Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Barney Kessel / Music to Listen to Barney Kessel By

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More Jazz Featuring the Guitar

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  • Music To Listen To Barney Kessel By finally returns to the site with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Contemporary Stereo sound on both sides
  • Their stuff just doesn’t get any better than this. Tubey Magic, richness, sweetness, dead-on timbres from top to bottom — this is a textbook example of Contemporary sound at its best
  • For those of you who appreciate what Roy DuNann (and Howard Holzer on other sessions) were able to achieve in the ’50s at Contemporary Records, this LP is a Must-Own
  • Unless you already have it, which is doubtful considering how hard it is to find a copy in clean condition
  • Barney Kessel and his five reed players take these standards and make magic with them — for fun, relaxing jazz it’s hard not to love this one

This vintage Black Label Contemporary Stereo LP from has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND. No other copy we played was in a class with this bad boy — it does it ALL.

How can you beat a Roy DuNann recording of five reeds, piano, guitar and a rhythm section that includes Shelly Manne and Red Mitchell? The timbre of the instruments is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you’ve put into your stereo more than pay off.

The Demo Disc sound on this copy is really something to hear – all tube, live-to-two-track direct from the Contemporary studio. It’s pretty much everything you want in a recording from this era. I’d love to keep it but when would I have time to play it? I can assure you I will sleep very well knowing that it’s going to a good home. (more…)

Gerry Mulligan – Gerry Mulligan Meets Stan Getz

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More Stan Getz

Mulligan, Gerry - Gerry Mulligan Meets Stan Getz - Nearly White Hot Stamper 2-Pak

  • Mulligan and Getz’s 1957 collaboration arrives on the site with this superb 2-pack offering Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Full, rich, and spacious with tons of Tubey Magic and, better yet, not the least bit dry, hard or transistory
  • Practically impossible to find in stereo with audiophile playing surfaces – it took two different pressings to get two good sides, and they are very good indeed
  • “Produced by [Norman] Granz, Getz And Mulligan In Hi-Fi captures the two saxophone giants as they showcase a world class duet which provided them with a superb rhythm section featuring Lou Levy, proud member of The Stan Getz Quartet at the piano who play with impeccable style and well-conceived ideas that swing with unique vitality, while Ray Brown’s bass solidify the combo’s edge.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie

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More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • This Mono pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • We have a devil of a time finding copies that sound good, play quietly, and have no audible marks or wear
  • The vocal naturalness and immediacy of this early pressing will put Ella in the room with you – more than anything else, it lets her performance come to life
  • Our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year
  • “Another typically wonderful LP of Ella Fitzgerald in her prime…this is an excellent (and somewhat underrated) set.”

Folks, if you’re in the market for one of the most magical female vocal recordings ever made, today is your lucky day.

We’re absolutely crazy about this album, and here’s a copy that more than justifies our enthusiasm. You will have a very hard time finding better sound than we are offering here.

Longtime customers know that I have been raving about this album for more than two decades, ever since I first heard it back around 1995. I consider it the finest female vocal album in the history of the world. I could go on for pages about this record. Suffice it to say this record belongs in every right-thinking Music Lover’s collection.

Our last shootout was early 2019. Fans of The First Lady of Song are encouraged to give this one a very hard look. It’s not cheap but this kind of quality never is. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Sings of Days of Wine and Roses…

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  • This original Reprise stereo pressing has PHENOMENAL Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • This is one of the best sounding Sinatra recordings we know of from any era – a true Male Vocal Demo Disc
  • It’s big, lively, clear and present, with the kind of Tubey Magical richness we flip out for here at Better Records
  • Don’t judge the album by its cover – the music is wonderful from beginning to end and so is the sound
  • “Featuring a selection of Oscar-winning standards, ranging from 1934’s ‘The Continental’ to 1962’s ‘Days of Wine and Roses,’ Academy Award Winners is professional and stylish album… Sinatra is charming and lively…while Riddle’s charts are light and entertaining.”

For our first Hot Stamper listing in 2014 we had written:

One of the best sounding Reprise-era Sinatra recordings we know of.

Having just listened to a slough of top Sinatra titles, I feel it’s my duty to inform the record buying public — at least that small fraction of the public that comes to this site — that the above statement is somewhat inaccurate. It should have read:

One of the best sounding Sinatra recordings we know of from any era.

And the reason for the change is simple enough: I simply cannot recall ever hearing a better sounding Frank Sinatra record in my life. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Time Out

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  • This outstanding Six Eye Stereo pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • A wonderful copy of this Must Own Jazz Classic – big and open, with note-like bass and huge amounts of studio space
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, an audiophile favorite and a great example of what’s phenomenally good about 1959 All Tube Analog recordings
  • “Dave Brubeck’s defining masterpiece, Time Out is one of the most rhythmically innovative albums in jazz history, the first to consciously explore time signatures outside of the standard 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time.”

NOTE: *On side one, a small mark makes 3 light ticks, followed by 1 moderate pop at the beginning of track 1, Blue Rondo A La Turk. On side two, a mark makes 7 moderately light pops at the beginning of track 2, Kathy’s Waltz and a bubble makes 15 soft intermittent thumps at the end of track 3, Everybody’s Jumpin’ and beginning of track 4, Pick Up Sticks.

This may not be the quietest copy we’ve ever played, but it’s certainly one of the best sounding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Dave Brubeck 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.


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.

Early pressings of this album are now very tough to find in clean condition and they do not come cheap. If you want to hear Take Five and the other great songs here in stunning Demo Disc quality, you won’t want to miss out on this copy — it will likely be a while before we find another one with grades this high and vinyl this clean. (more…)

Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Mono Versus Stereo

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The noisy (aren’t they all?) mono copy we keep around as a reference presents Dylan and his guitar in a starkly immediate, clear and unprocessed way. The stereo version of the album is simply that sound with some light stereo reverb added.

More than anything else the mono pressing on some tracks sounds like a demo. It’s as if the engineers threw up a mic or two, set the EQ for flat and proceeded to roll tape. This is a good sound for what it is, but it has a tendency toward dryness, perhaps not on all of the tracks but clearly on some. Certainly the first track on side one can have that drier sound.

What the stereo reverb does is fill out the sound of Dylan’s voice respectfully. The engineers of the late ’50 and ’60s had a tendency to drown their singers in heavy reverb, as anyone who’s ever played an old Tony Bennett or Dean Martin album knows all too well.

But a little reverb actually benefits the vocals of our young Mr. Dylan on The Times They Are A-Changin’, and there is an easy way to test that proposition. When you hit the mono button on your preamp or phono stage, the reverb disappears, leaving the vocal more clear and more present, but also more dry and thin. You may like it better that way. Obviously, to some degree this is a matter of taste.

The nice thing about this stereo copy, assuming you have a mono switch in your system (which you should; they’re very handy), is that you have the option of hearing it both ways and deciding for yourself which approach you find more involving and enjoyable — if not necessarily truthful.

We suspect your preference will be both listener- and system-dependent. Isn’t it better to have the option and be able to make that determination for yourself? (more…)

What We Listen For – Timbre, Richness, Tubey Magic and Freedom from Artificiality

 

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This Home Audio Exercise entry was inspired by the wonderful qualities of the Contemporary recording you see pictured, qualities brought to our attention while doing a shootout of various pressings of the album in early 2009. 

We addressed a number of issues in our commentary: first and foremost what we were listening for on the album (and what we were hearing). A bit of mono versus stereo (in this case both can be good), followed by some Audiophile Equipment bashing.

We highly recommend you make every effort to find yourself a copy of this album and use it to test your own equipment. The right pressing can be both a great Demo Disc and a great Test Disc.

Two of the best sounding jazz guitar records in the history of the world were made by Barney Kessel for Contemporary: this one, and Music To Listen To Barney Kessel By. (We have a fabulous mono copy on the site as I write this.) I used to have them both in my personal collection. [This was written many years ago when I actually had a personal collection. With 40,000 records in stock I don’t need a collection of my own anymore. Any record I might want to play is in stock, waiting to be shot out.]

Such a wonderful idea for an album. The melodies from Bizet’s Carmen are unforgettable and perfect fodder for jazz improvisation. Don’t think that this is just guitar and rhythm. This is a full band with lots of horns, clarinets of all kinds, bassoons, oboes, flutes, piano, vibes — the variety of sounds to be found on this album is practically unlimited. And with Roy DuNann’s engineering, you will never hear richer, fuller sound with more accurate timbers for all the instruments mentioned above. The guy was a genius. His recordings define High Fidelity for me. I know of none better. (more…)

Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • This 360 stereo pressing offers outstanding sound from first note to last, with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • The keys to this stark recording – just Bob, his acoustic guitar, and harmonica – is correct tonality, as well as vocal presence with breathy intimacy, and here you get a good helping of all three
  • If you’ve played the MoFi or Sundazed LP, on the CD, the Tubey Magic here might just blow your mind
  • “These are beautifully crafted, tightly focused mini-masterpieces. And they have a radical edge, a political toughness, that one rarely finds in the folk music of the period. …the songs are uncompromising in their anger and unsparing in their analysis.”

Just about everything you could want in the sound is here: wonderful clarity, mindblowing transparency, clearly audible transients on the guitar, breathy texture to the vocals, full-bodied acoustic guitars, and more. If you’ve played other copies of the album — on MoFi, Sundazed or Columbia LP, on the CD, on whatever — the immediacy of the vocals and the Tubey Magic of the midrange are going to blow your mind. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 3 / Janis/ Dorati – Years Ago We Liked a Mono Pressing

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CBFR-1/CBFR-2. This Mono pressing sounds SUPERB, much smoother and more natural than I remember the Stereo pressings sounding. What’s interesting about these Monos is they’re not mastered by Robert Fine. They are mastered by someone with the initials J.J., who apparently does all the Mono mastering. The reason Mercury Monos can sound as good as they do is because they have their own separate microphone feed and their own separate Mono tape recorder dedicated all to themselves. (London did the same thing and that’s why so many London Monos are amazing sounding.)

I don’t think you can find a better sounding Rachmaninoff 3rd on Mercury than this one. 

[Of course we no longer agree with that.  The best stereo copies are in an entirely different league. The mono can be good, but it cannot be great in the way the stereo pressings can be.] (more…)

Jimmy Smith – Back at the Chicken Shack

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  • Back at the Chicken Shack makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on this New York label mono pressing
  • Joining Jimmy Smith is one of our favorite bluesy sax players, Stanley Turrentine – just play Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue to hear him at this best, and Burrell is especially good here too
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded quartet occupies
  • 5 stars: “Recorded in 1960 with Kenny Burrell on guitar, Donald Bailey on drums, and Turrentine, the group reaches the peak of funky soul jazz that all other challengers of the genre would have to live up to.”

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