I’ve known this was a well-recorded album since I first heard the DCC Gold CD back in the 90s, which is excellent by the way.
If you happen to own the DCC vinyl pressing, buy the CD and find out for yourself if it doesn’t have better sound. The DCC vinyl will most likely be thick, opaque, airless and tonally too smooth. That is the sound they tended to go for back in those days, and at the time I too bought into that mastering approach. I clearly had a lot to learn. Over the course of the next decade I learned how foolish I had been to fall for that kind of euphonic EQ.
Back to the Gold CD
It sounded great to me at the time, although I had nothing to compare it to. I was not an Oscar Peterson fan in those days. The CD may be very good, but it is unlikely to hold a candle to any of our Hot Stamper vinyl pressings.
I now realize that this album is clearly one of the best jazz piano recordings we’ve ever played. In its own way it’s every bit as good as the other landmark recording we talk so much about, The Three, from 1975.
This album checks off a number of important boxes for us here at Better Records:
- It’s a Jazz Demo Disc (on the right stereo pressings).
- It’s the Best Sounding Oscar Peterson album we know of.
- It’s a Jazz Masterpiece, and, lastly,
- It’s a Personal Favorite of yours truly.
The description for the amazing copy we found in our shootout more than a decade ago has been reproduced below.
The Right Sound from the Get Go
Side one starts out with a solid, full-bodied piano and snare drum, a sure sign of great sound to come. This side was richer and fuller than all the other copies we played. That rich tonality is key to getting the music to work. It keeps all the instrumental elements in balance. The natural top on this side is just more evidence that the mastering and pressing are top drawer. Great space and immediacy, powerful driving energy — this side could not be beat.
And side two was every bit as good! The sound was jumpin’ out of the speakers. There was not a trace of smear on the piano, which is unusual in our experience, although no one ever seems to talk about smeary pianos in the audiophile world (except for us of course).
Ray Brown’s bass is huge, probably bigger than it would be in real life, but I can live with that. Once again, with this kind of extended top end, the space of the studio and harmonics of the instruments are reproduced brilliantly.
Testing with Oscar
Lately we have been writing quite a bit about how good pianos are for testing your system, room, tweaks, electricity and all the rest, not to mention turntable setup and adjustment.
- We like our pianos to sound natural (however one chooses to define the term)
- We like them to be solidly weighted
- We like them to be free of smear, a quality that is rarely mentioned in the audiophile reviews we read
- Here are some other jazz records with Top Quality Piano Sound
Other records that we have found to be good for testing and improving your playback can be found here.