_Composers – Holst

Holst / The Planets / Steinberg – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

Side one here is AGAIG, as good as it gets. It shows the listener more of everything that’s wonderful about this wondrous work. Side two is very nearly as good, and was only beaten slightly by one other copy in our shootout. This pressing gives you the complete work in the best sound we can find. 

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. 

Holst / The Planets / Boult – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This 1967 recording of the work has one very special quality that’s not often heard on classical vinyl — THE FEEL OF LIVE MUSIC. This is also something you will not often hear us say about EMI recordings from the late ’60s and ’70s. (Unlike HP and most audiophiles in the ’70s, we find EMI’s recordings leave a lot to be desired, lacking in warmth, with a thin, sour, overly clear presentation. Great for muddy equipment but bad news on higher resolution modern rigs.) 

Super Hot Stampers on both sides means this Planets can take on any pressing you have of the piece and show you what you’ve been missing out on all these years.

(There are a LOT of bad Planets out there. With its monstrously large orchestra and chorus, it’s not an easy work to capture on tape.) (more…)

Holst – The Planets – Testing with Mars and Saturn

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of The Planets.

Mars on the first side and Saturn on the second present serious challenges for any vinyl pressings you may own. Generally speaking, the White Hot copies tend to have a bit more top end extension, and/or more lower end weight. Let’s get to the specifics of the two movements we feel are the best test for The Planets as a whole.

The War Test — Side One

War, the first movement, has the string players “bouncing” their bows upside down to create the effect you hear. It’s not fingers plucking the strings; it’s the wood of the bows bouncing on the strings. The quality of that technique is so obvious and correct sounding on the good copies and so blurry and indistinct on the bad ones that you could almost judge the whole first side by that sound alone. When it’s right it’s really right. 

And of course the players are spread out wider and the soundfield is so much more transparent when these types of sonic qualities are brought out. This bouncing bow test makes it easy to separate the better copies from the also-rans when it comes to smear, resolution, transparency and the like. (more…)

Holst / The Planets / Solti / LPO – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This is a fairly quiet, excellent sounding Decca in the Box Purple Label British import LP. This is the same performance, the same recording that Mobile Fidelity remastered (510), but, thankfully, this copy sounds A WHOLE LOT BETTER! 

This pressing is very dynamic and the brass has tremendous weight.

Holst / The Planets / Previn / LSO – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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The Planets / Previn / LSO

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

This Beyond White Hot Stamper Planets has Out Of This World sound on side two, where it earned a Four Plus sonic grade for its MINDBLOWING orchestral power, especially from the brass section, a subject we discuss at length below. 

This is some of the best sound I have ever heard coming out of my two speakers, if not THE best. Side two of this very copy takes the recording to a level we had no idea was possible. Out of the fifty or so copies of The Planets we’ve played in the last decade or so, this is without a doubt the best side two of them all.

We can only hope to find a side one as good in the next ten years. It probably exists, but will it take us another fifty copies to run into it? Only time will tell! (more…)

Holst / British Band Classics Vol. 1 / Fennell – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This RARE Super Hot Stamper Mercury Mono original pressing has the kind of BIG, LIVELY, tonally correct sound that not one out of fifty mono records we play can lay claim to. If more mono records sounded like this one I wouldn’t be so down on mono all the time.

But they don’t. Most mono records sound SMALL. When you have big speakers, set far apart and far from the back wall, in a pretty good sized room, small is just not the sound you want to hear! Especially when it comes to classical music. I want a front row seat, and this record is a first class ticket to one.  (more…)

Holst / British Band Classics Vol. 2 / Fennell

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

Side one big, full and dynamic, with horns and winds that are never screechy. (Side two of this first LP is very screechy and not at all to our liking.) 

Side two of the second record has the sound of live music. Huge space, clear yet rich, this is the sound we were looking for! (more…)

Holst, Steinberg and The Planets – A Shootout Years in the Making

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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. (Check out our Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary for the latest in changes to the stereo.) (more…)

British Band Classics Vol. 2 – The First Classical Record I Bought as an Audiophile

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British Band Classics Volume Two was the first Mercury classical LP I ever bought. After hearing it at an audiophile friend’s house I went down to Tower Records and found one in the bin. I think the price was $3.99 for the Golden Import pressing, which of course was the only one available. That was what I had heard, so I had no idea that the original even existed, let alone sounded better and would one day sell for many hundreds of dollars. This was the ’70s, when you could walk into a record store and buy new records, and long before HP created a feeding frenzy for vintage Mercs.

As I’m writing this, I can picture myself in the store. I can still remember that the clerk who helped me find the record commented that I should have come in the week before when the record was on sale for $1 off. I certainly feel like I got my money’s worth that day. This album went on to become one of my personal treasures. I used to marvel at the way the wind instruments actually sounded like the pipes of an organ. (I wasn’t really sure at first that there wasn’t an organ playing somewhere on the record. I didn’t know much about classical music then. ) (more…)

The Mehta Planets – Sealed with the Pioneer Booklet

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Factory Sealed CS 6734 with the super rare Pioneer spacecraft booklet inside the shrink!

There’s a very good chance this is the last such copy on the planet. I have never seen one before, and I remember when this record came out, so probably few were made with this special booklet included. I’m guessing it has about a dozen pages or so, and probably talks about the Pioneer mission to Jupiter.

“Launched on 2 March 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the Asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter. Famed as the most remote object ever made by man through most of its mission, Pioneer 10 is now over 8 billion miles away.”