Ahmad Jamal's Alhambra DSD needle drop told to be one of the best hires releases more or less generally. Really?

Maybe many of you already knew, but I just recently discovered this DSD release.

I think this DSD release of Ahmad Jamal’s Alhambra of 2013 or 2015, done from a needle drop from a long out of print RTI pressed Bernie Grundman mastering released by Alto Analogue many years ago is interesting enough for a short report as it was announced by Acoustic Sounds as “among the best sounding files on our Super HiRez site”

Read there:

First: I love Ahmad Jamal and I have all original LP pressings and audiophile reissues of his albums that I like, as well as a few digital releases including the Mosaic CD box set (which was done from CD masters afaik) plus the above mentioned DSD needle drop release. I have many such comparisons of Jazz releases, which is probably part of my jazznut’ism :wink:

Most or all master tapes of Jamal’s (possibly not only) Argo releases were lost in a fire at the vaults (I don’t remember how many years ago), so original LP’s or well mastered reissues are essential for fans.

I was curious because…as much as I’m a vinyl nut especially when it comes to Jazz releases…I always wonder that rather often than rarely needle drops are named as the best hires releases available. To me on the one hand this is true at least as long as the mastering of the needle dropped LP’s is clearly better than what’s available as digital releases (which imo is mostly the case for everything prior to around 1970).
On the other hand there are many recent native PCM or DSD hires releases I’d call better than such needle drops of past recordings…simply because their contemporary recording technique is superior or they strongly benefit of digital’s advantages more than suffer from its disadvantages. So…vinyl releases of Jazz recordings prior to 1970 are mostly better than their digital releases -> imo yes …needle drops are the best digital hires releases ->imo no.

As I mentioned I’ve got the vinyl release that was used to make the above mentioned needle drop. I remembered it as very nice sounding, but not outstanding for one of the Grundman or other mastering guru’s best releases of that era’s jazz recordings, that’s why I wondered about the hype.

Now I played this new DSD release…and I was clearly reminded to the LP…very nice, but no really exceptional sound compared to the very best of such Jazz reissues. I put on the Grundman vinyl LP…and it sounded very similar…my vinyl deck sounded quite a bit more open on top end with the vdH cartridge and better throughout with the Goldfinger Statement, but all in all and tonality- and basic quality-wise quite the same. Playing the native digital redbook release was a disappointment in many ways as usual due to the inferior mastering compared to Grundman’s. Playing the first pressing vinyl showed that Grundman’s reissue was better sounding from bottom to top, with much more realistic colors of instruments and extension. It seems the first pressing in this case among others was limited by compression and at the frequency extremes…but…it was superior in rhythmic performance. Often the originals have the lead in one area, sometimes in most or all. But the Grundman vinyl reissue clearly wins here before the needle drop before the first pressing before the native redbook imo.

So finally I understand that Jamal fans are glad to have such a needle drop of the Grundman vinyl, as it’s long out of print and clearly the best sounding release of Alhambra. On the other hand I think the hype that this is “one of the best sounding super hires files” is not even close to an alternative truth.

One of my favorite Jamal recordings is “The Awakenting” on Impulse Records from 1970. One great tune is called “I Love Music”. My DJ from WRTI , Edgar Brown always used the tune as a theme music for his show. He would say, “Just listen to the bridge !”.

I love this one, too!
There’s an out of print 180g analog sourced Conaisseur release that sounds nice but a bit laid back. I prefer the original pressing. The redbook version is ok but worse than both imo.
I don’t know the new 180g version that’s around these days by a new label, but it’s digital sourced and not by one of the gurus, so I don’t expect too much.

Now I tried out that new 180g release of Awakening (its from a new british label „Be with records“, so probably sourced from public domain masters).

But anyway it’s the best sounding version except maybe if you get an absolutely clean fist pressing. Or if you have a very bright sounding cartridge, then the Conoisseur reissue might be best.

My first pressing is a bit noisy, so I slightly prefer this new „Be with“ release.