Audiophile Reviewers Raved About This Doug Sax Tube-Mastered Mess

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

Records that Do Not Belong on a Super Disc List

The reviews below will sound depressingly familiar to you if you have been in audio for as long as I have.

Sonic Grade: F

This Athena LP is now long out of print, but it received rave reviews when it was released. (We quote many of them below.) This album is a member of the TAS Super Disc list, but we found the sound awfully opaque, smeary, slow and compressed, the kind of bad “analog” sound that Doug Sax brought to the early AP releases. 

The sticker on the shrink wrap of a previous copy had these quotes:

“…for this is the definitive symphonic recording to date.” – J. Gordon Holt/ Stereophile

“Wins ‘Best Record of the Year’ award against tough competition.” – Joe Hart/High End Audio Press & Music Review

“HP heard the Athena remastering of the Rachmaninoff and found it stunning. He could recommend it without reservation.” – Harry Pearson/The Absolute Sound #57

I guess things never change.

And doubtlessly he continued to refer to himself in the third person until the end.

Reviewer malpractice? We’ve been writing about it for more than 25 years.

From the Hi-Fi Facts on the back cover:

Recording equipment included an Ampex stereo vacuum tube recorder operating at 30 inches per second. Master lacquers were cut directly from the original master tapes directly feeding a vacuum tube cutting amplifier without gain riding, compressing, limiting, expanding, filtering, equalizing or noise reduction. Metal parts were not de-horned so that the high frequency and transient information would be preserved. Pressed on 100% premium quality virgin vinyl.

Mastered by Doug Sax.

Further Reading


  1. This is a very interesting finding. I have an early AP/Doug Sax reissue of a VOX Ravel recording made by Marc Aubort, originally issued in a VOX box. I lated acquired a copy of the edited work parts of the recording from a friend who bought the master tapes of Elite Recordings when Aubort retired. Compared to the tapes (copied with Lyrec mastering recorders) played on my Nagra T Audio, the LP retained the incredible dynamics this recording is known for. The sin is in the brightness/hardness of the sound, probably due to boosted top end and/or an increase in high order harmonics. The tape sounded more natural. The tape of course had no Eq or other adjustments, but I believe Aubort did everything during the recording session and does not do much post-production, so the changes must have been made by Sax during the mastering.
    Since I have a 1:1 copy of the Rachmaninoff tape as well, it will be interesting to compare it to this LP.

    1. I’m all for anybody who wants to do comparisons. Keep us posted.

      I know next to nothing about the Ravel box you mention, other than the VOX vinyl was problematical enough for us to know that we could never find enough quiet copies to do a shootout, no matter how good it might sound.

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