Acoustic Sounds

Ben Webster Quintet




Ben Webster Quintet Soulville

Label: Verve/Acousticsounds

Produced By: Norman Granz

Engineered By: Val Valentin

Lacquers Cut By: Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound

By: Michael Fremer

June 11th, 2024





Acoustic Sounds/Verve Series Reissues Perennial Ben Webster "Cognac" Fave

cut by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound

The "Ben Webster Quintet" was really Webster plus the Oscar Peterson Trio of Peterson, Herb Ellis and Ray Brown—a grouping Peterson once said was "the most stimulating"—plus Stan Levey on drums. It was a busy time for the Peterson Trio, which had played the previous day with Louis Armstrong in a session that probably resulted in Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson, though for some reason that wasn't released until 1959. The next day the trio went into the studio (probably Capitol) with Coleman Hawkins for The Genius of Coleman Hawkins and later the same day they reunited with Webster for Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster. All classic albums.

This frenzy of actually occurred when Webster was pushing fifty and a new generation of musicians playing a newer sound was in some ways pushing aside the older generation, but Webster's sound was so big, so juicy and so pleasing, his continuing relevance could not be denied, aided by the advent of high fidelity recordings that brought his rich, lush sound into the listening rooms of the new generation of "audio enthusiasts".

When Webster makes his entrance on the opening self-penned title tune after Peterson—almost in the background—and Brown lead it off, the full, rich, breathy sax sound overwhelms the between the speakers space. This album makes the case for mono as well as any album I can think of.

"Late Date", another Webster original, follows and from there the quintet digs into five standards all taken at a leisurely pace that offer no challenges to even a jazz novice but deliver highly enjoyable bluesy pleasures. Some of Webster's off the charts lines are comedic in their intensity.

Other than occasional overmodulation distortion on Ellis's guitar on "Late Date", the sound matches Webster's tone (I confirmed that it's on the record by playing it on three different properly set-up turntables).

Pour a glass, take a sip, relax, and relish a high fidelity time capsule glimpse into a much simpler era when much of the jazz scene was a stress reliever not a provocateur. And while you're at it, enjoy the laminated "Tip on" gatefold jacket and the two inner gatefold Burt Goldblatt Webster photos.

Analogue Productions release this on a double 45rpm reissue eleven years ago (seems like yesterday) and its somewhat mellower sound works well with the material. The new 33 1/3 offers greater transient detail and image relief and you can remain seated. Unless getting up is now an issue, if you have the double 45 you're set.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: MG V-8274/602458538235

Pressing Plant: QRP


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: original analog master tapes

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2024-06-11 09:52:38 PM

    Bret wrote:

    How does this compare to the 45 RPM Analogue Productions reissue?

    • 2024-06-11 10:25:53 PM

      Josquin des Prez wrote:

      Of the 33s I have in this series, the corresponding AP Verve 45s I have compared have generally (maybe all) been better. I have since stopped buying duplicates from this 33 RPM series, even though I prefer the convenience of 33s.

    • 2024-06-12 01:53:15 AM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I wrote “somewhat mellower sound”…

  • 2024-06-12 01:01:28 PM

    mtemur wrote:

    I have 45rpm AP version. If I'm not mistaken it's cut by late G. Marino but this 33.3rpm version is cut by RKS. Both are cut at Sterling. Mellower sound associated with 45rpm is probably because of mastering choices of engineers. I know RKS is great at cutting but I have a tendency to like Marino's work more. I agree that it's unnecessary to buy 33.3rpm version when you have 45rpm but with the exception when 33.3 is cut by BG. AVER 37701

  • 2024-06-12 04:31:00 PM

    bwb wrote:

    "a leisurely pace that offer no challenges to even a jazz novice but deliver highly enjoyable bluesy pleasures...... This album makes the case for mono as well as any album I can think of."

    Nailed it. If you are looking for a Coltrane frenetic experience look elsewhere. This album is laid back to the point of tipping over, but sometimes that is exactly what I'm looking for.

    With a true mono cartridge like a Miyajima or the My Sonic Labs it is a true delight when you are in the mood to relax.

    • 2024-06-12 11:58:39 PM

      Come on wrote:

      …but only the OG, right? We learned that a mono reissue, cut with a stereo cutter head rather sounds worse with a mono cart than with a stereo cart.

      • 2024-06-13 01:48:39 AM

        bwb wrote:

        where did we learn that? I think almost all mono reissues these days are cut with a stereo head. My understanding, which could be wrong, is that a properly set up stereo lathe cuts just like a mono one if fed a mono signal. It cuts horizontally with no vertical motion just like a mono head.

        I asked a producer who is well known for his mono release after a friend tried to tell me they would be damaged by a mono cartridge. . He told me they were cut with a stereo head. He said plays them with and recommends a mono cartridge.

        • 2024-06-13 08:47:05 AM

          Come on wrote:

          I don’t remember where the more technical discussion was regarding this topic, but this guy‘s video quite well represents the practical experience. From 2:40 he describes it for playing a mono cut OG and from 5:26 (or more concrete from 6:03) he describes it for playing mono reissues, cut with a stereo cutter head (all reissues are to my knowledge).

          In a nutshell: Mono cut OG’s sound much better with a mono cart, mono reissues played with a mono cart have less information and sound rounded (not as they should). Even before this video my perception of similar discussions was, that this is a technically and practically undisputed experience. Certainly this can vary from setup to setup, where maybe the sound effect of a mono cart playing a stereo cut is welcome for other reasons.

          I can’t further meaningfully comment arguments, as for the above reason (although I also have a certain amount of mono OG’s), I never decided for a mono cart, but I’m sure it would be marvelous for mono OG’s.

          • 2024-06-13 08:47:22 AM

            Come on wrote:


            • 2024-06-13 03:25:39 PM

              bwb wrote:

              "a technically and practically undisputed experience"...... that would be a first for anything audio. I've never read anything about audio that wasn't disputed, and in this case what I've read has been overwhelmingly on the side of using mono cartridges for mono recordings.

              n any case, there are a multitude of reasons why a particular record sounds better with a particular cartridge, stereo or mono. Is he using a 1 mil stylus on records that might be better suited for a .7 mil? Is it a true mono cartridge or a stereo cartridge with the channels strapped together? Does he have the set up optimized including his phono stage for each cartridge? Is the cartridge broken in? It can't be if he's only had it a few days. Does he even say what cartridges he is comparing?

              In my experience, and I actually do have some experience rather than quoting random you tube videos, a mono cartridge is far and away the right choice for just about any mono record

              • 2024-06-13 07:46:26 PM

                Come on wrote:

                You’re definitely correct with „no undisputed audio topic“ ;-)

                I also avoid relying on random YouTubers. In this case I took it as a valid experience as he has a guessed 100-150k setup with equally grade arms for stereo and mono and even a (true) mono cart exactly matched to this one arm. If his new mono cart was broken in already before he got it, I certainly don’t know, but fully broken in or not…if it’s good to reveal how much better mono OG’s sound with it, it’s maybe good enough to also give a valid picture of the difference playing a mono reissue. I’m very sure, in case his experience would have turned out wrong when the cart was later burned in, he would have made a new video about it.

                Not many who have concrete experience and opinions about this topic have such equal high quality, properly adjusted (by the manufacturer) preconditions for both and would, inspite of the huge additional expense, tell that the mono cart is just meaningful for some pre 65 OGs. Those are reasons why I considered this opinion.

                I also believe your personal experience. There just seem to be different ones.

                I’d be happy to have a second comparable mono cart/arm on hand to make own experiences. In theoretical US MSRP this would be a nearly 50k investment for a manageable amount of mono records which are really preferable to their stereo equivalents. Those are my reasons for passing so far.

            • 2024-06-14 01:48:02 AM

              AudioMojo wrote:

              Terrible video with so much misinformation. If you scroll to the bottom you'll see Michael Fremer's comments as well as a more detailed one from Robin Wyatt.

              • 2024-06-14 10:27:38 AM

                Come on wrote:

                Yes, but unfortunately we're not much better informed by those two and other comments there.

                I'd really appreciate a professional coverage of this topic for example by MF/JR Boisclair.

                I see value in all arguments so far. On the one hand theoretically there must be an advantage in playing even newer mono OG's and reissues (cut with a stereo cutter head) with true mono carts...on the other hand also theoretically there should be a difference in shape of stereo cutter heads compared to vintage mono cutter heads, which implies different results for mono carts with modern, narrower stylus shapes or wider ones, as well as probable vertical modulation impurities by stereo cutter heads vs. mono cutter heads, which might cause some problems with true mono carts which are not designed for those movements (there's a corresponding mention of a pressing plant representative on the web I remember, where he recommends playing those with stereo carts).

                I'd be very happy if it turns out, that a quite affordable mono cart is far superior with any kind of mono LP's, even to an otherwise vastly superior and more expensive stereo cart. I'd then revamp and rewire my vintage Triplanar Mk IV and fit it with a say 1k mono cart and hope for better sound than playing the mono LP's with an otherwise much better stereo arm/cart combo.

                • 2024-06-14 04:36:33 PM

                  bwb wrote:

                  all points well taken. I did ask Joe Harley about it, and he agreed that the mono reissues he's been involved with including the Music Matters series all sound best with a mono cartridge. I admit I haven't done any extensive listening tests but of those I have done, I have preferred my mono cartridge. Currently have a Miyajima Infinity but have also had their Zero in my system for an extended period as well as the My Sonic Lab solo. If truly curious, Miyajima has quite a few models to choose from including one that retails around $700 (last I checked.) Good luck with the journey.

                  • 2024-06-14 07:29:43 PM

                    Come on wrote:

                    So in case it’s finally agreed that mono carts sound better with any mono LP‘s (which is what I tend to expect), the next most interesting question is, how much cheaper a mono cart can be to sound better than a stereo one.

      • 2024-06-13 05:40:56 AM

        Josquin des Prez wrote:

        Not so. Monos since the mid 60s have been cut with stereo heads configured for mono (ask Kevin Gray about that). Nevertheless I have both Lyra Atlas Lambda SL and Mono cartridges. I can tell you that a mono record old or new sounds far better with the mono cartridge than with the stereo cartridge (even with preamp mono button engaged).

        • 2024-06-14 10:43:39 PM

          Michael Fremer wrote:

          ERC uses a mono cutter head for its mono releases.

          • 2024-06-16 07:47:38 PM

            Josquin des Prez wrote:

            ERC is an anomalous use case too, and way beyond my threshold of pain for cost of a vinyl release.

  • 2024-06-12 09:00:11 PM

    Anton wrote:

    Thanks for reviewing my main man, Ben.

    I love this album.

    I am always surprised by how many of his records are so well recorded.

    Just in case you haven't heard the album "Gentle Ben," it's not just a bomb, it is thee bomb!

    Track 1, side 1, "Ben's Blues" is mellow, but it has jump in your seat dynamics, without being meant as overly dynamic.

    Play it now, thank me later!

    Thanks again for this review!

  • 2024-06-13 01:56:17 AM

    bwb wrote:

    you have this listed as a stereo release in your specifications ?

  • 2024-06-14 10:42:59 PM

    Michael Fremer wrote:

    I'll chime in here re: mono vs stereo cutter heads. The ERC monos are cut using a mono cutter head. When I visited ERC Pete Hutchison compared for me a mono recording cut using a mono cutter head and one cut with a stereo cutter head and while there were some minor sonic differences they weren't "life changing". As for playback "detail". If you play back using a spherical stylus you will get less information out of the lateral cut than if you used a more severe stylus profile. True in stereo as well. If you have a mono switch on your preamp or phono preamp you can use it to eliminate any vertical modulations, which will be rumble and noise. Older mono records sound best with a 1 mil stylus but you don't want to use that on new mono records cut with a stereo cutter head. There, use a mono cartridge fitted with .7mil stylus. The most important thing IMO is the mono switch to cancel out the vertical modulations.

    • 2024-06-15 12:00:49 AM

      Come on wrote:

      Thanks! I somehow expected that it finally more or less needs two different kinds of mono carts to optimally or damage-free play mono head and stereo head cut mono LP‘s.

      I guess most who nowadays have additional mono carts, have those with a sharper, more modern stylus? Maybe Michael45 has one with a rounder one.

      The final questions which probably can hardly be answered by anyone are: how much better do all combinations of right and wrong stylus shapes in mono and stereo carts sound with vintage and modern mono cuts if the mono switch is engaged for the stereo cart?

      And do mono carts just sound noticeably better than a stereo cart with engaged mono switch, if cart and arm are roughly of the same quality? If so, one must really love mono and either be able to afford 2 top notch cart/arm combinations or be willing to buy two worse combinations in favor of one better one just for stereo.

      I‘m afraid it would need an equally good mono cart with the right stylus shape + comparable arm for the respective record, to really convince against the stereo cart. But I’d love to once hear my favorite monos like that.

      • 2024-06-15 04:11:13 PM

        bwb wrote:

        I've never heard of it happening, or experienced using a .7 on older records or a 1 mil on newer causing any damage. It may not be optimal, but will still produce excellent results.

        • 2024-06-16 04:10:51 PM

          Come on wrote:

          What would be the probable result of playing a wider groove with a too narrow stylus shape (playing OG’s with a modern stylus)? If we simply try to think logically, the stylus sits a bit too deep in the groove and catches more deep sitting groove noise, doesn’t have ideal contact to the groove and needs quite exact adjustment to not cause groove damage. Otherwise the sound should be quite normal.

          The opposite, of playing reissues with a too wide stylus should cause the mentioned lack of detail, resolution and possibly top end I’d say.

          • 2024-06-16 07:23:34 PM

            bwb wrote:

            Article about this topic

            I don't know if this guy is correct but he at least took a deep dive into it.

            **It is perfectly safe to play vintage mono records with a 0.7-mil stylus, but should a 1-mil stylus be preferred? In theory, a 1-mil stylus will “hug” the groove of a vintage mono record tighter than a 0.7-mil stylus, and it will sit higher in the groove than a 0.7-mil stylus, as intended. This will in theory allow the stylus tip to avoid noise-inducing debris that may be at the bottom of the groove. On the other hand, a narrower 0.7-mil stylus may in theory avoid wear higher up on the groove walls caused by a 1-mil stylus, though it will be closer to the bottom of the groove.

            In my experience I have found that vintage mono records can sound excellent when played with both 1-mil and 0.7-mil styli**

            • 2024-06-16 10:09:31 PM

              Come on wrote:

              Good article, one of just a few at all. My real problem is, my main arm is so much better than the old spare one and a mono cart I would want to afford would so much worse than the main one, that I’m very unsure this would make sense. And I would then have to unplug cabling at the phonostage each time I’d switch to a mono record and back or would have to use an add. old one I have which again is worse than the main one. First world problems many might have even more… they don’t make it an easy decision, especially as the ratio of mono to stereo records in most collections should be around 1:10 at most. So even if I had equal mono and stereo equipment configurations, I’d always tend to ask myself, why I didn’t buy a much better stereo config instead to play the majority of records better ;-)

    • 2024-06-15 04:07:37 PM

      bwb wrote:

      couple of thoughts... your sample set of comparing the 2 cuts (mono head vs. stereo head) is too small to be statistically significant. There are too many variables in the chain to attribute any minor differences you heard to just the difference in how they cut. The electronics driving them had to be different as well as other factors. It is reasonable to assume that any 2 cutting heads would produce at least minor differences even if both were stereo or both mono, so there isn't enough data to conclude what you heard was because of the mono - stereo difference

      Why is the mono switch the most important thing when a true mono cartridge doesn't have any output from vertical modulations? It isn't needed at all as there is nothing to cancel.

      I agree that modern records are best played with a .7 and older with a 1 mil, but that shouldn't be construed to mean they are incompatible with the other. If you can afford a bunch of arms and cartridges then get both, but a 1 mil will play new cuts and a .7 will play the older ones just fine... speaking from experience with both. I settled on a .7 since most of my monos are more recent reissues, but it plays older records very nicely.

  • 2024-06-27 09:24:56 PM

    Joe Taylor wrote:

    A friend of mine's uncle was an avid jazz LP collector, often buying multiple copies. When he died, I sold some of the rarer ones for my friend and bought some others. He kept a few for himself and gave me a sealed original of the Andre Previn/Shelly Manne recording of West Side Story--still sealed! Thanks, Tim. Anyway, one of the LPs I bought was a copy of this album. It was still sealed and had a cutout hold in the corner. It was an early 60s reissue, pressed after MGM bought Verve. These MGM pressings are often just terrible pressings and now amount of deep cleaning, vacuum, enzymatic, or ultrasonic, will make them dead quiet, but they sound OK if you can tolerate a bit of noise here and there. Anyway, this one is absolutely quiet, with a bit more oomph in the bass. This is a fabulous album and I eagerly await the reissue of Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson later this year.