Top Artists – John Coltrane

Letter of the Week – Thank you for getting me off the “original pressings are the best” gerbil wheel

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

One of our good customers had this to say about some records he purchased locally, not even from us! (Bolding has been added by us.)

By the way, have I thanked you yet for getting me off the “original pressings are the best” gerbil wheel? I’ve now got a stack of two-fers that I paid $15 apiece for that sound fantastic.

Yup, the very same records that Fremer ridiculed you for selling. [1]

I can buy a copy of an original pressing of Saxophone Colossus [2] for $300 on discogs with absolutely no notes on how the music sounds and no return policy. Or, I can get it for $15 in a twofer at my neighborhood shop, and I can’t imagine it sounding better. Folks just aren’t buying records for the way they sound. It’s nuts.

Tom, you’re like a consultant. It’s almost like I pay you for your knowledge and guidance by buying records from you, but you’re giving information away for free to anybody willing to listen.

In another letter Aaron added this thought after posting on the Hoffman forum and watching the LP 45 guy video:

What a learning experience the last couple of days have been for me. I am just really surprised how little interest in evidence and objectivity my co-hobbyists have proven to have. I know we are in a very anti-objective time right now, but it’s actually almost scary how pervasive it seems to be.

For my own journey into vinyl, a tremendous amount of exploration, experimentation, and tinkering have been essential. I can’t imagine going about it any other way. I’ve begun to wonder what on earth all these other chaps are doing. I mean, does vinyl even sound better than digital on their rigs?? If you don’t try stuff out, you’ll never make progress.

Anyway, looking for open-mindedness, curiosity, and balance in this discussion is futile.

It’s time now for me to stop trying to talk some sense into these people. They are coming at this from such a different place than I am.

Geoff, I’m glad that you touched a nerve that clearly this hobby needed to reckon with.

Tom, I’m glad more people are now aware of you and what you offer now. It’s frustrating to me (although I know you’ve been here a million times previously) that the self-appointed tastemakers in this hobby aren’t even willing to risk challenging their preconceptions. They keep folks in the dark, for reasons I would consider disingenuous.

I just hope that some of the ordinary people listening in are curious enough to give better records a try. The rest of them can just linger in their bubbles of complacency and mutual admiration.

Aaron

Aaron,

Glad I was able to help you get off the gerbil wheel!

As for Two-fers, some are great, including the one that has Lush Life, and some are terrible. Such is the nature of records.

Remastering is not a dirty word when you know how to do it right. Lots of good records were remastered in the ’70s. Think of all the Contemporary titles that came out in the decade before Fantasy bought the label and put all their best titles out as OJCs. Lots of Sheffield Lab Mastering marks in the dead wax, and Sheffield Labs was recutting some great records back in those days.

They don’t sound much like the records being made today, not to these ears anyway, but the typical audiophile who posts on forums — assuming that actually is the typical audiophile — seems to think the opposite is true. We would love to help them see the light, but as you say, that is just not something they are interested in seeing. More’s the pity.

[1] Fremer played a poorly mastered copy and judged the sound to be inferior. We know better than to try to sell the poorly mastered pressings like the one he played. We couldn’t if we tried. They would never make it through the shootout and therefore would never qualify as a Hot Stamper pressing. Hot Stampers of Lush Life are really good sounding pressings! Just as a reality check, we charge a lot of money for our top copies ($500+) and not a single one has ever been returned.

Everybody makes mistakes, but small sample sizes increase the frequency of mistakes by orders of magnitude, especially a sample size as small as 1. When you’re a one-man band, you simply do not have the resources to clean and play enough copies of an album in order to make accurate judgments about the sound.

Which is why he should stick to Heavy Vinyl reviews. You get one in, you give it a spin and you tell everybody how great it is. The advertisers like it, your readers like it, the labels like it, and everybody is happy as a clam.

When troublemakers like us come along, we upset that one-hand-washes-the-other arrangement, and then everybody gets real upset real fast. Nobody wants that. They want to keep selling Heavy Vinyl because that is what can be produced, in volume, at a reasonable cost, distributed widely and, most importantly, priced affordably. Win win win win win. So much winning!

If you want something better sounding, from us, it will cost you dearly. It will be every bit as good as we say, but it will not be cheap and it will not be collectible. The vast majority of record loving audiophiles — like the LP 45 Man — like collecting records. 95+% I would venture to guess.

The five per cent that are left are unlikely to want to spend their life savings on our pricey, uncollectible pressings. That leaves our potential pool of customers at less than one per cent of all the record loving audiophiles who want better sound and can afford it. Subtract the number of them who don’t like me personally — seems like a lot! — and you have a very small cohort of customers to draw from.

But big enough to keep our business going and food on the table for ten dedicated. music loving men and women. Nobody is getting rich, even at these prices, but we’re making a living and providing a service which some people really appreciate.

[2] We have not liked Saxophone Colossus on the Two-fer for many years. It was very dubby on the copies we played, so we gave up. Let us know what pressing you have so we can check it against our notes.

And if you can find an original Saxophone Colossus in clean shape for $300, you should jump on it. I have seen them sell for ten times that. And, just for everyone’s information, we have never sold a Hot Stamper for that price, although it is surely coming, inflation being what it is these days.

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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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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Sonny Rollins – Taking Care Of Business (Work Time, Tenor Madness and Tour de Force)

More Sonny Rollins

  • The complete Tenor Madness album is found here, with big, full-bodied, MONO jazz sound at its BEST, courtesy of the great one, Rudy Van Gelder
  • This is what classic ’50s jazz is supposed to sound like – they knew how to do these kinds of records forty years ago, and those mastering skills are in short supply nowadays, if not downright extinct
  • The transfers from 1978 by David Turner are in tune with the sound of these recordings – there’s not a trace of phony EQ on this entire record
  • “Tenor Madness was the recording that, once and for all, established Newk as one of the premier tenor saxophonists, an accolade that in retrospect, has continued through six full decades and gives an indication why a young Rollins was so well liked, as his fluency, whimsical nature, and solid construct of melodies and solos gave him the title of the next Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young of mainstream jazz.”

This Two-Fer includes all of Tenor Madness and most of Work Time and Tour De Force.

Top jazz players such as Ray Bryant, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Kenny Drew, Max Roach and Paul Chambers can be heard on the album.

If you want all the tubey magic of the earlier pressings, a top quality pressing of the real Tenor Madness album on Prestige is going to give you more of that sound. David Turner’s mastering setup in the ’70s has a healthy dose of tubes, but it can’t compete in that area with the All Tube cutting systems that were making records in the ’50s and ’60s.  Without one of those early pressing around to compare, we don’t think you’re going to feel you are missing out on anything in the sound with this killer copy.

And where can you find an early Prestige pressing with audiophile playing surfaces like these?   (more…)

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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John Coltrane – More Lasting Than Bronze

More John Coltrane

  • This superb Prestige Two-Fer offer outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Compiled from two nearly complete Classic albums, Lush Life and Coltrane, this collection boasts masterful sound – thanks RVG!
  • Full-bodied, energetic, and tonally correct from top to bottom and, these pressings are guaranteed to bring Coltrane’s music to life
  • “Rarely does a single performance uncover the essence of an artist with such aptness. The well-crafted melody is treated above all with dignity, which may be part of the reason it remains flawless.”

The jackets for these Two-Fers tend to have some ringwear. We will of course put these two discs in the nicest cover we have available.

This is the kind of recording that makes people respect Rudy Van Gelder. And since he mastered these pressings, we have to give him even more credit for doing the transfer exceptionally well. I am on record as saying that some of his own transfers are problematical. Not this one. Since this has two of Coltrane’s greatest albums together, I can’t recommend this record any more highly.

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Miles Davis – Green Haze (‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’)

More Miles Davis

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

  • Spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience – talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny
  • This Prestige Two-Fer simply combines two complete Miles Davis titles recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1955 – ‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’
  • The 1976 transfers of tape to disc by David Turner are superb in all respects – this is remastering done right
  • 4 stars: “… it is for the excellent rhythm sections and the playing of Miles Davis that this two-fer is highly recommended.”
  • If you’re a fan of Miles, this All Tube MONO Recording from 1955 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1955 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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. (more…)

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

More John Coltrane

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • This vintage Impulse Stereo copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, with two STUNNING Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, just shy of our Shootout Winner – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • One quality that stood out to us on this reissue pressing was just how ENERGETIC the best of them can be, and this one clearly qualifies as one of the best copies we have ever played
  • Tubier, more transparent and more dynamic than practically all other copies, with plenty of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has – thanks RVG!
  • This copy IS guaranteed to bring Coltrane’s music to life in a way few pressings can
  • 5 stars: “One of the most important records ever made, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme was his pinnacle studio outing, that at once compiled all of the innovations from his past, spoke to the current of deep spirituality that liberated him from addictions to drugs and alcohol, and glimpsed at the future innovations of his final two and a half years.”
  • If you’re a Coltrane fan, this Impulse title from 1965 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1965 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The original Impulse pressings on the brown and orange label are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that plays into one of the biggest canards in all of record collecting, that the first pressings are always the best sounding.

For this album, having sampled a large group of pressings from every era, we found the originals to be inferior to the best reissues we played. Naturally the ones we offer here as Hot Stampers will be the best of those reissue pressings. We are not the least bit worried that this vintage Impulse LP won’t beat the pants off of any original as well as any reissue you may have heard. And of course it is guaranteed to be dramatically better sounding than any Heavy Vinyl pressing produced by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The Sound

This record is ALIVE! When you hear a record like this, you don’t need to play the 180 gram reissue to know that an early pressing such as this one is just going to murder it.

If you know anything about this music, you know that Coltrane is blasting away here and it is a thrill to hear him playing with such passion to be sure.

The clarity you will hear on this pressing does not come at the expense of brightness or thinness of any kind. In fact, just the opposite is the case, the sound is so rich and tubey you will be practically bowled over by it.

The extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum is one of the qualities that often sets the better copies apart from the pack. All the top end and the deep bottom end weight and fullness that are so essential to the sound are simply not to be found on most pressings — but here they are.

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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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John Coltrane – Another in a Very Long Line of Disappointing Rhino Remasters

More of the Music of John Coltrane

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of John Coltrane

Sonic Grade: D

Mastered by Kevin Gray, this record has what we like to call ”modern” sound, which is to say it’s clean and tonally correct for the most part, but it’s missing the Tubey Magic the originals and the good reissues both have plenty of.

In other words, it sounds too much like a CD.

Any properly-mastered, properly-pressed ’70s copy on the red and green label will be richer, fuller, sweeter, and just plain more enjoyable than this 180 gram version. It’s below average, which means it merits a D.

That said, “Giant Steps” is not an easy record to find in good condition, because any serious jazz lover would have played it plenty. It is inarguably one of John Coltrane’s greatest achievements.  (more…)