More Vertical Tasting: A Re-issue Race – any winners?

A different kind of vertical tasting, the common thread is the same original Blue Note recording BPL 4063 “Whistle Stop” first issued in 1961, in only mono. Featuring Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley (Mobley!), Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe, track selection, the Dorham composition “Sunrise over Mexico“.

Reissues followed over the next fifty years, each re-mastering in stereo from a  two-track Van Gelder tape recording intended for mono. All the reissues here chose to go stereo, and it’s passable stereo, point-source instrument placement and not the wrap-around stereo we heard previously in Pablos ’80s Hubbard release. Sometimes nothing much is happening on one or other channel, that is how it works with two track recordings intended for mono, but it is not “fake stereo” as back covers suggest..

Our flight starts with the nearest in time to the original and finishes with the most modern, five samples in all, covering about forty years. Are Japanese editions really “soft”? What effect did the encroachment of digital processing have on sound quality? Are modern  re-issues really more “information-rich”? The rips are from my vinyl copies, for forensic comparison, each created with the same playback and ripping equipment, so no equipment bias. You be the judge, my lips are sealed.

Follow the Money

The cheapest vinyl copies are generally the French Pathe Marconi, and the United Artists Blue Label 70s pressings, usually around or less than $20. Are they undervalued? All rips here are “vintage” except for our friends Music Matters, whose MM33 edition was released only last year at a higher price-point. Japanese reissues from the 80’s and ’90s fall somewhere between the two price extremes, along with the mid-90s Connoisseur.

If you hanker after the “original” (which I don’t have) expect to pay considerably more, somewhere between $300 and $1,000 USD. Here are the top quartile auctions, all mono 47W63rd, from Popsike:

I don’t care for collecting at this premium price-point, though I respect the desire to own a piece of history, knowing you are one of only few that possess it. And the original artefact has a commanding physical presence, which owes a lot to the paper and print technology of the ’50s and ’60s which seems impossible to reproduce with modern equipment. Yup, I own up, I would like an original, but not enough to pay such eye-watering prices. You can have more fun for less, the question is how do re-issues fare against each other? Forget the seller hype, and do some heavy lifting of your own to find out.

Let tasting commence, in chronological order (headphones recommended).

1. United Artists Music and Records Group, Blue label (circa 1975)

…..

Notice the back cover claims “Electronically re-recorded to simulate stereo”. Initially this raised a “fake stereo” flag for me, but sitting and listening, it is simply two-track tape re-mastered (“re-recorded”) to create stereo, because Van Gelder never created a stereo master.

The panning is a little hard but in no way is it “electronically simulated stereo” from a mono recording, as is found with earlier 1500 series, where the original source is a mono tape. For most late 1500 series and almost all 4000 Blue Note series, this warning can safely be disregarded.

There is the odd click and pop as I wasn’t able to run it through the record cleaner before preparing the rip.

2. Pathe Marconi EMI France (1984)

Reissued  for the European market by the EMI Pathe Marconi division in the early eighties, it predates the arrival of digital and the Teldec Direct Metal Mastering technology, the final nail in the vinyl coffin. Poor Excellent attention to detail, the label is New York not is 47 West 63rd as it should be.

3. Toshiba EMI Japan (1990)

….

Toshiba EMI had a good track record in the early eighties, but according to the insert which came with this copy, it was part of a reissue series in 1990, well into the digital era, so potentially suspect. The label is again New York facsimile, not 47 West 63rd.

 

5. Capitol Connoisseur (1994)

…..

Capitol Connoisseur (1994) was EMI’s final effort to capture the audiophile vinyl segment, lured by promises of 180gm vinyl weight and “sourced from the original analogue tapes”. Insiders like Michael Fremer claim the process was flawed by the use of digital delay lines during mastering, which effectively created a digital copy of the analogue tape to drive the analogue mastering lathe.

The Connoisseur flaunts the signature of mastering engineer Wally Trautgott – “Wally”. Capitol repeat the back cover warning found on the United Artists, of simulated stereo.

5. Music Matters MM33 (2016)

….

The colour fidelity seems to tally with that of the original mono cover from 1961, with a cyan-bias verging on green, compared with the richer blue of other reissues. Needless to say the Music Matters gatefold include wonderful Francis Wolff portraits of the artists in the studio. On this occasion the we are comparing audio rather than value added visuals, however they are a beautiful bonus.

 

 

Collector’s Corner

That’s it, vertical tasting done. Question is whether you hear any differences between these reissues, you decide. If you can’t hear any difference, that puts you in an informed position. If you hear differences, and prefer one over others, that also puts you in an informed position.

Knowledge based on your own experience is the best there is, for the time being, as your own preferences can change over time. Someone else’s opinion makes you hostage to their preferences, not yours. You can’t short-cut the process of discovery for yourself: my preference may not be yours.

So, we have a five horse race.

 

If you have dipped into the rips and found any preference between them, it’s your chance to vote, share and compare. To add a little spice, you get to vote twice (it’s the ‘merican way, allegedly). First, you can vote for the one you most prefer, and then against the one you liked least. (That is how the French elect their Presidents) Or maybe you just found them all about  the same (British politics: no matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in) You can call a dead heat.

First Preference, your winner:

 

Least Preferred, last past the post:

Polls close in one week. Check back to see  the winners and losers. It’s a double accumulator. Anything you found in the process, the floor is yours.

LJC Afterthought

Something I discovered only recently, is listening to rips through mobile phone earpieces. Personally I dislike smartphones, weapons of mass-distraction, phone-zombies shuffling around today’s cities,  but one was bequeathed to me, and took the opportunity to upload my own vinyl rips (320kbps mp3) and some rips from my CDs to the phone. The CD rips sounded dull, flat, uninteresting whilst the vinyl rips had me on the edge of my airplane seat. Big surprise. Both were “digital” MP3, but a very different experience. Neither bore any resemblance to listening to the big analogue system, moving air, musicians in the room. I’m ripping more vinyl onto the phone, even listening to this guy LondonJazzCollector site rips through wi-fi,  hearing things in a different light.

I gather these smart phone things can also be used for making phone calls, which I admit that could come in handy at some time. I’ll leave others to watch YouTube cats falling off skateboards.

More tasting soon. Next time, horizontal, woah!

 

 

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31 thoughts on “More Vertical Tasting: A Re-issue Race – any winners?

  1. I like how “in the room” Kenny and Hank sound on the UA blue label, and yeah, I can get past that distortion ’cause that’s what a lot of my collection sounds like. Close second is the MM, but sadly, to these ears, that “in the room” feel is diminished on the MM. My $0.02, again these are fun thanks for doing this!

  2. This is great and appreciate you doing this. I’m listening with headphones, starting, pausing, picking up on the track where I paused the other one. I’m pretty shocked to say I basically hear no glaring difference between any of them. My ears may very well be awful but I’ve also never been picky from an audiophile perspective. I turn it up and let it ride. I’ve also spent a good chunk of change on about a dozen MM 33s and 45s (I do think the 45s sound better, loosely). But surprised at my reaction here. Most importantly though:

    WHAT A COOKIN TUNE!

  3. My favorite of the 70’s reissues are the west coast black and teal label blue notes…The pressing (for the most part) is quite nice, add Rudy’s stamp and you have a great alternative to expensive first runs…

  4. I have this one as a Liberty Mono which sounds quite good (to my ears), too. Bought in the 90ies when Liberty editions sometimes could be had for not much. Of course this is no Plastilyte pressing but still mastered by Van Gelder. So some of these might be floating around as another viable alternative to the first mono edition we all would like to have. Liberty probably did not manufacture too many of these, though, otherwise I would have expected it to pop up on Discog where it is not listed yet.

  5. This was fun! As per usual, I’m not one to have extreme opinions on differences in sound quality, but your UA copy is pretty rough. In addition to the surface noise, I’m hearing a heavy dose of distortion. I’d say this comparison could be made even more enlightening with a clean copy of that one.

    I chose Music Matters, with Pathe Marconi close behind, then Connoisseur, then Toshiba (the jockey fell off the UA out of the gate). The Connoisseur was decent but I agree with other commenters that it has a mild issue with channel separation in the high frequencies that is most noticeable at the beginning. The Toshiba was too bass-heavy and too lacking in the top end for me in comparison to the others. The Pathe Marconi was pretty even on everything, but was noticeably compressed more at the mastering stage, not just because it’s louder but also because those snare drum hits at the beginning don’t “crack” as much when compared to the other copies. But not only did the MM sound more dynamic, I enjoyed the more prominent high-end as well.

    Generally speaking, Music Matters is an unmatched evolution in excellence in vinyl mastering…too bad they didn’t press at QRP instead of RTI, if they did I’d be a bigger fan.

    • By the way, I recently sat down in the living room to do some work with my phone plugged into my stereo shuffling all the needledrops I’ve done for my blog, and I really enjoyed the listening experience. Needless to say, it was great not having to get up to change the record and the shuffling was also much appreciated.

  6. Very interesting. I liked the MM better but Pathé Marconi was not far behind. But I was not surprised. The Pathé Marconis I have sound very good and I’ve never understood why people dislike them. The blue label with white “b” sounds distorted so I couldn’t judge. Maybe this record sounds distorted because of bad pressing or because it is well-used and dirty. So I would not discard it totally. The ones that were very disapointing were the Japanese reissue and the Connoisseur. The Japanese sounds lifeless and the Connoisseur sounds like a cheapo Scorpio reissue to my ears. There is something wrong with the cymbals. Anyway, I’m happy I own the MM edition of that record! Thanks for this great vertical tasting. I’m looking forward to the horizontal tasting!

    • Yes, the white “b” version sounds distorted. This is strange, because my UA white “b” sounds great. No RVG matrix but it sounds like one!

    • what cartridge did you listen with?. There does tend to be an opinion across the blue note collectors that the Marconis are rubbish, but my own ears tell me that the DMM’s are a bit bass light to begin with, and then as the engineers get more used to the technology, the mastering gets better, less than 2 years on. I also found that a fancy stylus, contact line and the like serves them far better than a conical.

      • An Ortofon red and latter a blue. So nothing fancy.

        “There does tend to be an opinion across the blue note collectors that the Marconis are rubbish”

        I tend to not follow those opinions anymore. And I don’t really consider myself a “collector”. I’m just trying to get the best “vintage” pressing at a reasonable price. To collectors, everything but original pressing is rubbish.

  7. Interesting poll indeed! and a good surprise hearing how the “bad” frenchie stands up again its supposedly better halves. LJC being one of the most well-regarded vinyl reference (with good reason) online, we can expect in a very near future, a dangerous market rise for these cheap pathé marconi reissues… damn!
    and let’s not think about all the good copies we passed at stores or fleabay with a snarl, just because Bob had doomed these pressings early on ;-D – xcept if some of us had dared to give them a chance…

  8. I’m very surprised by just how good the French copy is, the MM beats it, but the Pathe Marconi has nothing to be ashamed of and is a real bargain, I had the Connoisseur slightly behind in third and was surprised by how lifeless the Toshiba was, the UA was very poor, but it was handicapped by how noisy the pressing sounded a different copy may have fared better. I have the Analogue Productions 45rpm version which from memory is up there with the MM, but I may pick up a French copy if I come across one.

  9. I have a Pathe Marconi that is slightly different. The front cover has STEREO in the middle at the top. On the back cover top right hand corner it simply says Blue Note BLP 4063 as opposed to ST-84063 and finally the label has 47 WEST 63rd NYC. Is this a totally different pressing to the Pathe Marconi used in this test? Just curious.

  10. Thanks for this post LJC, i’ve listened with much interest as i often wonder if my Pathe Marconi pressing is really the best i could afford. Was happy to discover that it stands as one of the best in this selection, only topped by MM to my ears – although the UA pressing suffers from distortion on this rip, not sure if because of it being dirty or something in the ripping process, so not an ideal example for comparison. Was also surprised how ‘dead’ the Toshiba sounds…checking the votes it seems i’m not the only one to notice.

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