Join us in the rabbit hole for a Nirvana Nevermind vinyl shootout. After doing the Nirvana Nevermind 30th anniversary review I thought it would be helpful for our readers to do a comparison of the various reissues of the classic Nevermind album to help find which would be best for your collection. If you want to know which vinyl pressing of Nirvana Nevermind sounds the best, read on.
Nirvana Nevermind Overview
Not sure what we can say about one of the all-time great not only alternative rock albums but album from any genre that has not been said. If you have never heard Nevermind, stop reading this now and go listen to it (come back when finished of course). For the rest of you that need a bit of background on the album.
Released on September 24, 1991, Nevermind was a monumental event for rock music and would become one of the most influential albums of all time. From Kurt Cobain’s iconic guitar sound to Dave Grohl’s drumming, this album has gone down in history as one of the greatest records ever made.
The album Nevermind was recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California. The record was produced by producer Butch Vig who was very influential in the sound of the album. The album was a huge success, and it is often considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time. Nevermind has been certified as a platinum album by the RIAA, and it has sold over 30 million copies worldwide.
Nevermind is a truly groundbreaking album, and it is one of the most important albums in rock history. The album is also very influential, and it changed the sound of rock music forever.
Want more details on the Nevermind era, make sure to check out the BBC documentary, When Nirvana Came to Britain.
The success of “Nevermind” helped to popularize grunge music, and it also helped to bring alternative rock into the mainstream. This assisted other artists of the same genre such as Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden. Nirvana’s success also led to the creation of alternative rock radio stations, and it helped to make the genre more mainstream.
So before we get started in our shootout you may be wondering why would I trust this odd guy on the internet with a rabbit for his avatar… I will be the first to admit, I am not an expert in everything, but this album, I have listened to so many times and went through so many copies it is borderline worrisome lol. I still have my first pressing of the album that I picked up on release (oh how I wish I would have bought a stack of them at that time). From there I have purchased, traded, scoured the ends of the earth for about about every variation of this album imaginable over the past 30 years (some good and some I wish I would have skipped).
As we all know, record collecting can get tricky when getting into different pressings. To keep things simple and this not turning into the longest review in internet history I am limiting the shootout to the major reissues or mastering that sound the best.
For this reason you will not see details on the ’91 Japanese pressing, Back in Black series (some of these are terrible and some are fantastic and use the Bernie Grundman stampers, it is just a lot of work to figure out which pressing you are getting), 20th Anniversary 4 LP, 30th anniversary etc… We will lump these at the bottom as you can get a lot better sounding copy from the list. If you are curious about the 30th anniversary, see our Nirvana Nevermind 30th Anniversary Album Review.
So for our shootout I will detail only my top picks for the Nevermind pressings, along with one dud that a user requested I review. Most all of these are out of print so you will need to check eBay. The image below will take you to all current auctions for Nirvana Nevermind vinyl records.
1991 Columbia House Club Edition CRC DGC 24425
We start off our Nirvana Nevermind vinyl shootout with the 1991 Club release from Columbia House. I did not have this upon first release but picked it up in the early 2000s from a collection I purchased. I held onto it for the novelty of it. I will save you some reading, this pressing does not sound good at all. It really belongs in the group that we did not include but a friend asked me to include it so here it is. It also has gotten pricey in recent years so the price to sound quality ratio is about as bad as it gets for this release. I’ve seen some recent auctions going for $500 + for these in good shape. You can see some of the closed eBay auctions here.
As for the sound and what I did not care for on the album. First it has a low sound on the pressing and is lacking any sign of dynamics. The high end frequencies have been completely sucked out of the music and the low end is not much better. The soundstage is virtually nonexistent as all of the instruments are crammed in the middle of the field. If you are considering, this I would hard pass on it unless you are a completist.
1996 Nirvana Nevermind Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-258
I will admit upfront that I am a Mobile Fidelity fanboy. Many of their releases are the definitive release of an album and I have collected various albums from them over the years. I have bought some Jazz albums I was unfamiliar with just because I knew it was most likely going to sound amazing.
Unfortunately for us on this release, MFSL missed the mark on the Nevermind release. I will say it has an amazing sound stage and perfect instrument separation. The issue with the album is it is again lacking in the dynamics that we would want to hear for an album, it is almost “too nice” with the eq when need it to be aggressive. It did fix the issue we heard in the Columbia House release by adding some of the top end sparkle back into the mix. The mid range of this release is scooped for my taste and the bass is just acceptable. For instance, when Grohl starts in on the kick drum at the start of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I want to feel it pound in my chest like he is in the room. With this pressing, that raw power is missing in the bass.
The price of this is insane in recent years, to the point I have actually thought about auctioning my mint copy. You can click the image below to find copies currently available.
2004 Nevermind ‘320’ German Press
Now we’re getting somewhere. This is a nice sounding pressing and I remember when it came out everyone considered it the definitive copy of the Nevermind vinyl record. I actually had not listened to this pressing for several years so this Nirvana Nevermind vinyl shootout was a good way to dig out some records not in my regular rotation.
This copy fixes the problems on the MFSL pressing as the music has good low end frequencies while staying punchy and clear. The soundstage is still decent on this pressing although the Mobile Fidelity was bigger. Like the Mobile Fidelity, we find the mids are scooped but not nearly as much. The biggest issue I find missing is in the upper frequencies. It is lacking some of the top end sparkle we hear in our top picks.
Overall a solid performer and a nice addition to any collection. These do not come up that often so it may take a bit of time to find a mint copy reasonably priced.
2009 Nirvana Nevermind ORG pressed at RTI
Now we are talking, this is some rock music… This is where our Nirvana Nevermind shootout is starting to take some shape. This release was released in both a Black vinyl and a Blue vinyl version. I bought both and honestly do not notice any different between the two in regards to sound. I have seen others mention their copy of the blue vinyl is a bit noisy and the blue also is more expensive on the second hand market. With that said, the black vinyl will be your best bet to pickup this pressing.
The 2009 Nevermind ORG was done by Bernie Grundman and the copy I tested was pressed at RTI. There are also later copies of this same stamper pressed at Pallas in Germany. To the best of my recollection, there was no noticeable difference in the sound quality.
As for the sound, Grundman nailed it with this remaster from cut from original analogue tape. Big, full soundstage and great, punchy bass. Again referencing that kick drum at the start of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, for this pressing it creates that chest thumping pressure that we wanted to see on some of the earlier reviews. The scooped midrange that we seen in both the earlier in the 320 and MFSL pressings has been resolved and we pick up some nice clarity and sparkle in the upper end. The vocals from Kurt shine along with detailed guitars. The bass lines from Krist’s triple-tracked the bass on “Come As You Are” is perfect. Overall this is a great pressing.
Again, these have gotten pretty expensive in recent years but you may be able to find a good deal on one. Below I put an image of the original sticker on the shrink wrap of the iconic album cover along with a link to current listings.
Current Nirvana Nevermind Pressing by Bernie Grundman
Coming in second place in our Nirvana Nevermind vinyl shootout is the current, in production copy of Nevermind. This copy is readily available at a lot of retailers. It is still in production so if you find it out of stock, keep checking back.
What makes the current pressing so great? One is it is cheap, we love cheap! Second is it is still in production and easy to find. Third it sounds amazing.
This pressing uses the same ORG stampers with the Bernie Grundman that we seen in our ORG review. They are also pressed at Pallas in Germany, just like the later ORG copies. So you are pretty much getting one of the best sounding versions of Nevermind at a fraction of the price.
You want to validate two things on the vinyl. First, the shrink wrap on the album cover should have the pressed at Pallas sticker like the below. Second, the dead wax should have Grundmans initials, BG. If you are unsure how to read matrix numbers, you can check wiki.
1991 Nirvana Nevermind Geffen Records US Original Release
For the best of the best in our vinyl music shootout I have to go with the original pressing of Nevermind. Sometimes they get it right with the first try and for Nevermind that is defiantly the case. This record is sonic gold!
Everything about this pressing is exactly what and how we want to hear it. There is a great soundstage and the best sounding bass of any of the pressings we have reviewed. Hearing this back to back with some of the other presses made me realize just how great the music on the original pressing sounds.
The main difference you will notice this pressing vs the ORG is this pressing is more aggressive and sounds right. I will say that if you are looking for your first copy of Nevermind, the current copy that is in production is a much better deal as the original sells for quite a bit.
Nirvana Nevermind CD Shootout
For our CD shootout I only have two Nevermind CDs left in my collection. I trimmed these down several years ago and only kept my favorite two copies. Again neither of these are in production so you would need to search on secondary markets.
For the CDs I really prefer the MoFi gold disc over the original US release of Nevermind. It is more polite but also has better dynamics and separation than the OG cd.
I also compared the Nirvana MFSL gold cd to the ORG vinyl to see how it stacked up to one of my choices for best sounding vinyl. The first thing that stood out is the MFSL cd had noticeably more sparkle in the top end. In addition it had better instrument separation. On the downside, it does have that kind of sterile, analytic sound to it that a lot of cds geared to the mainstream audiences have.
As for the ORG vinyl, it has deeper bass and a more natural, punkish or punk band feel. It reminded me more of listening to a live performance vs listening to music at home.
Wrapping it Up
Our conclusion is that the current pressing of Nevermind is a great buy. It’s affordable, easy to find and the music sounds fantastic when compared with other versions on the market. Plus you can pick up this version for significantly less than an original copy which can cost in the $1000’s depending on condition and how much your willing to spend! If you’re still in need of some convincing or want more information about what we found during our shootout, reach out to us for more information and all the details from each vinyl record review.