Top Studios and Concert Halls – Columbia 30th Street Studios

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…)

Pink Floyd – The Wall – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

SAY IT ISN’T SO. This is the ULTIMATE White Hot Stamper pressing of The Wall, the finest ever to hit our site BAR NONE. 

All four sides of this monster earned top A+++ grades in our massive recent shootout. This copy gives you ALL of the magic that Floyd laid down to tape. You get incredible clarity, breathtaking transparency, wonderful punch to the bottom, sweetness and full extension up top, tubey magical acoustic guitars, full-bodied vocals and serious depth and dimension to the soundfield. Folks, if you love The Wall you will TREASURE this copy for the rest of your listening days.

We spent a ridiculous amount of time cleaning, playing, and comparing copies of this classic double album this week and let me tell you, there are a lot of WEAK copies out there. The Wall is an album that DEMANDS big, bold, explosively dynamic sound, and this copy has got it in spades. (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…)

Bill Evans & Toots Thielemans – Affinity

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

This is a unique jazz album (in my experience, anyway) with very good sound. Piano with harmonica accompaniment is something I’ve never heard before, and most of the time it actually works. Both of these guys are top flight musicians, and their ability to communicate in order to create this wonderful improvisational jazz is a joy to experience.

Side Two

White Hot — nothing could touch it. The sound is especially lively and clear, with highly resolving sound that lets you hear all the nuances and harmonics of every instrument.

Exceptionally open and spacious. Love that studio!

Side One

Nearly as good in every way, perhaps falling short a bit in the realm of resolution, but clearly superior to almost every other copy we played. (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…)

Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin – Balancing the Vocal, Strings and Rhythm

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The better copies 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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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 Changes – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

Side one is solid and warm. Note that the sax and piano are lively and present on track three, one of the better sounding tracks and one we used to test with in our shootout.

On side two of many copies the orchestra sounded dry, and sometimes aggressive when loud, but on this copy the sound stayed smooth and full. Note how breathy Desmond’s sax is.

  • This 360 copy has Super Hot sound on side one – big, solid and warm
  • Super Hot on side two – richer and tubier than most
  • More superb sound from the legendary CBS 30th street studios in New York
  • The fourth entry in Brubeck’s time signature series of classic jazz albums 

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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…)