U.K. pressed Deutsche Grammophon LP's...

I just picked up several LP's at a local shop including two Deutsche Grammophon's. I was surprised to see that both of the DG's were pressed in the U.K. I had never seen or heard of U.K.-made DG's before. I'm just curious, how do these compare to the same records pressed in Germany? Same/different? Better/worse? Tks.

I have some of these, the pressing quality ist inferior to the German stuff, so is the art work/cover. Some UK DG's where done in Holland at Philips. You can see this by a 'ring ridge' on the lable, typical for Philips plant pressings. DECCA had a lot of work done there in the late 1970? The Philips pressed stuff is better (judging by what I've seen)but still NOT on par with German pressed stuff. DG also pressed in South Africa and that stuff is plain awful.
I would generally agree with Axelwal: the UK-pressed DGs are inferior to the German ones (sound less full and detailed, higher incidence of pressing faults). I think, however, that if you go back as far as the beginning of the 1970s, the UK pressings were sometimes up to the level of the German ones. I have a box from the 1970 Beethoven Edition (Volume 7 - violin sonatas, cello sonatas): the records are UK-pressed, they are quiet and have very good (valve-like) sound. I have second copies of a few of these records: these are later German pressings and the sound, though perhaps a little more immediate, is not significantly better.
Whatever the quality of the final product, it seems that the UK records were pressed with DG metal stampers sent from Germany. So any differences are presumably to be attributed to the quality of the vinyl, the degree of care exercised in the pressing process and the length of the pressing run using the same stamper (more on this below).
Interestingly, the 1970 Beethoven Edition came out in the UK with the tulip label, while the continental pressings (issued at the same time) had the later DG label.
Apparently not all non-German pressings of DG material are to be despised. I was in a record shop in Athens (of all places)some months ago and they had a special bin dedicated to French-pressed DGs. I quizzed them about this and they said that in their opinion these have the best sound of all. Why? More limited pressing runs (in Germany DG was pressing for the extensive home market and also for many foreign markets). I do not have a sufficient number of these records to make any comparison, but I suspect that the difference (if it exists in a significant number of cases) will not be great.
What I would like to know is why - irrespective of where they were pressed - DG records so frequently have poor or very mediocre sound (it is well known for instance that the Amadeus Quartet, despite being DG’s premier string quartet throughout the stereo period, was hardly ever given anything more than mediocre sound) . Was ‘conservative’ mastering to blame? One might think this, given that some DG record sides (those with short programme content - say 10 -12 minutes) have very wide ‘dead wax’ areas, i.e. the music grooves are bunched together in the first centimeters of the disk, suggesting that nobody in the disc-cutting team had thought of spreading the grooves out and thus realising a more powerful cut. But in fact it may be wrong to blame the cutting engineers; the problem may well have been with master tapes themselves. When (a few years ago) the Drolc Quartet recordings of the Reger quartets were reissued on CD, the reviewer in Classical Record Collector made a point of commenting on the mediocre sound. Presumably DG had gone back to the original masters!
Hi Pgtaylor,

a very nice contribution, thank you for sharing it. There is on 'take' regarding your 'dead wax' question:
it was done FULLY on purpose to avoid ------- INNER GROOVE DISTORTION!

As to the general DG quality, as I have most of my vinyl second hand German DG (can't speak for French, never seen one ever). DG even had stuff pressed in in old Rodesia (South and North) Zambia and Zimbabwe. Alas not any better then the South African junk (sorry to say).

The pretty early (stereo) DG was WELL below DECCA and RCA quality. But as DECCA shipped there stuff out to Holland (Philips) it seems DG got their act together. Good example are late 1970 to early 1980 Berlin Philharmnonic (Karajan etc.) recordings, which are very detailed (too much?) with beautiful tone-colours and very impressive hall information.
Still not quite as good as most of the 2000 series SXLs and RCA Plum- Shaded- White Dog stuff - but as close as it gets and CERTAINLY better than most of the later 6000 series SXLs.
Hello Axel,
Here are some observations of mine on your interesting reply. They are offered in a spirit of friendly exchange!
Despite what you say, among the earliest DG stereo records (I am talking about the 136 & 138 series) there are some formidable recordings. A couple that spring to mind: 138054 (from 1959!) - Ravel & Mozart trios with the Trio di Trieste (compare this with many of the later Trio di Trieste recordings, mostly pale efforts by comparison); 138692 (from 1961) - BPO/Karajan Liszt Mazeppa & Hungarian Rhapsodies). These are pretty much up to the level of the best of the Decca SXL2000 series (in my opinion), and are practically as good as anything DG ever produced.
Regarding your idea that DGs get better as time goes on, I am afraid that I can’t really agree. Of course there are some successes (I haven’t heard the 1970s Karajan Beethoven symphonies that you mention) but in my experience the general level of DG recordings - symphonic, opera, chamber - is mediocre. How - for example - they could engage such a fine pianist as Wilhelm Kempff (for a complete Beethoven sonata cycle!) and then not bother to give him decent sound, I simply cannot understand. The same goes for the trio Kempff, Fournier & Szeryng (for the complete Beethoven piano trios). With purely vocal recordings (lied), things are in general a bit better: Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings of Schubert, Schumann, Wolf etc (with Moore, Barenboim or Demus) are generally quite vivid. Some (few!) later DGs that have stuck in my mind as having rich, Decca-like sound: 139181 BPO/Kubelik Dvorak Symphony 8, 2530781 VPO/Böhm Strauss Ein Heldenleben, 139450 Melos Quartet Bartok, Kodaly, Weiner.
Regarding the Decca SXL 2000 series (of which I am lucky enough to have a considerable number), once again I can’t really agree with the idea that these collectively represent the peak of Decca’s achievement. There are of course many great recordings (my own favourites are probably SXL 2189 LSO/Britten Nocturne & Four Sea Interludes and SXL 2188 SRO/Ansermet Stravinsky Pulcinella & Song of the Nightingale), but there are also others with pretty obvious defects (the most common being wiry high frequencies, as noted by Robert Moon in his book on the corresponding London CS series - try the violins on SXL 2098 VPO/Krips Haydn Symphony 94 & 99 for instance). And there are some that are downright poor: a couple of examples might be SXL 2064/65 VPO/Kubelik Smetana Ma Vlast, and SXL 2278 Curzon/Vienna Philharmonic Quartet Frank Piano Quintet (or is it just my copy??).
For me the quintessence of Decca sound comes a bit later, with some of the earlier SXL 6000 series. Take, for instance, SXL 6208 Vienna Octet - Britten Sinfonietta & Hindemith Octet. This is simply as good a recording of a small chamber group as one could reasonably ask for (with no tizzy higher strings or obvious defects). Other fine examples: SXL 6196 Weller Quartet Shostakovich Quartet 10 & Berg Quartet, SXL 6390 LAPO/Mehta Schoenberg Chamber Symphony & Variations for Orchestra (Op. 31).
Of course the question is to some extent an academic one, in that the transition from SXL 2000 series to SXL 6000 series does not appear to have coincided with any significant change in recording or mastering techniques. For Decca it was just a way of simplifying the catalogue numbering: by starting again from zero, they were able to use the same catalogue number for the stereo version (SXL) and the mono (LXT). Previously the stereo records had followed a completely different numbering from the mono issues.
Later on in the SXL 6000 series maybe there was (as you imply) a small fall-off from the highest level of recording/mastering, but there continue to be fantastic records right up to the end. Listen to the string sound on SXL 6846 LPO/Lopez-Cobos Respighi Antiche danze ed arie, or the huge (but lucid) orchestral sound on SXL 6802 LPO/Solti Bartok Violin Concerto 2 (Chung). Another fantastic recording is SXL 6956 LAPO/Lopez-Cobos Rimsky Korsakov, Chabrier & Falla (compare with the original ‘Espana’). As a general rule, Decca records - whether from earlier or later in the SXL series (the same applies to Argo) - excite higher expectations (from me) than DGs.
Interestingly, my copy of the Respighi record is a Dutch pressing (published 1980, maybe too late for any UK pressed copies to exist). And this positive outcome of Decca recording, UK mastering & Dutch pressing is not an exception (in my experience): in fact I have a Dutch pressing of another famous Ansermet/SRO record from the beginning of the SXL 6000 series. It is SXL 6121 Bartok Dance Suite, Two Portraits & Rumanian Dances. The deadwax codes show that it was pressed with Decca UK stampers (ZAL 6323-1L), but the vinyl is clearly Dutch & the sound is really excellent (I have a much earlier London UK pressing for comparison). Even more surprising, there are excellent Dutch pressings of many other fine SXL records in the ‘London Enterprise’ series from the mid-1980s - many of these are as good as, if not better than, the originals - try (if you can stand the music - I can't) London Enterprise 414 169 -1 VPO/Khachaturian Symphony 2 (= SXL 6001). And I even have a French reissue (Decca Classiques BA-342) of SRO/Ansermet Chausson Symphonie (= SXL 6310). It is a Polygram pressing (& mastering) but it nevertheless has superb sound, with little or no loss of subjective weight.
What all this suggests to me is that the quality of the original recording is the really important factor. The question of where the records were (mastered and) pressed is distinctly secondary. Excellent pressings emerged from Holland, as well as from ‘New Malden’. The ‘first pressing’ obsession of recent years is precisely that. It is always possible for a later mastering/pressing - whether in the same series or in a reissue series - to be inferior but it is also possible for it to be superior or to score equal honours with the original.
Best wishes,
Hi Peter,
let’s see...
>>> How - for example - they could engage such a fine pianist as Wilhelm Kempff (for a complete Beethoven sonata cycle!) and then not bother to give him decent sound, I simply cannot understand <<<

Actually me neither! It is deeply disappointing in deed.
However, that stuff counts into 'my' EARLY period, and much of what I had said hinges around some of these.

Also, thank you very much for all your great detail. I have printed it out and will make it my study, and later on comment where applicable.

Now a bit on the DECCAs vs DG. You see, quite a few 'wide silver bands' I have, are Made in South Africa and consistently not a match to a UK pressing of same, and neither to a decent DG. So I have to make allowances and not declare some skewed opinion.

But then, one example SXL 6002 you have not mentioned it, Adam: Giselle, Karajan and Vienna Philharmonic would ABSOLUTELY support your experience with the early 6000 series, it is beautiful (alas mine just a bit noisy) --- BUT behold, those are STILL wide silver bands! You can see on the label when they started to rationalise more and more, -- and not just with the label it seems.

Peer Gynt with O. Fjeldstad SXL wide silver band is such a PRIME example. These can sell (UK pressing in good nick) for 1000$ and more! So, my SA pressing only gives me some idea why that should be.

Now look at the DG, CLEAN vinyl (some a bit soft...) pretty well finished for that period, alas the recording of these newer ones tends to be a bit 'stringy', sinuous.
But yet with a well resolving system the, Berlin Philharmonic Hall makes most always for great ambience, and Karajan not going too slow as yet, has the most delicate sound colours.

I have only very limited access to a large variety of second hand (there is very little new of all this) and so, as always, I can only comment on my personal collection. Went through 1000s of classics but most didn’t survive. What passed the filter is ~ 700 – 800 records max. I have a hard time to keep those clean and listening to as it is.

I do clean them with my Hannl MERA, which is doing a great job and plenty of them need repeat cleaning until found fit for the keeping.

You also mention Argo. Well, the ones I found this far didn’t make it. My impression is they are a bit like Angel --- some really nice but VERY variable. DG might not always be tops – BUT I think they are pretty consistent (the Made in Germany stuff).

Now, Bartok, Khachaturian, and I’m looking in vain for your mentioning Stravinsky, but never mind Schoenberg. These are pretty less distributed composers and I do hardly get any ever. In fact, just to get a good Respihgi of his Fountains and Pines of Rome is nigh impossible (I’m still looking, and not for Muench with the Bostons either)

I do get lucky once in a while and got Chabrier on that famous London pressing, and Falla SXL’s but it’s neither my main listening taste nor is their much second hand about.

That Chabrier CS 6438 with Ansermet (one of my favourite conductors) in considered by some as ‘Listening for the Gods’! I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a prime example of excellent recording craft.

Now to the vinyl:
>>> The question of where the records were (mastered and) pressed is distinctly secondary. <<<
I wish I could agree, but a CAN NOT! It does depend where you are living I guess. But ANY 3rd-word pressings from USSR, SA, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Zambia, et al are just BAD QUALITY.
I have never (repeat never) as yet found even a DG pressed in SA that is acceptable, never.
Sorry, but they are rubbish. The East-Block stuff is a bit better, funny enough some recordings are surprisingly good, the pressings are not to my standard, they were shoddy, the lot of them, and just by degree some a bit better.
In closing you mention “first pressing” yeah, well I could add some of mine, like if the template is ‘run-in’ it gets even better and such. My point, I can’t get any, other than by some major 'accident', and I’m not crazy or well healed enough to consider fishing for such, and paying big sums of money for them.

So, I will now go on an study some of your other detail, and as I find food for comment will let you know.
Thank you for sharing,
just listening to David & Igor Oistrach doing;
A side, Max Bruch: Konzert fuer Violine & Orchter Nr.1 g-moll op. 26
B side, Ludwig van Beethoven: Romanzen fuer Violine & Orchter Nr. 1 G-dur op.40 Nr.2 F-dur op.50
Now this would be an example of what you had mentioned about the early DG, as in fact it was DGG then (Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft) the last G... got dropped some where in the very late 70s or very early 80s, you might have the detail.
This is a very beautiful rendition (I'm not a classically trained person, but I have ears..) and the two father and (I guess) son are on the cover. This record is a MUST, I say.
Number: STEREO 135039

Whilst I'm talking... I was curious about what cartridge tonearm combination you use, may I know?

In fact if you mentioned some very nice Moving Magnet Cart. I not even be surprised at all.
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The best DG vinyl was pressed in Japan by Nippon Grammophon, and later by Polydor KK. They do not have have that bright edge sound some of the German pressings have and are even quieter than the German pressings.

And if you like the UK pressed EMI ASD vinyl, try the Toshiba-EMI pressed versions of same recording. Sonically super close, but Toshiba pressings are quieter than UK pressings of same title.