Mobley 1568 Shootout: Gunfight at the UK Corral

Sorry, no original 1568, send me if you have one surplus to requirements, ha ha. Four “affordable” editions of Mobley 1568: King, Toshiba-EMI, Classic Records, and Music Matters Jazz, a four-way shoot-out which addresses the perplexed, cash-strapped collector and audiophile questions of the day: Japanese or American pressings?  King or Toshiba? At the dials, Bernie Grundman or Kevin Gray? You be the judge.

The only test is what you hear, not what you think about the companies, how you expect them to sound. Explanations and Expectations are no substitute for Experience. Explanations can be wrong, Experience is harder to argue with. That is what this is meant to be about.Like many collectors, over the years, when I saw another edition of 1568, hope springs eternal, will it sound better than what I already have? You will never know unless you try, so you acquire. Then you find yourself running out of shelf space, and the real dilemma starts : more shelf-space, bigger house, or relationship counselling

You have way too many records!

But… but, darling, there are 25 entries in Discogs. There are still 21 I don’t have!

Discogs Shmishcogs, either the records go, or I do!

I’ll call you a cab… your mother’s?

How they sound on the LJC home system:  British-built Avid turntable and World Designs amplification incorporating Chinese PS-Vane valves, selective Japanese Furutech rhodium components, Dynavector XV1-T cartridge, powered by largely-British generated electricity – with the assistance of a little French nuclear power (when the wind is not blowing), and Norwegian gas (it’s more afjordable)

Strictly-Vinyl contest, some of these records are leaving home, there can be only one winner, that’s the one you want, but you have to find out which. We haven’t had a shoot-out in a while so let’s do it (headphones essential)


Hank Mobley, tenor sax;  Curtis Porter (Shafi Hadi) alto sax, tenor sax; Bill Hardman, trumpet; Sonny Clark, piano; Paul Chambers, bass;  Art Taylor, drums; recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, June 23, 1957.

Ten months later, The Billboard review, April 1958 :

The Contestants Line Up to Play “Mighty Moe and Joe”

1. King Records, Japan (1981)

.  .  .

          2. Toshiba-EMI, Japan (1984)

.  .  .

3. Classic Records USA (2002)

.  .  .

4. Music Matters Jazz 33rpm USA (2016)

.  .  .

OK, the next part is down to you. I have no investment in the answer, I already got all four, it is down to you. Do you hear any differences? Decide  which is one better, the best, the differences are not huge but they are there, but first some small print:


It takes nearly as long to set up a short clip as the whole track, so I have ripped the whole track for each edition. You might want to check how Sonny’s piano compares a few minutes in, not just the opening bars, but whatever works for you.

These editions were all mastered 25 years or more after the original session, from the original tapes or from analogue copies of the original tapes. I’m not sure about the source of the Classic Records, to me it sounds different to the other three, the histograms look different, more compressed and lumpy. The other histograms look very fast dynamic response. What’s BG done? 

Our friends at  Music Matters honor us with sight of the original Mobley 1568 Van Gelder tape box. So interesting. Next time a re-issuer of any recording claims it is “from the original tapes” just say “OK, Show me”.  I don’t care who mastered it, or where, I want to know from what. If they can’t show you the tapes, they are quite simply lying. They have remastered a copy digital file for vinyl, but they can’t bring themselves to tell you that. When they say absolutely nothing about the source, you know what to expect: very little.

The box tells a story. Sticker says “Digitally archived by Capitol 192k/32 bit”, hi-res spec, no date. “Acetate DO NOT BAKE” (Microwave Instructions, three minutes at 800W, stir before listening). Barcode audit trail of tape movement dated 12-1-19, someone’s been busy. Rudy notes track-length totals per side and take number i.e. the Master tape is a selection (spliced, or copied?) from the actual session tapes.  A “stereo” tape is also available, used later by Toshiba-EMI (1987), though not mastered for release by Rudy. So much information from just a little 60-year old box. Technical Note: All four rips were run initially at the same input volume, captured “like for like”. However the resulting playback volumes differed markedly because the MM33 and Classic have been cut much quieter than the loudest, the King.

The US engineers have cut their grooves progressively narrower, quieter than the Japanese editions (compare size of trail-out groove areas). MM say the (narrower) grooves can be stacked more towards the outer circumference, away from the record centre where the faster vinyl spinning causes tracking issues, though I have never had tracking issue myself.

It is a common for listeners to favour the louder sample. It’s what they first notice, the quieter track is marked down. To compensate, I have increased the input gain on the Classic Records and the Music Matters 33 rips, to peak volume whilst avoiding clipping, to match the Japanese. This raises the noise floor, possibly other consequences of monkeying with dynamic range, but that is what happens when you turn up the volume on your hi-fi at home, a consequence of quieter cuts. All four rips should play back equally loud. Not perfect, but good enough. 

The four editions weigh between 120gm and 200gm vinyl weight. Does vinyl weight make any difference to sound quality?  Absolutely none, just hype-sticker window dressing, 180gm is a convenient but false proxy for audiophile quality.

Voting – bummer, my host WordPress no longer offers the old free embedded Voting Widget, Poll Daddy (now Crowd Signal). It’s now all about making money, Tech CEO-salaries to pay, complex external WordPress add-ins that require plan upgrades, paid options. Comment is free. For now just comment if you have any observations, even just the batting order, best first, or none. I’ve added my preference at the end of the post.

Well, whatever next, LJC, The Masked Saxophonist?               

Now that is an idea! Moneypenny, get Spotify on the line, a sponsorship opportunity. And then Netflix, people must be bored with Ginger by now.

Harry/s Place

Harry M grabbed this shot of Bill Hardman with Art Blakey, Expo1968

Photo credit © Harry M

Collector’s Corner

Original 1568 labels, with the contentious long NEW YORK 23 address Side 2.

Popsike Top 1568 Latest Auction Results

In mid to late 2022, another two buyers joined the  $7,000 Plus 1568 Club, bringing membership to four. Two perhaps suffering from “Long-Cohen”, a rare post-COVID diagnosis whose symptoms include keeping Fred Cohen’s Guide to First Pressings to hand at all times, Popsike permanently on screen, real time Dollar-to-Yen and to-Yuan tickers, and Emergency Cardiac Defibrillator paddles within arms-reach.

Doctors believe Long-Cohen is related to Obsessive Compulsive Ebay-Bidding Disorder (OCEBD), which scientists hope one day to find a cure for, though I wouldn’t bet money on it.

The 1568 auction below tested the strongest willed – a promo copy (allegedly, label stamped “NOT FOR SALE”) from a Korean seller with unusual taste in pink posing-backcloth, vinyl pictured on an incorrect 1964 inner sleeve. It clocked over $7,000.

As a member of the Second Best Will Do (as long as it’s Not Digital) Fraternity, I have to admire the steadfast commitment of the First Pressing Fundamentalists, you know who you are.

Mobley 1568 seems to be holding its $7,000 value, I suspect soon emerging Panda-Power. Trips through London’s Mayfair since China opened borders and New Year, sees Chinese super-rich elbowing out the Middle East Oil-State royals, consuming the finest of everything: fine wines, luxe hotels, designer clothes and accessories, a Harrods Account.  When Xi Rules The World ♫… 

Comments welcome on Mobley Shootout, its open mic. Comment your batting order, sound best 1st. If they are all the same to you “=” but caution., if you had to get rid of three, and keep one, would you really not care which you kept? If you don’t care which is best, why have you bothered to read this far? Pretend. Just do it.

It is an equal contest – more or less

The Japanese pressings sound fuller (but weigh less).

Sorry, BG didn’t make it to my top three.

The music is wonderful, that’s not the issue,  getting it on vinyl is something else, not all records sound the same. My order of preference (on full hi-fi) is 1, 2, 4, and then 3.  The King is overall stronger than Toshiba-EMI, then the 2016 Music Matters 33 (shock! gasp!) and last, the 200gm Classic, which sounds to me like a pile of pants, sorry Bernie.

When first I reviewed my 1568 copies (ten years ago), I concluded that, for this title, the King bettered the Toshiba, and that opinion still stands. It does not necessarily apply generally, to every title in the Blue Note catalogue, nor other Music Matters or Classic Records editions of other titles. King is best except when it isn’t. The MM33 (2016) I think predates the significant  improvements made by Cohearent in the last couple of years (those great Tone Poets). I haven’t got any other Classics to comment.

“We’ve  come  about the Mobley  Shoot-out.  Bernie sent us. Easy, don’t make any sudden moves. He’d like you to reconsider your ranking”.

You are welcome to disagree, someone always will. Warning, this test could infect you with Audiophilia, an untreatable condition which causes permanent state of comparative thinking, potentially ruinous spending on audio equipment, with debilitating side effects, such as record cleaning OCD. However, I think it’s worth the price of admission.

Science-guys, I know I should have run a randomised double blind trial, but I don’t get “Big Audio” funding, Phd students or interns. Forget expectation bias, just listen, I have done the heavy lifting, end of the day it’s only mp3 quality. If you want to post your own shootout, I’ll listen, open mind. 

My thanks to fellow Audiophilia sufferer, Bill D, for prodding me into this shoot-out.  Yeah. Thanks…

More On The Horizon : Classic Vinyl Reissue Series – 2023 Release Schedule:

Any money left after pre-ordering Tone Poets, consider these “themed” candidates for your pocket (LJC review links inserted)

January 20, 2023 – The 70s

February 17, 2023 – Hard Bop

March 17, 2023 – Post-Bop

April 21, 2023 – Hidden Gems

May 19, 2023 – Bebop

June 16, 2023 – The Rebirth

  • Robert Glasper – In My Element (2006)*
  • Madlib – Shades of Blue (2003)*

*mastered from a digital source. Definitely not on my list.

July 21, 2023 – Soul Jazz

  • Ike Quebec – Heavy Soul (1961)
  • Lonnie Smith – Turning Point (1969)

August 18, 2023 – The Avant-Garde

  • Anthony Williams – Spring (1965)
  • Cecil Taylor – Unit Structures (1966)

The Classic Series runs alongside the Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series which is produced by Joe Harley. Unfortunately I have almost all of them, but an upgrade of Dizzy Reece Star Bright is a possibility, an inspired choice, fabulous album, super-rare, a winner for me. But dependent on finding that extra shelf space … 



16 thoughts on “Mobley 1568 Shootout: Gunfight at the UK Corral

  1. Hmm Interesting. The most Hifi is for sure the MM. You can really hear that plate echo….and the drumwork. The Classic was mellower but not cecessarily a bad thing. The King betters the Toshiba yes for sure. Gutsy. I have the DiskUnion EMI 2012 (mono) from Japan. Mastered by KevinGray. It has served me well. Alas no OG for me but The DiskUnions have come closest to the OGs in other comparisons. I think KG did some mastering choices to mimic the OGs – more so that with the MMs. I also have the wide stereo CD which is intereresting but I prefer the mono presentation.


  2. Agreed. BG’s is the best. LJC DOES listen for other characteristics than what I always do, as we have discussed, and it’s, as MF always says “system dependent”.


  3. No laundry-related name calling, but I fully disagree with your ranking. I own both the MMJ33 version and the Classic Records, and have done several listens on my mono setup, and Bernie easily bests the MMJ to my ears.

    As for your 4-way shootout, in isolation they all sound good enough, but in repeated A/B/C/D comparison, the King and Toshiba sound unnaturally bright to me, bordering on fatiguing. The King more so than the Toshiba, almost a screech to my ears. Zero warmth.
    My ranking is:
    Classic, Toshiba, MMJ, King.

    Of course we all have different setups to listen through, and subjective ideas on what sounds good or best.


    • Of VERY important note : BG for CR used an all tube mastering chain and cut in TRUE MONO (mono cutter). KG can’t be bothered with two different setups, he uses a VMS 66 AND A STEREO CUTTING HEAD (Neumann SX-74). Just check his website. He cuts in pseudomono. Playing back BG-CUT CR MONO discs with a dedicated mono cart makes sense — but don’t use a mono cart with KG/MM “MONO” discs. They were not cut in TRUE MONO. That can theoretically damage the disc, BLP 1568 MM 33 included. I have not verified this*, but it is well known playing stereo discs with a mono cart is bad juju and potentially damaging to your disc /equipment. I do not know if using a stereo cutter to cut in pseudomono line KG does runs the same risk. I can see why the answer could be yes it could be no. But do you really want to find out?


      • “but don’t use a mono cart with KG/MM “MONO” discs. They were not cut in TRUE MONO. That can theoretically damage the disc, BLP 1568 MM 33 included. I have not verified this*”

        This only applies to vintage mono cartridges with no vertical compliance, modern mono cartridges with vertical compliance will not harm stereo records.


  4. Sorry LJC, I disagree with your tin ears. Having all of these, even not, and two NM- OG, the winner is the OG closely followed by BG on CR. CR comes from the original analog master tape (c’mon I know that you know that) which is well known, although BGs chain has been greatly upgraded (per Fremer) since this time. I actually prefer MM 45 next, then the MM 33, then King made from a JP copy tape as Blue Note original masters RECORDED in the US have never left the US (per my good friend RR, it was extremely tough to get them to AcousTech / CoHearent for KG/RR for although it’s only miles away, and they had to chase down the Golden Right from Europe for years….).

    Toshiba is last, dead last. TBH AUDIO WAVE XRCD 24 by Alan Yoshida on an EXCELLENT DAC (CHORD DAVE + M- liner at minimum) tops both JP copies of comparable albums. Both JP copies I agree beat any WAXTIME or MOV garbage out there. The JP copies ARE NICE SOUNDING COPIES don’t get me wrong….

    Spectral analysis is just like EVP in paranormal research…pure garbage. People use it when it suits their tastes and ignore it or discredit it when it doesn’t fit their personable policy preferences.

    BG makes routinely better mastering choices than KG. Rarely, KG does beat him, but only very rarely and only by the slimmest of margins if he does….All “THE MAJOR” KG upgrades occurred during the AcousTech / RTI / AP joint venture dissolution –> firing of SH –> formation of CoHearent at Gray’s own crib with his “upgrade” in AQ interconnects and power cords courtesy mostly of Harley’s association with AQ (an association which exists no more). BG’s chain has had dramatically better upgrades than KG more recently. The best mastering chain in the world without any question is the ASTONISHING ERC PHIL HUTCHINSON project…..absolutely without peer.

    The KF/SH house sound is…..fairly terrible, if you can get past that…. the overall quality of the mastering is usually good. For a better BG/KG comparison compare Craft 1 Step RELAXIN to KG AP 33 RELAXIN. These were done on apples / apples current mastering chain upgrades… A good KG version is relatively horrible BY COMPARISON to BG’s, but excellent overall by “PRICE / PERFORMANCE” ratio analysis only. The SH/KG double AP 45 still beats the KG 33 even though it’s done on older equipment…

    I still collect all of KG’s jazz /blues work, have since 2003?!? But to say he is anywhere NEAR BG in terms of jazz is insulting and laughable.


  5. I have become a bit obsessed by the tracks on this album which have both Mobley and Hadi on tenor. Not being a Mobley aficionado (and more familiar with Hadi on alto) I am not certain of my distinction between the two tenors. On the last track “News” is the first tenor solo after the head Mobley, and then after the trumpet, Hadi? It seems to me Hadi has the more forceful articulation, not as smooth as Mobley, and perhaps a bit more complexity in his phrasing and solo organization. Keeping these features in mind, I think I have been able to identify the two on the track where they trade phrases (but not sure). (This reminds me of the first time I heard TENOR CONCLAVE – argh!! – 4 tenor saxes to distinguish – Mobley, Cohn, Sims and Coltrane – but there, we had detailed liner notes, just in case.)


  6. I’m surprised how many dropouts are on the Music Matters version! It’s obvious the master tape isn’t in great shape anymore with noticeable degradation even since the Classic Records release. I got the Classic Records version when it was first released and the series was hyped as the best sounding Blue Notes ever (sound familiar?). Wow, was I surprised when I got a King pressing and how much better it sounded than the Classic Records version.

    My order of preference after going back and forth a few times with headphones is:
    1) King – great tonality and probably closest to the the original RVG sound
    2) Classic Records – better than I remember but still sounds thin with pinched tonality
    3) Toshiba – decent but sounds soft and loses the body of the King
    4) Music Matters – too bright (listen to that ride cymbal!) and too many dropouts


  7. just to add i would say the japanese ones, namely the king should sound better than the US RE that you have reviewed, just feel that the tape used by japan even though its a dub and not a master is fresher than the master used for the MM and classic, imo


  8. THIs easily makes my top 5 blue note albums of all time. love love love the first 2 tracks. just demonstrates how hank and friends can go both fast and slow beautifully. sadly i dont have any analog copy at the moment. was close to purchasing a music matters 33rpm at regular price but didnt go abt doing so. just hope it will be released on the affordable blue note classic series soon


  9. Shafi Hadi first came to my attention for his fine work with Mingus, especially on TIJUANA MOODS, one of my all-time favorite jazz albums. I looked up your previous comments, from January 2014, on BlueNote 1568 and was surprised to see that you had Curtis Porter still living, whereas Wikipedia lists his death as in June,1976.

    Mingus had an ear for outstanding alto sax players – two others being John Handy and Charles McPherson, both of whom ARE, I believe, still with us. Handy was magnificent on albums such as Mingus’ JAZZ PORTRAITS (MINGUS IN WONDERLAND) and went on to record one of my other all-time favorite jazz albums, 1966s JOHN HANDY RECORDED LIVE AT THE MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL.

    I would also recommend seeking out a recent episode from the PBS series “Next at the Kennedy Center” — “Let My People Hear Mingus”which was a tribute to the bassist/composer, with the current iiteration of the Mingus Big Band and McPherson as featured guest solist. The 83 year old aloist was absolutely amazing, with a technical facility that belied his advanced age. Another recent feather in McPherson’s cap was his appointment as the resident composer for the San Diego Ballet, where he has the pleasure of seeing his beautiful daughter Camille, a soloist with the company, perform in his pieces.

    My favorite thing about Blue Note 1568 is the cover, a wonderful work of art in itself, capturing, for me, the atmosphere of this extraordinary period in jazz history. Mobley has never been one of my favorite sax players, but there is no denying his talent. I think my view of him goes back to my initial encounter, which was on MILES DAVIS AT CARNEGIE HALL, which I have as an original Columbia six eye, an atrociously recorded work with a less than stellar (and often almost inaudible) Mobley performance. This was one of the very first jazz albums I owned (perhaps the third or fourth, after Coleman’s FREE JAZZ, Ellington’s THE NUTCRACKER SUITE, and Coltrane’s CRESCENT) and it seems to have left a mark on my psyche, with my view of Mobley, to his detriment. It’s amazing how early trauma can determine the course of our lives.

    I invested some time in your exercise, listening to parts or all of the four versions of 1568, with earphones plugged into a MacBook Air. I agree that the King might have the edge, but with all versions sounding pretty decent to me. Musically, it is an outstanding performance. I would agree with the commenter on your older post that preferred Hadi’s alto turn to Mobley’s tenor solo. Hadi’s solo was masterfully constructed with numerous highly original phrases. All the solos were good, including Hardman’s on trumpet – well, except maybe for Chamber’s “sawing away again” as one frequent reviewer commented on the forum. Chambers is probably my favorite classic era bassist, but with the bow – not so much.


  10. Whilst returning from the ‘World’s Biggest Record fair’ in ‘SHertogenbosch last November, a friend of mine from Houston, Texas (not the one outside of Glasgow) regaled me with his triumph that he had just bought his 28th copy of ‘The White Album’ by some pop group or other. ‘Why do you buy them?’ – ‘They’re a pressing from 28 different countries’. ‘Do you listen to them all? I asked. ‘Never – just an Amazon MP3’ was his reply.


  11. Can’t tell any difference at my computer desk/speakers. All sound very good and to my surprise so equal that I had no idea if one was switched to other at exact timings.


  12. Hi Andy: I can’t comment on the acoustic merits of various pressings of 1568 as I have only heard the original and the Japanese King pressing (plus the Van Gelder-remastered CD, but that’s a different story altogether), however, I must say this: the album per se does not impress me. It is the above-average hard bop session with very good playing on part of all players and a line-up that does not leave much to be deserved but, on the whole, it is not much to write home about, and – to be honest – I think it is preposterously overhyped based solely on its rarity factor. Mobley had many other titles (Workout, Soul Station, Roll Call, Dippin’) that deserve much more to be memorized and immortalized.

    Don’t suffer the pangs of guilt for never owning the original. In terms of dynamics and frequency response, you really didn’t miss much. I think Mr. Van Gelder was somewhat slightly underinspired when he recorded and mastered this piece. Keep the King pressing and lose the guilt.


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