Start the New Year With the "RL" Version of "Whole Lotta Love"

Here's a transcription of "Whole Lotta Love" from an "RL" original pressing mastered by Bob Ludwig. We'll see how long it lives on You Tube.

When "Led Zeppelin II" was first released, legendary mastering engineer Robert Ludwig cut the lacquers using the master tape. The story goes that Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun gave a copy to his brother Nesuhi to give to his daughter. Her "kiddie" phonograph couldn't track the record, which had been cut with full dynamic range and bass response (the notion that vinyl can't do wide dynamic range or deep bass is a bunch of hooey).

The label panicked, and recalled the record, which was re-cut with less bass and lesser dynamics, which is the version cmost people bought. However, some "RL" mastered originals got into distribution and are "out there".

Copies now go for between a few hundred and up to $1000 depending upon condition, though of course you can always luck into one at a garage sale or at a used record store run by someone who doesn't know any of this.

You can tell if you have one if you see a tiny RL etched into the lead out groove area. This copy is hardly "mint" but it's good enough! By the way, the distortion you hear is tape saturation, not a playback deficiency. Please compare this vinyl transcription to the recent Jimmy Page supervised mastering on vinyl or on high resolution digital download. There is no comparison.

System: Continuum Caliburn, Swedish Analogue Technologies SAT tone arm, Ortofon A95 cartridge, Ypsilon 16L transformer, Ypsilon VPS-100 silver phono preamplifier.

homersoddishe's picture

on my iPad. :)

Cobion's picture

So I ran the BoobTube file via my Yorkville Monitors, Sternberg UR22 DAC, IMac, then the 2014 RM via AT-LP120-USB with a Sure 97xe through the same monitors and DAC, clearly not the same calibre turntable, arm, cart you have, but I can say the Dynamic range of the RL edition is far superior, less harsh, warmer and richer.
The 2014 RM sounds like Mr. Page might have some ear damage after all those years out front.....
Sorry Jimmy............
Any way to hear the rest of that fine RL pressing?

mrspu90's picture

Michael,is it a Ortofon A90 or A95 you are using?

Michael Fremer's picture
Is what it is...
Brother John's picture

copies both sides last year thanks to you. one is a monarch press in VG- the other more recent is Sterling Sound VG++ press in need of a sonic cleaning! Both however wipe up every other pressing of Led Zeppelin ll I've ever heard by a wide margin. There Is no comparison to the recent Jimmy Page digital blunder IMHO.
Thanks and Happy New Year.

mb's picture

That's the mastering house where Ludwig worked. It's not where the LP was pressed. They were pressed at Monarch (as you describe), Presswell, Columbia, etc.

steveoxf's picture

especially those on the other side of the pond.

I hope it plays for those 'abroad' (who don't know how to proxy their way across the world)

mother3251's picture

OMG, what a fabulous sound, not just good, it's tremendous.
From the studio echo of the cymbals and vocals to the car mix left to right etc, the whole listening experience is brilliant.
I don't have to compare it, just hearing it like that is enough, why can't we experience sound like this more often. Thank you Mikey for allowing us to hear that through your fantastic system. It proves just how good vinyl can sound.
Vinyl record producers and manufacturers please note, analog never sounded better.
Best Regards

Snorker's picture

The RL is better, but the UK pressings sounds better than all subsequent US pressings, including the recent remaster. I've even got a mid-70s UK pressing with the green and orange labels that sounds excellent. And I found it for a very reasonable price...less than the new reissue.

Snorker's picture

I just A/B'd the YouTube clip with my UK pressing on my main system. Maybe it's just that Michael's setup is that much better (I'm using a Clearaudio Concept Wood with the Concept MC and Satisfy Black carbon tonearm, through a Clearaudio Nano V2 phono stage), but the RL pretty much smokes it. Much better dynamic range and soundstage on the RL, with the vocals and cymbal crashes particularly better. Good thing I'm not a huge Zeppelin fan or I'd be paying through the nose for one of these about now!

Snorker's picture

Happy New Year. Looking forward to another year of great content on Analog Planet.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I have a German pressing with SS RL on Side One. Would love to find a double sided RL,

I have heard a ton of different copies of this LP and the one that comes closest to it is a George Piros cut, everything else is diabolical!

James, Dublin, Ireland.

TheBottomline's picture

Amazing. Nice to hear without all the subsequent hiss on all cd and other format reissues. Haven't heard HD Tracks or the like. I wish you could do a track a day. Happy New Year!

john ryan horse's picture

You might throw in the Small Faces' "You Need Love" for another way to hear this...Because the LZ is a better production, but the lyrics are nearly identical (the SF were inspired by Howlin' Wolf, but didn't have someone TRANSCRIBE it word for word)

Michael Fremer's picture
"Communication Breakdown" was the title of a Roy Orbison song. JP was touring with Roy in The Yardbirds and expressed to Roy his appreciation for the song title. He asked if he could use it and Roy said "Why not?"
audiotom's picture

I just played the mid 70s US and 2014 on my main rig.
Then this on my ipad thru Sennheiser HD 600s
The detail and subtle changes in volume - like when Plant moans are very revealing.
The mid section incredible detail, now more engaging, llike hearin Revelution #9 on the mono release

Incredible considering this album was written and recorded in various studios in the US while they were touring in 69

Too bad one just slipped thru my hands on the Bay for over $300

Now if Physical Gradfitti only sounded like that

samman's picture

I have two RL zep II pressings AND the mofi pressing. I say the mofi is a close second in sound. If you can't get an RL, get yourself the mofi.

orthobiz's picture

...because it was such a big seller, used record stores almost always have LZII in stock. Look for copies that don't have the round shiny Gold Record award stuck onto the front cover. I lucked out and found mine for six bucks about three years ago. Keep digging! Oh, and when you find one try not to look too excited.

john ryan horse's picture

I agree LZ II sounds mostly spectacular, side one, especially WLL & Killing Floor, er I mean Lemon Song...Which audiotom reminds me of how the first 3 lps all had a disctintly attractive sonic identity (perhaps 4 shouldbe in there too); begging the question, what the hell were they thinking when they took a year to mix "Houses", especially with such spectacular cover-art like it's going to be something new and really fascinating, but NOT - Kramer, Page, the Johnses, all with amazing work behind them and what do we hear? Parodies (maybe affectionate ones but still), The winds of Thor blowing and JP Jones' awful synthesizer & mellotron playing on the James Brown parody, of all things..And Graffiti I spent years trying to get into the sound, sometimes thinking 'yeah, wall of rock-hard sound, cool, and In My Time has its moments, but not 11:08 of them. Funny how the cover really does capture the sound on PG. Is it the sonic landscape or the band that makes me tired when I try to play more than one side at a time...Compare Jake Holmes' "I'm Dazed & Confused' or 'Black Dog' then 'Black Country Woman' or 'Night Flight' after which 'Sick almost refreshing

john ryan horse's picture

I had no idea Mofi issued this....Must say the Classic LZ II is good, but disappointing compared to the Ludwig or even a Japanese CD from a decade ago..

mb's picture

And I have all three (3 RL copies, in fact). The MFSL sounds like it's from a great source but suffers from quite unnatural sounding EQ. The Classic is a mess.

Catcher10's picture

Considering I don't have a $26K phono stage (and never will) along with a $6K cartridge, my meager setup sounds very promising compared to Mr Fremer's youtube video and that insane analog rig!! I am very pleased with the detail I get, and this is with the new RM vinyl version. I am always looking for RL copies, most are in horrid condition, but I keep looking.

orthobiz's picture

The beauty of vinyl is that it can be thoroughly enjoyed at many levels, just doesn't have to be expensive!

Dorian Workman's picture

That sounds fantastic even on my iPhone and cheap Sennheisers. Would love to hear it through Mikey's system!

gjetson's picture

Sounds incredible. What gear do you use to convert the signal to digital?

Rudy's picture

I first heard the RL version via a podcast. Former XM DJ Matt The Cat (50s on 5) did a 3-song comparison between the original Muddy Waters recording of "You Need Love," the Small Faces version, and the Led Zep "Whole Lotta Love." Rather than use CD, he did a needle drop of his RL copy (in fairly good shape, considering!) through his tubed McIntosh integrated amp. I'm likely one of the few listeners who appreciated the extra touch. ;) Even through the degradation of MP3, I could hear how powerful that cut was.

my new username's picture

... to a copy posted some time ago my the Internet's best-known ripper. His was RL on both sides (some copies are, some aren't.) His gear is more modest but like most all rippers who indulge us, the vinyl was arduously noise-free of all pops/ticks and provided in 24-bit lossless.

The character is largely the same but this one here is more ballsy, has more separation and you can far more easily delineate what's happening, where and when and without any more "brightness" --- that's the very definition of high resolution, even when squished through a lossy file like this one necessarily is. The pacing, the stop-start of the notes, the rhythm, it's all just more alive here.

That these differences can be easily heard on a laptop with cheap Grados is testament to the front end playing it.

VirginVinyl's picture

That is amazing.

marcperman's picture

Thanks for posting this Mike, it's a fantastic sounding Whole Lotta Love, but perhaps only incrementally better than the 1977 AT/GP pressing that I have? After bought the first six vinyl reissues, I went about assembling an analog set and I'm infinitely happier with those (GP I, II, and IV, RL Houses, etc.).


TrueGrit's picture

Each time I get to hear your table set up I find that I can hear into the recording mix, something I can't duplicate. I would have mixed this slightly differently, but they were on top of the world at the time, and rightly so, there is/was nothing like this when it burst onto the music scene.

audiotom's picture

after a week of auctions I won an RL SS release on the bay.
Pricey but not the ridiculous prices. Will get this on the platter soon

Major thanks Mike for letting us actually get to hear what one was missing

Hajidub's picture

Can you do an article, audio clips included, of the RL and normal versions of Dire Straits ~Brother in Arms~? I did my own and for those who haven't heard the difference it's astounding! The normal U.S. release is very clean and great, the RL version is on a different planet!

pm13's picture

Hi, Maybe a Stupid Question? First of all, I assume that Atlantic owns and possesses all of the Original Master Tapes which were done by Robert Ludwig? With all of the Recent Price Explosions of the Original RL's (NM Going over $1,000 and VG+ $700)Why hasn't Atlantic considered releasing the Original "RL" Re-Press? I am sure that They could get $100 a pop! Thank You for taking the Time to Read This!