Top Engineers – Fred Plaut

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 – Our Shootout Winner from 2018

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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…)

Dave Brubeck – Countdown – Time In Outer Space

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  • A KILLER 6-Eye original stereo pressing of this wonderful recording, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Both sides are incredibly Tubey Magical as befits a Brubeck recording from 1962 produced by Teo Macero
  • Superb 1962 All Tube sound courtesy of the extraordinary engineering skills of Fred Plaut
  • 4 Stars: “One of Dave Brubeck’s more adventurous albums… Highly recommended along with Brubeck’s other Time recordings.”

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These vintage Brubeck recordings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

Getting The Balance Right

Clean and clear yet rich and sweet, this copy managed to find the perfect balance of these attributes so essential to the sound of vintage jazz recordings. You want to find 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. (more…)

In the Market for New Speakers?

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See How Well They Handle the Energy of Far More Drums

The drum solo Joe Morello lets loose on Far More Drums is one of the best on record. I was playing that very song recently and it occurred to me that it is practically impossible for a screen or panel speaker of any nature to reproduce the sound of those drums properly, regardless of how many subs you have.

Most of the music is not in the deeper bass anyway. It’s the whack of instruments whose energy is in the lower midrange and midrange that a screen speaker will struggle with, while a good large-driver dynamic speaker seems to handle the energy in that range with ease.

This is precisely the right album to take with you next time you head to your local stereo store to audition speakers. It will help clarify the issues. Screen speakers do many things well, but drums are not one of them in my experience.

If drums are important to you, do yourself a favor and buy a dynamic speaker, the bigger the better. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Time Out

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  • An exceptional pressing – Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) on side one, an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two, big and open, with note-like bass and huge amounts of studio space
  • Original Six Eye stereo LPs in playable condition are getting tough to find nowadays – even this one has issues
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, an audiophile favorite and a great example of what’s phenomenally good about 1959 All Tube Analog recordings
  • “Dave Brubeck’s defining masterpiece, Time Out is one of the most rhythmically innovative albums in jazz history, the first to consciously explore time signatures outside of the standard 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time.”

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 is doing pretty much everything we want a top quality Time Out to do.  (more…)

Dave Brubeck Quartet Time Further Out – What to Listen For

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The best copies such as this one demonstrate the big-as-life Fred Plaut Columbia Sound at its best (better than even Time Out in our opinion). These vintage recordings are full-bodied, spacious, three-dimensional, rich, sweet and warm in the best tradition of an All Tube Analog recording. If you want to hear big drums in a big room these Brubeck recordings will show you that sound better than practically any record we know of. The Engineering tab below has much more on that subject. 

The one standout track on this album for audiophiles is surely Unsquare Dance, what with its uncannily real sounding handclaps in 7/4. The copies that did the best job of reproducing that “flesh on flesh” sound of actual human hands clapping scored very well in our shootout.

More to Listen For

For starters listen for a fat snare and rich piano on the first track of side one. When you hear that, assuming you do, you should know you are in for a treat. Our best copies captured those two sounds brilliantly.

On the second track the clarity of the brushed snare is key to how resolving and transparent any copy is. The rich, smooth sound of Desmond’s sax balanced against the clarity of the brushes will help you make sure that the overall sound is tonally correct from top to bottom. (more…)

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this 360 label stereo copy was one of the better pressings we played in our recent shootout – it’s on quiet vinyl too
  • These early sides are incredibly tubey – rich, full-bodied and warm – yet clear, lively and dynamic
  • This copy demonstrates the big-as-life Fred Plaut Columbia Sound at its best – better even than Time Out(!)
  • “Brubeck treats the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth tunes in corresponding meters, to particular effect on the 7/4 hoedown of “Unsquare Dance,” the 8/8 barrelhouse changes of “Bru’s Boogie Woogie” and the engaging dissonances of his 9/8 mood piece “Blue Shadows in the Street.””

Time Further Out is consistently more varied and, dare we say, more musically interesting than Time Out.

If you want to hear big drums in a big room these Brubeck recordings will show you that sound better than practically any record we know of. These vintage recordings are full-bodied, spacious, three-dimensional, rich, sweet and warm in the best tradition of an All Tube Analog recording. 

The Piano

If you have full-range speakers, some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants. (more…)

Sketches Of Spain on Six Eye in Stereo

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1960 – It Was a Very Good Year

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?

We Was Wrong in the Past About HP and Six Eye Labels

In previous commentary we had written:

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.

Over the course of the last few years we’ve come to appreciate just how good the right Six Eye stereo pressing can sound.

In fact, the two copies earning the highest grades were both original stereo pressings. Other pressings did well, but none did as well as the originals. This has never been our experience with Kind of Blue by the way. The later pressings have always done the best job of communicating the music on that album. (more…)