_Composers – Berlioz

Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique – Gorgeous Living Stereo Strings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

More Records that Are Good for Testing String Tone and Texture

Gorgeous Golden Age Tubey Magical strings, lovely hall acoustics. The size and power of a large orchestra in Living Stereo sound. One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork.

This is a piece that’s difficult to squeeze onto two sides of a single LP, clocking in as it does at around 45 minutes, which means that the mastering engineer has three options when cutting the record: compress the dynamics, lower the level, or filter out the deep bass. The RCA mastering engineer for this pressing managed to hold on to the powerful dynamics captured by the Decca (as far as I know) recording team, seemingly without doing harm to dynamics, levels or deep bass. How, I have no idea.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous Living Stereo strings and hall acoustics that let us forget about the possibility of compromises in other areas.

So open and spacious, with gorgeous, richly textured Living Stereo strings — this is the VIVID sound we love from the Golden Age!

The hall is huge, the brass solid and powerful, the top and bottom extends properly, the stage is wide and clear — what more can you ask for? 

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Destination Stereo and the State of Reviewing As We See It

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Your Destination — Stereo!

“Your passport to great music in new sound by the world’s greatest artists.”

This reasonably quiet RCA Shaded Dog LP has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND on BOTH sides. It is without a doubt THE best sounding copy we have ever heard*.

Side one is White Hot, with some of the best 1959 Living Stereo we’ve ever heard. Explosive dynamics, HUGE space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other. When “in-the-know” audiophiles discuss soundstaging and depth, they had better be talking about a record that sounds like this.

Shockingly real – proof positive that the cutting systems of the day are capable of much better sound than many assume. 

This record is designed to show off the Living Stereo sound at its best and it succeeds magnificently. 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.

Just play Gnomus to hear The Power of the Orchestra, Living Stereo style.

The fourth and fifth movements of Capriccio Espagnol, the second track on side one, sound superb, CLEARLY better here than on the Shaded Dog pressings we played about a year ago (which were terrible and never made it to the site. Great performance but bad mastering of what obviously was a very good master tape).

You can also hear the Living Stereo sound especially well on the excerpt from “The Fourth of July” performed by Morton Gould. It’s one of the best sounding tracks here.

I don’t think the RCA engineers can cut this record much 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 as good as it gets, folks.

The State of Reviewing

Even twenty years ago reviewers noted that tracks on compilations such as this often had better sound than the albums from which they were taken, proof that they were listening critically and comparing pressings. What happened to reviewers of that caliber?

I can tell you what happened to them: they left audio, driven out according to the principle that underlies Gresham’s Law: bad reviewers drive out good ones. Which leaves you with the type that can’t tell how truly awful most modern Heavy Vinyl Reissues are. A sad state of affairs if you ask me, but one that no longer impacts our business as we simply don’t bother to buy, sell or play most of them.

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Berlioz – Another Dubby Mess from Klavier

Klavier Is a Label Best Avoided by Audiophiles

Actual Audiophile Quality Pressings of Orchestral Music Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

The sound is smeary, thick and opaque because, among other things, the record was mastered by Doug Sax from a copy tape, and not all that well either.

It is yet another murky Audiophile Piece of Trash from the mastering lathe of the formerly brilliant Doug Sax. He used to cut the best sounding records in the world. Then he started working for Analogue Productions and never cut a good record again as far as I know.

On this record, in Doug’s defense it’s only fair to point out that he had only dub tapes to work with, which is neither here nor there as these pressings are not worth the dime’s worth of vinyl used to make them.

Maybe the hearing-challenged Chad Kassem wanted this sound — almost all his remastered titles have the same faults — and simply asked that Doug cut it to sound real good like analog spossed to sound in the mind of this kingpin, which meant smooth, fat, thick and smeary.

Yes, this is exactly what some folks think analog is supposed to sound like.

Just ask whoever mastered the Beatles records in 2014. Somebody boosted the bass and smoothed out the upper midrange, and I don’t think they did that by accident. They actually thought it was good idea.

Harry Moss obviously would not have agreed, but he’s not around anymore to do the job right.

Here is the cover for the real EMI. No idea if the sound is any good, but it has to be better than the awful Klavier, doesn’t it?

Below are some thoughts from a recent classical listing that we hope will shed some light on our longstanding aversion to the sound of these modern remastered records.

Modern Opacity

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY. Modern records are just so damn opaque. We can’s stand that sound. It drives us crazy. Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a whole — including those that pass themselves off as the champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.

It is our contention that no one alive today makes records that sound as good as the ones we sell. Once you hear our Hot Stamper pressing, those 180 gram records you own may never sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we are in the enviable position of being able to play the best properly cleaned older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the new ones, where the faults of the current reissues become much more recognizable, even obvious. When you can hear them that way, head to head, there really is no comparison.

A Lost Cause

The wonderful vintage disc we are offering here will surely shame 100% of the Heavy Vinyl pressings ever made, as no Heavy Vinyl pressing — not one — has ever sounded especially transparent or spacious to us when played against the best Golden Age recordings, whether pressed back in the day or twenty years later.

Many of the major labels were producing superb classical records well into the ’70s. By the ’90s no one, and we really do mean no one, could manage to make a record that compares with them.

Precisely the reason we stopped carrying The Modern LP Pressing — it just can’t compete with good vintage vinyl, assuming that the vinyl in question has been properly mastered, pressed and cleaned.

This is of course something we would never assume — we clean the records and play them and that’s how we find out whether they are any good or not. There is no other way to do it — for any record from any era — despite what you may have read elsewhere.


We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records

Top Quality Classical “Sleeper” Recordings

Best Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

Demo Disc Quality Orchestral Recordings

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique / Argenta

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

More Music Conducted by Aaulfo Argenta

  • A KILLER pressing of this classical masterpiece, performed by The Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this original London pressing
  • The sound is clear and open and wonderfully smooth and the bottom is BIG — the tympani and lower strings are powerful and dynamic
  • You will have a hard time finding better sound in the lower registers for this work — most of the pressings we’ve played were simply too anemic to take seriously

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Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique / Monteux

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • This stunning classical masterpiece finally returns with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • A superb pressing, with gorgeous Golden Age Tubey Magical strings and lovely hall acoustics
  • One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork
  • The hall is huge, the brass solid and powerful, the top and bottom extends properly, the stage is wide and clear — what more can you ask for?

One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork returns to the site in spectacular fashion, with stunning 1960 Living Stereo sound on both sides.

This is a piece that’s difficult to squeeze onto two sides of a single LP, clocking in as it does at around 45 minutes, which means that the mastering engineer has three options when cutting the record: compress the dynamics, lower the level, or filter out the deep bass.

The RCA mastering engineer for this pressing managed to hold on to the powerful dynamics captured by the Decca (as far as I know) recording team, seemingly without doing harm to dynamics, levels or deep bass. How, I have no idea.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous Living Stereo strings and hall acoustics that let us forget about the possibility of compromises in other areas.

(Of course this was always the downfall of the Classic Records RCA remasterings. Their records had bass and dynamics, no one could deny it, but the strings were usually shrill  and smeary, and the hall practically non-existent. We found out just years ago that there was a new series of recuts coming from Acoustic Sounds. Based on their dismal track record I will be very surprised if they are much better than mediocre.) (more…)

Ravel, Falla, Weber & Berlioz – Alborado…, Bolero, more – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

Side two here has a SUPERB sounding Bolero, and an EVEN BETTER Alborado del Gracioso, possibly the best we have ever heard. True A Triple Plus sound.

As you probably know, Bolero is very hard to find on vinyl properly performed with audiophile quality sound. The sound of Bolero here is excellent: very natural, not harsh at the end where the trombones comes in, and the not too compressed. (This is probably the biggest problem with most recordings of the work. Compression makes the quieter parts ravishingly open and clear, and positively ruins the climax with distorted compressor overload.) 

Alborado… has some of the best sound we have heard on London. It’s spacious, dynamic and clear. With an extended top end the strings and horns sound harmonically correct. The orchestra from top to bottom is tonally correct as well. (more…)

Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique / Fourestier – Reviewed in 2010

This obscure French label stereo reissue of an original Omega recording from the ’60s is SUPERB SOUNDING, without a doubt the best sound I have ever heard for the work. (The stereo is much better these days than it was years ago when we auditioned other pressings, so comparisons with those other, older records are practically pointless.)

And the performance is Top Notch as well; I know of none better. (more…)

Music Of Berlioz / Martinon

This English Stereo Treasury pressing (on an odd lookinig Orange label, with handwritten stampers I have never seen before) has a SUPERB side two and side one is almost as good! The original release is London CS 6101 and I doubt most copies of it would sound this good.

This is Classic Old School Decca sound, rich and smooth with an exceptionally wide and deep soundstage. All the instruments are clear and have good texture, which is what one rarely hears on the most early pressings, which tend to be thick and dark. A little more top and this side two would have earned the full Three Pluses. (more…)

Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique / Bernstein – Reviewed in 2011

And this one comes complete with the bonus 7″ entitled “Berlioz Takes a Trip” in which Bernstein explores the work “with musical illustrations by the New York Philharmonic”.

This work is difficult to fit onto a single LP, clocking in at around 45 minutes, which means that the mastering engineer has three options when cutting the record: compress the dynamics, lower the level, or filter the deep bass. On this side two it seems that none of those approaches were taken by the engineer who cut this record in the early ’80s — there’s plenty of bass, as well as powerful dynamics, and the levels seem fine. How he do it? Beats me. Glad he did though!

Side one is bass shy, however. Did the engineer filter out the lower frequencies, or is it just a case of pressing variation being the culprit. Who can say? If we had many more copies with these same stampers for side one, all with less bass, we might be able to draw a conclusion about that, one that is highly probable but of course not provable. The very next copy we might find with those stampers could have plenty of bass. Then we would be forced to say that our highly probable theory had been falsified conclusively. So much for theories.

Which is one of the main reasons we avoid them. We play the records to find out how they sound, we don’t feel the need to theorize about them much. We think the audiophile community would be better served by more critical listening and less theorizing and opining. (more…)