Top Studios and Concert Halls

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…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner – Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn VAGUE

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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Rimsky-Korsakov – The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner

Sonic Grade: C

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing shown here in order to see how it would fare up against a pair of wonderful sounding Londons we were in the process of shooting out a while ago. Here’s what we heard in our head to head comparison.

The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount. But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.

There was a cloud of musical instruments, some here, some there, but they were very hard to SEE. On the Londons we played they were clear. You could point to each and every one. On this pressing it was impossible.

Case in point: the snare drum, which on this recording is located toward the back of the stage, roughly halfway between dead center and the far left of the hall. As soon as I heard it on the reissue I recognized how blurry and smeary it was relative to the clarity and immediacy it had on the earlier London pressings. I’m not sure how else to describe it – diffuse, washed out, veiled. It’s just vague.
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Ted Heath – Swings In High Stereo

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) DEMO DISC SOUND from the first note to the last; the best sound we heard for this album in our shootout all day
  • Kingsway Hall, Wilkinson and the Decca Tree add up to Audiophile Quality Big Band sound, on this copy anyway
  • Heath and his group play with all the energy and verve essential to this joyful Big Band music – he really does swing in high stereo
  • We consider Ted Heath’s early London recordings to be some of the best big band ever recorded

This album has DEMO DISC SOUND like you will not believe. Just listen to Heath’s arrangement of Big Ben, the second track on side two, for Audiophile Quality Big Band sound the likes of which you may have never heard. (more…)

Ellington-Basie – First Time – The Count Meets the Duke

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this stunning Six Eye Stereo pressing of First Time!
  • Three-dimensional space and ambience, rich Tubey Magic by the boatload – this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ellington’s elegance and unique voicings meet Basie’s rollicking, blues-based Kansas City swing, and it works gloriously. The Duke and his band accentuate their swinging dance band side, while Basie and company have never sounded as suave and exotic as when playing Billy Strayhorn arrangements. Everyone has a good time, and that joy infuses this album from start to finish.”

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Dave Brubeck – Time Changes

 

  • This early 360 Stereo pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side one – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • With a breathy sax, lively and present piano, and a smooth, full sounding orchestra on some of these tracks, this is just the right sound for this music
  • The legendary CBS 30th Street Studios in New York deliver another amazing Demo Disc for Dave Brubeck and his famous fellow jazzmen
  • Produced by the legendary Teo Macero, this is the fourth entry in Brubeck’s time signature series of classic jazz

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Miles Davis Kind of Blue – Sizing Up Two Very Different Sounding Pressings from the ’70s

One of our good customers has started a blog which he calls

A GUIDE FOR THE BUDDING ANALOG AUDIOPHILE

Below is a link to a comparison Robert Brook carried out with a few pressings of Miles Davis’ Masterpiece, Kind of Blue.

KIND OF BLUE: Discovering the RIGHT SOUND for Miles Davis’ MASTERPIECE

Ravel and Ansermet Produce The Best Bolero on Vinyl

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Including this amazing Bolero, the best copy we’ve ever heard!

  • Both sides here earned our highest grade of Triple Plus, making this the best copy to ever hit the site
  • Full, rich, spacious, BIG and present, with energetic performances the likes of which you may have never heard
  • Side one has outstanding depth – the snare drum sounds like it’s located at least fifty feet behind the speakers
  • One of the best Ansermet recordings with the Suisse Romande from Victoria Hall – best performances too

Side two sounded so much better than any copy I have ever heard that I was sorely tempted to give it our coveted Four Plus grade, for the kind of sound that breaks all the rules. Cooler heads have since prevailed, but that doesn’t detract in the least from side two of this remarkable pressing, which has by far the best sound for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice I have yet to hear.

We are rarely able to find a quality recording or performance of Bolero or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, so this pressing comes as a welcome addition to the classical offerings on the site.

The sound is clear, with wonderful depth to the stage. As a rule, the classic ’50s and ’60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande in Victoria Hall are as big and rich as any you may have ever heard. These recordings may just be the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – The Fantasy Film World of…

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  • This early British London pressing has excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • On the better copies such as this one you can hear the power of the orchestra come to life right in your very own listening room
  • The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of size and spaciousness that may just leave you in awe
  • A superb Phase 4 recording by Arthur Lilley, taking advantage of the legendary acoustics of Kingsway Hall

The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of three-dimensionality most orchestral recordings just can’t approach. The brass here is excellent, and you can really hear the pluck of the strings on the harp.

Harry Pearson put the Decca pressing of this title on his TAS List of Super Discs. (We take issue with that choice.) (more…)

Bob Brookmeyer – Bob Brookmeyer And Friends

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  • This original Black Print 360 pressing was one of the best we played in our recent shootout, earning Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides and playing quietly
  • Stan Getz is the real standout on this album, a very pleasant surprise for us since his exceptionally good recordings of his music are so hard to find
  • Another example of the phenomenal sound quality found on so many recordings made at CBS’s 30th street studios in New York
  • “Stan Getz, known for his ‘lyrical’ style, is in top form throughout and brings out the best of his cohorts, including two young musicians, Gary Burton on vibes and Herbie Hancock on keyboards…” 

If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than Bob Brookmeyer And Friends. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any jazz septet record you own right out of the water.

Getz and Burton have always been magical together. Their work on Getz Au Go Go is legendary. Every time I play that record I am astonished at how good it is, one of those very special jazz recordings that are easy to get lost in. (more…)

Columbia Classical LPs – So Many Are So Bad. How Can This Be?

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Columbia classical recordings have a tendency to be shrill, upper-midrangy, glary and hard sounding. The upper mids are usually nasally and pinched; the strings and brass will screech and blare at you in the worst way. If Columbia’s goal was to drive the audiophile classical music lover screaming from the room, most of the time they succeeded brilliantly. Occasionally they fail. When they do we call those pressings Hot Stampers.

Columbia Rock and Jazz

When I play Columbia recordings from the ’50s and ’60s of Brubeck, Ellington, Miles and other jazz giants, what strikes me most is how natural, warm and sweet the sound is. I was playing an old mono Ellington record recently and when the clarinet solo came in, it almost took my breath away. The sound of the instrument was that real. This from a mid-’50s run-of-the-mill Columbia pressing. Those guys (the engineers and the musicians) knew what they were doing.

Sometimes when I read about the extraordinary lengths modern engineers go to in order to use the highest quality audiophile equipment: custom microphones, tape recorders, wire, and the like, it makes me wonder how many of the best sounding records in the world managed to be recorded without any of that stuff. RCA didn’t need it for their Living Stereos. Decca didn’t need it. Contemporary Records managed to record the best sounding jazz records without it.

How did all those great sounding records get made with such bad equipment? I guess we’ll never know.

Columbia may not have always recorded the best “serious” jazz, but they were very serious about the sound of their jazz. Outside of Contemporary, Columbia has the consistently best sounding jazz records I’ve ever heard.