Mono – Good and Bad

Our Better Records Hall of Fame for Jazz – Now 280+ Strong

 The Better Records Hall of Fame for Jazz

We’ve been searching for years trying to find just what kind of Lush Life pressing — what era, what label, what stampers, mono or stereo, import or domestic — had the potential for good sound.

No, scratch that. We should have said excellent sound. Exceptional sound. We’ve played plenty of copies that sounded pretty good, even very good, but exceptional? A pressing of that caliber had eluded us — until 2016.

More John Coltrane

Yes, it was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have.

Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound. (more…)

Harry Belafonte Sings The Blues

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“The Analog sound of this pressing makes a mockery of even the most advanced digital playback systems, including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. I’d love to play this for Neil Young so he can see what he’s up against. Good Luck, Neil, you’re going to need it.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1958 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you.

Naturally the vocals have to be the main focus on a Harry Belafonte record. He should sound rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and transparent. To qualify as a Hot Stamper the pressings we offer must be highly resolving, not crude and ambience-challenged the way so many modern LPs seem to be. You should be able to hear every element of the recording, with the voice and instruments surrounded by the natural space of the studios in which the recording was made.

See all of our Harry Belafonte albums in stock

This Copy

This copy is super 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.

The Analog sound of this pressing makes a mockery of even the most advanced digital playback systems, including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. I’d love to play this for Neil Young so he can see what he’s up against. Good Luck, Neil, you’re going to need 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 actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

Truly a Spectacular Demo Disc in its own right. (more…)

Red Garland Trio – Groovy

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Our Killer Triple Triple Copy

What makes this vintage piano trio album in mono so special? Allow me to quote a review from a few years back for a pair of recordings that Red Garland made with Miles Davis back in the mid-’50s: Workin’ And Steamin’.

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

The size, the weight, the solidity, the clarity, the energy, the rhythmic drive – it’s all here and more. We’ve never heard the record sound better, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since the ’80s.

These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to transfer that vintage sound correctly onto vinyl disc was simply to thread up the tape on a high quality machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days — certainly not as good sounding as this one — tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years, if not decades.

See all of our Red Garland albums in stock (more…)

To Swing Or Not To Swing in 1955

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This Early Contemporary Yellow Label Mono LP sure has AMAZING SOUND!

Man, this music is a blast when it sounds this good. I don’t think there’s a whole lot you could do to make this music sound any better! It’s one of the best early mono Contemporary LP I’ve ever played. It’s so tubey magical and Kessel’s guitar sound is out of this world.

The music here matches the sound for excellence. The whole band just swings! There’s a real old rag-timey feel to the songs. Look at this list of all-star players: Harry Edison, Jimmy Rowles, Red Mitchell and Shelly Manne — this is some serious jazz talent. (more…)

Jobim and Ramone

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

Credit engineer PHIL RAMONE for correctly capturing the sound of every instrument here: the guitars, piano, flutes, strings, drums, percussion instruments — everything has the natural timbre of the real thing. I used to think this recording erred on the bright side, but not the Hot Stamper copies. They are tonally Right On The Money.

More Antonio Carlos Jobim

When the balance lacks lower midrange the sound gets lean, which causes the strings to seem brighter than they really are, a not uncommon problem with some of the pressings we heard.

We had quite a batch of these to play, including imports, originals, reissues (all stereo), and one lone mono, which was so ridiculously bad sounding we tossed it right out of the competition and into the trade pile.

For those of you playing along at home, we are not going to be much help to you here in finding your own Hot Stampers. Every version had strengths and weaknesses and all are represented in the three listings we are putting up today. (more…)

Julie Is Her Name – A Boxstar Bomb

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A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex / Boxstar.

One question: Where’s the Tubey Magic?

We would never have pointed you in the direction of this awful Boxstar 45 of Julie Is Her Name, cut by Bernie Grundman, supposedly on tube equipment. I regret to say that we actually sold some copies, but in my defense I can honestly and truthfully claim that we never wrote a single nice thing about the sound of the record. That has to count for something, right?

We found the Tubey Magic on his pressing to be non-existent, as non-existent as it is on practically every Classic Record release he cut. If you have his version you are in for quite a treat when you finally get this one home and on your table. There is a world of difference between the sound of the two versions and we would be very surprised if it takes you more than ten seconds to hear it.

See all of our Julie London albums in stock

What to Listen For (WTLF)

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is on Barney Kessel’s guitar. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

To take nothing away from her performance, which got better with every copy we played. Julie’s rendition of Cry Me a River may be definitive.

If only Ella Fitzgerald on Clap Hands got this kind of sound! As good as the best copies of that album are, this record takes the concept of intimate female vocals to an entirely new level. (more…)

Why Has Nobody Noticed that Side One Is Often Mastered in Mono?

itsabThis Super Hot Stamper Red Label pressing gives you most of the 360 Label’s rich, Tubey Magical sound, and that’s saying a lot; most red label pressings of this record are absolute junk. About half of the side ones are in MONO — how about that! Who knew, right?

Just did a search and cannot find a single mention of this fact.

Seems that someone should have noticed it by now (besides us of course).

How critically can music lovers and audiophiles be listening to their records if they don’t notice such a glaringly obvious change in the sound?

Here’s what we had to say about a copy on our site a while back:

Going through our clean 360 label pressings (which aren’t cut quite as loud by the way so watch out when doing your own shootouts), we found one that was better and one that was worse. Others were just too noisy. This red label pressing was BY FAR THE BEST of the red label reissues, with A++ sound on both sides that frankly took us by surprise. As we so often say, Who knew? Now that we’ve heard red labels that sound this good we are on the hunt! They can be found, and they’re usually not in trashed condition the way the 360s are.
(more…)

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’

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To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

See all of our Miles Davis albums in stock

Better than the Originals?

The record combines two Miles Davis albums recorded in 1956: Workin’ and Steamin’. The 1974 remastering here by Brian Gardner is excellent. Since RVG probably would have mastered these tapes himself for the original pressings, I’m going to guess that this album sounds better than any original, for two reasons.
(more…)

The Vintage Sound of The Genius After Hours

charlgeniusProof positive that there is nothing wrong with remastering vintage recordings if you know what you’re doing. These sessions from 1956 (left off of an album that Allmusic liked a whole lot less than this one) were remastered in 1985 and the sound — on the better copies mind you — is correct from top to bottom.

What It Doesn’t Sound Like

The highest compliment I can pay a copy such as this is that it doesn’t sound like a modern record. It sounds like a very high quality mono jazz record from the ’50s or ’60s. Unlike modern recuts it doesn’t sound EQ’d in any way. It doesn’t lack ambience the way modern records do. It sounds musical and natural the way modern records almost never do.

If not for the fairly quiet vinyl you would never know it’s not a vintage record. The only originals we had to play against it were too noisy and worn to evaluate critically. They sounded full, but dark and dull and somewhat opaque (hey, there’s that modern remastered sound we’ve all been hearing for years!).

And although it is obviously a budget reissue, it sure doesn’t sound cheap to these ears.

Tender Loving Care?

Was it remastered with great care, or did the engineer just thread up the tape on a high-quality, properly calibrated deck and say “Nice, sounds good, let her rip.”? Either “explanation” works for me, because I really don’t care who made the record or how much work they put into it. In the case of The Genius After Hours it seems they found the real master tape and just did their job right, the way mastering engineers — well, some of them anyway — had been doing for decades.

A scant ten years later Bernie Grundman, a true Hall of Famer, started cutting for Classic Records and ruined practically every tape handed to him. Our explanation? We don’t have one! We played the records and reported our findings. We sold the ones we thought sounded good to us and didn’t bother with the rest.

Just like we’re doing now. The biggest difference here is that we are evaluating a single copy, with these specific qualities, and guaranteeing that you either love it or you get your money back.

Side One

Big and clear with a very solid piano and all its harmonic overtones. What piano recording from 1956 sounds like this? None that I know of. And it’s Ray Charles at the keys!

Side Two

The exceptionally dynamic brass that comes jumping out of the soundfield is nonetheless warm and full – what a great sound!

There’s much more space here than on most copies, making it sound less mono.

One More Thing

The first copy of the album I got my hands on and needle-dropped blew me away with its big, clear, solid mono sound. Close to a year later when we had enough copies to do this shootout, sure enough it won. That rarely happens — in a big pile of records there’s almost always something better than whatever we’ve heard — but it happened this time.

Imagine if I had played one of the bad sounding or noisy ones to start with. It’s unlikely I would have been motivated to pursue the title and consequently the shootout we just did would have never happened. Lucky for us all that that first copy was so good!

More Ray Charles

 

 

The Byrds in Mono – How Do They Sound?

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None of the mono pressings of The Byrds’ albums that we’ve played in shootouts over the course of the last ten years or so has ever impressed us much, none that I can recall anyway.

Congested and compressed, with no real top, who in his right mind could possibly tolerate that kind of sound on modern equipment?

Although, to be fair, we’ve stopped buying them, so there may actually be a good copy or two out there in used record land that we haven’t heard. In our defense, who really has the time to play records with so little potential for good sound?

How about the Sundazed mono pressings?

The best Columbia stereo copies are rich, sweet and Tubey Magical — three areas in which the Sundazed reissues are seriously lacking.

Does anyone still care? We simply cannot be bothered with these bad Heavy Vinyl pressings. If you’re looking for mediocre sound just play the CD. I’m sure it’s just as terrible.

See all of our Byrds albums in stock