Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Direct to Disc Recordings

Lenny Breau – Lenny Breau Trio, Recorded Direct to Disc

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This is a SUPERB SOUNDING Limited Edition Direct Disk Labs LP with a fold-open cover.  

Breau is an extraordinarily gifted guitarist, and the sound is excellent, so we are happy to recommend this audiophile record, something you won’t see us doing very often.

“Breau mixed together elements from country music and jazz to develop an original sound and style. This album gives listeners a strong example of his legendary artistry.” – AMG

Glenn Miller – The Direct Disc Sound of…

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  • An outstanding German pressing of a Century Direct to Disc recording, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Great energy, but the sound is relaxed and Tubey sweet at the same time, never squawky, with plenty of extension on both ends — that’s analog for ya!
  • This is no sleepy over-the-hill Sheffield Direct to Disc (referring to the later Harry James titles, not the excellent first one) – these guys are the real deal and they play their hearts out on this live-in-the-studio recording

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.

Not to mention the fact that the shockingly good Sauter-Finegan track “Song of the Volga Boatman” from the LP “Memories Of Goodman and Miller” is played regularly around these parts for cartridge setup and tuning, as well as general tweaking.

But that should take nothing away from this superb recording, made at the famously good sounding Capitol Records Studio A, with none other than Wally Heider doing the mix and Ken Perry manning the lathe.

We also noted that, “It absolutely murders all the Sheffield big band records, which sound like they were made by old tired men sorely in need of their naps. Way past their prime anyway,” which is mostly true.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra heard here was an actively touring band. They know this material inside and out, they clearly love it, and they’re used to playing the hell out of it practically every night.

If you like the tunes that Glenn Miller made famous — String of Pearls, In The Mood, Tuxedo Junction — you will have a very hard time finding them performed with more gusto, or recorded with anything approaching this kind of fidelity. (more…)

Grossman & Renbourn on East World Direct to Disc

This is an East World Direct-To-Disc Japanese Import LP.

Lovely acoustic music; the best cuts are the first two tracks on side two. They sound like a classic Vanguard recording from the ’60s. One of the best East World titles.

The record comes complete with the tablature/lyric sheet and extensive liner notes on the recording process. 

Direct to Discs on Crystal Clear – Few Make the Grade, and These Are Three of Their Worst

 

These are just some of the recordings on Crystal Clear that we’ve auditioned over the years and found wanting.

Without going into specifics — who can be bothered to take the time? — we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection.  

Another Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.

Charlie Byrd – Direct to Disc

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This is a very nice looking Crystal Clear 45 RPM Direct-to-Disc LP pressed on white vinyl. Out of the couple of copies we played this one had the best sound. It had more clarity than the other copy, which sounded veiled and smeary.

I admit I never liked the sound of the record though. It’s dark and unnatural to my ears.  I would avoid it. There are so many other, better Charlie Byrd recordings, why waste your time and money on this one?

Another example of an “audiophile” record with little in the way of audiophile merit.

Lee Ritenour – Friendship on JVC Direct Disc

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

This is one of my all time favorite audiophile discs because it’s actually real music.

The song Woody Creek is wonderful and reason enough to own this excellent album. The guitar of Lee Ritenour and the saxophone of Ernie Watts double up during a substantial portion of this song and the effect is just amazing. 

Special kudos should go to Ernie Watts on sax, who blows some mean lines. But everybody is good on this album, especially the leader, Lee Ritenour. I saw these guys live and they put on a great show.

By the way, looking in the dead wax I see this record was cut by none other than Stan Ricker of Mobile Fidelity fame himself!

Vivaldi / The Four Seasons – A Sonic Arts Direct to Disc Recording Reviewed in 2009

A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is a SUPERB sounding Sonic Arts Direct-to-Disc LP with Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides. I gave this one rave reviews twenty years ago (when we could still find them) and I’m happy to see that the sound has held up just fine in the intervening decades. Recorded in a dry acoustic, immediacy and clarity are the sonic strengths of this side one. This is one of the most natural Direct-Disc I’ve heard in a long time. One could easily use it as Demo Disc, depending on your taste and system.

There is wonderful chamber music throughout this LP. It comes as no surprise that it was nominated for two Grammys.

Side One

A++, with a very slight edge to the top of the strings being all that holds it back from a Triple Plus grade. The sound is accurate and real for the room that it was recorded in.

Side Two

A++, this side I liked a bit better, it’s a bit smoother and more relaxed; it sounds as though the mics are not quite as close to the performers on this side. (more…)

Taj Mahal – Live & Direct (Direct to Disc)

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This is a Minty looking Crystal Clear Direct-to-Disc LP with Very Little Sign of Play. It’s an EXTREMELY rare title, one of the rarest and best Crystal Clear Direct Discs, with very good sound as I recall. 

“… several outstanding performances by Taj and his International Rhythm Band. Indeed, ‘Little Brown Dog’ catches Taj in one of his transcendental live moments when he gets so down in the groove you never want him to stop.” – AMG Review

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…)

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…)