Friday, July 01, 2011

I Really Hate Off-Center Pressings!

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am a big-time record nerd. I love records. I love everything about records. Almost. There is one thing I do not love, and that is LPs that are pressed off-center.

Of all the problems that can plague LPs, off-center pressings are in my opinion the worst. Yes, warped records are a pain, and so are ones that are scratched and noisy. But those can usually be returned for a better copy. But, in my experience, if an LP is pressed off-center, then the whole batch of LPs will have been pressed off-center as well. And since most new LPs are released in fairly limited runs these days, that typically means that all of them will be off center. I have learned the hard way that when you get an off-center pressing, the replacement copy will also almost always be off-center as well, so will the replacement for that one, and so on...

I don't expect LPs to sound like CDs (for better and for worse). I'm not one of these people who complains anytime there is a slight bit of surface noise on an LP, or if it is not perfectly flat. But I cannot tolerate off-center pressings. LP noise (clicks, pops, etc.) is typically intermittent and I can generally tune it out. Also, a lot of times an album that has a few clicks or pops on first play will start to play quietly after a good cleaning and a few plays. Likewise, a good turntable/tonearm/cartridge combo can play through minor warps without too much sonic damage. But off-center pressings affect the sound quality of the entire LP and create a horrible, warbling tone (from excessive wow and flutter). And aside from the old Nakamichi Dragon CT turntable, even the best turntable set up will sound horrible playing an off-center LP.

I can only listen to an off-center LP for a few seconds before wanting to crawl out of my skin. Sadly, the only "fix" is to ream out a larger spindle hole on the record and then manually center the LP every time you want to play it. To call this is a major PITA would be a serious understatement.

How much so I hate off-center pressings? Enough that I posted a demo video on youtube using Panda Bear's Tomboy LP as an example (see above).


Anonymous said...

This is something that drives me crazy too. Especially noticeable on sustained piano and guitar chords. If you're one of those people that digitizes your albums (I haven't been reading your blog long enough to know the answer), you might be interested in this:

Celemony is offering a 30 day demo, so you can blow through as much digitized, off-center vinyl as possible in a month.

I do not work for this company, I swear!

Thanks for the blog, I really enjoy checking in.

Pete Bilderback said...

Capstan does look like an interesting program, and I can imagine it being very useful to someone who is serious about digital audio restoration. Unfortunately, it's way out of the price range of this amateur, and it looks like the demo is pretty limited:

"The Capstan demo version offers all the same functions as the product itself except that it will not allow you to save or export your work. And although the demo version analyzes the whole audio file, the playback stops after seven seconds."

I do digitize a lot of vinyl (as well as the occasional cassette). Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Mine is pressed awfully off-center too. Have you tried getting another copy?

Pete Bilderback said...

I haven't returned it yet. Usually, when a record is pressed off-center, there is no point because, inevitably, the replacement copy will be off-center too. That plus, my local retailer has to eat the cost of any returns, even for defective vinyl.

I guess I am waiting to get some news that there has been a repress.

Anonymous said...

Weird: I came here by google as I appear to have the exact same problem, however to me it happens with my Person Pitch copy. It's really a shame, the second part of Bro's sounds really bad. Makes you wonder what they're doing over there at Paw Tracks.

Anonymous said...

Three notable recent LPs that have been INEXCUSABLY pressed off-center:
1 - The Beatles White Album 180gram 2011 US release, Apple Records - BOTH records are pressed off center on 1 side. I have gone through 3 copies and ALL have this defect.
2 - Aimee Mann - "Lost In Space" (2006) A $140- 180 gram Limited Edition #2314 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab that is both warped and pressed off center in 1 side. I returned it as i could not tolerate having to bore a larger spindle hole and go through the heartbreak of aligning the record before I play it as well as seeing and hearing the distortion caused by a warp. NOT for that price!
3 - Weezer - Green Album (2013) - Side 1, which contains the better half of the album: 180 gram Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. This one I actually did enlarge the center hole only a little as the pressing was slightly off center - enough to annoy me, but the record ($29) was not that expensive - and I bought it FROM MFSL, not a re-seller.
What do all these LPs have in common: Poor quality control in the US pressing plants. Intolerable.

SergioMartelli said...

@Anonymous said...
Three notable recent LPs that have been INEXCUSABLY pressed off-center:
OH SHIT MAN!! I have all those LPs as well WITH the same problem!
I finally gave up after 3 copies of the White album and bore a larger center hole
My "Lost In Space" MFSL LP was sealed, (copy #11xx of 2000) and it was pressed off center. i returned it. 3 months later I bought copy #80 of 2000 on ebay and it's perfect!
Weezer - Side B is slightly off but tolerable as I don't like the songs from that side anyway. I left it as is.