Month: July 2015

Rejected for Bad Sound and/or Music

If you’re looking for better sounding vinyl, you might want to look for albums other than these.

Insensatez

Insensatez

Lalo Schifrin
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Straight, No Chaser – Now That’s a Piano

monk_strai_1507_1435596984

If you want to hear just how good Monk’s great big rich piano sounds, look no further.

Rudy Van Gelder, eat your heart out. This is the piano sound Rudy never quite managed. Some say it’s the crappy workhorse piano he had set up in his studio. Others say it was just poorly miked. Rather than speculating on something we know little about (good pianos and the miking) let’s just say that Columbia had the piano, the room and the mics to do it right as you can easily hear on this very record.

Side Two

Nearly White Hot and for good reason. Listen to Monk vocalizing — this copy is so resolving you can hear him clearly, yet the overall sound is warm, rich and smooth in the best Columbia tradition.

Speaking of warm, rich and smooth, this is important to the horn sound too. Most copies could not make the sax as full-bodied and free of honk as we would have liked. This one did, earning lots of points in the process. Hard to fault and definitely hard to beat.

See all of our Thelonious Monk albums in stock

 

The Rapture of the Purely Musical Experience

khachgayne_90209This work is more often than not recorded with harsh sound. The exciting orchestration must surely be very difficult to capture on tape. But Mercury here seems to have managed to do it, a feat few others can claim.

This side one is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY, thanks to superb low distortion mastering. It’s yet another very exciting Mercury recording. The quiet passages have unusually sweet sound. This kind of sound is not easy to cut. This copy gets rid of the cutter head distortion and coloration and allows you to hear what the Mercury engineers accomplished.

Side One

The balanced tonality is key, especially when you have such lively brass and strings. The top is correct, even sweet, and you can’t say that about very many Mercs. Exceptionally tight bass too.

I don’t know of a better performance or a better recording of the work.

Side Two

Clear horns, a big hall — if it were a bit less bright it would probably have earned that second plus.

Dorati breathes fire into the famous Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet on side 2. Unfortunately, the sound is never as good in our experience as it is on side one.

Rapture

The best classical recordings of the ’50s and ’60s, compromised in every imaginable way, are sonically and musically head and shoulders above virtually anything that has come after them. The music lives and breathes on those old LPs. Playing them you find yourself in the Living Presence of the musicians. You become lost in their performance. Whatever the limitations of the medium they seem to fade quickly from consciousness. What remains is the rapture of the pure musical experience.

That’s what happens when a good record meets a good turntable.

We live for records like these. It’s the reason we all get up in the morning and come to work, to find and play good records. It’s what this site is all about — offering the audiophile music lover recordings that provide real musical satisfaction. It’s hard work — so hard nobody else seems to want to do it — but the payoff makes it all worthwhile. To us anyway. Hope you feel the same.

 

Based on our TESTIMONIALS I’m glad to see that many of you do.

 

Back to the Stone Age

respipinesfmsl

Respighi / Pines Of Rome / Maazel

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

MoFi’s version of this recording (#507) is one of the worst sounding classical records they ever made, and that’s saying something, because most of their classical catalog is awful. Thin, bright, with sloppy bass and completely unnatural string tone — the MoFi makes the typical Classic Record sound good! And that’s REALLY saying something.

The UHQR is somewhat better, especially in the lower octaves, but it’s maybe a D+ or C-, not a Better Record by any means.

How dull and opaque does a stereo have to be to make this record listenable? The answer is VERY dull and opaque. Stone Age Audio Systems are the only ones that can play junk like this and get away with it.                                                           

 

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’

davismiles

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

See all of our Miles Davis albums in stock

Better than the Originals?

The record combines two Miles Davis albums recorded in 1956: Workin’ and Steamin’. The 1974 remastering here by Brian Gardner is excellent. Since RVG probably would have mastered these tapes himself for the original pressings, I’m going to guess that this album sounds better than any original, for two reasons.
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Spending More Time With The Beatles

beatlwitht_x20To find the Hottest Stampers it helps to have piles and piles of minty British pressings. And lots of time on your hands. Fortunately we have both!

This is a tough album to get to sound right, as long-time readers of our site surely know, but on a good copy it can sound wonderful. This one really delivers, with plenty of presence and energy as well as natural, balanced tonality.

So, What’s Out There?

We’ve heard copies that were smeared, murky, muddy, grainy, or all of the above. Almost all of them had no real magic in the midrange. And of course, we heard tons of copies with the kind of gritty vocals that you’ll find all over the average Parlophone Beatles pressing. So when we dropped the needle on this copy, it was nothing short of a revelation! It has the energy and the life of the music in the grooves in a way I guarantee you have never heard before.
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Thick and Dull – Not Our Sound!

coltranegiant45xJohn Coltrane – Giant Steps

Rhino 45 RPM 2 Disc Set Debunked

Sonic Grade: F

The sound of the 45 RPM 2 disc version cut by Bernie Grundman does not exactly tickle our fancy. It sounds thick and dull, much like the Deja Vu Bernie remastered years ago for Classic Records.

As is the case with so many of the Heavy Vinyl reissues released these days, the studio ambience you hear on these pressings is a pitiful fraction of the ambience the real pressings are capable of revealing, the ones mass-produced by Atlantic, original and reissue alike.

See all of our John Coltrane albums in stock

Rhino bills their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using “performance” to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Setting the Record for Straight Ahead Jazz

addersomet_1506_1_1370450264Previously we had written: “The music here is amazing — as on Kind of Blue, both Miles and Cannonball are at the top of their games — but the good news for audiophiles is that it’s also one of the best sounding Blue Note albums we know of.”

After doing this shootout in 2015 I would like to amend the above much-too-conservative remarks. The current consensus here at Better Records is that this album deserves to hold three — count ’em, three — somewhat related titles:

One, The Best Sounding Blue Note record we have ever played.

Two, The Best Sounding Jazz Record we have ever played.

Three, Rudy Van Gelder’s Best Engineering (based on the copies we played).

Our shootout winners had more energy, presence, dynamics and three-dimensional studio space than any jazz recording we have ever heard. The sound was as BIG and BOLD as anything in our experience

Add to that a perfectly balanced mix, with tonality that’s correct from top to bottom for every instrument in the soundfield and you may begin to see why we feel that the best copies of this album set a standard that no other jazz record we’re aware of can meet.

See all of our Cannonball Adderley albums in stock
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Today’s Audio Disaster

mannesound_debunk_1261053399Remember the old Acoustic Sounds Analog Revival series mastered by Stan Ricker? This was one of the titles they did, and completely ruined of course. Ricker boosted the hell out of the top end, as is his wont, so all the percussion had the phony MoFi exaggerated spit and tizzyiness that we dislike so much around here at Better Records but that many audiophiles never seem to notice.

The whole series was an audio disaster, but funnily enough, I cannot remember reading a single word of criticism anywhere discussing the shortcomings of that series of badly half-speed mastered LPs. Outside of my own reviews of course. Has anything in audio really changed?

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

1970 – It Was a Very Good Year

masonalone

Before I get too far into the story of the sound, I want to say that this album appears to be criminally underrated as music nowadays, having fallen from favor with the passage of time.

It is a surely a MASTERPIECE that belongs in any Rock Collection worthy of the name. Every track is good, and most are amazingly good. There’s not a scrap of filler here. The recording by Bruce Botnick is hard to fault as well.

1970 was a great time in music. Tea for the Tillerman, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Moondance, Sweet Baby James, Tumbleweed Connection, After the Goldrush, The Yes Album, McCartney, Elton John, His Band And Street Choir, Deja Vu, Workingman’s Dead, Tarkio, Stillness, Let It Be — need I go on?

Even in such illustrious company — I defy anyone to name ten albums of comparable quality to come out in any year — Alone Together ranks as one of the best releases of 1970.

The Sound

We struggled for years with the bad vinyl and the murky sound of this album. Finally, with dozens of advances in playback quality and dramatically better cleaning techniques, we have now managed to overcome the problems which we assumed were baked into the recording. I haven’t heard the master tape, but I have heard scores of pressings made from it over the years. I confess I actually used to like and recommend the Heavy Vinyl MCA pressing. Rest assured that is no longer the case. Nowadays it sounds as opaque, ambience-challenged, lifeless and pointless as the rest of its 180 gram brethren.

Albums from 1970 in stock

All albums from 1970

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