Top Studios and Concert Halls – Columbia 30th Street Studios

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…)

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

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.

Barbra Streisand – The Barbra Streisand Album

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

A killer 360 original stereo pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – the first copy to hit the site in many years. We recently did a shootout for this album and were thrilled at how natural and immediate the sound on the best copies can be. Good Ol’ Babs (actually, a very young Babs here) sounds LOVELY on this pressing — her voice is rich, breathy and textured with stellar presence. The orchestra backing her sounds wonderful and there’s plenty of bass to set a nice foundation for the music.

Excellent, natural, unprocessed sound. And she does a very nice job with this set of standards. This, and the album Guilty, are the two Streisand records I’m most likely to play. (more…)

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…)