Top Studios and Concert Halls – Columbia 30th Street Studios

Barbra Streisand – The Third Album

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  • Streisand’s 1964 release eturns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • These 360 Label stereo originals are the only way to hear the Tubey Magic and space that is all over the original master tape
  • Frank Laico engineered at Columbia’s legendary 30th street studios – you can easily imagine how good the sound is
  • Ms Streisand sings a wonderful batch of standards on this one: My Melancholy Baby, Just In Time, It Had To Be You, As Time Goes By and 6 more

Both sides are rich and full-bodied, as befits anything recorded by the legendary Frank Laico at Columbia’s 30th street studios. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Time Out on Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: D

When we did a shootout for this record way back in October of 2007 we took the opportunity to play the Classic Records 200 gram pressing. Maybe we got a bad one, who knows, but that record did not sound remotely as good as the real thing (6 eye or 360, both can be quite good). The piano sounded thin and hard, which was quite unexpected given the fact that we used to consider the Classic LP one of their few winners and actually recommended it.

As we said in our shootout: “We dropped the needle on the Classic reissue to see how it stacked up against a serious pressing. Suffice it to say, the real Time Out magic isn’t going to be found on any heavy vinyl reissue!”

Johnny Mathis – Open Fire, Two Guitars

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  • Mathis’ superb 1959 release finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish 
  • The All Tube recording chain at Columbia’s 30th Street studios allowed their engineers to make recordings practically unequaled in the decades since
  • An outrageous claim? Not really, because this very pressing backs up every thing we say
  • 4 1/2 stars: “On this album, Johnny Mathis creates an atmosphere of fireside intimacy by dispensing with his usual orchestral accompaniment so that the purity of his voice entices the listener’s full attention… The enduring popularity of Open Fire, Two Guitars is attributable in part to its hypnotic aura of closeness and confidentiality…”

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, a mark makes a mostly light sandpapery sound for 1-2 seconds, then, at the end of track 1, An Open Fire, there are 2 moderate pops.
  • On side two, a mark makes 6 light ticks one-quarter inch from the end of track 1, When I Fall In Love.

Finding clean Johnny Mathis records from 60 years ago, on Columbia, in stereo, is nearly impossible, which is why you see so few come to the site. We would be hard-pressed to find one good title to shootout in a given year. These days it’s taking three to five years to bring any of the classic Johnny Mathis albums to market. There are simply too few original pressings that have survived the turntables of the day, and their owners.

Which is why we are so pleased to present one of Johnny’s most beloved albums, and one that is quite a bit more musically involving than most. If you like Dream With Dean, and who doesn’t?, this Mathis album should be right up your alley.

One tip we can offer any Mathis fans who may be out there: stick to the Columbia era if you want audiophile sound. His Mercury recordings, at least the half-dozen or so we’ve played, were godawful sounding. (more…)

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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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. 
(more…)