Top Studios and Concert Halls – Columbia 30th Street Studios

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…)

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…)