Direct to Disc Recordings

Dave Grusin – Discovered Again – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This Sheffield Direct to Disc pressing has AMAZING SOUND! Out of the six copies we played, this was the White Hot Stamper WINNER of our shootout with the kind of life and musical energy simply not to be found on the average Sheffield copy.

The typical direct to disc pressing of Discovered Again leaves much to be desired. Two areas are especially lacking as a rule: the top end tends to be rolled off, and there is a noticeable lack of presence, which can easily be heard in the drum sound: the snare sounds like it’s covered with a towel on most copies of this album. Wha’ happen?

Who knows? Even though the mastering is fixed at the live event, there are many other variables which no doubt affect the sound. The album is cut on two different lathes — M (Master) and S (Slave), and pressed in two different countries: Japan and Germany. Many mothers were pulled from the acetate and many, many stampers made from those mothers. (I saw one marked stamper number 15!)  (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga – The Missing Linc – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Super Hot, and definitely not your typical Sheffield pressing. Some of them are aggressive, many of them are dull and lack the spark of live music, some of them have wonky bass or are lacking in the lowest octave — they are prey to every fault that befalls other pressings. 

Which should not be too surprising. Records are records. Pressing variations exist for every album ever made. If you haven’t noticed that yet, start playing multiple copies of the same album, while listening carefully and critically.

If your stereo is any good at all, it should not take you long to notice how different one record sounds from another. (more…)

John Klemmer – Straight from the Heart

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

This White Hot Stamper Nautilus Direct-to-Disc recording is an AMAZING Demo Disc, and what’s more, it’s actually REAL JAZZ — a remarkably unusual combination in the Audiophile World, in my experience anyway. This copy takes the sound of this recording — and the music along with it — to another level. YOU WON’T BELIEVE how good this record sounds  (more…)

Neil Young – Time Fades Away

Time Fades Away


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  • Triple Triple! Only the second Top Copy of this album to EVER hit the site
  • Both A+++ sides are big, rich and full-bodied with wonderful size and separation
  • Never released on CD, this is probably the toughest Neil album to come by
  • “Time Fades Away ranks with the bravest and most painfully honest albums of his career — like the tequila Young was drinking on that tour, it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised by its powerful effects.” — Allmusic, 4 stars

See all of our Neil Young albums in stock

Unlike most “live” albums this one was cut direct-to-disc with no fixes or overdubs, and on the best pressings that warts-and-all approach really pays off. There’s real openness, and the tonality on the better copies is both rich and sweet. This kind of sound has the potential to put you right in the front row. Unlike most “live” albums this one was cut direct-to-disc, with no fixes or overdubs, and on the best pressings that warts-and-all approach really pays off. There’s good weight, real openness, and the tonality on these better copies is both rich and sweet. This kind of sound can put you right in the front row. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K. – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album. 

Notice that, at least for most of the material, and perhaps all of it, Sinatra does not seem to be stuck in a vocal booth. He sounds like he is actually standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band.

Whether this is a recording trick — he’s in a booth but the engineer did a great job creating a sound for the booth that matched the ambience and space of the studio — or whether he is standing front and center with the band, the illusion is convincing and adds greatly to the “reality” of the performance..

Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Ry Cooder

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

The music reminds me a lot of early Little Feat, which is a good thing. The sound is somewhat similar as well, which is to say that it is natural and musical, nothing like the hyped-up hi-fi sound of his TAS-listed album Jazz — and that’s a good thing as well.

There are some great songs here, including My Old Kentucky Home, One Meat Ball and How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. It may even be his best album.

Side One

Very rich and natural with a strong bottom end and real texture up top. The top end is nice and open, with good separation between parts. So good!

Side Two

Easily the best side two we heard in our shootout! You get a bigger soundstage, more energy, a strong bottom end, and right on the money tonality for the brass and guitars. (more…)

The Three – Our Direct Disc Copy

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

DEMO QUALITY, MASTER TAPE SOUND (!) on BOTH SIDES! Hey, wait a minute, this is the direct to disc version, there is no Master Tape. How can it have Master Tape Sound?

Simple. It’s the RARE copy that actually sounds like this one. Most Eastwind pressings — like pressings on any label — do not convey all the information of the master tape that you know must exist because you HEAR it on some copies. Some Direct Discs have much more of the sound that was cut live directly onto the acetate than others. This is one of those, one of the ones with MUCH MORE SOUND! 

This is my favorite piano trio record of all time. Joe Sample, Shelly Manne and Ray Brown only made one album together, this one, recorded direct to disc right here in Los Angeles for Eastwind in the Seventies. Joe Sample for once in his life found himself in a real Class A trio, and happily for jazz fans around the world he rose to the occasion. Actually it was more like an epiphany, as this is the one piano trio album I put in a class by itself. All three of The Three are giving us the best they’ve got on this one. When it comes to piano trio jazz, there is none better. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Ry Cooder

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage Reprise pressing of Cooder’s debut album from 1970
  • If you want to hear the brilliant Lee Herschberg’s All Analog Recording skills brought to bear on so many different instruments serving an assortment of sonic textures, this is the copy that will let you do it
  • 4 stars: “Cooder’s debut creates an intriguing fusion of blues, folk, rock & roll, and pop, filtered through his own intricate, syncopated guitar; Van Dyke Parks and Lenny Waronker’s idiosyncratic production… Cooder puts this unique blend across with a combination of terrific songs, virtuosic playing, and quirky, yet imaginative, arrangements.”

The music reminds me a lot of early Little Feat, which is a good thing. The sound is somewhat similar as well, which is to say that it is natural and musical, nothing like the hyped-up hi-fi sound of his TAS-listed album Jazz — and that’s a good thing as well.

There are some great songs here, including My Old Kentucky Home, One Meat Ball and How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. It may even be his best album. (more…)

Stoneground Play It Loud – Bad Direct Disc Music & Sound

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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

Brahms, Handel, Chopin – Lincoln Mayorga, Pianist – Reverse Your Polarity!

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This IMMACULATE Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP with Very Little Sign Of Play (VLSOP) is one of the best Sheffields. Lincoln Mayorga is an accomplished classical pianist: this is arguably his best work. (I had a chance to see him perform at a recital of Chopin’s works early in 2010 and he played superbly — for close to two hours without the aid of sheet music I might add.) 

You might want to try reversing the phase when playing this LP; it definitely helps the sound, a subject we discuss below.

This is another one of the Pressings We’ve Discovered with Reversed Polarity.

Reversing the absolute phase on this record recently was quite interesting. The sound of the piano itself was already very good. With the phase reversed what really changed with the sense of space surrounding it, which immediately became much more palpable. The piano, though tonally similar to the way it sounded with the phase left alone, came to life more — more solid and punchy and percussive.

How do you change the absolute phase you ask? You must either switch the positive and negative at the speaker, the amp, or at the head shell leads, or you must have a switch that inverts phase on your preamp or phono stage. (The EAR 324p we use has just such a switch and let me tell you, it comes in very handy in situations like these.) If you can’t do any of those, or are unwilling to do any of those, this record will still sound good. It just won’t sound as good.