Holst – A Shootout Years in the Making, and We Got It Wrong Anyway

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Planets

This is a VERY old commentary providing the evidence for just how Wrong We Were about the sound of Steinberg’s 1971 recording for DG.

We did the shootout in 2008 and picked a winner. Probably in the neighborhood of five years later we picked a new winner, the Previn on EMI, and we have never wavered from that choice. It’s still our favorite.

In fact, it gets better with every improvement we make to our system. That’s one of the ways you can be sure that it’s good: the better your system gets, the better your good records get. The inverse of that effect occurs right along side your good records. Now your not-so-good records start to show you how not-so-good they always were. (For you fans of Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speeds, this can be painful, but we all have to go through it, so, looking on the bright side, the sooner your system can show you what’s wrong with those audiophile records, the less money you will have wasted on them.)

In July of 2005 we noted on the site that Hot Stampers for this album were discovered, and interested parties should watch the site for killer copies in the coming months. Obviously we didn’t know at the time that the number of coming months would be THIRTY TWO. That’s how long it would be before we could offer our loyal customers truly Hot Stampers, but hey, good things come to those who wait, right?

We had to wait for two things: the revolutionary cleaning techniques that we developed during that time (the heart of which is our $7000 record cleaning machine) which allowed us to get these records to sound better and play quieter, and, secondly, better equipment. 

One Long Shootout

This was one long shootout, two and a half years in the making. And I spent at least ten years before that collecting enough copies to be able to find some pattern in the stampers that clued me in as to what to look for. It was a long time coming but we expect you will find it was all worth it in the end. This music is so important and moving; it belongs in every audiophile’s collection. To get Steinberg’s version into your collection has not been easy, until now. This is the one. 

The Story from 2005

Below you will find an example of a title that will show up on the site someday (I hope): Holst’s The Planets with Steinberg and the BSO on DG. My favorite performance of all time.

But the copies you see pictured above all sound different! If you could read my post-its on the covers you would see that each of them has strengths and weaknesses. Some are quite good, some are quite awful. Some are noisy, some are quiet. Some are grainy, some are sweet, some have powerful bass, some are bass shy. They all sound different, and they all sound different in their own way.

So what we need to do now is winnow this group down to the best 4 or 5 copies, and then shoot them out. First all the side ones, then all the side twos.

This is a big job. A job that will take more than one day. I could probably spend a week playing these records. You can only do so many until fatigue sets in.

I regret to say I just haven’t felt sufficiently inspired to take on a project of this size. What will probably get me going is the next copy I pick up that really sounds good. It will make me want to hear how good it sounds compared to the other copies I like. I have 3 or 4 pretty good sounding copies in my own collection . But which is the best?

Someday I hope to find out.

And when I do I’ll be sure to let you know. It will be my pleasure. Finding really good records is a thrill. Especially when they have music like this on them.

Further Reading