Labels with Shortcomings – M&K

Ohm Stereo Imaging Demonstration Record – Potentially Superb Sound

This review is from 2008. If you see one of these in the record bins, pick it up, it won’t cost you much.

This Ohm LP has tracks from some of the world’s finest superdisks such as Flamenco Fever, Hot Stix and For Duke. It also includes various selections from Vanguard. The last copy I played had SUPERB sound.

Note especially the first track on side two performed by the PDQ Bach Ensemble — it’s truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY. 

The record is pressed on Teldec Virgin Vinyl. The back cover features extensive liner notes, explaining what to listen for on each of these unique selections.

I was heartened to see Gino Vanelli’s name on one of the tracks, taken from Powerful People, a personal favorite of mine.

The album was mastered by none other than Bill Kipper, one of our favorite mastering engineers. We discussed his work in a previous listing:

Think what a different audio world it would be if we still had Bill Kipper with us today, along with the amazingly accurate and resolving cutting system he used at Masterdisk.

As far as we can tell, there are no records being produced today that sound remotely as good as this budget subscription disc.

Furthermore, to my knowledge no record this good has been cut for more than thirty years. The world is awash in mediocre remastered records and we want nothing to do with any of them, not when there are so many good vintage pressings still to be discovered and enjoyed.

The likes of Bill Kipper are no longer with us, but we can be thankful that we still have the records he and so many talented others mastered all those years ago, to enjoy now and for countless years to come.

Keep in mind that it’s all but impossible to wear out a record these days with modern, properly set up equipment, no matter how often you play it.

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Bill Berry and His Ellington All-Stars – For Duke

  • Tubier, more present, more alive, with more of that “jumpin’ right out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (The Real Thing being An Old Record) ever has
  • “. . . this album features a true all-star lineup. Each artist solos in this heartfelt tribute session. . . one of those rare albums that you can enjoy over and over without losing your smile.”

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Unreleased UHQR Test Pressing

More on the UHQR

Good Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl – Really?

This is a UHQR JVC Test Record in a white generic jacket.

The RAREST of the RARE! I’ve never even seen one offered for sale!

For those of you who do not know the complete story, the UHQR — the ultra high quality record — was invented by JVC as a test to see how good the ultimate vinyl pressing could sound. It was thicker, had a longer pressing cycle, and other technological improvements, all with the goal of making the ultimate lp.

Mobile Fidelity produced limited editions of eight titles on UHQR, and both Reference and Telarc produced one each.

Apparently tests were done by others as well, because here we have some M&K recordings on UHQR. I believe they are not known to exist — until now. I bought them from M&K myself many years ago, along with some Flamenco Fevers and a box full of unplayed For Dukes. That was a good day for Better Records! (more…)

Earl Fatha Hines – Fatha

More Earl “Fatha” Hines

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

  • Fatha is back on the site with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Both sides are clean, clear, lively, and super transparent, with sound that was smoother, sweeter, and richer than we are used to hearing for this album
  • You won’t believe how dynamic this copy is – when Fatha’s really pounding on the keys, you might just jump out of your chair
  • The opening track, “Birdland,” with just a high hat, a tuba and Fatha on piano is worth the price of the disc alone (well, maybe not at these prices…)

The sound is smoother, sweeter, and richer than we are used to hearing for this album. There’s lots of space around the drums, and the tuba sounds tonally Right On The Money.

You aren’t going to believe how DYNAMIC this copy is — when Fatha’s really pounding on the keys, you’re gonna jump out of your chair. The overall sound is clean, clear, lively, and super transparent. The edgy, hard piano sound that plagued our lesser copy is nowhere to be found.

One of the BEST Direct to Discs on M&K. This is especially good jazz piano music; Earl Hines plays up a storm on this album. The opening track, “Birdland,” with just a high hat, a tuba and Fatha on piano is worth the price of the disc alone.

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Passion Flower Is Clearly Better Than For Duke

Hot Stamper Pressings of Pablo Recordings

More Reviews and Commentaries for Our Favorite Pablo Recordings

This is one of the all time great Pablo sleepers.

Why is no one else writing about records like these? The music is wonderful and the sound is top drawer on the best copies. If you’ve tried and failed with other Pablo Zoot Sims records, fear not: this title is one of the best we have ever played, musically and sonically.

The ensemble is huge, probably at least a dozen pieces at any given time, and all that energy is captured on the best copies with tremendous engineering skill. The lively arrangements are by none other than Benny Carter, a man who knows his jazz. His career started in the ’20s(!) and lasted into this century if you can believe it. I consider myself fortunate to have seen him play locally when he was more than 90 years old. He stlll had it, kind of.

What to Listen For

Clarity and transients.

Thickness and fatness were common problems with Passion Flower — many copies were overly rich and somewhat opaque. It’s not necessarily a bad sound, but it becomes more and more irritating as you find yourself struggling to hear into the musical space of the studio. Smear is a problem too; many copies were lacking the transient information of the best.

In a nutshell, our Hot Stamper pressings are the most transparent copies that are tonally correct, with the least amount of smear.

forduke

Better Sound than a Direct Disc?

Musically Passion Flower is everything that For Duke isn’t, and although it may not be a Direct to Disc recording, it sure sounds better to these ears than that pricey TAS List Super Disc. The insufferably dead room For Duke was recorded in has forever ruined the album for me. I can’t stand that sound (which helps explain our aversion to Heavy Vinyl around these parts — the sound of the new remasters is consistently lacking in space, ambience and three-dimensionality).

Passion Flower was engineered by Bob Simpson at the RCA recording studios in NY, and Dennis Sands in Hollywood. These guys know a lot more about recording a large jazz ensemble than a couple of audiophiles who owned a stereo store and recorded in their showroom at night and on weekends.

Experience is surely a great teacher in this regard.

Incidentally, Dennis Sands is the engineer for one of the All Time Great Basie recordings on Pablo, Farmers Market Barbecue.


FURTHER READING

Bob Simpson Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Bob Simpson Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

Dennis Sands Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

Why M&K Direct to Disc Recordings Rarely Sound Right to Us

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

This album was recorded on location. The only other M&K Direct to Disc recording that I like was also recorded on location.

Most of the M&K Direct to Discs were recorded in the showroom of the stereo store that Miller and Kreisel owned, which, like any showroom, was carpeted and draped.

This is why almost all their records sound “dead.” This was their intention, of course. They wanted the sound to be “live” in your living room. I prefer to hear the kind of ambience that would be found in a real location, and so I have never been much of a fan of their label.

This record, however, gives you both that Direct Disc immediacy and freedom from distortion, as well as the live ambience of the location — the best of both worlds.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Audiophile Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Direct to Disc Recordings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

Felipe De La Rosa – Flamenco Fever

More Audiophile Records

  • With two Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy of Flamenco Fever is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is breathtakingly real – you are there in the club with the flamenco guitarist, his drummer, and a trio of stomping, clapping dancers
  • This is a Direct to Disc Demo Disc like nothing you’ve heard – when you turn up the volume on this bad boy the natural acoustic space in the room becomes huge and palpable
  • If you have the power to drive big speakers, the dynamics and bass transients of this copy might just rock your world, literally

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Earl Fatha Hines / Fatha – Now That’s a Dynamic Piano

More Direct to Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

This review is from 2012, the first time we did a mini-shootout for the album.

This M&K Direct to Disc SMOKED the copy we played it against — the difference was NIGHT and DAY! The sound is smoother, sweeter, and richer than we are used to hearing for this album. There’s lots of space around the drums, and the tuba sounds awesome.

You aren’t going to believe how DYNAMIC this copy is — when Fatha’s really pounding on the keys, you’re gonna jump out of your chair. The overall sound is clean, clear, lively, and super transparent. The edgy, hard piano sound that plagued our lesser copy is nowhere to be found.

One of the BEST Direct to Discs on M&K. This is especially good jazz piano music; Earl Hines plays up a storm on this album. The opening track, Birdland, with just a high hat, a tuba and Fatha on piano is worth the price of the disc alone.

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Beethoven / 4th Movement of the Ninth Symphony / Mitzelfelt

Sonic Grade: F

Can’t find anything nice to say about this record.  The sound is just awful.

Don’t blame your stereo if you hear bad sound coming out of your speakers. It’s the record.

Jack Sheldon / Unreleased UHQR Test Pressing – Reviewed in 2007

This is a PRACTICALLY BRAND NEW UHQR JVC Test Record. The record is virtually unplayed! The RAREST of the RARE! I’m SHOCKED at how good this record sounds. It has AMAZING live jazz sound. 

Jack Sheldon – Playin’ It Straight

Here’s Jack on trumpet with his Late-Show All-Stars: Alan Broadbent, piano; Pete Christlieb, tenor & baritone saxes & flute; Joel Di Bartolo, bass: Mundell Lowe, guitar; Tommy Newsom, alto sax & flute; and Ed Shaughnessy, drums. 

For those of you who do not know the complete story, basically the UHQR — the Ultra High Quality Record — was invented by JVC as a test to see how good a cost-no-object vinyl pressing could sound. It was thicker, had a longer pressing cycle, and other technological improvements, all with the goal of making the ultimate LP.

Mobile Fidelity produced limited editions of eight titles on UHQR, and both Reference and Telarc produced one each.

Apparently tests were done by others as well, because here we have some M&K recordings on UHQR. I believe they are not known to exist — until now. I bought them from M&K myself a few years back, along with some Flamenco Fevers and a box full of unplayed For Dukes. That was a good day for Better Records!

TRACK LISTING

Playin’ It Straight 
Steeplechase
That Old Feeling
Lover
Sweet Georgia Brown
I Hadn’t Anyone Til You
On Green Dolphin Street
Here’s That Rainy Day 


The secret is our exclusive RealTime Recording Process. Conceived and carried out by our own perfectionist audiophile/engineers, it keeps us working at the leading edge of recording technology. Every link in the chain—from microphones through recorders and/or disc-cutting lathe to custom-plating and pressing—is continuously monitored and upgraded to significantly exceed even the highest previous standards.

Our AKG microphones are first fitted with AKG’s latest capsules, in Austria, then further modified by RealTime engineers. Microphone output feeds RealTime’s own unique, passive mixer. No limiters, compressors, pan pots or other signal-degrading devices are used and the entire length of our signal path is 100% free of transformers.

Even our Neumann DC-coupled SAL/SX-74 600 watt/channel disc-cutting lathe is highly modified. And it is driven by a newly-developed Technics direct-drive cutting lathe motor. Disc masters are immediately flown overseas for custom-plating and careful pressing on the finest virgin vinyl available.

RealTime Records: the sound of unrivaled realism — so closely mirroring the original performance that any difference is virtually impossible to distinguish. Sample the sound of unrivaled realism on RealTime Records.