Mono or Stereo? Stereo!

Tony Bennett / For Once In My Life – Frank Laico Knocks Another One Out of the Park

More Recordings by Frank Laico

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Frank Laico

Amazing vocal reproduction courtesy of the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico at his favorite studio (and ours), Columbia 30th Street studios

We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this

Everything that’s good about Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room! The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one. (more…)

Dave Brubeck / Time Out – Reproducing Its Phenomenal Size and Space

More Columbia 30th Street Studio Recordings

Reviews of Recordings Made at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio

Spacious and transparent, this copy has the big three-dimensional soundstage that makes this record such a joy to listen to. The piano has weight and heft, the drums are big and dynamic, and everything is relaxed and sweet — in short, this copy is doing pretty much everything we want a top quality Time Out to do. 

Listen to the drums on Everybody’s Jumpin’. This album was recorded on a big sound stage and there is a HUGE room which can clearly be heard surrounding the drum kit. Add to that that some of the drums are in the left channel and some of the drums are in the right channel and you have one big drum kit — exactly the way it was intended to sound.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

(more…)

Deja Vu in (Awful Sounding) Mono Sells for $1200 and People Complain About Our Prices?

Letters and Commentaries for Deja Vu

More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young

A mono copy of Deja Vu (which no doubt sounds terrible; I had one once) went for $1200 on ebay a few years back!

Oh, but it’s an auction, so I guess that makes it all right. The seller didn’t set the price, the market did.

But the market sets our prices too.

We can’t sell a record for more than what our customers are willing to pay. What exactly is the difference?

Man, I sure would love to get $4k+ for one of our killer Hot Stamper pressings of Deja Vu. I guarantee our copy sounds a whole lot better than the one that sold on ebay.

And the music is the same, right? There is no mono mix, so anyone with a mono switch can hear the record in mono if they wanted to. But why do that? The stereo sound is phenomenal on the best copies!

So what did you get for your additional three thousand dollars?

A nice record to put on the shelf.

Which you could get from us for three thousand dollars less.


FURTHER READING

This record sounds best this way:

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels

On the Right Domestic Pressing 

(more…)

Stick with Stereo on the Dvorak & Glazounov Violin Concertos with Milstein

More of the music of Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)

More of the Music of Alexander Glazounov (1865-1936)

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

Stick with stereo on this album.

The Mono pressings — at least the ones we’ve played — aren’t worth anybody’s time (scratch that: any audiophile’s time).

TRACK LISTING

Dvorak: Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53

Glazounov: Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82


This record sounds best this way:

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

On the Right Domestic Pressing 

On the Right Early Pressing

Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Equinox

More Sergio Mendes

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this wonderful copy of Equinox, along with vinyl that is about as quiet as we can find it
  • The breathy intimacy of the two wonderful female leads – Lani Hall and Janis Hansen – were brilliantly captured by the engineering team of Bruce Botnick and Larry Levine at A&M
  • It’s humble records like this one that blew my mind when I first discovered them back in the ’80s, with their dynamic, energetic, spacious sound, as well as shockingly good music that at the time I had no idea existed
  • “Watch What Happens,” “Night and Day,” “Wave” – Mendes brings his innovative Bossa Nova arranging skills to these timeless classics
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equinox continues the scrumptiously winning sound that Sergio Mendes cooked up in the mid-’60s… Again, the mix of American pop tunes old and new and Brazilian standards and sleepers is impeccable, and the treatments are smooth, swinging, and very much to the point.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.
  • Equinox is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

These Sergio Mendes records can be surprisingly dynamic, but only the better copies (such as this one) will allow those dynamics to explode naturally, with the kind of ease that only analog is capable of reproducing correctly in our experience.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’re the world’s biggest fans of Sergio Mendes here at Better Records. Brasil ’66, Stillness, and this album are ALL Desert Island Discs for us, and we even enjoy the hell out of some of the later albums. You can search all you want, but outside of The Beatles you are going to have a very tough time finding the diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy, multi-part female vocals, their unusually voiced multi-tracked harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us not forget, Mendes’ superb keyboard work anchoring as well as jazzing up the whole production.

His stuff never sounds dated to us, and we’ve never heard another artist do anything in the ’60s samba idiom nearly as well. We love Astrud Gilberto’s albums from the period, which no doubt served as a template for the style Sergio wanted to create with his new ensemble, but Brazil 66 is clearly a step up in every way: songwriting, arranging, production, and quality of musicianship.

Just play the group’s amazing versions of “Watch What Happens,” “Night and Day,” or “Jobim’s Wave” to hear the kind of Mendes Magic that makes us swoon. For we audiophiles, it just doesn’t get any better. (Well, almost. Stillness is still the Ultimate, on the level of a Dark Side of the Moon or Tea for the Tillerman, but Equinox is right up there with it.)

(more…)

Cannonball Adderley – A Forgotten Jazz Classic

More Cannonball Adderley

Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

  • An exceptionally rare and amazing sounding early stereo pressing (that’s the mono you see pictured btw) – it boasts Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last 
  • These originals are by far the best way to go, in stereo of course, putting Cannonball’s breathy, melodic sax right between your speakers, with the rest of the band – including Sergio Mendes on keys – spread out around him
  • Truly an undiscovered gem in the Adderley catalog – the audiophiles here at Better Records were digging both the music and especially the superb sound
  • Another top quality recording from the superbly talented Ray Fowler, the house engineer for Riverside and the man behind many of the best Thelonious Monk and Cannonball Adderley recordings done for that great jazz label
  • A Jazz Classic from 1963 that should appeal to any fan of Bossa Nova music
  • The complete list of titles from 1963 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

I think I first heard this album on the original pressing about ten years ago. Of course I liked it immediately; samba jazz and pop are two of my favorite styles of music, from Getz Au Go Go to Astrud Gilbert, on to Antonio Carlos Jobim and ending with the bottled-sunshine Pure Pop of Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66.

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Time Out

More Dave Brubeck

Reviews and Commentaries for Time Out

  • This Six-Eye Stereo pressing boasts out of this world Demo Disc Sound – Time Out captures the ambience and huge space of Columbia’s studio like no other record has (with a little reverb thrown in for good measure)
  • A knockout pressing of Brubeck’s astonishingly well recorded Jazz Classic, a record that belongs in every audiophile’s collection
  • Early stereo LPs in clean condition like this one are getting awfully tough to find nowadays…
  • “Buoyed by a hit single in Desmond’s ubiquitous Take Five, Time Out became an unexpectedly huge success, and still ranks as one of the most popular jazz albums ever. That’s a testament to Brubeck and Desmond’s abilities as composers, because Time Out is full of challenges both subtle and overt — it’s just that they’re not jarring.”
  • If you’re a fan of Brubeck and company, this 1959 album belongs in your collection, along with quite a few others from the classic jazz era
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

(more…)

Junior Mance – Get Ready, Set, Jump!!!

More Junior Mance

More Big Band Jazz

  • Wonderfully big, rich and LIVELY, with boatloads of Tubey Magic and three-dimensional space
  • This vintage stereo pressing boasts exceptionally natural piano sound and the live-in-the-studio energy of a swingin’ group of veteran horn players
  • 4 stars: “Mance is joined by some of the cream of the West Coast studio and jazz players for a session that features Mance doing his blues thing on piano while the band swings at various tempi… resembling somewhat the style of the Count Basie Orchestra.”
  • If you’re a fan of Big Band Jazz, this album from 1964 probably belongs in your collection.

(more…)

Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Heifetz – On an Outstanding White Dog Pressing

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • Our vintage White Dog pressing of this brilliant Living Stereo recording — from 1956! — boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Heifetz’s violin is immediate, real and lively here – you are in the presence of greatness with this copy
  • The orchestra is wide, tall, spacious, rich and tubey, and transparency, the hallmark of the vintage vinyl pressing, especially one in Living Stereo, is first rate
  • Hard to find them without marks or groove damage, but here is one without either, and the sound is magnificent (which is the hardest thing of all to find)

The reproduction of the violin here is superb — harmonically rich, natural, clean, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound, as well as the fact that they become less congested in the louder passages and don’t get shrill or blary.

The best copies display a Tubey Magical richness — especially evident in the basses and celli — that is to die for.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Little smear, exceptional resolution, transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — the best copies take the sound of the recording right to the limits of what we thought possible.

Heifetz is a fiery player. On a good pressing such as this one, you will hear all the detail of his bowing without being overpowered by it. As we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity he brings to such a difficult and demanding work. (more…)

Charles Mingus / Mingus Dynasty – Skip the Mono

More of the Music of Charles Mingus

Jazz Recordings with Hot Stampers Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Charles Mingus

Although this album is fairly common in mono, we found the sound of the mono pressing we played seriously wanting. It’s dramatically smaller and more compressed than even the worst of the other pressings we played in our shootout.

We will never buy another, and of course we would never sell a record that sounds as bad as this mono pressing does.

For those looking for the best sound, the mono pressing is hard to take seriously, and for that reason, we say Skip It.

For records that we think sound best in mono, click here.

Are You a Jazz Collector or an Audiophile?

If you’re a jazz collector, of course you want the mono. If you’re an audiophile who likes jazz, you should want the stereo.

And if you are a very serious audiophile who has a great deal of time and money tied up in his equipment and room, someone whose motto might boil down to “nothing but the best,” then you need one of our killer Hot Stamper pressings of the album.


Below you will find our moderately helpful advice for acquiring the best sounding pressings of Charles Mingus / Dynasty.

In our experience the album sounds best this way:

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels

On the Right Domestic Pressing 

On the Right Early Pressing

Which simply means that the 6 Eye label domestic stereo pressings win shootouts, in this case without exception.

The 360 label pressings, Black Print or White Print, can sound very good, but they never win shootouts.

In general it is best to avoid pressings with the label you see to the left, from the Columbia Special Products series. They are rarely much better than awful, although there are a few exceptions to that rule.


Our Recent Hot Stamper Review

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If innovative Large Group Jazz is your thing, you should get a big kick out of this one. If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than the Mingus recordings on Columbia from this era. (We’ve now done shootouts for the album before this one and the one to follow. Both are amazing, musically and sonically.) The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any record of this kind you own right out of the water.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. There was practically nothing that could beat it, in any area of reproduction.

Amazing Tubey Magic

For we audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy should be just the record for you.

It’s 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.

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 is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

Production and Engineering

Teo Macero was the producer, and Fred Plaut may have been the engineer for these sessions in Columbia’s glorious sounding 30th Street Studio. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

(more…)