Last Updated: January 19, 2021
Updated: BLUE NOTE Audio-Quality Graphic
My current assessment of audio quality based on around 600 pressings of Blue Note recordings, of which around 250 are original pre-1966 issues, and around 20 modern audiophile issues, and everything else in between. Your mileage may of course vary. This updates the earlier graphic, which dated back to around 2012 and was based on a more limited sample listening on much less revealing equipment.
These are generalisations and signposts. There can be significant difference between two copies of the same record and the exact same edition, between first to last off the stampers, and everywhere in between. The only way to know is to try, to compare..
What has changed?
United Artists have moved up a league, Liberty ranking now reflects the difference between East And West Coast reissues, earliest Toshiba Liberty gets recognition. Toshiba are ranked higher in the period before digital influence, and Music Matters 33 appear for the first time on the upper floors. Mosaic now included.
These are generalised rankings – “taken as a whole”. Individual titles may differ, better or worse.
Summary: quality signposts
For an individual title, test pressing and promo will usually be stronger than commercial release, especially those towards the end of the pressing run.
Always give preference to edition with direct lineage to Van Gelder master metal (RVG/ VAN GELDER stamp).
Be wary of stereo editions mastered from original two-track tapes which tracks were not intended for stereo – Van Gelder recordings between 1957 to around 1960. Mono was the intended and is the preferred format.
Be wary of any live recording which claims to be mono but recorded in the era of stereo. It usually means someone was sitting in the audience with a portable tape recorder and one microphone, bootlegging.
Avoid any indication of “pseudo-stereo” (electronically generated from single-track mono tape, early 1500 series)
Made in USA preferred – overseas reissues are generally inferior quality. Blue Note had no international licencing agreements, which only slowly emerged in the Liberty years, and were not widely found until under United Artists stewardship. Invariably overseas issues were from copy tape, mastered by a jobbing house technician with a taste for rock.
Reissues manufactured during 80s/90s can show digital/solid state artefacts and filtering, with loss of high frequencies. Those from early 2000s may be simply 44kHz/16-bit CD transfers to vinyl, as only very select manufacturers have had access to original source tapes.
Modern audiophile reissues often boast 180gm vinyl, which was the 1950s gold standard. Whilst the weight and thickness of vinyl does provide stability in handling, it does not make any difference to sound quality The lower threshold is around 120gm. Less than this – I have had records as little as 90gm, the cut is likely shallow, and at risk of scuffing/surface noise or warping.
Treat sceptically the claim “from the original tapes”, which applies to every recording. Even an MP3 download has a chain of sources dating back somewhere to original tapes. . Only “re-mastered from the original tapes” counts. A 1/2inch copy tape at 15fps should be effectively identical to the original, but there are many other factors during playback and mastering which degrade transfer.
If an original source recording is not mentioned, or it is “from the best available”, be doubly sceptical, even if officially licensed. Being licensed does not mean given access to original tapes.
Of the most recent anniversary editions, I have read Blue Note hired top US audio engineer Bernie Grundman to create a corporate archive of Blue Note original tapes, in the form of high resolution digital transfers at 24-bit/192 kHz. Digital source runs into digital to analogue conversion quality issues irrespective of file-size/ resolution, and does not assure improved quality in vinyl transfers. Audio engineers are notorious for filtering out very high frequencies “because they can not be heard”, oblivious to their impact on harmonics in lower frequencies that can be heard.
The best hope of audio quality remains “analog-to-analog”, mastering directly from original source tapes, supported by quality pressing, all of which is difficult to achieve at less than $30 per LP. And it can only be as good as the original recording – not everything was well-recorded.
Original commentary (written a few years ago)
Many great jazz musicians recorded for Blue Note, but the man responsible for the quality of label’s recordings – their high dynamic and tonal range and lifelike presence – was sound engineer, Rudy Van Gelder. It was his recording equipment, choice and placement of microphones, the work at the mixing desk, the selection and rejection of takes, and the active supervision of the whole recording process from monitoring the dials through to cutting of the master lacquer, that created the “Blue Note sound”.
Van Gelder always sought to be at the forefront of recording technology – the Scully lathe he used for cutting lacquer masters was the first to feature variable pitch/depth control to optimise groove-width and loudness. He deployed the newest Neumann/ Telefunken U-47 condenser microphone, which he had specially modified for use very close to instruments. His recordings were made on the latest Ampex tape recorders. Van Gelder’s initials or stamp in the “deadwax” is the best guarantee of audio quality
(More on RVG recording secrets here)
There were two crucial steps in the chain from artist performance to replay in the home that Van Gelder had no control over: the record pressing process itself, and how other engineers would re-master those recordings in the future.
Variation in sound quality over time
The collector will hear variation in the audio quality of Blue Note recordings, from one decade to the next, from Van Gelder’s loud and dazzling “musicians in the room” presence and room-filling mono, as found on many original Lexington and 47 West 63rd editions, to primitive stereo (Van Gelder was a late-adopter), and poorer quality re-mastering decades later in the hands of other engineers. Thankfully, the quality of the original recordings with Van Gelder at the dials often still shine through, though sometimes he ran the dials hot, cutting loud, sometimes with passing distortion.
Records from the era of original Blue Note are miracles of dynamic audio sound – all the more remarkable because portable record players and radiograms of the day were entirely incapable of reproducing that quality, unlike todays vinyl systems. Home hi-fi systems went on to improve dramatically, but solid state electronics spread to all stages of engineering, and finally digital processing, adversely affecting sound quality.
Reissues from the late ’70s to the mid-’90s often do not compare well to the audio quality of records manufactured in the ’50s and ’60s. Sadly for the audiophile jazz lover, fifty years on, many of the original tapes have deteriorated, many so-called audiophile reissues offer a wooden or “botoxed” presentation, and the mono format has all but disappeared. Original pressings command a collector premium, with the very rarest far out of reach of any ordinary collector’s budget. Hence the jazz-audiophile must grapple with the variable quality of reissues, in order to seek out those that sound best at the most affordable cost.
Opinions about audio quality
Typically, collectors will say ” I’ve got a woteva pressing of summink-oruvvah and it sounds great!” “Sounds great” and its food-equivalent “tastes great“has little meaning beyond “I like it“. Not to dispute someone’s liking, but our likes are often different, few of us have the same quality audio systems, breadth of listening history, or taste. What sounds great to you may not sound so great to me. For an insight, check “writer-about-thinking”, Eduard de Bono and his “Village Venus” effect. “She’s the most beautiful girl I have ever seen” Yes, but you have never travelled beyond your own village. If you had, you would know she is nothing out of the ordinary. Now Italian girls…Mama Mia!
The journey beyond “likes” is to explicit comparison, something compared with something else. Try to compare alternative editions with original pressings, and make that comparison on a fairly revealing high-end audio system , and make a point of listening to a number of different high-end systems of friends. (It’s often surprising how different a record can sound on another system, tuned to different priorities). Some systems are warm , friendly and very forgiving. Others are highly analytical and revealing. Mine is at this latter end, and forgives nothing. The best are absolutely neutral, transparent, with no hifi attributes, and just return what the engineer recorded, closest to what the instruments sounded like in the studio.
Different issues of the same recording often have differences in dynamic and tonal range, rhythm and timing, and may exhibit different gain or feature instrument distortion. Records made at different times, by different people, from different generation copy tapes, sound different. Comparing two different issues, sometimes some instruments all but disappear, others stand well forward, like a different record. Superior engineering can reveal hitherto unappreciated artist intent and inter-musician interaction – the holy grail of musical coherence, while bad engineering can obliterate it.
Some collectors have yet to hear what an original first pressing sounds like because their resources don’t stretch to those high prices. Others who own first pressings have never really heard them, because they are not listening on a revealing audio system.
I ask: “compared with the best sounding issues of these titles that I have heard, how does this re-issue sound on my system”? I’m looking for which sounds more fresh, engages the emotions, compels listening, whose rhythm and timing swings and gets your feet tapping, in which the music “makes sense”
Comparative judgement is essential to the record upgrading process. If you don’t upgrade, you will never know if there are better sounding copies. When someone says their audiophile reissue sounds great, ask if they have the original vintage press for comparison. Yeah, I know, no need, what you’ve got sounds great.
Inevitably there will be individual titles that do not conform to the expected quality, for whatever reason. Remember: only you know what you hear, no-one else does. If something sounds good or bad to you, your opinion is all that matters, though you should always take the opportunity to “educate your listening palate”.
The LJC Blue Note audio quality hierarchy – overall rating (this needs updating!)
(based on impression of listening to a range of copies – individual exceptions may differ)
The reason for seeking out earliest pressing of a title has nothing to do with them being valuable antiques or of sentimental historical interest, which of course they are, but as a general rule, the earliest edition is sonically the best edition. “First pressings” are considered the holy grail of audiophile quality, being the closest possible to the studio original tape recording and master acetate before any effect of age, wear and tear.
The factory test pressing is the ultimate first pressing, being “first off the first stamper” which at that point will exhibit no sign of the progressive groove wear which follows subsequent pressing repetitions.
A promotional review/preview/audition copy is also likely to be among the first batch of records pressed, and sought after for the same reason, though its cover may be disfigured by stamping.
Blue Note sent promos to radio stations and the music press – often the record label was stamped “Review Copy”, some adding “Not For Sale” to avoid accounting sales tax. Other copies were stamped REVIEW COPY on the back of the jacket, but not on the label.
Earliest and later pressings
The first pressing of each Blue Note title is the gold standard of audio quality for that recording. However at the start of the 1500 12″ microgroove series some of the very earliest recordings date back to the late 1940s, were recorded in radio station studios, and show the limitations of recording equipment at the time, despite remastering by Van Gelder.
There may be little audible difference between first and later second pressings, being manufactured with stampers derived from the same mother and master. A later pressing on the NY label can sound as good as the first pressing on 47 West 63rd, with less wear and tear, the main difference being the collector’s premium, the price. However the confounding factor is stamper wear.
Similar high audio quality is often found in records pressed during the first few years of Liberty Records ownership, which include a number of Van Gelder mastered titles prepared for release before the 1966 watershed, whose first pressing was by Liberty’s All-Disc, Roselle NJ. plant in the later half of 1966 or early 1967. Most of these sonically the equal of Blue Note Plastylite originals.
The same can not be said of those without Van Gelder mastering. In the early Liberty years, Blue Note commenced pressing on both west and east coast, through their own pressing plants, and some third parties. This severed the link with Plastylite, though not with Van Gelder metal, which remained available for reissues pressed at All-Disc. Reissues manufactured in LA however, by Research Craft, were re-mastered from copy tape by Liberty engineers, whose output was less consistent. Always choose Liberty copies stamped VAN GELDER. New titles however used Van Gelder mastering on both coasts, until recording sessions started to be held with increasing frequncy in West Coast studios, by other engineers, in the closing years of the ’60s.
Variations in audio quality within editions
From an audiophile perspective, the most important determinant of sound quality is the recording skill of the original sound engineer. After that – more important than label or first pressing status – is stamper wear. In the pressing plant, the ridges of a stamper are progressively deformed by a hundred tons of pressure through the two thousand or more pressing repetitions of a stamper’s useful life, resulting in increasing loss of fidelity, especially in the higher frequencies. Somewhere in each pressing run were the first few and the last few off the stamper, hence being a first pressing is itself not a guarantee of top audio quality, or a second pressing of poor quality: there is no way of knowing in advance at what stage in the life of a stamper a record was pressed. There is an audible difference in sound quality even between two copies of a first pressing. In extremis, one will be more inviting, more fresh, more presence, the other more dull, congested, leaving you inexplicably unenthusiastic about the music, but nursing an equally large hole in the bank account.
1968: the decline in audio quality starts
From 1968 onwards, the Liberty/Transatlantic years, Blue Note quality became increasingly compromised. The signature Van Gelder sound began to disappear. Recordings were often re-mastered by staff engineers, without any understanding of the adjustments Van Gelder applied to his own tape recordings during mastering. In the later half of the ’60s, demand for record pressing capacity exceeded supply, and Liberty under Transamerica was manufacturing records at multiple plants.
This decline was not exclusive to Blue Note but an industry-wide trend throughout the ’70s. In the ’80s, there was a last attempt to revive the format and cut costs – Direct Metal Mastering – before final migration to CD, The Evil Silver Disc, for music distribution, which more or less killed off vinyl manufacturing know-how, though there were a few remaining bright spots.
Now for some good news: from our friends from Japan
A few exceptions to this gloom stand out, the most obvious being the pressing of Blue Note recordings in Japan, by King Records and Toshiba EMI. Dating from the ’70s and ’80s, the audio standard of these vintage pressings is consistently high, and favoured for near-silent vinyl. The caveat is that Japanese engineers were much more conservative on loudness and gain settings, quieter pressings, that rely on the listener to adjust the volume upwards, which does not deliver equivalent punch of a Van Gelder loud cut. The presentation is not as forward as original Blue Note, but generally quite acceptable, more available and more affordable, especially for the rarest of titles.
King Records vintage pressings (1977-83) are generally preferred to Toshiba. Toshiba reissued most of the 1500 series between 1983-85, and most of the 4000 series between 1990-95. Beyond these dates however, Toshiba continued with further reissues through to the present day, however any Toshiba Blue Note manufactured after 1995 should be treated with great scepticism. Often sold on the back of the reputation of earlier years, more recent Toshiba are not the same audio quality as the vintage releases 1983-95. They include digital transfers, and even supposedly RVG-remastered for CD, cynically pressed on vinyl, and are not audiophile quality.
Other often acceptable reissues
Other brief oasis of sound quality include the Blue/black West Coast Liberty/UA pressings, the early Division of United Artists pressings, and some but by no means all early French Pathe Marconi before Direct Metal Mastering was introduced. All these editions are a variable experience – some can be very very good, others can be quite indifferent, depending on title.
Reissues to avoid
Blue Note reissues generally to avoid are the 1980’s US Capitol/Manhattan reissues (“The Finest in Jazz Since 1939” label), and EMI France Direct Metal Mastered. The 304 Park Avenue South Scorpios I consider RINOs – Records in Name Only – a cd transferred onto vinyl. Also to avoid, any edition which has mono electronically rechanneled to simulate stereo, and
I recommend being sceptical of modern “180 gm audiophile” reissues without more substantial evidence of sources, even where they claimed to be ” from the original tapes” and this includes Blue Note 75 anniversary editions. The result is often quite disappointing. The modern (since 1995) use of digital delay lines (digital preview) during mastering effectively made a digital image of the original analogue tape, which digital image was then fed to the mastering lathe. Blue Note 75’s editions are high resolution digital transfers, and have many reported manufacturing defects originating from the low price-point.
As with all these things, there are exasperating exceptions. Every once in a while you play a Blue/black b which sounds great, even a French DMM which sounds fresh and lively. Sometimes the original recording was so good it was near impossible to make a bad transfer of it, so I am reluctant to condemn any edition out of hand. Ultimately only your ears can decide.
UPDATE December 21, 2020
Blue Note/Capitol/UMG have made some major improvements in engineering and maufacture, most recently pressing at Optimal in Germany. Early results are extremely favourable. Latest Tone Poet and 80 series has set new standards in audiophile reproduction. Kevin Gray continues to further improve his outstanding engineering.
Reissues: the best and the worst US and European reissues
Putting to one side Blue Note “originals“, Liberty and Japanese pressings, there are some commonly found and inexpensive reissues – and my rule of thumb for the budget-conscious vinyl collector as to which to avoid and which may be worth pursuing.
(Above numbers refer to the detailed page for Blue Note, the United Artists Years)
How do other US labels compare with Blue Note audio quality?
Blue Note are by no means the only audiophile quality vintage vinyl and Van Gelder was not the only great sound engineer. Up there with the Blue Note best are US Columbia Six Eye and Two Eye,Contemporary, Impulse Orange black rim and black/red rim, and Prestige fireworks. For Stereo, I rank Columbia, Impulse and Contemporary often better than Blue Note.
Some labels such as Riverside, Mercury and Atlantic are variable and inconsistent, great recording artists but dogged by either poor engineering or poor pressing, depending on title and over time. Others I have not enough to judge, too small a sample, such as Verve, RCA Victor, and Bethlehem, and a host of smaller labels, like Candid.
What about sound quality of American recordings licensed for European release?
In UK licensed pressings, the dominant factor is remastering from copy tape (apart from Esquire, who enjoyed original US metalwork). Different engineer, different taste, different judgements. Pressing and engineering was to a very high standard, especially by Decca, closely followed by Philips, then EMI.
With Riverside, I find UK Interdisc editions (Decca or Philips) better sonically than original US Riverside. Impulse recordings released by HMV pressed by EMI are very good but not as good as US Impulse, where RVG originals are much to be preferred. All Columbia manufactured in UK, whether for Fontana or CBS, are inferior to US Columbia. Your Monk and Miles must be Made in the USA.
Hello LJC. Recently, I noticed that the album “Sonny Clark Trio”, BLP 1579, og is a mono version, but the version produced later by ua is a stereo version with the words “An original stereo recording” on the back. I’m curious, did the stereo master tape really existed at that time? And strangely, it seems that since ua released the stereo version of this album in 1972, this album has only been continuously pressed in Japan. I also want to ask if anyone knows the reason why this album has no more repress in US?
Short answer, yes. This session was recorded October 13, 1957, at which time Van Gelder was recording simultaneously to full track and two track, though it was never released in stereo at the time, nor intended to be stereo. Van Gelder would have cut only a mono acetate. United Artists issued it in stereo for the first time, in 1972, using Rudy’s two track tape, as by then, stereo had become the expected format. No further reissue outside of Japan, which is the spiritual home of Sonny Clark recordings.
Thank you very much for your reply. I have another question, because my friend told me before that the production of stereo master tape started in 1958 (I didn’t confirm his source carefully), but after reading your reply, in fact, van gelder was recording to full track and two track started in 1957. So is there a definite time point? Or from which album did stereo begin to get attention?
LJC collaborator DGmono penned an extensive guest post on Blue Note’s transition to stereo back in 2014. His painstaking research included interviews with key authorities including Michael Cuscuna, Kevin Gray, and Frederick Cohen.
It covers specific dates, all Van Gelder’s recording practices and the Blue Note titles that mark the change-points. The link is here:
I’m not a big fan of stereo issues fashioned out of two-track tape intended for mono production
Thank you very much! After reading this article and your explanation, it can be said that I have benefited a lot. As a newcomer of jazz and vinyl world, I will continue to read your comments, hoping to learn more.
dear LJC & blue note fans, was considering to get lee morgan sonic boom LT987 but heard that the LT series was a mixed bag as far as audio quality is concerned. has anyone heard it please? thanks
Unhelpfully, it tends to be title-specific. Those that are originally Van Gelder recordings are generally very good. The ones that are not – Art Pepper, Gerry Mulligan, are weak. For no reason I can figure, the Jimmy Smith titles are weak.
The Lee Morgans (Tom Cat, Sonic Boom etc) are very good, as are the Hank Mobleys. The LTs are generally stronger than their Japan-only issues, which are on the soft side.
thank you so much for the kind reply LJC. truly helpful, as always
I disagree with your assessment of the sonic order,in particular the connoisseur
Series,I feel they sound much better than the Toshiba EMI records. Ide have them in the middle just under the other reissues like acoustic sounds, music matters,tone poet and king blue note. The worst for me is similar to yours and the 304 and park are the worst of them all I long Spence replaced the ones I had . But I have enjoyed reading your articles and your opinions and will continue to do so.thanks.
LJC I look forward to seeing your new order of blue note records.to be honest there no reissues that I would consider better than Music Matters BN. There superior in every way to all the other reissues,from the VanGelder like sound to the great glossy gatefold jackets.so I’m looking forward to seeing the MM just under original blue note liberty with the RVG stamp. After that it’s Acoustic Sounds,Blue Note King,Tone Poet, Connoisseur, and so on. Thank you for reading my opinions,and as always will continue to value yours. The Jazzman.
It’s best in my opinion to get the King Blue Note version until someone records something superior . The LT version has the 304 and park address which to me are one of the worst out there.ide rather have a CD.
The LT version with the “304 and park” address is reissue from 2009. The original issue was the US LT version, with the white border cover, from 1979.
dear LJC, hope to see BN80 and tone poet in your building diagram someday 🙂
Funny HAD posted this the same day this story broke:
“Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought Myspace in 2005 for $580 million. In 2011, it was sold to digital ad company Specific Media for just $35 million”
Murdoch, investment genius. $35m sounds a lot for a company that just “lost” its core product, 12m songs, in a “computer error”. No back-up copy on a thumb-drive?
I am just starting out collecting vinyl jazz. Up until now I’ve been listening to mp3 and streaming, but have recently rediscovered the joys of vinyl!! So far I’ve been buying the BN80 and Tone Poet series, but the vast majority of my favourites seem to have already been reissued as BN75. These are by far the most affordable of reissues available but I have heard some really bad things about them. My question is, seeing as OG pressings are way out of my budget, and the Music Matters are getting very pricey, where do I go from here? Is it best to buy the Japanese King reissues and pay high shipping costs or buy the BN75 which are easier to get in the UK?
Welcome to the world of All Analogue vinyl, a journey that will give you immense pleasure, and a few headaches, but it’s worth it
First Edition Blue Notes are out of reach of most folk, but there are many vintage pressings which are sonically pretty much in the same league, but without the collector cachet and price premium. In your position, before tangling wiith budget-price modern reissues which have issues with pressing quality, or Japanese pressings, which are lacking in character, on a very restricted budget I would be looking for –
United Artists blue label black/ white note early-mid 70s pressings often with Van Gelder metal. The gatefold brown cover “twofers” include some stunning transfers of Van Gelder recordings. Early 70s Liberty UA west coast black and turqoise label, mostly Van Gelder metal. And of course Liberty pressings (east coast RVG metal) though they are a bit pricey nowadays, depending on title. And Division of United Artists magnificent mono early 70s. And the Cuscuna curated Liberty UA late 70s LT series, some smokers in there (though a few duds)
All these were pressed before transistors and then digital started messing up the sound quality, and can be quite affordable. Tone Poets and MM33 are the exceptions, very good, but if these are a bit rich for you, start hunting the second division vintage pressings, you won’t be disappointed, or at least, not often.
Discogs is about the best UK source. I despair of international shipping and customs charges, disputed grading, and shill-bidding that still plagues E-bay. However sometime you have no choice but to bid in auctions.
Thanks for your help
dear ljc and friends, are Toshibas released in this series digitally sourced? according to discogs these were released in ’93 thanks https://www.discogs.com/Kenny-Dorham-Afro-Cuban/release/8975392
Good question, Jason. ’90s Toshiba have a big question mark over them. The Nineties was the time Van Gelder was retained to re-master Blue Note material for CD. I have had stuff for late ’90s early 20’s which are self-evidently digital files transferred to vinyl, shameless, cynical, horrible.
Early ’90s there was a lot of solid state/ digital equipment in the engineering sphere, and I have limited confidence in any output from Toshiba beyond the ’80s.
thank you for your kind reply ljc. so far I have kings (gxf, gxk as well as the replica and k (black obi) issues) as well as Toshibas (lnj and those with rvg and westrex 3d II on the obi). very pleased so far. just sometimes versions will show up for sale online and my eyes will light up as I don’t have that title in my collection yet. such as this one with 65 on the obi. https://www.discogs.com/Cannonball-Adderley-Somethin-Else/release/13569316 wanted to get this but upon further googling, found out its using the rvg digital master. on the obi it just says cut using rvg master. there is also another series with 100 on the obi which also says similar so I suspect its also a digital cut https://www.discogs.com/Cannonball-Adderley-Somethin-Else/release/3084888 . personally I feel if one has to go for a Japanese BN analog reissue best to go for king be it gxf,gxk, k series or replica series; or Toshiba nr, lnj or those which say westrex 3d ii on the obi. all these were cut in the 80s or earlier if memory serves me well
just to add another one that is also analog to these ears are the disk union dblp series. I only have 2 titles. jutta hipp hickory vols 1 & 2. iirc, these were cut all analog by kevin gray. thanks
Why would you put Music Matters 33rpm above the 45 rpm? Based on my experience and many other debates, 45rpm usually have better soundstage and more detailed. Why there is such a great gap between MMJ 45 and 33 rpm? Thanks!
I have no experience of the most recent output, so my judgement is based on those 2×45 LPs issued before MM introduced the 1×33 edition, I think associated with the Steve Hoffman period. I have only three of those 2x45s, and around a dozen 1x33s.
I don’t have any copies of just one title in both formats, so I can’t speak from direct A:B
On my system, on those titles that I have, I find no advantage from the 2×45 format. To the contrary, I find them “bottoxed”. The more recent 1×33 give a tighter more musical presentation. This may be to do with improvements in RTI technology, not for me to say why, but that is what I hear.
Convenience and price is better in 1×33, but that is not a factor in this context, only the listening experience.
As in all these things, your experience may be different, different titles, different rig, not for me to say.
I also noticed that KG leave AcousTech at the end of 2010 and moved to Cohearent Audio with upgraded connections equipment. Is that to say all the reissues after 2010 have the improved equipment? I heared later MMJ do have better sound, but I am not sure from when this happened. I am confused to choose between 33 and 45 rpm…
I once found an orignial 6-eye Columbia pressing of the Miles Davis Sketches of Spain album. Until then I “only” had the UK Fontana pressing of the same year. I was excited and bought the Columbia one only to discover how bad it was! The Fontana pression was soooo much better! So I guess saying the european Columbia pressings (in this case Fontana) are always inferior to the US ones, I’ll have to disagree with. Even though this statement is only based on one single experience..
No problem with different opinions, though I must agree a sample of one is not conclusive in the generality. As they say, all generalisations are dangerous, especially this one.
I reckon I have A:B’s over a dozen UK 1st editions against the original US edition, and UK remastering from copy tape almost invariably results in sonic deficiencies.
That holds good for me with my equipment and my copies, not to say there are not exceptions. Both Columbia and Impulse, the US edition is more fresh and dynamic. The reasons are not important, just judging the results.
Confounding factors are the equipment you are listening with – some kit is ruthlessly revealing, others are very forgiving. I have occasionally a contrary experience listening on other people’s equipment. Also, not all copies of an edition are equal. There is always the first -off/last off stamper pressing variation,. which may skew comparisons.
You have taken a first step, good for you, I’d encourage you to do more comparative listening, it is very educational, sharpens your future choices – who wants two of everything?
Thanks for your input.
https://www.discogs.com/Leo-Parker-Rollin-With-Leo/release/6373359 just saw this toshiba release LJC. it says Digital Transfer By Ron McMaster on the back cover. guess its not recommended? ironically it was cut using the 3d II cutter head. hmmmmmm
McMaster was a Capitol engineer, responsible for a good number of the Cuscuna/ Mosaic vinyl box-sets, so not necessarily a bad engineer. It’s the “digital transfer” that would worry me. Sounds intended for CD, but stripped onto vinyl. Does not augur well
yes I agree with you ljc. only a few in this series are digital cuts. majority including this one is not https://www.discogs.com/Herbie-Hancock-Takin-Off/release/6372829 they seem to be advertising the westrex 3d cutting a lot on the obi. I do have the blue train with the westrex cutting. i must admit it was pretty open sounding compared to my king pressing. though I do adore the king as well.never heard an original or even an rvg cut of trane
hi LJC in your chart does the early Toshiba series refer to the NR and LNJ series? im guessing the NR ones are better than the LNJ? also I noticed some NR ones pressed on red wax. are those better than the black ones. thanks
Toshiba LNJ 7000 series and NR 8100 were as I recall mid-late 60s early 70s, and are generally better than the mid 80’s BNJ series. No special difference between LNJ and NR that I have noticed. It varies from title to title of course., depending on the strength of the original recording, the copy tape transfer, and the remastering, but I have found them reasonable listening, though not as good as Liberty at the time.
Not heard one on red vinyl, so I can’t comment. Red vinyl is more difficult to determine surface condition, though the Japanese mostly took very great care of their vinyl (unlike some countries I could mention!)
thanks for the kind reply LJC. I do have a couple of LNJs as well as later Toshibas which mentioned that they were cut using the westex 3d II cutting head and they sound great. sadly no originals to compare them with. but it was an enjoyable listen for me all in all
p,s, I mentioned to you some time ago I bought the US stereo orginal for song for my father. recently just picked up the liberty with RVG stamps. hope that it sounds close to the original so that I may preserve the latter. 😛
How do you rate the Tone Poet releases so far? Not been able to rip the McCoy Tyner test press yet, I’m not very technically minded.
Well, I am what you might call a fussy listener, with a palate formed in original pressings, and early reissues. I think they compare exceptionally well with their original counterparts. The vinyl formulation gives you an inky-black background, and the stereo imagery is wider stage than Rudy’s equivalent.
I have just had delivered another – Lee Morgan’s Cornbread, which I have as an original Monaural. At this pricepoint, I think there are bigger ways to waste money, but I think you have to choose your music – I don’t want most of the titles issued so far. I do want Byrd In Flight. I am not sure I want another Hancock The Prisoner, or The Money Jungle. If the music hits the spot, you are on a winner.
I wanted Minor Move (have the Japanese pressing), Kenny Burrell (no hope in hell of owning an original) and Etcetera. Have to say Minor Move & Etc TP’s sound better than earlier issues.
hi LJC, like one of the posters below, im also wondering what is your take on the classic records mono/stereo reissues done by b grundman. im guessing they are the same level as analogue productions in your audio quality tower? thanks
dear LJC, will you be updating your chart to include the tone poet & the blue note 80 anni series please? thanks
The “Tone Poet” list of titles planned – Cassandra Wilson, Chick Corea, and two albums I already have in original form, are not going to be on my shopping list. I’m not sure what Joe and Ron are going to do in this series that is any different from their work as Music Matters, likewise from original tapes.
It is all down to the titles they choose to issue.
dear LJC thanks for your kind reply. yes I agree. I do wish however that they re-do the titles they released for the 75th anniversary like sidewinder, Blakey’s mosaic, maiden voyage and so on. they definitely deserve the all analog treatment. one may only hope for the best I guess
A quick question as I have not gone through all the comments here but was the Classic reissues in mono consider in this sound quality comparison? Would be interesting as they are just what LJC was looking for as he noted no mono audiophile reissues in his “Tower of Power”
Hi all, recently ran across a UA blue/black w/RVG stamp, I believe it was stereo. The unusual thing about this pressing was that the jacket had a laminate on the front, I don’t usually see the plastic laminate except on the early issues, so this was unexpected. Ayone else see either Liberty or UA records with laminate covers??
Saw a Liberty Blue Note 1966 of “’Somethin’ Else”for a bit less than a Music Matters pressing. The Stereo Liberty has “RVG “on both sides and is VG+. Assuming this is an accurate grade, which is likely to sound better?
81595 I think. Recordings Van Gelder made in 1958 were destined for mono, and in my view, should remain so. But he did create a stereo master, issued on W63rd labels. A copy on Popsike here
What’s important is that the label seems to have an ® under the E, (picture is too damn small, description insuffiicient) which suggests the stereo master was made at a much later date, maybe 1961 because of the W63rd + ®,, by which time Rudy’s thinking had moved up a gear with stereo. However the original two-track recording will still have been intended for mono.
Liberty were pressing with Van Gelder metal, so I would expect it to sound better than the MM. However I think the mono would sound better than each of them, because of the hard panning inherent in the original mix.
Thank you! Was wondering if this one was from a dedicated stereo master. Maybe I’ll just hit the mono switch on my receiver then.
A better question to ask is did Rudy ever do any stereo Blue Note recordings? I mean REAL stereo, not that panned hard, jam everything into one channel and everything else into the other channel, really fake stereo as there is no ambience field/information. The only recordings I have heard that come even close to stereo are the live recordings, such as the Byrd @ the Half Note. His close-miking technique really destroys any attempts to create a stereo “performance” field, which is why these BN really can’t be called stereo.
Thanks for updating this. The Music Matters 33’s really are rather good and so well presented. My wife comments that they have the same “in the room next door” clarity as some of my (few) early pressings. I value her ear as she has no idea how much I have paid for most of my collection.
I have a friend with a large jazz collection similar to my own, around 2,000 LPs, but by a quirk of collecting fate, we often have different editions between us of the same title, which enables us to do a lot of A:B comparisons. (I’d encourage readers to do the same with any jazz buddies)
Just last week we A:B’d an MM33 vs BN Original 1st press of Duke Pearson’s Wahoo. Despite the MM33’s many virtues, the original , well, trounced it. Not even subtle difference, the original press is more muscular, dynamic, and dammit, more musical. Joe Henderson’s harmonics on Bedouin sent shivers down my spine.
It would be churlish of me not to mention the original press took me around four years to acquire at an acceptable price, and cost me around four times the MM33. However I consider it worth the effort, beautiful album, need to be heard in its full glory. If you haven’t, you will never know.
I agree with you wholeheartedly LJC. I have several pressings of silver’s SFMF – king, US dmm and the US stereo OG NY label. the OG is in a different league of its own. can hear the rim shots and cymbals so clearly. the best word to describe it would be NATURAL. honestly it doesn’t sound dated at all and can pass off as something recorded in recent times not more than a half century ago. seriously, it was my 1st time experiencing what blue note originals owners have been mentioning – MAGIC
OG, OG, OG, that’s all we hear people screaming about, ‘the OG’s are so much better”. Well, they are really not better, but different, they are eq’ed differently to emphasize the mid-band, presence range, which gives them a more “immediate” sound. If that is what you like, the OG is the way to go. But to condemn the work of MM and others because they chose to emphasize what they heard on the tape is just ignorant, RVG recorded for many different labels and eq’ed them according to what the producer(s) wanted, what we have in OG’s is what Alfred wanted, that is NOT what is on the tapes. MM and others heard the original TAPES, and thought they sounded more life-like than the OG’s, which JH has heard many times, hearing what is on the tapes gave them the perspective of what RVG recorded, NOT the OG’s. Getting the best Lion sound is wholly different that getting the best sound, that would be what is on the tape. At that point, you can decide to emphasize what you like, choices.
The whole BN collecting thing, as I am sure it’s been said so many times, is a massive trade off exercise, isn’t it? It would be nice to have collection choc full of early pressings, but alas self restraint kicks in as I spend hours browsing with the mouse hovering over potential bids or purchases.
“Toshiba reissued most of the 1500 series between 1983-85, and most of the 4000 series between 1990-95. Beyond these dates however, Toshiba continued with further reissues through to the present day, however any Toshiba Blue Note manufactured after 1995 should be treated with great scepticism. Often sold on the back of the reputation of earlier years,more recent Toshiba are not the same audio quality as the vintage releases 1983-95.”
in response to this. ur absolutely right ljc. I noticed that Toshiba had two series. 1 in 1984 and another in 1993 eg una mas has the same deadwax info for both 84 and 93 releases (Side 1): BNST-84127-A 1S (Side 2): BNST-84127-B 1S. I guess both of them will sound the same? when you mention post 95 audio quality for Toshiba do you mean the TOJJ series for eg Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else TOJJ-6501 released in ’08. thanks again
Are you basing the deadwax info from Una Mas copies in-hand or from Discogs? I found the information there often to be incomplete, incorrect or copied over from a draft (if not all of the above).
dear aaron, info is from discogs. the seller of the una mas doesn’t wish to disclose deadwax info sadly
Difficult to say with any certainty without actually buying a copy of each to make the comparison, not something anyone is likely to do. If they reused the original master for the later release, its possible they would “sound the same” but I wouldn’t be certain. The reason I hesitate is that on a few occasions I have had two copies of the same title and same pressing, sometimes they sound identical, but with another title, it happens that copy one sounds stronger than the other. I put this down to the difference, in extremis, between first off the stamper (like a promo) and the last, but that’s just guesswork.
With a few exceptions, quality of sound is worse on the more modern pressings, better on older ones. I listened with a friend yesterday to a Mobile Fidelity reissue compared with its original Decca release, and I was utterly shocked how poor the MoFi sounded in comparison. Difference was huge. The MoFi was dreadful, but unless you had the original, how would you know?
I quite believe these reissue engineers have been doing the best they can, but have they ever sat down and A:B’d the original with their product? Those of us who sweat blood to acquire the originals know, but unless they also sweat blood to acquire a fifty-year old original, how would they know? They are doing their best, no bad faith, but it doesn’t stand the test of honest comparison.
yes I totally agree with you LJC, always thought the king pressing trumps the Toshiba, but I recently recd and played the Toshiba blue train (yellow circular obi on shrink) and was impressed by its sound. perhaps better than my king press of sidewinder. sadly I don’t have the king blue train so can make a fair comparison
dear LJC I noticed u mentioned for MM only stereo and 33rpm for the empire state chart. does this mean to say for mobley 1568, the Toshiba press is preferred to the mm 33 version? thank you
Aha. Of the 1500 series, Van Gelder’s first recording to two-track tape was I believe 1554, so any titles issued by MM of lower catalogue numbers may be mono (e.g. 1542 Rollins) .Rudy was experimenting with two-track and some higher catalogue numbers were still recorded to one-track. As far as I know, all issues of 1568 are mono.
Where they have the option of both mono and stereo, I believe MM issue only stereo and do not produce a fold-down mono. My observations are a generalisation based on my sample of their records, which falls way short of a complete set and individual titles may perform differently.
My favourable rating is for MM33 as a whole, not specifically just stereo MM33 . I had overlooked that some will be mono of necessity, and not any worse for that.
dear LJC yes MM has both the 2×45 and 1×33 for the 1568 and both are in mono. think the 33 came out in 2016 and the dbl 45 came out before 2010 when I glanced at discogs. ok so ill go for the 1×33 mm 1568. missed out on the Toshiba version (with the circular obi sticker on the shrink) recently so I thought of going for the 33 mm version since its higher on the audio chart. thanks again for your kind reply. appreciate it wholeheartedly
thank you so much for updating the empire state bldg. chart. ill definitely be saving it onto my harddrive.
dear LJC and friends, I have recently had the chance to purchase a music matters 2×45 test pressing of mosaic art Blakey. just wondering as far as sounds is concerned, will it sound the same as the regular music matters release? thanks so much
MM pressings are limited in quantity and I wouldn’t expect as great a difference between its TP and the commercial release as I would in bigger historical commercial releases. There is a however attached. Personally, I am not a fan of 2×45, especially those that date back to the Steve Hoffman era. .The current 33 issues are in my view way superior to 2×45, TP or otherwise. What I am trying to say is I don’t think it is worth paying a premium for the fact it’s a test pressing.
https://www.musicmattersjazz.com/Art-Blakey-Mosaic-Blue-Note-Vinyl-Record-Reissue-p/mmbst-84090.htm dear LJC, thank you kindly for your timely response. so glad to read the precious info you have just relayed. I was abt to buy the mmj 2×45 release of mosaic (my top 5 BN albums) but was also offered the TP of mosaic as well. just curious, do you own this title? also when u mention the 33, do u mean just the srx ones or any of the 33’s avail on MMJ website? also mmmmm for these 33 mmj releases, according to yr empire state bldg diagram, you will still place them in the “modern audiophile” group below the Japanese king and Toshiba? thank you LJC 🙂 I wish you a blessed week ahead
I must revisit my Empire State ranking, it is not my current assessment. which is now based on a much larger sample of records.
In my experience the MM33 range across the board is superior to the mm45x2 range. I understand it is in no small part due to infrastructure and cabling improvements at RTI. Whatever the reason, they sound more authentic Blue Note sound and less bottox .
I’ve not yet listened to an srx title, but a better vinyl formulation sounds like it would add further to their lead. I understand they have left out the carbon additive. I have heard what a Furutech demagnitiser does to LPs prior to play, and there is definitely something in the vinyl territory that can improve sound.
Blakey’s Mosaic is an outstanding title. I am privileged to own an original and I have yet to hear any modern reissue that tops the real thing, though the best seem to be able to get a lot closer recently.
dear LJC, thanks so much for your much needed opinion. wow you’re really fortunate to have the mosaic original. definitely on my growing wantlist of BN originals. if only mmj had a 33 (srx or reg) version of mosaic. ill definitely be keen. did spot a couple of stereo originals (w/o the stereo sticker on cover) but rather pricey. thanks again for your kind reply
Hi, I have an opportunity to buy a 1966 Liberty repress of “The Rumproll” by Lee Morgan, which Blue Note first put out in 1965. This one is in stereo. Price is right.
Do you think this will sound very similar to the 1st press (before the company was sold to Liberty)?
The main reason that lead me to return to vinyl listening was the desire to have an ” authentic analogue” experience. With that in mind and after a preliminary research I soon realize that what I was looking for would be releases made before the digital era( if I wanted to play securely). Then I also started to realize that if I wanted faithful renditions in terms of sound ( specially for BN) I should look for original RVG pressings either first or subsequent ones. For many blue note titles seeking for an original first pressing seems virtually impossible for the reasons we all know and I start to look for the best affordable options and centered myself on 2nd an 3rd pressing releases where RVG stampers were still being used( particularly Liberty). Still, there are a few titles like the Jhonny Griffin ( BLP 1559) that are only available on the later UA era( remastered). To me this seems to be the wiser option still. They sound pretty well and I probably will never know if not the same as an original first pressing anyway.
Well-reasoned approach, to seek out the best and most affordable pathway. The allure of the most rare and expensive is a different thing, an object of desire. When mounted on the turntable this object can sometimes be a disappointment, though it can be thrilling. The lineage of original metal gives you the best hope of the same experience as the original.
Division of United Artists are generally very high quality transfers, despite absence of original metal. I have had the experience of pitting them against originals, and they fall short, but not by a huge margin. Always a good choice.
When you have the best pressing you can afford, there is still a lot you can do to improve what you hear. The unglamorous hi-fi infrastructure, dedicated mains spur, balanced mains, fuses, rhodium-plated plugs, superior power-cables, inter-connects, 60’s NOS valves, and of course, ultrasonic cleaning. Only then you really will really hear what a genius Van Gelder was.
A thorough general review of the originals and the reissues. Thank you.
Do you think there is (in general) a difference in sound quality of a first pressing 47 West 63rd and second NY pressing of the same title?
What is your experience? Ot maybe you heard from other listeners / collectors?
You wrote about this issue in this post, but it is formulated rather cautiously.. ‘may be no audible difference’, ‘can sound as good’…
I try to make judgements that apply in the generality, though there will always be exceptions, and sometimes it varies from one title to another.
I think the biggest variation in sonics is due to where any particular copy sits between first and last off the stamper, which is unknown except possibly for test pressings and review copies, thought to be “early”, and logically, an early label variation.
I practice, where there is metalware in common, I have not found much to choose between copies with different labels.
There are some other significant factors. Lexingtons benefit from being massively heavier vinyl, some 220gm and upwards. NY pressings have often benefited from less wear and tear as tonearm tracking weight reduced, causing less damage.
Apart from that, I haven’t found any consistent advantage from being 47W63rd 1st press over NY label later pressing, or NY over early Liberty. Condition is often king, though there is much sentiment over being “original/1st press”
The fall off is most marked when the lineage to Van Gelder masters was broken, pressing started to be carried out at other plants around the US (later Liberty) and overseas, re-mastered from a copy tape.
In this interesting review I am missing the French and English Vogue pressings of 25 cm Blue Note releases. For my ears they sound as good as their US counterparts. Anyone with a different opinion?
I cannot corroborate these findings. To my ears, the chasm of improvement on the new Music Matters (45s and 33s) is huge. Mind you, the improvement is only there on high resolution, modern audiophile hi-fis. Specifically, the frequency range is more balanced, the bass goes deeper, the highs more detailed and less hashy, and everything more dynamic. My originals sound, for lack of better terms, “shouty” and “pinched” on modern audiophile equipment.
No problem, you hear what you hear, I hear what I hear, there is no reason why they should be the same. We both have a different ears, different rig, and a different listening history. I would be surprised if it resulted in the same opinion.
People want certainty, x is better than y, in a world where there isn’t any. All you have is someone’s opinion based on their unique experience. It doesn’t necessarily replicate.
My Blue Note originals – over 100 – you call shouty and pinched – to me are balanced, exciting and vibrant. I have no problem with people having a different experience. If that is how it sounds to you, who can argue? No-one else knows what you hear.
I would encourage people to listen and decide for themselves.
very well said. best to playback on one”s system then decide whats best for one’s ears
I would think that is a good assessment of the RVG over the audiophile re-pressings of MM and Classic, it has been said many times that MM heard the tapes and looked to make as faithful a transfer of the music on the tape, whereas RVG had the goal, which is noted right on the tape boxes of re-engineering the records to have a big bump in the presence range, and cuts at both 50 Hz and 15 kHz. This equalization of the tapes on records would give exactly the sound you are hearing, “shouty” and rolled off on the frequency extremes.
Dear LJC how about a new empire state building of Blue note quality, taking into account 75 th Anniversary, 304 South Park, and breaking down differences between, MM 33, 45, Quiet SCV, Mosaic, BN connesseur series and perhaps some breakdown or Japanese era pressings. FYI, here is a new pressing of BN for you. At a local shop i saw an album by Lou Donald called I “I won’t cry anymore”. Close observation told me it was a pressing of Swing and Soul BN 1566 with good awful cover, but, clean and $10. The label is Sunset ..Jazz Archives series..from Liberty UA. Label and Vinyl quality and weight almost exactly the same as Black Blue Los Angeles BN. Later when i played it at home I was definitely transported into that Hackensack living room.
Thank you, I can only agree it is time for revision.
Having travelled this direction over six years, with many changes in equipment that offer a different perspective on the fidelity of all these editions. I insist on comparative listening sessions. It is no good saying x is great unless you take the time and have some relevant comparators.
Up near the top of the panoramic view must be the MM33s. I find they are in a different league to their predecessors. On other audiophile, I have a couple of Classic Records 200gm and frankly they are disappointing, lacklustre.
The Japanese are all over the place. Though I used to think many are very good, I keep coming across editions that are terribly weak, rolled off top end, flabby bass, slow and unengaging. There are new bright spots, like the Toshiba LNJ series early, which are sonically very satisfying, and then there are recent Toshiba which are rubbish. Whilst King, Toshiba and Victor are generally consistently good, Ive been very let down by everything Polydor, and Tcheiuku are inconsistent.
Who’d be a vinyl detective? As they say, it’s complicated. It will take time.
OK I am trying to place all my BN albums, mostly reissues, of where they fall in the pantheon. I have one that is baffling me…Lee Morgan 1541, obviously a reissue… About 200 GM vinyl, the label is an exact duplicate of the 767 Lexington Ave. with deep groove.
Cover even says for a complete catalog write to ankle note at 767 Lexington ….
Below is…..courtesy of Blue Note, A division of Capitol records Inc., under license from EMI -Capitol music special markets.
0n the original side I do have Blue note 1549 Cliff Jordan. With 47 west 63rd, New York 23
RVG hand etching, p ear, BN-LP-1549-A. Obviously original Blue note. Would this be a first pressing? Or would it need the 767 Lexington address?
Again thanks so much! I have now reorganized my 700 album jazz collection by label!
That 1541 is a Classic Records reissue from about 10 years ago:
Last Lexington was 1543. Your 1549: 1st issue is 47W63 New York 23, flat edge, laminated cover with blank spine. If you have all those, you are blessed with good fortune. A copy of each original label in 1500 series is here
Mr. LJC, Thanks for your reply. Since finding your site a couple weeks ago, I become obsessed, I’ve been buying vinyl since teenager almost 40 yrs ago. Maybe 2500 total with 700 jazz. I’ve kind of followed the music and musicians more than then the labels and pressings. But now I see the light. I buy from record stores, thrift shops and garage sales. The most I’ve ever payed is this weeks purchase of Sonny Clark, Cool Strutting on KING JP, $40 that you made me buy. Fantastic by the way. I am little discouraging to go through the Blue note section …70 albums….only 5 original and about 20 liberty. Yes some scorpios and some DMM. I’m listening critically to everything. I actually really like 2 DMMs, The Jazz Messangers at Caffe Bohemia, Vol 1, maybe the fact that it was a live recording and might have been a little flat to begin with? I’ve never heard the original. I also really like the Elvin a Jones 1969 Polycurrents. The brightness of DMM seems to work well with all those drums. How does it compare with the original?
My albums are quite varried with most of the other labels fairly well represented..with original from prestige, Riverside, Impulse, etc. to Bethlehem to Candid to much west coast Jazz…As I live near San Francisco.I have a number of labels and variations ..world pacific, Crown, lighthouse, ,, Revue, Fantasy, etc. that I don’t see listed your site. Interested in photographs? I’m a professional photographer and winemaker….
Thanks Again, Reid Yalom
What about the new ones they are releasing now?
I recently picked up three of the Connoisseur Series Capitol Blue Notes from the 1990s. Whether these were entirely analogue is unclear. I bought them because they were titles I’d not seen elsewhere as Japanese editions or Liberty etc – Tina Brooks’ True Blue, Blowing in from Chicago and Shorter’s All Seeing Eye. They were cheap – £7 to £12 and were promo copies so I’d hope are best quality. To me, they compare very favourably to the Japanese reissues. They strike me as a decent alternative to current expensive audiophile editions.
Does it have a “WALLY” in the deadwax? My Conn series sound really good compared to the 304 parks
Yes they all have ‘Wally’ and ‘Mastered by Capitol’ in the deadwax and are thick 180 gram vinyl. I believe he (Trautgott) did the mastering for the vinyl editions while the CD editions may have been mastered by someone else. They were marketed as being ‘mastered from the original tapes’ etc. They are recognisable by a different catalogue system – the numbers seem to begin with a 2. That rather spoils the covers in terms of looking like an original but has the benefit of distinguishing them from the other reissues on ebay. The sound is much more like the Japanese reissues than the fulsome sonics of originals but for about £10 I am more than pleased (although of course I don’t have any like-for-like comparisons to make).
For the life of me, I have lost every single bid on Freddie Redd/Jackie Mclean the Connection for the last three years. I just purchased a Conn Series for $11. Until I get Lucky….
how does that Conn series sound?
Don’t know yet. I’m in the process of moving across the country to Colorado so I’m at my Folk home. My other Conn Series sounded O.K but of course, no where near the originals. I see it as a good substitute especially if you have a audio system that can squeeze everything out of the grooves.
Connection is hard to find. I might suggest the Freddie Redd Box Set on Mosaic from the original masters. It is the entire Blue Note Sessions plus some unreleased music. With Jackie Mclean and Tina Brooks on all three sessions, it is an under the radar treasure.
I too recently picked up “The Connection” as a Conn reissue, this was at the same time as picking up a handful of Kings. The Conn sounds very good, but does not have the fullness or body that the Kings have, it definitely sounds more digital-like. The Kings sounded great to amazing, and compared very well to my Liberty RVGs, which was a bit of a surprise, I would have assumed the KIngs would have sounded better, not on par with, the RVG Libertys.
Based on the impossible cost of originals of those titles, an alternative is the only option. Interesting observation on Connoisseur Series. I have read similar comments, though I have no first hand experience of them.
I confess to an original for the Shorter, but the others are a Japanese and a French, neither of which are stellar.
This site never ceases to gratify or edify! Thanks again for imparting this knowledge…. 🙂
I had one question, and it’s probably been asked many times recently, but I did not find an answer so posing it to the experts here.
Does anyone here have any experience (good or bad) with the recent Blue Note 75 series of re-issues? At the time of my writing this (May 27th), one of my all time favorite albums, “Song for My Father” is being released as part of this effort. I recently purchased an original mono release of said album in average condition but for 20 bucks, I am tempted to double dip….. and pick up a few other titles, if they are good.
If these are CD’s remastered to LP’s I am definitely not interested….I have had some unfortunate experience in that area too! 😦
There is a 16 page thread over on on Hoffman about these Blue Note 75 releases
The comment that seems to come up again and again is “sound great to my ears”, which is some degree of reassurance – some people like them – though of course you don’t know what those people’s points of reference are.
I like Italian Prosecco, which I prefer to Spanish Cava, but I don’t think either are as good as French Champagne, especially a top marque. Someone comes along and declares “I think Cava tastes great”. They are happy with it, I am sure they are, does that mean you will? Without a context, I count this as “non-transferable knowledge”. Lot of it around on the internet.
The only way you will know if it sounds good to your ears is by experiencing one for yourself.
What is slightly worrying is the number of reported production defects (non-fill issues and such) One I saw the other week in a second hand store in London apparently had bowl curvature – it wasn’t flat. No excuse for that.
If you don’t mind, I am going to use that Prosecco-Cava reference in every future argument I have on quality and context 😀
Jokes apart, thanks for the response. I see your point and although I don’t have too many reference points, I do have a few and they have already set a high standard (I have a beat up copy of Blue Train that sounds way better than a supposedly better 180 gram reissue!!)
Unfortunately many of these 75th Anniversary LP’s do have digital in the chain. I won’t be picking any of these up due to that and hearing many mixed reviews.
LJC is precisely right where you have no idea what the points of reference are for those listening to them. If they had perhaps only heard CD versions or downloads of MP3’s then yes, these probably will sound better. But if those guys have heard original copies or even early Liberty pressings then I imagine there would be no contest. I could be wrong, but that’s my hunch.
If you want to get some crispy clean re-issues then go for some of the new 33rpm Music Matters LP’s. I have actually bought 4 of them since they came out and all of them are excellent. They don’t have the same vibe as the originals which is fine. But they do seem to be doing a good job of capturing what is most likely the sound of the original master tapes which is their goal. Sometimes it’s nice to have both.
What I’ve been able to glean from various reviews is they “sound great for what they are.” Meaning, they were not meant to be fetish-audiophile products, but nice, inexpensive reissues of hard to find and often expensive records. In other words, it appears they sound pretty good for $20.
Thanks David. I did not know MM had reissues in the 33rpm format. I had only come across the pricey 45 rpm ones. Will look it up.
Joe – that’s kinda what I figured. The price point is not too bad to “experiment”. Some of the titles here are tempting since I don’t have them in any decent format.
So, David, you would recommend the new MM reissues? I have heard there will be only a few reissues, not the whole catalog. I am trying to decide between the 33 1/3 reissues and tracking down used early Liberty’s in the same price range, what would your preference be? Thanks!
I love them I can afford them.
Hey LJC, doth mine eyes deceive me or did you get rid of that great Empire State graphic you used to have up to show varying audio quality of the different BN eras? Loved that graphic and sad if it’s no longer with us….
Graphic reinstated Bob, updated for my current impressions.
The biggest change has been a re-assessment of the late ’70’s UA beige gatefold two-fers. With a couple of exceptions, these rediscovered RVG recordings are a delight, I don’t know how I could have got it so wrong. A few are iffy I think because the original recording was not up to scratch, but mostly these are pure pleasure.
Also I’ll nail my colours to the mast about the early Liberty pressings with no ear – first class.
“Modern audiophile” earn very few points, an opinion based on very limited examples. Why would I want to buy more?
Your mileage may vary. My opinions have changed with improvements in my hifi.
Thank you kindly, sir. Glad to see the graphic make a return!
The sound quality on those early Liberties is great. My problem with Liberty is the vinyl quality is all over the place. I have some that play dead silent like minty Plastylites and others that are crackly even though appear unplayed.
Agreed: life would be simple if things were consistent – consistently good, or consistently bad, but a lot of editions are all over the place, depending on the title or even sample. I have been searching without success for the quality divining rod, but it is ever elusive. Nowadays I am more philosophical: elation and disappointment are an inevitable part of collecting.
I do test my own assumptions from time to time – for example, about the 80’s Capitol Manhatten Blue Notes recently, which I reckoned to be the worst Blue Notes on vinyl ever produced. I gave one a second chance recently (an Andrew Hill), and it turned out awful, far worse than my original assessment, plumbed new depths. Cuscuna and RVG put their names to it, which suggests to me they never sat and listened to the final product that reached the customer’s turntable.
The only way to be sure the record is at fault is to have ultrasonic cleaning done. Sometimes, several baths are needed. I have been confounded by records that appear fine, but play with noise. A friend cleaned them using the ultrasonic method. The results are outstanding! Don’t give up on your collection until all remedies have been applied.
Sound advice. I routinely set my Ultrasonic to the maximum five cycles. Why would anyone want other than the maximum cleaning? Time is cheap. However before that, I brush my fingers gently with the grooves, turning by hand under an LED spot. You can often feel specs of grit wedged in a groove, commonly half a dozen each side, each the source of a single click. Even the ultrasonic often fails to dislodge these “welded in” specs, but a fingernail will. Having broken the first rule of vinyl, don’t touch the grooves, into the ultrasonic she goes.
It is a bit like having a hand-finish at the carwash. Combination can yeild good results.
Very nicely written. Years of research and thought went into that summation.
You are a godsend. Preach on, brother! Cuz you are speaking the truth, straight up and down. Quick question: I understand that Prestige used different pressing plants, but do you feel that Van Gelder masters on Prestige are typically inferior to Plastylite Blue Notes? I personally feel like sonically, a Van Gelder is a Van Gelder, be it Blue Note or Prestige.
I you’re asking our esteemed host, but, to my ears, they sound the same (gloriously, the same).
I concur that this is an absolute fantastic post our fearless leader made. Lots of deep, well thought out insights.
Regarding Van Gelder Blue Note vs. Prestige (or any other label), I feel like there is a difference. The Blue Note Plastylites seems to have a smooth, natural balance that the others do not. The instruments seems to shine a bit more. Many of the Prestige records seem to sound a slight bit more grungy. In a way, that can add character and it’s nice that not everything sounds exactly like Plastylite Blue Notes for variety.
For what it’s worth, I would say I collect Blue Notes, but I also listen to all labels that have wonderful music. Blue Note more often than not is just what’s found on the turntable!