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reeks1
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How can I guarantee I'm getting a great recording?

I've been a jazz fan for years, but only very recently purchased a mid-fi system(NAD C372 amp, NAD C542 CD player, Vandersteen 1 C speakers. LOVE it!) Anyway, after doing nothing but downloading music for the last few years, I venture back into the good 'ol cd store and grab a few jazz cd's, problem is, some sound like sh%$T!
I've got the classics: Kind of Blue, Ultimate Blue Train, Giant Steps, etc., and they sound phenomenal. But I just bought a Sonny Rollins album (Saxophone Colussus) and a Charlie Parker, that only sound ok. I also bought a 2 CD compilation of Ray Charles singing some blues which sounded like bad am radio.

When shopping for CD's, is there any indicator of audiophile recording quality aside from the "20 bit remastered" stuff I see? I just don't want to buy albums that don't sound great on my system.

Thanks in advance

Jeff Wong
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Re: How can I guarantee I'm getting a great recording?

That's a tough one, because different masterings of the same album can be very different sounding. 20 bit remasters are not always a seal of approval. Some might have better depiction of instrumental timbre because better ADCs were used than the older versions, but, they might be ruined by an overuse of noise reduction or compression.

I've got Saxophone Colossus in at least 4 different CD versions and 3 different LP versions (NY & NJ originals and DCC reissue.) As far as CD, I find I enjoy Steve Hoffman's DCC mastering the most, but, it's not an exact transfer of the master tape. His commentary on working with Rudy Van Gelder tapes:

"His stuff is the only analog tape that requires us to cut with a special fail-safe technique to keep the cutting amplifiers from burning out because of that out-of-control high frequency oscillation. It's a real pain and his are the only tapes I have ever run across with that problem in 23 years. Weird, eh?"

From what I've read, SH uses a bit of artistic license when it comes to mastering. I have mixed feelings about this approach, but, his discs sound consistently good.

The 2nd JVC XRCD might be closer to a flat transfer. I like XRCDs, but, they can sound a bit bright.

I've got at least 5 versions of Way Out West on CD (one original mono LP), and none are the same -- a few are close enough that I wouldn't want to do a blind test on them if a gun was held to my head.

Which version of Saxophone Colossus did you buy, and what about it bothered you?

Some albums are great because of their music content, but, they are audiophile dogmeat. Do you have a list of what albums you're curious about? There are members here with extensive libraries and might have thoughts to share.

You could check past February issues of Stereophile for selections listed in their R2D4 feature. You could search the archives at the Steve Hoffman forums where members obsess over sound quality to the nth degree, although I think a large number of them slavishly poo poo new versions of CDs without weighing all of the factors.

jazzfan
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Re: How can I guarantee I'm getting a great recording?

I believe that Jeff's response was very good although I might have said things just a little bit differently, kind of something like the music will always come first. But none the less, the sound quality is always a factor whether we like to admit it or not and bad sound can make for a bad listening experience regardless the quality of the music.

That's one of the main reasons I personally despise those great sounding audiophile recordings of somewhat questionable musical merit. Why can't the recordings of great musical merit all sound like that? Ah but there's the rub.

Best advice is by word of mouth and a good network of resources. Chances are many of the better sounding of your iTunes downloads will also sound even better as uncompressed CDs. Try starting there and see what happens. Also check the past posts on this forum for lists of recommended jazz CDs since I'm sure that there were a few threads about good quality jazz recordings posted on this forum.

RGibran
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Re: How can I guarantee I'm getting a great recording?

Kinda hard to believe that any of the versions of that disc just sound "OK"!

The Man is "In Da House"!

RG

reeks1
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Re: How can I guarantee I'm getting a great recording?

I actually bought the RVG remaster of Saxophone Colussus, and I've heard about his unique approaches or whatever it is that he does. It sound good, but not nearly as good as my Take Five or Wes Montgomery's Finest Hour.

I'm learning new stuff every day. I had no idea that different versions of the same album could sound different!!

Who is that other guy that you mentioned in your post? What exactly does he do, and how can I get a hold of his remastered cd's?

I will look back at former posts as well.

Thanks again.

Jeff Wong
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Re: How can I guarantee I'm getting a great recording?

Ah, yes... the albums redone by Rudy Van Gelder have caused quite a stir, much of it negative. His stereo versions of some classic albums sound like weird, wide, diffused mono. I haven't heard the RVG version of Saxophone Colossus. That's a mono album... I wonder what he might've done to that...

Steve Hoffman is a mastering engineer who has done impressive reissues. He's a big believer in using tube gear and not against some judicious EQ (something I question from a purist point of view, but, cannot argue after listening to the results.) One label he did a lot of stuff for was DCC. Those will all be out of print at this point in time. You'll have to check eBay and be prepared to pay a premium. I'm sorry I didn't buy all of his Miles Davis Quintet gold discs. I have the XRCDs, but, I don't think the high frequency oscillation was addressed.

Steve Hoffman's site:

http://www.stevehoffman.tv/

Steve Hoffman's forums:

http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/

As far as what Ralph was saying... even though I talk about different pressings, music coming first is always a given. 90% of my record collection is not audiophile approved. But, that doesn't mean it's pointless to seek out the best available version.

jazzfan
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Re: How can I guarantee I'm getting a great recording?


Quote:
As far as what Ralph was saying... even though I talk about different pressings, music coming first is always a given. 90% of my record collection is not audiophile approved. But, that doesn't mean it's pointless to seek out the best available version.

Quite true Jeff but you just get obsessive about it

I try to quit while I'm still ahead (not that I always succeed, but I try).

kana813
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Re: How can I guarantee I'm getting a great recording?

Main problem I've encountered is the over use of compression.

Not much you can do about it with a standard CDP, other than burn a CDR and adjust the levels.

One of the nice features of the Slim Devises SB3, is you can lower the digital output level via the remote, if you're using an external DAC or processor.

BTW, here's a great website for free Jazz downloads: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/

AndyT
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Re: How can I guarantee I'm getting a great recording?

I'm not much of a romantic about the old days and LPs. It does seem as though many more recent jazz re-reissues have acquired the same shortcomings that pop CDs have had for a while now. But I have bought plenty of mediocre sounding LPs over the years too.

I think sometimes the original recordings aren't much to start with. My guess is that's the case with most of the Charlie Parker I have, for example. But in general, I think recordings of any type are just mass production consumer goods with the quality that implies.

My priority is to buy great performances and be thankful for the ones that sound really good. Buy the latest edition of the All Music Guide to Jazz for a reference if you're not sure what you want to get next.

Try Mosaic Records for some better sounding classic jazz recordings.

You might also see if your local library has any jazz that you're interested in. If so, check it out and see what you think of the recording. If you like the sound, you'll know what version to shop for.

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