Top Engineers – Fred Plaut

Miles Davis – Sorcerer

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  • An outstanding pressing of Sorcerer, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Sorcerer demonstrates the big-as-life, spacious and unerringly accurate 30th Street Studio Sound Fred Plaut was justly famous for
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The emphasis is as much on complex, interweaving chords and a coolly relaxed sound as it is on sheer improvisation, though each member tears off thoroughly compelling solos. Still, the individual flights aren’t placed at the forefront the way they were on the two predecessors — it all merges together, pointing toward the dense soundscapes of Miles’ later ’60s work.”

We played a bunch of these recently and this was one of the better copies we heard! It’s got more energy, more presence, and more body than many copies we heard. Drop the needle anywhere and listen to how open, transparent and spacious it is. The soundfield is HUGE — big, wide and deep! Everything sounds natural, balanced and correct. The bass has texture, the piano has weight, the brass has the right amount of bite and so on.

We had a big stack of copies for this shootout, including a bunch of 360 originals and some later Red Label pressings. You can find great sound on either label but it will probably take you quite a few copies to get there, and you’d need a serious stack to have any hope of finding two sides this good on vinyl that plays well.

And by the way, copies of classic Miles Davis albums from the ’60s are neither easy to find nor are they cheap. Hit the jazz bins at your local store and I’m sure you’ll have the same experience we’ve been having — tons of pricey modern reissues but not too many clean vintage pressings. (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…)

Miles Davis – Quiet Nights

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Please excuse the mono cover art.

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

A Miles Davis – Gil Evans classic, and only the second to hit the site in five years. Fred Plaut engineered the sessions, which here sound rich, warm, and smooth, with excellent presence. Gil Evans conducts the orchestra, adding a lovely feel reminiscent of Sketches Of Spain.

We recently shot out a short stack of these — not an easy record to find in clean condition, in stereo, on the earlier labels at affordable prices these days — and found that the music on Quiet Nights only really comes to life when you have a good pressing like this one.

The music is very much in the style of Sketches Of Spain and the sound is comparable to that album as well. This is Davis’ final official collaboration with arranger and conductor Gil Evans. The quintet on this album includes Miles Davis on the trumpet, George Coleman on tenor sax, Victor Feldman on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Frank Butler on drums. (more…)

Miles Davis – Sorcerer – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

STUNNING, TOP QUALITY SOUND on this A+++ side two! We played a bunch of these recently and didn’t hear any other side twos quite like this one! It’s got more energy, more presence, and more body than we heard anywhere else. Drop the needle anywhere and listen to how open, transparent and spacious it is. The soundfield is HUGE — bigger, wider, and deeper than on any other copy we played. Everything sounds natural, balanced and correct. The bass has texture, the piano has weight, the brass has the right amount of bite and so on.

Side one is nice but not amazing. The bass is a bit bloated and the soundfield doesn’t fully open up. Play the sides against each other to understand what A+++ White Hot Stampers give you that A+ Hot Stampers don’t. This side is also very ticky, so we’ve based the price solely on the killer side two. (Thankfully the A+++ side is quiet.) (more…)

Miles Davis – Someday My Prince Will Come – Our Outstanding Reissue from 2014

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

The first Hot copy of this classic to hit the site in over five years! Side one rates A++ to A+++ — super open and transparent with amazing immediacy.

This Red Label reissue DESTROYED the similar copies we played it against, and was also surprisingly competitive with our Super Hot (and Super Noisy) Six Eye ref copy. Most of these later pressings have superior clarity (compared to the earlier ones) but lack nearly all of the tubey magic. This one’s amazingly clean and clear, but still delivers on the tubey qualities — it’s richer, warmer, and sweeter than any other Red Label pressing we played. (more…)

The Dave Brubeck – Time Further Out – Our Stereo Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This Columbia Original Six-Eye Label Stereo pressing is the new ALL TIME CHAMPION for this album, with two INCREDIBLE A+++ sides and surprisingly quiet vinyl for a record this old! We just finished a big shootout for Time Further Out and this copy was the best BY FAR. It gives you big drums, incredible spaciousness, tight bass, extended highs and wonderful clarity. I don’t think you could find a better sounding copy no matter what you did!    (more…)

Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain – Mono Shootout Winner in 2008

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

This Mono Six Eye Columbia original pressing is the WINNER and [not-at-all] CURRENT CHAMPION of our Sketches of Spain shootouts. This record always sounded so thin and aggressive, with Miles’ horn always somewhat pinched and sour, but now it sounds wonderful. Who knew this record could sound so good?

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs.

Let’s talk about this mono copy. It is clearly more transparent, with less distortion, than any other copy we heard (and this means out of more than twenty!) There may be better sounding pressings out there, but I would be surprised to find one that would be more than a marginal improvement over what I’m hearing on this copy — and that goes for both sides. (more…)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out – Our Mono Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame for this amazing MONO LP.

This Columbia Six-Eye pressing is THE BEST SOUNDING MONO COPY OF THIS ALBUM WE’VE EVER HEARD! The better Mono pressings of this album give you extra immediacy, more solidity to the drums, and energy like you wouldn’t believe. That makes the drum solo on side two sound OUT OF THIS WORLD. Most copies are congested and veiled, but not this one! The sound is spacious and transparent with wonderful presence. You will not believe how lively it is! 

Both sides are rich and full-bodied with lots of sweetness and extension up top. The energy and transparency are wonderful. The bass is a bit tubby, but that’s what you get on these vintage Six Eye pressings. It’s worth it when there’s as much tubey magic as you get on this pressing. (more…)

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…)