Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Direct to Disc Recordings

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…)

Eiji Kitamura – Swing Sessions – One of Our Favorite Direct Discs

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This is a SUPER RARE IMMACULATE RCA Japanese Import Direct-to-Disc LP with Virtually No Sign Of Play (VNSOP). If you’re a fan of clarinet-led swing jazz, you’ll have a hard time finding a better record than this. The music is absolutely wonderful. Not only that, but it has DEMO DISC sound as well.

Direct-to-Disc Recording recorded live at Iruma City Auditorium, Saitama, Japan on April 21, 1978. Eiji Kitamura and His Allstars include Eiji on clarinet, Ichiro Masuda on vibraphone, Yoshitaka Akimitsu on piano, Yukio Ikezawa on bass, Hiroshi Sunaga on drums and Judy Anton provides vocals on “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.”

This album was recorded by the Direct-to-Disc recording method, to capture the natural reverberation of 1,200 seat concert hall. Various kinds of recording equipment were brought in parts to the backstage of the hall for the recording then reassembled and adjusted. Two whole days were spent adjusting all the equipment. (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues – Volume III – The Best Sounding Copy We’ve Ever Heard

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  • A KILLER copy with DEMO DISC Shootout Winning QUADRUPLE Plus (A++++) sound on the second side and Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first
  • This Limited Edition Sheffield Lab Direct Disc recording has some of the best sound we have ever heard for this title
  • It doesn’t get any better than this, with CLARITY and that JUMP OUT OF THE SPEAKERS quality we desire from a Hot Stamper
  • Many copies of this album tend to sound a bit thin and somewhat bright; on this copy, the sound is rich, full, and tonally correct from top to bottom and the horns sound especially wonderful

Please note: we award the Four Plus A++++ grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side two here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it a fourth plus!


What do Hot Stampers give you for this album? It’s very simple. Most copies of this album are slightly thin and slightly bright. They give the impression of being very clear and clean, but some of the louder brass passages start to get strained and blarey. This copy is rich and full. The sound is balanced from top to bottom. You can play it all the way through without fatigue.

Trumpets, trombones, tubas, tamborines, big bass, drums — everything has the true tonality and the vibrancy of the real thing. The reason this record was such a big hit in its day because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around. That’s also the reason this is a Must Own record today — the sound holds up!

Just listen to that amazing brass choir on Oh Lord, I’m On My Way. It just doesn’t get any better than that. If ever there was a Demo Disc, this is one! (more…)

Side One Is Actually In Phase (Usually) and You Read It Here First (Probably)

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

According to the liner notes, this Dave Grusin album has reversed absolute phase. They tell you to switch the positive and negative at the speaker for the best transient response and spatial clarity. But get this: most side ones are NOT in reversed phase.

That out of phase quality is as plain as the nose on your face when you know what to listen for. There’s an unpleasant hardness and hollowness to the midrange, a lack of depth, and an off-putting opaque quality to the sound.

With our EAR 324p Phono Stage, the click of a button reverses phase, also known as polarity. I can’t tell you how handy it is to have such a tool at your disposal. Checking the phase for Discovered Again couldn’t have been easier.

An Amazing Discovery

But get this: most side ones are NOT reversed phase. (All the side twos we played were however.) How about them apples! We could not have been more shocked. Here is the most famous out of phase audiophile recording in the history of the world, and it turns out most copies are not out of phase at all!

(more…)

Benny Goodman – The King – Century Direct to Disc

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This is a Century Direct-to-Disc LP that is every bit as good sounding as the excellent Glenn Miller disc, and in some ways better.

The problem is that Benny sounds much too old and tired, so this one gets a Not Recommended ranking from us.

Harry James & His Big Band – The King James Version

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  • This KILLER Sheffield pressing has insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides here fulfill the promise of the direct to disc recording technology in a way that few – very, very few – direct to disc pressings can
  • Big Band energy and enthusiasm unlike any other copy we played, as well as the most natural sounding ambience of any copy in our shootout
  • This one has everything going for it from top to bottom, with big bass, dynamics, clarity, top end extension and more – it’s a real Demo Disc, make no mistake about it

On the best pressings, the horns are so lively and high-rez, not to mention full-bodied, this could easily become a favorite big band album to demo or test with — or just to enjoy the hell out of.

Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings, this album actually contains real music worth listening to — but only when the pressing lets the energy of the musicians through, with actual fidelity to the sounds of the real instruments. Brass without bite is boring. Drummers who are too delicate in their drumming will put you to sleep. (more…)

Woody Herman – Road Father – Direct to Disc

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

This Century Direct-to-Disc LP is a real sleeper. The arrangements are lively, the material is excellent and the sound is equal to the task. One of the better Century DDs. 

[Reviewed in 2005.]

Virgil Fox – The Fox Touch Volume 2

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Played against the best Golden Age organ recordings, these Crystal Clear titles are noticeably lacking in ambience. The best pressings, assuming one would do a shootout for them, might be expected to earn a sonic grade of B- or so.

Volume 1 is a TAS List record. But seeing as they were all recorded at the same time, you can be sure this one sounds just as good. By the way, did you know Stan Ricker cut this record live direct to disc? He did a great job too. (more…)

Glenn Miller – The Direct Disc Sound of the Glenn Miller Orchestra

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

One of the all time GREAT Direct to Disc recordings. For sound and music this one is hard to beat. And the vinyl is as quiet as any you will find. 

We went a bit overboard years ago when we wrote, “I don’t think you can find a better sounding big band record on the planet.” Well, we’ve heard plenty of amazing big band albums in the course of our Hot Stamper shootouts for the last five or ten years, albums by the likes of Basie, Zoot Sims, Ellington, Shorty Rogers, Ted Heath and others. (more…)

76 Pieces of Explosive Percussion – Direct to Disc – Reviewed in 2000

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

Sonic Arts Box Version. A poor man’s Bang-Baaroom with a stage full of percussionists playing a variety of instruments. This LP presents a realistic soundstage and an amazing array of sounds. There’s also some incredibly deep bass drum work.