Mono or Stereo? Stereo!

Milt Jackson & Wes Montgomery / Bags Meets Wes!

More Wes Montgomery

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

These two guys were made for each other; they have the same musical sensibilities.

Credit must also go to Wynton Kelly; his every solo is a thing of beauty. The three principals here are at the tops of their games and the sound will have you drooling. Good luck finding a more involving and enjoyable jazz record with this kind of sound — they just aren’t out there. That’s why, even with some surface problems, we think you are getting your money’s worth and more with this one.

If you’re a jazz fan, this Must Own Title from 1962 belongs in your collection

The complete list of titles from 1962 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.


This is an Older Jazz Review.

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.

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Bach / Suites for Solo Cello – Reviewed in 2010

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Classical Records on Mercury 

EXCELLENT CELLO REPRODUCTION and MOSTLY QUIET VINYL on side one, where you get Bach’s entire Suite No. 2 for Unaccompanied Cello. Side two has excellent sound as well but the vinyl is noisy so take this one at a bargain price and hear how wonderful a cello can sound when recorded and mastered for maximum effect, live in your listening room!

The sound of Starker’s cello here is HUMONGOUS — it’ll fill up your room, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. Click on the link to see other recordings with oversized images.

It’s also tonally correct from top to bottom, a quality we heard on none of the Mercury Heavy Vinyl Reissues, some of the worst sound we had heard from Speakers Corner up to that time, but very much in keeping with overly rich, overly smooth sound of the Heavy Vinyl records being made today. We despise that sound and want nothing to do with it.

Two Mercury recordings of Starker’s are currently on the TAS List, SR 90303 and SR 90392. I suppose we could order them up, audition them and list their many sonic shortcomings, since we do have nice copies of both albums in the backroom, just not enough to do a shootout, but there are so many other good pressings to play, why go out of way to play another second- or third-rate Heavy Vinyl pressing?

(By the way, we have a new link for audiophile pressings that are tonally correct but are wrong in other ways (as they usually are). You can assume that our Hot Stamper pressings are tonally correct for the most part, as correct tonality is fairly key to high quality sound. Not essential, but important nevertheless.

The cutting is super low distortion on this later label copy as well. This copy will show you why these Starker Mercury records are so highly prized.

Starker’s records are legendary for their sound, not to mention Starker’s way with this music. If anybody can make Bach’s solo cello pieces capture your interest, Starker can. (more…)

Various Composers – Fiesta in Hi-Fi / Hanson

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More TAS List Super Discs

  • An INSANELY GOOD original (FR 1) Mercury stereo pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • We owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for championing records such as this one — who is fit to carry his mantle today (besides us of course!)
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, with no marks that play or issues with the inner grooves
  • The notes read:
    • So rich and big
    • Great space and detail
    • Everything sweet and clear
    • 3D too
    • Great dynamics
    • Deep bass
  • If that sounds like the kind of Mercury you would like to hear — it sure does to us, how many Mercurys can be called sweet? — then this is the record for you
  • “…this musical merriment is brought bubbling forth by gregarious conductor Howard Hanson and his merry band, the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, which sounds like it had fun making this music.”

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Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde

More Bob Dylan

More Vintage Columbia Pressings

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides, this 360 stereo pressing was one of the better copies we played in our last shootout- remarkably quiet vinyl too, with no marks that play and surfaces that other early pressings are going to have a tough time competing with
  • You won’t believe how rich, full and lively this album can sound on a copy this good
  • Includes tons of quintessential Dylan classics: “Rainy Day Women,” “I Want You,” “Just Like A Woman,” and more – they all sound phenomenal
  • 5 stars: “Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play… It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.”

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Bernstein – Conducts Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

More music written or performed by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This vintage Columbia stereo pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • The best copies are out of this world, reproducing some of the most dynamic, exciting, richest, and most spacious sound we have ever heard from Columbia records, especially those conducted by Leonard Bernstein
  • The music is wonderful of course, with the Suites giving you all the best parts of his marvelous compositions with none of the filler
  • These vibrant orchestrations are played with tremendous energy, and that, coupled with rich and tubey analog sound, combine for an especially immersive and engrossing listening experience, particularly on side one here
  • For those of you playing along at home, it should be obvious why side one earned the higher grade – some of the qualities important to the sound are in greater abundance on side one, and this is not in any way difficult to hear

This is one of the great Columbia recordings. I suspected it might have been done at their legendary Columbia studios in New York but I was wrong, Manhattan Center’s huge stage served as the venue. Either way the sound is no less glorious.

One of the biggest advantages this copy had over most of what we played is fuller brass. The shrill sounding horns on most Columbia albums is what gets them tossed into the trade pile. Fortunately for us audiophiles who care about these sorts of things, the sound here is rich and clean, with solid, deep bass. The stage is huge, with the multi-miking kept to a minimum so that you can really hear the space this big group of musicians occupies.

There is a HUGE amount of top end on this recording. Wildly splashing cymbals and other percussion instruments are everywhere, and they are a joy to hear. No original was as clean up top as this reissue, and without a clear, (mostly) distortion-free top end, the work will simply not sound the way Bernstein wanted it to.

All that percussion is in the score. The high-frequency energy – perhaps the most I have ever heard from any recording of his music — is there for a reason. He conducted his own score, and one can only assume he liked the way it came out. We sure did. (more…)

Martin Denny / Quiet Village – Our Shootout Winner from Way Back

More Exotica

More Recordings Engineered by Ted Keep

This superb sounding Hot Stamper copy of Quiet Village has a lot in common with the other Bachelor Pad / Exotica titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Esquivel, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Arthur Lyman and others.

But c’mon, nobody really buys these records for the music (although the music is thoroughly enchanting). It’s all about the Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation, the wacky 3-D sound effects (of real birds and not-so-real ones) and the heavily percussive arrangements. In all of these areas and more this record does not disappoint.

If you’re an audiophile, both the sound and the music are crazy fun. If you want to demonstrate just how good 1959 All Tube Analog sound can be, this is the record that will do it.

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the sound here is PHENOMENAL. This is vintage analog at its best, so rich and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to “improve” it. If you like the sound of vibes and unusual percussion instruments, you will have a hard time finding a more magical recording of any of them.

Quick Notes

We were surprised that a number of copies were neither transparent nor spacious. For a while there we thought of giving up, but then we played this Black Label original copy and all was right with the world.

Unsurprisingly, we ran into plenty of noisy vinyl, too noisy to enjoy as the music is frequently quiet for extended periods.

There is a shocking amount of rich, deep bass in the recording. You could play fifty ’70s rock records and not hear this much richness and weight down low. Having played scores of Exotica titles over the years we were very pleasantly surprised to hear the bass  on this title surpass them all.

Side Two

Every bit as rich, sweet and tubey as side one, but this side is transparent, three-dimensional and spacious like no other side of any copy we played. The perfect music to demo your stereo with for anyone who thinks audio recording technology has improved in the last thirty years.

Side One

Super Hot Stamper sound, with a big stage, Tubey Magic and correct tonality from top to bottom. From top to bottom the tonality is Right On The Money. It’s very lively, with tight, clear bass.

Listen to how open the drum sound is. That sound is just not to be found on popular albums anymore.

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Sibelius – Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjelstad

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • This Sibelius Violin Concerto has top sonics and a performance to match
  • It’s some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, right up there with our longtime favorite, the Heifetz on Living Stereo (LSC 2435)
  • One of the truly great 1958 All Tube recordings from Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty by Alan Reeve & Gordon Parry on this very disc
  • “In the easier and looser concerto forms invented by Mendelssohn and Schumann I have not met a more original, a more masterly, and a more exhilarating work than the Sibelius violin concerto.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ricci’s (as are we), this is a Must Own from 1958 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1958 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The best Shaded Dog pressings of the Heifetz performance on RCA (LSC 2435) are the equal of this London. RCA presents the violin more immediately in the soundfield. Decca’s engineers integrated the violinist into the orchestra, which of course is the way it would be heard in the concert hall. To our ears, both approaches work exceptionally well — when you have at your disposal exceptional pressings of each. We had copies of both that were Hard to Fault, which made for a very enjoyable shootout.

Note that it has been close to ten years since our last big shootout for the work. That’s how long it takes to find enough clean London, Decca and RCA pressings for recordings such as these. Noisy, second-rate copies are everywhere. Top quality early pressings in clean condition come our way less than once a year. There are literally thousands of clean, vintage classical pressing sitting in our stockroom, waiting for a few more copies to come our way so that we can finally do a shootout.

With engineering in the legendary Kingsway Hall, there is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years (and this of course includes practically everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl). It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that is not being lost on us.

It’s also as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is, of course, all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

I don’t think the Decca engineers could have cut this record any better — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the resolving power, clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. They cannot begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in your decision to rid yourself of their unforgiveable mediocrity.)

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Simon & Garfunkel / Bookends

More Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Bookends

  • Our hottest copies have lovely midrange magic on the guitars and voices as well as plenty of studio ambience on most tracks, especially the simpler, more folky ones
  • An album that has become much tougher to come by, especially copies that play as well as this one does
  • Top 100, 5 stars – side two alone has four all time classics: Fakin’ It, Mrs. Robinson, A Hazy Shade of Winter and At the Zoo
  • If you’re a fan of this phenomenal folk duo, this early domestic pressing of their 1968 classic belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The best copies of Bookends and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme are a sonic step up in class from anything else these two guys ever released. If you’re looking for the Ultimate Audiophile Simon & Garfunkel record, you just can’t do better than a killer Hot Stamper pressing of either title.

This album has exceptional bass as well as lovely midrange magic on the guitars and voices. There’s plenty of studio ambience on most tracks, especially the simpler, more folky ones.

Do you know how hard it is to find a clean copy of this record? I’ll bet we look at 50 every year and probably buy no more than a few, which, after cleaning and going into a shootout may or may not sound good or have audiophile quality surfaces. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Monk’s Dream

More Thelonious Monk

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • A great sounding copy with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – this one was nearly as good as our Shootout Winner, hence the Nearly Triple Plus grades
  • These sides are rich, spacious, big and Tubey Magical, with virtually none of the smear on the piano that holds so many other copies back
  • Here’s proof that the sound found on these early Columbia 360 Label Stereo pressings is absolutely the right one for Monk’s music
  • 5 stars: “Although he would perform and record supported by various other musicians, the tight — almost telepathic — dimensions that these four shared has rarely been equalled in any genre… Monk’s Dream is recommended, with something for every degree of Monk enthusiast.”

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Schubert – The Trout Quintet / Curzon / Vienna Octet

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

More Classical Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • With two outstanding sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades, this vintage London LP was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than much of what we played – this is music you cannot help but be drawn into
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • The cello does not have that “fat” sound some audiophiles seem to like – Decca knew more about recording chamber music in 1958 than practically any of the audiophile labels that would come along later, the ones that managed to make a mess of the very idea of audiophile quality sound (you know who I mean)

The piano and the strings have that Golden Age Tubey Magical sound we love. It’s been years since I’ve had the opportunity to play this record. Most copies are just too beat up to bother with, so I was glad to find a number in minty condition.

Now what I hear in this recording is sound that is absolutely free from any top end boost, much the way live music is. There’s plenty of tape hiss and air; the highs aren’t rolled off, they’re just not boosted the way they normally are in a recording. (more…)