Top Studios and Concert Halls – Columbia 30th Street Studios

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home

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More Vintage Columbia Pressings

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • These early pressings can be killer when you find one like this – they’re clearly more lively, more transparent, and richer, with dramatically more immediacy in the midrange so that Dylan’s voice is front and center and in the room with you
  • You would be hard pressed to find a copy that sounds this good and plays this quietly
  • 5 stars: “With Bringing It All Back Home, he exploded the boundaries, producing an album of boundless imagination and skill. And it’s not just that he went electric, either, rocking hard on “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm,” and “Outlaw Blues”; it’s that he’s exploding with imagination throughout the record.”

NOTE: There is a mark that plays haflway through track five about eight times at a moderate level.

You may be aware that it is hard to find a 360 Columbia Stereo pressing from 1965 that plays any quieter!

It’s tough to find copies of this album that give you all the tubey richness and warmth that this music needs to sound its best. Too many copies seem to be EQ’d to put the vocals way up front, an approach that renders Dylan’s voice hard and edgy. Copies like that sound impressive at first blush (“Wow, he’s really IN THE ROOM!”) but become fatiguing in short order. When you get a copy like this one that’s smooth, relaxed and natural, the music sounds so good that you forget about the sound and just get lost in the music.

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Dave Brubeck / Time Out – Michael Fremer Says You Should Own the Classic 45

Michael Fremer spends two hours and ten minutes on his site going through a list of 100 All Analog In Print Reissued Records You Should Own

On this list is the 45 Bernie Grundman cutting of Time Out. Fremer apparently likes it a whole lot more than we do. We think it is just plain awful. The MoFi Kind of Blue is on this same list, another pressing that is astonishingly bad, or at least very, very wrong. If you’re the kind of person who might want to give Michael Fremer the benefit of the doubt when it comes to All Analog records he thinks sound good, ones he thinks you should own, try either one of them. If you think they sound just fine, you sure don’t need me to tell you that I find them completely and utterly unlistenable.

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Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out

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Reviews and Commentaries for Time Further Out

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  • You’ll find KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish on this original 6 Eye Stereo Pressing
  • These sides are incredibly tubey – rich, full-bodied and warm – yet clear, lively and dynamic
  • This copy demonstrates the big-as-life Fred Plaut Columbia Sound at its best – better even than Time Out(!)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The selections, which range in time signatures from 5/4 to 9/8, are handled with apparent ease (or at least not too much difficulty) by pianist Brubeck, altoist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright, and drummer Joe Morello on this near-classic.”

Time Further Out is consistently more varied and, dare we say, more musically interesting than Time Out.

If you want to hear big drums in a big room these Brubeck recordings will show you that sound better than practically any record we know of. These vintage recordings are full-bodied, spacious, three-dimensional, rich, sweet and warm in the best tradition of an All Tube Analog recording. (more…)

Miles Davis / Basic Miles – Here Is the Hot Stamper Sound of Kind of Blue

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Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

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Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

  • Demo Disc Jazz sound for this wonderful collection, with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades
  • Opening side two, the 9 plus minutes of On Green Dolphin Street has some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear, on any record, at any price
  • If you want to know what the better copies of Kind of Blue sound like, this pressing will tell you, because it has that sound
  • And that means it is absolutely NOTHING like the MoFi 45 RPM 2 LP pressing that some audiophiles (and the reviewers who cater to them) seem to like so much
  • We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match

Want to know how good our Hot Stamper Kind of Blue pressings sound? Listen to this very record. If you play the tracks that were recorded in 1958, the year before Kind of Blue, you will hear practically the same lineup of musicians.

That means Stella By Starlight and Little Melonae on side one, and Green Dolphin Street and Fran-Dance (Put Your Little Foot Right Out) on side two. We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match.

The nine-minute plus Green Dolphin Street that opens side two is nothing short of amazing, some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear. With Fran Dance on the same side, that gives you about 17 minutes of great-sounding jazz by Miles’ classic Kind of Blue lineup.

Side one has the same cats playing for more than 12 minutes. By my calculation, that’s close to another album’s worth of material from the group. The rest of the material on this compilation is best seen as gravy; maybe not essential, but never less than interesting. (more…)

Miles Davis – Quiet Nights

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More Gil Evans

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  • A Shootout Winning copy of this Miles Davis-Gil Evans classic and one of only a handful to hit the site in years
  • Side one earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++), side two was close behind at A++ to A+++
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played – Mint Minus Minus to EX++ on both sides – but obviously one of the best sounding
  • Fred Plaut engineered the sessions, and on this amazing early pressing they sound rich, warm, smooth and clear
  • In the Saturday Review, Quiet Nights received praise for Davis’ “wonderfully songful trumpet in a Latin-American vein”, set against “piercingly lustrous curtains of tone and discreet Caribbean rhythms.”

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, so we didn’t have the eight to ten copies we like to have for a full shootout — and found that the music on Quiet Nights was every bit as enchanting as we remember it.

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…)

Dave Brubeck / Time Out – Classic Records Repress on 45 Is Another in a Long String of Failures

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Reviews and Commentaries for Time Out

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Jazz LP debunked.

Not long ago we found a single disc from the 45 RPM four disc set that Classic Records released in 2002 and decided to give it a listen as part of a shootout. My notes can be seen above, but for those who have trouble reading my handwriting, here they are:

Big but hard

Zero (0) warmth

A bit thin and definitely boring

Unnatural

No fun

No F***ing Good (NFG)

Does that sound like a record you would enjoy playing? I sure didn’t.

But this is the kind of sound that Bernie Grundman managed to find on Classic Record after Classic Record starting in the mid-90s when he began cutting for them.

We’ve been complaining about the sound of these records for more than twenty years but a great many audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them told us we wrong.  If you have a copy of this album on Classic, at 33 or 45, play it and see if you don’t hear the problems we ascribe to it.

To see what we had to say about the 33 RPM version on Classic many years ago, click here.

Maybe we got a bad 45 and the others are better. That has not been our experience.

In these four words we can describe the sound of the average Classic Records pressing.

Not all of their records are as bad sounding as Time Out. We favorably review some of the better ones here.


A Must Own Jazz Record

We consider Time Out a Masterpiece. It’s a recording that should be part of any serious Jazz Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here. (more…)

Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

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More Vintage Columbia Pressings

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  • This outstanding Columbia Red Label copy of Ah Um boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • An amazing 30th Street Studio recording by the legendary Fred Plaut – if you like Kind of Blue, here’s another album with that sound (same year, same studio, same engineer)
  • The rich, sweet, spacious sound of the vintage tubes used to record the session is reproduced faithfully here – without that sound, it would just not be Ah Um
  • 5 stars: “Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist’s talents and probably the best reference point for beginners… Mingus’ compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um”

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Miles Davis / Kind of Blue – Quick Listening Test

More on Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

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Listen to the trumpet at the start of Freddie Freeloader. Most copies do not fully convey the transient information of Miles’ horn, causing it to have an easily recognizable quality we talk about all the time on the site: smear. No two pressings will have precisely the same amount of smear on his trumpet, so look for the least smeary copy that does everything else right too.

Meaning simply that smear is important, but not all-important.

More recordings that are good for testing smear.

If you click on the above link, you will see that we regularly talk about smeary pianos, smeary brass, smeary violins and smeary Classic Records classical reissues. Nobody else seems bothered by smear, and one of our many theories about the stereo shortcomings of reviewers and audiophiles in general is that their systems are fairly smeary, so a little extra smear is mostly inaudible to them. I had a smeary system for my first twenty or more years in audio, so I know whereof I speak.

Our system has virtually no smear. Any smear we hear on a record means that the smear is on the record, not in our system.

Any system with vintage tubes — whatever their pros and cons — will have plenty of smear. We got rid of ours a long time ago.

Back to our listening tests:

On track one, side two, the drums in the right channel are key to evaluating the sound of the better copies. The snare should sound solid and fat — like a real snare — and if there is space in the recording on your copy you will have no trouble hearing the room around the kit.

We will be discussing the faults of the 45 RPM MoFi down the road, but the drums on that record are so wrong it all but beggars belief. (more…)

Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain

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  • This outstanding Columbia 360 Stereo pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The good copies capture the realistic sound of Davis’s horn, the body, the breath and the bite (and not a little of the squawk as well)
  • Balanced, clear and undistorted, this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • A couple of marks play, so this copy is being offered at a much lower price than it otherwise would have been for those of you who can tolerate the pops
  • 5 stars: “Sketches of Spain is the most luxuriant and stridently romantic recording Davis ever made. To listen to it in the 21st century is still a spine-tingling experience…”

*NOTE: On side two, two marks make 24 moderate pops one-quarter inch from the end of Track 2, Saeta, and 15 moderate pops one-quarter inch into Track 3, Solea.

On the best pressings of this masterpiece, the sound is truly magical. (AMG has that dead right in their review.) It is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite, just like the real thing. What more can you ask for? (more…)

Pink Floyd – The Wall

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More Top 100 Rock and Pop Albums

Letters and Commentaries for The Wall

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on all FOUR sides, this copy of The Wall is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other pressing you’ve heard
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of Floyd’s magnum opus from 1979, this is the way to go
  • The Wall demands big, bold, explosively dynamic ANALOG sound, and here is a copy that delivers on that promise
  • Grungy electric guitars, breathy vocals, HUGE punchy drums, earth-shaking bass and room-filling ambience are all here like you’ve never heard before
  • One of the best sounding rock recordings of all time – here is a copy that will make our case

We spend a ridiculous amount of time cleaning, playing, and comparing copies of this classic double album for our shootouts and let me tell you, there are a lot of weak copies out there.

What do these kinds of top grades give you for The Wall? Top-notch clarity and transparency, mind-blowing immediacy, weight to the bottom, extension up top, HUGE open soundfields, real texture to all the instruments, TONS of energy with serious dynamics, BIG punchy drums and loads of natural ambience.

Pink Floyd tends to be an amazingly well-recorded band, and this album is certainly no exception. If you’ve taken home one of our Hot Stampers for Dark Side of the Moon, Meddle, or Wish You Were Here, then you certainly know what we’re talking about. (more…)