Mono or Stereo? Mono!

Jackie McLean Quintet/Bill Hardman – Jackie’s Pal

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  • A superb copy of Jackie’s Pal with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, with a true Mint Minus side one
  • Dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1956 sounds
  • Another top jazz recording from Rudy Van Gelder – big, bold and lively, just the right sound for this music
  • “… no one could execute complex melodic lines with the speed and precision of Bill. He was a human “bebop machine,” a player who could improvise for hours on a single chord and not run out of ideas…”

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Frank Sinatra – Close To You – Sounds Great in Mono

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

This nice looking Capitol Rainbow Label pressing has SUPERB SINATRA SOUND! His voice is PERFECTION. Rich, sweet, and completely free of phony EQ (Mobile Fidelity take note!), this record will put a living, breathing Sinatra between your speakers. Normally I’m not a big fan of these slower, ballady Sinatra records, but he’s so good here, it’s difficult to find fault with music and sound like this. (more…)

Smoky Babe – Hottest Brand Goin’

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  • Smoky Babe makes his Hot Stamper debut here on this superb pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • The mono sound is gloriously ANALOG, so smooth and full-bodied – no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally realistically relaxed sound
  • 4 stars: “Smoky Babe, aka Robert Brown, laid down a good set of down-home country blues on this 1961 session, with occasional assistance from harmonica players Clyde Causey and Henry Thomas… it’s sung with conviction, and the guitar playing is emphatic and chunkily rhythmic.”

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The Zombies – The World of the Zombies

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

The World of the Zombies is for all intents and purposes a reissue of their 1965 debut album, Begin Here, with a few track changes, the most important of which is the addition of Tell Her No.

The drums here are clear and punchy and the bottom end is solid. The vocals do not get too bright as they have a tendency to do on some copies.

When you get a Tubey Magical copy like this, that Hammond B-3 sound is GLORIOUS. Smooth sweet vocals and dead on tonality complete the sonic picture here.

Just for fun sometime go to popsike.com and check out what the original first Zombies record on Decca sells for. Try $1500 and up! And people think our prices are high — we ain’t never charged that kind of bread. (more…)

Julie London – About The Blues

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Julie’s lilting vocals are clear, breathy, Tubey Magical, and sweet, like practically nothing you’ve ever heard. This copy is about as quiet as we can find these 1957 Turquoise original mono pressings, Mint Minus Minus* throughout. 

Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

Take it from a huge Julie London fan, you can’t go wrong here, not for sonics, for music, or for anything else, including playing surfaces. In our experience, this lovely vintage pressing is as quiet as can be found. About The Blues is five times more rare than Julie Is Her Name, which makes finding clean copies much harder than it should be.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a Classic Fifties Female Vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best reason to demonstrate a stereo.

And you would surely be making someone a fan of Julie London’s early recordings. They are simply amazing on every level, or at least the best ones sure are. This title slotted in between 1956’s Calendar Girl (which is every bit as hard to find) and Make Love to Me, from later on in 1957. All three are wonderful.

Midrange Magic

Get the volume right and Julie will appear right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. This early pressing also has the midrange magic that’s no doubt missing from whatever 180g reissue might be available. This one is guaranteed to be dramatically more REAL sounding. It will give you the sense that Julie London is right in front of you. (more…)

The Tommy Flanagan Trio – On Moodsville

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  • The Tommy Flanagan Trio finally arrives on the site, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it
  • Rich, natural, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Mellow Jazz Classic from 1960 sounds
  • “Rudy van Gelder captured the exquisite sound in his usual manner by setting up a couple of high-fidelity microphones and letting the players and room speak for themselves. If I close my eyes, I’m in the Village Vanguard listening to him live.”
  • “With bassist Tommy Potter and drummer Roy Haynes giving the pianist fine support, the trio plays such songs as “You Go to My Head,” “Come Sunday” and “Born to Be Blue” quietly and with taste.”

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Red Garland Trio – Red Garland’s Piano

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  • Red Garland’s third studio album makes its Hot Stamper debut on this early mono pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • The sound is clear, spacious, relaxed, and full-bodied, with Tubey Magical richness and analog smoothness that on the best vintage pressings can offer
  • Another top jazz recording from Rudy Van Gelder – big, bold and lively, just the right sound for this music
  • 4 stars: “Red Garland’s third session as a leader finds the distinctive pianist investigating eight standards (including ‘Please Send Me Someone to Love,’ ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy,’ ‘If I Were a Bell,’ and ‘Almost Like Being in Love’) with his distinctive chord voicings, melodic but creative ideas, and solid sense of swing.”

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Mel Torme – Back in Town – Reviewed in 2011

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

This is a nice looking Verve LP with relatively quiet vinyl and surprisingly good sound. Natural, smooth and sweet, I doubt there are copies out there that sound much better. The music itself is great fun. Hearing Mel sing with the female vocalists is really a treat. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – This is Sinatra – Volume 2

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  • This is Sinatra, Volume 2, finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) mono sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl for a Black Label Capitol pressing
  • The sound is gloriously ANALOG – smooth, relaxed and full-bodied – no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally natural sound
  • Credit must also go to the extraordinarily inventive arrangements of Nelson Riddle
  • “… a selection of wonderful recordings, made over a period (the mid 1950’s) during which Sinatra’s voice, and his talent for song interpretation were undeniably at their peak.”

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, a mark makes 10 light ticks at the end of Track 3, I Believe.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Frank Sinatra music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


This vintage Capitol pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Frank Sinatra singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.

What the best sides of This is Sinatra, Vol. 2 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 1958
  • 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 studio

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.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on This is Sinatra, Vol. 2

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Hey! Jealous Lover
Everybody Loves Somebody
I Believe
Put Your Dreams Away
Something Wonderful Happens In Summer
Half As Lovely Twice As True
So Long, My Love
It’s The Same Old Dream

Side Two

You’re Cheatin’ Yourself
You’ll Always Be The One I Love
Wait For Me (“Johnny Concho” Theme)
If You Are But A Dream
You Forgot All The Words
How Little We Know
Time After Time
Crazy Love

Amazon Rave Review

[This is Sinatra, Volume 2] contains a selection of wonderful recordings, made over a period (the mid 1950’s) during which Sinatra’s voice,and his talent for song interpretation were undeniably at their peak.

In 1956 Capitol records had issued ‘This is Sinatra!’ a compilation album of his hit singles to date for the label. Following immediately on from the massively successful ‘Songs for Swinging Lovers’; ‘This is Sinatra’ sold like the proverbial hot cakes.

… [Volume 2] contained a large number of the ‘B sides’ from the hit singles featured on ‘This is Sinatra’. However; many of these recordings are brilliant in their own right; frequently(in my view) eclipsing the ‘A sides’ that they accompanied.

I bought my copy of the album in 1959, fortunately before it vanished into obscurity. It has always remained one of my favourite Frank Sinatra albums. As had previously occurred following his departure from Columbia records; Sinatra, after starting his own Reprise label, re-recorded much of his previous hit material.

He also used his influence to restrict the availability of many of the definitive recordings from his Capitol back catalog; including those tracks featured on this album. As far as I am aware from my researches, six of the album’s sixteen tracks were originally recorded by Capitol as stereo recordings. However, the album it’s self was only ever issued in Mono!

— HuddyBolly, Amazon Reviewer

Mendelssohn/ A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Mono with Maag – Reviewed in 2004

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London mono original Radio Promotion Copy with DEMO QUALITY SOUND!

Another winner on the early London FFRR Red Label. Maag’s performance here is famous, if not definitive. Audiophiles have known of this record”s qualities for decades. As our stereos get better, so do amazingly natural recordings such as this one.

Speakers corner did a reissue of this record on heavy vinyl which was quite good — too fat in the mid bass but otherwise acceptable. It sure doesn’t sound like this though! This is the real thing! You won’t find too many 180 gram records that sound like this one. (If you can find any.)

Here is the commentary I wrote for the Coppelia mono pressing. The same insights hold true.

This is the kind of record that the mono cartridge owners of the world worship. And for good reason. But you don’t need to have a mono cartridge to hear how good — in fact, how much better — this copy sounds than the stereo pressing.

I found out about mono classical records one day when I got a mono copy of the power of the orchestra, vcs 2659. It sounded better than any stereo recording of that work I had ever heard. All the instruments were so much more solid sounding, so palpable, so free from distortion, that it made me recognize for the first time what the mono record lovers of the world were talking about. That was ten [twenty five by now] years ago. Since then many high end mono cartridges have come on the market, specifically to bring out that sound.

But I don’t have a mono cartridge, and I sure don’t need one to hear how good this record sounds. Everything is right on the money. And of course with Ansermet, ballet conductor extraordinaire, you can be sure the performance is of the highest calibre. A top recommendation from better records.

By the way, there’s a good reason why London makes such good mono records. They ran a separate microphone feed into a monophonic tape recorder for their mono recordings, well into the stereo era in fact. Mercury did also, which is why many Mercury monos have excellent sound. RCA, on the other hand, frequently took the three-track master tape and simply mixed it to mono for their mono releases, which explains why a minority of RCA monos have good sound.

London knew how to do it right and the results speak for themselves.