Rimsky-Korsakov – The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner
Sonic Grade: C
We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing shown here in order to see how it would fare up against a pair of wonderful sounding Londons we were in the process of shooting out a while ago. Here’s what we heard in our head to head comparison.
The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount. But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.
There was a cloud of musical instruments, some here, some there, but they were very hard to SEE. On the Londons we played they were clear. You could point to each and every one. On this pressing it was impossible.
Case in point: the snare drum, which on this recording is located toward the back of the stage, roughly halfway between dead center and the far left of the hall. As soon as I heard it on the reissue I recognized how blurry and smeary it was relative to the clarity and immediacy it had on the earlier London pressings. I’m not sure how else to describe it – diffuse, washed out, veiled. It’s just vague.
This particular Heavy Vinyl reissue is more or less tonally correct, which is not something you can say about many reissues these days. In that respect it’s tolerable and even enjoyable. I guess for thirty bucks that’s about the most you can hope for.
But… when I hear this kind of sound only one word comes to mind, a terrible word, a word that makes us recoil in shock and horror. That word is DUB. This reissue is made from copy tapes.
Copies in analog or copies in digital, who is to say, but it sure ain’t the master tape we’re hearing, of that we can be fairly certain. How else to explain such mediocrity of sound?
Yes, the cutting systems being used to master these vintage recordings aren’t very good; that seems safe to say. Are the tapes too old and worn? Is the vinyl of today simply not capable of storing the kind of magical sound we find so often in pressings from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s?
To all these questions and more we have but one answer: we don’t know. We know we don’t like the sound of very many of these modern reissues and I guess that’s probably all that we need to know about them. If someone ever figures out how to make a good sounding modern reissue we’ll ask them how they did it. Until then it seems the question is moot.
Back in 2011 we stopped carrying Heavy Vinyl and other Audiophile LPs of all kinds. So many of them don’t even sound this good, and this sound bores us to tears.
This is our Hot Stamper review for the London pressing we played not long ago:
London LP with DEMO QUALITY SOUND!
This is one of those copies that has that just right sound on both sides! This is a work that makes extensive use of the triangle, and I don”t know when… I’ve ever heard a better recording of it!
It’s incredibly sweet, detailed and extended, without calling attention to itself in an unnatural manner. This is the kind of sound that no compact disc in the history of the world has ever managed to achieve. When you hear it, you know it, and I’m hearing it as this is being written.
Oddly enough I was at a friend’s house last night who played me the Gold CD that Classic Records did of this title. He also happened to have the Decca CD. Both of them are a joke next to this record. The sweetness and the extension of the high frequencies was completely missing from the CD. Of course, many of these London LPs don’t sound right either. But this one sure does.
Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.