Top Studios and Concert Halls – Columbia 30th Street Studios

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 – 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…)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

STUNNING A+++ SOUND AND QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES! Breathtakingly 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 does everything we want it to.

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. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Blues In Orbit

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Blues In Orbit

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  • An excellent original Columbia Six-Eye pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish  
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, and Tubey Magic by the boatload – this amazing 30th Street recording from 1960 shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • “… it captures the essence of a late-night recording date that was as much a loose jam as a formal studio date, balancing the spontaneity of the former and the technical polish of the latter.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1959-1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – Our A++++ Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This Shootout Champion and Hall Of Fame pressing has TWO AMAZING SIDES. Side one was so mindblowingly good that we awarded it our extra-special Four Plus (A++++)rating, and side two was almost as good, earning our standard top grade of A+++! This is one of the very best copies we’ve ever heard, and we have literally played more than a HUNDRED copies of this album over just the last five years.

If you want to hear what a top pressing of Kind Of Blue can do on an audiophile system, this baby right here is your ticket to ride. (more…)

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out’s Engineering – When Less Is More

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FRED PLAUT is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. His work on Time Further Out speaks for itself — we think it’s the best sounding Brubeck recording of them all. 

We could find no information about the venue for this recording. It might be the Columbia Studios known as “The Church” — that would explain the amazing sound quality of the album — but it may just be Plaut’s engineering prowess in another location that makes this some of the best sound to be found on any Brubeck record.

Frederick “Fred” Plaut was a recording engineer and amateur photographer. He was employed by Columbia Records during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, eventually becoming the label’s chief engineer.

Plaut engineered sessions for what would result in many of Columbia’s famous albums, including the original cast recordings of South Pacific, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story, jazz LPs Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis, Time Out by Dave Brubeck, Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty by Charles Mingus.

Wikipedia

Mark Wilder was interviewed about the recording of these Fred Plaut sessions.

Fred Plaut and Frank Laico were two of Brubeck’s recording engineers. Plaut is a true balance engineer; he’s my idol. I don’t know how he could pull off what he did in three hours.

He continued:

It’s amazing how well-recorded the group was back then. The sound is so three-dimensional, bigger than life.

Yet it’s amazing how little the engineers did to get that sound. They just put one mic a few feet from each instrument, and mixed live to 3-track—for left, center, and right. Then they edited the tape and mixed down to 2-track.

The old stuff sounds better than what we’re doing now. We’ve been going in the wrong direction sound-wise for many years. The layout of the stereo stage was more realistic then, too. Drums were on the left, piano on the right, sax and bass in the middle. (more…)

Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

WOW! This Original Six Eye Stereo pressing does EVERYTHING we ever hoped for from this great album! We’ve been searching for a killer copy of this one forever but without much luck. Here’s the first one to ever hit the site, and it is a MONSTER. Both sides have KILLER A+++ sound — super tubey magical and tonally balanced with real depth to the soundfield. (more…)

Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

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Miles In The Sky

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

WONDERFUL SOUND on both sides of this Columbia 360 Label pressing! We just finished a big shootout for this wonderful Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than most. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of tubey magic. The music is wonderful, Miles with his classic ’60s quintet (Hancock, Shorter, Carter, Williams) with the addition of George Benson on one song.

Miles is backed by his classic ’60s crew — Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams. (more…)

Gerry Mulligan Quartet – What Is There To Say?

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What Is There To Say?

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

This Six Eye stereo LP put every other copy we played to shame on side one with shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound. Side two earned a Double Plus (A++) grade for its explosive dynamics and rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical sax sound. Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with that “jumpin’ out of the speakers’ quality that only The Real Thing ever has. Hard to imagine any reissue, vintage or otherwise, can hold a candle to the sound of this amazing record. 

Recorded at Columbia’s 30th Street studios, here is a record that sounds like Kind of Blue, Ah Um and Time Out, for the simple reason that all were recorded in the same studio using the same equipment and perhaps even the same engineers. (more…)