Top Engineers – Frank Laico

Frank Sinatra – Trilogy: Past, Present and Future

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  • An outstanding copy of Sinatra’s superb 1980 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all SIX sides
  • The sound here is rich and full-bodied with much less grain and much more Tubey Magic than most of the other copies we played
  • Credit the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico for the excellent sound – this record doesn’t sound like 1980, and that’s a very, very good thing
  • “An audacious, ambitious way to stage a comeback, each of the album’s three records was conceived as an individual work, and each was arranged by one of Sinatra’s major collaborators. . . the best moments are triumphant, proving that the Voice was still vital in his fourth decade of recording.”

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Dave Brubeck’s Bossa Nova USA – Who Are We to Talk?

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

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Who knew? Not us and not anybody else it seems. We are not aware that any of the audiophile cognoscenti have ever taken this recording seriously, but that just goes to show how uninformed — or perhaps more likely underinformed — they’ve always been.

Gems such as this sit undiscovered even after thousands of pages of audiophile record reviews have been written. Then, along come a handful of guys in Thousand Oaks, California many years later, 52 to be exact, and reveal to the world a heretofore all but unknown yet nonetheless amazing Brubeck record.

And they back up everything they say with actual records that sound as good as they say they will.

But wait just a minute. We sold an early pressing ourselves back in 2010 for $30 as a “nice sounding” record, nothing more, so who are we to talk?

Which simply goes to show that the decade we spent perfecting the Record Shootout has finally paid off for Bossa Nova U.S.A. Now we can clean them better, play them better, hear them better, and, with a big stack to work with, find one that sounds as good as this one does. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Bossa Nova USA

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Clean, clear, spacious and present yet still super rich and full, this is Columbia All Tube Sound at its best
  • So rich, clear and resolving this copy in some respects best even the legendary Time Out
  • “With the popularization of bossa nova in the early ’60s, practically every recording artist had to have at least one bossa nova album. This effort by the Dave Brubeck Quartet is better than most due to the high quality of the compositions, of which the title cut is best-known.” – All Music

Believe me, we were as surprised to hear the stellar sound of this copy as you no doubt will be when you play it.

Who knew?

Not us and not anybody else it seems. We are not aware that any of the audiophile cognoscenti have ever taken this recording seriously, but that just goes to show how uninformed — or perhaps more likely underinformed — they have always been.

Gems such as this sit undiscovered even after thousands of pages of audiophile-oriented record reviews have been written. Then, along come a handful of guys in Thousand Oaks, California many years later, 52 to be exact, and reveal to the world a heretofore all but unknown yet nonetheless amazing Brubeck record.

And they actually back up everything they say with pressings that sound every bit as good as they say they will. Imagine that.

But wait just a minute. We sold an early pressing ourselves back in 2010 for $30 as a “nice sounding” record, nothing more, so who are we to talk?

Which simply goes to show that the decade we spent perfecting the Record Shootout has finally paid off for Bossa Nova U.S.A. Now we can clean them better, play them better, hear them better, and, with a big stack to work with, find one that sounds as good as this one does. (more…)

Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

Hot Stamper Pressings of Miles’ Albums Available Now

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Reviews of Recordings Made at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio

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  • This outstanding Columbia pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) or close to it from first note to last
  • Excellent sound courtesy of Arthur Kendy’s and Frank Laico’s engineering at the famed Columbia Studio B in NYC
  • Miles here is backed by his classic ’60s All Star crew – Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams
  • “…Miles Davis explicitly pushed his second great quintet away from conventional jazz, pushing them toward the jazz-rock hybrid that would later become known as fusion… intriguing music…”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, Paraphernalia.

We just finished a big shootout for this superb Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than many. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of Tubey Magic.

Many copies didn’t have the kind of transparency or openness that we heard here, which made it harder to appreciate the contributions of the different players. This one puts plenty of separation between the various instruments, so you can make sense of what each of these heavy-hitters adds to the mix. You will have a very hard time finding a copy out in the bins that sounds as good as this one!

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. (more…)

Barbra Streisand – The Barbra Streisand Album

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

A killer 360 original stereo pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – the first copy to hit the site in many years. We recently did a shootout for this album and were thrilled at how natural and immediate the sound on the best copies can be. Good Ol’ Babs (actually, a very young Babs here) sounds LOVELY on this pressing — her voice is rich, breathy and textured with stellar presence. The orchestra backing her sounds wonderful and there’s plenty of bass to set a nice foundation for the music.

Excellent, natural, unprocessed sound. And she does a very nice job with this set of standards. This, and the album Guilty, are the two Streisand records I’m most likely to play. (more…)

Barbra Streisand – The Third Album

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  • Streisand’s 1964 release eturns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • These 360 Label stereo originals are the only way to hear the Tubey Magic and space that is all over the original master tape
  • Frank Laico engineered at Columbia’s legendary 30th street studios – you can easily imagine how good the sound is
  • Ms Streisand sings a wonderful batch of standards on this one: My Melancholy Baby, Just In Time, It Had To Be You, As Time Goes By and 6 more

Both sides are rich and full-bodied, as befits anything recorded by the legendary Frank Laico at Columbia’s 30th street studios. (more…)

Charlie Byrd – Delicately

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  • Byrd’s 1968 release finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on this Columbia 360 Label LP
  • Teo Macero’s production here is rich, sweet, and highly resolving, with all the space and three-dimensionality that Frank Laico’s brilliant engineering is known for
  • This is the first Columbia Charlie Byrd shootout we’ve ever done – we dropped the needle on a copy a while back and were shocked at the sound we were hearing
  • More importantly, the music on this enchanting jazz/pop guitar album is every bit as good as the sound quality (and that is rarely the case with these kinds of records – we should know, we’ve played scores of them)

Hearing is definitely believing, especially in our unique corner of the record business — we don’t give a fig about who, why or when a record was made; we just play it and judge it based on what we hear in its grooves. Needless to say. this pressing of the album was judged to be a knockout.

Apparently the album has garnered attention from other audiophiles – HDTracks offers a high-rez digital download of it! (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Time Out on Classic Records

A classic case of Live and Learn.

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Sonic Grade: D

When we did a shootout for this record way back in October of 2007 we took the opportunity to play the Classic Records 200 gram pressing. Maybe we got a bad one, who knows, but that record did not sound remotely as good as the real thing (6 eye or 360, both can be quite good). The piano sounded thin and hard, which was quite unexpected given the fact that we used to consider the Classic LP one of their few winners and actually recommended it.

As we said in our shootout: “We dropped the needle on the Classic reissue to see how it stacked up against a serious pressing. Suffice it to say, the real Time Out magic isn’t going to be found on any heavy vinyl reissue!”

Tony Bennett – For Once In My Life

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For Once In My Life

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  • This vintage pressing gives Tony the sound he deserves, with excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both of these early stereo sides
  • Amazing vocal reproduction courtesy of the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico at his favorite studio (and ours), Columbia 30th Street studios
  • We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this

Everything that’s good about Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room! The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one. (more…)

Miles Davis – Filles de Kilimanjaro

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Filles de Kilimanjaro

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  • A KILLER sounding stereo pressing with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish, just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This Columbia 360 Label LP boasts rich, full-bodied, clear sound with the space and three-dimensionality that was difficult to find on the later pressings we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this middle ground between the adventurous bop of the mid-’60s and the fusion of the late ’60s is rewarding in its own right, since it’s possible to hear great musicians find the foundation of a new form. For that alone, Filles de Kilimanjaro is necessary listening.” 

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

This is one of the all-time classic progressive jazz albums, and a copy like this allows you to appreciate the contributions of Miles and his top-notch band (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams and the great Ron Carter on most of the songs). This one’s not as “out there” as Bitches Brew, but it gives you a taste of the various directions these guys would take in the years to come. (more…)