Composers

Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess on the Six Eye Label

More Vintage Columbia Pressings

More Miles Davis / More Gil Evans

  • Insanely good sound on both sides of this original Columbia Six-Eye pressing with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Both sides are full of that old-school Columbia jazz Tubey Magic – the brass is full-bodied with lots of air, the bass is surprisingly well-defined, the top end is extended and sweet, and the soundfield is HUGE and three-dimensional
  • 5 stars: “It was Evans’ intimate knowledge of the composition as well as the performer that allowed him to so definitively capture the essence of both… No observation or collection of American jazz can be deemed complete without this recording.”
  • Teo Macero was the producer, Fred Plaut the engineer for these sessions in Columbia’s glorious sounding 30th Street Studio.
  • It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.
  • If you’re a fan of the marvelous collaborations of Davis and Evans circa 1959, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this album belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

(more…)

Falla / Turina – Nights In The Gardens Of Spain / Danzas Fantásticas

More of the music of Manuel De Falla (1876-1946)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this original UK import pressing of these wonderful classical works will be hard to beat
  • These sides are doing pretty much everything right – they’re rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, and has depth and transparency to rival the best recordings you may have heard
  • Soriano’s piano is especially clear, solid, and present throughout Danzas Fantásticas, with practically no trace of vintage analog tube smear

(more…)

Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 4 in Living Stereo – What Does It Sound Like Now?

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Years ago we wrote:

This is a 1s/5s Shaded Dog. TAS List (or at least it used to be). Probably the reason HP likes this LP so much is that it has a very wide soundstage. It also has good solid weight. A little soft on top, but that comes with the territory.

This is a very old review, probably from about 15 years ago. I don’t think I could recommend this record today. It probably belongs on this list, but I cannot truthfully say that it does one way or another. As I recall, the copies I’ve played more recently were not impressive.

If I played it today, would I find it to be as bad as this Living Stereo pressing? Who knows? That experiment has not been run.

Classic Records remastered a version of the album in 1995. In another listing we mentioned that Classic had the habit of  equalizing their classical records to make them all but intolerable on a modern hi-fidelity system:

Classic, as is their wont, boosted the upper midrange, and that, coupled with their transistory mastering equipment, makes the strings brighter, grainier and yet somehow lacking in texture and sheen compared to the originals (a clear sign of a low-res cutting chain).

Once you recognize that quality in the sound of a record it’s hard to ignore, and I hear it on practically every Classic Record I play. This commentary has more on the subject.

RCA is more famous for its string tone than anything else. If the strings on the Classic Records LPs don’t bother you, you can save yourself a lot of money by not buying vintage RCA pressings, and get a lot quieter vinyl to boot.

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.

Another label you are no doubt familiar with used to make ridiculously bright classical records. Here is one of their worst.

If you would like to see other records with string tone we found to be too bright, click here.

Some Advice

We much prefer Mravinsky’s performances of the later symphonies, but good sounding copies of his records are just too hard to find, and may in fact not be findable, so we have never actually done a shootout for any of them.

Bach / Suite No. 2 / Janigro – Reviewed in 2007

Our 2007 listing for this album presented it this way:

A 1S/1S Indianapolis pressing with A1 metal mothers from 1960 with sweet sound.

Perfectly fitting for these Baroque pieces recorded in Italy.

UPDATE 2022

In 2007, we typically did not have the number of copies needed for a shootout, so records such as this one would be auditioned and, if they sounded good, sold on that basis. We judged records like this one on their absolute sound as opposed to the Hot Stamper shootout approach we use today, which gives us the record’s relative sound.

1s doesn’t mean much to us now, and even back then we knew better than to put much stock in it. We had been actively selling Living Stereo and other vintage Golden Age pressings starting in the late ’80s.

We knew from playing scores of them that often the best sounding pressings had stampers between 10s and 20s. This was true for LSC 1817, 2446 and no doubt many others that I can no longer remember.

This commentary addresses the issue — or should I say the myth? — of the 1s stamper.

Our 2007 Review

For those of you who are fans of this kind of music, you will find much to like on this rare early pressing.

It’s the first stereo recording of Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite for Flute and Strings.

The Solisti di Zagreb comprises 7 violinists, 3 violists, two cellists, in addition to Janigro and one double bass player. This album features three outstanding soloists: Jean-Pierre Rampal on flute, Robert Veyron-Lacroix on harpsichord and Jelka Stanic on violin.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of these older reviews are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding the best sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s. We found the records you see in these listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described in the listing and priced according to how good the sound and surfaces seemed to us at the time.

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since then.

Nowadays, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions along with a number of other pressings, awarded sonic grades, then carefully condition checked for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone, besides us, would ever be able to do the kind of work we do.

Every record we offer is unique, and 100% guaranteed to satisfy or your money back.


New to the Blog? Start Here

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Mozart / Quintet / Piano + Winds & Trio – A Great VTA Test Disc

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Mozart

This is a handy record for VTA adjustment

Listen for fullness and solidity, especially in the piano, although a rich, full sounding clarinet is a joy here as well. 

Some of the copies we played in our shootout lacked the weight and solidity to balance out the qualities of transparency and clarity.

The resulting sound is less natural, with the kind of forced detail that CDs do so well, and live music never does. There is a balance to be found.

The right VTA will be critical in this regard. When you have all the space; the clearest, most extended harmonics; AND good weight and richness in the lower registers of the piano, you are where you need to be (keeping in mind that it can always get better if you have the patience and drive to tweak further).  (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Szeryng – Another Dubious RCA

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Our Favorite Performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

Reviews and Commentaries for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

1S/1S Shaded Dog. Ooh, let the drooling begin. 

Here is our admittedly very old review for exactly the one copy we had on hand to play, although, to be fair, we have played more than one copy of the album over the years, and it never sounded especially good to us.

The violin is very immediate sounding on this recording, maybe too much so.

Either way, the sound of the orchestra is where this record falls short.

It’s congested, thin and shrill in places. The right copy of Heifetz’s performance on LSC 1992 is a much better record overall. Some may prefer Szeryng’s way with this famous piece, which, as a matter of taste, is fine by us of course.

If you’re listening for just the performance and the sound of the violin, you may find this record to be more acceptable.


We have a section for Living Stereo records that, like this one, we were hoping would have better sound, and we call it:

RCA Shaded Dogs with Dubious Sound Quality


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

What to Listen For on Classical Records

(more…)

Brahms / Violin Concerto – Is the 1s Pressing Always the Best?

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

This early Shaded Dog pressing of a 1958 recording has surprisingly good sound on side two. On the second side the sound opens up and is very sweet, with the violin becoming much more present and clear. The whole of side two is transparent with an extended top. Usually the earliest Living Stereo titles suffer from a lack of top end extension, but not this one.

Maybe the 1s is also that way. For some reason audiophiles tend to think that the earliest cuttings are the best, but that’s just another Record Myth in our experience, easily refuted if you’ve played hundreds of these Living Stereo pressings and noted which stampers sound the best and which do not.

The 1s pressings do not win all that many shootouts around here.

Less than half the time, probably closer to a quarter or a third.

Of course, to avoid being biased, the person listening to the record doesn’t know the stamper numbers, and that may help explain why the 1s loses so often.

If you are interested in finding the best sounding pressings, you have to approach the problem scientifically, and that means running Record Experiments.

Practically everything you read on this blog we learned through experimentation.

When we experimented with the Classic Records pressing of LSC 1903, we were none too pleased with what we heard. Our review is reproduced below.

The Classic reissue of LSC 1903 was a disaster: shrill, smeary and unmusical.

(In a recent commentary we went into some detail about Bernie Grundman’s shortcomings as a mastering engineer for those of you who might be less familiar with his more recent work. He was great in the ’70s, but the work he did in the ’90s leaves a lot to be desired.)

The best Heifetz records on Classic were, if memory serves, LSC 2734 (Glazunov), LSC 2603 (Bruch) and LSC 2769 (Rozsa). They aren’t nearly as offensive as the others. If you can pick one up for ten or twenty bucks, you might get your money’s worth depending, I suppose, on how critically you listen to your classical records and how revealing your system is.

My guess is that the CDs are probably better sounding. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s track record and the fact that CDs are cheap now because nobody wants them anymore. 

If you must have Heifetz’s 1958 performance, our advice is to buy the CD.

We know for a fact that the Living Stereo CD of Reiner’s Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it, TAS Super Disc Listing or no TAS Super Disc Listing.

As you may know, Classic is a label which we found very hard to like right from the beginning. We like them even less now. They may have gone out of business but their bad records are still plentiful on ebay and you can actually still buy some their leftover crap right from the world’s biggest retailer of bad sounding audiophile records, Acoustic Sounds.

If you don’t care how bad your records sound, Chad Kassem is your man.


Stravinsky / The Firebird – Hard to Beat for Table Setup

Reviews and Commentaries for The Firebird on Mercury

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

White Hot Front Row Center sound – amazingly lifelike. One listen to either side and you’ll know this is one of the Top Mercury Titles of All Time. Dorati breathes life into the work as only he can.

So clear and ALIVE. Transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Zero compression.

Lifelike, immediate, front row center sound like few records you have ever heard.

Rich, sweet strings, especially for a Mercury. These sides really gets quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy.

The Mercury classical and orchestral recordings we have reviewed to date can be found here.


Table Setup

This is an excellent record for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like. Classical music is really the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge setup (and evaluation). A huge and powerful recording such as this quickly separates the men from the boys when it comes to proper orchestral reproduction.

Recordings of this quality are the reason $10,000+ front ends exist in the first place. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you do, this is the record that will show you what you got for your hard-earned dough.

Ideally you would want to work your setup magic at home with this record, then take it to a friend’s house and see if you can achieve the same results on his system. I’ve done this sort of thing for years. (Sadly, not so much anymore; nobody I know can play records like these the way we can. Playing and critically evaluating records all day, every day, year after year, you get pretty good at it. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.)

Properly set VTA is especially critical on this record, as it is on most classical recordings. The smallest change will dramatically affect the timbre, texture and harmonic information of the strings, as well as the rest of instruments of the orchestra.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More VTA Advice

(more…)

Grieg / Peer Gynt Suites – Were We Wrong? Probably

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Edvard Grieg

Reviews and Commentaries for Peer Gynt

Below are the notes for a later pressing we played many years ago. I doubt if we would like this pressing much now.

It sounds like it lacks Tubey Magic, as well as weight in the lower registers, and we are much less tolerant of those kinds of shortcomings now than we were then.

Our review from 2008

Fiedler is wonderful here, which is to be expected. What’s unusual about this Red Seal is how good the sound is. It’s extremely transparent and tonally correct.

It sounds to me like a flat transfer.

Some tubey colorations would be nice, especially in the louder passages.

The sound also lacks a bit of weight in the bottom end.

But these faults are mostly made up for by the tremendous clarity and freedom from distortion that this pressing has. I doubt if the Shaded Dog has those qualities.


FURTHER READING

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records

(more…)

Bach / Suites for Solo Cello – Reviewed in 2010

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Classical Records on Mercury 

EXCELLENT CELLO REPRODUCTION and MOSTLY QUIET VINYL on side one, where you get Bach’s entire Suite No. 2 for Unaccompanied Cello. Side two has excellent sound as well but the vinyl is noisy so take this one at a bargain price and hear how wonderful a cello can sound when recorded and mastered for maximum effect, live in your listening room!

The sound of Starker’s cello here is HUMONGOUS — it’ll fill up your room, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. Click on the link to see other recordings with oversized images.

It’s also tonally correct from top to bottom, a quality we heard on none of the Mercury Heavy Vinyl Reissues, some of the worst sound we had heard from Speakers Corner up to that time, but very much in keeping with overly rich, overly smooth sound of the Heavy Vinyl records being made today. We despise that sound and want nothing to do with it.

Two Mercury recordings of Starker’s are currently on the TAS List, SR 90303 and SR 90392. I suppose we could order them up, audition them and list their many sonic shortcomings, since we do have nice copies of both albums in the backroom, just not enough to do a shootout, but there are so many other good pressings to play, why go out of way to play another second- or third-rate Heavy Vinyl pressing?

(By the way, we have a new link for audiophile pressings that are tonally correct but are wrong in other ways (as they usually are). You can assume that our Hot Stamper pressings are tonally correct for the most part, as correct tonality is fairly key to high quality sound. Not essential, but important nevertheless.

The cutting is super low distortion on this later label copy as well. This copy will show you why these Starker Mercury records are so highly prized.

Starker’s records are legendary for their sound, not to mention Starker’s way with this music. If anybody can make Bach’s solo cello pieces capture your interest, Starker can. (more…)