Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin 200 Gram Quiex SV-P Classic Records Release

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Macman007, Apr 12, 2019.

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  1. Macman007

    Macman007 Sitting mId-way between 2 very large speakers Thread Starter

    What can I say, I've been living with this diamond in the rough on my shelves for the better part of a decade and one half. Initially soured due to lack of sound quality on the 200 Gram Classic Records release of Led Zeppelin II, I admit to never giving any of the other titles I purchased a chance. Time has a way of bringing you back to re-examine and reflect on subjects you consider to be otherwise closed. Such as it is with this title and the other Led Zeppelin Classic Records releases.

    After decades of begrudgingly enjoying the Barry Diament CD releases, your mind gets fuzzy when recalling what came before. What I remember of my youth in the 70's more than anything was that these albums sounded great (if a little scratchy) on any stereo, even on friends parents console units. I can't remember the number of parties my original Zeppelin records followed me to. What we were smoking and drinking certainly didn't help define the details 4 plus decades later. The albums were GOOD, REALLY good, I can't remember anything negative, about them. Flash forward to 2005 or so, I'm in Long Island Sound ( now regrettable closed) with my dad looking at their records for sale when I came across almost every original Zeppelin album brand new on 200 gram, boasting their coming from original analog tapes mastered by Bernie Grundman. I grabbed every one I there, only Coda and Presence were missing. I scored them soon after in a local shop.

    When I finally opened them a few years on and played them, I was puzzled by what I was hearing. Certainly no analog nirvana, no amazing revelation of clarity, dynamics and soundstage spaciousness. Quite the opposite actually, I could scarce believe my ears, distortion, overdriven sound levels, sibilance, distortion. Thinking it was my cart arm or turntable, I tried again on my other table which I knew had a new cart, arm adjusted to within a fleas gonads, isolation, good tonearm cables, proper capacitance loading, etc. No dice. In fact it sounded worse than before. Every table available to me it was the same story. How could 40 year old pressings sound better? What was the answer? Aggravated and disappointed, I posted my honest opinion of how bad these sounded, that one was better of with decent original pressings, even here on these forums, I spit venom over these releases, mostly because I spent a small fortune on LP's that were a total disappointment sonically. Flash forward to 2019 .

    I'm looking into another new turntable and the place happened to have some of the Zeppelin 200 gram releases in the listening library. As a joke, I pulled one out and said something like, here's one album no turntable sold here can make sound good, in fact none of these albums. Next thing I know, challenge is accepted, and LZ 1 is spinning, only I'm not hearing anything near what it sounds like on my rigs. Actually it's the opposite, clean clear sound, detailed, dynamic and spacious, the best this album has ever sounded. We played thru all the titles they had, each sounding as good or better than the last. I walked away scratching my head in confusion, determined to find the answer, which wasn't held in buying a new table arm cart or phono stage. Instead it turned out to be in the setup of the table arm and cart.

    Taking notes of how the demo turntable was set up, I went back and tried to make meaningful comparisons to my rig. Once I did, things began to make sense.

    On all my carts I set the VTF in the middle of the specs, not to the high end, which many actually suggest. Next, carts that dont require more than 1.5 grams VTF tend to not always track as well as their heavier cousins do. 1.8- 2.2 is the sweet spot, and depending on your tonearm compliance, one cartridge can really work better than another. The other big question regarding setup is VTA, as well as how accurately your cart is set up, how accurately. 92* of VTA is preferrable , but it can depend on how the diamond was inserted into the cantilever, how much tracking force sounds better once broken in, and more.

    Starting from scratch and a new cartridge, I set out on a mission to make these albums sound as good as they obviously can, but on my turntable. A new cart, weeks of setup and break in time, I was rewarded for my effort. Starting with LZ I, I dropped the tonearm and listened. FOUR replays of both sides later, I had to force myself to move to the next album and then the next. I have never heard clarity, depth, punch, spaciousness, and life I was hearing. I played the albums over and over, scarcely believing in what I was hearing. Incredible. I am so fortunate I did not sell these albums along and pick up some of those Hot Stampers instead. Whats amazing is how quiet these albums are how flat. I could easily hear the tape hiss, the texture of analog tape in quiet portions just before the track kicked in. Robert Plant's voice was clear among a sea of music around it, the air and spit discernible. Speaking of the tape, you really do hear what being there in 68 would have been like, what these tapes sound like 5 decades later. A very strong argument for analog tape and LP playback, you get the sense of being there, the band all around you. Where the music overdrives the levels to the tape, you get that gentle compression only tape has.

    Bernie Grundman chose to use a Studer A-80 with special playback heads coupled to an all tube cutting chain. We have to remember, in '69, multi track was typically no more than 4 tracks, once they were full, your 'bounced them down', opening up one or 2 tracks to overdub on again, repeating over and over till the sound was what you wanted. It's nothing short of amazing any of the early recordings sound as good as they do today, which is generally better than anything being recorded today. You get a sense of the space around the players and their instruments. John Paul Jones melodic accompaniment and lead in on 'Your Time Is Gonna Come' sends chills all over my body. John Bonham's drum strikes and cow bell starting off 'Good Times, Bad Times' gives the listener a taste of the goodness her or she is about to experience. 'Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You' is another of those moments when you just know you are hearing something special, the emotion in the music and Plants voice is haunting. Staple Blues numbers such as ' I Can't Quit You Baby' or 'Dazed and Confused' are simply amazing to hear. This is an album that demands to be cranked up loud. One of my personal favorite songs on this album is 'Black Mountain Side', Tabla and guitar work is hauntingly beautiful, delicate, thick and liquidly with gooey analog goodness. An amazing though short song which ends too soon for the listener segueing into machine gun electric guitar opening 'Communication Breakdown'.

    Though a fairly short album, it checks all boxes any Zep listener is looking to hear on their Freshman effort, giving you a taste of a band who will define rock and roll in the 1970s and beyond. One has to wonder what would have become of them had we not tragically lost John Bonham so soon? As to the rest of the Classic records Quiex SV-P 200 Gram Led Zeppelin releases, you will have to stay tuned. Or better yet, go out and find one yourself. I'd start with this album and move forward in order, the way they are meant to be heard and played. As for me, I'm glad I didn't sell or throw these albums away. I made a huge mistake initially rating these records as all bad, not worth a look. Believe me when I say, they are worth a second look, and long listen. Make sure your rig is up to the challenge first.

    Prices are going up and up for these releases, expect to spend several thousand dollars or more to buy them still sealed. Or you could go for broke and buy the Classic Records Clarity Series LZ road case, each album broken down and pressed on 12" single sides played at 45RPM, 4 -single sided cuts make up each 12" LP. Look it up if you aren't familiar with the Clarity 45 RPM Road Case box set. Initially selling for 750$, these editions today price upwards to 10K$ where available. Average asking prices I have seen are around 4K$. Finding one with all the releases still sealed tend to cost more. I'm only sorry I didn't buy a set or 2 when first available . Back then, I thought 750$ was ridiculous. Now I'm kicking myself in the ASS. As all of the Classic Records Zeppelin releases are 10 years out of print, prices increase as they age. New still sealed copies online can be found, but the prices can be steep, depending on how popular each title is.
    Juggsnelson, hi_watt, wwright and 2 others like this.
  2. stax o' wax

    stax o' wax Forum Resident

    The West
    I count myself fortunate that I bought the entire Zep catalog on Classic Records while they were being released.
    Genesis and The Who as well.
    They have brought me a lot of musical enjoyment.
    Ere and hi_watt like this.
  3. The Trinity

    The Trinity Do what thou wilt, so mote be it.

    They are amazing. I agree. I have all of them in multiples - a play copy of each and a sealed copy of each. They are a treasure and presently under appreciated due to the newer remasters. Now is a decent time to try and grab them as prices won’t like be going lower. Glad you finally found your way to wisdom.
    wwright likes this.
  4. ssmith3046

    ssmith3046 Forum Resident

    Arizona desert
    I always liked them. Some people don't.
  5. levimax

    levimax Forum Resident

    Did the adjustments you made to your turn table only improve the sound of the classic records or does the original vinyl also sound better? If so which do you prefer after the adjustments?
  6. Macman007

    Macman007 Sitting mId-way between 2 very large speakers Thread Starter

    Proper adjustments were helpful across the board with all vinyl I play, but especially albums cut like these are. The average turntable was what originals had to play on without issue, which meant that the cutting engineer was limited in how the record compared to the tape. The average turntable back then was not up to the challenge, so compromises had to be made when cutting . Today all of that has changed and even entry level turntables today are better than the average Joe's table was in 1969... That said, these albums to me sound like they are cut hotter with far more dynamics than the originals were, so in order to prevent mistracking and distortion, you need to pay closer attention to your set up. Also consider that the band wanted the sound to be rough, aggressive, over the top. The second album took their mantra and pushed the recordings even harder.

    The most audible difference between these LP's and better original presses in my ears is like a thick layer of wet wool blanket has been removed from the recordings. Much more attention was paid transferring their transfer to vinyl, EQ settings sound much more optimal, always paying close attention to the signal the lathe is being fed and how well it cuts each album. Mainstream releases never get this level of attention during production, it is simply not cost effective. Pressers and stampers wear out, sound quality degrades as they wear. These releases are far cleaner and clearer than any of the original pressings I own. I imagine less than 5000 copies were allowed before the stampers were replaced, and the total number of each album pressed was low.

    I compared this to my previous best copy, a very clean like new condition George Piros 70's reissue, and it wasn't even close. The Classic Records pressing sounds brand new and fresh and clean in every area, as if you had the band in the room or their album 2 track masters. Certainly this is closer to the analog tapes than any pressing or reissue I've heard in 50 years and I'm not even kidding. Once you hear this album as it is intended it becomes an game changer.

    At least it was to me, YMMV.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
    wwright likes this.
  7. marcb

    marcb Senior Member

    DC area
    The Classic LZ's are mostly pretty good. A few aren't particularly good, IMO. None are my favorites.

    I don't understand how they could sound so terrible on a number of different turntables and then, voila, they suddenly sound like sonic nirvana. Did you listen to nothing else on these other rigs?
  8. Macman007

    Macman007 Sitting mId-way between 2 very large speakers Thread Starter

    Yes, I listened to albums I own, the dozen or so I brought with me. The reason for the difference is pretty simple, I thought I had my VTA was optimal and it was not. I followed the mantra so many of us follow, set the height till the arm and cart are level, then increase the VTA until things sound best. And other albums sounded good to me, except these pressings along with others, as happens. When examining the stylus, how it was riding the groove, its angle and how it was inserted in the cantilever, it was obvious the tail end arm was set far too low, especially for these thick pressings. It never occurred to me that the stylus rake should be measured, that there was a quantifiable angle that all lathes cut at and the best playback sound is when the stylus is set to that angle. I was taught less stylus pressure is better, set the VTF on the low end of the range, not the high end as we are taught today. For years I stuck with carts that tracked under 1.5grams max. I changed to using heavier carts and appropriate carts matching the compliance of the arms I have. Using a periphery ring and weighted spindle clamp, coupling the album to the platter makes a difference. How well isolated the turntable is from the room and sound, all of these things together and correct are what I found to be reason why these albums now sound far and away better than before.

    It follows that albums across the board must sound better for the improvements and changes made, and they do. Making sure you have everything set right, keeping an open mind to learning new things, conceding that I don't know everything about vinyl, and how the industry are learning more every day a century after vinyl was invented led me to where I am. It so happens, these albums for me at least represent the largest difference in sound quality from before I made changes. In my case, I considered these titles unplayable, well unenjoyable anyhow. That has changed and I'm happy for it. If this thread helps others who may have the same issues with the Zep albums as I had, or other similarly made titles from Classic Records, then it was worth it.

    Simply put, I'm sharing what I've recently learned, paying it forward to to others if you will.
    Tombby, wwright and stax o' wax like this.
  9. Myke

    Myke Trying Not To Spook The Horse

    I got all of the 200g 33.3 with the exceptions of II ( have a VG+ 'RL,' and an MFSL for it ), and Houses Of The Holy ( another 'RL,' I bought back in the 70s).
    My love for them began when I heard III, and I was transcended like I'd never been, since 1970.
    Nostalgist and ssmith3046 like this.
  10. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    I have the Road Case. It is not on Clarity Vinyl. It's pressed on Quiex vinyl. Clarity is a white translucent vinyl. The Road Case is all black vinyl. I don't doubt one exists. Michael Hobson could have easily had one pressed and kept it for his collection. This is the kind of the thing he actually did. He kept test pressings and production runs of everything. But any sold in the retail market were Quiex. There were no 2nd pressings of the Road Case issued. I'm pretty sure all the pre-orders were not filled as Led Zeppelin halted the sales because the 45 rpm releases weren't fully authorized.
    hi_watt likes this.
  11. Macman007

    Macman007 Sitting mId-way between 2 very large speakers Thread Starter

    There are box sets of at least some of the individual albums on Clarity vinyl, 4 45 RPM albums replaced a single album, each pressed on one side only. I've seen them online but not in person and enough of them to believe they were not one offs, though you are correct, there are rare test pressings and other treats that exist. It's a shame the plug was pulled before more Clarity sets were pressed or complete Road Cases were available for resale. Through research and first hand conversation I am convinced that unless you know someone with access to the 2 track master tapes, that these were the best and closest to the masters anyone has gotten.

    Generally considered loud meaningless rock music by many, these pressings reveal the subtle genius behind the band. I can only imagine how good the tapes sound in person. I own several 2 track machines some with Flux Magnetics heads. Thru personal observation and interaction I know of no better way to hear any analog tape based material at home or in a studio. I'd be happy with 4th generation 15 ips copies from any Zep title or favorite titles. It's a shame I own the machines and gear but cannot get a hold of these and other titles on tape. Digital copies are far easier to pirate than tape, since copying doesn't have to be done in real time, but in under 5 minutes per album, and the hardware is cheap.

    Unfortunately, 2 track tapes being sold today are mostly esoteric titles the average man has no interest in hearing or buying, especially at 4-500$ per title. Perhaps this will change in the not-so-distant future..
  12. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    Those Clarity box sets are from Hobson's collection. He's been selling off his collection. He kept at least 5 copies of everything. No doubt he's keeping a copy for himself.
  13. Macman007

    Macman007 Sitting mId-way between 2 very large speakers Thread Starter

    No doubt were I in my position I would do the same. Then again, I know I would have had 1 0r 2 - 1" 2 track Studers running concurrent to the 2 track masters while being transferred before EQ'ing and new Father(s) were cut for the Classic's various offerings...:pineapple: If the master tapes were encoded in Dolby A as I have heard they are, the calibration tones should be on each tape so calibration and Dolby setup would be a E-Z. Not that I would ever bootleg something I was entrusted with, the odd cassette copies for the car, and a safety backup of each.

    I don't understand why Jimmy Page is so adamant regarding any triple A transfer projects to vinyl. You would want to back up to Hi Res, make it easy to sell and transfer on I Tunes and the other Lossless or Lossy formats, while preserving the highest rate lossless copies just in case. I get That. While there, why not have a bank 0f 6 to 12 Studers, ATR's, Otari's / whatever your choice, running, 6 -12 next gen copies of each title, one pass. Take them, do the analog transfers with tube gear and issue the AAA 33 1/3 and 45 RPM sets everyone is still obviously jonesing for. There is money to be made, people willing to spend whatever amount. I'm not knocking the current reissues Jimmy just completed, from what I've heard with my ears, they sound pretty good, but like a CD on vinyl. Clean and clear isn't always best, nothing for nothing ,I'm sure Jimmy's hearing isn't what it was before turning 70 or even 60. Sit in, supervise, work with Steve or Kevin or Bernie, whoever, get the thing done the right way.

    Contrary to popular speculation circulating wildly some time back, the tapes seem to have been in great shape the last go-round what 15 years back. I can't imagine the new transfers used the best available digital copy for each album. Get the thing done while the tapes are still in good shape. Meanwhile, I'll make my Santa list, practice being nice not naughty and hope for another analog box set to come out. I've already taken the 200 gram albums and begun transferring them to 2 track 1/2" tape @ 7 1/2 ips. Perhaps I'll pick up a couple of the new reissues then copy those to tape, see how they sound. The 200 gram versions have no surface noise, especially after they are coupled to the platter with a spindle weight and periphery clamp. I can only imagine how good the one sided 200 gram copies sound, being able to let the lathe run much hotter has to make a huge difference in the overall sound. Perhaps they nearly indistinguishable from the tapes? That's what I want, if I can't have the tapes,..in the all-analog realm if anyone is listening.

    Hats off to Glyn Johns and the production team in '69. These are the folks that made sure everything coming from the band was captured for posterity and sounding it's best. You have to wonder, did these people know what a significant contribution they were making to rock music over the next 50 years and beyond?

    These are the kinds of things I ponder while I listen to something really done right, while grooving and smiling ear to ear. Gets you up out of your seat when it sounds right. And Bonzo's (1/8ths and 16ths) work on the double bass pedals is AMAZING to hear clearly.
  14. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    KC Chiefs Kingdom
    You might want to consider selling it:

    Road Case for $10,000 on Acoustic Sounds

    Tommyboy likes this.
  15. Macman007

    Macman007 Sitting mId-way between 2 very large speakers Thread Starter

    I'm going to go through all these 200 gram Classic LZ releases from scratch. Should be able to extract the best of what is in the grooves on using my new VPI Avenger TT with the JMW 3D Unipivot tonearm with my rebuilt Blackbird modified. I've got a set of custom matched hand made low capacitance double shielded, directional, single end phono cables to go with the rest of the package. If these albums don't sound their best on this turntable and front end, then I don't know what they will sound great on.

    For reference purposes, I've got all of my 70's US Atlantic pressings I know UK's were better, not at the prices they sell for over here today), most are earlier pressings of each LP,.. as well as all the new deluxe Jimmy Page approved releases made from 2013- to present. All but one of those is still sealed as well, so it look like it'll be an interesting comparison overall.

    I started buying lots of new/sealed vinyl over the last 12 months, knowing this new turntable was coming sometime before 2021 or in early 2021. It's like Christmas morning when you were 8, and this year the wife has some kind of vinyl related surprise she's playing close to the chest. I have no idea what it is, but she's been squirreling money away in secret for whatever since last Christmas. Won't be long now

    Meanwhile, I've got a Beatles box coming tomorrow, something to listen to on the new Avenger combo this weekend as well.

    Weekends were made for vinyl, and an adult substance(s) to along...with it..:unhunh:
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2020
  16. dharmabumstead

    dharmabumstead Forum Resident

    Pacific Northwest
    I finally finished my complete collection of these last year. They’re brilliant. I have all of the recent deluxe remastered box sets as well, but the Classic 200g pressings are far superior and remain my go-to versions.
    Macman007 and wwright like this.
  17. Macman007

    Macman007 Sitting mId-way between 2 very large speakers Thread Starter

    They are well put together, and likely the last time you'll hear an all analog AAA release of these titles. Interesting now, the Classic Records 200 Gram Coda, is selling for like 500$ on Analog Productions website. 15 years ago, Classic was hard pressed to give that album away at 20 times less. Oh how the times have changed, now that the hipsters and Millennials are into vinyl.

    Of course you can still find CODA elsewhere used at a price lower than any of the others. Not much risk of it being played to death the way some of the others would be. Of course, all bets are off if it was played on a Crosley Cruiser...
  18. Macman007

    Macman007 Sitting mId-way between 2 very large speakers Thread Starter

    Of course I did, for nearly 15 years in fact, tons of vinyl. But I suppose the issue is similar to the one Bob Ludwig faced with the original pressing release of Zeppelin II. Perhaps the same issue, cut too hot for the average turntable, and only a high quality perfect setup with the cart set up to the best possible alignment to reduce mistracking and sibilance, which originally I experienced a lot of. When you think about it, they (Bernie Grundman) couldn't have released all dogs, not considering the process with the analog tapes, 20 gram pressings and the prices these were selling for. I think that my rig just wasn't up to the challenge back when, and it frustrated me to the point where I closed my mind and the book on these. Supposedly, the 180 gram pressings were better, but perhaps better means more turntables could track them properly, or they weren't cut as hot.

    It'd be nice to be able to ask Bernie Grundman in person, exactly what is what on these releases? Does he ever post around these parts? Perhaps he can shed some light on things..
  19. Fruff76

    Fruff76 L100 Classic - Fan Club President

    I have the classic zeppelin ll bit haven’t listened to it in a long time. From what I recall, I didn’t really care for it. I have a white label promo of this that sounds incredible, but i should do a head to head sometime and revisit the Classic.
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