Acoustic Sounds
Miles Davis 1958
By: Malachi Lui

April 2nd, 2024



A Modern Guide to Collecting Miles Davis

Sorting through the multitude of current reissues

Last year, when record club Vinyl Me, Please announced their 11LP box set of Miles Davis’ electric period studio albums, I almost immediately preordered it. For hardcore fans, it seemed (and turned out to be) essential: a lavish box set of the albums from In A Silent Way through Get Up With It, cut by Ryan Smith and Joe Nino-Hernes from flat tape copies of the original masters and packaged in laminated tip-on jackets, it’s the perfect document of Miles’ most fascinating era.

…Except for the (now sold-out) box set’s original $399 price for seven albums—prohibitively expensive for most. Despite being a happy customer who never has to buy these albums again, it’s undoubtedly a financial commitment that, even for the most devoted, can seem excessive.

Yet as the vinyl reissue market continually expands, Miles Davis’ discography becomes an increasingly unwieldy, expensive mess. Focus only on his prime era studio LPs for Columbia (1957’s ‘Round About Midnight to 1974’s Get Up With It) and it’s still divided between and duplicated across multiple reissue programs scattered around the world. With so many options, how can one collect all of his work without completely breaking the bank?

The Current Options

Let’s get this out of the way: the “normal” record buyer, whether a novice or an established fan who just isn’t swimming in money, won’t buy five copies of Kind Of Blue. This guide exists in the real world, where wallets and shelves have limits, and where people buy one copy of each album. One copy that’s satisfactory enough to be the only copy this hypothetical normal person ever owns, even if it’s not the absolute cheapest copy (that said, we’ll omit the spectacular UHQR Kind Of Blue and Craft’s one-step Relaxin’ for cost reasons).

For the pre-Columbia catalog, this is rather straightforward. Blue Note’s all-analog Classic series recently reissued Miles Davis’ two Blue Note compilation LPs, and Analogue Productions’ reissues of the Prestige albums are still accessible. Craft’s revitalized Original Jazz Classics series also released a new all-analog Kevin Gray cut of Workin’. There are still a few Miles Prestige albums that haven’t received the lavish treatment, but it’s probably only a matter of time. The name alone sells. (No advice on Birth Of The Cool; the 2019 reissue supposedly sucks. Perhaps stick to hi-res digital unless seeking out an older copy?)

The 1980s Columbia and Warner Brothers catalog (save for Doo Bop) is also easy and fairly cheap to find, as both original pressings and modern reissues. I haven’t bought them in any format, but basic collector/audiophile logic is to get the original US pressings.

Now for the primary Columbia catalog. I don’t have the resources for an album-by-album dissection, but I’ve selected three albums for which to compare pressings. This should give a general idea as to how these reissue labels or series—Mobile Fidelity, Music On Vinyl, Sony Japan, and the 2013 mono editions— compete.

Original pressings are always an option, but good luck finding affordable, playable copies. An early pressing of Bitches Brew is fairly common in VG+ condition for around $30, as long as you pay attention to the matrix numbers and aren’t stuck on getting the 2-eye label. Otherwise, it’s more effort than it’s worth. 6-eye copies of the earlier albums are either beat up or incredibly expensive, originals of the “Second Great Quintet” albums don’t have the highest sonic reputation, and buying a vintage Get Up With It seems dubious considering its half-hour sides.

The three albums I’ve plucked for comparison are 1958’s Milestones, 1968’s Miles In The Sky, and 1970’s Jack Johnson. And if digital sources are a problem, you’re out of luck.

Milestones: 2013 US mono vs. 2021 Japanese mono

Over several Record Store Day events in 2012-2013, Sony/Legacy reissued Miles Davis’ early Columbia albums in mono, mostly cut by Kevin Gray from hi-res digital files. Pressed at RTI on 180g black vinyl and housed in foldover jackets, these pressings remain easily available. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

More recently, however, Sony Japan launched a Miles Davis vinyl series cut at their Japanese mastering facility and pressed in Shizuoka at the state-of-the-art Sony Music Solutions plant. While the series hops around the First and Second Great Quintet periods with no obvious logic, there’s some overlap with the 2013 US reissues, including Milestones, Kind Of Blue, Someday My Prince Will Come, ‘Round About Midnight, and Miles Ahead, the latter with the original boat cover.

First of all, the Shizuoka pressing plant is the absolute best in the world; yes, even better than RTI or QRP or any of them. I have about two dozen of these pressings and almost of all of them are quieter than dead quiet. The average Sony Shizuoka pressing, no matter the color or weight, is generally quieter than UHQR Clarity Vinyl or Neotech VR900 “Supervinyl.”

The Japanese mono Milestones is no exception, and the packaging is similarly sumptuous: an extremely high quality tip-on jacket replicates the original, while the disc comes in a heavy cardboard sleeve (and a poly inner within that) outside of the printed jacket. It’s the closest I’ve seen a mass-produced, less than $30 record get to £350 Electric Recording Company quality. The print resolution also puts the 2013 to shame.

And despite the digital source, the Japanese edition’s sonic coloration sounds a bit like an ERC. It’s not exactly “accurate,” but the smoother, more “seductive” sound—veiled high frequencies and warmer midbass—is certainly pleasing. Kevin Gray’s 2013 cut, perhaps from the same source file, takes the opposite approach: brighter, hotter, more vivid. Both sound equally good, but so different that “better” depends on personal preference. I’d argue that the vastly superior packaging makes the Japanese pressing a better value (especially if you order several of the Sony Japan Miles reissues and save on shipping), but either of these would satisfy. The Japanese series seems like it won’t be over anytime soon, so it’s worth at least keeping an eye on.

Miles In The Sky: Mobile Fidelity vs. Music On Vinyl

Music On Vinyl, the in-house reissue label of Dutch pressing plant Record Industry, boasts about their “180g audiophile vinyl” pressings despite almost always using digital sources. That annoys those who point out that vinyl weight doesn’t guarantee sound quality (true). Others also complain that MOV uses the word “audiophile” to market records cut in-house from digital files.

But after the Mobile Fidelity DSD controversy, are digitally-sourced MOV pressings really any less “audiophile?”

Mobile Fidelity has released a slew of Miles Davis albums, all from DSD transfers of the analog tapes. Some of those transfers are quad-rate DSD256; others are SACD-resolution, single-rate DSD64. Music On Vinyl gets hi-res PCM files presumably mastered at Battery Studios by Mark Wilder, who has decades of experience working with these particular recordings.

In Europe, MOV has reissued almost all of Miles Davis’ Columbia albums, ranging in popularity from Kind Of Blue to Quiet Nights. In the US, imported MOV pressings become the default for many titles without a domestic pressing (or a domestic allocation of a generalized Sony EU pressing). MOV pressings aren’t cheap in the US, but they’re cut and pressed to high standards.

For years, I had MoFi’s 45rpm reissue of Miles In The Sky, an interesting but not exactly great album recorded as Miles transitioned from his Second Great Quintet to the electric period. MoFi used a DSD256 source for their 45, while MOV presumably got a 24bit PCM file and cut their 33rpm reissue at Record Industry. The MOV is still $10-15 cheaper in the US, even though the MoFi has the nicer tip-on gatefold jacket (MOV’s Miles In The Sky comes in a reverse board foldover jacket).

The MOV Miles In The Sky seriously beats the MoFi, which I’ve since sold. MoFi’s 45 is overly compressed and artificially smoothed over. Texture is sucked out, midbass is bloated, and images are holograms with no weight or body, bleeding into each other. Meanwhile, the Music On Vinyl is brighter but with necessary bite, actual texture, and incredibly solid imaging. I’m not trying to join the parade of everyone suddenly dumping on MoFi, but diplomatically speaking, their mastering choices are questionable. (Weirdly enough, MoFi’s jacket scan here is better than the MOV—shocking considering MoFi’s usual crap scans.) Unless you’re already loyal to MoFi’s mastering style, I’d recommend getting the slightly cheaper and more sonically consistent MOV pressings instead.

Jack Johnson: mass-market EU reissue vs. Vinyl Me, Please

In practical terms, this comparison is useless. No one who’s just getting into Miles Davis would immediately spend resale prices on the VMP Anthology Electric Years box set. However, that box set is commonly regarded as the best that those albums will ever sound, and it represents the gold standard against which other pressings should be measured.

Therefore, I got the standard, mass-market reissue of 1971’s A Tribute To Jack Johnson, cut and pressed at Record Industry just like the MOV pressings. This digitally sourced reissue sells for less than $25, and while not as good as Ryan Smith’s all-analog cut for VMP, it’s still quite appealing even if somewhat dry and rolled off on top. Switch from this to the VMP pressing and everything opens up a lot: Miles’ trumpet gets less strident and resolves better, the guitar is a bit more jangly, drums have better attack, and bass is clearer and more rhythmic. But that’s the usual “expensive audiophile reissue” checklist of improvements. The differences are there, yet it’s not a night-and-day revelatory listen. If someone bought the standard $22 Jack Johnson with no comparison point, there is absolutely nothing to complain about, aside from the thin jacket that’s disappointing but not surprising for that price.


No matter what, buying decent vinyl copies of Miles Davis’ complete Columbia studio albums will already cost at least a couple thousand dollars. Still, it’s best to only spend the money on one good copy than cycle through multiple lesser variants. Despite how scattered and confusing the reissue options are, none seem to be completely abominable, aside from those shady European public domain bootlegs which must be avoided. (Music On Vinyl and Sony Japan, when applicable, are tied for my top recommendation. The Legacy mono series isn't my personal favorite but those are still very good and easy to obtain. Don't bother with the MoFi series.) Also worth exploring are the excellent digital options—CDs, SACDs, hi-res downloads—which at times might provide more value for money. Whatever the case, a methodical buyer can indeed obtain good physical copies of Miles Davis’ discography without going bankrupt.

…Just don’t buy everything at once.


  • 2024-04-02 06:40:28 PM

    Todd wrote:

    You seem like a very enthusiastic young Malachi. And I really enjoy your reviews. I enjoy vinyl and have a decent collection. But this review makes a pretty good case for streaming based on how awful locating decent/economical copies sounds.

  • 2024-04-02 06:43:51 PM

    Ronan O’Gorman wrote:

    Thanks Malachi for this excellent summary of the Miles Davis Columbia albums. The biggest revelation was your positive reviews of the MOV label. I appreciate that this review takes time to assemble and truly enjoy your reviews

  • 2024-04-02 07:31:23 PM

    Mark Ward wrote:

    I know this wasn't part of your remit, but I've always wondered how the Mosaic box versions compared to the Mo-Fi etc. I bought all the Mosaic boxes as they were issued, and always loved how they sounded, long before the MoFi started appearing, and have never felt that I really needed to change my allegiances. But I am so curious as to what the differences might be..... I have the VMP box - it is spectacular! Moving on to what you did talk about, I am not entirely surprised the Sony reissues sound so good - I have bought a few of these with other music (eg. Ryuichi Sakamoto) and they are excellent. Curious as to where you buy them from.... However, your MOV perspective is fascinating. I have long eyed the MOV pressings of Miles's live electric albums, and avoided them - but now I am thinking I should reconsider.

    • 2024-04-03 01:54:26 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      the mosaic box sets are now out of print and very expensive.

      you can get the recent sony japan pressings from cdjapan. also has a lot of them - the HMV in shibuya (known online as recordshopshibuya) has a lot of great stuff on discogs with reasonable shipping rates.

      and yes, MOV does a lot of good reissues for a wide variety of material. even when it's not the absolute best available option, it's still a solid option especially for the price and availability (as long as don't pay more than $35 for a single LP, $45 for a double - american record shops often mark them up A LOT).

      • 2024-04-04 10:14:17 AM

        Come on wrote:

        Although I didn’t recognize MOV as having a special merit for Jazz releases yet (maybe because I mostly have better, but also more rare releases already), I did wonder how good they are for some Pop releases that were initially digitally recorded. The digitally sourced Sade albums which are also part of the “This far” box set are an example. The MOV sound much better there. As I have the analog Sade albums as Audio Fidelity releases, the MOV releases were my go to versions for several digitally recorded ones. It’s one of the rarer cases where I don’t agree with Michael Esposito shootouts, who prefers the “This far” versions.

      • 2024-04-05 11:50:31 PM

        bwb wrote:

        Looking at prices on Discogs, you can get most of the Mile's Mosaic box sets in VG+ and NM for around $30-40 a record. In today's world that isn't what I would call "very expensive."

    • 2024-04-04 04:43:30 PM

      Come on wrote:

      I have several Mosaic boxes on vinyl. In my experience the Mosaic, when compared with other reissues on Classic Records or AP level, usually sound less dynamic and transparent, but usually better than any digitally processed ones (except maybe some Mofi). However there are also always cases when Mosaic seemingly got better tapes which were not available anymore for later reissues (see my Miles/Milestones example). My most loved Mosaic boxes are those not released by other HQ remastering labels, like the late Bill Evans box or the Jimmy Giuffre.

  • 2024-04-02 08:27:07 PM

    Zaphod wrote:

    While Miles Davis will never be a huge part of my record collection I still enjoyed reading your review as it was reasonable in its view and well written.

  • 2024-04-03 04:24:55 AM

    Come on wrote:

    Where you’re right imo is, that Miles is a difficult topic and has to be defined more or less on an album by album basis, it’s not even decidable era by era or by a shorter period, which of the reissues or originals sound best.

    For someone like me, who tries to get the best release (even if long out of print) or bought them at the time, your hints are less interesting and very selective and limited in terms of the given examples (of albums and pressings), but they may well be for those you addressed it to.

    I personally wouldn’t consider any digitally sourced Miles reissues except the Mofi DSD sourced ones (not even the digitally sourced KG monos), but also there, we have inferior exceptions (e.g. Mofi Milestones is awful and sounds much better from the Mosaic Box). I found several of the Mofi’s better than the originals or any other reissues, but on the other hand several of the old Sony analog sourced Columbia 2 eyes sound superior to the Mofi or are a worthwhile alternative. Birth of the cool has to be the Classic Records release certainly, but I understand that you don’t mention this as it’s oop and expensive.

    Especially the Columbia stuff is really a case by case act. Regarding Prestige, my experience is, that often but not always, the old AP45’s beat the new OJC’s or even Craft One Steps overall or in certain characteristics.

    • 2024-04-04 04:35:50 PM

      Come on wrote:

      With „the old Sony analog sourced Columbia 2 eyes”, I mean the 2008 Sterling AAA reissues.

  • 2024-04-03 07:57:32 AM

    RodSerling27 wrote:

    Excellent article and guide, Malachi! I have been considering buying MFSL's "Miles In The Sky" recently, but it seems the MOV is the way to go. Love it, thanks for the great write up on that and all of the others!

  • 2024-04-03 09:23:34 AM

    Will wrote:

    Good article Malachi, focusing on a dilemma of record collecting today. I was interested to note your comment "aside from those shady European public domain bootlegs which must be avoided," . I have steered clear of numerous of these issues and wonder if they are as bad as I recall - it would be great to see some real reviews of these grey items. A prominent UK Hi-Fi Mag has name checked a "Vinyl Lovers" Cure release and a "Jazz Images" Joan Baez release as Audiophile Reissues 🤷🏻‍♂️

    • 2024-04-03 02:00:47 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      i've also always avoided those EU bootlegs, public domain or otherwise ('vinyl lovers' reissues of the cure and the velvet underground, 'licensed' from 'universal music russia', are obvious bootlegs and those records aren't public domain). amazing that someone referred to those as 'audiophile reissues' - even if they sound good, they aren't 'audiophile reissues' when they're cut from digital files in-house at GZ.

  • 2024-04-03 12:07:15 PM

    PeterPani wrote:

    Again, I am impressed by your recommendations and bought the VMP-box immediately after reading your words. You go on so quickly through the history of music. I wonder, do you have friends (under 20 yo), who share and talk about auch a deep music interest? And, I dare a prediction, if you go on with the search for the human soul mirrored in music: one day in the far future, you will encircle Mozart closer and closer

  • 2024-04-03 04:01:14 PM

    Michael Weintraub wrote:

    This was a nice article, but in all honesty, it would take something closer to the length of a book to cover this topic adequately (possibly something for Malachai to consider in the future). But here are a few thoughts from someone who has been collecting these albums for a long time:

    First it is possible to find original presses in good shape at reasonable prices for all but a handful the most popular Columbia albums from the fifties (forget about the Prestige or the Blue Notes unless you are very wealthy). I recently scored a NM Porgy and Bes for $10 on Discogs, for example. Try to be patient and keep checking Discogs until you see a price you like. It helps if you're not too picky about jacket condition.

    For the electric period, some of the early represses from the seventies are nearly indistinguishable sonically from the originals. I have both a two-eye Bitches Brew, and a repress from a couple of years later and I can't really tell them apart. This is a good way to save some cash and get something that is definitely analog. Try one of the Jack Johnsons from the mid-seventies and I think you will find that the sound is very satisfying.

    A good value option for a stereo KOB is this 2010 Legacy pressing: It was cut by Kevin Gray, and mint copies can be had on Discogs for a little more than $20. I have this and one of the $100 dollar Quiex pressings mastered by Bernie Grundman. BG's mastering is superior, but not be much, and the vinyl is actually quieter on the Legacy release (for a fifth the price).

    Finally, I was happy to see someone point out that heavier-weight vinyl is no guarantee of sound quality (or anything else). I think 180g vinyl is one of the more dubious marketing ploys in an industry that is filled with them. I have more warped brand-new 180g lps than I do in all of the decades-old original presses in my collection. I have some of RCA's paper-thin Dynaflex records from the seventies and even they seem less prone warpage than some of these new heavyweights. A well-made lacquer is the key to sound quality, and heavier vinyl will do nothing to improve a bad one.

    Articles like these are very helpful to new collectors, and it might be nice to see more of them on artists whose discographies are not as daunting Miles Davis'.

    • 2024-04-03 06:01:48 PM

      bwb wrote:

      This was a nice article, but in all honesty, it would take something closer to the length of a book to cover this topic adequately (possibly something for Malachai to consider in the future)

      agreed with a caveat that a single book may not do it. There are 100 vinyl versions of "Bitches Brew" on Discogs, 110 "Round About Midnight," over 300 KOB, not to mention another 57 studio albums and 39 live albums and you have a lifetime's work sorting it all out. Maybe Malachi is young enough he can get it done :)

  • 2024-04-04 06:35:25 AM

    Jake wrote:

    Nice article again Malachi. I'm going to throw a spanner in the works. What about Japanese pressings compared to the reissues? I have a Japanese pressing of the Jack Johnson album and am curious how it'd compare to a reissue. Also, some of the older Blue Note japanese pressings I have been told, used American stampers

  • 2024-04-04 08:37:52 AM

    Joe Taylor wrote:

    "I’m not trying to join the parade of everyone suddenly dumping on MoFi, but diplomatically speaking, their mastering choices are questionable. "

    Couldn't agree more. They often take the edge off rock n roll records. I know some people like their reissues of Costello's early LPs, but This Year's Model, Armed Forces, and Get Happy!! sound better in their compressed original versions. The music roars out of the speakers, as it should. If the recording is fairly organic, something like Little Feat or Rickie Lee, they do a good job, but sometimes they soften things too much.

  • 2024-04-04 09:49:29 AM

    FransZappa wrote:

    Miles' magical electric 70's era - before he kind of retired until the 80's - ends with Agharta and Pangea, both from 1975 and recorded live the same day - one being an afternoon show and the latter the evening show and in my honest opinion the pinnacle of his electric work and two of my alltime favourite albums! Get the Japanese pressings and be amazed.

    For an indepth look at this period read: Miles Beyond - The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis 1967-1991. It doesn't get more detailed than Paul Tingen's book.

  • 2024-04-04 12:59:58 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Great stuff once again, Malachi! I wish I would've known about the VMP releases earlier, as I am looking for those last 3 in their release list on AAA. Dang it. And screw MoFi for their perpetual laziness and 'cheepnis'. I am so done after my personal comparison of CSN (1969) between MoFi and QRP.

    • 2024-04-08 02:47:41 PM

      Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

      Well, not really but Grrrrr.

  • 2024-04-05 12:03:59 AM

    Lemon Curry wrote:

    Malachi, you casted a ridiculously wide net and delivered a compelling piece. I read it like a mystery novel, with new secrets revealed in each new paragraph. You've become a fountain of knowledge, and a great writer with a strong voice. I agree with some of the thoughts voiced here to keep running with this topic, chase down all the nooks and crannies, and produce a definitive volume on this massive topic, a volume that would instantly become a bible for MD fans. In the meantime keep up the great work. I really look forward to your reviews.

  • 2024-04-06 10:06:55 AM

    Erik Charpentier wrote:

    Great writing, thank you so much!