AXPONA 2014 Highlights High Performance Audio Vitality

Friday at AXPONA appeared to be well attended. The event at the Westin O'Hare attracted a healthy demographic mix and excellent area dealer support —something last year's New York show failed to get, with most dealers preferring a parasitic show relationship.

The three upper show floor corridors (floors 3,4,12) were crowded throughout the day as were the rooms in which I managed to enter.

Friday was a busy day for me, with three seminars taking up almost half of the day so i was not able to see as much of the show as I'd hoped.

The opening 10:30AM seminar I ran "Vinyl Lives" was well attended. The panelists were Matt Earley, of Cleveland's Gotta Groove pressing plant, Chicago Mastering engineer (and Shellac band member) Bob Weston, Music Direct's Josh Bizar, Channel D's Rob Robinson and QRP's (and Acoustic Sounds and Analogue Productions) Chad Kassem.

The discussion was lively and centered on the problems facing people working throughout the vinyl production chain.

In the audience was RTI's Don MacInnis and I later found out the CEO of United Record Pressing, which I characterized as "one of the world's worst", though I also said that the Blue Notes they'd recently pressed were very good, proving that the plant was capable of good work. Did I regret what I said? Was I embarrassed? Hell no!

I have to go now to Saturday's turntable set-up seminar so I have to cut this short. Will post more ASAP.

Bigrasshopper's picture

Would like to hear more about the discussion.  Any idea if it was recorded?

Michael Fremer's picture

Yes, I believe it was recorded in HD and perhaps the show promoters will make it available for me to post on YouTube.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I have to say United Pressings aren't at the top of my Christmas list, but recently I bought two LPs pressed at United and both were as good as it gets. John Hiatt's 'Mystic Pinball' was one and for the life of me I can't remember the other. Mystic Pinball has a nice silver and black sticker on the front stating... ''180 gram 100% virgin vinyl. Proudly manufactured in Nashville, TN, USA''... and they should be proud it is an excellent pressing, quiet as it gets!

James, Dublin, Ireland

vedicspaceprogram's picture

I received the Mobile Fidelity pressing of Grisman/Garcia from a mail order record store and it was warped. I have received at least two other MOFI titles that needed to be replaced due to warpage and one that was also very noisy (Miles Davis- In a Silent Way). I don't know who presses for MOFI, but I do know that Pallas pressings aren't all their cracked up to be either. ORG's Bags and Trane and Reprise's Sugar Mountain Live at Canturbury House were warped too.

Analogue Productions Mono Prestige Series and RCA Living Stereo have all arrived with flawless vinyl. Music Matters is also consistently good (although some early pressings that I have have weird smears in the vinyl that don't make any annoying sounds). AP uses Quality and I think MM does too. Although I bought a 45 RPM Doors record that was really warped and that was pressed by Quality.

A Sorpio record that's warped for $10- OK whatever, but it's annoying when you pay $55 for an audiophile record and it's warped or scratched. A friend of mine bought the Bill Evans Live at the Top of the Gate box set that had really mangled scratches on all three records and when he contacted the mail order record store about it, all the copies when opened for inspection were like this and had to be returned to the label Ressonance Records. .Better quality control is apparently needed. 


The audiophile labels aren't doing themselves or the industry a favor marketing themselves and their products as being of impeccable quality (analogue master tape sources, high quality vinyl, nice packaging and limited runs) and then fall short with shoddy or inconsistent pressings.


I don't think it's too much to ask that a $40 or $55 audiophile record be relatively flawless. The record company labels would be unhappy to be paid in warped dollars that are worth 85% of their value..

Michael Fremer's picture

RTI presses Music Matters, ORG, ORG Music and Mobile Fidelity. Pallas pressed the Neil Young you reference. QRP pressed The Doors.

So your warped records have been coming from all of the best pressing plants in the world.

Warpage can be the fault of the pressing plant BUT it can also be the fault of your UPS, FEDEX or USPS carrier. 

Where do you live? In a hot or warm environment?

I don't receive "special" records from any of these labels or from any label and I buy a lot of records. I can honestly say that I have NEVER received a warped record from any of these pressing plants. EVER!

I have had other issues though. So I wonder if you are correctly laying blame here.

As for the "weird" streak in the Music Matters record that is a lacquer issue not a pressing issue. It is purely cosmetic and as Bob Weston said at the "Vinyl Lives" seminar getting good lacquers has lately been a big issue.

I feel you are being overly harsh in your criticism and that with more knowledge about what's involved in the manufacturing, handling and shipping of vinyl you'd back off somewhat or at least focus your criticism on the correct party, which is not necessarily the pressing plant in the cases you've cited.

vedicspaceprogram's picture

Apparently I garbled who's pressing what labels, but that doesn't change the fact that the records are warped purchased from two different online record stores and multiple audiophile record labels. 

I have purchased over 500 audiophile records in the last two years and ten thousand or more in my lifetime. I am just calling it like how I see it. I am now getting my mail order supplier to open and inspect future shipments. I don't think that my expectations and criticism is unreasonable. Many records purchased in the last two years of the non-audiophile variety are warped too. I see more warped records now than in the past. I live in the Vancouver area and it's not very hot here. I properly look after my records. Growing up in the Washington DC area where it's very hot I didn't see as many warped records in the 70s. Buying older 50s,60s and 70s classical or jazz records yields a lower warpage factor based in my experience

I just bought Groove Yard by the Montgomery Brothers issued by Analogue Productions and again warped at $50. I 'm not talking just a slight ripple. The record plays fine and sounds great, If I bought a new car and the paint job wasn't perfect I'd complain too. New is like new as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe I am the only person encountering this and have very bad luck?

Box860's picture

I attended the Vinyl Lives seminar.  It was very informative.  After learning of the complexities of the vinyl record fabrication process and the possibility for errors at each step, I'm amazed that records sound as good as they do.  Most pressing plants keep a sharp eye on quality control, which I learned is no easy task.

detroitvinylrob's picture

Ok Mikey, so your TT set-up seminar is a "don't miss" event (for you), I would suggest it also is for anyone analogue curious, to somewhat experienced, as I did to my friends visiting Axpona. They got a whole lot out of it. Thank you.

Happy Listening!

Rudy's picture

It's a shame nobody around here puts on serious, major audio show events like they used to do decades ago. Sure it's a crappy area economically (and socially, and...well, I won't go on), but I wonder if there would ever be enough interest to have another. The sad thing is, our area lacks a lot of what bigger cities have as amenities--there is not one single store I can go to that has all of the latest audiophile releases. And audiophile dealers are shrinking in number (where a couple had gone the "home theater" route, where the money is). So, even the opportunity to buy direct from a few vendors at a show would be welcome.

I know it dates me, but the second to last audio show I attended, I bought the then-new Mobile Fidelity pressing of John Klemmer's Touch, back when nobody knew who they were. Still have that record!