Top Engineers – Fred Plaut

Dave Brubeck / Time Out – Reproducing Its Phenomenal Size and Space

More Columbia 30th Street Studio Recordings

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

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. 

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.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

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Dave Brubeck – Time Out

More Dave Brubeck

Reviews and Commentaries for Time Out

  • This Six-Eye Stereo pressing boasts out of this world Demo Disc Sound – Time Out captures the ambience and huge space of Columbia’s studio like no other record has (with a little reverb thrown in for good measure)
  • A knockout pressing of Brubeck’s astonishingly well recorded Jazz Classic, a record that belongs in every audiophile’s collection
  • Early stereo LPs in clean condition like this one are getting awfully tough to find nowadays…
  • “Buoyed by a hit single in Desmond’s ubiquitous Take Five, Time Out became an unexpectedly huge success, and still ranks as one of the most popular jazz albums ever. That’s a testament to Brubeck and Desmond’s abilities as composers, because Time Out is full of challenges both subtle and overt — it’s just that they’re not jarring.”
  • If you’re a fan of Brubeck and company, this 1959 album belongs in your collection, along with quite a few others from the classic jazz era
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Charles Mingus / Mingus Dynasty – Skip the Mono

More of the Music of Charles Mingus

Jazz Recordings with Hot Stampers Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Charles Mingus

Although this album is fairly common in mono, we found the sound of the mono pressing we played seriously wanting. It’s dramatically smaller and more compressed than even the worst of the other pressings we played in our shootout.

We will never buy another, and of course we would never sell a record that sounds as bad as this mono pressing does.

For those looking for the best sound, the mono pressing is hard to take seriously, and for that reason, we say Skip It.

For records that we think sound best in mono, click here.

Are You a Jazz Collector or an Audiophile?

If you’re a jazz collector, of course you want the mono. If you’re an audiophile who likes jazz, you should want the stereo.

And if you are a very serious audiophile who has a great deal of time and money tied up in his equipment and room, someone whose motto might boil down to “nothing but the best,” then you need one of our killer Hot Stamper pressings of the album.


Below you will find our moderately helpful advice for acquiring the best sounding pressings of Charles Mingus / Dynasty.

In our experience the album sounds best this way:

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels

On the Right Domestic Pressing 

On the Right Early Pressing

Which simply means that the 6 Eye label domestic stereo pressings win shootouts, in this case without exception.

The 360 label pressings, Black Print or White Print, can sound very good, but they never win shootouts.

In general it is best to avoid pressings with the label you see to the left, from the Columbia Special Products series. They are rarely much better than awful, although there are a few exceptions to that rule.


Our Recent Hot Stamper Review

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If innovative Large Group Jazz is your thing, you should get a big kick out of this one. If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than the Mingus recordings on Columbia from this era. (We’ve now done shootouts for the album before this one and the one to follow. Both are amazing, musically and sonically.) The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any record of this kind you own right out of the water.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. There was practically nothing that could beat it, in any area of reproduction.

Amazing Tubey Magic

For we audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy should be just the record for you.

It’s spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

Production and Engineering

Teo Macero was the producer, and Fred Plaut may have been the engineer for these sessions in Columbia’s glorious sounding 30th Street Studio. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

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Charles Mingus – Mingus Dynasty

More Charles Mingus

More Jazz Recordings

  • An original 6-Eye Stereo copy with superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This pressing is rich and tubey, yet still clear and spacious, with a notably solid and articulate bottom end that does a superb job of captureing the beauty of Mingus’s double bass
  • Bucketfuls of studio ambience, and Tubey Magic to die for – this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • Be careful though – a record with this kind of sound will make all your Heavy Vinyl pressing sound as washed out, lifeless and veiled as we know them to be, news that may come as quite a shock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mingus Dynasty is still an excellent album; in fact, it’s a testament to just how high a level Mingus was working on that an album of this caliber could have gotten lost in the shuffle.”

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If innovative Large Group Jazz is your thing, you should get a big kick out of this one. If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than the Mingus recordings on Columbia from this era. (We’ve now done shootouts for the album before this one and the one to follow. Both are amazing, musically and sonically.) The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any record of this kind you own right out of the water.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. There was practically nothing that could beat it, in any area of reproduction.

Amazing Tubey Magic

For we audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy should be just the record for you.

It’s spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

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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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Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin

More Billie Holiday

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • Amazingly clear and Tubey magical Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side two
  • Dramatically richer, fuller and more Tubey Magical than most of the other copies we played on side two, and unbeatable on side one, with breathy vocals and rosiny, fairly smooth strings
  • There may be amazingly good sounding original pressings, as amazingly good as this one, but we’ve never run into one and we have our doubts about the existence of such a magical LP – where could they all be hiding?
  • “I’m a Fool to Want You” on this very copy may just send chills racing up and down your spine
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lady Day herself said that this session was her personal favorite.”
  • Reviews and commentaries for some of the amazing music recorded in the 30th Street Studios

On the better copies both the sound and music are absolutely breathtaking. They reproduce clearly what, to our minds, are the three most important elements in the recording — strings, rhythm, and vocal — and, more importantly, the are reproduced properly balanced with one another.

The monos, as you might expect, balance the three elements well enough, but the problem with mono is that the vocals and instruments are jammed together in the center of the soundfield, layered atop one another. Real clarity, the kind that live music has in abundance, is difficult if not impossible under the circumstances. Only the stereo pressings provide the space that each of the elements need in order to be heard.

Naturally, the vocals have to be the main focus on a Billie Holiday record. They should be rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and transparent. To qualify as a Hot Stamper, the pressings we offer must be highly resolving. You will hear everything, surrounded by the natural space of the legendary Columbia 30th Street Studio in which the recording was made.

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Simon & Garfunkel / Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme – Stick to the 360s for the Best Sound

More of the Music of Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice

More superb sound from the legendary CBS 30th street studios in New York!

Turn up the volume, turn down the lights, and you’ll have one of the best — if not THE best — folk duos of All Time performing right there in your listening room for you. The sound is open, spacious, and transparent with breathy vocals and unusually low levels of spit. The strings are more dynamic than we’re used to hearing and the bottom end has a really nice weight to it.

These old Simon & Garfunkel records weren’t often owned by audiophiles who kept their records in pristine condition. (Most audiophiles in those days did not listen to pop music at all. Audiophiles were primarily classical guys, and some played jazz and vocalists, but practically nobody put a lot of time and money into their stereo so they could hear pop songs reproduced in higher fidelity. This was my experience when I first got into audio in the early ’70s. It was taken for granted that good equipment existed to play orchestral music and not much else.) 

Back to S&G.

No, these were the pop records of their day, and they were played and played hard, typically on cheap equipment. There are many quiet passages on this album that are going to reveal whatever surface issues might exist, so a copy that plays even close to Mint Minus is about as good as you can hope for.

Since only the right vintage 360 pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed at seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)


The Legendary CBS Studios

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 / Sketches of Spain – On the ’70s Red Label?

More Miles Davis

More Columbia 30th Street Studio Recordings

  • This excellent Columbia Red Label stereo pressing boasts Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • When you get a properly mastered, properly pressed ’70s copy of the album, it may not do everything right, but it does so much right that we have no problem awarding it a sonic grade of Double Plus
  • The good copies capture the realistic sound of Davis’s horn, the body, the breath and the bite (and not a little of the squawk as well)
  • Balanced, clear and undistorted, this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • 5 stars: “Sketches of Spain is the most luxuriant and stridently romantic recording Davis ever made. To listen to it in the 21st century is still a spine-tingling experience…”
  • If you’re a fan of Classic Jazz, this Columbia from 1960 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We talk a fair bit about the Tubey Magic of the original pressings below, and those looking for that very rich, very tubey sound may prefer to pass on this copy.

Only the best originals – cleaned properly of course – will give you every last ounce of that sound.

This copy is balanced, open, clear and undistorted. With Double Plus (A++) sound  it has to be excellent, but super Tubey Magical it is not.

Those with very tubey equipment may actually prefer it to the originals. Either way, your satisfaction is guaranteed.

On the best pressings of this masterpiece, the sound is truly magical. (AMG has that dead right in their review.) It is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite, just like the real thing. What more can you ask for?

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Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess

More Vintage Columbia Pressings

More Miles Davis / More Gil Evans

  • Insanely good sound on both sides of this original Columbia Six-Eye pressing with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Both sides are full of that old-school Columbia jazz tubey magic – the brass is full-bodied with lots of air, the bass is surprisingly well-defined, the top end is extended and sweet, and the soundfield is HUGE and three-dimensional
  • The music is a classic example of the partnership between Davis and arranger Gil Evans, and a must-own for serious jazz fans
  • “It was Evans’ intimate knowledge of the composition as well as the performer that allowed him to so definitively capture the essence of both… No observation or collection of American jazz can be deemed complete without this recording.” 5 Stars
  • If you’re a fan of the collaborations of Davis and Evans 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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Dave Brubeck / Time Out – We Happily Admit the Originals Are (Potentially) the Best Sounding

More of the Music of Dave Brubeck

Reviews and Commentaries for Time Out

Time Out is Yet Another Record We Have Been Obsessed with for a Very Long Time

This time around [2014] no other copy of Time Out could touch our good Six Eye Stereo pressings. They were simply 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 everything is 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. We are strong proponents of Making Audio Progress.

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. This comes under the heading of Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice.

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.

The next time we run this experiment, the results could be different.

[Update from 2021: we have run the experiment a number of times in the five yeas since this commentary was written, and the best Six Eye in the shootout has not been beaten yet. Yet.]

For us, in 2014 (and probably through 2015), this is it. This is the right sound. (more…)