Classical – Large Orchestral Works

Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with Solti on Decca/London

More Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

More Symphony No. 4 – Solti

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

Deep bass; rich, smooth strings, lots of lovely hall space – this copy was right up there with the best we heard, and clearly won the shootout for side two. You will hear immediately why this side two could not be beat – it’s wonderful. (more…)

Chabrier / Orchestral Music / Ansermet – What to Listen For

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More Orchestral Music / Ansermet

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

On many copies the strings are dry, lacking Tubey Magic. This is decidedly not our sound, although it can easily be heard on many London pressings, the kind we’ve played by the hundreds over the years. If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange that so many moving coils have these days, you will not notice this tonality issue nearly as much as we do. Our 17D3 is ruler flat and quite unforgiving in this regard.  

It makes our shootouts much easier, but brings out the flaws in all but the best pressings, exactly the job we require it to do. (more…)

Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque – Reversed Polarity Copy!

More Ottorino Rossini

More La Boutique Fantasque / Fiedler

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

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This is a WONDERFUL sounding, very quiet original Shaded Dog pressing of one of the rarest Living Stereo titles. Dropping the needle on side one was a shock — the sound was terrible: thin, shrill and practically unlistenable. Since I know this to be an exceptionally good sounding record, there was only one possibility: reverse absolute phase. Sure enough, the magic of Living Stereo reappeared. If you can’t reverse your phase, this is not the record for you! 

Are they all that way? I have no way of knowing. I run across a clean quiet copy like this about every ten years. If any of you out there own this record and yours is not reversed phase let me know what your stamper numbers are, I’d be very interested.

This has always been a favorite title with audiophiles. It’s full of lovely orchestral colors, much like The Nutcracker. As usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops are accorded superb sound.

Verdi / Rossini / Overtures and Intermezzos

More Living Stereo

More Verdi / Rossini / Overtures and Intermezzos / Solti

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

This White Hot Stamper Plum Victrola pressing has GORGEOUS Tubey Magical Analog sound the likes of which you may have never heard. Yes, it’s that good! Recorded in England by Decca in 1959, with Solti at the helm of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the music herein was originally released on the album Venice, LSC 2313, with a lovely die-cut cover. Six years later, still clearly in the Golden Age of Tubes, it was reissued on Victrola, and it would be hard to imagine it sounding any better than it does here. (We keep a noisy Venice as a ref but it sure doesn’t sound like this pressing.) 

At one time we had a copy of this record that we felt suffered from reversed absolute polarity, but we found no such problem with this copy — it sounds amazing! (more…)

Ballet Music From The Opera on Classic Records Vinyl

More Ballet Music From The Opera / Fistoulari

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Classic Records ruined this album, as one would have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance. In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price. 

Most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a classical recording of this quality. If they had Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and labeled as such by us way back in 1994. I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled, but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases. (We admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock, and we have the We Was Wrong entries to prove it.)

Albeniz / Suite Espanola / De Burgos – What to Listen For

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More Suite Espanola / De Burgos

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

Wow, is this record ever DYNAMIC! I would put it in the top 2 or 3 percent of the most dynamic recordings we have played over the course of the last twenty five years. It also has tons of DEPTH. The brass is at the far back of the stage, just exactly where they would be placed in the concert hall, which greatly adds to the realism of the recording.

The strings may not be quite as sweet as the best earlier Londons, but the trade off is well worth it when you hear a record with this kind of LIFE and so little distortion.

Note that careful VTA adjustment for a record with this kind of dynamic energy is a must. Having your front end carefully calibrated to this record is the only way to guarantee there is no distortion or shrillness in even the loudest passages. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann The Fantasy Film World of… on MoFi Anadisq

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More Fantasy Film World of…

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Obviously our customers know by now that a Hot Stamper London pressing is going to be far better than the Anadisq MoFi cut in the mid ’90s. How much better?

Words fail me.

That record was a complete disaster. Perhaps some of the MoFi collectors didn’t notice because they had nothing to compare to it. 

God forbid they would ever lower themselves to buy a common pressing such as a London. Had they done so, what they would have heard is huge amounts of musical information that is simply nowhere to be found on the MoFi.

There is a place on this album, I failed to note exactly where, in which a group of tubas play a descending scale that is somewhat buried in the mix. On the London, they can clearly be heard and recognized as tubas. On the MoFi, I don’t think they can be heard except as some general group of low notes, and anyone thinking that they were tubas would be guessing, the sound is that murky, muddy, and ill-defined.

Robert Pincus once left a Post-It note stuck to the MoFi jacket of a copy he was playgrading for me that rather pithily summed up our thoughts on the quality of their mastering: “Did MoFi bother to listen to this before they ruined it?”

It’s positively shameful. This music is so good! On top of that, it’s custom made for audiophiles. Audiophiles are the ones who can appreciate the new colors Herrmann created, using what a wise man once called the single greatest instrument ever invented: the symphony orchestra.

Rossini Overtures with Maag and the PCO

More Recordings of the Music of Ottorino Rossini

More Overtures / Maag / PCO

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The London and Decca original pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth.

Bad vinyl, bad mastering, who knows why so many copies sound so thick, dull and veiled? 

This Stereo Treasury pressing of Maag’s 1958 recording is shockingly good in many ways. It sure doesn’t sound like a budget reissue. If anything it sounds more original than the originals we played against it! (more…)

Prokofiev’s Lt. Kije at 45 RPM – An Audiophile Pressing to Shame Them All

More Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

More Prokofiev / Lt. Kije / Abbado

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

This Japanese 45 RPM remastering of our favorite recording of Prokofiev’s wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to these. Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can’t recommend the record any more highly. 

Most of what’s “bad” about a DG recording from 1978 is ameliorated with this pressing. The bass drum (drums?) here must be heard to be believed. We know of no Golden Age recording with as believable a presentation of the instrument as this.

The drum is clearly and precisely located at the back of the stage; even better, it’s as huge and powerful and room-filling as it would have been had you attended the session yourself. That’s our idea of hi-fidelity here at Better Records. (more…)

We Review the Chesky Scheherazade

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More Scheherazade

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Record and another Remastered Audiophile Pressing debunked.

Chesky is one of the WORST AUDIOPHILE LABELS in the history of the world. Their recordings are so artificial and “wrong” that they defy understanding. That some audiophiles actually buy into this junk sound is equal parts astonishing and depressing. Their own records are a joke, and their remasterings of the RCA Living Stereo catalog are an abomination. If there is a more CLUELESS audiophile label on the planet, I don’t know who it could be, and I don’t want to find out.