Vivaldi / The Four Seasons on Living Stereo

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  • After a three year wait, Tubey Magical Living Stereo sound for The Four Seasons is back at Better Records
  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish, this copy had the vintage analog sound we were looking for
  • The best copies are simply bigger, richer and more open, with a more extended, sweeter high end
  • If you drool over the Tubey Magical sound that RCA and others achieved in 1960, this is the copy for you

This KILLER RCA Shaded Dog has the kind of clarity, harmonic texture and freedom from smear that few Golden Age recordings can claim. Through the effort and skill of the RCA engineers, that striking openness in the recording is combined with an immediacy in the sound of the lead string players, no mean feat. One rarely hears both, except of course in live performance.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1960
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Everything has to be tuned up and on the money before we can even hope to get the record sounding right. Careful VTA adjustment could not be more critical in this respect.

This is an excellent record to test with. As you no doubt know, there is a lot of “action” in this piece of music. To get the strings to sound lively yet natural is a bit of a trick. When I first played this record years ago I was none too happy about the string tone. After making a few tweaky adjustments, the strings became much clearer and more textured. The overall presentation still sounded rich, but was now more natural and above all correct.

We Was Wrong in 2007 About Tubes

In 2007 we did a shootout for this album and noted the following:

For those with better tube gear, the string tone on this record is sublime, with that rosin-on-the-bow quality that tubes seem to bring out in a way virtually nothing else can, at least in my experience.

Our experience since 2007 has changed our view concerning the magical power of tubes relative to transistors to bring out the rosiny texture of bowed stringed instruments. We have in fact changed our minds completely with respect to that common belief.

Our transistor equipment — and by ours we mean the mysterious low-powered ’70s integrated amp we use, mated with the EAR 324P phono, making no claims whatsoever for any other transistor equipment of any kind — is dramatically faster, more transparent, dynamic and resolving than any tube equipment we have ever heard. It is, simply put, much more TRUTHFUL. It is precisely this quality that is hardest to find in all of audio. It is also the one quality of our system that, more than any other, allows us to do our job accurately and efficiently.

Our transistor equipment lets us hear the sound of the record being played, uncolored and unadorned. It also has the added benefit of sounding to us more like live music. (More on that coming down the road.)

Yes, we know, we haven’t heard every piece of tube gear in the world. There may indeed be something out there with even more of the qualities we recognize in live music than we are currently capable of reproducing with our transistor equipment. We remain open-minded as always, but skeptical — a combination that has certainly served us well over the 29 years we have been in business selling records and equipment.

What We’re Listening For on The Four Seasons

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Golden Age Living Stereo

What do we love about LIVING STEREO pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The instruments on this vintage recording are reproduced with remarkable fidelity.

Now that’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange. There’s no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice).

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this one up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.

Wikipedia on Vivaldi

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741), nicknamed il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”) because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Vivaldi is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over 40 operas. His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons.

Though Vivaldi’s music was well received during his lifetime, it later declined in popularity until its vigorous revival in the first half of the 20th century. Today, Vivaldi ranks among the most popular and widely recorded Baroque composers.

Vivaldi’s music was innovative. He brightened the formal and rhythmic structure of the concerto, in which he looked for harmonic contrasts and innovative melodies and themes; many of his compositions are flamboyantly, almost playfully, exuberant.

Johann Sebastian Bach was deeply influenced by Vivaldi’s concertos and arias (recalled in his St John Passion, St Matthew Passion, and cantatas).

Wikipedia On The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni) is a set of four violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Composed in 1723, The Four Seasons is Vivaldi’s best-known work, and is among the most popular pieces of Baroque music. The texture of each concerto is varied, each resembling its respective season. For example, “Winter” is peppered with silvery pizzicato notes from the high strings, calling to mind icy rain, whereas “Summer” evokes a thunderstorm in its final movement, which is why the movement is often dubbed “Storm.”

The concertos were first published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti, Vivaldi’s Op. 8, entitled Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention). The first four concertos were designated Le quattro stagioni, each being named after a season. Each one is in three movements, with a slow movement between two faster ones. At the time of writing The Four Seasons, the modern solo form of the concerto had not yet been defined (typically a solo instrument and accompanying orchestra). Vivaldi’s original arrangement for solo violin with string quartet and basso continuo helped to define the form.