- Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for this classic Decca engineered “Living Stereo” Victrola from 1965 – both sides of this pressing earned our top grade of A+++
- Listen to how rich the cellos sound — this is Tubey Magical Analog and its most luscious and enchanting.
- You could easily play one hundred classical albums and not hear this kind of sound!
- If you have the real Living Stereo pressing (with the cool die-cut cover), let us send you this pressing to compare — who knows, you might like it even better than your Shaded Dog
- Classic Records did this title back in the ’90s, and it was one of the worst of their sorry releases
This 1959 Decca recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl.
On this copy you will find As Good As It Gets sound. It’s so BIG and RICH you will have a hard time believing that it’s a budget reissue from 1965, but that’s precisely what it is.
Ah but it’s a reissue from back in the day when they knew how to cut a record properly, regardless of its retail price.
The rich, textured, rosin-on-the-bow lower strings on this record are to die for. Find me a modern record that sounds like this and I will eat it.
And by “modern record” we hasten to include both modern recordings and modern remasterings of older recordings. NO ONE alive today can make a record that sound even remotely as good as this. To call it a lost art is to understand something that few vinyl-loving audiophiles appear to have grasped since the advent of the Modern Reissue, which is simply this: they can’t begin to compete.
After twenty years of trying and literally hundreds of failed examples the engineers of today have yet to make a record that sounds as powerful and life-like as this London from almost fifty years ago.
Fortunately for the both of us we are not trying to make a record that sounds the way this one does. We’re just trying to find one, and folks, we found the hell out of this one.
What the best sides of Solti’s Wonderful Readings 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 1959
- 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.
Quotes from the RCA Bible
For stereo buffs, there is another little treat on this particular disc. About a minute or so into the last band on side one, you can clearly hear the famous Underground subway rumbling beneath Kingsway Hall. This Underground, the Aldrich-Holborn line, was a constant nightmare to Decca engineers.
Ironically the branch of the Underground which ran beneath the Kingsway only had the two stops, Aldrich and Holborn. Ray Minshull told me that Decca tried to have the train rerouted and even explored the possibility of equipping it with rubber wheels (a la the Paris Metro), but the costs were prohibitive.
The only thing that made the rumble halfway livable was the fact that a large theatrical costumier, who supplied costumes to all the theaters in London, kept his shop in Kingsway’s ground floor. The multitude of costumes damped some of the rumble, although Decca mastering engineers applied what they called “the Kingsway filter” to each and every tape made in Kingsway — a subsonic filter designed to restrict very low frequency modulation due to the Underground’s rumblings and grumblings. Even at that Ray Minshull claims that the Underground and, of course, once the costumier went out of business the hall became unusable [Minshull Interview, 2/16/93.”
I am quoted in a few places in the very same publication (LSC 1817 and 2446 are two I remember), which I believe is very hard to get hold of these days. Lots of commentary in there I don’t agree with, so no real loss to the audiophile community.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
When you hear a copy with that kind of sound, it’s an entirely different listening experience.
And you might just end up winning the shootout.
What We’re Listening For on Overtures and Intermezzos from Famous Operas
- 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.
- 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.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
A Must Own Classical Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Classical Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Verdi – La Traviata: Prelude to Act 1
Rossini – L’Italiana in Algeri: Overture
Verdi – La Traviata: Prelude to Act 3
Offenbach – The Tales of Hoffman: Barcarolle
Rossini – Semiramide: Overture
Boito-Ponchielli – La Gioconda: Dance of the Hours