Top Artists – Bill Evans

MoFi Misses The Mark by a M I L E with Kind Of Blue

Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

One of our good customers, Robert Brook, writes a blog which he calls

A GUIDE FOR THE BUDDING ANALOG AUDIOPHILE

Below is a link to the review he wrote recently for one of our favorite records, Kind of Blue. (To be clear, we love the album, just not the MoFi pressing of it.)

MoFi Misses The Mark by a M I L E w/ Kind Of Blue

One of our other good customers had this to say about the Mobile Fidelity pressing:

Last night I listened to my 2015 Mobile Fidelity 45 RPM pressing.

I couldn’t get through the first cut.

Closed, muffled and flat as a pancake. No life or energy whatsoever.

I agreed and added my two cents:

My notes for their pressing read:

  • Thick, dark, flat.
  • Lacks air, space, presence.
  • Not a bad sound but it’s not right.

Later I added:

Having listened to the record more extensively, I see now I was being much too kind.

A longer review will be coming soon I hope. I think I may know why some audiophiles like the sound of this record, and will be exploring that notion in a future commentary.

The last line about the MoFi not having “a bad sound but it’s not right” reminded me of of the mistakes I made in my original review of Santana’s first album on MoFi:

Santana on MoFi – We Owe You an Apology

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Bill Evans – Conception

More Bill Evans

  • This wonderful Milestone Two-Fer from 1981 boasts STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on the other three – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, big and lively, with wonderful clarity in the mids and highs
  • 4 stars: “Even in 1956, Evans had his own chord voicings and a lyrical yet swinging style… A strong start to a significant career.”
  • “In addition, there is a full album of previously unreleased music: an alternate take of ‘No Cover, No Minimum,’ an unaccompanied version of ‘Some Other Time’ from 1958 and four solo pieces that Evans cut in 1962, his first recordings after the tragic death of his bassist Scott LaFaro.”
  • If you’re a Bill Evans fan, this All Tube Recording released in 1957 should make a welcome addition to your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Kind of Blue – Don’t Tell This Guy the MoFi Is a Joke

Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

Hot Stamper Pressing of Miles’s Albums Available Now

The MoFi of KOB may be a joke, but don’t bother telling this guy, who appears to be rather new to this whole “reviewing” thing.

He has a record store in Phoenix and a youtube channel called The “In” Groove, wherein he proffers advice to audiophiles about records. Unsurprisingly, he tends to favor audiophile pressings. No doubt he sells lots of them in his store.

To quote the man himself, “I do a review of the best sounding copy’s [sic] of Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue. What are the copy’s [sic] you should own?”

Obviously, literacy is not his strong suit, so writing about records is out, replaced by endless talking about records on these insufferable content-light videos. Everything of interest this gentleman has to say could be written on the back of a napkin and read in the span of the average TV commercial, but that would require stringing together lots of words and arranging them so that they make some kind of sense. It’s so much easier to chat about vinyl while seated in front of some very expensive and no doubt awful sounding (judging by the results of this “shootout”) McIntosh electronics. (I am on record as being opposed to this approach to audio, and have been proselytizing for the benefits of low power amps for more than twenty years.)

Regardless of what he thinks he is doing, in no way does this fellow actually review the best sounding copies, because he’s too inexperienced and ill-informed to even bother with the ’70s Red Label reissue pressings, some versions of which happen to be among the best pressings we’ve heard, a subject we discuss here.

Our Kind of Blue Obsession

KOB is an album we have been obsessed with for a very long time, along with a great many others.

To see a small sampling of other youtube reviewers who seem to know very little about records but are nonetheless comfortable giving out advice “on the copy’s [sic] you should own,” click here.

You may heard that many of these guys who were supposedly devotees of the purest of analog pressings by the purest of audiophile labels got the shock of their lives recently.

Going all the way back to our early days in the record business in 1987, I can honestly say we never bought into the Master Tape Hype of the typical audiophile record, preferring to remain skeptical of facts we had no way to confirm.

And now it turns out the facts weren’t actually facts at all. They were lies.

We advise everyone, Hot Stamper customers and skeptics alike, that the best way to judge records is not to read about them, but to play them.

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Miles Davis – In June of 2005 Our First Hot Stamper of Kind of Blue Went Up

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

This Columbia Red Label LP has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND!

Call me crazy, but I DON’T THINK YOU CAN CUT A BETTER SOUNDING KIND OF BLUE THAN THIS ONE!

I’m fully aware of how outrageous a statement that is, considering the fact that this is a ’70s Red Label reissue. But I’ve long known of amazing sounding Kind Of Blue reissues.

Having played dozens of different pressings of this record over the years, I think I know this recording about as well as anyone. The tube mastered original Six Eye Stereo copies have wonderful, lush, sweet sound. I’ve heard many of them. The 360s from the ’60s often split the difference — less tubey magical, but cleaner and more correct.

But my point here is simply this: you can cut this record DIFFERENTLY, but you can’t cut it any BETTER.

If you cut it with tubes it will bring out some qualities not as evident on this pressing. But there will be loses as well. It’s a matter of trade-offs. There is no copy that will satisfy everyone, just as there is no speaker or amplifier that will satisfy everyone.

So what do you get on this copy? Zero distortion. Zero compression. 100% transparency. Amazing transients. The deepest, cleanest, most note-like bass with no smearing, veiling or added warmth. The sense that you are hearing every instrument sound exactly the way it really does sound.

You could almost say this pressing sounds like a master tape, not a record at all. Now don’t get me wrong. I love tubey colorations. I say so all over this site. And if I had to choose one pressing of this record to take to a desert island, I don’t know which one it would be. But there is no way that the qualities of this record exist on those early, tubey cuttings. They simply didn’t have the technology. The technology they did have is wonderful in its own way. And this record is wonderful in its own, very different, way.

$150 is a lot of money for a record that any jazz record dealer would be embarrassed to charge more than $20 for. But jazz record dealers don’t know anything about sound. They know about collectability. They know about price guides. They know their market — jazz collectors — and I know mine: audiophiles. This record has unimpeachable audiophile credentials. It has the sound in the grooves like you have never heard before.

And of course it beats the pants off of the Classic reissue, as good as that one is. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money for this album — widely considered the greatest jazz album of all time — then the Classic should do the job just fine.

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Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill Evans

More Bill Evans

  • Two incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, making this one of the best copies to ever hit the site
  • These three guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track
  • “With the unmatched pair of former Miles Davis drummer Philly Joe Jones and bassist Sam Jones (no relation), Evans was emerging not only as an ultra-sensitive player, but as an interpreter of standards second to none.”

Everybody Digs Bill Evans. These three guys — Sam Jones is on the bass and Philly Joe Jones on the drums — are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years.

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Miles Davis / Kind of Blue – How Smeary Is Miles’ Trumpet on Your Copy?

Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

Listen to the trumpet at the start of Freddie Freeloader. Most copies do not fully convey the transient information of Miles’ horn, causing it to have an easily recognizable quality we talk about all the time on the site: smear.

No two pressings will have precisely the same amount of smear on his trumpet, so look for the least smeary copy that does everything else right too.

Meaning simply that smear is important, but not all-important.

Here are more recordings that are good for testing smear.

If you click on the above link, you will see that we regularly talk about smeary pianos, smeary brass instruments, smeary violins and smeary Classic Records classical reissues. Nobody else seems bothered by smear, and one of our many theories about the stereo shortcomings of reviewers and audiophiles in general is that their systems are fairly smeary, so a little extra smear is mostly inaudible to them. I had a smeary system for my first twenty or more years in audio, so I know whereof I speak.

Our present system has virtually no smear. Any smear we hear on a record means that the smear is on the record, not in our system.

Any system with vintage tubes — whatever their pros and cons — will have at least some smear. We got rid of our tube equipment a long time ago.

Back to our listening tests:

On track one, side two, the drums in the right channel are key to evaluating the sound of the better copies. The snare should sound solid and fat — like a real snare — and if there is space in the recording on your copy you will have no trouble hearing the room around the kit.

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Miles Davis / Kind of Blue – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

Hot Stamper Pressings of Kind of Blue Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

Kind of Blue is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.

Some highlights include:

Kind of Blue checks a lot of boxes for us here at Better Records.

  1. It’s a Core Jazz Title, one that belongs in any serious audiophile’s record collection
  2. It’s a Jazz Masterpiece
  3. It’s a Personal Favorite
  4. It was recorded by one of the greats, Fred Plaut
  5. It was produced by another one of the greats, Teo Macero
  6. It was recorded at Columbia’s famed 30th Street Studio
  7. And some of the greatest jazz artists of their day played on it:

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Miles Davis – Kind of Blue on the 6 Eye Label in Stereo

More on Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides, this vintage Columbia 6-Eye Stereo pressing has Demo Disc sound – sound that’s guaranteed to make you want to take all of your remastered pressings and dump them off at the Goodwill
  • After auditioning a Hot Stamper Kind of Blue like this one — a pressing that captures the sound of this amazing group like nothing you have ever heard — you may be motivated to add a hearty “Good riddance to bad audiophile rubbish!”
  • KOB is the embodiment of the big-as-life, spacious and timbrally accurate 30th Street Studio Sound Fred Plaut was justly famous for
  • Space, clarity, transparency, and in-the-room immediacy are some of the qualities to be found on this pressing
  • It’s guaranteed to beat any copy you’ve ever played, and if you have the new MoFi pressing, please, please, please order this copy so that you can hear just how screwy the sound of the remaster is
  • 5 stars: “KOB isn’t merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it’s an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence.”
  • If you’re a fan of the jazz Davis, Adderley and Coltrane were playing circa 1959, this album belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Bennett & Evans – More Mistaken MoFi EQ

More of the Music of Bill Evans

More of the Music of Tony Bennett

Sonic Grade: F

That weird boost around 10k that Stan Ricker likes to add to practically every record he masters wreaks havoc on the sound of Tony Bennett’s voice. I would be very surprised if the current in-print Compact Disc doesn’t sound more tonally natural, and for us audiophile record lovers – not lovers of audiophile records, but guys who love records with audiophile sound – that’s simply another nail in the coffin for one of the most laughably inept remastering labels in the history of that sad enterprise.

If you love this album, and you should, the regular early Fantasy pressings are the only game in town.

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Oliver Nelson and RVG – Mastering Better than the Master?

More Music and Arrangements by Oliver Nelson

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills in Audio

The sound of this Shootout Winning reissue is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too. If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here.

For those record lovers who still cling to the idea that the originals are better, this pressing will hopefully set you straight.

Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn’t he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what to fix and what to leave alone in the mix?

Maybe he should be; it’s a point worth arguing.

But ideas such as this are only of value once they have been tested empirically and found to be true.

We tested this very proposition in our recent shootout, as well as in previous ones of course. It is our contention, based on the experience of hearing quite a number of copies over the years, that Rudy did not cut the original record as well as he should have. For those of you who would like to know who did, we proudly offer this copy to make the case.

Three words say it all: Hearing is believing.

(And if you own any modern Heavy Vinyl reissue we would love for you to be able to appreciate all the musical information that you’ve been missing when playing it. I remember the one from the ’90s on Impulse being nothing special, and the Speakers Corner pressing in the 2000s if memory serves was passable at best.) (more…)