Decca/London Records Myths Exploded!

It's time to put to bed a long standing record myth: that UK Decca and UK-pressed London records are different pressings, even if they have the same matrix numbers, mother numbers and stamper numbers. This myth has persisted for a very long time, fed by people who claim to hear differences between such records even when the information in the lead-out groove area is identical.

Rather than asking the people involved in making these records, the myth-makers prefer to tell you what they hear when making such comparisons even though we all know that pressing variations produced variable sonics.

With the help of an individual who runs a website dedicated to The Rolling Stones vinyl catalogue I was able to get the facts directly from one of Decca's still living legendary mastering engineers, Mr. George Bettyes.

Mr. Bettyes writes this about the Decca/London "controversy":

"1- If the disc has the Decca engraved matrix number and the cutting engineers letter whatever label or catalogue number used they are all the same."

In other words Londons and Deccas are IDENTICAL PRESSINGS. Just the labels have been changed to confuse the gullible.

But even more importantly, or at least as importantly Mr. Bettyes writes:

2-All recording company's use the RIAA CURVE to cut records. this is the industry standard and is used all over the world and this applies to whatever the speed of the record is or the contents of the record."

For your information... the letters FFSS is a logo registered by Decca and it stands for FULL FREQUENCY STEREO SOUND. Also the letters FFRR is also a registered logo and it stands for FULL FREQUENCY RANGE RECORDING. So the answer to (your) question is: FFSS is a logo not a recording curve. Also the RIAA disc playback curve is the reverse of the RIAA cutting curve".

So you see folks? THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE "FFSS Equalization curve"!!!!!!!!!!!!! So whatever curve some phono preamp manufacturers are using and calling the "FFSS EQ curve" is, like sonic differences between Decca and London UK pressed records, a figment of their imagination!

P.S.: I am attempting to get corroboration from the only other original Decca mastering engineer still standing, Mr. Tony Hawkins.

vinyl listener's picture

... the Decca EQ curve ?


beaur's picture

Not an expert by any stretch but I am assumming that previous to 1955 (give or take a few years) that Decca just like everyone else had non RIAA EQ.  After that it was all RIAA.

Dorian54's picture

Unfortunately, we are making blanket statements here. Many London pop, record club, and even classical pressings were actually pressed in the US after 1968. Concurrently, it was also the SAME time that Decca improved its pressing lathes, etc. These will NOT have the FFSS or FFRR logo on the actual label. The question is were these pressed with the same levels and quality as the "real" UK presses or like EMI v Angel were they using inferior source material? Does anyone know definitively BEFORE I go out and spend $1,000.00

Mike Kontor's picture

You are totally wrong. London pressings were equalized for the US market to boost the treble - John Culshaw related this in one of his books (Ring Resounding or Setting the record straight, I can't remember which) Moreover it was by about 6dB but I can't remember at what Hz, I think it was 6K or 8K; I can't find this info on the net and I can't be bothered looking through every page in the books, because: I Have mane London's as I grew up in Canada, but I also have identical titles on Decca and the difference is very easy to hear! If you cannot hear the difference, you should not be writing about audio!
I also have the reel to reels of many of these titles and they were not equalized.

Michael Fremer's picture
Of course you cannot be bothered to look through every page of a book, because such information does not exist. Though you feel a need to hang on to this nonsense. The London and Decca pressings came off the same presses. Only the labels changed. John Atkinson published a photo of an actual pressing order that proved this. What's more I recently spoke to Alan Steckler who ran London records classical and pop divisions for years before moving on to ABKCO to handle The Rolling Stones catalog. He assured me the Decca and London English pressed records were identical other than the label.
decameron's picture


DJ Huk's picture

I'm intrigued: what is the URL?

detroitvinylrob's picture

And yet like all other variables, the RIAA EQ curve has been proven beyond any shadow of doubt to have NOT been applied in the same manor from label to label, pressing facility to facility, or from engineer to engineer, either deliberately or serendipitously (even speaking post 1954), given that vinyl mastering is maybe as much an art or craft, as it is a (non exact) science.

I would agree that to my ear, due to Mikey's fine detective work, and Mr. George Bettyes comments, the Decca/London wild goose chase, is probably, merely that...

Happy Listening!

Michael Fremer's picture
The curve is built into the lathe electronics. There are no "options" as to how its applied. Pressing facilities do not apply RIAA curve or any curves. And it absolutely is an exact science. There is an RIAA standard.
Banditcat200's picture

I have documented this years ago, on Collectors Weekly.
With a factory sample with Decca SXL 6036 incl. document

This should close, this year long debate, betwin believers and non believers for good, or ?

I have been collecting Classic/jazz records from "The Golden Age 1954-1970" for more then 30 years now, i have seen and heard many records from this period, and many have ended up in my private collecton, its a lifelong passion.

Mike Kontor's picture

John Culshaw in one of his books categorically stated that the London pressings were EQ'd to boost the treble (from memory 6dB at 6K). The difference is easy to hear; I have many identical titles on Decca and LOndon; the London's are bright and a bit tinny; the Decca richness is gone. If you cannot hear the difference, you should not be writing about audio

Michael Fremer's picture
Or shut up. But you cannot put up so please shut up. There is zero evidence to support your claim and plenty to support mine. You just refuse to believe it.
Barretter's picture

You keep saying this but you provide no evidence. Decca and London in the 1960s were made from the same stampers in the same factory in the UK.

johnss's picture

After reading the latest stereophile review of the PH-1000 variable EQ phono stage, it brought back all sorts of comparisons made years ago between London and Decca UK pressings. And all the stories that Decca was superior to their counterpart London titles, which I think is hogwash. But in all London/Decca discussions I have been involved in or read about, none seem to realize the London and Decca pressings are only 2 legs on the 3 leg stool. The 3rd leg is London titles pressed in Japan. For the Japan market, Decca UK contracted with King Records to press the Decca titles for the Japan market. The earliest London Decca releases in Japan all used Decca UK matrix numbers and stampers. The cover artwork was a mix of both London and Decca. The Decca symbol was used, but the word Decca was replaced with London. These early titles sound very close to their UK pressed London and Decca counterparts. And if you are looking for a London Blue back or Decca Wide band first pressing, and having problems finding one, you can usually locate a first press London Japan pressing for a lesser sum. The first pressing London Japan even used a blue back jacket similar to the US market London Blue Backs.
The Decca lacquer cutting continued into the early 1970s. After that King Records started cutting their own lacquers. This is easy to see, since the Decca matrix numbers in the dead wax are no longer there.
Some of these sound very similar to the Decca UK cut titles while others are cut a bit hotter.
But the real change came in 1976 or so, when King Records started experimenting with groove spacing, and lacquer cutting with all compression and limiting removed (this was done long before the famous King Super Analogue discs were produced). These records sonically blow away both the Decca and London UK pressings. To increase the groove spacing, King shortened the play time on each LP side. Some traditional 1 LP recordings (2 sides) became 3 sides or even 4 sides turning a single LP into 2. A few titles that come to mind are the Solti Chicago Stravinsky Rite of Spring, the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, and the Mehta / LA Phil – Holst the Planets. Have all 3 of these title. The dynamics and bass on these King pressings is far superior to their Decca and London Counter parts pressed in the UK. These King pressings have much more of the analogue tape type sound.
Another one is the Solti / Chicago Beethoven sym. 7. I have the complete Beethoven cycle on both London and Decca box sets. But the King 2 LP set of the 7th handily outperforms them both. Have never heard the opening bars of the 7th with the authority the King pressings provide (other than hearing it live).
The reason for this post is not to re-heat the London decca discussion, but to point out for those who really want the best sound, they need to look towards Japan.