higher end jazz vinyl: where to turn?

I'm a lifelong jazz listener but only new to entry-level hifi, as presently marketed--by which I mean Rega p3-24 turntable, Linn Classik amp, Vienna Acoutics Mozart Grand Speakers, and a lot of heart.

Anyway I have a choice set of old ECM records, Miles Davis records, and so forth, that I bought in the early 1980s. Most of them have some noise and crackle now and again--which I largely discount as the distinguished marks of age and memory. Nonetheless a clean sweet classic jazz LP played at substantial volume, even through a low midfi system like mine, is a beautiful thing. Beauty is a rare thing, I read somewhere. And it makes me wonder about upgrading the vinyl.

So here are questions:
1. Are these $50 classic content and such rereleases of Blue Notes really so good? Including worth the effort of getting up and turning the 45 over in middle of a strong Coltrane solo-a double indignity, to a genius and to the lazy.

2. What to say of all these 180g and 200g re-releases at higher prices versus the $10-20 unopened recent copy meant for mass market (or as massy as the jazz list allowed/allows)?

3. I'm using Disc Doctor record cleaners on my old and newer vinyl, but wonder how great the different is to move to a machine, say vpi 165?

4. I'm just a poor righteous teacher so I'm a bargain hunter: an Inexpensive Audiophile down with the feel of the Expensive Winos aestheticist mentality.

5. Thanks!
I had a Rega P-3 for almost 20 years, great TT, should keep you happy for a while.. yes if you can get the VPI 16.5 record cleaner, good step up and you will hear the difference.. also recommend the 'Hot Stamper' guy's record cleaning "Disc Docter" fluid he is a dealer for.. that stuff really works and works well on my VPI... your old records will never sound better. AND I rarely have to clean the sylus anymore. For Records.. Buy ECM titles that are pressed in Germany if possible. they are better. I have mixed results with the newer pressings on 180 grams... some are good, some so-so... I find in general that the ORIGINAL 1st pressings of any title from country of origin (usually using 1st generation tapes) will sound best.. some MFSL titles are good, some have exaggerated high end and missing lower midrange warmth. For Jazz, I've had good results with the classic records but have not tried those real expensive 45 rpm jobs.
I just bought on a lark a 180 gram pressing of Weather Report's Heavy Weather by Legacy/Sony... IT SUCKS.. my UK pressing and Holland pressing mop the floor with it...
I do buy records on EBAY and from Music Direct. Also from whatever local used record stores I can find.
The 45 rpm Music Matters and Analogue Productions Blue Note reissues are sonically excellent. The packaging of the Music Matters is exceptional. IMO, they are worth the money and yes, it's worth it to get up twice as often.
The best investment you can make is a proper wet vacuum record cleaning machine. It's a must if you buy used vinyl. You will abolish almost all of the crackle and pop. Suddenly all of your old 50s and 60s recordings will sound much better.

I love jazz too and watch live jazz at least once a month (you can see some of my jazz photos on my website). You will be very surprised how good your old LPs will be with a proper wash. Buy any one of the following VPI 16.5, Okki Nokki, Moth. Beware they are noisy, but you only have to turn the vacuum on for about 20 secs at a time. The high end cleaners are great as they're quieter, but their cleaning abilities are not much better than the cheap ones.

Good luck,

If you plan on doing any significant amount of Jazz record collecting, a record vac is the difference between the annoying crackle and dead silent or near dead silent records. You don't need to go crazy spending money on this. While I have a Loricraft today (and that makes sense given the size and value of my collection) I started with a homemade vac which could do a significant portion of what the Loricraft can do and cost almost nothing. If you are interested, let me know I will give you details or search the web for many plans. VPI is a good choise as well but more expensive.
If you are near central CT, I can give you the names of some excellent used jazz record shops.
I agree with Topoxforddoc. If your old vinyl isn't scratched and just snapping and crackling, a proper record cleaning will solve that issue for you. If a semi auto RCM is out of the question $$$ wise, get a manual Spin Clean kit for $75.00. Using that device alone will make a great improvement in your old vinyl. You can also get the Disk Doctor brushes with a good record cleaning solution and manually scrub them and use the Spin Clean as a rinser. (Fill it with distilled water). You would then dry off the records with a micro-fibre cloth and let them sit out in the air for 30 minutes so that they are completely dry before putting them back in a "New" inner sleeve.
Yep. Your original post indicates that you need a way to deep clean your records.

To answer the second question, I've listened to part of Analogue Productions' reissue of Nat King Cole's "After Midnight," recorded in 1955. It is one of the most stunning "in-the-room" recordings I've ever heard, especially for a 56-year-old recording.

I have jazz reissues from WaxTime, Speakers Corner, ORG, and Classic Records. They've all been good-to-outstanding. I especially like the Speakers Corner reissues for jazz as well as the Diana Krall ones on ORG. As good as they are, I'd put the 45 rpm pressings from Analogue Productions a notch above that.

I need to get a Spin Clean myself. I just played a Buddy Rich album a couple days ago that crackled throughout. For all the things that have been reissued on vinyl, no one has reissued Buddy's six albums recorded on Pacific Jazz from 1966-70. Pacific Jazz is owned by EMI. But then, their record with Beatles reissues isn't that great either.
I have had the best luck buying jazz LPs from used record stores and on Ebay. In my experience, early releases of jazz LPs (not limited to the original pressings) almost always sound better than recent reissues, and I am including the "audiophile" pressings that are the rage these days. The new reissues certainly sound cleaner and there isn't the inner groove distortion that you often find with used records, but they just aren't as much fun to listen to. For whatever reason. Other folks have strong feelings on the opposite side so ultimately you have to make up your own mind. Just buy a few reissues and a few older copies, and decide for yourself.
Thanks for responses, folks! Lots of good food for thought here. And I can afford to do research.

I am really struck by the general enthusiasm for record vacuum cleaners like the vpi 16.5, but I'm curious if there's a useful mid-point between those big machines and my non-mechanical method with the disc doctor cleaner and brushes, very soft towels, and tlc. And, of course, there's nowhere to 'test-drive' these units near me (in Ann Arbor Michigan: home of great Encore Records), so far as I know.

On the issue of identifying the better (even the best) pressings of ECM: are there easy markers for this on the jacket or LP? I find myself buying these on ebay and all I have to go on are distant pictures of cover (for condition) and a claim about vg, nm, and m.

On the issue of 180g reissues: I feel kind of burned, as I bought an Impulse 180g Coltrane BALLADS last week and it was, um, not a truly flat record. It plays fine, but there is an up and down wave to the motion. (Hypnotic in the right state, perhaps.) I contacted the seller and they haven't written back (perhaps because I didn't demand a refund, which they probably would have given). Moreover, there were a few crackles and pops on this brand new album! Right out of the gate you must color me cautious about guaranteed quality of 180g or 200g reissues. Then I find the $40-50 versions from some sellers (twice the price of general 180g vinyl) and wonder what that mark-up signifies regarding quality.
To answer your question (from someone who has cleaned thousands of records) "We could all wish it wasn't so, but there is no substitute for a good RCM".
I have six different 180 grams Impulse reissues of Coltrane's stuff, including "Ballads" and they are ALL are warped. I personally think it's disgusting. If I didn't have a ring, I wouldn't even dare play them with my Delos it's so bad. I keep buying them because they are relatively cheap under $20 and the music is out of this world. However, if you're looking for quality, look elsewhere. Speakers Corner's and Analogue Productions' releases are superb in my experience. MoFi stuff is not bad either, but not as good as the two mentioned, and their jazz catalog is rather limited. If you like Art Pepper, "The Way It Was" is more than worth the $30 sticker price.

There's a world of difference between manual cleaning and a vacuum system. The problem about a manual clean is that you loosen up all the crud in the grooves, wipe it round and then just leave it to dry out again into the grooves! If you're serious about vinyl, a RCM is THE best investment AND upgrade you can ever make.

I began buying the expensive re-issues but found that several stores in my area are almost giving away original jazz pressings. I've bought several unopened jazz records including blue note for $3.99 and hundreds of NM LP's for $1.00. Search craigslist too. At these prices getting an occasional bad copy isn't a big deal.
I wonder though about the record cleaning machines and quality-price ratio amidst an entry-level hifi setup like mine (rega p3-24, elys 2 cart, linn amp, vienna speakers, audioquest cables, cambridge audio 640p preamp).

I worry about overkill (having a RCM that outruns my other gear), but I wonder about potential quantum leaps for a reasonable price.

One would think that moving up the food and price chain of gear gets to higher level of sonic desirability (certainly the on-the-take audio press would have us think that, along with the manufacturers of course). And that at some point one reaches the point of diminishing returns (in terms of quality-price ratio).

One of my favorite ideas here is to carefully buy cheap copies of popular blue note, OJC, ECM, Columbia reissues (or whatever I can find and afford) and look and listen for the best ones. At this point I'm more interesting in listening and learning than in finding pristine covers and originals. Though the piano on the Blue Notes I have is usually thin, and as a pianist I lament that. Perhaps Rudy didn't make the piano so "hot" as a rule? I suppose this is part of the long-lost sonic magic recovered by the "music matters" 45 versions.

I'm happy to hear some distrust of the 180g reissues, since I'd rather not overpay for flimsy warped records. I will approach those tentatively.

I'm desirous of the $50 deluxe classics, but not there yet (my wife would freak at those prices, and rightly so, in a household of teachers). One doesn't find them on used market much. And hot stampers I'll leave for the tycoons.

Above all, I've been enjoying the sonic power of Miles Davis reissues from mid-1960s, like NEFERTITI and MILES SMILES. These are stunning works of art, beautifully recorded. I feel that I am doing right by these great artists to play them on a decent rig at last. After upgrading to a Rega Apollo cd player a while back, I thought I could hold off on the return to vinyl--but I got hooked anyway. And of course ECM in the 1970s and 1980s is a garden of delight for audiophiles with a taste for that singular mix of AACM frothiness (think Lester Bowie) and frosty Northern delight (think Steve Tibbets), as long as one can countenance the cathedral-style reverb that add considerable wetness (perhaps counteracted by extremely close miking).

Forget about the comparison between the cost of the RCM and your system. It's more to do with the ratio of the cost between the RCM and your entire record collection. I agree that many original 50s and 60s pressings are fabulous SQ wise and will not be significantly bettered by expensive modern remasters. Economically you don't have to save yourself buying many $50 deluxe reissues to pay for a RCM which will benefit your entire record collection both now and in the future.


If you read some other threads on Audiogon and AudioAsylum, you will see that there are different views about the necessity and value of record cleaning. A certain minority (including myself) believe that record cleaning is not nearly as important as others claim. And I have a Loricraft with a lot of different cleaning fluids to choose from, so it's not as if I haven't given RCMs a fair shot.

In my opinion, if you are buying new and good condition used records, a RCM is useful but not essential to your enjoyment of records. Just think about this. Virtually no one cleaned records back before 1980 or so. Did people back then enjoy playing their LPs? Absolutely. Now, if you get heavily into the used record scene, you will quickly find that a lot of people did not take proper care of their records, and for those records a RCM can be very useful. But for new or good condition used records, having a RCM at your disposal is more a luxury than a necessity. Just my opinion.
Paanders - Check out KAB Electroacoustic for a very affordable record cleaning machine. Basically Nitty Gritty in the essentials but manual spin and you provide the vacuum. High Value:$ ratio in my opinion. Also, check out threads here on Steam Cleaning and consider use of Audio Intelligent products (enzymatic cleaner and neutralizer). Buying used can be great. Old pressings that came from large production runs back in the day can sound better/cleaner than modern day limited run audiophile pressings.
Salectric is correct. If you limit yourself to new LP's, an RCM will not necessarily be essential. I disagree with the comment that because people accepted uncleaned records in the past, that means they were just fine. We all grew up with noisy records but accepted it because we didn't know any better. I have thousands of records from the 50's and 60's and I assure you, nobody from those decades heard them like I am hearing them today.
If you limit yourself to new reissues you will be paying premium price and face the warpage / quality issues you have heard mentioned here. If you search for good quality original used LP's you can find many for far less that are far better in sound quality and repay the cost of your RCM many times over - up to you!
Following up on Ghosthouse's suggestion above, does anyone have experience with KAB Electro Acoustic's EV-1.

Their website says the product is Nitty Gritty type (Lexan top plate) with manual record turning attached to your own external home vacuum cleaner hose. I like the $160 price tag a lot.
Music Matters is putting out some great stuff as well as Analog Productions. I would also look at the Japanese market. Some of the older Blue Notes are more affordable, as well as some newer releases. They sound pretty nice also.

I think all records should be cleaned. Just because it is new does not mean it will be clean of all debris from being pressed. I just opened a couple of Friday Music and some other albums that looked like thay were handled by someone with gloves that had traces of talc powered on them or dusty hands. You could see the hand outline across the album. They looked like crap. Once cleaned all was well.

Get a VPI 16.5 to clean your records it is a nice machine for the money. I have no problems with mine. IMHO.
Paanders, I'm not familiar with the KAB unit, other than knowing he has a very good reputation for what he sells.

More than 25 years ago I bought a Nitty Gritty, their least expensive model which was manual. It did a very fine job of cleaning. Some years later I upgraded to a VPI because I wanted an automated machine. Does it clean any better? Possibly, but I would not say for sure. If cost is truly an issue, do a search for DIY machines. Several folks have reported satisfaction with those on line.

And I also have a different opinion from Salectric on cleaning 30 years ago. As someone already pointed out, we accepted "noisy" records then because we didn't know how different it could be.

Yes, a RCM will be more important for used records than new. But given the pricing for reissues, which records are you likely to buy in any number? And what about a year later when those new records are no longer new and have been played several times?
I've owned a KAB EV1 for about 5 years now and have cleaned probably 5000 records with it. I have no desire to "upgrade" to anything else and I've had records cleaned on a Monks in the past.

Effective record cleaning is as much about technique and quality of fluids used as the RCM which really only sucks the fluid off the record. While machines like the Loricraft and Monks would seem to have a technical advantage, the upfront cost has never seemed to be worth it to me. Below that, any slot based or wand based RCM does exactly the same thing, including a $25 shop vac with a modified crevice tool.

The KAB is extremely high value and works very well when combined with a decent home vac.
Pregnant pause during conversation...

"A shop vac with a modified crevice tool? Against these delicate vinyl platters?"

After the shock wears off, allow the thought-experiment to continue. Where might one find or how to make a modified crevice tool?

That's what gets me, there is nothing particularly complex about the idea of vacuuming cleaning liquid, dirt, and dust from a vinyl record except for needing to have right amount of suction.

Meanwhile, can we spend some time vetting used record shops that sell jazz vinyl over internet?

For example, I bought a handful of lps super-cheap from Dusty Grooves America in Chicago--old stuff like Betty Carter and James Moody for $3 or less (!)--and they ALL sounded great. Minimal snap, crackle, pop, even before cleaning. I'm impressed at price and quality!

By contrast, I just bought a handful of records from Wattsjazz (via ebay) and they were 3x (or more) the prices I paid from Dusty Groove and are ALL noisy as hell from track one on. I'm cleaning and double-cleaning, but will then have to ask for refund, considering they were rated as VG and VG++ and they're not even close to that. What a disappointment. Maybe this was an anomalous situation; I hope so.

And finally, my local record shop--Encore Records in Ann Arbor--does a little bit on online sales, though I buy there in person. I'm shocked at how good their stuff and the prices are always at or lower than ebay stores. Kudos!

Who are the online sellers who simply won't sell "good" (noisy) records because they find that to be in bad taste?

Any internet sellers of jazz vinyl (original, reissue, contemporary) to run to or run away from? I will pay extra to deal with nice people who love and support this art form and take it seriously!
The "modified crevice tool" (lots of variations on it actually):


The KAB is a bit more elegant but the above link is interesting for those comfortable with DIY.
A shop vac with modified crevice tool is exactly what I used for many years before my Loricraft. You plug up the end of the crevice tool, cut a slot on the side with a router and use a removable adhesive to attach felt on either side of the slot so you can wipe it along the record. Any reasonable shop vac will provide way more suction than most commercial RCM's. The only issue I ever had ways pulling the "tool" off after cleaning and leaving a clean edge as the forward piece of felt would still be wet and have some residue. But it gets 80% of what a Loricraft can do. Of course my Loricraft is far quieter. I can play LP's while cleaning the next record.
"considering they were rated as VG and VG++ and they're not even close to that"

As I pointed out in another thread, those ratings are COSMETIC only. They do NOT denote playback quality.

Y'all be cool,
Well I guess now I will be writing to any potential internet seller for clarification on cosmetic condition versus playback condition.

This is ridiculous: what's the point of staring at an lp to see if it provides the nicest reflection, as in a black pond, and calling that a condition (other than narcissistic personality disorder or NPD)? Any of those sellers I will presume is a joker and not to be taken seriously by music-lovers.

Paanders, think about it, what store could possibly "play grade" (common term for sonic evaluation) the many records they buy then sell over the counter, or on line? That benefit may likely come only from private sellers with a few offerings or dealers when selling expensive, rare recordings, knowing the buyer will likely demand such.

I may guess that your experience of clean, quiet recordings from one store and noisy records from another was likely luck. It may have been that all the quiet records came from one owner who simply took better care than the average person, who knows?

The point remains that buying used records is ALWAYS a bit of a chance, and then after you've owned them and played them several times they will need cleaning again. You certainly shouldn't need to wash and vacuum after every playing but eventually you likely will. Don't spin your wheels here, find some means of wash/vac that meets your budget and go for it.

Most used record stores will only visually rate records. I usually only purchase records that are Play Rated or sealed over the internet, there are exceptions but very few. I buy from local stores if they offer a 100% money back guarantee, again with some exceptions. Some rare items in not so good condition can be marked asis if they are not asking lots of cash for them. Mono records can look bad and sound bad with a stereo cartridge but sound great with a mono cartridge. They to me are worth the risk.
It is better if I have to bring a record back to the store in my travels than to pay return shipping. Plus I may find more records to buy while I'm there.
What a vicious circle!

BTW play rated only means that they put the needle down in some areas and listen for a few seconds or they listen to the hit songs on the record to rate it by that. Not too many if any stores would do a full listen to every record they sell. This does not guaranty that their opinion is the same as yours for a VG++ record even if they did a full listen anyway. This also holds true for persons selling their private collection.

Used records are a crap shoot.
ThatÂ’s also why most stores Give little money for used records and have lots of dollar bins.
FWIW - I do use the KAB EV-1 in conjunction with DIY record cleaning fluid for initial cleaning + steam cleaning and Audio Intelligent cleaners as part of the final process. I vaccuum with the EV-1 between the various steps.
Are there any internet sellers y'all can recommend who do "play ratings" of used jazz vinyl (without going into budget-buster territory, which for me is a mere $50)?

Meanwhile, I guess everything depends on satisfaction guaranteed policies and the like.

It's funny being a neophyte getting his overdue sentimental education here. I buy used books online all the time, and the sellers always open the book and look through the pages for marks, marginalia, stains, even at the meagre $3 price point. Yes, it easy to do.

I very naively figured used record salespeople would do the same (perhaps beginning at $10 price point), otherwise these "condition ratings" really are only somewhat useful.

And to think that we are to trust NM and Mint ratings (and pay accordingly higher prices) on the precariousness of someone eyeballing a record for five seconds.

And the new 180g Coltrane lp I bought was slightly warped and with some telling crackles. Should I translate that crackling code into English as... "sucker! We pulled you back into vinyl with the sweet sounds of today's analog playback systems, and once you were up and ready, we brought back the noise...again."

So I guess this secondary theme regarding used vinyl and ratings folds back into the master theme of the necessity of vacuum RCMs and the invisible logic of luck.

Hey again Panders,

What cart do you have and which stylus profile? When playing used vinyl it is helpful to have a line contact or Shibata style stylus. It reduces the noise due the the increased contact area and not riding the bottom of the groove.

Good Luck,
I believe a good RCM makes sense if you have a large record collection or are a volume buyer of used vinyl. If you spend $2500 on an RCM and clean 2500 records, it's a $1 a record. The difference in sound quality is worth it. Your software is the most important part of your system.

What may not be worthwhile is the investment of time required to clean a large volume of vinyl.
Very few Ebay jazz sellers play grade anything. The biggest and best sellers jusy sell too many to do this. I would be crazy and the experienced sellers can tell from looking at a record what to grade it. But never buy from anyone who doesn't offer at leasy a 7 day money back guarantee.

In the end, you still need an RCM to buy used records. Don't expect even a near mint record from the 50's or 60's to sound good unil it is very carefully cleaned. Near mint doesn't mean clean.
Robob queried what cartridge and stylus I'm using for used jazz vinyl. It's a newish Elys 2 cartridge and stylus attached to Rega 301 on a p3-24 turntable. I was under impression this was a good entry-level midfi cartridge.

If you are serious about playing vinyl, a VPI or similar record cleaning machine is a must. Just accept it and do it. As for $50 records, most are wonderful, but not 3 times better than an original 50s or 60s record in its original condition, unless it has been remastered and the remastering is better than the original.
Thanks, and I was further wondering what blogs or chat sites jazz-listening audiogoners give four or five stars to.

I've found this community very well-informed about gear and used jazz vinyl, though rockers seem to dominate the music discussions.

I wish I could learn of a site where jazz folks did little reviews of cd/new vinyl comparisons. For example, Herbie Hancock's fairly recent RIVER: THE JONI LETTERS is available on cd (of course) and also vinyl (not a cheapie, though). I'm curious if anyone's heard the vinyl and can compare
I should that I think that Hancock record sounds pretty stunning on cd, already This was a first-class recording of a great set of musicians. Hancock and Shorter are really smoothing into interestingly different late styles, with Hancock moving toward well-perfumed and ornamental dramas and Shorter paring things down into angular haiku. Or at least it sounds so to me.