AnalogPlanet Tours GZ Media The World's Largest Record Pressing Plant

GZ Media, located in Lodenice, Czech Republic ("GZ" stands for Gramofonové Závody [Gramophone Record Factory]), founded in 1951, is the world's largest vinyl record manufacturer. In 2015 GZ produced 65,000 records a day! Today they press even more.

You have to see the place to believe it, so here's a factory tour! It's long, because there's so much to see, including the enormous pressing plant, the copper disc (DMM) production facility, the printing and box producing division and GZ's own vinyl pellet manufacturing facility located on-site.

This tour took place last spring during a European trip that included the Making Vinyl event in Berlin, followed by visits to CH Precision, darTZeel and Hi-Fiction (Thales tone arms and turntables, EMT cartridges), the GZ and finally Optimal Media in Röbel, Germany. That tour will soon be published. Following these visits it was off to Munich High End. It was a busy week! I'd like to thank Tommy John underwear, without whose quick drying products, this would have been a messy trip (luggage missed connections three times!).

GZ Media is owned by Zdenek Pelc. Mr. Pelc joined the company in the 1980s when vinyl was "dying". Rather than scrap the record presses, Mr. Pelc trusted his "gut" and chose to keep them and continue pressing records.

AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer with Mr. Pelc
Pelc doesn't only trust his "gut": in 2000 at age 49 he enrolled in the Harvard Business School (he's now semi-retired). In 2015 Forbes Europe named him "Entrepreneur of the Year". Today he's semi-retired. Pelc famously said in the Forbes interview that he decided to continue pressing records until, if that's how it turned out, GZ was the last pressing plant in the world.

GZ Media's current CEO is globe-trotting Michal Sterba, who is interviewed in the video.

Don't miss near the end of the tour, the bonus "deconstruction" of the "RL" version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" (transferred from vinyl to a 96/24 file), which demonstrates GZ's sophisticated software package used to "pre-master" digital files to produce high quality vinyl editions. Among the system's capabilities is creating a "stylus-eye" view of coursing through the grooves of the vinyl record that the file would produce.

AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer got to press 5 records on the semi-automatic presses.

COMMENTS
JEB-42's picture

.....any mold release compounds? No, because it's part of the pellet compound "formula". The pressing heat can bring it to the surface and kind of separate it out but it's not really visible..

JR465's picture

Hi Michael- Cool that you toured GZ, as they are a major player. My personal experience with records pressed there has been spotty at best. While I have some records that are quiet, I have more examples that are noisy. It is unusual that 4 sides of a GZ pressed double LP will all be quiet. I appreciate their efforts but I feel there is more work to be done in terms of consistency when compared to other pressing plants. Are the folks at GZ aware of this and are they taking steps to improve in this area?

Regards
John

Michael Fremer's picture
Honestly, I've not had many issues. I've got all of the Stones boxes pressed there as well as the Springsteen box and those are all quiet....I know they do care about quality....
Analogico's picture

What I saw displayed in the video is the Vol. 2 boxset. I own both sets and Vol 1 LPs are of high quality (180 Gr, super quiet vinyl, outer sleeves without a bar code on them, poly inner sleeves etc.), Vol 2's are the opposite (150 Gr, very noisy even after a good clean up, paper/cardboard inner sleeves etc.). Can the same plant really deliver so diametrically opposed qualities?

Michael Norrby's picture

I am suprised that Analog Planet even go near GZ. I have followed them closely for many years now and I have nothing good to say about their pressings. The records I have come across have all been more or less substandard - no name 'mastercutters', very uneven sound quality with dirt in the grooves and obvious mishandling by staff at the plant. I have never seen a GZ pressed lp without cosmetic flaws - in almost every case records more or less warped. My copy of the newly remastered 'Appetite For Destruction' lp looked like it had been handled by ten people before it was sealed into the jacket. And the notorious poor quality of the 'Back to Black' reissue series is unacceptable. Poorly reproduced and cheaply printed jackets, questionable masters and always excuses when confronted. I strongly advise to stay away from any product manufactured by GZ.

Michael Fremer's picture
I have all of The Rolling Stones reissues pressed there and both boxes among others were flawless.
Ortofan's picture

... regular retail channels, or are they reviewer copies which might be from a pre-production run that might have had greater care paid to the manufacturing process than the regular mass-production run?

mtemur's picture

I totally agree. I've never seen a GZ pressed record that is not warped..

mraudioguru's picture

...but I've had horrible luck also with the GZ stuff. I now refuse to buy anything that comes from there...

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

I have had fewer issues with GZ than most other pressing plants. This video does suggest they take quality seriously. They do appear to get more titles with poor sources rather than audiophile stuff. This is the best visit video you have done so far Mr Fremer!

Michael Norrby's picture

You can't be serious. 'Most pressing plants'? Including Pallas Plant, QRP, RI and Optimal ?

Michael Fremer's picture
I've received bad pressings from every one of those...it happens.
Michael Norrby's picture

...a couple of examples of the 'quality' you so proudly speak of. I have several more audio clips and tons of photos backing my statements.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utw1ql7N7OM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP3Z13bOhU0

Michael Fremer's picture
I am the recipient of complaints about every pressing plant in the world including QRP, RTI, GZ, URP, Rainbo, Record Industry etc. I have gotten bad pressings from all of them as well.
Michael Fremer's picture
Your second video complaining about the KISS reissue appears to blame GZ for the source used to manufacture that record. Clearly you don't understand how this works: the label, not the pressing plant makes those decisions.
Michael Norrby's picture

No. No. No. Clearly YOU don't understand the issue with this specific copy and what I point out in the video. If you LISTEN you can clear HEAR a repetitive crackle - and that was most likely NOT intended nor to blame the master used for this pressing. If you're going to give criticism of any kind please UNDERSTAND what you're talking about. The crackle was a tiny grain - visible and impossible to remove with a VPI cleaner - and the seller actually opened up 2 more copies at the shop and they were all the same. The master for this release IS NOT what the video is about - but for your info it is a digital file mastered for vinyl. In Europe Universal opted to use GZ for all the reissues by KISS. This was not the case for the US market and they sound better.

Again - next time to try to shoot me down watch and listen to the entire clip.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

Initially when I first became aware of GZVinyl (as it was known), I wasn't impressed by their output at all. From that I avoided GZVinyl for a long time, until there was a particular LP I wanted to get (can't remember the title) and so I relented and bought it. It was perfect in every, just as you would want an LP... clean looking to the naked eye, flat and quiet when played. Over the years I have a more favourable view of GZMedia and haven't experienced anything really bad from them and I am quite happy to buy a LP knowing that it was pressed there.

James, Dublin, Ireland

Stephen needam's picture

I have had issues with some GZ vinyl, scuff marks and surface noise, also had perfect LP's pressed there too. I would only suggest like I have done is take defective vinyl back to where you purchased it for a replacement. These defect will be returned back. The more defects that our returned back will only notify them of issues.

Toptip's picture

But, hey, their plant looks like you could shoot a Pink Floyd cover there.

Grant M's picture

was going to post the exact same comment! it really looks like the cover!

Michael Fremer's picture
I was going to caption the photo with that!
billsf's picture

Stephan, unfortunately, this is not the way for the pressing plant to know about defective vinyl. The store cannot even return the vinyl to the distributor let alone the plant. The store eats the cost (a real burden).

Michael Norrby's picture

Agree - one thing is if you order from a large retailer but if you return a defective lp to a local record dealer he most likely loose money. But then again he's partly responsible for selling under par pressings as it's no secret that the 'Back to Black' reissue series is pressed by GZ.

Stephen needam's picture

That really sucks. I stay well clear of Back To Black pressings. Had some really bad experiences. Some pressing issues and really dull sounding pressings.

Stephen needam's picture

I didn’t know that. If that is true. That sucks. Surely there is some return policy for the stores.

avanti1960's picture

a friend who owns a shop does return defective vinyl to his distributor. however he does often repackage it and sells it to someone less picky depending on the issue.

Zardoz's picture

were pressed by GZ, I'm pretty sure, and they sound great. Quite and good mixes as well. Not sure what other GZ pressings I have because I typically buy music and not a pressing plant. As far as I know, I have not had any more problems with GZ than anyone else, including Pallas, QRP, RI, and Optimal. Definitely less issues that QRP, for sure.

Michael Fremer's picture
I don't understand why that reader singles out GZ for scorn, especially blaming them for the label choosing a bad source. That's not GZ's fault.
otaku2's picture

At first glance I thought the image was the cover of "Wish You Were Here"

ghn5ue's picture

I too have had several mediocre GZ pressings in years gone by, but the quality does seem to have improved in the last few years. I had a few Dire Straits titles that were pressed at Pallas, and they were very noisy. Then I acquired the box set pressed at GZ (from the same metal parts and masters used by Pallas) and they were way better!

jimhb's picture

I think GZ really turned the corner. Years ago their pressings were spotty to say the least. These days I rarely get a poorly pressed lp. Thank you for the video!

MrRom92's picture

Did 2 pressing runs at GZ, would not hesitate to use them again! They were capable of pressing the records as I wanted, the physical quality of their pressings puts some of the so-called “world-class” or audiophile-grade pressing plants to shame. I won’t name names, but you know who they are!

Now, getting the lacquers from Sterling plated here in the US and then shipped to the Czech Republic was an extra bit of logistic gymnastics, but didn’t complicate the overall process toooo much and the results were definitely worth it. As nice as their cutting room looks, I don’t think I’ve heard anything cut in-house that I’ve actually liked, and I’ve heard a LOT of GZ pressed vinyl… no offense to any involved, seems like they put a lot of effort into their masters. At least I like how their records all sound in between tracks…

I will note that historically there’s been some sort of issue with their custom printed inner sleeves. Something in the way they are either being manufactured or stored causes them to be very dirty, with a lot of paper dust and residue, and of course clean new records are being shoved into these sleeves. I don’t know if that’s still the case. But I ordered their generic (black) polylined inner sleeves, and every one of them was clean as a whistle. I initially wanted to use rice-paper MOFI style sleeves but to have them shipped in bulk to the plant would have cost an arm/leg & a few vital organs. Would be nice if they began offering it as an option themselves. No matter though. Their polylined sleeves were very nice and added an extra touch of class to the album.

Martin's picture

I think it's worth pointing this out.
From what I understand, most of what is pressed at GZ is from digital files.
Ranging from a low of 44.1/16, to 48/24 to 96/24 to 192/24.
I am guessing most of what they get to press comes at 96/24 files.
96/24 is nice enough, but in no way - IMO - comparable to a half-way decent all analog mastering job.

Then I would ask, what is going to happen to all this plastic when download and recording sampling rates hit 356/24 or 356/32 or even 356/64. Or higher. Which is only a matter of time.
Then your high-rez download is clearly superior to your "take you luck with pressing quality" 96/24 transfers on vinyl from GZ.
So what happens with all the plastic GZ has produced?

Michael Fremer's picture
GZ can press from whatever sources they are given: tape to the highest resolution digital. GZ is not to blame for whatever sources they are given!
Martin's picture

The issue is it seems to me that 90% or more of GZs production is digital files pressed to vinyl.
Regardless of how it's packaged, most of these records are digital music. The point of analog is that is just that, an analog medium.
Praising GZ for repackaging digi onto an analog medium is to me, well, odd.

As anyone with a good system will attest, there is a world of difference between a good analog pressing and a record pressed from a digital file. E.g., the Blue Note reissues, The Doors reissues, Creedence and a big bunch of others.

I love good high resolution digital done well, but I'll get it from HDTracks.

gbougard's picture

As a record label, I used GZ's services several times. They are professional, but I've never had zero issue with them. For a start, they ALWAYS have trouble with print files, then sometimes, they press shitty records. I don't like how their vinyl sound. Very harsh. I switched to Optimal in Germany and the sound is much better.

I have a hunch GZ, like MPO, treat their big customers much much better than small indie labels like mine. So I'm not surprised Michael has no issue with their quality because the music Michael reviews on this blog is often very middle of the road released by majors.

But all these plants pale in comparison to polyvinyls that are cut one at a time, rather than pressed (using someone who knows what he's doing of course)

Tom L's picture

...tell me that they eat the vast majority of LP returns.
"If there's a crack in the vinyl or a bad, easily-visible scratch we may be able to get credit, but we almost always end up eating the cost."
Then they added that it's part of the cost of doing business, and if I get a bad LP by all means return it.
This is TERRIBLE. These small businesses are paying for mistakes they did not make.
When I was running record stores many years ago everything was returnable to the manufacturer. One of many ways that the "music business" has gone down the tubes.

Michael Fremer's picture
But it is the policy of even the MAJOR labels.
Tom L's picture

I guess some really small labels would be financially damaged by accepting LP returns if they had a bad run or two, but the MAJOR labels don't even have that excuse. Shipping a defective product and refusing to take it back is pretty evil.

Michael Norrby's picture

Reading comments from you Michael Fremer where you defend and praise GZ as a pressing plant, make up excuses for their under par pressing quality concerns me as a dedicated audiophile and higher end record dealer. Are you working for or with GZ ? Why do you question, instead of investigate, all the complaints in this post to GZ ? I have yet to discuss the mischief of using poor masters - an issue that apparently doesn't bother GZ at all. For them it's all about money and no concern about the final product. That NEVER happens with QRP, Analouge productions, and VERY rarely with Pallas Plant or Optimal. You can either man up here and admit that you're not experienced or qualified to determinate the quality of GZ pressings or try to stay safe with GZ.

Zardoz's picture

You obviously have a problem of some sort with GZ, but you do protest too much for it to be just that you got a few pressings you didn't like. We all have gotten pressing that we didn't like, from just about every pressing plant. So what is your real problem? If you're just a troll, go back under your bridge, if not, give us some actual fact to deal with. You claiming that they are bad is not a fact, just an opinion.

Michael Norrby's picture

What are you talking about ? There's plenty of examples for you to view and read - please read all the posts before you make a comment.

Zardoz's picture

people's opinion does not give you facts. That's just more opinion. You have to have first hand experience before you can say something actually is happening now, and I don't mean years ago. Thimgs always change over time, good or bad.
So I will ask again. What is YOUR ax to grind?

Michael Norrby's picture

Isn't that obvious or do I need to spell it out to you ? I have nothing but disgust for a record pressing plant that consciously produce records that doesn't hold the same standard as it competitors - consciously as they KNOW that they take short cuts and rush things. I have yet to experience improvement and a fine sounding pressing from GZ and as mentioned elsewhere they bombed with Guns N Roses 'Appetite For Destruction' last year (not years ago)... I start to suspect that you work for GZ ? The name you use certainly ring like a Czech bell ? It all comes down to money and the one reason that GZ is as big as they are is because of lowest price agreement with the Universal Group. And it all spells money and no pride in the product.

Zardoz's picture

Did you used to work for them, or know someone who did?
And to everyone else, I'm really sorry for feeding the troll. I'll stop now.

Glotz's picture

There are thousands of lps this company produces. If you had a few bad pressings, it does suck but EVERY one of the labels does it, and it is not the norm.

Please realize you are conversing with people that have equal or greater knowledge than yourself. 'Plenty' is not thousands, and if you so decide not to do business with GZ, that's your prerogative.

Just please stop assuming your a friggin authority on the subject. You're not. No one is going to change their mind nor their buying intentions based on your rants.

Glotz's picture

Not you.

Michael Norrby's picture

Buy a flute and chill down.

Zardoz's picture

Thanks for understanding my point. Apparently he still doesn't get it.

Michael Norrby's picture

This was posted on GZ Medias FB page as early as 2016 with no feedback or proper explanation from GZ. It deserves to be republished:

'TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN AT GZ MEDIA

I want ask about your quality ambitions since I've over the last few years have had customers RETURNING vinyl records pressed by your company. The first few I never took that much notice of because we can all have a bad day and no production line of vinyl records is perfect but now I've had almost close to a hundred of your GZ stamped records in return. Not only does it complicate things in the store but as an enthusiast and old school entrepreneur I find it remarkable that your pressing quality is so under par. I have noticed that the major record companies use your services for reissues and that I can't figure out. To point out what the trouble is would make an extensive list but generally speaking:
* Jackets for LPs are often very cheaply reproduced, and for anyone with the slightest knowledge about printing it's impossible that you use original or at least quality templates.
* A brand new vinyl record has the visual look of unmild care on productionline or packing, the surface is never spot mirror clean, always blemishes that from my point of view most likely has to do with under par products (in other words for the common man poor plastics, poor chemicals etc etc).
* Last and most important none of the GZ pressed records sound good or even near good, there's dirt in the tracks, vinyls are never flat but wobbly which more or less disturb the listening experience.
Now - is it the master tapes that you receive from the record companies to blame? This has been going on for too long now and I think the record buyers deserves a proper answer here.

Michael Norrby, Stockholm, Sweden'

Zardoz's picture

letter as "evidence". Jeez.

Michael Norrby's picture

...and while we're at it - here's the Britney Spears reissue from earlier this year, definitely an under par pressing from GZ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSdIH8acXbo

I have more video audio examples of Cream, Kiss, Dire Straits, Guns and Roses LP:s - including the newly remastered 'Appetite For Destruction', one of the most anticipated reissues of 2018 and with very high profile release. What Czech pressing plant GZ did at with this gem is unforgivable. The pre production (master cutting, plating etc.) was superb and had every chance to turn out as one of the reissues of 2018. No suprise that my copy looked like shit (dirt inside of the inner liner caused hairlines and mild scratches) straight out of a sealed jacket. BTW There is a quality press made by RTI in the US (red translucent) as a special release from Target.

The list continuous with Amy Winehouse, Meshuggah, Rolling Stones, Rush...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSdIH8acXbo

Zardoz's picture

Really ??!!!

Michael Norrby's picture

Yes really.

OldschoolE's picture

Bad or errant pressings now and again have been the bane of vinyl records since the very first one was pressed anywhere. It is just the nature of manufacturing such a thing. It is going to happen, no way around it. Back in the first heyday of vinyl, errant or defective pressings were common as well now and again. Granted, I think bad recordings pressed to records are more common today than they were back then, but warps, off-center labels, etc. are likely just as common as they were back in the day. As with back then though, today one can easily return the defect and get a new one (hopefully better and yes, there in lies the rub sometimes).
I don't buy new records these days because most of the music I enjoy has not been reissued and what has been is subpar to the original pressings in sound quality. Too much money to take a gamble on for me.
Also, as to noise, always remember to clean the new record before first play. We all know record pressing plants are not industrial clean rooms.

avanti1960's picture

and stop B&M about quality .
The plant is pressing more than ever (65,000 plus per day!)
This is a pro vinyl headline- vinyl lovers rejoice!

DietChapstick's picture

Need a refill on that Kool Aid? Maybe the execs at GZ can send a pitcher over to your table.

Sorry, some of us have no use for crappily pressed and crappily mastered vinyl. Given the focus of this site I'd expect more from its readers, but I guess not.

DietChapstick's picture

I would also say GZ is quite inconsistent. I have records from them that I got a few years ago that are perfectly pressed, but in the last year or two I've had more and more defects from them. One big defect that never seemed to be a problem before is records pressed off-center. I don't care if the album is a murky sounding death metal band, the damn thing needs to be pressed on center! Non-fill and weird scratches that are often audible are also thing with this plant. If you buy a boxset pressed here, don't be surprised if at least one side has a nasty 2 inch scratch you don't want to put your stylus through.

Re: their in-house DMM cutting - it's cheap and convenient for labels that are on tight budgets but the results are often mediocre at best. Low volume, wide deadwax, basically inoffensive so they will play through on the worst equipment. I would urge labels to pony up for a real lacquer cut. Plenty of vinyl mastering studios around so chances are you can find one that will do a good job for a price you can live with. Going forward I've decided that I'm not going to buy many of these in-house cuts anymore as they're often just not that good. I'd be more likely to buy a CD or digital download. I would encourage other people to do the same. If we don't speak up and vote with our $ nothing with change.

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

The in house cuts are bad because those are from labels that send in bad sources. Labels who care and use analogue or great digital sources tend to have lacquers cut at a specialist facility. Give GZ something decent to work with and you will find product is fine. Even Grundman and other specialists have been guilty of leaving a very wide deadwax and a lower than optimum cutting level over the years. Problem is allowing the computers to set groove spacing.

GFaulk's picture

This was a great video. I assume GZ developed the software utilized in the mastering section. If so, that's an impressive commitment to the art and science of records.

vinyl listener's picture

appears to be still available new from the official merch site
https://gnrmerch.com/products/appetite-for-destruction-locked-n-loaded-b...
at a discount ! from $499 to $399.
great investment lol
10,000 pressed
$399 is a bargain if you are a fan.

Michael Norrby's picture

I predicted this box to bomb right from the start - I haven't seen it upclose but responsible for the vinyl is GZ. It might be a lovely packaging but I don't think it's a future 'collectable' as the numbers produced is far too many.

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

Micheal, you really have a thing about GZ. Records are regularly below par both in pressing quality and sound sources, but that is not exclusive to GZ. I really get most defects from Optimal followed by MPO. Record Industry are probably best of the EU plants at the moment. Pallas are pretty specialist and recent product has been near flawless in my experience. However I have had some really bad pressings from them in the past. In fact I've had plenty faulty expensive pressings over the years especially from RTI. Rarely a bad QRP unless one is fussy about off centre pressings and most common off centre labels.

It's often the luck of the draw as to how we perceive record quality. I also believe eating faulty product is a north american issue. I think EU law ensures labels take back faulty product here in the UK. Perhaps someone should sue a major in the US and establish what rights there are in law there.

Michael Norrby's picture

Agree - with a few rare exceptions I only buy confirmed products from QRP and Analogue Productions. Pallas has never disappointed me yet but Optimal, MPO, MRP and of course GZ has. I would however take a chance on any release with the jacket or box manufactured by Stoughton old style Tip-On jackets. If a label chooses them for the jacket chances are good they have used a proper pressing plant.

jr149's picture

Amazing video although I couldn't understand about half of what was said. Is the recycled vinyl used in all the pressings? If so, does that mean that it's not "virgin" and does it matter?

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