Top Engineers – Fred Plaut

Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain – Our Shootout Winner in 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

The first White Hot copy to hit the site in nearly EIGHT years! Both sides were stunning, knocking us out and earning our top Triple Plus (A+++) grade.

When you get a Hot Stamper like this one the sound is truly MAGICAL. (AMG has that dead right in their review.) Tons of ambience, tubey magic all over the place; let’s face it, this is one of those famous Columbia recordings that shows just how good the Columbia engineers were back then. The sound is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite just like the real thing. What more can you ask for?

Harry Pearson added this record to his TAS List of Super Discs a few years back, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording?

Of course you can be quite sure that he would have been listening exclusively to the earliest pressings on the Six Eye label. Which simply means that he probably never heard a copy with the clarity, transparency and freedom from distortion that these later label pressings offer.

The Six Eyes are full of Tubey Magic, don’t get me wrong; Davis’s trumpet can be and usually is wonderful sounding. It’s everything else that tends to suffer, especially the strings, which are shrill and smeary on most copies: Six Eyes, 360s and Red Labels included. (more…)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This time around no other copy of Time Out could touch our good Six Eye Stereo pressings — they were in a league of their own.

If you’ve been with us for a long time you may remember that this was not always the case. We used to really like some 360s as I recall, as well as the original mono pressing. This time around, not so much. 

This time around most everythings’s different. Allow us to explain.

1. Our stereo is different; we’ve made quite a number of changes to it since our last big shootout for Time Out a few years back.

2. We’re different; we have better (I would hope) listening skills. In fact I’m sure we listen for different qualities in a recording than we might have years ago.

3. Even more importantly, we don’t have the same pile of pressings we had years ago. They’re gone, replaced by a new batch. This new batch had some killer original pressings, some good 360s, and not much to speak of on the later labels.

With a different batch we might have found a great sounding 360 pressing; we have to believe they exist, and we certainly can’t say that our best copy here could not have been bettered in some way. That would be foolish; anything can be bettered. But for us, in 2014 (and probably through 2015), this is it. This is the right sound. (more…)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

STUNNING A+++ SOUND AND QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES! Breathtakingly 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 does everything we want it to.

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. (more…)

Miles Davis – My Funny Valentine

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

1965 Live Analog at its best. Present and lively with solid, full-bodied tonality, thanks to the engineering of the legendary Fred Plaut. A wonderful live performance, showcasing the more lyrical side of Miles.

Superb sound for this Columbia pressing. The bottom end is strong and full-bodied, there’s plenty of space and presence, and the tonality of the horns is right on.

The lineup on this record is fantastic, featuring George Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. (more…)

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out’s Engineering – When Less Is More

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FRED PLAUT is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. His work on Time Further Out speaks for itself — we think it’s the best sounding Brubeck recording of them all. 

We could find no information about the venue for this recording. It might be the Columbia Studios known as “The Church” — that would explain the amazing sound quality of the album — but it may just be Plaut’s engineering prowess in another location that makes this some of the best sound to be found on any Brubeck record.

Frederick “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.

Wikipedia

Mark Wilder was interviewed about the recording of these Fred Plaut sessions.

Fred Plaut and Frank Laico were two of Brubeck’s recording engineers. Plaut is a true balance engineer; he’s my idol. I don’t know how he could pull off what he did in three hours.

He continued:

It’s amazing how well-recorded the group was back then. The sound is so three-dimensional, bigger than life.

Yet it’s amazing how little the engineers did to get that sound. They just put one mic a few feet from each instrument, and mixed live to 3-track—for left, center, and right. Then they edited the tape and mixed down to 2-track.

The old stuff sounds better than what we’re doing now. We’ve been going in the wrong direction sound-wise for many years. The layout of the stereo stage was more realistic then, too. Drums were on the left, piano on the right, sax and bass in the middle. (more…)

Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

WOW! This Original Six Eye Stereo pressing does EVERYTHING we ever hoped for from this great album! We’ve been searching for a killer copy of this one forever but without much luck. Here’s the first one to ever hit the site, and it is a MONSTER. Both sides have KILLER A+++ sound — super tubey magical and tonally balanced with real depth to the soundfield. (more…)

Miles Davis – Someday My Prince Will Come

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  • A KILLER copy of this Davis classic, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish. 
  • Our Hot Stamper Six Eye Stereo pressing here is Tubey Magical, full-bodied and high-rez, not to mention uncannily present – Miles is in the room with you
  • 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 Davis albums – the sound is Demo Disc Quality on the copies that sound the way this one does

We’ve found Red Label copies in the past that sound pretty darn good but this Six-Eye was a HUGE step up in class over the reissues this time around. It was not even close. This one is doing it all, with in-the-room presence, massive amounts of energy, clear, note-like bass and a rich, breathy quality to Miles’s horn that is simply not to be found on most pressings, be they originals, reissues, on Heavy Vinyl, at 45 RPM or what have you. (more…)

Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

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…)

Miles Davis – Nefertiti

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Columbia 360 Label pressing has excellent sound on both sides and unusually quiet vinyl throughout. The music is wonderful too — Miles and his late ’60s quintet featuring Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams are all in top form here, slowly working their way towards the electric fusion sounds that would be coming shortly. Many copies lack the kind of transparency and clarity you need to make sense of what each player is doing, but this Super Hot pressing gives you those qualities on both sides. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Countdown – Time In Outer Space

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Clean and Clear, Yet Rich and Sweet. This copy managed to find the perfect balance of these attributes.

You want that rare copy that keeps what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of Jazz while managing to avoid the pitfalls so common to them: smear, lack of top end extension, opacity and blubber. To be sure, the fault is not with the recording (I guess; again, not having heard the master tape) but with the typically mediocre pressing. 

Bad vinyl, bad mastering, who knows why so many copies sound so thick, dull and veiled?

Full-bodied sound, open and spacious, bursting with life and energy — these are the hallmarks of our Truly Hot Stampers. If your stereo is cookin’ these days this record will be an unparalleled Sonic Treat. We guarantee that no heavy vinyl pressing, of this or any other album, has the kind of analog magic found here. (more…)