Demo Discs for Size and Space – Pop, Rock, Jazz, etc.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Out of This World Sound at Loud Levels

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More Prog Rock

  • This UK Island Pink Rim pressing makes the case that ELP’s debut is clearly one of the most POWERFUL rock records ever made
  • Spacious, rich and dynamic, with big bass and tremendous energy – these are just some of the things we love about Eddie Offord‘s engineering work on this band’s albums
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digital sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
  • “Lucky Man” and “Take A Pebble” on this copy have Demo Disc Quality Sound like you won’t believe
  • If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know – with such good music and sound, we hope to get another shootout going again soon
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album… [which] showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly …there isn’t much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here.”

If you’ve got the system to play this one loud enough, with the low end weight and energy it requires, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. This is bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels, it actually will rock your world.

This UK Island pink rim import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

More Charles Mingus

More Vintage Columbia Pressings

  • Boasting seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides, this 6 Eye Stereo pressing is doing just about everything right
  • Teo Macero was the producer and Fred Plaut was the engineer for these sessions in Columbia’s glorious-sounding 30th Street Studio. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.
  • If you like Kind of Blue, here’s another album with that sound (same year, same studio, same engineer)
  • The rich, sweet, spacious sound of the vintage tubes used to record the session is reproduced faithfully here – without that sound, it would just not be Ah Um
  • Marks and problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 5 stars: “Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist’s talents and probably the best reference point for beginners… Mingus’ compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um”

This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for —this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Ah Um Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Production and Engineering

Teo Macero was the producerFred Plaut the engineer for these sessions in Columbia’s glorious-sounding 30th Street Studio. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

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Led Zeppelin – Presence

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Here is a pressing with the power, the dynamic contrasts, the low end whomp, as well as the in-the-room midrange presence (pun only slightly intended) you’ve been waiting for
  • Featuring a stripped down, harder rock sound, Presence really benefits from the killer bottom end found on this early LP
  • “Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute Tea for One.”

We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how HARD this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon

  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish, this mindblowing recording is guaranteed to rock your world – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The transparency, the clarity, the energy, the power – it’s all here on these very special import pressings
  • Just listen to how clear the clocks are on Time, how breathy the vocals are on Breathe, how textured the synthesizers are and how silky the top end is from the beginning of the album all the way to the powerful finish
  • A Top 100 album (Top Ten actually) and a Rock Demo Disc to rival the most amazing sounding records of all time
  • 5 stars: “…what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music… no other record defines [Pink Floyd] quite as well as this one.”

This vintage import pressing has the presence, the richness, the size and the energy you always wanted to hear on Dark Side — AND NOW YOU CAN! (more…)

The Who – Live At Leeds

More of The Who

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • A hard-rockin’ copy – this British Track pressing boasts INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) DEMO DISC sound or close to it on both sides
  • The recording is huge and lively with startling dynamics and in-the-room-presence like nothing you’ve heard
  • This is Demo Disc quality sound by any measure, especially on Big Speakers at Loud Levels
  • The vinyl is fairly quiet, but that is rarely a concern when an album has music this loud and powerful
  • Drums so solid, punchy and present they put to shame 99% of the rock records on the planet
  • The sound of the best pressings is raw, real and exceptionally unprocessed
  • Cited as the best live rock recording of all time by The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, the BBC Q magazine, and Rolling Stone. In 2003, it was ranked number 170 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
  • We should have all the papers that come with the album, but please be sure to double check with us, if having all the papers is important to you

Get ready to rock out, as this is one of the BEST SOUNDING live albums ever recorded. “Young Man Blues” on a copy such as this has drums that are so solid, punchy and present they positively put to shame the drum sound on 99 out of 100 rock records! Keith Moon lives on!

The bass is AMAZING on this record. Present vocals and clear guitars in both channels are also key to the best copies.

Most pressings do not get the guitars to jump out of the speakers the way the best can.

Few copies get the highest highs and the lowest lows but this one had it going on from top to bottom.

The seven minute long “Magic Bus” that finishes out the side is The Who at their best. Rock fans will have a hard time finding a better sounding Who pressing than this one, on either side.

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Phil Collins – Face Value

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  • An early UK copy of Phil Collins’ killer solo debut with superb Double (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The recording quality of this album is still analog and can be excellent, thanks to hugely talented engineer and producer Hugh Padgham (Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Police, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, etc.)
  • We’ve tried his other albums, but nothing we’ve played has struck us as being remotely as well recorded as his debut
  • 5 stars: “. . . Collins’ most honest, most compelling work. He went on to become a huge star, with loads more hits, but Face Value stands as his masterpiece and one of the finest moments of the ’80s musical landscape.”
  • If you’re a fan of Phil’s, this has to be seen as a Top Title from 1981 that belongs in your collection
  • It’s without a doubt his best sounding album, and, to our way of thinking, his only essential one
  • The sound may be heavily processed, but that kind of sound works surprisingly well on the best sounding pressings (played at good, loud levels on big dynamic speakers in a large, heavily-treated room, of course)

Song after song, Collins’ songwriting and musicianship shine with this breakout record, the first and clearly the best of all his solo albums. The sound on the best copies, like this one, is VIBRANT, with SUPERB extension on the top, PUNCHY BASS, and excellent texture on the drums and percussion, as well as spacious strings and vocals.

There may be some hope for Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982), but Phil’s third album, 1985’s No Jacket Required, is digital and ridiculously processed sounding. I suppose not many albums from 1985 weren’t, but it’s still an unfortunate development for us audiophile types who might’ve wanted to enjoy these albums but are just not able to get past the bad sound.

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Dick Schory – Music for Bang, Baaroom and Harp

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

  • A vintage pressing boasting INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound from start to finish
  • Absolutely As Good As It Gets – it’s a real treat to hear such a crazy assortment of percussion instruments with this kind of amazingly clear, high-resolution sound!
  • This phenomenal copy is just plain bigger, richer and clearer than any we can remember playing – part of the reason for that is that it takes us about five years to find enough clean copies of a record like this in order to do a shootout
  • It also helps that both of these sides are in correct polarity, a subject you can read about on the blog if you would like to know more
  • If you’re a fan of percussion extravaganzas, this Living Stereo from 1958 is about as good as it gets

The hottest stamper pressings of this album are Demo Discs for three important qualities we listen for in our record auditions. Each of the links below will take you to other recordings we have found to be potentially superior in these areas of reproduction.

  1. Size and Space,
  2. Correct Timbre and
  3. Tubey Magic.

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, and rightfully so. It certainly can be a Super Disc, but only when you have the right pressing. This is one of the Demo Discs on the TAS List which truly deserves its status when, and only when, you have the right copy. (The typical copy is quite good, but it sure doesn’t sound like this.) Nothing else in our shootout could touch it. And it’s IN PHASE. Many copies are not.

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Charles Mingus – Mingus Dynasty

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More Jazz Recordings

  • An original 6-Eye Stereo copy with superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This pressing is rich and tubey, yet still clear and spacious, with a notably solid and articulate bottom end that does a superb job of captureing the beauty of Mingus’s double bass
  • Bucketfuls of studio ambience, and Tubey Magic to die for – this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • Be careful though – a record with this kind of sound will make all your Heavy Vinyl pressing sound as washed out, lifeless and veiled as we know them to be, news that may come as quite a shock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mingus Dynasty is still an excellent album; in fact, it’s a testament to just how high a level Mingus was working on that an album of this caliber could have gotten lost in the shuffle.”
  • If you’re a fan of jazz from the Golden Age of the ’50s and ’60s, this Columbia from 1960 undoubtedly belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If innovative Large Group Jazz is your thing, you should get a big kick out of this one. If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t? — you can’t do much better than the Mingus recordings on Columbia from this era. (We’ve now done shootouts for the album before this one and the one to follow. Both are amazing, musically and sonically.) The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any record of this kind you own right out of the water.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. 

Amazing Tubey Magic

For we audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy should be just the record for you.

It’s spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

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Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out

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Reviews and Commentaries for Time Further Out

  • This vintage Columbia 6-Eye Stereo pressing has some of the best sound we have heard for the album, with both sides earning STUNNING Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, and has more extension on both ends of the spectrum than practically all the other copies we played
  • It’s also graded just one half plus lower on each side than our Shootout Winner, and it has no audible marks, so you might just find that this is the best way to go for Time Further Out
  • This copy demonstrates the big-as-life Fred Plaut Columbia Sound at its best – better even than Time Out(!)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The selections, which range in time signatures from 5/4 to 9/8, are handled with apparent ease (or at least not too much difficulty) by pianist Brubeck, altoist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright, and drummer Joe Morello on this near-classic.”

Time Further Out is consistently more varied and, dare we say, more musically interesting than Time Out.

If you want to hear big drums in a big room these Brubeck recordings will show you that sound better than practically any record we know of. These vintage recordings are full-bodied, spacious, three-dimensional, rich, sweet and warm in the best tradition of an All Tube Analog recording. (more…)

Ted Heath / Shall We Dance

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More Big Band Jazz Recordings

  • This original London pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Both of these sides are huge, rich, weighty and dynamic like few records you have ever heard – it sets the Gold Standard for Tubey Magical Big Band sound
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than much of what we played
  • Credit Kingsway HallKenneth Wilkinson, and the Decca “Tree” microphone setup as the three elements used to create the magic in these grooves

Years ago we wrote in another listing, “We had a copy of Heath’s Shall We Dance not long ago that had some of the biggest, richest, most powerful sound I have ever heard. Watch for Hot Stampers coming to the site soon.” Well, now they’re here, and this copy fulfills the promise of the album better than most others we played in our recent Shootout.

DEMO DISC SOUND barely begins to do this one justice. This is Audiophile Quality Big Band sound to beat them all. The American big bands rarely got the kind of sound that the Decca engineers were able to achieve on records like this. For one thing they didn’t have Kingsway HallKenneth Wilkinson or the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.

Unlike some of the American big band leaders who were well past their prime by the advent of the two-channel era, Heath is able to play with all the energy and verve required for this style of music. He really does “swing in high stereo” on these big band dance tunes.

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