Does Anybody (Other than Us) Ever Talk About the Dry String Tone of Some London Pressings?

Not that we know of. If audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them are listening critically to these famous recordings on high quality equipment, why do they never talk about this problem?

Here is what we noticed when we played a big batch of Nutcracker recordings on London and Decca:

On some copies of this album the strings are dry, lacking in that wonderful quality we like to call Tubey Magic. Dry is decidedly not our sound, although it can often be heard on the hundreds of London pressings we’ve played over the years.

And we imagined that this might be the culprit:

If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange, the one that so many moving coils have these days, you may not notice this tonality issue nearly as often as we do.

Our Dynavector 17Dx Karat is ruler flat and quite tonally unforgiving in this regard. It makes our shootouts much easier, but brings out the flaws in all but the best pressings, exactly the job we require it to do.

We discussed the issue in a commentary entitled Hi-Fi Beats My-Fi If You Are At All Serious about Audio.

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.

Can we really be hearing all these things that nobody else seems to be hearing? Things like:

Not to mention the fact that we have played a lot of these kinds of records:

If audiophiles and audiophile reviewers are hearing these things on the records they review, in magazines and audiophile forums, why aren’t they discussing them?

Case in Point

We occasionally take the time to create a little “test” to see if audiophiles — customers or just visitors to the blog, makes no difference to us — can hear a specific quality we’d noticed when auditioning a record. Normally this would be a quality that jumped out at us when playing the record, and we were just curious as to whether it jumped out at anybody else.

On this version of Sweet Baby James we heard something that took us by surprise, an artifact we subsequently dubbed an “EQ Anomaly.” We put the question of what this anomaly might be to our readers and waited for someone to spot it. And here is what we got in return.

Crickets. Nada. Zilch. Not even one response.

Does no one own the new Heavy Vinyl reissue? As we said in our review, it’s very good sounding and the vinyl is quiet. I think you could buy one for twenty bucks or less before it went out of print. Seems like someone should have bought one and played it.

If someone did play it, they must not have heard it, because the anomaly could be described in ten words or less in an email to me.

Many of the Heavy Vinyl pressings we play these days — watch for reviews for some heavy hitters coming soon — suffer from the same problem, a shortcoming, by the way, that is almost never heard on authentic vintage vinyl pressings in our experience, our experience being the tens of thousands of them of them that we have auditioned.

I believe I know why most audiophiles in the case of Sweet Baby James can’t hear it: It actually helps fix a problem in their systems. That’s why lots of records these days have it. Audiophiles probably prefer that their records have it. They sure don’t seem to complain about it much.

But if your system is correct from top to bottom, it’s easy to hear. In fact it sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

OUR RECENT NUTCRACKER COMMENTARY

Ansermet’s performances of the two suites are hard to fault. In addition, the gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time; more amazing sounding recordings were made there than any other hall known to us. There is a richness to the sound that exceeds all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least. It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass and the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

We like our recordings to have as many Live Music qualities as possible, and those qualities really come through on a record such as this when reproduced on the full-range speaker system we use.

It’s precisely this kind of big, rich sound that makes audiophiles prize Decca-London recordings above those of virtually any other label, and here, unlike in so many areas of audio, we are fully in agreement with our fellow record lovers.

A Must Own Classical Record

Ansermet breathes life into this ballet as only he can, and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud.

It’s an Orchestral Spectacular that should have a place of honor in any audiophile’s collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Reviews and Commentaries for The Nutcracker

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

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