Labels We Love – Sheffield

Lincoln Mayorga – An Audiophile Record with Honest-to-Goodness Real Music

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  • This Limited Edition Sheffield Lab Direct Disc recording has some of the best sound we have ever heard for Volume III, clearly the best sounding title in the series
  • A superb pressing with energy and presence that just jumps right out of your speakers – this is but one of the qualities that separates the truly Hot Stampers from the pack
  • 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
  • If you’re a Lincoln Mayorga fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best, both musically and sonically
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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, tambourines, 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 is because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around at the time.

That’s also the reason this is a Must Own record today — the sound holds up, and there are not many audiophile recordings you can say that about.

Just listen to the astoundingly powerful 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…)

Thelma Houston – I’ve Got The Music In Me

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houstivego

  • This Sheffield direct-to-disc pressing boasts outstanding sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Loads of presence, with richness and fullness that showed us just how good the Direct to Disc medium at its best can be. It had everything going for it from top to bottom, with big bass, dynamics, clarity, top end extension (so silky up there!) and ENERGY
  • Make no mistake, this here is a real Demo Disc. The sound is Wall to Wall!

This wonderful pressing fulfills the promise of the direct-to-disc recording approach in a way that few direct-to-disc pressings actually do.

To be honest, most copies of this title were quite good; only a few didn’t do most things at least well enough to earn a good grade. This has not been the case with many of the Sheffield pressings we’ve done shootouts for in the past. Often the weaker copies have little going for them. They don’t even sound like Direct Discs!

Some copies lack energy, some lack presence, and most suffer from some amount of smear on the transients. But wait a minute. This is a direct disc. How can it be compressed, or lack transients? Aren’t those tape recorder problems that are supposed to be eliminated by the direct-to-disc process?

“Supposed to be eliminated” is a long way from “were eliminated.” Even though the mastering is fixed at the live event, there are many other variables which affect the sound. The album is pressed in three different countries: the United States, Japan, and Germany. Many mothers were pulled from the plated acetates (the “fathers”) and many, many stampers made from those mothers.

Bottom line? You got to play ’em, just like any other record. If no two records sound the same, it follows that no two audiophile records sound the same, a fact that became abundantly clear very early on in the listening. Of course, not many audiophiles are in a position to shootout eight or ten copies of I’ve Got The Music In Me, and I’m not sure most audiophiles would even want to. Here at Better Records we have a whole system set up to do exactly that, so we waited until we had a pile of them gathered together, cleaned them all up, and off to the races we went.

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Lincoln Mayorga – The Missing Linc (Volume II)

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  • This Sheffield Direct to Disc recording boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Guaranteed to be dramatically richer, fuller and more Tubey Magical than any other copy you have heard, with especially punchy drums and rosiny-textured strings
  • The bass on side one extends all the way into WHOMP land for that big bass drum at the end of “Limehouse Blues” – what a sound!
  • The top end is also key to the better pressings – lots of string harmonics and bells and other high frequency stuff gets lost on most copies, but not this one, it’s all here
  • The Audiophile “Sgt. Pepper” of its day, a record that was so much better than anything else you’d ever heard it made you rethink the possibilities (and they did the same thing with Volume III two years later)
  • If you’re a Sheffield Labs fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1972 is clearly one of their best
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is 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 shouldn’t 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.

Just listen to the texture on the saxophone on “Limehouse Blues” — you can really hear the leading edge transients of the brass that are so important to the sound of those instruments. The strings sounds rich and full, and the drums are punchy. Track after track, the sound gets surprisingly more open and airy. The harpsichord has such great presence it jumps out of the speakers. Side Two had the best bass ever — extending all the way into WHOMP land.

I was selling audio equipment (Audio Research, Fulton speakers) back in the ’70s and this was a favorite demo disc in our store. The bass drum at the end of track two would shake the foundation with a big speaker like the Fulton J.

Every bit as amazing to me was the string quartet on side 2. You could actually hear the musicians breathing and turning the pages on their music stands, just as if you were actually in their “living presence.”

This is one of the albums that made me realize how good audio in the home could really be. In a way this was the Audiophile “Sgt. Pepper” of its day, a record that was so much better than anything else you’d ever heard it made you rethink the possibilities.

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Lincoln Mayorga, Pianist – Reverse Your Polarity!

Hot Stamper Pressings of Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

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 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.

Lincoln Mayorga – Listen for Strained and Blary Brass

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Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

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 blary, or glary if you like. 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, tambourines, 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 is because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around (or so we thought). 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…)

Lincoln Mayorga and Obvious Pressing Variations

More of the Music of Lincoln Mayorga

Hot Stamper Pressings of Direct-to-Disc Recordings

I have to confess we were actually quite taken aback at the significant pressing variations on this famous record, the first Sheffield Direct to Disc recording.

These LPs are all over the map sonically. Some Sheffield pressings 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, direct to disc and otherwise.

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 in practically every case.

Sonic Shortcomings

Biggest problems on S9? I would have to say smearing is Number One. When the brass loses its bite and the bells don’t have the percussive quality of metal being struck, this is not a good thing. The band also seems to lose energy when the pressing suffers from smear.

Number Two would be a lack of top end extension. The harmonics of the sax and trumpet are muted on some copies, and the harpsichord really suffers when the top end isn’t all it should be. This lack of extension is most noticeable on all the lovely bells and percussion instruments that pepper the soundstage, but you can actually hear it on practically every instrument once you recognize the problem: guitar harmonics, cymbals and snares, and on down the list.

A recent Hot Stamper listing noted:


This Copy Rocks

It gives you the LIFE and ENERGY of the music — the tonality of the instruments is correct (although admittedly some tracks can sound a bit dark. That’s not actually a pressing issue, it’s more of a mixing and mic’ing issue.) and the whomp factor is fully intact. This is what made the album such a Demo Disc in its day. It’s got real power and IMPACT from the deepest bass up through the lower midrange, that range that small speakers and screens have so much trouble with. (The Legacy Focus we use for our shootouts has three twelve inch woofers and LOVES records with this kind of WHOMP.)

Above the bottom you will find wonderfully transparent and sweet mids and highs. This is the kind of sound that brings out the breathy, reedy quality of the saxes that play on so many of the tunes here (alto, tenor and baritone, the full complement don’t you know).

Mayorga Fans

We are big fans of Mayorga’s music for Sheffield from back in the day; all three of the Distinguished Colleagues records are fun and boast amazing sound when you get the right pressing. (We do Hot Stamper shootouts for all of them on a regular basis; it’s shocking how much better some copies sound compared to others. If you want the amazing sound that the Direct to Disc recording technology promises, we know of no other way to get it than by cleaning, playing and evaluating the discs themselves.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Grand Boulevard 
Good Vibrations
Anyone Who Had A Heart
I’ll Be Back
Learning To Be Kind

Side Two

Up, Up and Away 
Mercy, Mercy 
She’s Leaving Home
Don’t Think Twice 
All The Things You Are


This Album Is Good for Testing the Following Qualities:

Ambience, Size and Space

Bass and Whomp 

Compression 

Energy

Smear

Transparency

Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues – Volume 1 – (S9)

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Reviews and Commentaries for Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues

  • A stunning pressing of this famous audiophile recording
  • This copy will be awfully hard to beat for sound – get your VTA right and the bottom end on this LP will turn into a Bass Demo Disc like nothing you’ve heard
  • It’s very difficult to find this album in clean condition, and even more difficult to find one that sounds as good as this one does
  • One of the rarest Hot Stamper records bar none — only a handful have ever made it to the site
  • If you’re a fan of Mr. Mayorga and His Distinguished Colleagues, this is a Must Own from 1971.
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is a stunning copy of The Big One — Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues’ first Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP aka S9. We’ve been comparing and contrasting pressings of this album for more than twenty years and this is one of the better copies we’ve stumbled upon. The sound is BIG, RICH and FULL OF ENERGY.

Both sides have prodigious amounts of bottom end. It is a thrill to hear the power of the bass on this recording. The kick drum is HUGE.

Both sides have about as much Tubey Magic as can be found on the album, although Tubey Magic is clearly not what the engineers were going for with this recording. It’s a sound that many copies reproduce less than ideally, being somewhat dry. (more…)

The Sheffield Track Record – Who in His Right Mind Thinks This Is a Super Disc?

Rock Instrumental Tracks For Audio Component Testing and Evaluation.

Sonic Grade: F

Harry Pearson calls this absolutely the best sounding rock record ever made.

We cannot agree with HP as to the recording quality of this album.

The sound is surprisingly compressed, and the music is every bit as lifeless as the sound.

If you don’t know anything about rock music, this is the kind of rock music you like. Harry knew nothing about rock, just check out the TAS List while he was still in charge and see how many real rock albums could be found there back in the day. He mistook these lame instrumentals for actual music with good sound, and they are neither.

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

More of the Music of Lincoln Mayorga

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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 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…)

Harry James & His Big Band – The King James Version

  • 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…)