"A Hard Day's Night" Plating Mystery Solved!

I just got off the phone with Record Technology Incorporated's owner Don MacInnis regarding the stamped lacquer used to press A Hard Day's Night and only that album.

MacInnis says RTI was sent five lacquers to plate during the early days of this production. He was unaware that any of the metal parts RTI produced were used in the actual production at Rainbo until he read it here on Analogplanet. He then inspected his copy of AHDN and found that yes, side one of his copy was pressed from metal parts RTI had produced! But his side two was not.

He also explained the codes: 18716 refers to the lacquer number in the order in which they are received by the factory. When it first opened many years ago, that number was 1. AHDN side 1 is lacquer number 18,716. The .1 after the number refers to side 1. Side two has 18716.2. The (3) in parenthesis means it was a three step processed record (plated lacquer [1], plated father [2], plated stamper [3].

So, he surmises that all five sets of metal parts produced at RTI ended up at Rainbo and may or may not have been used in the final production.

Perhaps some of you can find stamped not scribed numbers on some of your Beatles LPs. Let us know.

If you look carefully on the Rainbo plated LPs, you can see a tiny 'm' and a number and a tiny 's' and a number. I figure the 'm' is mother number and the 's' is stamper number.

So three questions arise: why did RTI, with its state of the art plating facility, not plate the entire set? How many of the five sets of RTI stampers ended up being put into production and most importantly does the fact that RTI plated A Hard Day's Night have anything to do with the fact that it was by far the best sounding record in the box that I've played so far? Remember: I noted the superior sound before I went looking for clues in the lead-out groove area.

And finally this: I don't think any other review site came up with this information. That is why we are Analog PLANET and the other sites are not!!!!!!!!

tbromgard's picture

Excellent detective work. Thanks for digging into this. Keep up the good work!

Barr Plexico's picture

As always grateful for these reviews and follow ons. I purchased the US pressings of Sgt Pepper, Past Masters and Revolver and am very happy with them. Went for the EU pressing of Abbey Road which does not have the distortions in the cymbals present on "Come  Together" which I found in the US pressing. Also purchased an EU version of A Hard Days Night which has not yet arrived.


Jim Tavegia's picture

That was never in doubt. 

UncleHalsey's picture

Sometimes you have to dig into the deadwax for the truth. Should I buy a US pressing of AHDN for hopes that one side is a RTI plating? Egads! US pressing execution = a hodgepodge!

suteetat's picture

Mine came with RTI stamps 18716.1(3) on side 1  and 18716.2(3)..(2) on side 2.I wonder though if anybody notice any significant difference between RTI and non RTI plate discs/sides?

So far no defective disc in my boxset yet but still have 3-4 to go!

tresaino's picture

Michael will you do a more thorough comparison of the US and European boxsets? 

Alex's picture

AWESOME discovery Michael! 

Now I'm going to check the other LP's blush

StonedBeatles1's picture

To Be or Not To Be? That iS The Question??

SIt Down Father.  Bless You..

marko1's picture

Unfortunately, the copy I got has a skip during Things We Said Today - no good! Will have to check the deadwax numbers.

deepfriedchimichanga's picture

To be honest, I'd much rather hear Michael's reviews on a EU set.  Anyone else feel the same way?

Mazzy's picture

If you weren't so on top of it, you'd only be Analog County and not Analog Planet! 

myheroiscoltrane's picture

Oh, what the hell, let's just go with Analog Universe and call it a day!

mpw's picture

Thanks again Michael for more insight into these Box sets. Analogplanet is the best site for LP's! BTW I am from Boston and grew up during the inception of WBCN where you were a DJ in the early FM radio days. BCN is now gone but Vinyl is not!

Goochified1's picture

I like the information you've given so far (my AHDN is the same pressing you reviewed!), but I'm curious about the insceriptions that are like: |..| and such. What do these things mean?

And I also agree, this discussion begs the question, why are they using so many different pressing and plating plants...

and finally... should I have bought the EU box instead?

This being said, I finally plunked down the money for a MOFI box and it arrives tomorrow!

Jim Tavegia's picture

When complete, this whole story belongs in one big Stereophile Analog Corner, or maybe 2.  This mess of a release deserves a full compilation and comments inside and outside the industry as to how this could happen to such an important project. 

Michael Fremer's picture

Though I plan on a "final summation" once each record has been picked apart...

Bigrasshopper's picture

That's a spended idea.  I think inclusion of a version of Micheals balanced synopsis in print version of Stereophile could be an educational introduction for all those who aren't regular readers of his site, or aren't even vinyl fans, to the positives and negatives of what is currently standard practice in the industry.  The extremes are at such a contrast. 

I like the idea, the idea of creating a more critical look for a wider readership, though it may prove to be a more challenging task to hit the nail on the head without hitting anyone in paticular on the head, given that the magazine is more public in its exposure.  Although that is really a big part of the point, to provide feedback not only to consumers, but to those in the industry on how they are doing.  Certainly there are positives in this story to highlite.

 I think Micheal has shown that readers are not only interested in the ins and outs of gear, but also of the behind the scene motivations of the industry, the people and the gear inolved in reproduction and especially in production.  My own feeling is that regardless of how cumbersome that might prove to be, I think it is an important function of an audio magazine like Stereophile.  If vinyl is going to continue to grow in a way that we all want it to, then some expanded education and feedback has to put out front.  Not just for those who hunt for it.  After all, isn't Micheal aspiring to populate a vinyl friendy planet.  But it's still just a corner of Stereophile.

-Food for thought.


my new username's picture

I often read (and see discussed) about this or that "pressing plant" in the context of where the record was stamped. That is to say, "completely made" after mastering.
But it seems it's more complicated than that. Another example is that outfit with "pressing" in their name that doesn't press records. Dangit I forgot the name. Recent Source-Interlink advertiser.

Here's a plant list updated last month some may find interesting: http://www.totalsonic.net/vinylplants.htm

Yes, the "why" RTI is interesting. But RTI and Rainbo are only 30-40 minutes away from each other so maybe that's a clue. The real question is for Rainbo however. Why'd they use RTI for that and who did they use for the rest?

Michael Fremer's picture

There are a few like this, one being Furnace Mfg. However Furnace does all of its pressing through Pallas in Germany, which is among the finest pressing plants in the world so don't hold that against them. They save money by pressing in Germany and packaging the records in Virginia. They do a very good job.

Another such company is Pirates Press in S.F. They do mostly punk stuff and I'm not sure where they have it pressed but it might be G.Z. in Czech Republic and they are good too!

Michael Fremer's picture

There are a few like this, one being Furnace Mfg. However Furnace does all of its pressing through Pallas in Germany, which is among the finest pressing plants in the world so don't hold that against them. They save money by pressing in Germany and packaging the records in Virginia. They do a very good job.

Another such company is Pirates Press in S.F. They do mostly punk stuff and I'm not sure where they have it pressed but it might be G.Z. in Czech Republic and they are good too!

Martin's picture

in recent years

get so massively screwed up?

TMink's picture

I was married to a woman who worked for a major Nashville record in a top floor position. I got to observe and listen to the other executives for years and learned a few things. None of the people I met had any concerns about how the music sounded. None.

There are exceptions, but the lable she was involved with backed off using chrome tapes for their cassette releases because "it cost too much and nobody cared how they sounded." The upcharge was a penny a tape.

So these folks are selling widgets, plain and simple.

People who are interested in selling wonderful sounding music, with the exception of the guy over at Warner, are typically at boutique lables.


VinylHound50's picture

So true Trey, right on the money. These companies are pounding out widgets as far as they are concerned and are essentially producing for the masses. Unfortunitally, most of those music media buyers of the masses are not particular about sound quality. You would think that anyone who buys vinyl would be doing so because of the superior sound quality to digital and would then be more discerning. IF that were true, most of the new reissues, mastered from digital, and not well in many cases, would not sell like they do.  Companies like Sundazed do a pretty good job and are obv concerned about reissue quality. I own a copy of Sly Stones 'There's A Riot Goin' On" on Sundazed vinyl and have never heard it sound this good, period.

VinylHound50's picture

I wonder how or why the metal parts that RTI uses are better than any other facility that would get the Beatles reissues contract to press them. How do those plates differ? Deeper groove? In any case, I checked my Beatles pressings, bought individually about a week or so after the initial release and they are all hand scribed in the dead wax, no stamped numbers like A Hard Days NIght apparently has because that album was pressed using RTI's plates, and only on one side in some cases..weired. The other side being done by Rainbo. 

I don't have a Hard Days Night yet and have both the stereo and mono box sets. I also have the Mobile Fidelity Abbey Road and wonder if that is in fact the best version ever released. I would assume the first Parlaphone UK reissue version or maybe, in this rare case, the Japanese import from the late 70's. I think it's Toshiba that pressed most of the EMI and Apple albums in Japan. 

Overall, I'm surprised by the sound quality of these reissues considering they are mastered from a digital source. Why didn't they take advantage of using the original master tapes, like they did but keep the whole chain of production analogue. Why convert to digital, albeit with minimal or no compression, eq the bass up a bit in places-tastefully done, but not analogue.

I have all the Beatles reissues from Beatles For Sale to Past Masters except for yellow sub and abbey road. I think they are worth owning but are not the best versions available on vinyl. For those that can't afford the Japanese or better yet, early UK reissues, this is a great alternative. Notice I refer to UK reissues rather than the original pressings. Most of those were played on horendous turntables with conical or spherical stylus that damaged the record more with each play. Those cartridge stylus was merely riding on the shoulders of the groove, not deep in groove. Not to mention the vinyl quality was terrible for mass produced, can't make em fast enough releases like the Beatles. The 1st and 2nd gen  UK and German pressings were and are the best.

The reissues benefit mostly from the bass eq, amp'd up a bit but done tastefully and you can tell by hard core Beatles fans that happen to be remastering engineers. The track, BAby Your'e A Rich Man, with Paul's awesome bass playing and low roll off is very good on the reissues. Mind you, that album, originally co-engineered by Ken Scott is one of the best Beatles albums, sonically speaking. I have chatted with Ken on Steve Hoffman's forums a few years back and would like to ask him what he thinks of the remasters. He also did some work on the White Album I believe.

From Wikipedia,

Ken Scott (born 20 April 1947 in London) is a British record producer/engineer widely known for being one of the 5 main engineers for The Beatles, as well as Elton John, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Duran Duran, The Jeff Beck Group, and many more. As a producer, Scott is noted for his work with David Bowie (Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Aladdin Sane, and Pinups), Supertramp (Crime of the Century and Crisis? What Crisis?), Devo, Kansas, The Tubes, and Level 42, among others.

Scott was also very influential in the evolution of Jazz Rock, pioneering a harder rock sound, through his work with Mahavishnu Orchestra (Birds of Fire, Visions of the Emerald Beyond and The Lost Trident Tapes), Stanley Clarke (Stanley Clarke, Journey To Love and School Days), Billy Cobham (Spectrum, Crosswinds, Total Eclipse, and Shabazz) and Jeff Beck (There And Back).

Seadog709's picture

I believe we are all reaching the point where we realize that the pressing of these sets is highly variable. To begin, some of us had difficulty opening the set. My set opened without any difficulty - the outer sleeve slipped off easily.

All my LP's are completely flat and without "pearling." I do have the stamped RTI plate numbers on both sides of HDN. My friend "Analog Bob" who is into such things came over one day and went through each LP – he even cleaned a few. Bob found several others with the stamped numbers in the dead wax. He left me a written list of those LP's and I will search around for it. I have not played HDN nor most of the other LP’s. From what I heard of those that I did play, it is a most lackluster production. The book is the best part.

So, the book is on the coffee table and the box set is all cleaned using MF’s favorite German ultrasonic cleaner (from The Cable Company), re-sleeved, and the covers jacket protected. Where is it? Out of reach at the very top of my LP shelves – ladder access only.

I applaud MF for wading through this mixed bag. If only Chad Kassem at Acoustic Sounds would give The Beatles the same treatment he gave to The Doors – then we would all be living “in Strawberry Fields forever.”

Paul Boudreau's picture

I'd be appreciative if someone could explain what is meant by "pearling" or "string of pearls" with regards to vinyl.  Thanks much.


myheroiscoltrane's picture

Hey Paul, check out MF's post "This is what non-fill looks like" under the record buying tips blogs located under the "analog tips" tab of this website. Cheers!

Paul Boudreau's picture

I had a look.  I'm not entirely clear on what the photo was intended to show - maybe what looks like a bunch of little bumps directly above the reflected light?

myheroiscoltrane's picture

That's what I saw, too. I buy a lot of old jazz vinyl from the 50s and 60s, so not sure I would hear that much from non fill problems, because the vinyl already has some noise...That being said, I am totally sold on the notion of cleaning your vinyl after getting a machine and cleaning up some of this old stuff....

John Macca's picture

I think there is no better recording or best pressings; we have ears, only two, and mine

are not those good any longer! Just listen, pals, we have enough beatle records for a million years. 

JoeM's picture

Just checked my copy of AHDN. Side one has "18716.1(3)..." stamped on side 1. Side two does not, just scribbled numbers.

fredbro44's picture

My copy has the stamped #s on both sides.

John G's picture

I ordered AHDN based on Michael's review.  Got it today and it has the RTI stamp on both sides.  Yippee!  

This counters my lack of success getting a decent Abbey Road.  My fourth copy suffers the same garbled sound midway through both sides.  This latest copy also had a deep scratch across Come Together that is heard the first minute or so.  I contacted EMI to see if they can get me a good one, perhaps from Germany.  Stamper - 74063,64 and Master -351 are bad news.  I think my 4 defects came from this same batch.

oscelm's picture

Fascinating to hear about the RTI plating.  Just listened to the LP last night and the sound quality was indeed impressive.  I'm about 6-deep into the set and this one so far is the best of the lot.  I'm feeling fortunate in that none of the LPs I've listened to so far have any 'fill' issues or excessive surface noise.  Keeping my fingers crossed on the White Album which will be next listen.  I automatically compare the new box to the MoFi set because it has been a reference for me, and my impression thus far is that the new set is a solid set to listen to on a regular basis, if not consistent from album to album.  The Mobile Fidelity pressings are noteworthy because they were sourced from original analog master tapes.   Owning the two boxes offers an enjoyable adventure in 'listening' intently to these timeless recordings.  Have FUN with it!  That's what the activity is all about after all. By the way, my side one does have the stamped number, followed by (3) inner groove.  Side two is hand inscribed/scribble.

Kirby's picture

YES! My copy of A Hard Day's Night  has Stampers 18716.1 & 18716.2 ,and sounds preaty dame good, I feel like I just won the lottery.

timtobin1034's picture

I bought both of these LPs at Westchester Music over by LAX when they were first released. Here are the stamped, not scribed, numbers:

Rubber Soul (ST2442) ST 12442 W6

Revolver (ST2576) ST 2-2576-B4

All my others, from Meet the Beatles, through Abbey Road are scribed

revox77a@gmail.com's picture

I noticed the stamped numbers, but I also noticed that S-73965M1S6 was also hand written in there. Was one from the lacquer cutter, and one from the plater?

WaxtotheMax's picture

Just got a copy for Christmas, and it has the same numbers 18716.1(3) and 18716.2(3) just as mentioned stamped in the deadwax. It plays and sounds flawless! Analog Planet is my ONLY site as of now for all my auiophile information. THANKS!! This reissue really ranks up there with any pressing of AHDN I have ever heard. I have heard every pressing you could name down to a Russian pressing that was surprisingly a very nice press itself.

thomoz's picture

I've heard this version and to me it sounds GREAT!  The copy of A Hard Day's Night in the "demonstration" Beatles boxed set at Audio Alternative in Lilburn GA (the Atlanta area hi-fi dealer) has the RTI plating and I've played it for a few people the last couple Saturdays (I work there 5 hours a week).  If you pop by to hear it tell Alan Jones I sent you.