Top Artists – Wynton Kelly

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.

We will be discussing the faults of the 45 RPM MoFi down the road, but the drums on that record are so wrong it all but beggars belief.

This guy can’t hear it.

But we can find no evidence that he can hear anything, much less smear. It appears to us that smear is only one problem he has yet to solve among a number of others.


The Giants Who Created Kind of Blue

Engineer Extraordinaire

Fred Plaut was a recording engineer and amateur photographer. He was employed by Columbia Records during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, eventually becoming the label’s chief engineer.

Plaut engineered sessions for what would result in many of Columbia’s famous albums, including the original cast recordings of South Pacific, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story, jazz LPs Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis, Time Out by Dave Brubeck, Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty by Charles Mingus.

CBS 30th Street Studio

CBS 30th Street Studio, also known as Columbia 30th Street Studio, and nicknamed “The Church”, was an American recording studio operated by Columbia Records from 1949 to 1981 located at 207 East 30th Street, between Second and Third Avenues in Manhattan, New York City.

It was considered by some in the music industry to be the best sounding room in its time and others consider it to have been the greatest recording studio in history. A large number of recordings were made there in all genres, including Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (1959), Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast recording, 1957), Percy Faith’s Theme from A Summer Place (1960), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979).

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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:

Bass – Paul Chambers

Drums – Jimmy Cobb

Piano – Bill Evans

Piano – Wynton Kelly

Tenor Saxophone – John Coltrane

Alto Saxophone – Cannonball Adderley


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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Miles Davis – Someday My Prince Will Come

More Miles Davis

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this Miles Davis classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl too for an original pressing
  • This vintage Columbia 6-Eye stereo LP is full-bodied, high-rez and spacious, with Miles’ horn uncannily present, a sound you just cannot find on Heavy Vinyl no matter who makes it
  • If you have the big system and dedicated room a record of this quality demands, you can put Miles right in the room with you with a Hot Stamper pressing as good as this
  • Vintage pressings that play this quietly, and are free of scratches and groove damage, are few and far between, but here’s one, perfect for even the most demanding audiophile
  • Another engineering triumph for Fred Plaut at Columbia’s legendary 30th Street Studios – the man is a genius
  • Musically this is one of our very favorite Miles albums, and the sound is Demo Disc Quality on the better copies
  • If you’re a jazz fan, this Must Own Title from 1961 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Cannonball Adderley – African Waltz

More Cannonball Adderley

A Favorite from 1961

  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one and a side two that’s close to it, this early Black Label stereo pressing has plenty of analog magic in its grooves
  • ALIVE with musical energy, there’s also plenty of space for the players to occupy, a quality vital to this big group’s big sound
  • “The surging, compelling, thoroughly earthy sound of this orchestra, led by CANNONBALL ADDERLEY and including as impressive a roster of jazz stars as has ever been assembled, has already been responsible for a major breakthrough on the musical front… Quickly and enthusiastically accepted by a wide public, it leaped almost overnight into the bestseller category.

Vintage original covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you. (more…)

Billie Holiday – All Or Nothing At All

More Billie Holiday

More Titles that Sound Best in Mono

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all four sides – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • This 2 LP set features most of the tracks from the original release plus another handful of recordings from the same period (1955-1956)
  • It’s one of the better sounding Billie Holiday records we’ve heard, any guaranteed to beat any Heavy Vinyl reissue you’ve wasted your money on
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… features some of Billie Holiday’s top Verve performances from the mid-’50s… she runs the emotional gamut from summery optimism to pathos-rich musings. Befitting her perennial after-hours mood, the majority of songs here feature Holiday in a low-down mood of the highest order.”

Naturally, the highest quality vocal reproduction has to be the main focus on a Hot Stamper pressing for any Billie Holiday record we would offer. Her voice should be rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and present.

In addition to being tonally correct and natural, the pressings we offer must also be highly resolving. With the right room and the right equipment, properly setup and adjusted of course, you will hear everything that these vintage recordings have to offer, including the three-dimensional space of the studios in which the various sessions were recorded, under the auspices of Norman Granz.

The Sound of the Original

The original Trumpet Player Verve mono we had on hand to play suffered from an EQ problem we frequently run into during our shootouts for vintage vocal albums. Actually, to be clear, there were two main problems in the case of All or Nothing At All: a boosted midrange and occasional quite serious sibilance issues.

Ella Fitzgerald’s albums can suffer from these same two problems. It’s a trick to find the copies that are tonally correct in the midrange and do not have the kind of cutter head distortions that result in excessive sibilance. (more…)

Thoughts on Smear (and the Smear-Prone Components that Makes Audio Progress Difficult)

More Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

More recordings that are good for testing smear

Listen to the trumpet at the start of Freddie Freeloader. Most copies do not clearly 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.

If you click on the above link, you will see that we regularly talk about smeary pianos, smeary brass, smeary violins and smeary Classic Records classical reissues. Nobody else seems particularly bothered by smear as far as we can tell, 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.

And of course I was just as clueless as everybody else.

We’ve worked very hard over the last twenty years or so to make sure our system has a practically undetectable amount of smear. Any smear we hear on a record means that the smear is on the record. It is not the product of shortcomings in our playback system.

And almost any system that uses vintage tubes — whatever their pros and cons, however much you may like the sound they produce — will have some smear.

We got rid of our tube equipment a long time ago, and having done so, the smear it added to the sound of the records we were playing at that time was dramatically reduced.

About a hundred other tweaks and improvements got rid of the rest. As I say, it took about twenty years.

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Miles Davis / Basic Miles – Here Is the Hot Stamper Sound of Kind of Blue

More Miles Davis

Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

  • Demo Disc Jazz sound for this wonderful collection, with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades
  • Opening side two, the 9 plus minutes of On Green Dolphin Street has some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear, on any record, at any price
  • If you want to know what the better copies of Kind of Blue sound like, this pressing will tell you, because it has that sound
  • And that means it is absolutely NOTHING like the MoFi 45 RPM 2 LP pressing that some audiophiles (and the reviewers who cater to them) seem to like so much
  • We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match

Want to know how good our Hot Stamper Kind of Blue pressings sound? Listen to this very record. If you play the tracks that were recorded in 1958, the year before Kind of Blue, you will hear practically the same lineup of musicians.

That means Stella By Starlight and Little Melonae on side one, and Green Dolphin Street and Fran-Dance (Put Your Little Foot Right Out) on side two. We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match.

The nine-minute plus Green Dolphin Street that opens side two is nothing short of amazing, some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear. With Fran Dance on the same side, that gives you about 17 minutes of great-sounding jazz by Miles’ classic Kind of Blue lineup.

Side one has the same cats playing for more than 12 minutes. By my calculation, that’s close to another album’s worth of material from the group. The rest of the material on this compilation is best seen as gravy; maybe not essential, but never less than interesting. (more…)

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue on the 360 Label

More on Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this 360 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, followed by a heartfelt “Good riddance!”
  • 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 completely they defiled the sound
  • 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.”

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Benny Golson – Groovin’ with Golson

More Benny Golson

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

  • Benny Golson makes his debut on the site with this STUNNING pressing of his 1959 release
  • These sides show off Rudy Van Gelder’s engineering chops to full effect – they’re big, full-bodied and lively, with good studio space around all the players
  • “In this ’59 session, he stretches out on some simple blues patterns and one standard ballad. It’s all done at a swinging tempo that allows Fuller to shine on trombone with near perfect solos; the underrated Ray Bryant adds his impeccable piano touch (he’s as great as Kelly or Clark); Paul Chambers was never better on bass than here, both as accompanist and soloist; and the irrepressible drummer, Art Blakey, makes the whole session sparkle. Backed by this band, Golson is as smooth as butter in tone, and as dazzling in his virtuosity as any tenor player of the times.”

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