage turntables at a hi-fi show, Stills of Pallas plant tour, pdf information files, 2 AES white papers on analog playback
Length: 179:45 incl. extras
Rating: ****(*)

Michael Fremer is a contributing editor to Stereophile magazine and  editor of his own web magazine, www.musicangle.com, the only publication dedicated solely to the vinyl format.  He previously published a DVD which was a guide to the complexities of turntable setup to properly play back vinyl.  Fremer’s stimulus for the production of this DVD was the explosion of re-interest in the hoary long-play record, shown by major sales increases as more and more young people come to appreciate the better sound of vinyl vs. both MP3 downloads and standard compact discs.  He has been a longtime proponent of the advantages of the vinyl format in spite of the ascendancy of the digital CD, but all the major labels ceased issuing LPs, and it looked for many years like the format was becoming as obsolete as 8-track or cassettes.  In the last couple years that has all changed, with major labels returning to LP releases, reissues of some of the best rock, jazz and classical albums, and specialist audiophile reissue labels expanding their catalogs to include premium 180 and 200-gram pressings, 45 rpm pressings, and even pressing on only one side (to avoid problems caused by grooves on the reverse side).  The majority of sales are in reissues of classic albums in the rock and blues genres.

Most audiophiles have read about the record pressing procedure or seen still photos of it, but Michael’s visits to the two pressing plants will be a treat since it shows exactly the many detailed steps involved in the process.  The vinyl audiophile will be more understanding of the pricing of $30 to $50 for many of these discs when he sees what is involved and how many discs are immediately trashed because they have various flaws.  It is of concern to hear that no new pressing equipment for LPs has been made for 20 years!  He also looks in on a lacquer mastering session at AcousTech with Steve Hoffman, Joe Harley and others making aural decisions on how best to remaster a classic Van Gelder Blue Note 15 ips master tape for a 45 rpm vinyl reissue.

The demonstration portions of the lengthy DVD have Michael explaining how to properly store, handle and clean your records. He demonstrates the whole cleaning process using the two most popular record cleaning machines, with many different cleaning and preservation fluids and brushes, and stresses that even brand new LPs should be cleaned to remove artifacts from the pressing process.  I’ve had just as lengthy an experience with vinyl as Michael, yet I picked up a couple pointers from the DVD – such as the importance of having a clean plastic or paper cover on the record cleaning machine platter so that you are not putting the LP surface you just cleaned down against a dirty platter.  And also to frequently vacuum the platter (as well as your turntable platter).

Michael also demonstrates some of his other vinyl gadgets, including a horrendously expensive demagnetizer which works due to the subtle iron content in the lampblack used to color the clear vinyl. However, he doesn’t mention the effort to press premium audiophile LPs out of clear vinyl without the addition of the lampblack, which is said to result in the same enhancement of the sonics. He tends to ad lib his spiels, and I get a kick out of the occasional text corrections with illustrations that are superimposed on the screen to correct errors he made. The sampling of his LP collection and the stories associated with each album were fun viewing. There were also a few navigational errors on this initial DVD pressings – such as the soundtrack being muted for several seconds as each chapter begins –  but Michael tells me that will be corrected on the following release. Any audiophile into vinyl should have this DVD.

 – John Sunier

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