Led Zeppelin II RL-Which pressing sounds best?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Neilson77, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. Neilson77

    Neilson77 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Nottingham UK
    Which of the RL pressings sounds the best? I've seen "MO" "PR" "CTH" and "SP" copies. Some are saying a Monarch sounds best, some a CTH with 1A matrices both sides. I've heard "RL" with an "SS" both sides indicates better sound than just a plain "RL". I know the "SP" copies have the narrowest deadwax on Side 2 followed closely by the "PR" pressings.
  2. john lennonist

    john lennonist There ONCE was a NOTE, PURE and EASY...

    Any one with less than 100 scratches! :laugh:
  3. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Dedicated Listener

    New Mexico USA
    The one you imagine while reading the delirious forum posts about the ineffable and transcendent rock glory of LZ II RL vinyl.


    It was enough hassle and effort finally finding and shelling out the dough for a battered old RL pressing (which actually does sound pretty freaking great...).

    But now I gotta start worrying about which RL sounds best??!!! Please just kill me now.
  4. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Which version sounds best? Whatever version you don't have is going to be the one someone here will swear sounds best. :whistle:
  5. Neilson77

    Neilson77 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Nottingham UK
    There are sound differences between pressing plants according to some posts. Just interested to know what is the definitive RL pressing.
  6. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

  7. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    I've found that it is reasonable to be concerned about the subtle differences in sound associated with the various pressing plants that Atlantic used. In my collection I've noticed that my keeper copies of Atlantic albums were usually made at Presswell or Monarch. The Presswell pressings tend toward a strong clear tone, Presswell vinyl and manufacturing is nice quality. The Monarchs can often have a silky magic, an extra realism and they usually handle sibilance better than LPs from other plants. The reason for these differences are difficult to pinpoint, but it's possible to observe that Monarch pressings had their metal parts made in one place, and Presswell in another. Also, Monarch vinyl has a different, almost 'glossy' look to it, that suggests it may have come from an unusual formulation. In my experience, Monarch pressings tend to have a bit more of inherent vinyl surface noise, and I've noticed they are more frequently slightly off-center than LPs from other associated Atlantic pressing plants. However, a well set up turntable with a good cartridge can minimize the surface noise, and I've been known to "correct" those off center spindle holes myself (I may be more sensitive to variances in pitch that some vinyl listeners).

    Atlantic LPs from the other plants can also be great. For example, the *Richmond, Indiana plant ("RI" on the label) has its own sonic signature--bright and clear. And RI pressings often play with lower surface noise than Presswell's or Monarch's.

    Ultimately though, in my experience the pressing plant subtle differences are affected heavily by condition. And, of course you want one of the true RL cuttings, not a later cut made with no bass so Ahmet Ertegun's daughter's turntable wouldn't skip. So, is a trashed Monarch 'better' than a mint CTH? Depends on the listener's taste and tolerance for noise. For that reason it's not easy to arrive at the definitive RL pressing just by checking off a list of preferred cuttings and preferred pressing plants. The variables of condition, stamper life and different RL cuttings add lots of confusion to the stew.

    *although I mention the RI plant as an example, I'm actually not sure the RL LZ II was ever made at that plant.
    The RL's I've heard came from Presswell, Monarch and CTH.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2013
  8. Stefan

    Stefan Forum Resident

    Montreal, Canada
    Er, wasn't that what the girl on Under The Dome said last episode? :)
    honestabe316 and Stone Turntable like this.
  9. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Dedicated Listener

    New Mexico USA
    Right on — I kid! The holy grailism of obsessing about every detail of the LZ II RL saga is not something I want to impede. It's too entertaining and fun. Go for it.
  10. hi_watt

    hi_watt Forum Resident

    San Diego, CA
    Whew! Got the Monarch. Now it's time to find the other RL types... ;)
    coolhandlukefoto likes this.
  11. tmtomh

    tmtomh Forum Resident

    I think you've gotten to the core of it. Given the prices and condition of most RL Zep IIs out there, it's hard to imagine a situation where condition wouldn't trump pressing plant. To put it another way, it's hard to imagine any one person getting ahold of enough different pressings of the RL Zep II, all in good enough and similar enough condition, to make a real judgment about which is best. And even then you'd likely be talking about subtleties that are (a) subjective and (b) not at all guaranteed to be independent of that individual's equipment.

    I'd say find any halfway affordable RL with narrow deadwax, in VG or better condition, enjoy the hell out of it, and be done with it.
  12. greg_t

    greg_t Forum Resident

    St. Louis, MO
    I don't get how pressing plants make a difference? Don't they just records based on the stampers they have? I've not understand how one plant is better than other if they all in theory have the same or similar stampers?
    Slick Willie likes this.
  13. Noooooooo!
    john lennonist likes this.
  14. Raunchnroll

    Raunchnroll Forum Resident

    Every little factor can make a difference. From different vinyl blends for the pucks used, different metal parts made from different sources despite being from the same lacquer source, the plating process for any given mother or stamper being made (every new one is going to be unique), the stamping machine itself, the temperature during pressing, how long it anneals...its like any other manufactured product.
    john lennonist and Clanceman like this.
  15. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    Thing is, it's quite possible to see in the deadwax that the different pressing plants are typically not using the same stampers. The metal parts (mothers, stampers) all may originate from the same lacquer, but pressing plants had those metal parts processed by different companies. Based on forum research it appears that Monarch used Alcor (sic?), and Presswell got metal parts from Long Wear Plating and Philips.

    Other variables that may affect pressing sound quality are different vinyl formulations and different types of machines used to press the records.
  16. Raunchnroll

    Raunchnroll Forum Resident

    Well said. (except I havn't noticed many off center Monarchs personally - any more than any other pressing)

    I've owned a number of each of the different RL pressings. My personal favorite is a Monarch. Presswell's are a close second. Columbia's last or third. They rank: stupendous, stupendous +1 , stupendous +2.

    Bottom line? the cleanest playing copy.
  17. hvbias

    hvbias Forum Resident

    Same here, I don't think I have any MO pressed off center. In my collection off center pressings are most common in records pressed after 2000. I think I posted our mini shootout impressions in another thread. I will need to check the matrix info of my Monarch copies, but at the end of the day the one I enjoy the most is a 1A/1A RL SS CTH. I think the WLP used the same stamper. Raunchnroll and tlmusic offer sound advice; find one that plays quiet and more importantly (at least to me) no groove wear/distortion.
  18. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    I mention the off-center thing cause I'm really fussy. All day at work I'm around live acoustic pianos, so when I hear a piano recording with vibrato or subtle 'whammy bar' type effects, it sounds so wrong. However, I fully appreciate that most people would not be at all bothered by teeny tiny pitch variations caused by very mildly off-center records. Actually, it's hard for me to hear those effects if the music is made up of instruments that use lots of vibrato anyway, like vocals, and strings. As a side note, an accomplished classical violinist told me that string players rarely used vibrato until the dawn of recording, circa 1900. At that time the premier string players started to incorporate a fast, wide vibrato, which would mask the inconsistent speed on the early cylinders and especially early 78 rpm disc player (which can have massive wow and flutter).

    P.S. My white label promo is an -A -A Presswell.
    Cardanken and audiotom like this.
  19. Tommyboy

    Tommyboy Senior Member

    New York
    The Monarch LZII that was cut by George Piros isn't too far off in SQ from the various RL pressings that I've owned.
    ODShowtime, Sax-son and ArpMoog like this.
  20. Randy W

    Randy W Original Member

    You heard it here folks. +1
    hi_watt and Agent57 like this.
  21. thebeatles67

    thebeatles67 Forum Resident

    Need a little info on a WLP copy I own--Side 1 is def an RL with the SS marking. ST -A-691671-1A. However Side 2 does not have an RL--it has the SS followed by LH (written very small). Side 2 is an ST-A-691672-D. Again this is a white label promo and cover has the small punch out hole and no timing strip.
  22. hvbias

    hvbias Forum Resident

    Your side 2 is mastered by Lee Hulko, another mastering engineer at Sterling Sound.
  23. thebeatles67

    thebeatles67 Forum Resident

    Thanks hvbias.
  24. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    :thumbsup: This is true. A few months ago I stumbled upon a near mint late 70s at/gp Monarch. It's the slightly more 'polite and proper' RL substitute: cleaner, purer, handles the inner grooves better. Definitely recommend-able!
  25. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    Yes, James summed it up completely.

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