Khachaturian / Masquerade Suite / Kondrashin

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EXCELLENT SOUND for this TAS List Shaded Dog, with each side earning an A++ grade and playing relatively quietly.

This is a BIG one folks, as most of you probably know already. It is not easy to find copies of this album with excellent sound and fairly quiet surfaces on both sides, and if you don’t believe me, I encourage you to try.

The violin is sweet and full of rosiny texture here. The whole string section is full of Living Stereo magic. The soundstage is wide and deep, the overall sound rich and warm. The midrange is nothing short of magical.

This is the kind of Golden Age recording that makes us audiophiles lose it. It’s one of the few legitimate reasons to take the TAS Super Disc List seriously in the first place. HP put records like this on the audiophile map and we owe him a debt of gratitude for having done so. Our musical lives are remarkably richer for it.

Our current favorite recordings for sound and performance of The Comedians is this one.

These are the comments about a previous copy we had on the website (2001), many of which apply to this copy as well.


This recording is so natural it’s FREAKISH. You get swept up in the music completely because the sound allows you to forget it’s even a recording at all. All the normal adjectives apply; I won’t bother to repeat them here. If I ever make a list of the greatest recordings of all time, as Harry does with his “Best of the Bunch” dozen, you can bet that this record will be on it.

[I can’t say that I would be nearly as enthusiastic about this title nowadays as I was back then. Our playback system has gone through a lot of changes since 2001. The stereo I had back then (all tube, richer, darker and less revealing) no doubt was a better match for the best pressings of this recording than the one I have now

Note also that we gave the record a Double Plus sonic grade, not the full Three Pluses a top copy would earn if it were as “freakishly good” as I used to think.]


Side One

Khachaturian — Masquerade Suite

Side Two

Kabalevsky — The Comedians, Op. 26

This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.

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