_Composers – Schumann

Schumann & Grieg / Piano Concertos / Lupu / Previn / LSO – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This is an EXCELLENT SOUNDING London pressing of the famous TAS list LP. I’ve never heard a quieter copy. Usually these are noisy as hell and this one plays dead quiet most of the time, and Mint Minus the rest.

HP was right: the Grieg here has the best sound. The piano is amazingly well recorded; the sound is rich and powerful. The orchestra sound better on the Grieg as well; it’s slightly more compressed and leaner on the Schumann side.  

Britten / Debussy / Schumann / Cello Sonatas / Rostropovich – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

Both sides of this promo London Blueback pressing of piano and cello music have SUPERB sound. If you’re a fan of the cello, the piano, or chamber works in general, you will have a hard time finding a better sounding recording than this.

Notice especially that there is practically no smear on the piano — the notes are clear, with their transients fully intact, something one rarely hears anywhere but in the live setting. The tonality of the piano is also correct from top to bottom.

But the real surprise here is how unusually natural the cello sounds — more like the real instrument and less like the typical recording of it.

Normally when recording the cello the microphones are placed fairly close to the instrument. This often results in what’s known as the “proximity effect”, which simply describes a boost in the lower frequencies relative to the more linear response of the microphone when placed at a distance.

The famous Starker cello recordings on Mercury — you know the ones, the orginals and even the reissues sell for hundreds and hundreds of dollars — suffer from this effect, which audiophiles seem to prefer. (The Mercury heavy vinyl reissues, at least the ones I played, were ridiculously fat and bloated in the bottom. Audiophiles did not seem to mind much, judging by the apparently strong sales and the rave reviews I read. Bass shy systems, and that means most of the systems owned by audiophiles, probably benefited from the bass boost. Systems with lots of large woofers — at least in our case — would of course make the sound of these pressings positively unbearable. That indeed was our experience.) (more…)

The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – Ansermet – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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

This is a QUIET RCA Soria Shaded Dog Box Set with some of the BEST SOUND I HAVE EVER HEARD for this music on Disc One. This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND if what you are demonstrating is not the merely Hi-Fi, but the relaxed beauty and naturalness of what many consider to be the finest example of Living Stereo Magic brought to the greatest performances of ballet music ever committed to tape.

Allow me to paraphrase some commentary from another Shaded Dog (8972307) we currently have up on the site: 

This record shows off Living Stereo sound at its best. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy. If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

I don’t think the RCA engineers can cut this record any better — it has all the Living Stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the bass and dynamics that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records. This is pretty much as good as it gets, folks.

All of which is true. The interesting thing about the Royal Gala Ballet Box is how FEW of them sound as good as their press would have you think. And the little shootout we conducted for this set was more evidence of this very fact. (more…)

The Bloated Cello Sound Some Audiophiles Seem to Love

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate any and all cello recordings you may own.

On this pressing we were a bit surprised by how unusually natural the cello sounded — more like the real instrument and less like the typical recording of it. 

Normally when recording the cello the microphones are placed fairly close to the instrument. This often results in what’s known as the “proximity effect,” which simply describes a boost in the lower frequencies relative to the more linear response of the microphone when placed at a distance. (more…)