Sonny Rollins Vol 1 (1956) Blue Note/ Music Matters edition

1542-MM-frontcover-1800

Selection: Decisions  (Music Matters edition)

New rip corrected runtime: 7:58 +2 secs lead-in

Artists

Donald Byrd (t) Sonny Rollins (ts) Wynton Kelly (p) Gene Ramey (b) Max Roach (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, December 16, 1956

Music: 

A superb outing in which Rollins plays with other fine musicians rather than just as the prime soloist being supported by a piano-less rhythm section. Some like their Rollins spare, and there are many recordings which satisfy that preference. This first Blue Note outing for Rollins is very much ensemble playing, tunes with strong headline statements and tuneful bop structure rather than tongue-in-cheek launch-pads for woodshedding. Rollins shares the horn register with Byrd; the calibre of Max Roach and Wynton Kelly deserve to be heard, and all the better together, with greater tonal richness and swing.

I have no difficulty in confessing this is my favourite Rollins, which is why I have five different pressings, and made it part of my search for the elusive best audiophile experience, in this world, and the next.

Vinyl: Music Matters 2×45 rpm audiophile LPs

Music Matters are to be commended for getting the cover the right way up, any less would be unthinkable. Cue Frank Sinatra, I Did It Side Ways:

1542-I-did-it-sideways

Original Blue Note, upright (left); Liberty Records (centre) and King Records Japan (right) give priority to the direction of the text, with Sonny laying on his side – a conscious or mistaken decision to alter Reid’s original design for these reissues. Popsike does show a number of original 47W63rd second pressings with the cover photographed some upright some sideways. Were there two covers? Does it matter?

Music Matters Sides 1 & 2

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Note: very faint but there is a Plastylite ear symbol at 5 o’clock Side 1, 10 o’clock Side 2
That is what I call a sense of humour! Nice touch.

Music Matters Sides 3 & 4

1542-MM-labels-3and4-1800

MM Packaging: beautiful high gloss gatefold package with previously unseen (by me)original photos, superbly rendered in black and white, really, you could not create a more attractive modern package, hats off to MM.

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Oddly, the address at the foot of the cover is not 767 Lexington Avenue like the labels.

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Collector’s Corner: The Big Issue.

First, other reissues. As owner of both a Division of Liberty and Division of United Artists reissues of 1542, in my opinion these are very poor transfers.

Rollins-1542-DivLib-labels-1600

Rollins-1542-DivUA-labelst-1600

The Div UA was a particular disappointment, as these were often well re-mastered by UA in-house engineers, but in this case it is a dog, unusually with identical run-off etchings to the Division of Liberty reissue, indicating the same source metalwork.

The King 1542 also does not in my view do justice to the recording, leaving the French Pathe Marconi ahead as the best of the re-issues.

Rollins-1542-PatheMarconi-labelst-1600

At this stage then,  its between the Original and the Music Matters: one fall, submission or a knockout, let battle commence.

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Second pressing 47 West 63rd labels

Music Matters: a lot of people have let me know they prefer Music Matters editions over Blue Note originals. (Actually, what they usually say is “they are better”). The stakes are high. If  MMs offer a more satisfying and authentic presentation of the great original Blue Note recordings – including those impossibly expensive classic 1500 series – then there is little point in an audiophile chasing hundreds of holy grail original Blue Note editions. With MMs at only $50 a title, save your cash, invest in MMs, and put your current Blue Note collection up for sale, retire on the proceeds to Florida.

Put to one side the case of trophy-hunters who lust for first pressings. Blue Note originals are a fantastic rare collectible artefact in their own right, and a later copy is always just a copy, however perfect. Music-lovers, a.k.a. normal people, will be happy to have The Evil Silver Disk newly remastered in 24-bit, for just a few pesos . The question for the poor tortured vinyl audiophile is this: have the dedicated engineers at Music Matters, with access to original tapes, and 45 rpm modern mastering and pressing technology, succeeded in producing sound equal to or even better-than Blue Note fifty year old originals? There is only one test in music that matters – listen for yourself. Nullius in verba,  ‘take nobody’s word for it’.

Last month I ordered two Music Matters editions direct from Music Matters in the US, brand new and sealed, from their current catalogue, including Rollins Blue Note 1542. Despatch was quick, service perfect.

LJC-listening-test-fastshow33Listening on the high-end system to the MM and my second pressing original,  the difference I could hear was significant. I created rips for each edition, MP3 at 160kbps on my “low-end” Numark USB DJ Turntable, each at the same settings apart from speed. Playing back the MP3s through the PC’s Dell Soundbar, the self-same difference was evident, albeit both at overall lower quality.

A comparison, I think, in which the differences are inherent in the sources, and not dependent on the playback equipment.

ReminderDecisions (Music Matters edition)
May 21, 2013 19:45 new rip – corrected runtime: 7:58 + 2 secs lead-in

Original BLP 1542 Blue Note: Decisions , 2nd press 47W63rd Note: my vinyl copy has  a few scratches and clicks that slightly affect play, VG only, but its the sound quality to listen for.

You can start and stop each, flick between the two to hear how they interpret the same segment, take your time, no need to walk two and fro the turntable.

Now have your say!

There is no right answer in this poll. If A sounds better to you than B, that is your preference, if you prefer B, it’s valid for you. No one truly knows what anyone else hears.  I don’t need to persuade you one is better than the other, you can decide that for yourself. I have decided my own preference. If I am the only one on the planet with that opinion, it remains resolutely my opinion. I share my own assessment after the poll, but I recommend you vote first, on the basis of what you have heard.

LJC overall verdict

Judge-LJCJudge Jazz says: The  total MM package is beautiful, you couldn’t wish for a better looking product. It is great value for what you get, and sound better than most other reissues I have ever heard. However, in my opinion, despite the overwhelming hype, the Rollins MM falls short of the original Blue Note in the audiophile department.

Detail assessment

My immediate reaction to the MM was its lack of immediacy and presence, too laid back for my taste, compared with the original vinyl. MM quote the HiFi Plus review (Issue 71), which makes great play of how the MM is superior to the CD reissue. I am sure it is, it’s not difficult to trounce a CD, but that is not what I was comparing.  The MM is restrained and muddy where the vinyl original sparkles, and the all-important top end is, to my ear, shy,  the instruments failed to form a cohesive group. I found myself listening critically to the hi fi instead of being seduced by the music. My reaction was not what the hype had led me to expect.

The original Blue Note is brighter, more dry-sounding , fresh and natural to my ear, more musical, more punch at every point. The individual instruments sound more authentic – Rollins tenor particularly. His joyous stutter-riff of the tune Decisions makes me laugh out loud as I listened, putting a broad smile on my face.The instruments integrated, and as a result you can follow the flow of the music better. The difference between them is not small.

I have heard it said that MMs sound “more like what Rudy Van Gelder would have created if he had the same equipment today”. It’s an interesting line of argument, great marketing, but one that doesn’t carry any weight with me, as  I prefer what RVG created originally.

The Rollins MM seem to have much the same audio character as my previous Hoffman Acoustech 2x45rpm from  Analogue Productions, Grant Green’s Idle Moments. That was flabby and lacking punch, as well as having some nasty crackles despite being factory-fresh. The MM packaging was much nicer than the AP, but the audio sounds from the same family. On a sample of two, both the Rollins and the Green fall short of my benchmark Blue Note originals. The third, Hubbard’s Open Sesame (MM),  is of the same character.

On each spin I enjoyed the Blue Note original more and would choose to play them every time in preference to the Music Matters edition, despite its’ surface imperfections.

The down side of Blue Note originals remain significant – the grief of the chase, the expense, the disappointments, the surface defects clicks and tics. Does original vintage vinyl offers the best audiophile experience? On the basis of this direct comparison, the answer for me is yes, vintage rules. But at the end of the day, your opinion is the only one that matters, it’s your money, you choose what sounds best to you. Appeals to authority (I’ve listened to millions of Blue Notes and I say...) don’t count for anything to me. You listen, you decide. I have no problem with you arriving at a different conclusion.

Caveat: This test is on two copies of one recording. It doesn’t mean there are other titles or combinations where the comparison result  could be different . This was a mono to mono comparison. Many MMs are stereo, they may compare quite differently to Blue Note Stereo, I make no claim to judge.  A lot depends how good the copy your “original” Blue Note is: some original copies are better than others: original is not a guarantee of audio quality.

UPDATED May 21, 2013 19:45

New rip for the MM timed to sync with a CD at 7:58 + 2 secs lead-in. The Numark USB TT has a slight right channel bias, perhaps it’s been watching too much Fox News, but unfortunately no adjustment possible. Interesting because Numark let you adjust the pitch, which is good because the factory defaults are out by a couple of percent, but not the balance, which is also off.

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95 thoughts on “Sonny Rollins Vol 1 (1956) Blue Note/ Music Matters edition

    • MM sounds more like compressed especially on the sax and a little to dull too and has some “modern” sound. BN 2nd press has much opener and airy sound, more alive, better and more clear stage definition in the deepness . Also the MM has some strange frequencies EQ. I think about how does the 1st press sounds…

    • I own them both, the first and the second original pressing and the MM.
      Sonically I do not manage to tell the difference, apart from a light ‘pre-echo’ in quiet parts on the second pressing ( a small echo of the sax appears one second beforehand–pressing mistake?) . I agree with the comparison to MM. Imo all 50s reissues have that problem. The 60s MM pressings are preferable.

  1. First of all, though most of my preferred Blue Notes come after this one, I have to say this is one of the worst sounding Blue Notes I’ve heard. That’s based on 3 digital and 3 vinyl incarnations.

    Volume 2 sounds much better, for instance. Anyway, I have to agree with those who think this original sounds like it was made for a Fisher-Price turntable. The MM lacks presence bite, but is preferable.

  2. LJC’s new post comparing the Music Matters and King releases of Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent brought me back here–I can’t believe I was an absentee for this discussion!

    Well, to be honest, I’m quite amazed at the differences between these two issues, and I’m surprised that so many commenters don’t perceive the dramatic rolloff in the low end and top end on the original; frankly, the original sounds a little like a clock radio in comparison to the MM issue, which to my ears reaches higher and lower in the frequency spectrum than the original. This is so clear to me I can’t believe so many commenters (including our host) are saying that the original is brighter…I’m so shocked by this I’m wondering if they have the clips confused!

    I recently acquired a very nice W63 no R copy of BLP 1518, Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers, and it was the same thing with the top end, dramatically rolled off in comparison to the RVG Edition. I’m guessing that at some point around 1957 he started to keep more top end at the mastering stage but I just don’t hear it here on this late ’56-early ’57 original presented here. When flipping between the two the MM issue almost sounds like a scoop EQ, but I think that’s just due to the fact that the frequency curve for the original pretty much sounds like a “frown EQ”, with the top and bottom rolled off and the midrange emphasized. Listening to the MM issue from the jump sounds very balanced tonally.

    I’m surprised at how dramatic the difference between the two is to me but now that I think about it, I had an original copy of BLP 1505 a while back and it was the same thing, particularly dark up top. Most of my originals are post-’57 so I think that’s why I always missed this. This makes me think that Hoffman’s criticism of Van Gelder must have a lot to do with these pre-’57 masterings of his, because all the post-’57 masterings of his I have sound much brighter and much more pleasing.

    Sorry collector buddies but I definitely prefer the MM issue here.

    • You aren’t wrong, the MM records have full bandwidth with none of the roll off.

      I do tend to notice that RVG’s mastering had more and more extension as the decades progressed. I mentioned this in a separate blog entry that had included a Mosaic vinyl set. By the time he was cutting vinyl for Mosaic in the 80s, they had very little roll of in the bass and treble.

    • Listening to Sonny Rollins 1542 has made me return to this place. (Nice to meet you here, Rich.)

      When I read Joe Harley’s post (below) almost two years ago, I suddenly realized why I had been disappointed by RVG’s sound time and again. May I just quote the most important part, where he says about RVG that

      “…he very cleverly rolls the low end to make the LPs more playable on even modest “kiddie” turntables, but at the same time he bumps the region around 80-100hz in much the same way Rogers did with the LS3-5A’s so that you perceive low end when, in fact, there’s not much of anything below 50-60HZ.”

      Everybody knows that by now. However, the big question for me is: Why didn’t RVG’s Contemporary (pun intended) Roy DuNann do the same thing? After all, Lester Koenig and Alfred Lion were producing for exactly the same market. Did Lester deliberately take the risk of making the needles skip on those modest old “kiddie” turntables? Did they skip? Are we seeing more needle damage in Contemporary first pressings than in BN first pressings? Comments welcome.

      And learning that Joe Harley was “astounded by how much better the master sounded. It was like getting in a sonic time capsule back to that July 14, 1960 session at Rudy’s!” – I think anyone who owns a BN first pressing should have at least one modern re-issue. For listening!

  3. Dear LJC, this post is not about original vs. MM but about BN 1542 itself.
    I happen to be a lucky guy, purchasing a second original pressing similar to yours from a nice gentleman from your country. But something puzzles me, as my record seems to be what I´d call anachronistic.
    Side 1 is exactly as yours, side 2 is with inc and r. Both sides have hand-etched RVG, DG, the ear, no 9M. The weight is 182gr. I would say the pressing is somewhere from 59-62. The sound is superb. No doubt it is from that original bn period.
    Now here is the thing: the cover is not the original but the laying Sonny. Address is the one post 64 and the inner sleeve is 27years.. The seller assured me that he bought it new in the late 60´s.
    Now I wonder if maybe liberty records not only used up old stash labels but also finished pressed but never sleeved and packed originals!?
    Is there anyone who happen to have made a similar experience?
    cheers

    • One possibility comes to mind, faulty recollections on the sellers part. If it had been custom and practice for Liberty to package up old stock vinyl Blue Note LPs, unsold and ten years old, and repackage them for sale in more recently printed old stock covers and inner bags, I think we would know about it. I’ve certainly never come across such an anachronism, don’t know if others have.

      However anything is possible, including a one of a kind event, which we will never know the reason for. This record has a strange history. I believe it never went to a second pressing on NY label, and all those shonky remastered Liberty and UA versions, something went on here.

      May be 1542 was being prepared for a second pressing – which actually never happened because of the sale to Liberty, or some obscure technical reason, but a batch of new covers had been ordered. Mysteriously they – or one – somehow got into circulation.

      It’s certainly a mystery. If the seller bought it new in the UK, as an import, it should have an import Mecolico little stamp somewhere on the back of the cover. Any sight?

    • Yes it does indeed. According to the previous owner, he bought it from a London mail order firm called Keith Prowse & Co back in the late sixties.
      The record is very well kept, so I believe it, that it is bought as new.
      Thank you for your reply, it is really a mistery.

      • And the front cover looks exactly like the original, just not-laminated and with the opening at the top and not on the side. Your second pressing has the opening right?
        Now the back adress matches the NY label period. If there was no such pressing, then one possibility might really be that liberty matched one and one put their inner sleeve and voila..

  4. And yet another, Here is my Copy, a Toshiba Mono with the correct cover-standing up. Denon 103R with a Conical Stylus plus Youtube compression. SoUnDs fantastic in my living room!

  5. LJC,

    Thank you so much for the comparative listening! A lovely experience going back and forth between them. My take on the two is that the original allows the horn solos to really fly. Makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The music has a raw edge to it.

    The 45rpm seems to have a more balanced sound to it overall. The rhythm section is more prominent in the mix blending in more seamlessly. Where it sacrifices some excitement, it balances it out with, well, balance!

    Both lovely although my preference leans towards the character of the original.

    And thanks to Joe Harley for his very informative post on the MM process!

  6. Just for my information (and may be our), how does the King pressing compare to the MM issue and the original BN?

    • (Fixes on tin helmet, sharp intake of breath) OK a straight question Xavier, a straight answer. Lets be clear, it’s my personal preference, to my ears, on my system, with the titles I own and have listened to:

      1. Original Blue Note (pre-1966 first or second pressing)
      2. Music Matters
      3. King, Japan

      King lack the “bite” which I prefer, are a bit “soft” and restrained. Top end also sometimes rolled off.

      The mono/stereo preference is a confounding factor. Some original Blue Notes have shall we say “primitive ” stereo, dictated by technology of the day, and on the whole I prefer mono original Blue Notes over stereo original Blue Notes. Would I prefer an MM stereo over an original Blue Note Stereo? Don’t know.

      There is a lot I don’t know. Some originals I will never afford. I have heard only a tiny selection of the MM catalogue. I have less than a quarter of the Blue Note catalogue as some form of original. At the risk of repeating myself, these are my personal preference. Some other people’s preferences are different, I don’t have any problem with that. I’d also note preferences can, and sometimes do, change with time and experience

      Its like musical taste. Say right now I don’t like Beethoven. You can tell me Beethoven is a very respected composer, that he is more popular than other composers, that all music critics agree, he “sounds fantastic”. You can tell me if I listen to Beethoven long enough I’ll get to like him. You can even tell me Beethoven’s music is actually much better than it sounds. You know where this argument is going – .no-one gets very far telling anyone their preferences are “wrong”. But as to the future, who knows, one day I could be writing a blog called LondonBeethovenCollector.com adventures in collecting classical music, with i-tunes

      • I didn’t want to argue about personal preferences. I agree most of the time with your taste that’s why I was asking. Everything is relative anyway.
        I’m trying to build my own collection of BN but I have a very low house limit. Therefore, I’m looking for the best ratio price/sonic performancies I can afford. If it’s MM, fine (even if I hate 45 rpm), if it’s original, great, and if it’s King, nice too.
        Anyway, thanks for your straight o the point answer 😉

        BTW, 4-5 years ago I hated Miles Davis, and now I have a greater collection of his records than my father-in-law who is a great fan. Everything changes.

        • I understand where you are coming from. In the real “budget” area below MM/King Blue Notes – there are some gems but its much more hit and miss, depending on the title. Division of United Artists 1970-3 include some pretty exciting sonically 1500 series, the West Coast Blue/Black Liberty/UA are very listenable, as are the French Pathe Marconi re-edition 1982, 1983, and some 1984 if you avoid the DMMs Direct Metal Mastered. But like I say, its hit and miss. One title can be good, the next one not.

          • Talking about budget stuff, I immediately snapped up a copy of the Pathe Marconi 1542 after first reading this post and got it earlier this week. Very pleased with it for the price I paid so thanks for your analysis LJC. I now have two of these PM pressings, the other being Art Blakey’s Mosaic – they’re both very engaging and seem equal to the Japanese reissues where I feel the bass can sometimes be a little muddy.

      • I’m pretty fond on the Toshiba Mono pressings. I just picked a Toshiba Mono of this LP and the Cover is done correctly. Sonny is upright side up but there was another Toshiba LNJ-70084 with him laying down. It’s in the mail as we speak.

  7. Tough choice for me. I like them both equally for different reasons. I like the MM version because the sound is great (although different from the originals) and the vinyl is dead quiet. I like the original because the sound is great, and to be truthful they’re the originals and have some magic based on the history of the physical record itself.

  8. Hello Blue Note friends!

    I say friends because any lover of Blue Note is a friend of mine and Ron Rambach. You all are clearly lovers of Blue Note! As a partner (along with Ron) in Music Matters Blue Note reissues, I probably shouldn’t wade in here, but because a number of interesting points are raised in this discussion, I will.

    First, thank you for the very kind comments about the presentation. This is really the result of Ron’s fanatical dedication to offering the absolute finest possible presentation. Thanks also for noticing the little inside joke of putting the Plastylite mark in the dead wax. Believe it or not, you’re the first person to write about this!

    Now, on to the sonic comparisons. Obviously, there’s no right or wrong answer here since we’re talking about subjective observations. What I want to convey though, is our sonic “mission statement” with our Blue Note reissues.

    There are basically two ways to approach a reissue program sonically (I’m assuming the use of the original master tapes):
    You can try to duplicate the sound of the original issue to the best of your ability. This approach has a lot going for it. After all, you presumably purchased the reissue because you fell in love with the sound of the original. The topic has come up recently regarding the Beatles reissues. An LP that sounds different in any way from the original is going to be deemed “wrong”. (And if it’s a lousy mastering job it WOULD be wrong!”)
    This is a perfectly reasonable approach to mastering reissues.
    The other way, and the one we have chosen with our Blue Note reissues is to hold the sound of the actual master tape up as a sonic goal.
    Think about the state of LP music playback systems in the 50s and 60s … the “golden era” of Blue Note. Alfred and Francis were selling to a largely urban market in the states. The bane of record labels’ existence, especially small shoestring operations like Blue Note, was returns. What was the primary reason for returning LPs at that time? “The record sticks” or “the needle skips.” How do you help prevent that? In addition to watching your side playing times, you also roll off the low end.
    Think of the average speakers, electronics and cartridges of the day … they were not nearly as extended in the frequency extremes as we’ve come to expect in more recent times. In fact many speakers and cartridges of that time were notable for having a drooping top end
    Here’s where our admiration for RVG goes through the roof after hearing well over 100 original BN master tapes. Knowing all of things outlines above, he very cleverly rolls the low end to make the LPs more playable on even modest “kiddie” turntables, but at the same time he bumps the region around 80-100hz in much the same way Rogers did with the LS3-5A’s so that you perceive low end when, in fact, there’s not much of anything below 50-60HZ.
    At the same time, RVG would generally add a bump in the presence region to make the Blue Note LPs playback in a more lively way on the components of the day. The sound of Blue Note LPs was a revelation at the time. The presence of the drums and horns was remarkable!
    Fast forward to 2007 when Ron and I were experiencing our first Blue Note master tapes. (Now keep in mind that Ron has one of the worlds GREAT collections of mint Blue Note original issue LPs. I have so many BN original issue LPs I’ve lost count but I know Ron’s collection outpaces my own. Ron even has a complete collection of utterly mint BN ten-inchers!) I recall vividly our astonishment as we listened to the master tape of Horace Parlan’s Speakin’ My Piece. After loving the original LP for so many years, we were astounded by how much better the master sounded. It was like getting in a sonic time capsule back to that July 14, 1960 session at Rudy’s!
    That experience has been repeated now well over 100 times in the ensuing years. As great as those original issues are (and there IS something very special about holding the original … we totally get it) I can state without the slightest hesitation that what we offer on our 45 RPM editions gets you much closer to the sound of the master tape. And for us, that’s our sonic grail. We want to, as best we can, go back in time to hear what Rudy put to tape that day in the studio, whether Hackensack or Englewood Cliffs.
    These are fun discussions because there is no right or wrong approach. If your goal is to have the original issue in your hands then by all means, enjoy! I know a few folks who have even put their gear together using vintage components in order to actually voice their system to the records.
    I say go for it! The idea, after all, is to let the music created by these geniuses sweep you away and forget the mundane day to day. Whichever approach does that best for a particular listener is right for him/her.
    Finally, congratulations on a great and fun site. This was my first visit to the LondonJazzCollector site but it will not be my last.
    Warm regards,

    Joe Harley
    Music Matters
    http://www.musicmattersjazz.com

    • Thank you for your kind and gracious response Joe. This topic has had more page views and comments than any other posted in nearly two years. It is clearly something a lot of people feel passionate about, all around the world. Some differing points of view, but politely argued and respectful, which is something rare on the internet nowadays. I am personally delighted to have MM present here.

        • I have had about 300 BNs over the years (dont know who Cohen is but they ere all originals) and currently have 80 of the MMs. Have sold about 50 of my BNs that were replaced with MMs.

    • I’ve been acquainted with the general sound characteristics of Blue Note records (though not necessarily with first pressings) for about fifty years now, and Joe’s comments on the way RVG went about his business to make the LPs more “playable“ coincide with some vague suspicions I had always had, especially about the low end region. I only know that sonically, Blue Note recordings never struck me the same way that Roy DuNann’s Contemporary recordings did – even on some of his earliest jobs such as Vol.1 of the Lennie Niehaus Quintet recordings from 1954. To me, RVG means solid work, but Roy DuNann means sheer magic.

  9. With the originals it’s a bit like you’re sitting right next up to the band at the front so that the music is a bit distorted but it’s visceral and real. The MMs sound like everything’s been reorganised and balanced and smoothed out. Who knows what it really sounded like? Probably depended on where you stood.
    It’s not a debate with an answer because it’s a question of which sound you prefer. Neither is any more truthful than the other.

    • We know exactly what it should sound like because we have the master tapes. There is nothing smoothed out with the MMs, that is what it sounded like – they have the definitive source to compare to!

      From RVGs own accounts we know it was a rich, warm sound that Alfred Lion preferred. Not bright and forward.

        • Instead what you get with MM is a fifty year old tape deliberately warmed up, with top taken off to hide the cracks and pops and general problems of working with a fifty year old tape, especially when no de-noising has occurred. They sound great, but to say that they are a ‘truer sound’ than the original records is nothing more than marketing speak, because there is no ‘true’ sound only what the listener prefers
          I’m in the fortunate position of having heard a great deal of music from original master tapes, including Blue Notes, Prestiges, Atlantics and many others, and I think that anyone mastering now who thinks they are making better choices than those who were in a studio producing music, knowing that it would come out on a slice of vinyl, is being incredibly arrogant.
          A lot of the argument being put out here by those who prefer the remasters reminds me of exactly the same ones put forwards by those advocating CDs twenty odd years ago. Usually by those who had just bought a CD player.

          • The MMs have been produced by some of the most respected and experienced people in the industry. I very much doubt they have deliberately warmed anything up. The tapes were in pristine condition. Scotch brand. Apparently the suffered no degradation over time. The sound is nothing like CD. In fact it was RVG himself in an interview on YouTube who stated that he was remastering the CDs to sound more like what Alfred Lion originally wanted, which was a warm rich but detailed sound.

            • Pristine tape? Well looked after certainly, in good condition as well. But after 50 years they will not sound the same as when they were recorded. Tape hiss is not on the original Blue Note Records, because a new tape does not have it. Fifty year old tapes do.

              What i heard from Rudy’s youtube interview was someone praising the greater definition and dynamic range on the CDs that he was making. And he’s right about that, you can get more bass and top than you could ever get on vinyl, however well you mastered it. Of course you then get the other issues that exist with digital. He’s certainly not praising audiophile vinyl remastering and saying that that can get closer to the sound that he and Alfred were looking for.
              Original Blue Note were not toppy and brittle, but instead had a very vibrant top end that complemented the rest of the sound, to suggest otherwise seems odd.

              I have nothing but respect for the people behind Music Matters they’ve done a great job. But they are creating a commercial (if niche) product, and they are doing it in a way that they think is right. They have made decsions on how things should be mastered and followed that philospophy through. The idea that a mastering engineer doesn’t use EQs would be odd. Adding bass, reducing top is exactly what they should be doing to deal with the limits of a vinyl pressing however good.

              On MMs they have minimised extraneous tape noise, and I’m pretty sure it’s by rolling off the top end.
              This is all fair enough, and it’s a different way of presenting the music. if you prefer this to a CD or an original record, that’s good, but if anyone says that these are definitively better they’re transposing a personal opinion to a general fact, and as I say are using arguments that I have heard in the past for for the superiority of all sorts of musical carriers.

              • Well, I am going off what the MM team themselves say about the tapes. No clicks or pops as you suggest. I think you are confusing tape with 50 year old vinyl! You are obviously very set in your ways. I just let my ears do the math: for me the MMs are the way to go, even better than the original Blue Notes, of which I still have many in my collection.

                • Davie
                  I’m sitting here in the middle of transfering the original masters for Dootone albums such as Dexter Blows Hot & Cool, or at least assertaining whether they are the original tapes, so I know the difference between tape and vinyl. Did I suggest clicks or pops or did I say hiss, which is a definitive characteristic of an older tape?
                  Your ears are not wrong, nor are those who swear by a RVG Remaster CD, as those are the right choices for them.
                  Dean

              • “On MMs they have minimised extraneous tape noise, and I’m pretty sure it’s by rolling off the top end.”

                You would be incorrect about that sir. Many, in fact, most of the BN tapes from the 50s and early 60s were recorded on Scotch 111, some of the hardiest, long lasting tape around. Those tapes sound like they were recorded yesterday. We rarely encounter tape hiss when playing back Scotch 111, at least not at any reasonable playback level. Now tape formulations AFTER Scotch are more difficult, and often need to be baked before real playback is possible.

                May I ask where you heard original Blue Note master tapes?

        • Andy, when I did the comparison I put any notion of the original Blue Note pressing being the reference out of my mind and instead just listened to each version on its merits. I think if you have in your mind the idea that the original Blue Note pressing is definitive then anything else that comes along you will always find wanting.

          • Okay well I’ll have another listen later. I can’t afford to buy originals anyway, apart from the odd bargain, and the MMs are bit pricey as well so I’m happy with Japanese reissues – particularly Kings which are wonderful value.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to put up these clips!

    I can only listen to web streams over my headphones, no way to connect it to my speakers. I have Sennheiser headphones, and to me the differences between the two clips is not enormous.

    To me the greatest difference lies in Sonny’s tone. On the MM it is rounded, full bodied and carries more dimension. On the BN original it sounds thinner almost “pitched up” (I know this is inaccurate, but my only way to describe it).

    Sort of a similar feeling with the drum kit. A bit more real sounding, you can really hear the snares rattle as the drum is being hit.

    Piano and bass sounds similar on both.

    In the end I enjoyed both clips a lot. But gave the slight edge to the MM.

  11. That’s more like it!

    The new MM rip is a lot better and reinforces for me the difference between the two.

    Original Blue note pressings were made for playback on pretty primitive (by today’s standards) playback equipment, not great in terms of dynamic range, more like a Transistor Radio. To overcome their shortcomings pressings are slightly brighter to create the illusion of a more dynamic recording.

    Whereas today’s Music Matters pressings have be conceived with top audiophile playback systems in mind, with great care having been taken throughout the production process to achieve the highest quality. Perfect pressings on the best vinyl available, with inky black backgrounds. A more balanced sound (no need to push the upper mids to create more pop), the sound jumps out of the speakers on its own. Immensely rewarding. Lovely separation between instruments, from top to bottom.

  12. I don’t have a dog in this fight and have found both clips a pleasure to listen t o (even on my wife’s iPad). For what it’s worth, the BN sounds brighter overall with a shade more high-end detail.

  13. Hello!
    Just for a fun I listened the sounds of MM and BN using iPad and headphones. And its funny, both have good things. But I’m sure if I would be listening these LPs at home with my stereos I would enjoy BN more. I have some AP 45s and some are very good and some are not so special. Best I heard are Billie Holiday Verve ones mastered by George Marino. But many are also too muddy for me. I like to listen records on a normal volume meaning you can also hear if someone is talking to you 🙂 Maybe some new remasters are very good if you fancy listening them very loud with good system.

    If Rudy Van Gelder is still around it would be very interesting to hear MM or AP reissues remastered by him. His work on Sonny Rollins Work Time & Plus 4 (cd’s) sounds just great.

    I bought my first audiofile vinyl records from Vivante UK some 15 years ago and I must say the ones I still like the most are Classic Records 180g LPs: Tijuana Moods by Mingus, Songs for Distingue Lovers by Holiday, Kind of Blue…
    Who did remastering for them?

    Early Atlantic stereo releases? Lavern Baker sings Bessie Smith !

  14. Difficult one. The audio signal for both clips seems to be a bit louder on the right than on the left here for me, but that may be due to the output of your Numark turntable to rip the tracks.

    I have a hard time describing what I feel is different, but let me put it this way, as comparisons to food have been made by others before me: the MM oozes out of the speakers like hot chocolate sauce, the BN sprays a peppermint mist to the listener.

    The only thing that I really consider striking, is that on the MM, you can hear the reed of the saxophone vibrate; a sound that the BN has, too, but it’s much less present. There! My two cents! 😉

    • Two cents? Thanks Matty, here’s one cent in change!

      The limitations of the rip are…limitations. I’ll have a go at fixing the speed shortly, but the Numark is a relatively inexpensive deck and not without its shortcomings overall. The components are cheap. The differences I have tried to describe are based on repeat listening to the records on my main system, which is the real comparison, not the Numark, which just tries to illustrate there is a difference, for better or worse. May be its asking too much of it as “proof”.

      The post has raised a lot of contributions from new names – that’s great, a success for a post. I expected it to be controversial, and I did have concerns as to whether I should post it or not. MM has a big following. One thing I learned a long time ago about people: if they don’t like the result, they question the methodology. If that doesn’t work, they shoot the messenger. That usually works. I’m pleased that there has been such a thoughtful response.

      • I was thinking about this after looking at your hifi system you linked to (very nice by the way)… It should be relatively easy to connect your Avid Turntable to a computer via your DAC or amplifier… where you can create much better rips surely?

        • Hi Rudolf – you are not the first to suggest it. I’m sure there could be a way – the problem is the music system and computers are two immovable objects in separate rooms one floor and thirty metres apart. If you have a solution for that I’d welcome your thoughts.

          The Numark is a cheap and convenient solution, which balances with domestic harmony. This excercise has demonstrated its limitations but it does an “acceptable” job otherwise. Not to say it couldn’t be improved on.

          • Yes, I think you have a problem over that distance. Perhaps you can pick up a second hand portable DAT or digital recorder to capture from hifi and then transfer to computer?

      • Well, besides the volume differences between left and right, the Numark rips at least make for some great listening when at the office. Granted, the rips may not be ‘high-end’, but then the speakers we use at work aren’t all that good either.

        When it comes to listening for the differences between the MM and the BN pressing, I still think that the Numark rips are quite OK, ’cause no matter how you look at it, you can hear the differences. Period.

        My chocolate sauce and peppermint comparisons aim to describe the MM as, say, relaxed while the BN seems to have more ‘spunk’. It’s weird to perceive it that way, ’cause at the end of the day we’re still talking about the same piece of music, but both mastered differently.

        But your previous mentions of the one article you read about how we all hear things differently and that nobody can really tell how someone else hears things the way you or I or anybody else hears it, stuck with me: if a record, or cd for that matter, in my collection moved me to tears ten years ago, then how is it going to move me to tears differently in a newly remastered version today?

    • I have this. Its not very good to be honest. I was expecting great things after the MMs. I hoped it would clear up the boomy bass on the original Stereo, which it does, slightly but overall its not as nice as the original Stereo, which in turn is inferior to the original Mono. Early Atlantic Stereo releases were not very good.

      • I was referring above to Giant Steps, 45 RPM on Rhino (R1 512581). Not 100% sure if its the same as you refer to above.

        • Yes, that’s the one I was referring to. Good thing I didn’t buy it. I have the first UK Mono pressing (London label) which sounds very good. For an early Atlantic release that is 😉 Crescent must be better recorded originally, so I’m curious about that one.

      • Good thing to no. Was thinking about a few of those. They’re getting some mixed reviews. That’s why I usually check more sites or ask it on this one. Thanks for the warning!

      • I think Heavenly Sweetness is getting better and better. I purchased some of their reissues and for now, I still happy of them. Grant Green’s Matador is a killer and the reissue of Chant by Donald Byrd stands well compared to the version from a new perspective I own on original BN pressing (RVG, 9m, ear…).

    • I have a 45 rpm ORG “Crescent”. It’s not bad, but as with many ORG reissues suffers a bit from surface noise. I’d love to compare to a good quality original.

      • I was afraid of that, and I read it had some extreme stereo separation on Bessie’s Blues. I recently found an original stereo orange label with van gelder in the runout groove for 20 euro’s at a local record store in Amsterdam. Side A is mint and side B is a bit noisy. It’s sounds great, although the noise on side B can be a bit irritating in the quiet parts. But definitely worth checking out. I won’t be needing another version. Unless a mint one comes along someday 😉

  15. For me the balance of the sound on both clips is a bit off, slightly to the right (and speed is too slow on the MM clip as noted). I am in the camp that sold the originals and kept the MMs. I think you need to give them a bit of time and not rush to judgement. The MMs may not sound exactly like the originals but they are a more faithful representation of the original recording. Personally I am getting as many of the MMs as I can before they sell out completely. Nice blog. Congrats.

    • I agree, but I kept them both. If I want to listen in stereo I pick the MM’s and if I want mono I go for the originals. And also it’s system depended. With my modern amplifier I preferred the sound of the original BN’s. But with my vintage amplifier I really enjoy the sound of the MM’s. The MM’s and AP’s are also a good investment. Some of the OOP ones have already doubled or sell for 3 times as much as the original price. And that’s only in a few years time. So in my opinion you can never go wrong with these.

  16. The piano sounds better on the MM. But overall, I prefer the original BN and share your views LJC.
    And 2 records for a single issue is a deal breaker for me. (plus the way too expensive international shipping fees)

    • France, Annecy (if IP-tracker is at all accurate) Xavier? Post from the US is a killer, but you may find the UK distributor, Jazzhouse Records le moins cher, if there are some cherished titles you are looking for, where an original is never going to be an affordable option.
      LJC

      • Nice job, Agent LJC.
        I found a distributor in France too, but at 65€ w/o shipping it’s a bit too expensive for me. I’d rather go for a king copy instead.
        Anyway, thanks for the tip, I’ll try it sooner or later

        • To be fair, the shipping costs on these is the same as any LP from the USA and recently prices have gone up. Minimum is now $27 for first class international. I have found that if you order 3 LPs at once they will ship priority mail @ $50 which works out at about 50 Euros per LP including shipping).

          • MM in the States charged me the same amount per record – $27 – a fixed tarrif – two records is simply double the postage, $54 – no savings 😦

            I found out the hard way about postal discounts when I bought five from Japan in one package. The seller totted up the lot on the customs form and I got whacked big time by the Revenue, who held them for ransom. The postal saving was trivial. A discrete low value package stands a better chance of sailing under the bar.(Not that I am suggesting record collectors should avoid contributing their hard-earned cash to those spendthrifts known as The Government)

            • If I get it right from the shipping page on MM web site, for 1 or 2 LPs the fees are $47. That’s pretty expensive. When I buy from dustygroove or others from the US, usually the shipping fees are around $20 for 2 LPs.
              And, of course, on these new LPs from MM, you’ll have to pay customs fees too.

      • Lots of sellers have been selling their numbered editions on Ebay the last few months. So I bought a lot from 35 to 60 dollars. And if you ask them to put a small amount on the package and used records, you don’t have to pay import taxes. Including shipping I pay on average 45 euro’s for a MM lp.

  17. “Popsike does show a number of original 47W63rd second pressings with the cover photographed some upright some sideways. Were there two covers?

    Yes, original is Vertical, whilst later versions were Horizontal.

  18. I voted MM even though the LJC rip sounds nowhere near as good as the original MM pressing which I own. Something wrong with the speed too.

    • You’re right Davie, there IS something wrong with the speed. The MM sample runs one percent slower than the Blue Note. This might explain LJC’s observation that “the tempo seemed to drag”.

      Hi LJC, I know you recently adjusted the speed on your Numark. It seems that at 45 RPM, slowing it down by 3 percent is a little too much. 2 percent will do. Which I still find strange, because speeds are (roughly) OK on my own Numark. Anyhow – try with a stroboscope disc (there are free downloads available).

      • On closer examination, the “speed” difference between the two samples has turned out to be 1.7 percent. The Blue Note sample, by the way, is exactly the same length/speed as the CD version. Length was measured between two conspicuous positions within the sound sample.

        • Thanks, explains the slight “drag”. Seems my Numark has an eccentric view of 45 rpm, but different from that at 33rpm. It’s around 3% fast at 33/1/3 but according to your calculation that reduces by half at 45rpm. Probably some weird logic in that. I have never used it on 45 until now. I’m travelling right now but will upload a fresh rip, probably Tuesday, and get a strobe to provide a longer term fix, as I cant be having this distraction. Numark have some quality control issues.

          The first audition of the two records was on my high-end system which doesn’t have the same issue as the Numark, and doesn’t change my personal assessment. Both records suffer by being ripped to 160kbps MP3 and replayed on PC speakers. If there wasn’t a difference between the blog rip and “the real thing” we would all save a lot of money on Hi Fi.

          LJC

          • Suffer they do, but not as much as one might expect. There are lots of people with fine-tuned ears who can’t tell a 160kbps rip from the original. Sad (for us who invest in Hi Fi) but true.

  19. I’ve been a MM subscriber since the 2nd month and have several AP 45’s. I do own a few originals BN’s for comparison. I believe it is more hit and miss and obviously contingent upon the condition of the original and preference for presentation. I would say that as the series has progressed, the MM have clearly improved in fidelity. While I’d love to own minty originals, I neither wish to spend time or especially the money to obtain them. MM provides quite a bit of the original’s magic at a fraction of the cost. Indeed, considering I could have purchased a couple mint Hank Mobley 1500 series monos for what I’ve spent the entire series to date …MM is a no-brainer.

  20. IMHO: When this mode of re-mastered masterpieces began, I jumped on the occasion: I could leave my first pressing originals untouched, safe in their sleeves and enjoy a better quality of music in disposable form. I think AP started this fad. I soon found out that, e.g. my original “Way out West”, by top engineer Roy Dunann, had more depth and acumen than the re-make. One cannot improve on the originals. If you have the originals, it does not make sense to buy the high-end re-makes. It is good for people who don’t have the originals and want something better than the average evil shiny little disc or a cheap Liberty-UA/OJC pressing..

  21. aurally illuminating! i’m so glad you did this comparison; repeatedly listenings confirm your findings for me; i believe there is great merit in these types of comparisons ’cause i’ve never had much confidence in the “reviewers.” it’d be nice if other bloggers who have mm blue notes could lend them to you to make additional comparisons; i can hear audiophiliacs cringing after taking the challenge; kudos to you; websites and real world experiments that can be shared with the community make this hobby/passion all the more worthwhile; it’ll be interesting to read how the apologists write this off! bravo, bravo, bravo!

  22. I can tell right away when Rollins starts blowing. The MM is more mellow-rounder-laidback and not as in your face – immediate as the Original. Some like Vanilla, Some like Chocolate. I learned long ago that I would never own every Original Blue note! So what to do? Build yourself the best Vinyl playback system you can afford and Enjoy!

    P.S. I prefer 33.3 instead of 45rpm. Classic records vs MM/AP?

  23. I have about 40 of the MM pressings and many original BNs. I think it is very dependent on the release and pressing you have. Some of the MMs do send shivers down my spine. Ron Rambach is one of the principals of MMs and I believe owns one of the top collection of original BNs in the country. I have spoken to him a few times and I know that he strives to recreate that experience. I think a degree of slack must be given to these guys. The source tape material is 65 years old and was stored under a myriad of conditions and moved and lost many times over the decades. I hope that when I am 65, I can be 97% of the man I was in my 20s.

    • Dave I respect your views, I am bending backwards not to put down MMs in general. To the the contrary, some commenters here have generalised to put down originals.

      As for 1542, everyone else seems to have made a pigs breakfast out of reissuing 1542, why not MM? I have no axe to grind, I only know what I hear. One commenter here singled out 1542 as an example of the superiority of MM.

      You have 40 MMs, they obviously ring your bell. That is good with me. I still see them as a viable option for those cases where an original is not realistic. I agree that it probably is a matter of title by title.

      • No offense at all taken. I have 40MMs but stopped the subscription. I felt that I would rather use the money and try to hunt down originals. I am also too lazy to flip the damn record every 10 minutes.

        I agree that for folks who love analog but can’t handle the inevitable clicks and pops from early pressings, it is a great way to go.

        Thanks for doing the A/B comparisons.

        From Dave, your friendly neighborhood AtlantaJazzCollector

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