SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Miles Davis Sextet – Someday My Prince Will Come – Columbia Records Legacy Recordings – mono vinyl
Miles Davis – Milestones – Columbia Records/ Legacy Recordings – mono vinyl

Two great Miles Davis classics on reissued vinyl - but why in mono when stereo masters are available?

Published on April 15, 2013

Miles Davis Sextet – Someday My Prince Will Come – [TrackList follows] Columbia Records Legacy Recordings audiophile mono 180gr. vinyl CL 1656 (No. 1215) **:

(Miles Davis/Hank Mobley/Wynton Kelly/Paul Chambers/Jimmy Cobb)

Here are two more mono audiophile reissues on vinyl of albums recorded in stereo and much superior in that form, whether on vinyl or digital media. Three Miles Davis collectible titles are being released on mono vinyl on the 20th of this month (the third is ‘Round About Midnight”) in support of Record Store Day and independent record retailers nationwide. The first of these albums is available in a three-channel SACD from Analogue Productions, mastered from the original three-channel tapes of the 1961 session. In order to make more fair comparison, I used the two-channel stereo option on the SACD to compare with the new vinyl disc.

Miles sounds great as usual on the vinyl, with his sophisticated variations on the Disney tune and the rest of the half-dozen tracks. This was his successor to Sketches of Spain, but there’s little connection between the two albums. But the very highest frequencies of his trumpet are not there, and the other five players on the session sound way in the background rather than spaced out across the stereo stage.  As various soloists come up, such as pianist Wynton Kelly, the same effect is repeated with the rest of the sextet. On the SACD each of the soloists is dead center, and of course with the three-channel version, it’s even more so. The mono vinyl puts Kelly’s piano right on top of Miles, whereas on the SACD he is off to the left and Miles is at center as it should be. Can’t imagine who would prefer the mono vinyl.

TrackList:  Someday My Prince Will Come, Old Folks, Pfrancing, Drad-Dog, Teo, I Thought About You.


Miles Davis – Milestones [TrackList follows] – Columbia Records/ Legacy Recordings audiophile mono 180gr. vinyl CL 1193 (No. 1643) **:

(Miles Davis, trumpet; Cannonball Adderley, alto sax; John Coltrane, tenor sax; Red Garland, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums)

The tune “Milestones,” heard in two different takes on this disc, was just as important in making modality a feature of modern jazz as was the more famous Kind of Blue. There are also additional alternate takes of two of the other tracks on this CD, which the vinyl version does not have. By the way, this is a standard stereo CD—not a SACD—but in my A/B comparisons I heard almost as noticeable a contrast between the two media as with the Someday My Prince release. The Columbia CD, like so many releases, says absolutely nothing about whether it is mono or stereo, but the Mobile Fidelity version of it is marked monaural, which is wrong. It’s stereo, with the piano on the left and drums on the right.

The CD has more high end details and especially a strong feeling of the ambience of the studio, which is completely missing on the mono vinyl. Chambers’ doublebass seem to envelop everything on the mono version, rather than just being a member of the sextet, as on the CD. Having the players spread out a bit on the stereo stage is so much more enjoyable than all crowded together at the center. And then there’s those three additional tracks which you don’t get on the vinyl. Pricing on these Legacy monos seems to be less than the SACD version on Mobile Fidelity (which oddly is also mono) but more than the stereo CD. Perhaps with one of these new even-more-expensive mono-only moving coils and an even more expensive turntable system than I have, this mono vinyl might sound a bit better, but I doubt it. I did notice that switching my preamp to Full Mono instead of Direct on my turntable, made the disc sound even worse. (Milestones will be reissued by Mobile Fidelity on April 30th in a vinyl version.)

TrackList:  Dr. Jekyll, Sid’s Ahead, Two Bass Hit, Milestones, Billy Boy, Straight No Chaser.

—John Henry




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