I asked a Taiwan Hi-Fi dealer I met recently to comment on the second-hand, original Chinese pressing LP scene back home. He replied in Chinese “已經失控” (already out of control). Indeed, this never before phenomenally high demand meeting very limited supply created market havoc. While this is certainly a boon to LP sellers who have kept plenty of old stock, LP late-comers could get heart attack.
At the going rate, unless one has deep pockets or couldn’t care less about price or value, most would turn to new reissues only. Reissue is not a dirty word and when done well, it helps to cool the market for originals too and brings some saneness back. However, the opposite is true for inferior reissues.
Looking at the fast and furious reissue releases lately, the reissue LP companies are doing brisk business, pitching the “here today, gone tomorrow” or “you better not miss it this time” mind-set of audiophiles. Nowadays, you could get up to 4 versions of the same reissue title in a span of months. First is the limited prints with serial numbers, next on the calendar is a batch without serial numbers (may not sound as good), then comes the limited box set in picture disc. If you’re not dead and dry yet, the piper’s last wave in 45rpm double LP, should do you.
Putting price and collectability aside, it all boils down to sound quality isn’t? Given the undisclosed source of the masters, there is really no telling until someone takes the plunge first and tell you about it. The pressure is always to grab it first, worry about not seizing an early copy rather than catching a booby prize – you know those that sound so digitized that you wouldn’t listen a second time.
It’s rather woeful that we couldn’t expect better sound reproduction (other than the beautiful package) even though they don’t come cheap. Unlike English reissue titles especially classic Jazz, where the new dog could beat the old, the chance is really slim in Chinese reissues. It has come to a point that as long as they are half decent, not too bad, the buying community would bite.
Perhaps, we need folks like Kevin Gray or Chad Kassem to do the job. Or perhaps there isn’t any original analogue masters to begin with? (note: there are plenty of examples of excellent sounding digital recordings, so no blame here). Or is it because we let these trashy reissues go “unpunished” and our continual support means more of the same to come? I have had this exact conversation with an LP customer and his reply was “if I don’t buy reissues, what else to buy?”
The demand for Chinese LPs is not expected to cool off anytime soon. This hungry and lucrative market certainly could accommodate more and better players. Here’s wishing for some good fortune (telling) and be dealt a good hand.