Is a Test Pressing on vinyl worth buying or is it just another way to make money?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by gfong, Aug 22, 2010.

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  1. gfong

    gfong Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Ontario, Canada
    I would like to know your thoughts on test pressings and the purchasing of them? I Googled test pressings as well as searched this site and found out that they are in fact the finished record that is sent to the customer for approval to go ahead with the complete order. They are also in limited supply and not that many are made, but no where could I find a "hard" number of approximately how many.

    Is this the best version of the record? Would I be better off getting a test pressing over the released version? Is the sound the same?

    The other road I was looking at is it another way to make money for the company? (not necessarily a bad thing as long as there is a market for it)

    What dictates the price of a test pressing? How popular the records were or how limited the regular edition is?

    Thanks, as you can see many questions on this and I appreciate all responses. I am asking these questions to learn and not to discredit or condemn the sale of Test Pressings. :)
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Tests NEVER sound as good as the first pressing. But, some are rare as hell. I love them just because they are unique. But, if you're looking for perfect sound, the regular first press will sound quieter.
  3. SuperFuzz

    SuperFuzz Forum Resident

    What's the technical reason for that? To a non-expert it would seem that a test pressing, made while the stampers are fresh, would sound better.
  4. inperson

    inperson Forum Resident

    Maybe that fresh stamper needs a wee bit of wear on it to make it sound better :)
  5. AH On Vibes

    AH On Vibes New Member

    So. Cal.
    Then, that would make "hot" stampers undesirable, right?
  6. CaptainOzone

    CaptainOzone On Air Cowbell

    Beaumont, CA, USA
    The few test pressings I have were made with awful vinyl.
  7. visprashyana

    visprashyana New Member

    The record pressing plant doesn't put much time and care into the test pressings, they are meant to test tone and general accuracy of what was "wanted" during the cutting process. The actual quality of the pressing is not meant to be at the same level as that of the retail product that will be released. It is a "test" and very rare - that is why they are worth so much money.
  8. chewy

    chewy Forum Resident

    West Coast USA
    there is a dude, i dont know where he is, but he scored a 1960's test press vangelder Big John Patton- Blue John....which then went not released on vinyl until the 80s- thats some serious test press-action
  9. So what, there's a separate vat of low-quality vinyl marked "use for test pressing purposes only"?

    I would think the test pressings need to be of at least the quality of the first commercial run because if they're sub-standard, how can you accurately 'test' the sound quality pre-press?

    When I worked with bands who put out vinyl, we were always given test pressings to sign off on and these were always at least equal in sound quality to the first commercial pressing. And if we didn't like the sound quality, back it went for a different cutting.
  10. For me, test pressings are most desired when:

    1. the album never ended up being released
    2. they contain any different mixes or tracks that didn't make the final cut.
  11. MikeyH

    MikeyH Stamper King

    Berkeley, CA
    .. and there's test pressings and Test Pressings. What Classic sells are not test pressings, merely ordinary pressings with plain labels and covers. Costs them less, you pay more. There is an implication that these are 'early pressing run' pressings.

    Quite frankly, if you're making 1500 discs from one set of stampers the whole shebang is early pressing run. (but I'd rather you used three sets of stampers and mixed them about, thanks, but that'd triple your plating costs)

    A real test pressing is just that. They serve to clean the machines (this is important!) and need to be checked to make sure the stampers aren't damaged so production won't be wasted. They get recycled, except the company usually keeps a 'reference copy'. Those ones are what you often see sold as 'test pressings'. They're from the now defunct or closed or otherwise overloaded company library.

    After that's OK there might be a run for artist/company approval. After that, you might get the advance promotion copies done, then the actual production (plenty of advances aren't the same as the production either. To borrow from another thread, the 30th Dark Side of the Moon was made at acoustech/RTI. Test and promotion copies are RTI. Production was in Holland.)

    The stamper in my avatar (<< over there for the time being) is in a big card cover. Inside with it is the reference copy of the LP pressed from it. (I think I got lucky. Seller had two, probably a and b sides, and I got the one with the LP in it)
  12. gfong

    gfong Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks for the information about test pressings. I have to agree that some are very rare and the ones that never actually get released should be worth more and of more interest.

    From the information from the post above it would seem from his/her definition that Classic Records test pressings are not test pressings in the true sense of a test pressing!
    I will have to look into why they call them test pressings then!
  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Some companies order up the usual 10 TPs (DCC, AF, etc.) Other companies order up 100 or more tests, just to sell.

    Ask yourself, which is more collectible?
    gfong likes this.
  14. dunhillrecords

    dunhillrecords Member

  15. visprashyana

    visprashyana New Member

    Perhaps you should consult with RTI who is our best pressing plant in the country and Don will be glad to tell you why the test pressing is not meant to be the same quality "pressing" compared to the one that is approved. Obviously, there aren't two vats of anything, but there is a difference in how labor is directed and utilized for different pressings. For instance, several test pressings would not be perfectly flat. They do not spend the same amount of time in the pressers as an approved pressing.
  16. jsternbe

    jsternbe Forum Resident

    Knoxville, TN USA
    Most of the test pressings that I have from the '70s and early '80s seem to be very high quality with nice quiet vinyl and perfectly flat. This is especially true of the ones that came from H.R.M. from the '80s. Of course, this could also be pure luck, too.
  17. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Music Appreciator

    Eastern Iowa
    And test pressings sometimes contain unique stuff not on the finished alternate mix or two.

    One that is as rare as hell is a test pressing of Rare Earth's "Live In Chicago", recorded @ The Arie Crown Theatre in Chicago (late 1973). Only a handful of pressings were made, artwork and I've been told. Too bad the album was scrapped at the starting gate. The album already had a catalog # assigned too. If I ever found a copy, I'd die a happy man. :)
  18. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member

    Cambridge, MA
    In the '70s, every major label had a different policy with regard to test pressings. Test pressings were frequently pressed for advanced promotion, i.e. for quick turnaround, since they didn't have to wait for the final art. When a run of test pressings was made for internal promotion, they'd typically have a mimeographed sheet affixed to the cover (or inserted in the cover) that detailed the track listing, producer credits, etc. The labels themselves would be generic "test pressing" labels. Some later test pressings, particularly from PRC, would note the label and sometimes the release number and artist on the label.

    For example:

    Warner/Reprise: In general, W/R would order 50-100 or more test pressings to be distributed internally to all important folks. As a result, W/R test pressings are more common than those from other labels. (Not COMMON. Just more common). Early-to-mid '70s test pressings were pressed by Columbia. In the mid/late '70s they switched to Capitol for test pressings.

    A&M: In the mid/late '70s, regularly ordered a few dozen test pressings for important insiders. Earlier in the decade test pressings were usually from Monarch. Later, they were usually from Columbia.

    Casablanca: Ordered a fairly large number of test pressings of many albums, which were distributed both internally and to important DJs/etc.

    Columbia/Epic: Test pressing runs were typically very small, just for higher level insiders, plus advances to important DJs and reviewers on occasion.

    Capitol: Very limited numbers of test pressings. Frequently their test pressings would carry a typeset label with artist info.

    Elektra/Asylum: Limited number of test pressings early in the decade, with a more substantial number issued towards the end of the '70s. Early in the decade, test pressings would generally be from Columbia. Later in the decade, they'd usually be from PRC.

    Atlantic: Usually limited in number.

    United Artists: Very very limited.

    RCA: Very very limited for most releases.

    The pressing and distribution of vinyl test pressings continued by the majors until the early '80s, when it transitioned over to "test pressing" or "advanced" cassettes.

    NONE of the test pressings made by the majors were pressed to sell, either commercially, or discretely. (The stuff that "fell off a truck" for the reps and A&R people to sell and make a few extra bucks was generally stock or promo-punched).

    The "selling test pressings" thing by the labels who had them pressed is recent. I don't put much stock in those test pressings, and think it's a sucky practice.
    Tedw9 and Dino like this.
  19. Kwadguy, that's great information! It reminded me of the Jagger/Bowie 45 of their cover of 'Dancing In The Streets' - I've seen more test pressings of that than stock copies! I read somewhere that it was used for advanced promotion (that you outline above) as a rush-release type of situation to coincide as closely with Live Aid as possible.
  20. visprashyana

    visprashyana New Member

    The other aspect is that a test pressing may have defects and not approved. This cutting would be extremely rare because it was never pressed after the test pressing. In the same light, you might have a test pressing where one side was approved and another wasn't.
  21. capn

    capn Forum Resident

    In the UK the indie labels I've worked at would order 10 test pressings of each release (but you could order as many as you were prepared to pay for) - half would go to artist/manager and the other half would go to the company - the production manager would take at least one. The other copies would sit in the warehouse/library.

    The production manager was supposed to asses the audio, but on the whole (at all the companies) they would just await a yes/no from the artist/manager, before going ahead.

    I've worked at 3 top flight indies in the UK and none of them had facilities where the guy could listen to the pressings at work. They were encouraged to take them home and do it on their own time, but none of the one's I knew had great hi-fi set-ups at home so were unhappy to make decisions on fidelity.

    It's sad but it always seemed to be about "if no-one complains just get on with it" rather than quality control.
    Simon A likes this.
  22. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member

    Cambridge, MA
    It's true that today few have the means to critically evaluate a vinyl test pressing. But in the '70s, most record execs and other significant insiders DID have stereos with a turntable in their office...
  23. We're probably talking about two different things here, where some pressings are used to align/clean the machines and those that are used to asses audio quality (or used as promos). If those used to asses audio quality were warped/not flat, it would defeat the purpose.
  24. visprashyana

    visprashyana New Member

    Slight warps etc. do not defeat the purpose and are definitely used to assess sonic production of the title. As I said before, just pick up the phone and speak to Don who is the owner of RTI and he will be glad to explain why test pressings are not of the same quality as the approved version.
  25. I did, his mailbox is full/not accepting messages.
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