Debussy / Iberia on Classic Records – What, Specifically, Are Its Shortcomings?

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the music of Claude Debussy

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

The Classic of LSC 2222 is all but unlistenable on a highly resolving, properly set-up hi-fidelity system.

The opacity, transient smear and loss of harmonic information and ambience found on Classic’s pressing was enough to drive us right up the wall. Who can sit through a record that sounds like that? Way back in 1994, long before we had anything like the system we do now, we were finding fault with the “Classic Records Sound” and said as much in our catalogs.

With each passing year — 26 and counting — we like that sound less.  The Classic may be on Harry’s TAS list — sad but true — but that certainly has no bearing on the fact that it’s not a very good record.

MORE RECORDS GOOD FOR JUDGING THESE QUALITIES

Ambience, Size and Space

Smear

String Tone and Texture

Transparency Vs Opacity


Classic Records – The First Three Classical Releases Reviewed, Circa 1995

Hall of Shame Pressings, Every One

I’m reminded of the nonsense I read in TAS and elsewhere in the mid-’90s regarding the reputed superiority of the Classic Records Living Stereo reissues. After playing their first three titles: 1806, 1817 and 2222 (if memory serves), I could find no resemblance between the reviews I read and the actual sound of the records I played. The sound was, in a word, awful. To this day I consider them to be the Single Worst Reissue Series in the History of the World. [Analogue Productions probably now holds that crown.]

When Harry Pearson (of all people! — this is the guy who started the Living Stereo craze by putting those forgotten old records on the TAS list in the first place) gave a rave review to LSC 1806, I had to stand up (in print anyway) and say that the emperor clearly had removed all his clothes, if he ever had any to begin with. (And now he has a CD List? Ugh.) This got me kicked out of TAS by the way, as Harry does not take criticism well. I make a lot of enemies in this business with my commentary and reviews, but I see no way to avoid the fallout for calling a spade a spade.

Is anybody insane enough to stand up for LSC 1806 today? Considering that there is a die-hard contingent of people who still think Mobile Fidelity is the greatest label of all time, there may well be “audiophiles” with crude audio equipment or underdeveloped critical listening skills, or both (probably both, as the two go hand in hand), that still find the sound of that steely-stringed Classic pressing somehow pleasing to the ear. Hey, anything is possible.

As I’ve said again and again, the better a stereo gets, the more obvious the differences between good original pressings and most current reissues become. Modest front ends and mediocre playback systems can disguise these differences and mislead the amateur audiophile.

And the “professional” too. We’ve all had the experience of going back to play a record from years ago that you remember as being amazing, only to find it amazingly bad. (The Japanese Led Zeppelin series comes immediately to mind. How could my system have been so dull that those bright pressings actually fooled me into thinking they sounded good ten years ago? I’ve done a few Mea Culpas over the years, and that’s one of the bigger ones.)

Remember when Chesky records were the rage? Does anybody in his right mind play that shit anymore? (A short anecdote: A good customer called me up one night years ago. He had just finished playing the Chesky Spain, and had pulled out his Shaded Dog original to compare. The sound of his Shaded Dog pressing was so much better that he took his Chesky and, with great satisfaction, ceremoniously dropped it in the trash can, noting, “Of course I could have sold it or traded it away, but nobody should have to listen to sound like that.”)


FURTHER READING

Bernie Grundman’s Work for Classic Records: Hard, Sour, Colored and Crude

The general sonic signature of the modern Heavy Vinyl Classical Reissue: Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Vague.

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners

And finally,

A Confession

One final note of honesty. Even as recently as the early 2000s we were still somewhat impressed with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings. If we had never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last twenty or more years perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem to prefer.

We’ll never know of course; that’s a bell that can be unrung. We did the work, we can’t undo it, and the system that resulted from it is merciless in revealing the truth — that these newer pressings are second-rate at best and much more often than not third-rate or worse.

Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. Judging by the hundred or more letters we’ve received over the years concerning the superiority of our Hot Stampers when played head to head against any and all Heavy Vinyl challengers, we know that our customers see things the same way.

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