My Final Words on " The In Groove", Lacquers, The Electric Recording Company

Credit The In Groove's Mike Esposito. To his fans he can do no wrong. Clearly he's got a great record store and he usually provides in his videos useful information. To his fans, for daring to criticize him I am a "con man" (in the words of one of them) and I owe him "an apology". For what, I'm not sure, but for them he owes none to The Electric Recording Company though his seriously flawed video trashing of the company I think requires an apology.

Forget about the lacquer "controversy", which I believe the video I posted demonstrates that lacquers, while more fragile than records, can last decades and still sound incredible (and forget that his response video claims mine proves he's correct). If that "Tommy" transcription doesn't prove my point and refute his claims of near instant degradation, I'm not sure what will, but forget that. His video will not deter people interested in owning a Getz/Gilberto lacquer or a A Love Supreme lacquer cut from the copy of the flawed original master tape. Supersense will find satisfied buyers. I think there's a limited but dedicated audience for those like there is for those who want to buy costly reel to reel tapes that are unmastered and at best are 3rd generation copies instead of mastered records sourced from master tapes. Those tapes can sound great.

However, Mr. Esposito ought to apologize for his trashing of The Electric Recording Company, whether or not you agree with ERC's limited edition business model or its pricing. I have no problem with legitimate criticism of anyone, or any company or any company's product. I'm not afraid to do it. I think it's part of the job, which of course is why I criticized his ERC video and why I gave the recent All Things Must Pass box set a negative review.

"The In Groove" video was made using a copy of Sonny Rollins' Way Out West, meaning by that time ERC was well established and successful. Everything they release immediately sells out so what was the point of that video especially since the scenario is not legitimate? Mr. Esposito trashes ERC using a customer's repacked record taken in trade though I believe the customer claimed otherwise. How do I know it's a "repack"? He removes it from a paper sleeve and complains about micro-abrasions he found on the record. ERC uses rice paper inners on all of its records. So clearly the customer who sent it in trade had opened it and neglected to replace the rice paper inner. The repack was poorly done so the record had a spine split. Esposito, with a great deal of derision, shook the record in the packing, removed it and held up to the camera the spine split. Why would he believe ERC would pack its records shoddily in paper sleeves?

Anyone reading this could probably hold up a costly defective record with a split spine from Analogue Productions, Mobile Fidelity or any other high quality label. I know I could. It happens.

ERC sent a replacement copy and that one had a bubble defect. I could hold up records pressed at QRP, RTI, Pallas, Optimal, MPO, you name the pressing plant, that has a defect or two, or is pressed off-center or has a micro scratch. It's in the nature of record pressing and those of us who love records are usually forgiving of a minor blemish or two.

But a quite incensed Mike holds up the spine split, shows the tiny bubble and then launches into a further attack by pointing to other versions costing less that you can buy, including the box from Craft reviewed on this site, which he recommends as a less costly alternative. He claims, incorrectly, that the Way Out West in that box was cut from tape. It wasn't. It was cut from a hi-res digital file. What's more, based on how intensely bright is the top end on that set, the producers of that box were most likely not aware of the "Roy DuNann curve" inscribed on the tape that requires attenuation during cutting or during the digital transfer to flatten the response. Nor obviously was Mike aware of it. He then holds up used copies—all of which he sells— that cost less including the double 45 from Analogue Productions. Fair enough! But used records are a different thing as are used records packed in newer style less attractive jackets like the ones AP formerly used as are records cut from more modern solid state-based cutting systems. Some people prefer Kevin Gray's cut over ERC's as some will prefer Bernie Grundman's upcoming one for Analogue Productions now that Concord and Kassem have..oh! perhaps I let the cat out of the bag...

Just to reiterate: ERC spent well into six figures restoring a Lyric/Ortofon mastering system, uses original master tapes and packages in "hot lead" set typeset "old school" jackets (some of which do "bow") that adhere as closely as possible to the original's paper stock and color art. And it presses a very limited number and charges a lot of money for them. That's their business model and for many of the classical titles, their $400 or so cost is still considerably less than the cost of original pressings. This is a company that should be applauded by record lovers for it's efforts not derided for them.

Mr. Esposito in a response to one of my comments about his ERC video claims that my free copies is the reason I defend ERC. Yes, I get them, as do other reviewers, though I never asked for freebies (though he did ask ERC if he could sell them). I asked if it would be possible to get review copies at somewhat of discount. Pete Hutchison generously sends reviewer copies to me and other reviewers even knowing by the time we get them the record will be sold out so there's no point in reviewing them. Anyone who thinks my integrity and honestly can be bought for the price of a record, even a costly one, or many, hasn't read some of the negative record reviews I've posted. My credibility is my "working capital" just as Esposito's record stock and store is his.

Mr. Esposito could have given Mo-Fi or AP the same treatment, holding up a defective Mo-Fi pressing with a split spine but he didn't. So could have I. But like him I choose not to. What's the point? Everyone presses bad records and spines sometimes split in shipping. All of these responsible audiophile labels replace defectives.

So why single out The Electric Recording Company? Mr. Esposito should explain. And he should apologize to ERC's Pete Hutchison. And then, like the rainbow that recently appeared across from my home, we should all kiss and make up.

COMMENTS
kimi imacman's picture

Hey Mikey, I have no skin in this one but to be fair, he did post a more recent unboxing video of the Mal Waldron ERC and found two faults. A blemish in the cover gloss and the cover was bowed. His point was and I tend to agree with him, that at $550 a pop this is unacceptable. As you say, shit happens in record manufacturing but that’s usually at $50 or less. With only 300 to ship I think it only reasonable to expect a flawless product. After cleaning said disc he said it sounded great but also said so to do the AP Prestige releases; which I’m sure we’ed both agree. His opinion was the ERC was not worth the difference, fair enough, that’s his opinion but equally that is not a trashing. For the record (forgive the pun) I was gifted a copy of the ERC Love in stereo and I too would not have dropped £300 on it although it is good in its own way and nice to own, that again is just my opinion; maybe other titles might chance that, IDK.

Michael Fremer's picture
Unlike his first ERC video, which wasn't. That's the one I commented on. He should take it down. It's absolutely unfair. I promise you he's seen his share of Mo-Fi One Steps with similar problems. RTI isn't perfect.
amarok89's picture

You continue to ignore the point that at their price level ERC can inspect each and every LP for flaws and discard those. Not to mention that if old timey record sleeves can bow maybe it’s not worth the cost of using old timey printing processes. Lastly it’s more than a free record to review, it’s what, dozens? I’m not an other Mike acolyte. Never heard of him before yesterday.

Michael Fremer's picture
ERC happily replaces defective records. These are pressed at a pressing plant, not at ERC. Different customers have different tolerances for minor blemishes. The same is true for Mo-Fi, AP etc. I have a few ERC's with minor "bows" but the jacket quality and the image quality are extremely high and worth the occasional "bow". The few that come that way tend to straighten out on the shelf over time. Yes, I get them all. I get many free from UMG, including costly box sets. That didn't stop me from giving "All Things Must Pass" a very negative review. If you think I can be "bought" for some records, don't read what I write. I don't review ERCs because they are sold out by the time I get them so what's the point? If Mr. Esposito didn't like the ERC sound or packaging or whatever, that's a very different scenario than the video he posted using a repackaged record to trash ERC for split spine or microabrasions caused by customer not ERC bad packing. Chad Kassem has a wall of 'defective returns' many of which I've pulled out and played when I visited. Most had defects I didn't see or hear. A few had one or two ticks or a pop or some visible but not audible blemish. I wouldn't return those. I have many records I buy with some issues. I'm not in the business of dwelling on minor pressing issues. Some people are.
amarok89's picture

At their price point they should not let a visibly flawed record out to begin with. You concede the visible flaws exist and then continue to compare ERC to AP, RTI etc. who’s single LPs are $40 or $50, usually less.

If you don’t review ERC reissues then why do you continue to receive free stuff? It’s not that I believe you’re bought when you get dozens of ERPs free compared to an occasional box set that’s half the cost of one ERP, it’s that I’m puzzled that you don’t see it as at least in bad form.

I haven’t regularly read your work in years but the furors you get involved with internet wide do spur me to check in.

Analog Scott's picture

miss a free throw. And yet they do. Even the best of them. What you are suggesting is quite frankly an unreasonable standard that shows an ignorance of the nature of vinyl pressing. Truly perfect pressings are almost as rare as unicorns. It is an unreasonable standard. ERC would have an unreasonably high rejection rate which would end in massive financial loss. No pressing plant is that good. And if you really think anyone who visually inspects records is never going to miss anything you are living in fantasy land. Human error is one of the most reliable things we have in this world. The reasonable expectation for the premium is premium service. And that is something they deliver. When Mike Esposito (I guess that's his name) complained to ERC about a seam split, something that probably happened when the record was sent to him by a third party repackaged and no longer properly packaged, ERC sent him a complete replacement free of charge no questions asked. Not just a new cover but an entire new record. *That* record was the one with the visible defect. The first record Tom got had no defects. So he got one perfect cover, one perfect record and an additional record with one visible flaw. And he got it for free, no questions asked despite the fact that the original damage was most likely caused by improper repackaging by a third party. Now I call that premium customer service. What other label would do that free of charge without asking for the damaged product to be returned? And what did Mike do? well, watch his video.

amarok89's picture

My God your metaphors. Your emotion in recent posts has really affected your own logic. When a manufacturer makes a physical product there is this thing called quality control. They look at what came off the press in this case and decide if it can go out or if it should be discarded. When a manufacturer charges 10 to 15 times what other high quality manufacturers charge yet only releases a tenth the number of copies they should have an obligation to check every one. To your fantasy basketball league scenario if one team charged 10 times for a ticket over the next team down the highway for the same seat that team owner better shine my shoes or some such.

RoBoKok's picture

Hi Michael, I know of at least two buyers who experienced split seams when opening their ERC packages. This can be avoided easily by shipping the album outside the carefully manufactured sleeves. And again, each and every copy of the 300 copies should be inspected prior to shipping.

Analog Scott's picture

The reality is you can't get enough perfect records from ANY pressing plant to expect 100% perfection from any label. It's completely unrealistic regardless of the price point. And they are inspected. You just have unrealistic expectations that you for some reason apply only to one company. Go figure.

amarok89's picture

Is blinding you. My reality includes this simple fact. They limit pressings to 300. But they also are happy to replace defects. I assume we agree so far.

In my reality no pressing run will be perfect for all copies. You know I never said that even though you continue to mock me. In my reality a manufacturer charging $300 or more should inspect every one. They should discard any with visible flaws. A record with visible flaws should never go out. In the end to get 300 visibly good copies for shipment maybe 325 have to be pressed. Note that number is just a random guess. You do not have to fixate on it. If that initial care is taken fewer will be returned. Only those with audible flaws. The customers will be that much happier. When you say they are inspected you don’t say “all”, but if that’s true I’d say do a better job. Any extra cost for real care will get passed on to the customer and it won’t even be noticed at the rates charged.

Analog Scott's picture

"My reality includes this simple fact. They limit pressings to 300."

No.Most of the time the run is 300 but they have also done runs of 150.

"But they also are happy to replace defects."

I don't know how "happy" they are about it but they do it and do it without questions or requirements of returning the defective product.

"I assume we agree so far.'

Pretty close

"In my reality no pressing run will be perfect for all copies. You know I never said that even though you continue to mock me."

Great, good to know that this is a "part" of your reality. But you are cherry picking. You said "At their price point they should not let a visibly flawed record out to begin with." In my argument against that I started by pointing out that reality of inherent presssing flaws but ALSO pointed out the added issue of human error. That was the point of my anlogy to basketball players shooting free throws. Even the best miss from time to time.

"In my reality a manufacturer charging $300 or more should inspect every one. They should discard any with visible flaws."

that is ironic because that is exactly what ERC does. Which is not exactly what many other labels do. What you continue to miss apparently is that humans make mistakes in these processes.

" A record with visible flaws should never go out."

Still an unrealistic expectation.

"If that initial care is taken fewer will be returned."

Fewer than what? Do you have any numbers on how many records are returned the ERC vs the other audiophile labels? How do you not know that is not already the case?

"The customers will be that much happier."

How are you gauging the happiness of the ERC customers?How do you know they aren't happy already?

"When you say they are inspected you don’t say “all”, but if that’s true I’d say do a better job."

And I'd say you have unreasonable expectations.Pretty much what I have said the whole time.

"Any extra cost for real care will get passed on to the customer and it won’t even be noticed at the rates charged."

Do you really think ERC would rather replace product than inspect it as well as they can from the get go? they do inspect their records. Each and every one of them. I can't speak for ERC but I am going to go out on a limb and assume they would rather catch any visual flaws before the product is sent out. But you have no meaningful data to have any opinion on the quality of their visual inspections. And let's be really clear here, Mike's easter egg hunt video hack job doesn't tell us anything about their quality control. He was on a mission to make ERC look bad.

amarok89's picture

Humans work with the tools they have. Eyesight should pick out bubbles, small scratches. If it doesn’t get someone with better eyesight. Business management fundamentals should help in a lot of this. But speaking of facts, what is your evidence that Mike E. just wanted to do a hatchet job? It’s your preconceptions that help bring you to that conclusion. Your posts on several threads here are packed with emotion, as if Mike hurt you personally. He is right when he just said ERC put themselves on a pedestal. I’m sure they can take some criticism. Why are fans of the elite so protective of the elite? Thank you for pointing out the $150 price example. I was thinking of the $400 or more examples but stuck to a middle ground for sake of discussion.

mraudioguru's picture

"I have many records I buy with some issues. I'm not in the business of dwelling on minor pressing issues. Some people are."

Seems to be an epidemic with buyers. When I first decided to get into vinyl over 45 years ago, I KNEW that it wasn't perfect and learned to listen though the minor defects and still really enjoy the LP.

Analog Scott's picture

He didn't even try to hide his agenda. he was on an Easter Egg hunt to find anything he could critisize about the record. He examined the cover several times looking at every small detail. Has he ever done that to any other label's product? Ever? So he plays the record and admits It sounds good. But not worth the money. A few problems here. What did he compare it to? Nothing. How the **** can anyone evaluate the sound quality of a reissue of a 50+ year old recording in a vacuum and draw any meaningful conclusions? With any audiophile reissue the point is the get the best from the source and hopefully better any and all previous efforts with the understanding that personal taste will likely prevent anyone making a "definitive" version. So to say it sounds good means **** all. You can have a crap mastering of a great recording that sounds "good" you can have a miraculous mastering of a recording that is quite flawed that only sounds "good." But one is a great achievement and the other a failure.But one would only know that with the proper references. And as for the worth of the record...I'd love for Mike to tell us what reissues of a single LP is worth $500.00 retail in his view? I think his answer will expose his agenda. Call it a hunch.

Alex320's picture

I also pointed out the same problem from Mike Esposito in his recent video on the Nevermind 30th. He was upset his distributor shorted him and thus made a video of how bad it was and why everyone should just buy the Bernie Grundman cut (which he happens to stock). I made the point that it seems he only has negative things to say when he can't sell them. I referenced his ERC videos and he viciously attacked me as well. If he had no chance of selling MOFI you can bet the one steps would be the next to feel his wrath!

richiep's picture

If he doesn't own it or sell it they are no good, by the one I have for sale its the best! This is a world where ingenuity prevails, and don't trash someone for trying to make the best. Forgotten is ERC's production stops at the pressing which i'm sure they try their best for perfection and replace any item without question. Remember Mickey is not a record hawker on YT and please buy my Tee shirts after you subscribe.

jazz's picture

there will be a Way out west, mastered by BG for AP? Wow! I wish BG lucky fingers for EQ‘ing, but as far as I know Michael already heard the test pressing and approved it ;-)

jazz's picture

this will get an expensive year for me. Hopefully there are also some not yet released within the former 45 RPM Fantasy sets.

Michael Fremer's picture
I have had a test pressing here from back when I was there for the mastering before the project was pulled. BG knows how to master Contemporary Records. He was there "in the day".
jazz's picture

does anyone in the US (except ERC) still cut/master with tube equipment after Doug Sax (RIP) and partly BG at least in the past?

And in case you can tell, will the Contemporary releases be 33 or 45?

jazz's picture

but still not sure in which case or not this or the so far Acoustic Sounds chain or the chain of the contracted mastering engineers is used and what they use.

We read about mastering engineers, but rarely on which chains (tube or ss) certain releases or series were cut. Would be interesting if someone knows.

As I said, I just remember the Doug Sax tube chain and think BG still uses one partly, but not sure if or for which releases after he partly used it for Classic Records. My old Buena Vista Social Club 45 RPM box sounds as if it could have bene tube cut.

sourcreamlemon's picture

Mike from The In Groove is a humourless boor peddling second-hand knowledge from the Hoffman forum as his own wisdom. And I doubt his shop is that great. According to himself, when he buys a collection, he keeps all the best stuff for himself. What you get on the shelf is the throwaways Mike didn't want.

jazz's picture

is the lemmng-like, insulting camp behavior observable on both sides regarding two nice guys, who aside of the current battle are generally providing great service for audiophiles.

cafefile.audiophile.mike's picture

I agree with the out groove response

Duke86fan's picture

like lets pretend that mikes video was completely wrong... (also about him saying that laquers easily break... i could easily make a comparison to the time you claimed that crosleys will chew up a groove after 4 listens and at least one youtuber tested the claim and proved it wrong.. actually 2 and both had a similar conclusion in no even though they aren't good turntables)

why do we need a 550 dollar limited to 300 pressing of these albums, is it only for the most expensive of expensive... why would most consumers be interested in ERC at all.. even with MoFi One Step and UHQR those are only 100-125 dollars compared to spending half a grand on a single album because it just happened to be made using the most old school hardware they could get... even for audiophiles its a very niche part that gets hyped a ton, and these also kinda scare the newer younger audiophile who is not wanting the overinflation of prices and overly traditionalist behavior.. where instead we should try to make the best quality stuff cheaper similar to the prices of the AP verve series... can we find a way to get people to care about sound more than worship these incredibly expensive and overly niche products

Analog Scott's picture

the question ought to be why is it a problem that they exist? We don't "need" any audiophile reissues. It's a hobby. And if one doesn't feel they need or want a $500.00 limited edition audiophile reisue there is a really simple solution. Don't ****ing buy it! WTF is ERC a problem for anybody who doesn't want their product? Take these lacquers for example. I wouldn't buy one. As a consumer/collector/audiophile I don't think they are a good product. at least not good for me. But if someone else wants their product that is their ****ing choice. As long as these companies are being honest about what they make why should anyone get their panties in a bunch over their existance?

cafefile.audiophile.mike's picture

Michaek has more experince in Recording and producing etc
then that Outgroove guy

arcman67's picture

There is NO excuse for the defects of such a low volume product such as ERC. Outside of shipping damage, each disc could be inspected in fine detail with very little time before final sealing of the product.

DietChapstick's picture

I would agree. The buck has to stop somewhere. I understand that most labels have no control over what the pressing plant does. However, if you are charging premium prices then the QC/QA process should be "premium" as well.

No comment on Mr. In Groove. However, actual customers are rightly upset when they buy a defective record, no matter if the record costs $25, $100, $400, etc. Sadly plants are stretched to the limit right now and defects are far more common they were just a few years ago IME.

FWIW I have had defects from every major plant - even the "good" ones - RTI, Pallas, Optimal, QRP you name it. Doesn't matter what they cost.

Matter of fact I have to send back a defective QRP product soon. Record arrived with a massive seam split which I'm unwilling to accept. Recently before that I got an RTI pressed LP that was laughably warped and full of weird bits of noise/non-fill.

Things have gotten bad enough where I can't really buy new vinyl at local shops anymore, because returning/exchanging is either a huge hassle or simply not possible. All my purchases from stores now are used vinyl.

Michael Fremer's picture
Yes a customer has a right to be upset and request a replacement copy. ERC does that.
Michael Fremer's picture
Please do not come here and tell me what I do and do not understand. Back in the real world, mistakes occasionally happen even with inspections. The records are inspected at the pressing plant but obviously a very few get through that step. The solution is that ERC sends a replacement to the customer. No one is perfect but a perfect response is to ship a replacement and ERC does that.
Analog Scott's picture

the realities of pressing vinyl records. It is an unrealistic expectation that would not by financially viable even at their price point. Truly flawless records are very rare in any production line and always have been. I am curious though, what is the cut off number where there are "excuses?" Should we have excused the Analog Production Top 100 Jazz reiussues that were limited to 1,000 copies? The first Music Matters that were 2,000 copies? What is the cut off point for excuses? I sure didn't see Mike make any videos searching for any flaw he can find with those labels. But those limited runs had their share of issues.

cdvinyl's picture

To weight in...all things manufactured can come with defects. That said if you pay $450.00 for a record or $85,000.00 for a new car would you be happy with a bubble defect in the vinyl or paint job? The point is with such a limited run on the records, that product should have been QC'd and never been sent out. Yes you can get it replaced but that is a pain. The mere fact they released the record with the bubble defect says to me that ERC may be relying that consumers won't bother to send back the album because of the hassle. It borders on taking advantage of the consumers good will. This venting is needed so that companies like ERC will get it together with future releases.

Analog Scott's picture

but I am not going to have unrealistic expectations either. If manufacturer defects were always a deal breaker every car maker would go out of business. So would every vinyl pressing plant. Replacement of damaged or defective goods is the best we will ever get in the real world.

elmore244's picture

Is what I keep hearing from those who think paying $450 entities them to perfection. For your information, I recently paid $125,000.00 for a customized QUATTROPORTE GT. Guess what? There was an air bubble on the left rear panel about the size of a dime on the Blu Nobile paint job. Did I bitch and moan about it? No, I said fix it. It was fixed as good auto sellers do. And on top of that I was refunded back $2000. No questions asked. I didn’t expect perfection, but I did expect any issues to be taken care of. Let’s grow up now, shall we?

Michael Fremer's picture
ERC replace defectives no questions asked. That's in part why the releases immediately sell out.
Michael Fremer's picture
Records are inspected but defects sometimes get through and there are many defects that only play allow you to hear or even see. ERC tells me the defect rate for either jackets or records is on the order of 3% or 3 records out of 300. I do not think anyone paying this much money will let go of any kind of defect.
vmartell's picture

The vehemence of the defense seems... well unexpected given that it is not coming from ERC itself. BUT, I do understand; it is the nature of good intentioned human beings to fight against wrongs, real or perceived - that cannot be bad. Specially, if, in addition, you have dropped a good chunk of bank on products from your defendee.. ( I hope that is a word! :D ). I have not problem with members of the forum doing that.

But Michael could save himself tons of grief by stepping back - he stated his opinion on the main article... leaving it at that ( kind of what the NYT does) is probably a good journalistic practice. And I say this independently of my opinion of the whole thing.

And since I am here, I will state it. It may sound harsh but while is great that defective products are happily replaced, no kudos should be given for that - should be the norm for everybody, but specially at this price point.

Same with QC; again, give the price point and size of the run, a perfect lot is a doable goal. Understand the frustration of the customer to drop that bank on a record THEN having to exchange. Not the end of the world of course, and if the supplier happily exchanges, even better. BUT it also forcing the customer to make an expenditure of time, which in many cases has a dollar value associated to it - sometimes I just throw away defective stuff, not worth my time in terms of $$$. Again, at this price point, with this run size, it is an unexpected annoyance. It's all relative.

But for some reason commenting on that is taken as a fundamental challenge of belief. I understand that. I have read in many places that kind of criticism of ERC - some people say that such product is fundamentally wrong because of many factors, from price to the fact that it is still a record. So this fires up the defenders!

Like someone posted before, not skin in the game. Won't get it, but it doesn't bother me that it exists.

v

Catcher10's picture

I think I'll wait for the Netflix mini-series to hear more about this "saga" of Mike vs Mike, or East Coast vs West Coast.

I've decided not to read anymore about this.

nathanhill98's picture

Thanks for your thoughtful analysis. Your perspective sheds light on aspects I hadn't considered before. Rice Purity Test

taylorsteven001's picture

Thanks for taking the time to write this. It's clear you're passionate about the topic, and it shows in your writing. wickedwhims

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