Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio – Red Gardenia

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  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for this classic Yamamoto Philips Direct to Disc album – both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The piano is dynamic and solid – imagine a Three Blind Mice piano date recorded Direct-to-Disc – that’s the sound of this album
  • This is one of the few audiophile records worthy of the name. It’s also five times as rare as Blues to East and the music is better
  • There are two Stevie Wonder songs given a wonderful piano trio arrangement here that are just out of this world 

This group plays with tremendous vigor. They really swing and are tight as a drum. On this album there’s almost none of that “introspective noodling jazz” that the Japanese are infamous for. I love Midnight Sugar as much as the next guy, but too much of that kind of music is wearying.

Yamamoto’s Trio wants to show that it can play good old-fashioned straight ahead American lively piano jazz with the best of them. And they can. You will also be hard pressed to find better sound for a small ensemble like this. Since Rudy Van Gelder was not particularly adept at recording the piano, many of the great pianists cannot be heard properly on Prestige, Blue Note and other original label recordings.

Philips is one of the better direct disc labels from back in the day (although that isn’t saying much because most of them were mediocre at best). It was garnering rave reviews from TAS a couple of decades ago. Does anybody remember? Probably not, but I do. I flipped out when I saw this record in my local shop. They charged top dollar but I paid it, knowing what a rare and special record it is. (more…)

This is Modern Jazz Vol. 2 – Japanese Pressed 2 LP Box Set

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This IMMACULATE Sony CBS Japanese Import 2 LP Box Set with Virtually No Sign of Play (VNSOP) has SHOCKINGLY GOOD sound! It’s the rare Japanese pressing that has any merit in our experience. Let’s be honest: most of them are just plain awful, having been poorly mastered from sub-generation tapes. (In this respect they seem to have a lot in common with the Heavy Vinyl reissues being produced today, wouldn’t you say?)

So you can imagine our surprise when every track we played sounded good — some very good indeed — with practically all of it classic jazz of the highest quality. With jazz greats such as Davis, Monk, Brubeck, Farmer, Blakey and Horace Silver, this set comes highly recommended to one and all.

Universal Japan and Other 180g Disasters – The Economics of Buying a Pig in a Poke

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One of my good customers sent me this email recently:

I noticed that Universal Japan has come out with several new titles, stuff I’m interested in, like Stevie Wonder / Innervisions…Stan Getz, James Brown…and many others — that are on acousticsounds.com. Generally, for these somewhat expensive heavy vinyl releases (relative to used prices), I’m trying to stick with stuff where your site has favorable comments regarding the sound quality but you don’t seem to carry these new items. Do you think they are bad, or you just have not had a chance to check them out yet?”

I replied as follows:

We don’t like Japanese records. They almost NEVER sound good, to these ears anyway. The only report I’ve heard concerned Aja, which was that it was awful, bright as bright can be.

A Japanese pressing that’s too bright? Shocking. Say it isn’t so.

We are going to be carrying almost no new releases of heavy vinyl pressings from now on. They just don’t sound good to us and we don’t want to waste our time playing bad records when there are so many good ones sitting around that need a loving home. If you pay $30 for heavy vinyl reissues and only one out of five sounds good — an optimistic estimate if you ask me — you’re really paying $150 for the one good one, right? This makes no sense to me. And since the real odds are one out of ten, it’s really $300 for the good one.


Which made me think back to our recent blog entry in which we discussed the latest round of bad Heavy Vinyl LPs that are apparently selling like hotcakes at Acoustic Sounds. If you like the new versions of Aja, Aqualung and Blue, by all means, buy some Universal Japanese Heavy Vinyl pressings. If that’s your sound, go for it, dude. Who are we to say you are wrong?

But if you don’t like the sound of those three titles on Heavy Vinyl, where can you go to find records that sound better than they do? I only know of one place, and you’re already there.

Happy Shopping,
TP

Compromised Versus Purist Recordings – If It’s About the Music, the Choice Is Clear

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[This commentary is from circa 2010]

A while back one of our good customers wrote to tell us how much he liked his Century Direct to Disc recording of the Glenn Miller big band, one of the few really amazing sounding direct discs that contains music actually worth listening to. Which brought me to the subject of Hot Stampers. 

Hot Stamper pressings are almost always going to be studio multi-track recordings, not live Direct to Discs. They will invariably suffer many compromises compared to the purist approach of an audiophile label trying to eliminate sources of distortion in the pursuit of the highest fidelity.

But when they do that, they almost always FAIL. How many Direct Discs sound like that Glenn Miller? A dozen at most. The vast majority are just plain AWFUL. I know, I’ve played practically every one ever made. For more than a decade that was my job.

Thankfully that is no longer the case, although we do have a handful of direct discs that we still shootout, such as The Three, Glenn Miller, Straight from the Heart and the odd Sheffield. (more…)

Haydn / Toy Symphony – Marriner on a Japanese Soundphile Pressing

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DEMO QUALITY SOUND! This is the best sounding Toy symphony you will ever hear!

I discovered how good this Japanese EMI Soundphile Series recording is almost 20 years ago. In that time I can say that I think I may have run across at most two other copies. This is a tough one to find!

But it’s worth the effort, because all the little toys that play along with the music just JUMP out of the speakers. The recording is so transparent and the toys are so well miked it’s like hearing this work for the first time, or live.

This album can easily become a favorite Demo Disc — it has that kind of “you-are-there” sound. This recording was made at Abbey Road in 1976 under the direction of the two Christophers. Perhaps that accounts for the quality of the recording. The Eine Kleine on side two is also very nice, although I wouldn’t say it’s world class the way The Toy Symphony is.

Led Zeppelin – on Prestigious Japanese Limited Edition Vinyl

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This is a classic Live and Learn listing from 2006.

I used to sell the German Import reissues of the Zep catalog in the ’90s. At the time I thought they we’re pretty good, but then the Japanese AMJY Series came out and I thought those were clearly better.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. I now realize those Japanese pressings are bright as bright can be. Now, not-too-surprisingly, the German pressings sound more or less right (on most titles). They tend to be tonally correct, which is more than you can say for most Zep pressings, especially some of the Classics, which have the same brightness problem (as well as many other problems).

Takemitsu – Percussions in Colors – Reviewed in 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

Superb sound!

“Rare 1978 audiophile limited edition Japanese lp with Sumire Yoshihara on percussion performing experimental works. The Ichiyanagi work has a unique graphical score and allows the performer to select different classes of percussion. Takemitsu’s piece is based on a work of art in the form of a book made for the composer by Italian artist Bruno Munari. Takemitsu’s score consists of this book and an accompanying set of musical instructions on how to interpret its abstract collages and designs. Includes extensive notes inside the gatefold cover.” (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk – On Japanese Vinyl

More Fleetwood Mac

More Tusk

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

FOUR EXCELLENT SOUNDING SIDES ON QUIET JAPANESE VINYL! This Captiol-mastered, Japanese-pressed LP has excellent sound on the first two sides and SUPERB sound on sides three and four. I doubt you’ve ever heard the title track rock like this! 

We dug up a few Japanese copies of Tusk that were mastered at Capitol. Because they were made from the real tapes, these don’t have the typical smeary subgen sound associated with Japanese pressings. We found that the best Japanese copies could hold their own with the best domestics on sides one and two, and could win outright on sides three and four.

Four Amazing Sides

Side one is RICH, WARM, and SWEET. The top end is lovely — silky sweet with lots of extension. The vocals are full-bodied with lots of breath and ambience. Detail lovers will freak out over the hi-res sound on this side.

Side two is big, bold, and full of life! Storms sounds particularly good — clean, clear, and very present.

The real magic here begins at the edge of side three. The moment the needle hits the grooves, you’ll be blown away by the AMAZING CLARITY and PRESENCE. The bass is deep, tight, and full-bodied. The vocals are silky sweet and the electric guitars have tons of meaty texture. The highs are delicate, the bottom end is superb, and the drums are clean and crisp, but not overly so. The overall sound is open, spacious, and super transparent – you can easily pick out each vocal line. (more…)

Vivaldi / The Four Seasons / Hayakawa (2 LPs) (45 RPM)

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing.

This RCA Direct-to-Disc 45 RPM Double LP has awful sound, with hard and shrill string tone. This is why we dislike Japanese pressings as a rule — they sound like this audiophile piece of junk.

The Great Jazz Trio – Direct From L.A. – Reviewed in 2014

More of The Great Jazz Trio

Albums with Ron Carter on bass / Tony Williams on drums

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

The album features some excellent jazz with outstanding drum work by Tony Williams (one of our favorite drummers here at Better Records).

If you have a good copy of The Three on Eastwind you will note the strong similarity in sound. The music here, however, is clearly more adventurous.  (more…)