_Composers – Bizet

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky – Just Awful on Alto Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Alto records did this title on 180 gram more than a decade ago, and it was a COMPLETE DISASTER. Those of you getting our catalogs in the ’90s when that record came around were warned not to buy it. I was lucky enough to own a very good original pressing of it at the time, which of course made it all too easy to recognize just how poorly the new pressing had been mastered.

No criticisms of the quality of the mastering were offered in the audiophile press however, none that I saw anyway.

And every major audiophile record dealer carried it. Funny how some things never change. (more…)

Bizet – L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one, this pressing is one of the best sounding Carmen Suites we have ever heard. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good ’60s All Tube Analog can be, this killer copy should be just the record to do it. This is only the second Carmen Suite to make it to the site, and it was worth the wait – the sound of this vintage Blueback is absolutely breathtaking. Recorded in 1961 using the amazing Decca Tree mic setup, it’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

What To Listen For – Side to Side

My notes for side two read:

Could use more tubes.

Strings could be a bit smoother.

Needs a bit more weight down low.

Side one had all of this and more!

(more…)

Bizet / Carmen / Gould – Our Shootout Winner from 2006

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875) 

More Carmen / Gould 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

DEMO QUALITY SOUND, if what you’re demonstrating is the three dimensional quality of Living Stereo recordings. Amazing depth and width can be heard on this record. And the music is sublime.

I confess I somewhat misjudged this title. Yes, the opening is compressed, which led me to think that the entire record was compressed, but that’s not true. In some ways it’s quite dynamic. The quiet portions are very quiet; in a couple of places there are just horns playing off in the deep distance, followed by some flutes, and they sound very natural, just as you would hear them in a concert hall. (more…)

Barney Kessel – Barney Kessel Plays Carmen (Stereo) – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

More Barney Kessel

More Barney Kessel Plays Carmen (Stereo)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This original Black Label Contemporary stereo LP has a STUNNING side two! Barney Kessel Plays Carmen is one of our favorite jazz guitar recordings of all time, and on a copy like this the sound is absolutely KILLER. 

As you can see from looking at the condition notes, this copy is quieter than any other we have listed to from our recent shootout. Fifties jazz doesn’t play much better than this copy right here. (more…)

Barney Kessel – Carmen – Transparency Is Key

More Barney Kessel

More Carmen

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The best Hot Stamper Original Yellow Label Mono pressings have the Tubey Magic we’ve come to expect from Contemporary circa 1958, with that warm, rich, full-bodied sound that most engineers can’t begin to understand. However, some pressings in our shootout managed to give us an extra level of transparency and ambience that the original pressings rarely do. 

There’s a room around this drum kit. So many copies don’t show you that room, not if they have the full sound that a copy like this does. (It’s amazing all the detail you can hear in a leaned-out record, but what good is that? The sound is leaned out! If you like that sound buy the OJC or the CD. Leave these wonderful originals to those of us who know the sound we’re after.)

I had the OJC pressing of this record years ago and couldn’t get in to the music. The OJC’s tend to be a bit on the thin side and it killed my enjoyment of this album. (more…)

Bizet / Symphony in C Major / Ansermet – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875) 

More Symphony in C Major / Ansermet (2011) 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This Decca Ace of Diamonds pressing of Ansermet’s 1961 recording has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides. The Symphony in C, which takes up the whole of side one, is BIG and LIVELY, which is just the kind of sound that makes us swoon here at Better Records. Live music IS big and lively, so why shouldn’t the best records be?

The second movement has a sublimely gorgeous oboe part you must hear. The whole side is wonderfully spacious, with real depth.

The sound of the 1961 tape must be truly magical. If you don’t know why we revere the Golden Age of Classical Recordings — 1954 to 1969 or so — buy this record. (more…)

Ibert / Divertissement / Martinon – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens

More Ibert / Divertissement / Martinon

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This London LP has a very good A+ to A++ side two. Lively and not too bright with nice space and clarity, the Jeux D’Enfants is very enjoyable. Le Rouet D’Omphale (the Spinning Wheel) which follows is even better! Natural and dynamic with rich strings, the tonality is wonderfully balanced. 

Performed with the Paris Conservatory Orchestra under Jean Martinon, this record also features Bizet’s Jeux D’Enfants and Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre and Le Rouet D’Omphale.

Side one, unfortunately, is not up to the same standard. Both sides, of course, have been through our exensive cleaning process and should sound substantially better than average.

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This White Hot Stamper copy of Bizet’s Carmen, rearranged by Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin for strings and 47 percussion instruments, has two AMAZING sides back to back, which makes it only the second copy of this quality to ever hit the site, and the first to do so in two years.

Demo Quality Sound barely begins to do it justice. If you have the system to play it, this copy is a KNOCKOUT. (more…)

Bizet / Symphony in C Major / Ansermet

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875) 

More Symphony in C Major / Ansermet (2012) 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This London pressing of Ansermet’s 1961 recording has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides. The Symphony in C, which takes up the whole of side one, is BIG and LIVELY, which is just the kind of sound that makes us swoon here at Better Records. Live music IS big and lively, so why shouldn’t the best records be? The bottom end has real power on this copy, the way live music does.

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.

The second movement has a sublimely gorgeous oboe part you must hear. The whole side is wonderfully spacious, with real depth. The sound of the 1961 tape must be truly magical. If you don’t know why we revere the Golden Age of Classical Recordings — 1954 to 1969 or so — buy this record. (more…)

Setup Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

Setup Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises

This is a superb Demonstration disc, but it is also an excellent Test disc. The sound of the best copies is rich, full-bodied, incredibly spacious, and exceptionally extended up top. There is a prodigious amount of musical information spread across the soundstage, much of it difficult to reproduce. Musicians are banging on so many different percussive devices (often at the back of the stage, exactly where they should be) that getting each one’s sonic character to clearly come through is a challenge — and when you’ve met it, a thrill.

If you’ve done your homework with VTA, Azimuth, Anti-Skate and Tracking Weight, this is the record that will make clear just how much you’ve accomplished.

More of the music of Georges Bizet

But boy is it a difficult record to reproduce! You better have everything working right when you play this one — it’s guaranteed to bring practically any audiophile system to its knees. And if you have any peaky audiophile wire in your system, the kind that is full of detail but calls attention to itself, you are in big trouble with a record like this. More than anything this is a record that rewards your system’s neutrality.

On the best copies the strings have wonderful texture and sheen. If your system isn’t up to it (or you have a copy with a problem in this area), the strings might sound a little shrill and possibly grainy as well, but I’m here to tell you that the sound on the best copies is just fine with respect to string tone and timbre. You will need to look elsewhere for the problem. (more…)