_Composers – Bizet

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite – Just Awful on Alto Heavy Vinyl

Sonic Grade: F

Alto records did this title on 180 gram more than a decade ago, and it was a COMPLETE DISASTER. Those of you getting our catalogs in the ’90s when that record came around were warned not to buy it. I was lucky enough to own a very good original pressing of it at the time, which of course made it all too easy to recognize just how poorly the new pressing had been mastered.

No criticisms of the quality of the mastering were offered in the audiophile press however, none that I saw anyway.

And every major audiophile record dealer carried it. Funny how some things never change. (more…)

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

 More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • A stunning pressing of Bizet’s masterpiece, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Side one is also impossibly quiet at Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, a grade that practically none of our vintage classical titles – even the most well-cared-for ones – ever play at
  • Both sides are open, high-rez, and spacious, with depth like you will not believe and some of the least shrill string reproduction we have ever heard for this music (which is the main problem we run into on the album)
  • Gloriously exciting and fun music that belongs in any audiophile’s collection – side one is where the action is, and this side one had the best sound we heard all day
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

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Set-up Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Turntable Setup Advice

More Advice on Adjusting Anti-skate

I once adjusted my anti-skate while playing this very album, at the time dialing it in to a “T”. Over the years I’ve found that the best test for fine anti-skate adjustment is massed strings, and not just at the end of a side but right at the beginning too.

When you have all the rosiny texture, the high-end harmonic extension, the least shrillness and the widest and deepest staging, you are there, assuming that tracking weight, azimuth and VTA are correct as well.

Four variables to mess with is admittedly a bitch, but having the right record to test with is absolutely critical as well. Maybe we should call it five variables.

And if I only had one record to bring to someone’s house in order to evaluate their equipment, this would certainly be a top choice. If you can make this record sound the way it should, your stereo is cookin’. If you are having problems, this record will show them to you in short order. (more…)

Bizet – Carmen and L’Arlesienne Suites / Gibson / Morel

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • A superb UK Decca pressing of these lively orchestral showpieces with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • 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
  • Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and reasonably quiet surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience
  • This is a spectacular recording – it’s guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own
  • Speaking of Heavy Vinyl, Alexander Gibson conducts two of the most sought-after and valuable RCA Living Stereo titles of them all, LSC 2225 and LSC 2449. We have not been able to find either for about ten years at anything under $1000, and that is too pricey for records that may not sound the way we want them to

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Bizet / L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites – Ansermet

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More music conducted by Ernest Ansermet

  • If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good ’50s All Tube Analog can be, this killer copy should be just the record to do it
  • Recorded in 1958 using the amazing Decca Tree mic setup, it’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording

This is High Fidelity Audiophile Gold, with an orchestra that sounds so real it will take your breath away. The Golden Age tapes have clearly been mastered brilliantly onto this vintage London vinyl.

No doubt you have run into something like this in our classical listings:

This London is energetic, dynamic, spacious, transparent, rich and sweet. James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these 1958 sessions in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology,

We were impressed with the fact that this pressing excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, allowing the listener to inhabit the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way. (more…)

Some Stereo Systems Make It Difficult to Find Better Sounding Pressings

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Many London and Decca pressings lack weight down low, which thins out the sound and washes out the lower strings.

On some sides of some 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 17Dx 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.

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

If you have vintage equipment, you never have to worry about the strings on your London orchestral recordings being overly dry sounding.

You haven’t solved the problem, obviously.  You’ve just made it much more difficult — impossible even — to hear what is really on your records.

Some audiophiles have gone down this road and may not even realize what road they are on, or where it leads. It is a dead end, assuming you want to make progress in this hobby. If you want to find Better Records, you need equipment that can distinguish good records from bad ones.

Vintage tube equipment is good for many things, but helping you find the best sounding records is not one of them.

A rack full of equipment such as the one shown here — I suspect it is full of transistors but it really doesn’t matter whether it is or not — is very good at eliminating the subtleties and nuances that distinguish the best records from the second- and third-rate ones.

If you have this kind of electronic firepower, Heavy Vinyl pressings and Half-Speed Mastered LPs don’t sound nearly as irritating as they do to those of us without the kind of filtering you get with this kind of electronic overkill.

In my experience, this much hardware can’t help but get between you and the music you are playing.

This guy is the poster child for mistaking a rack of expensive components for the kind of equipment that can tell him how bad some records are, the Mobile Fidelity Kind of Blue in this case, which is very bad indeed. (Review coming, someday!)

We assume our customers can hear it — our good customer Conrad had no problem appreciating its shortcomings — but we are pretty sure our customers can recognize a good record from a bad one, otherwise they would not see the value in Hot Stampers, right?

But the blue lights look awesome, the stuff costs a fortune, and for those with better eyes than ears, it’s impressive as hell.

Good equipment is necessary but far from sufficient to get good sound, a subject we discuss here and at some length throughout the blog in our commentaries about audio equipment.

Why Are Some Common Subjects Concerning the Sound of Recordings Not More Widely Discussed?

Can we really be hearing all these characteristics of recordings that nobody else seems to be hearing? A few examples:

If audiophiles and audiophile reviewers are hearing these things on the records they review, in magazines and audiophile forums, why aren’t they discussing them? (Of course, they may in fact be discussing the hell out of them. I rarely read anything they write. But I don’t think they are discussing these things much. If they are, and you read them, please shoot me a link so that I can take part in the discussion.)

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Bizet / Carmen Fantaisie / Ricci – A Decent Decca Reissue

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

More Performances by Ruggiero Ricci

This Ace of Diamonds UK pressing of the famous Ricci recording has fairly good sound, but it is a far cry from the real thing on either Decca or London disc.

The right originals are just too good. There is nothing like them. They are simply amazing recordings, the likes of which have not been equaled in fifty or more years. If you want that sound, you’d better plan on going back to 1960 or thereabouts to find it.

The Speakers Corner Reissue was my first exposure to this music and I fell in love with it. I recommended it highly back in the days when I was selling Heavy Vinyl. I haven’t heard one in years but my guess is that you are much better off with this Decca Ace of Diamonds pressing that anything Speakers Corner might have put out.


These are our comments for the last killer copy we had on the site.

Ricci’s playing of the Bizet-Sarasate Carmen Fantasie is OUT OF THIS WORLD. There is no greater performance on record in my opinion, and few works that have as much Audiophile Appeal.

The Average Copy

When you play a copy of this record and hear a smeared, veiled violin, don’t be too surprised. This is not the least bit unusual, in fact it’s pretty much par for the course. The soundstage may be huge: spacious and 3-D; it is on most copies. But what good is a record of violin showpieces if the violin doesn’t sound right?

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An Extraordinary Recording of the Carmen Fantasie – This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

More Performances by Ruggiero Ricci

This London Whiteback LP has DEMO DISC sound like you will not believe, especially on side two, which earned our coveted A Triple Plus rating. The sound is warm, sweet and transparent; in short, absolutely GORGEOUS. We call it AGAIG — As Good As It Gets!

As this is one of the Greatest Violin Showpiece Albums of All Time, it is certainly a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophle’s collection. (If you’re on our site and taking the time to read this, that probably means you.) Ruggiero Ricci is superb throughout.

And side one was just a step below the second side in terms of sound quality, with very solid A++ sound. To find two sides of this caliber, on quiet vinyl no less, is no mean feat. You could easily go through ten copies without finding one as consistently good sounding as this one.

A True Demo Disc, Or Was It?

Ricci’s playing of the Bizet-Sarasate Carmen Fantasie is OUT OF THIS WORLD. There is no greater perforrmance on record in my opinion, and few works that have as much Audiophile Appeal.

Which is why I’ve had a copy of this record in my own collection for about fifteen years marked “My Demo Disc”. But this copy KILLED it. How could that be?

It just goes to show: No matter how good a particular copy of a record may sound to you, when you clean and play enough of them you will almost always find one that’s better, and often surprisingly better. Shootouts are the only way to find these kinds of records. Nothing else works. If you’re not doing shootouts (or buying the winners of shootouts from us) you simply don’t have top quality copies in your collection, except in the rare instances where you just got lucky. In the world of records luck can only take you so far. The rest of the journey requires effort. (more…)

Gounod – Does Your Copy Have Clipped Bass?

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

This RCA Plum Label Victrola LP has many shortcomings, but its strengths more than compensate for them. The MIDRANGE is pure MAGIC. The sweet, textured strings, the back of the stage percussion, the placement of the orchestral sections in the soundstage, the performance itself — all combine to make you forget you are listening to an old, somewhat flawed record. What has been captured in the grooves of the vinyl allows the listener to do what few recordings can — suspend his disbelief.

It’s not an old record. It’s living, breathing music being performed in the present, at this very moment. It’s happening — one is under the sway of Bizet’s music just as if one were attending the live event. The mind has somehow lost track of the fact that its owner is sitting at home. The listener is transported by the sound, mentally, not physically, to a plane where the real world has no meaning, where music is the only reality.

I played this record and made critical notes for a while. At some point I lost interest in that activity. I simply began to marvel at what the Decca engineers had managed to do, which was to draw me in completely.

Enough about me. 

Here are the comments for the other copy of 1108 we just put up.

This RCA Plum Label Victrola LP, the budget reissue of the incredibly rare LSC 2449, has some of the best and worst Golden Age sound I’ve ever heard. It has most of the magic of the better VICS copy I rave about.

When a cutting amplifier runs out of juice, the bass simply “clips.” The beginning of the bass note is heard, and then it just stops. A fair number of RCA Shaded Dog originals have this problem. The cutting amplifiers of the day were often not up to the job. They ran out of power.

It’s amazing to me that so few collectors of these records even know what I’m talking about when I mention this shortcoming. They just assume it’s something in the recording perhaps. But it’s not. Oftentimes it is simply stamper variations that separate the clipped records from the unclipped records.

The more compression that is used, the less likely it is that the amplifiers will clip at all. But that’s obviously not the solution. And of course if you play records like this back on say, Quads, a notoriously compressed and bass-shy speaker to begin with, you’ll never notice any of this.

You also won’t hear it on this system.

Ah, but here is a wonderful recording that, on the better pressings at least, has deep, powerful, unclipped bass that can rattle the walls and sound like your flooring is in danger of being warped. But you need big woofers to get that effect, and lots of them.

But side two actually sounds quite good. Not as good as the best Shaded Dog copies possibly, but since those are $1000 and up, this has to be considered a good alternative at a fair price.

Lots of Living Stereo magic and a wonderful performance by Gibson make this record easy to recommend.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

What to Listen For on Classical Records

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Bizet / L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites – Dry Strings on One Side, Rich on the Other

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings by Decca

My notes for side two on a copy we recently auditioned read:

  • Could use more tubes.
  • Strings could be a bit smoother.
  • Needs a bit more weight down low.

My notes for side one:

  • Side one had all of this and more!

Some Common Issues with Londons and Deccas

Many London and Decca pressings lack weight down low, thinning out the sound and washing out the lower strings.

On some sides of some 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 17Dx 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.

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

Can we really be hearing all these things that nobody else seems to be hearing? Things like:

If audiophiles and audiophile reviewers are hearing these things on the records they review, in magazines and audiophile forums, why aren’t they discussing them? (Of course, they may in fact be discussing the hell out of them. I rarely read anything they write. But I don’t think they are discussing these things much. If they are, and you read them, please shoot me a link so that I can be a part of the discussion.)

(more…)