by Oliver Amnuayphol
What is going on with audiophile reissue outfit Classic Records these days? Their supply has been very low for almost a year, new reissues are few and far between, and all of the major audiophile vinyl e-tailers--Acoustic Sounds, Music Direct, Elusive Disc, and Soundstage Direct--are declaring Classic titles as "Out of Production--Get 'Em While You Can!" Moreover, Classic's distributors are all over the interwebs reporting that Classic is indeed folding up shop. However, Mike Hobson, head honcho of Classic Records, recently emailed customers denouncing these rumors; instead Hobson states in the email that Classic titles are thin on the ground because they are simply shifting their business focus and will no longer be handling distribution of their wares--that job now belongs to Acoustic Sounds (who apparently also purchased all of Classic's remaining stock). But even well before Hobson announced the distribution change, nearly all Classic titles, via Acoustic Sounds and other e-tailer's websites, have almost doubled in price, while the rarer birds now cost more than 3 - 6 times their original retail price. Ouch.
So then: Why would the big e-tailers suddenly and drastically increase prices on Classic titles--and claim said titles are no longer in production--if their manufacturer is not going out of business? It's unclear how, if indeed Classic is still solvent, a change in their distributorship prompts these events, but that's the story they're sticking with. So now people on various forums are asking questions like "Will Classic press more copies of their current catalog? Do they even still hold the proper licenses to do so? Will there be any new reissues announced? If so, will they be reasonably priced again?" If nay is the answer to all of these questions, then this truly could be your last chance to purchase many of Classic's classic titles--but will audiophile enthusiasts still be eager to buy them? I'm not so sure. As regular readers of ATV have no doubt noticed, I've always been a huge fan of Classic Records from both a music lover's and an audiophile's perspective: They almost always reissue top-notch albums that have been remastered for even more-gooder musically meaningful mojo, earning my unqualified recommendation over their equivalent major label counterparts. And while I'm sure that still holds true, prices on Classic Records vinyls are so high now that I'm no longer buying 'em over regular pressings when I'm out a huntin' fer some licorice pizzas. And apparently other audiophiles are responding the same way, as it looks like many of the Classic titles are still widely available through the various e-tailers mentioned above.
I don't know about you, but for an analog-luvin' working stiff like me, spending $33 per album (or $50 per 45 RPM set) instead of $15-18 for the standard LP was already a significant expense. But now that most 33 1/3 Classic titles are priced anywhere between $50 -$100 (and some 45 RPM titles are over $250!), for some folks I imagine it's a no brainer: buy the standard issue LP for a lot less money, or treat yourself to a Lorry-load of regular pressing LPs for the same price as a single Classic Records 45 RPM deluxe set. For example: I recently picked up an LP and CD bundle of John Coltrane's Blue Train for less than $20 from Amazon; compare that to the 45 RPM Classic Clarity at $150 from Acoustic Sounds, and that's a major savings--the bundle set me back only about 13% of the Classic's cost! And buh-leeve yoo me, there's nothing wrong with the sound. Sure, it probably doesn't sound as good as the single-sided, hand-crafted 45 RPM Clarity pressings, but I don't feel like I'm missing anything or that my experience of the music is diminished in any way. Instead, I'm just diggin' on the music I got, and enjoying the fact that I bucked up lot less scrilla to get it.
So how about it? Anyone else out there finding some fab-tastic vinyls on the cheap? Have you stopped buying Classic pressings because of the price increase? Or maybe found other sources for 'em at the old prices that you'd like to share? Leave a comment, share the knowledge. Power to my record buying peeps!