Advice – What to Listen For – Side to Side Differences

Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz – Awesome In Stereo (2007)

xxxxx

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

DEMO DISC QUALITY ORCHESTRAL SOUND like you will not believe. We put two top copies together to bring you the ultimate-sounding Pictures At An Exhibition. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this for huge orchestral dynamics and energy.

One side of each copy rates A Triple Plus — our highest sonic grade. The sound is out of this world. 

We had to do it that way, for one simple reason: Pictures stretches over both sides of this record, and no copy we played had two good sides, which means that if you were to own only one LP of this set, some part of the work would not sound nearly as good as the rest. This is always a problem with classical recordings: one good sounding side is not enough.

On top of that there are always condition issues with old Living Stereo records. So few are quiet. We love the sound but the vinyl leaves much to be desired. Here are some comments from a previous comparison package (with minor changes of course). (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Grumiaux – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

xxxxx

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

This White Hot Two-Pack of the most well-known and beloved violin concerto in the classical repertoire gives you a TOP performance with TOP quality sound from first note to last. No single copy had two sides as good as these, so we’ve combined two LPs to bring you the best Tchaicovsky Violin Concerto ever to hit the site.

In choosing these two sides we put special emphasis on the sound of the violin. Many copies suffered from a slight screechiness to the sound of the instrument, but we present here a violin that is rich and sweet, yet retains the full pallette of its complex harmonics.

Side One – Record One

A++, with Tubey Magic to die for. The sound is rich, with a bit of tube smear that does little damage to the overall sound. Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are in evidence throughout the side. There’s so much energy that, in comparison to some copies, this side almost sounded like it was running fast!

Side two of this LP earned a grade of A+ — it’s too smeary and dark for our taste. (more…)

Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Dubby Da-Vida

More Iron Butterfly

xxxxx

The craziest thing we learned in our shootout is that something close to half of all the yellow label, authentic, non-record-club Atco copies we played had clearly been mastered from a dub tape on side two, the side with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

We’re guessing that at some point after 1968, when it came time to recut the record, the cutting master for side two was either damaged or couldn’t be found. Not a problem the label says to itself, we have a safety tape we can copy and use for side two.

Problem solved, except for the fact that on those copies In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida sounds like a cassette playing on a machine with worn out heads. The sound is smeary, veiled, small and recessed — all but unlistenable.  (more…)

Thoughts on a Direct to Disc Recording – Side One Vs. Side Two

I’ve Got The Music In Me

houstivego

In our last shootout this White Hot Stamper tied for the best side two we have ever heard! In the final round it simply came down to the fact that the other copy was a little more clear, this one is a little richer. They were both so amazing we couldn’t decide which we preferred so we gave them both White Hot Stamper grades.

In our experience this rarely happens. Most of the time one side of one of the records in the shootout will show itself to be the clear winner, doing everything (or almost everything; there is no such thing as a perfect record) right. When you play enough copies, eventually you run into the one that shows you how the music wants to be heard, what kind of sound seems to work for it the best. The two side twos we liked were variations, and fairly subtle ones at that, on a theme — a little richer here, a little clearer there, but both SO GOOD!

Side two fulfills the promise of the direct to disc recording approach in a way that few — very few — direct to disc pressings do. To be honest, most copies of this title were quite good. Few didn’t do most things at least well enough to earn a Hot Stamper grade. This has not been the case with many of the Sheffield pressings we’ve done shootouts for in the past. Often the weaker copies have little going for them. They don’t even sound like Direct Discs! (more…)

Paganini / Caprices / Ricci

More of the music of Niccolò Paganini

Caprices / Ricci

xxxxx

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

This London White Hot Stamper pressing has DEMO QUALITY SOUND on side two! Sound of this calibre is nothing less than SHOCKING. If you like the sound of solo violin — and who doesn’t — you will have a VERY hard time finding a better sounding recording of it than this. That’s assuming you can get your Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) dead on the money, not something every audiophile can manage. If you can, lookout — you are in for a sonic treat.

And when one side of a record sounds this good, what are the chances that the other side will also be as good? Slim is the flip answer, but flip or not, it’s no less true. Although quite good in many respects, side one is clearly a step down. The statistical law of “regression toward the mean” would tell us it almost had to be. Side two is simply an outlier in the world of violin records. I would not expect to hear many that sound as good in my lifetime, or at least in my audio lifetime. (more…)

Brewer & Shipley – Weeds – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2017

More Brewer and Shipley

More Weeds

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

It took two copies on two different labels to give you BETTER than Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the two sides of this 2-pack. These sides were beyond anything we had ever heard, with weight and Tubey Magic to put other records to shame. On the best copies the midrange is amazingly relaxed and natural, yet completely clear and present. This Bay Area Hippie Folk Rock has much in common with classic albums like Workingman’s Dead and CSN’s first. (more…)

Beethoven / Famous Beethoven Overtures / Munchinger – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven

More Famous Beethoven Overtures / Munchinger

xxxxx

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

This British London Blueback original pressing has better than A+ Hot Stamper sound on both sides. The music is lively and well-played, as one would expect from the venerable Karl Munchinger leading the Vienna Phil.

The sound is quite good but very different for each of the two sides. For more on the sound please see our notes below. (more…)

Ravel, Saint-Saens et al. / Tzigane, Havanaise / Kyung-Wha Chung – Reviewed in 2012

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Tzigane, Havanaise / Kyung-Wha Chung

xxxxx

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

This 1979 London original English pressing of violin showpieces has Super Hot Stamper sound on side two, which came as a bit of a shock to us after playing side one, which is as congested and opaque as one would expect from such a late London recording. Side two is fabulous — full-bodied, rich and sweet. Even though it may have been recorded in 1977, the engineer is Kenneth Wilkinson, and the hall is Kingsway — not many bad recordings can be attributed to either.    

But bad mastering or bad pressing quality are surely not the fault of either; when the record doesn’t come out of the oven right, the sound is going to suffer, and the sound on this side one is insufferable all right. But side two is GLORIOUS; it has wonderful music played with the greatest skill and feeling.  (more…)

Mozart & Turina / The Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

The Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts

xxxxx

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

This is a Super Hot Stamper Two-Pack that comprises a White Dog RCA original for side one and a Red Label reissue for side two, for the simple and obvious reason that the “bad” sides of each of these LPs are not nearly as good as the “good” sides. When you play the weaker sides you will no doubt appreciate why we felt it was appropriate to bundle two very different records together to make a truly SUPERB one.

If you’ve suffered through the horrendously sour and screechy recordings Heifetz and Piatigorsky are known for in audiophile circles — LDS 2513 and LDS 6159 — you will be glad to know that the two good sides here sound NOTHING like them. (Reversing your polarity on LDS 6159 helps but it can’t fix sound that’s that bad.)  (more…)

June Christy – The Intimate Miss Christy

More June Christy

More The Intimate Miss Christy

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Both sides of this 1962 All Tube Recorded and Mastered record are just as rich and relaxed as you would expect. The balance is correct, which means the top is there as well as the bottom, with good vocal presence throughout.

We are HUGE fans of this album at Better Records, but it’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make this shootout happen. We’re happy to say it worth all the trouble.

Get the volume just right and June will be standing between your speakers and putting on the performance of a lifetime. This is one of our favorite female vocal albums (along with Clap Hands, Julie Is her Name and a fair number of others) and this amazingly good copy will show you why – the sound and music are wonderful.

The Mono Is King

This early mono pressing is the only way to find the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is dramatically more REAL sounding. (more…)