The letter below sheds some light on a vitally important mastering issue: specifically the answer to the question, Which are better sounding, originals or reissues? The letter finishes this way.
Incidentally, just a couple of days ago I conducted my own shootout between the Red Label “Mingus Ah Um” I bought from you a few weeks back and my pristine, Six Eye White Label Promo original. To my surprise, you were absolutely right about the greater clarity of the former (starting with the snare drum on the first track).
If I had to choose between them when selecting half a dozen “desert island” LPs (and “Mingus Ah Um” would definitely be one), the Red Label version would be the pick. Much obliged for the edification.
We of course could not agree more. We wrote back:
Once you hear the sound of “old school mastering” and get to know it, you can recognize it for what it does right and what it too often does wrong. Then, and only then, can you appreciate what is really happening when switching from newer to older pressings, what is being gained and what is being lost. It’s the kind of Home Audio Exercise we constantly talk about on the site. And there’s a good reason for that.
As we never tire of saying, hearing is surely believing.(more…)
These are just some of the Charles Mingus’s recordings that we’ve auditioned recently and found wanting.
Without going into specifics, we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame.
A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.
If you hear something that sounds like Frank Zappa’s music circa Waka Jawaka don’t be surprised, we heard it too. Mingus and Zappa were both eccentric geniuses so it only makes sense that they arrived at some of the same musical ideas as they evolved as composers.
Side one is big, rich, Tubey Magical and natural. The saxophone that solos is front and center and lively. Above all the music works on this side.
Side two is especially rich and tubey. It will sound thick and dark unless you get the volume up to the level it wants to be for the mix to work (which simply means that the album was balanced at louder levels to sound correct at louder levels). A little more top end extension would be nice but the music sounds right on the copy the way it is.(more…)
This freakishly good 360 beat our best 6 Eye Stereo original, not to mention every other pressing in our shootout as well – darn quiet too. Another amazing 30th Street Studio recording by the legendary Fred Plaut – if you like Kind of Blue, here’s another album with that sound (same year, same studio, same engineer).
This is one of the better sounding copies from our most recent shootout. We were lucky enough to acquire a few clean LPs over the course of the last year, and this was far and away better than most copies.(more…)
This Columbia Six Eye pressing is THE BEST COPY OF THIS ALBUM WE’VE EVER HEARD! We were lucky enough to acquire a few clean copies over the last few months, and this was the best sounding of them all. It’s got that tubey magical late-’50s jazz sound: the brass is incredibly full-bodied, the bottom end has real weight, and the overall sound is amazingly rich and warm. Clean early pressings of this album go for big bucks in stores and on eBay these days with no guarantee whatsover of good sound. This one isn’t cheap either but at least you know that it’s going to sound wonderful.(more…)
This stunning sounding original copy has amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – it’s guaranteed to blow your mind
The sound here is vintage Living Stereo at its best – big, rich and Tubey Magical like you will not believe
These Black Label originals can rarely be found any quieter than this one – it plays Mint Minus Minus for the most part
5 stars: “Mingus at the time said that this was his greatest recording, and it certainly ranks near the top.”
NOTE: There are a few very light, barely audible marks on side one that play intermittently. There are four light pops at the start of track one and three light pops at the end of the track. There are also seven very soft pops near the middle of track 2.
This is the way it must have sounded in 1957, when legendary RCA engineers BOB SIMPSON and RAY HALL were sitting behind the board in the New York studios where it was recorded.(more…)
With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout
Another amazing 30th Street Studio recording by the legendary Fred Plaut – if you like Kind of Blue, here’s another album with that sound (same year, same studio, same engineer)
The rich, sweet, spacious sound of the vintage tubes used to record the session is reproduced faithfully here
5 stars: “Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist’s talents and probably the best reference point for beginners… Mingus’ compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um”
This is one of the better sounding copies from our most recent shootout. We were lucky enough to acquire a few clean LPs over the course of the last year, and this was far and away better than most copies.
That Vintage Jazz sound is on the tape, and I know that because the mastering for this copy is modern, no doubt from the early ’70s, long after tubes had been banished from the chain. In this case, you get the best of both worlds, with the tonal correctness, clarity, presence and energy of modern cutting equipment as well as the richness and sweetness of the vintage tubes used to record the sessions.(more…)
This insanely good original stereo pressing of Mingus’s brilliant Oh Yeah from 1962 boasts outstanding Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A++++) sound from first note to last
Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
Phil Iehle and Tom Dowd made up the engineering team for these sessions, which explains why the best copies of the album sound so damn good
A raucous (and ROCKIN’) deviation from traditional jazz, this compilation incorporates R&B and soul influences – Mingus even lends his rich vocal stylings to a few songs
5 stars: “Oh Yeah is probably the most offbeat Mingus album ever, and that’s what makes it so vital.”
This original Atlantic stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the Mingus, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
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 maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
The engineering duties were handled by Phil Iehle, a man who recorded some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums for Atlantic, Giant Steps (1960) and Coltrane Jazz (also in 1961), and the venerable Tom Dowd, who also did Giant Steps (1960), Coltrane Jazz (1961), Coltrane’s Sound (1964) and many others.(more…)
One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased.
I wanted to congratulate you on the Mingus record I purchased. It is an absolute masterpiece. The performers are a who’s who of the golden age of Jazz. The arrangements and performances are as good as any in large group jazz I’ve ever heard. The sound is as you say. Tonally perfect with wonderful spatial expansiveness and transparency. The only comparable large group jazz with comparable recorded fidelity I’ve heard is on Ellington Indigoes, which ironically you had for sale in the same mailer; and Duke Ellington is Mingus’ idol in terms of arrangement and sound.
This record is an absolute treat and a real sleeper in the jazz catalogue. The combination of the Duke, Debussy and Ravel creates textures that are unique in all of music, classical or jazz. Sketches of Spain is close, but not quite in the same league. Brilliant discovery on your part, and great fortune on mine. Thank you.