1958

Schubert – The Trout Quintet / Curzon / Vienna Octet

  • Boasting two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this vintage Ace of Diamonds pressing is doing just about everything right
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than most of what we played – this is music you cannot help but be drawn into
  • The 1958 master tape has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1968, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound and surfaces that are hard to fault
  • The cello does not have that “fat” sound some audiophiles seem to like – Decca knew more about recording chamber music in 1958 than practically all the audiophile labels that would come along later, the ones that managed to make a mess of the very idea of audiophile quality sound (you know who I mean)

The piano and the strings have that Golden Age Tubey Magical sound we love. It’s been years since I’ve had the opportunity to play this record; most copies are just too beat up to bother with, so I was glad to find a number in minty condition.

Now what I hear in this recording is sound that is absolutely free from any top end boost, much the way live music is. There’s plenty of tape hiss and air; the highs aren’t rolled off, they’re just not boosted the way they normally are in a recording.

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Sonny Rollins – Sonny Rollins & the Contemporary Leaders

More Sonny Rollins

More Contemporary Jazz Label Recordings

  • Boasting seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER throughout, this vintage pressing of Rollins’s sophomore Contemporary release will be very hard to beat
  • Both of these sides are textbook examples of the kind of rich, smooth, effortlessly natural Contemporary Jazz sound that Roy DuNann‘s All Tube Recording Chain was known for in 1958
  • “The last of the classic Sonny Rollins albums prior to his unexpected three-year retirement features the great tenor with pianist Hampton Hawes, guitarist Barney Kessell, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Shelly Manne… Great music.”

This Contemporary Label LP has THE BIG SOUND we love here at Better Records — rich and full-bodied with live-in-your-listening-room immediacy. The bass is deep, rock-solid, and note-like. There’s plenty of clarity and extension up top, bringing Shelly Manne’s fantastic work on the cymbals to life.

This is no Heavy Vinyl slogfest. Just listen to the leading edge transients on Sonny’s sax.

The guitar is warm, rich, and sweet, and just swimming in ambience.

Sonny is backed here by a heavy-hitting lineup of Barney KesselShelly ManneLeroy Vinnegar and Hampton Hawes — all favorite players of ours here at Better Records.

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Schubert – The Trout Quintet / Curzon / Vienna Octet

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

More Classical Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • With two outstanding sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades, this vintage London LP was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than much of what we played – this is music you cannot help but be drawn into
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • The cello does not have that “fat” sound some audiophiles seem to like – Decca knew more about recording chamber music in 1958 than practically any of the audiophile labels that would come along later, the ones that managed to make a mess of the very idea of audiophile quality sound. (You know who I mean.)
  • There are about 150 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of offering the Best Performances with the Highest Quality Sound, and this record certainly deserve a place on that list.

The piano and the strings have that Golden Age Tubey Magical sound we love. It’s been years since I’ve had the opportunity to play this record. Most copies are just too beat up to bother with, so I was glad to find a number in minty condition.

Now what I hear in this recording is sound that is absolutely free from any top end boost, much the way live music is. There’s plenty of tape hiss and air; the highs aren’t rolled off, they’re just not boosted the way they normally are in a recording. (more…)

John Coltrane – The Stardust Session

  • A stunning copy of this Coltrane double album – recorded in one day! – with INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on all FOUR sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet, it’s a remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Jazz with the benefits brought about by lower-distortion, wider-bandwidth cutting equipment in the ’70s
  • Superb sound quality courtesy of Rudy Van Gelder‘s engineering (1958/1963) and the superior mastering of David Turner (1972)
  • 4 Stars: “…Coltrane is heard near the end of his ‘sheets of sound’ period, perfecting his distinctive style and taking colorful and aggressive solos.”

These records take their material from three John Coltrane albums: “Bahia,” “Stardust” and “Standard Coltrane.” We would be surprised if the originals of any of them can beat the sound of this reissue.

Note that the complete Standard Coltrane can be found on these four sides, along with a substantial portion of the other two Coltrane albums listed above.

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Schubert / Symphony No. 9 “The Great” / Krips

More Classical and Orchestral Music

More Albums Engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson

  • We guarantee you’ve never heard this powerful orchestral masterpiece sound remotely as good as it does here
  • One of the truly great All Tube Wilkinson “Decca Tree” recordings in Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty on this very disc
  • The 1950s master tape has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1976, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer
  • Don’t expect to see an original on this site – the two we auditioned were crude, flat, full of harmonic distortion, and had clearly restricted frequency extremes, aka “boxy sound
  • If you’re a fan of large symphonic works from the Romantic period, this is a Must Own Recording from 1958 that belongs in your collection
  • There are roughly 100 orchestral recordings we think offer the discriminating audiophile the best combination of Superior Performances with Top Quality SoundThis record has earned a place on that list.

Krips’ 1958 recording for Decca is brought to life on a fairly quiet and certainly quite wonderful World of the Great Classics pressing from 1976. This copy was clearly the best we played, showing us a huge hall, with layered depth that was only hinted at on most pressings, regardless of age.

The strings are remarkably rich and sweet. This pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers of the day were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Serenade for Strings – Munch

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • Outstanding Living Stereo sound for Munch’s recording with the Boston Symphony, with both sides of this original Shaded Dog pressing earning Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER
  • The 14 minute long Elgar piece on this Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Surely one of the greatest performances ever recorded, more powerful and emotional than any with which we are familiar
  • “In his conception of the Serenade, Tchaikovsky envisioned a work which falls somewhere between a symphony and a string quintet. The work is as personal as any of the composer’s symphonies and as intimate as his chamber music.”

The texture and harmonic overtones of the strings are near perfection. As we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity the performers brought to the work in 1958, as well as the quality of RCA’s engineering.

The overall sound is rich, sweet and Tubey Magical. For those of you who have only the Cisco pressing, you are in for a world of better sound. After playing these sides, you may be inclined to take all your heavy vinyl classical LPs and put them up on ebay, or at the very least, in storage. None of them, I repeat not a single one, will ever sound the way this record does.

Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time.

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Leroy Vinnegar Sextet – Leroy Walks!

More Leroy Vinnegar

More Contemporary Label Jazz

  • With a KILLER Shootout Winning Triple (A+++) side one mated to a solid Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy of Leroy Vinnegar’s debut album is one of the BEST we have ever heard – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The Contemporary LP stereo sound here is completely natural in every respect, yet still rich, warm and smooth
  • Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer engineered some of the best sounding records we have ever heard – here’s a textbook example of what the audiophiles at Contemporary were able to achieve in the studio
  • 4 stars: “…Vinnegar generously features his talented sidemen… A fine, straight-ahead session.”
  • Fans of exceptionally well-recorded West Coast jazz will find much to like on this recording from 1958.
  • The complete list of titles from 1958 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Porgy and Bess

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Louis Armstrong

  • Boasting FOUR outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, these vintage Stereo Verve pressings were giving us the sound we were looking for on this Ella and Louis classic – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Spacious, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with Ella and Louis front and center, this is the sound you want for their brilliant collaboration from 1958
  • If you’ve never heard exceptionally well recorded male and female vocals from the 50s, this is a great opportunity to have your mind blown
  • Two vocal giants came together to perform Gershwin’s timeless opera, revered by both music lovers and audiophiles to this day
  • 4 1/2 stars: “What’s really great about the Ella and Louis version is Ella, who handles each aria with disarming delicacy, clarion intensity, or usually a blend of both.”

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Edmundo Ros / Ros On Broadway

More Exotica

More Easy Listening

Edmundo Ros and his orchestra don’t command much respect these days from the general record buying public. As for audiophiles, it’s doubtful that many even know who he is. But we at Better Records are going to change that, starting with this very record, because it’s one of the best sounding records we have ever heard. Stampers just do not get any HOTTER than these! 

Update 2023

We thought we were going to change that, but our customers had other ideas and didn’t seem interested in his records.

From the perspective of a level playing field, I cannot think of a single rock record that sounds as BIG and DYNAMIC, nor one that is as spacious and clear, as is the side two of this London Blueback. As good as the best imported pressings of Dark Side of the Moon may be, shockingly good in fact, this recording is clearly more exciting and lifelike, with instrumental timbres that are uncannily accurate.

Over the years we’ve played a lot of Edmundo Ros records on London — you name it, Blueback, Whiteback, Phase 4 — but I sure never heard one sound like this until we did this shootout.

We’ve played a lot of Ted Heath records too; few know or care who he is anymore either. And, like Ros on Broadway, there is a Ted Heath title on London that has mind-blowingly good sound, comparable to this amazing Ros record. Watch for it down the road because it’s coming. It’s another Demo Disc destined to give the rest of your Demo Discs a run for their money.

I suspect it was this one, but this review was written a long time ago so I would not want to say for sure that it was.

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Mussorgsky / Pictures at an Exhibition / Ansermet

Hot Stamper LPs that Need to Be Played on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Recordings that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

I used to think Ansermet’s reading was ponderous, but this copy from 2013 is making me want to change my mind.

Is it more lively than others? Is the stereo that much improved since I last heard one of these Londons?

We have no way of knowing. All we do know is that we were enjoying Ansermet’s performance more than we ever had before.

The darker brass instruments like tubas, trombones and french horns are superb here. Other Golden Age recordings of the work, as enjoyable as they may be in other respects, do not fully reproduce the weighty quality of the brass, probably because of compression, limiting, tube smear, or some combination of the three.

The brass on this record has a power like practically no other recording of the work we know.

It’s also tonally correct. It’s not aggressive. It’s not irritating. It’s just immediate and powerful the way the real thing is when you hear it live. That’s what really caught my ear when I first played the recording.

There is a blast of brass at the end of Catacombs that is so big and real, it makes you forget you’re listening to a recording. You hear every brass instrument, full size, full weight. I still remember the night I was playing the album, good and loud of course, when that part of the work played through. It was truly startling in its power.

Some of Ansermet’s recordings with the Suisse Romande are absolutely the best I’ve ever heard. It was a magical combination of the right hall, the right engineers, the right orchestra and the right technology — the pure tube ANALOG technology of the ’50s and ’60s!

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