New vinyl frustration - mastercuts

I recently took my first jump into what I assumed was high quality vinyl with the purchase of a Reference Recordings half speed mastercut (see picture). The two slabs of vinyl cost £65 which I presumed would provide a decent insight into what great classical music, well mastered and well pressed could sound like.

Unfortunately it’s a massive disappointment riddled with continuous pops and an awful low rumble throughout. Even with this “audiophile quality recording” I wasn’t expecting perfection, but the quieter passages are almost unlistenable! A real shame because once things build the recording is amazing - but only whilst the music drowns out the pops and rumble!

I’m running a Lingo4 and Karousel LP12 with Adikt into a Vertere phono amp (on demo). I do get a little more pops to the left channel generally so there might be a slight tracking adjustment required, but I’m now listening to Becks Sea Change and it’s almost silent between tracks.

I use a Project RCM and after a couple of cleans it’s just as bad.

I’ve had some bad normal pressings but really expected better. Is there anything obvious I’m missing, or is this just a rare experience?

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Is your lp new? I have some half speed 45 pm MOFI and they are dead silent. The sound is sublime.
I don’t know these reference recordings, but feel it’s probably a well used copy.
Maybe @Richard.Dane have some experience with reference recordings label?

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Yes unfortunately it is brand new. Will have to go back to the retailer…

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Very strange. I sometimes have that problem with new lps , but fortunately I don’t buy them often.
There is a thread actually on the “ flat vinyl where it is “. Lots of complaints for the new actual vinyls.
But yours is an audiophile vinyl, for the price it should be perfect.

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Yes, i have a number of RR LPs but these were all bought about 20 years or more ago. I have no experience with more recent RR issues or pressings.


Hi Sorry to hear you have had a poor experience with a bad pressing which does happen from time to time. I have found that the reference recordings and half speed masters are just amazing and well worth the investment. I can recommend The Abbey Road studios Half Speed Master’s, I have just received some of the new Bob Marley albums and they are something else compared to the originals, In fact Abbey Road are just about to release on 19 March the Dire Straits Brothers in Arms Half Speed Master 180gm. The Mofi 45 rpm Dire Straits albums are just brilliant. Also if you’re interested the following pressings are well worth it. Analogue Productions make some lovely very high end pressings, like Norah Jones, J.J. Cale & Dave Brubeck Quartet Take Five (Masterpiece this one) and if you can get it Fleetwood mac Rumours on 45rpm 180gm From the Original Analog Master Tapes! Pressed on Audiophile Virgin Vinyl at Pallas Records in Germany. I also give all my new records a good wash before playing to remove any manufacturing debris and most of all to get rid of the static they always seem to have. Good luck next time.

I almost forgot Eric Clapton’s Unplugged album by Reprise Records is just a normal 180gm double album that is just amazing reference recording I use to evaluate new bits of HiFi kit.

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I’m having some issues with many of the Abbey Road Half speed masters. I don’t know why, but it’s almost like there’s a phase issue happening that means the central image is a bit weird. I’m never totally comfortable listening to the latest ones, but I just can’t put my finger on why. It started to appear a few years back with the AR releases. It wasn’t there with the earlier ones. It really hit me with the Police half-speeds. It’s almost like the tape machine used for the half speed playback has a problem. I don’t think it’s the RP10 or the Superline as there’s no such issue with anything else. A weird one. Maybe I’m just very sensitive to phase anomalies.


I found the new Bob Marley Half Speed masters a really new listening experience that took me by complete surprise. I just didn’t realise the technical detail in the musicians playing together and the timing and all the fine details of each instrument in front of you, but in complete all togetherness if that makes sense. I have all the original cds and the remaster cds but they just do not come close to evoking a feeling like these LPs do. I just picked up a new Flesh & Blood half speed master but I have only played it in the back ground so far. I shall have a good listen to see if I can spot any of the phase anomalies.

For me, the Bob Marley h/s reissues are a bit disappointing SQ wise. I bought two - Exodus and Burnin’ - and neither sounded that good, in comparison to earlier pressings I’ve got.

Clean and quiet cuts though. I can’t quite describe what it is about them that’s less satisfying than the older pressings.

(I have given the newer ones to my friend as a thank you for some Neil Young freebies)


I have bought a few of the Bob Marley half speeds and it’s definitely there for me. Compared to my early '80s box set, there’s no phasiness to the central image on the latter.

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They do sound a bit different I must admit, but I found I had to dress back my listening position to allow for the expanded sound stage and depth. Also I found that the more fine focusing I used to bring the I- Threes forward from the back resulted in an even more band playing in your living room type feeling with the whole house coupled to the music at times.

It’s like the image wanders around a bit, but unnaturally so, like the tape is wandering or wrinkling slightly on the replay deck. As I say, I think I’m very sensitive to it and I listen fairly near-field which probably makes it a lot more obvious.

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I have pre ordered the Brothers in arms Half speed master from Abbey Studios so I can compare it with the Mofi 45rpm album I have. It should be an interesting exercise ?

I’ve only bought one ‘Survival’ and have to say I’m pretty happy with it too. BM is one of my favourite artists and as well as the original 70’s & 80’s releases I enjoy collecting later reissues.

On the subject of the other Half speeds I own I sold the Marvin Gaye - What’s Going On 3LP Box setwsxas it was unlistenable and the other Amy Winehouse - Back to Black sat on my shelf unplayed as it too sounded a bit dodgy until I got my Audio Technica SLC stylus which can extract a better sound from it but on the whole I’n not a massive fan of the Abbey Rd Half Speedw

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Here a selection by Stereophile of their best 40 classical lps , for music and quality of the sound.


Survival is a great album especially the horns they sound brilliant. I also can recommend Kaya Time will tell is very magical mesmerising song. I also have a Audio technica stylus 760 SLC on a P8 that is very detailed that does not overlook any slight flaws in a pressing, which can be a little time consuming sending the record back for a replacement. Only the very best will do if you are paying top dollar for records.

Happy listening

Thanks for all the suggestions, you’ve just cost me £150 in early morning online shopping :rofl:


I love Kaya too it is supposedly leftovers from the Exodus recording sessions the 40th anniversary remaster by his son his very good.

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I found this description of part of the half speed mastering process by Miles Showell of Abbey Road studios (from What HiFi). Interesting that it goes from original tape via digital, which aids the correction process, before back to analogue for cutting. Also some mention of the low frequency limitation when done originally the analogue way.

And when we travelled to Abbey Road Studios to listen to Showell’s recent work, remastering four of Brian Eno’s solo records at half speed, we understood it was all worth his efforts. Here, he explains the whole process and how he helped it start again

The Eno job is a good example, because I was given access to the original tapes – a couple of originals are missing, but mostly I had the masters. It’s getting increasingly difficult to get hold of original tapes now, because people are aware that continually playing old analogue tape is a bad idea because it starts to wear away.

I have a fantastic Ampex tape machine, which just sounds gorgeous – I’ve got custom heads for it, which make it sound even better – so I was able to do a really nice transfer. I captured it at [hi-res] digital, 192-kHz/24-bit and, from there, did any repairs that needed doing. With clicks and extraneous noises, I had to do some de-essing to soften the ‘S’ sounds of the vocals to avoid sibilance on the pressings.

When I did the transfer, I was only thinking of records: there’s no excessive limiting or extreme compression, which you might do for a CD release to make it sound loud. No need for that on records – full level digital is too loud to cut as is, anyway, so it’s completely pointless to add further compression and further limiting to only bring it down even more.

The beauty of doing a high-resolution digital transfer is you can go in and micromanage the audio. One of these tapes had been played on a faulty machine that actually damaged it and left clicks all over it, so I went in and took out all the problems that had been created, which you couldn’t do cutting live from the tape. The only way you can fix that is digitally, and it’s next to invisible mending.

Once I was happy with the files, I started with the cuts. I have a recently restored and customised Neumann lathe in the room, which is absolutely beautiful – the best I’ve used – and I have a customised RIAA amplifier and filter.

If you’re cutting everything at half speed, you’re playing the source at half speed and running the lathe at half speed, then the frequencies and the filter are in the wrong place: you need a special one to do half-speed cutting.

When you’re doing a half-speed cut, you can’t hear what’s going down because it’s all slow and just sounds awful. So we insist that every client has an acetate. I’ll sit down and listen to it end-to-end on a domestic deck to make sure it sounds okay – there’s no point playing it on high-end [turntable], or even on the lathe pickup, because it doesn’t represent the real world.

From there it goes off to the client, and if they’re happy I’ll cut the masters. In this case, they got shipped off to the Optimal plant in Germany, probably one of the two very best plants in the world, so I was delighted when it went there. Six-to-eight weeks later I get test pressings back.

You do all the prep work first. I’ll go through and spend hours just checking things; I have to de-ess before I cut at half speed because the limiters don’t work. They’re looking for two things: listening for a specific frequency band, which obviously is not there any more; and also any acceleration, sudden fast transients it thinks are a bit sharp.

Because you’re going so slow it shouldn’t have any sharp edges. So any vocal you think might cause distortion with your sharp, bright ‘S’ sound, I’ll have to pre-treat that. But in a way it’s good, because I can use a specific digital tool which will allow me to just find the ‘S’.

Anything around it – any bright guitar or snare-drum hit or tambourine – is totally untouched, I’m just working on the vocal that’s going to cause a problem.

Then it’s just a purely mechanical job to cut it at half speed, which is pretty dreadful to listen to when you’re in the room. I’ve had 12-hour days where it’s just non-stop and you walk out of here going stir crazy – but when you get the records back and they just sound so open and so fresh, it really was worth doing.

All the hard work is done prior to the cut. Then I’m just checking that the lathe is working okay and the swarf, which is the waste product that’s being cut out of the disc, is going up the vacuum pipe alright and nothing looks untoward. Once I’ve finished, I can look under the microscope and check the groove is all fine.

The problem we had with some of the earlier ones, in the 70s, was people would be doing it live from tape, which sounds lovely but they have a bit of a roll-off on the bass end, from 30Hz downwards, which is just a factor of the machine.

Obviously at half speed that suddenly becomes 60Hz, so you ended up with these really clean, bright records with not much bass. The advantage of my method is that we have all of the bass and all of the top end, and everything just sounds nicer. Because nothing’s getting pushed to its limits everything sounds so much more real

(To me a question is are these remastered digital versions sold as HiRes, avoiding the vinyl step - and if so is the tweaking such as dealing with the ‘S’ sounds that cause problems with vinyl also beneficial In digital replay, or a negative effect compared to tge original recorded sound?)

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What about compared to the original LP pressings?

I would expect any half decent vinyl pressing cut from a high res digital file, which the Abbey Rd masters are, to beat a standard CD. The real reference imo is how they stand up against an original LP.