_Composers – Beethoven

Beethoven / Septet / Members of the Vienna Octet

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Records on Decca and London

  • With outstanding grades on both sides, the sound here is realistic and natural, if not DEMO DISC quality
  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, the sound on this import pressing is classic Decca from 1959 – rich, smooth and completely free of the hi-fi-ish qualities some audiophiles seem to admire by the likes of Reference, Telarc, Wilson and the like
  • This record was cut by real Decca engineers and in 1969 they certainly still knew what they were doing
  • Both sides are full, rich, spacious, big and present, with very little smear and a very healthy dose of Tubey Magic
  • At the right level, the level at which these instruments are heard in performance, the sound is tonally right on the money
  • We’ve been raving about this album forever, first on Blueback and on UK Stereo Treasury, and now on Ace of Diamonds – all three can be superb
  • If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know – with music and sound like this, we hope to be able to do this shootout again soon

We normally do not put as much effort into finding top quality pressings of chamber music as we do for the large orchestral works favored by audiophiles (or at least the audiophiles who are willing to spend the money to buy our records), works such as Scheherazade and The Planets. However, if more of them sounded as good as this one we would be more than happy to do just that. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Today, sitting at home, I felt like I was at a concert.”

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

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

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. The bolding has been added by us.)

Hi Tom,

I finally had a chance to listen to the Super Hot of Beethoven’s 5th I bought from you last month.

Tom, I am feeling really grateful to you. With your guidance, and your records, I have something I simply assumed I could never have – a stereo that can do full justice to orchestral music.

I picked this record, along with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, as my first foray into full orchestral music on my reworked stereo assembled following your recommendations – Dynavector cartridge, EAR phono stage, Legacy speakers.

Today, sitting at home, I felt like I was at a concert.

This is saying something. I had come to believe this was just not possible. I still remember the sound and the feeling of hearing Beethoven’s 5th performed by the SF Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, about 20 years ago. Seeing it performed for the first time, I was struck by what a small number of musicians the piece calls for. Nobody needed a score, MTT didn’t hold a baton – the whole performance just had a sense of mastery, control, and passion for the music. The sound from that relatively small orchestra was overwhelming. It is this sound I’ve been longing to hear at home. Today, I heard it.

About four years ago I had the opportunity to hear the Berlin Philharmonic play Tchaikovsky’s 5th from a really good seat. Hearing orchestral music performed unamplified in a venue with good acoustics has always led me to believe that it’s not possible to create that on a stereo.

I had come to believe that all stereos distort. When live orchestral music gets loud, it coheres. The sound of a symphony at full volume is just something no stereo or recording can provide. Or so I thought. I figured it was just one of the realities of musical reproduction.

Second, I assumed a full sound field just isn’t possible from a pair of speakers. When you’re a few rows back from an orchestra in a great hall, the entire space is filled, smoothly and cohesively. It makes you realize there’s always an empty space between two speakers. One of those things that you don’t even notice until it’s gone.

Today, listening to this record of Solti performing Beethoven’s 5th overturned both of those beliefs for me. When it got loud, the music hung together with no hint of distortion. Also, the sound field has the most cohesion and depth of anything I’ve heard so far on my Legacys. Most important though is the tone of the instruments on this record. The strings were distinct and differentiated.

The mastery of the performance from the Vienna Philharmonic is just breathtaking. I’m simply so grateful this performance is captured on record, and glad that I have a phenomenal copy of it. This music demands all of your focus. Even if I only listen to it a handful of times, I will be glad to be able to do so.

And, this record is “only” a super hot! I can’t wait to see what a white hot stamper of orchestral music is going to sound like on this stereo. Also, I haven’t played with azimuth or VTA at all, or even broken in the Dynavector yet. It will be wonderful to see if this cartridge can reveal even more.

So, thank you, Tom. I now have something I’ve always wanted, that I assumed I could never attain – the ability to hear orchestral music at home, the way I know it can sound in person.

Aaron

Aaron,

This is great news, a milestone to mark your success, musically and sonically.

With the right equipment playing the right record, the suspension of disbelief is not only possible, it’s practically guaranteed. Once the sound achieves escape velocity, assuming the music is of the highest caliber, it isn’t long before your critical listening faculties shut down and the music starts to live and breathe from moment to moment just as it would in the concert hall.

You experienced it for yourself. You were finally able to prove your theory false by having an experience that showed you how wrong your thinking was.

But it took better equipment and better records than you previously had access to, and this is key.

How many audiophiles have equipment that can do what yours did? How many have pressings of such quality? My guess is not many.

The theories of such audiophiles, very much like your old theories, are based on faulty data, the data that comes from inadequate systems, bad electricity, bad rooms and second-tier recordings. Think of all the audiophiles that own Heavy Vinyl pressings, or CDs, or stream digitally, or who knows what else. Will they ever have the experience you had? Will they ever agree with you about the quality of the sound of orchestral music you’ve achieved?

More than likely they will just assume you don’t know what you are talking about. They deny the experience you had because they’ve never had it themselves.

I wrote to you about classical music before you bought the two records you talk about above. When I told you I could play classical music at home at live levels with amazing fidelity to the live event, you were skeptical to say the least. Oh ye of little faith! Now you see where I was coming from. Experience is a great teacher.

Recently you’ve acquired some top quality equipment, equipment that has made the appreciation of classical music on vintage vinyl possible for you for the first time in your life.

I discovered most of the equipment I currently own — the same stuff I recommended to you — a good twenty or more years ago, and have been tweaking and tuning and experimenting regularly with it for all of that time, to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of hours.

Why did I put so much time and effort into my stereo? Well, for one thing, I got paid to do it.

For another thing, I like doing it because I like to hear my favorite music sound better.

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Beethoven / Symphony No. 5 / Ansermet

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Recordings conducted by Ernest Ansermet

  • An excellent pressing of this superb performance of Beethoven’s legendary 5th with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • The texture on the strings is captured perfectly – this is an area in which modern pressings fail utterly, and without good string reproduction, especially in the lower registers, a Beethoven symphony is simply not a pleasurable experience, not on highly resolving equipment anyway
  • Clear, transparent, natural – throw this one on your turntable and your ability to suspend disbelief will require practically no effort at all
  • Guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own or your money back

Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is practically nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. Practically none of them will ever begin to sound the way this record sounds.

Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time. (more…)

Beethoven / Symphony No. 5 – Solti

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Classical and Orchestral Masterpieces

  • This big and lively vintage London pressing of Beethoven’s masterpiece boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • Good weight to the brass, huge hall space, wonderfully textured string tone – it’s all here and more
  • A top performance from Georg Solti and the Vienna Phil from 1959 – it’s classic Solti: fast-paced, exciting and powerful
  • This is Beethoven played with gusto – Solti brings this music to life like no other conductor we know of (with the exception of Dorati, perhaps)
  • Watch out for Solti’s later releases for Decca – they usually have an obvious shortcoming which we cannot abide in our classical recordings

We like our recordings to have as many of the qualities of Live Music as possible, and those qualities really come through on a record such as this, especially when reproduced on the full-range speaker system we use. It’s precisely this kind of big, clear, yet rich sound that makes audiophiles prize Decca/London recordings above those of virtually all other labels, and here, unlike in so many areas of audio, we are fully in agreement with our fellow record loving audiophile friends.

You may have noticed that Beethoven’s symphonies rarely make it to the site. There’s a reason for this: most of the recordings of them don’t sound very good. We are happy to report that, at least when it comes to the Fifth, that problem has been solved, by this very record in fact.

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Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 23 (“Appassionata”) / Kamiya – (45 RPM)

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More TAS List Super Discs

  • This rare TAS-approved Japanese import LP boasts INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) DEMO DISC sound on both sides
  • You will have a hard time finding a better recording of the piano than this – it’s one of the all time great Direct-to-Discs
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than all of the other copies we played
  • A famous resident of the TAS list, this album offers excellent music, performed with feeling, and recorded properly, the best of all possible worlds for us audiophiles
  • A friend of ours tells me that Kamiya plays this piece exactly the way Horowitz did, and that’s probably a good thing – good luck finding a Horowitz recording that sounds like this!

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Beethoven / Quartet in C-Sharp Minor – Listening for Side to Side Differences

More Violin Recordings

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

This RCA White Dog pressing contains what many consider to be Beethoven’s greatest string quartet, with SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides, each of which rated grades of A++ to A+++.

The reason we held back on the full Three Plus White Hot Stamper designation is simple: each side had slightly more of a fairly important quality that the other side lacked. When you play this record at home see if you don’t agree with us that this is an AMAZING sounding chamber music record, with minor, albeit recognizable and appreciable differences in its strengths on each side.

We’ve always found it odd that reviewers of audiophile records (and records in general for that matter) never seem to notice these sonic differences from side to side. The differences seem quite obvious to us, as I’m sure they do to you, dear reader, or you wouldn’t be on this site.

After all, most of the records we offer have different grades for their two (or four or six and sometimes even eight) sides, different sonic grades as well as different surface grades. From our point of view nothing could be more obvious.

Side One

A++ to A+++, with sound that is as relaxed and as natural as the best analog we’ve heard. Full, rarely shrill, with an especially sweet top end, the only area in which we felt there was room for improvement was in the area of transparency. Side two had more of it, therefore side one was docked half a plus — nearly perfect, but not quite.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, now with more transparency, but at the expense of some of the fullness and solidity that made side one so remarkable. We see them as opposite sides of the same coin. Depending on your system you may prefer one to the other; to us both are wonderful, each in its own way.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

What to Listen For – Side to Side Differences

Improving Your Critical Listening Skills

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments

An Extraordinary Recording of the Beethoven Septet – This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

My first note on side one is “HTF” — Hard To Fault, for the sound was both rich and sweet, with easily recognized, unerringly correct timbres for all seven of the instruments which are heard in the work. The legendary 1959 Decca Tree microphone setup had worked its magic once again.

And, as good as it was, we were surprised to discover that side two was actually even better! The sound was more spacious and more transparent; we asked ourselves, how is this even possible?

Hard to believe but side two had the sound that was TRULY Hard To Fault. This is precisely what careful shootouts and critical listening are all about. If you like Heavy Vinyl, what exactly is your frame of reference? How many good early pressings could you possibly own, and how were they cleaned?

Without the best pressings around to compare, Heavy Vinyl can sound fine. It’s only when you have something better that its faults come into focus. (We, of course, have something much, much better, and we like to call them Hot Stampers!)

Side One

A++, so good, yet in comparison to side two we realized that it was not as present, spacious and transparent as it SEEMED.

Side Two

A+++, White Hot!

Ah, here was the sound we didn’t know we were missing. So big and open, with space for every player, each clearly laid out across the stage. This is Hi-Fi at its best.

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Beethoven / Symphony No. 4 / Siegfried Idyll / Monteux

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This early Plum Label Victrola pressing of these lively and masterful performances earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – all qualities the best vintage vinyl classical pressings have in abundance
  • A top performance of the 4th by Monteux and the LSO, with strings that are tonally correct, rich, and sweet
  • The horns on the Wagner piece are exceptionally well reproduced here as well – how could a Wagner record be any good without good horns?
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings that offer the discriminating audiophile pressings with the Best Performances and Top Quality Sound. This record has earned a place on that list.

Both sides of this early Plum Label Victrola pressing are superb, with the kind of string tone only found on the best of the Living Stereo releases and other top quality Golden Age recordings.

Here is the kind of sound that Classic Records could not ignore, even though the original was only ever made available as part of RCA’s budget reissue series, Victrola.

Don’t let its budget status fool you — this pressing puts to shame most of what came out on the full price Living Stereo label. (And handily beats any Classic Records reissue ever made.)

And Monteux is once again superb.

We played a large group of Beethoven’s symphonies this week and this was clearly one of the best, if not THE best. Well recorded Beethoven is hard to come by. The box sets we played were mediocre at best, and that left us with only a handful of clean early pressings. These records just aren’t out there like they used to be.

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Beethoven / ‘Appassionata’ / Kamiya – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

A famous resident of the TAS list, this album offers excellent music, performed with feeling, and recorded properly, the best of all possible worlds for us audiophiles.

A friend of mine tells me that Kamiya plays this piece exactly the way Horowitz did, and that’s probably a good thing. Good luck finding a Horowitz recording that sounds like this. Or plays this quietly.

You will have a hard time finding a better recording of the piano than this. It’s one of the all time great Direct-to-Discs.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

Falla / Ritual Fire Dance – Entremont

More Columbia Classical Recordings

More Classical “Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound

  • Philippe Entremont’s delightful 1967 release returns with superb sound on both sides
  • It’s solid and weighty like no other, with less smear, situated in the biggest space, with the most energetic performances
  • These sides are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully present piano and plenty of 3-D space around it
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • Dynamic, huge, lively, transparent and natural – with a record this good, your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all

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