Come Swing with Me - 1961


Over ten years ago (my how time flies), my “recommendations” page for this album started thusly: “This is probably not going to be a very popular choice, but it’s an honest one.  I think the best sounding version of Come Swing with Me is the Mobile Fidelity LP, but before you start throwing stones, let me defend that choice for a moment.”  Over the last ten years, several more editions have been added to our list of sampled versions, so I need to qualify my defense for that 1983 MFSL LP edition. 

I have often made comments along the lines of “The MFSL LP is about 15% too bright,” or “The top end needs to be toned down, but aside from that, it’s fantastic,” or “That’s why we have tone controls.”  After doing extensive blind and non-blind listening over the course of the last couple of months, I still believe that the MFSL release is of amazing quality....and UNIQUE....but I still also believe that “off the shelf,” it is too bright on top.  It’s not obscenely off-the-charts, but it needs some tweaking to really “sing.”  In other words, if you are the type of hi-fi enthusiast who is not afraid to tinker with a little EQ during playback, the MFSL is still the way to go, but playing it “straight” is less than fully satisfactory, as it slants toward the treble end a little. 

In blind listening, a group of four of us (a smaller jury than usual) listened to thirteen or so masterings of four tracks from COME SWING WITH ME.  To test my theory on the MFSL LP, I included both two sets of transfers from the MFSL LP:  One “flat” off the LP; the other “tweaked,” with the bass tilted a tad up, and the treble tilted a tad down.  Out of all the masterings, which one scored the highest in level-matched, blind listening?  The EQ’d MFSL files!  ....BUT....the point is to find which version is the best “as is,” so the MFSL is disqualified, as it needs a little TLC for full enjoyment.  Let’s scratch it off our list (although it’s not bad “as is”).

So...which release is best “off the shelf?”

Let’s look at the results of the blind listening, and let’s watch out for some more “big buts!”

Here are the results of the blind listening by our group of four people, drawn TO SCALE based on overall scores:

....the 1984 UK “Dell” LP,

which sounds very good, with no defects, and no tweaking needed.  Here are 30-second clips of 10 of the songs from the album, all from within the sample windows freely available on iTunes and elsewhere.  CLICK TO LISTEN: CSWMUK84Montage.wav -- very nice indeed! And no defects!

Regarding other releases:

•Other stereo LPs: The original “D” and (especially) “N” USA pressings did nothing for me (D3 and N5 were sampled.)  The SM-series LPs are abridged (missing two songs), so I would avoid those.  1984 “Dell” LPs were sampled from the UK, the Netherlands (DMM), and Australia.  The DMM is not bad, and the Australian is a definite step down from there.  Get the UK!

•Mono LPs: Again, nothing special to my ears, but the UK mono LP, in my opinion, trounces the USA D mono LPs -- but is still just mediocre.  (If you are a hater of the “ping-pong” stereo effect, a UK mono is worth finding, in my opinion.

•Digital: Get the HD version, despite the defects.  The tone is excellent.  The 1998 UK CD is full of dropouts; there are a few dropouts on the Walsh CD, which is a remix, and did not score especially well.  It also has an alternate edit on one song, as discussed on the previous page.  The Norberg CD is bad.

•Open reel:  The sound is crisp and clean, but it lacks top-end “sparkle.”

As always, thanks to all who contribute, listen, and comment.

--Matt Lutthans

August 9, 2021

Recommendations....with some BIG BUTS!

The farther to the right, the better the score.  The farther left, the worse. 

Starting from the right:

•The “D-I-Y Tweak” way over on the right refers to the tweaked (NOT off the shelf) MFSL files that I posted for the listeners, as an experiment.  It does not really exist...BUT it (or something similar, tailored to your own liking) can be created by a person with a modicum of free time and access to the wildly-dynamic MFSL LP.

•Next up:  The 2015 HD download, which scored very well, BUT.... it has two problems.  1.)  It is strongly “right heavy,” so the vocal is not centered; and 2.) it has a significant and WEIRD defect on “Paper Doll,” which winds up shifting the piano (and some other things, via digital trickery-pokery) into the center of the image at one point.  From an old SHTV post:

Continuing our choices, from right to left, next up we have:

•The 1998 UK boxed-set-only CD release, which is likely sourced from a vintage UK dub tape.  This one scored #3 out of all the choices, BUT it is chock full of tape dropouts!  Some songs have dropouts essentially start to finish.  It’s a major problem.

•The 1983 MFSL LP -- as is -- scored #4 in blind listening, BUT because of its overall slightly-treble-heavy character, I really cannot recommend it “as is.”  (See my notes at the top of the page.)  It does have clarity and punch in spades, though.

To review, that leaves:  1983 MFSL LP disqualified due to a slightly bright quality (but it’s splendid when EQd a bit); the 2015 HD download disqualified due to a pair or defects; and the 1998 UK CD disqualified due to very significant tape-source damage.  Those are arguably the best sounding versions....BUT they are disqualified.

WIth those versions getting the boot for various reasons,

my recommendation for best-sounding release of this album “as is” is: