Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

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.

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…)

Vivaldi, The Beatles – Bad Direct Disc Music & Sound (Which Used to Happen All the Time in the ’70s)

More of the music of Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi Ensemble / Vivaldi, The Beatles

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Sonic Grade: F

An awful Direct to Disc recording. The bad sound and pointless music — this is the kind of crap we audiophiles used to put up with back in the ’70s before we had much of a clue — means that it clearly belongs in only one place on our site: the Hall of Shame

The L.A. 4 – Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte – Reviewed in 2008

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More Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte

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

This is a Near Mint East Wind Japanese Import Direct-To-Disc LP with SUPERB SOUND. Most copies we come across are quite ticky. Thankfully that ain’t the case here. This is an EXCEPTIONALLY QUIET copy! 

The sound may be good but the music is mostly a snore.

 

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio – Blues to East – Reviewed in 2015

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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 piano jazz with the best of them. I hear echoes of Bill Evans in Yamamoto’s playing. Supposedly he was a big Errol Garner fan as well. (more…)

Jacques Loussier – Jacques Loussier Plays J.S. Bach Encore – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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More Jacques Loussier Plays J.S. Bach Encore

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

This is a Brand New, Unplayed Japanese 45 RPM Audiocheck Pressing with DEMO DISC quality sound! This is absolutely one of the best sounding jazz records we have ever played here at Better Records!

For those of you who are not familiar with the Audiocheck 45 RPM series from Japan, these are albums remastered at 45 with some material left off by necessity, since the maximum for each side is closer to 12 minutes than the standard LP limit of 20 minutes. (more…)