*Our Record Overview – The Middling

Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon – Speakers Corner – Reviewed in the ’90s

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Sonic Grade: B?

We were impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing when it came out back in the day. We’ve come to learn that it is such an exceptional recording that even their second rate remastering of it was still capable of producing a very good sounding record.

One of the ways you can tell how great a recording this is is simply this: as soon as the needle hits the groove you are immediately involved in the music, listening to each of the lines created by the five preternaturally gifted players, all the while marveling at Schubert’s compositional skills.

That’s what a good record is supposed to do. That’s supposedly why we’ve dumped so much money into all this fancy equipment. Because if you have records like this, and the equipment (fancy or otherwise) to play them, you will find yourself being transported to the musical space of the performance in a way that other recordings (read: Heavy Vinyl) simply will not allow you to be. (more…)

Benny Carter – Further Definitions – Reviewed in 2009

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More Further Definitions

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This is an original Minty looking Impulse LP. What I played of this album sounded nice and smooth. There may be livelier copies out there — who can say? I just don’t come acoss enough clean ones to know what the potential for this album is. I prefer smooth to aggressive, that’s for sure. Top players on this album include Coleman Hawkins, Philly Jo Jones, Phil Woods, Charles Rouse and others.   

TRACK LISTING

Honeysuckle Rose 
The Midnight Sun Will Never Set 
Crazy Rhythm 
Blue Star 
Cotton Tail 
Body and Soul 
Cherry 
Doozy

AMG Review

The band was gathered from jazzmen then working in the L.A. studios, including Carter and Bud Shank on altos, and tenors Teddy Edwards and either Buddy Collette or Bill Perkins. Although Benny Carter was not actively playing much at the time, he is heard in typically prime form. Very highly recommended. 

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – Mobile Fidelity Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

It’s pretty good. Compressed and veiled, but the tonality is correct. I give it a B. It will beat the vast majority of reissues, which tend to be thin, gritty, and woefully lacking in Tubey Magic. And the vinyl will be quiet, which is something not many of the best pressings can offer. 

But who wants to listen to a B grade record when we you can buy A and A+ pressings from us?

What Hot Stampers of Sinatra At The Sands 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 1966
  • 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 space of the Sands

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.

What to Listen for

There is some edge on Sinatra’s voice on every side of every copy; it’s so common it’s got to be on the tape. Those copies with less edge and grit on the vocals which are not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts.

Also, richness is very important. We look for a combination of rich, Tubey Magical sound that still maintains a fair amount of space, clarity, transparency and freedom from smear.

The original label pressings (always in stereo; the monos are really a joke) are richer and thicker as a rule.

The pressings with the orange two-tone labels tend to be thinner and clearer. A high percentage of them are way too modern, bright and gritty, and we throw them right in the trade-in pile.

Finding the copy with “best of both worlds” sound is the trick. Pressings on both labels have won shootouts in the past. With this album we do what we always do. We play the record without looking at the label and simply grade the quality of the sound coming out of the speakers. Any other approach is liable to fall prey to unconscious biases. As we like to say, record shootouts may not be rocket science, but they’re a science of a kind, one with strict protocols developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can possibly make them.

My First Time

Back in the early ’70s this was actually the album that first introduced me to honest-to-goodness “audiophile” sound.

I was at my local stereo store listening to speakers one day, and the salesman made a comment that the speakers we were listening to (the old Infinity Monitors with the Walsh tweeter) sounded “boxy”. I confessed to him that I didn’t actually know what that meant or what it would sound like if it weren’t boxy.

So he hooked up a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10s and put Sinatra at the Sands on. I was amazed at how the sound just floated in the room, free from the speakers, presenting an image that was as wide and deep as the showroom we were in. That speaker may have many flaws, but boxiness is definitely not one of them.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Come Fly With Me 
I’ve Got a Crush on You 
I’ve Got You Under My Skin 
The Shadow of Your Smile 
Street of Dreams 
One for My Baby (And One More for the…

Side Two

Fly Me to the Moon

One of the best tracks on the album. It can have SUPERB sound!

One O’Clock Jump 
The Tea Break 
You Make Me Feel So Young

Side Three

All of Me 
The September of My Years

Another high point and one of the best reasons to own this album. This is a much better performance than the famous studio version which was such a big hit in its day.

Luck Be a Lady 
Get Me to the Church on Time 
It Was a Very Good Year 
Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me 
Makin’ Whoopee

Side Four

Where or When 
Angel Eyes 
My Kind of Town 
A Few Last Words 
My Kind of Town (Reprise)

AMG Rave Review

In many ways, Sinatra at the Sands is the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s. Recorded in April of 1966, At the Sands is the first commercially released live Frank Sinatra album, recorded at a relaxed Las Vegas club show. For these dates at the Sands, Sinatra worked with Count Basie and his orchestra, which was conducted by Quincy Jones.

Like any of his concerts, the material was fairly predictable, with his standard show numbers punctuated by some nice surprises. Throughout the show, Sinatra is in fine voice, turning in a particularly affecting version of “Angel Eyes.” He is also in fine humor, constantly joking with the audience and the band, as well as delivering an entertaining, if rambling, monologue halfway through the album. Some of the humor has dated poorly, appearing insensitive, but that sentiment cannot be applied to the music.

Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra.

Stravinsky – Le Sacre du Printemps – Solti – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca.

Years ago we wrote the following: “Wow! What a performance! What dynamic full bodied sound! To be fair, I pulled out my original London, one of those awful mid-’70s English pressings that are never quiet, and yes, some of the ambience on the original is missing here on the new version, but everything else seems right: dynamics, tonality, the frequency extremes (including some pretty awesome deep bass).”

Can’t be sure we would still feel that way but I’m guessing this is a good record if you can pick one up at a cheap price. 

If you have a quiet original, great, consider yourself lucky. As few of you have any copy at all, I recommend this one. The alternative is to miss Solti’s energetic performance and the precision of the Chicago Symphony, one of the few orchestras capable of making sense out of this complex and infuriating work. (At least it used to infuriate audiences. Now our modern ears can take a difficult work like this and appreciate the complex rhythms and atonality as the expression of a truly original mind.

This is not music to play during dinner. This is music to engage the mind fully. It belongs in any collection. Yours in fact. Unless you have small speakers, in which case you would be wasting your money, as small speakers cannot begin to reproduce the power of this work in the hands of Solti and the CSO.

Borodin / Symphonies 2 & 3 / Ansermet – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C?

A decent Speakers Corner Decca.

The Speakers Corner heavy vinyl reissue of this title is not bad, but like all reissues it lacks the weight found on the originals. I remember it being a little flat and bright. I haven’t played it in years so I could easily be wrong. The glorious sound I hear on the best pressings is not the kind of thing I hear on 180 gram records by Speakers Corner, or anybody else for that matter. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture, Op. 49 / Kunzel – Telarc Debunked

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More 1812 Overture, Op. 49 / Kunzel

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

If you want an amazingly dynamic 1812 with huge amounts of deep bass for the firing of the cannon you can’t do much better than this (or its UHQR brother). 

But if you want rich, sweet and tonally correct brass and strings you had best look elsewhere. I’ve never liked the sound of this record and I’m guessing if I heard a copy today I would like it even less. Who thinks live classical music actually sounds like this? (more…)

Why Own a Turntable if You’re Going to Play Mediocrities Like These?

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This commentary was posted in 2007 and amended later with the statement that we would no longer be ordering new heavy vinyl titles starting in 2010. By 2011 we had eliminated them completely from our site. If you bought any Heavy Vinyl pressing from us, ever, now is the time to get rid of it and hear what a Hot Stamper can do for your musical enjoyment. 


Three of the Top Five sellers this week (8/22/07) at Acoustic Sounds are records we found hard to like: AjaAqualung and Blue. Can you really defend the expense and hassle of analog LP playback with records that sound as mediocre as this Rhino pressing of Blue? 

Why own a turntable if you’re going to play records like these? I have boxes of CDs that sound more musically involving and I don’t even bother to play those. Why would I take the time to throw on some 180 gram record that sounds worse than a good CD? (more…)

Little Feat – Waiting for Columbus – A Passable (!) MoFi

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More Waiting for Columbus

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Mobile Fidelity Pressing reviewed. Our Audiophile Scorecard has plenty more where this one came from

This is actually a pretty good sounding record, all things considered. We put this one through our cleaning process and gave it a listen. Although our Hot Stamper copies do sound better, they’re also quite a bit more expensive. This copy had the best sound we heard out of the three or four we played, which makes it a Hot Stamper I suppose, but we are instead just calling it a Very Good Sounding Copy.

Waiting for Columbus is one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever made, containing performances by one of the greatest rock and roll bands to ever play. If you only buy one Little Feat album in your lifetime, make it this one.

We spent years trying to get shootouts together for this album, but kept running into the fact that in a head to head shootout the right MoFi pressing — sloppy bass and all — was hard to beat.

This is no longer the case, courtesy of that same old laundry list you have no doubt seen on the site countless times: better equipment, tweaks, record cleaning, room treatments, etcetera, etcetera. Now the shortcomings of the MoFi are clear for all to see, and the strengths of the best non-half-speed mastered pressings are too, which simply means that playing the MoFi now would be an excruciating experience. All I can hear is what it does wrong. I was so much happier with it when I didn’t know better. (more…)

Paganini / Concerto No. 1 / Rabin / Goossens – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Niccolò Paganini

Concerto No. 1 / Rabin / Goossens

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This is a rare and very nice looking Capitol LP with Very Little Sign of Play (VLSOP). The violin sounds rich and sweet, although the orchestral sound is a bit old school. (more…)

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (Mono) – Sundazed Reviewed

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More Surrealistic Pillow (Mono)

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Sonic Grade: C-

Back around 2000 I spent a fair amount of time comparing this pressing with both an RCA 1S Black Label original, two different RCA Orange Label reissues, and the DCC 180 gram pressing. To make a long story short, if you’re willing to buy this record for the songs that really sound amazing on it, like “Today”, then you should try one.  (more…)