_Composers – Brahms

Lincoln Mayorga, Pianist – Reverse Your Polarity!

Hot Stamper Pressings of Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

This IMMACULATE Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP with Very Little Sign Of Play (VLSOP) is one of the best Sheffields. Lincoln Mayorga is an accomplished classical pianist: this is arguably his best work. (I had a chance to see him perform at a recital of Chopin’s works early in 2010 and he played superbly — for close to two hours without the aid of sheet music I might add.) 

You might want to try reversing the phase when playing this LP; it definitely helps the sound, a subject we discuss below.

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

Reversing the absolute phase on this record recently was quite interesting. The sound of the piano itself was already very good. With the phase reversed what really changed with the sense of space surrounding it, which immediately became much more palpable. The piano, though tonally similar to the way it sounded with the phase left alone, came to life more — more solid and punchy and percussive.

How do you change the absolute phase you ask? You must either switch the positive and negative at the speaker, the amp, or at the head shell leads, or you must have a switch that inverts phase on your preamp or phono stage. (The EAR 324p we use has just such a switch and let me tell you, it comes in very handy in situations like these.) If you can’t do any of those, or are unwilling to do any of those, this record will still sound good. It just won’t sound as good.

It’s Records Like This that Give Decca Reissues a Bad Reputation

More of the music of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Hot Stamper Classical Imports on Decca & London

Apparently mastered with no regard to sound quality, this Decca SPA reissue is muddy, dull, congested and full of harmonic distortion in the louder passages.

How do we know that? We go out of our way to play every pressing we can get our hands on, even cheap reissues such as this. That’s our job.  We play everything to find the best sounding records so you don’t have to.

And some of these cheap reissues win shootouts!

But you can’t guess which ones will. You have to play them to find out.

And that’s how we know that some of them are good, some of them are mediocre, and some, like this one, are just awful.

Want to be assured of getting good sounding pressings of the greatest classical recordings of all time?

Step right up and order anything you see here, guaranteed to please:

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

The RCA you see pictured here of the same recording should have very good sound, but we have not played that one in a very long time and it would not surprise us if we did not find it nearly as appealing now as it was back then.

A PUBLIC SERVICE

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, and we tell you about them! It’s yet another public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this Decca 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 Hall of Shame records 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 pressing, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, much less excusable.


We Make the Case that Even CDs Have Better Sound than Classic Records

brahmvioli_1903_debunk

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records

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

In these four words we can describe the sound of the average Classic Records Living Stereo pressing.

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.

The CDs are better for all I know. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s generally poor track record.

The Living Stereo CD of Reiner’s Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it.

Audiophiles who cannot hear what is wrong with the Classic pressing need to find themselves a nice — even one that’s not so nice — RCA White Dog pressing to see just how poorly the Classic stacks up.

The solo violin in the left channel at the opening of the first movement should be all it takes.

Anyone has ever attended a classical music concert should recognize that the violin on any of the Heavy Vinyl pressings of the recording is completely wrong and sounds nothing like a violin in a concert hall would ever sound.

And I mean ever.

No matter where you sit.

No matter how good or bad the hall’s acoustics.

It is dark and veiled and overly rich, lacking in overtones.

Solo violins in live performance never sound that way.

They are clear, clean and present. You have no trouble at all “seeing” them clearly.

My best sounding White Dog pressing had that kind of clear and present sound for the violin.

Neither of the Heavy Vinyl reissues I auditioned did.

A pressing of Scheherazade that fails to reproduce the solo violin, the voice of the young lady herself, fails utterly and completely, no matter how big and powerful and rich the opening brass may be.
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Brahms – Concerto for Violin and Cello / Tragic Overture / Walter

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

More Vintage Columbia Pressings

  • An outstanding copy of this wonderful Columbia recording – you’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish on this pressing
  • This copy showed us the balance of clarity and sweetness we were looking for in the violin and cello – not many Columbia recordings from this era can do that
  • This recording is big, clear, transparent and energetic, and is guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl classical pressing you own
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s the proof

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Milstein Miniatures – Milstein / Pommers

More Violin Recordings

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to sound better than any vintage pressing of violin pieces you’ve heard, and it plays as quietly as any copy ever will (and far better than most)
  • We are big fans of Nathan Milstein here at Better Records and it’s records like this that justify our enthusiasm
  • Works for violin and piano by Chopin, Vivaldi, Smetana, Brahms, Stravinsky and others – and each is played with the feeling and skill as would be expected from one of the greatest performers of his generation
  • The appeal for the casual listener may not warrant the expense, but those who seek out these kinds of vintage ’50s pressings should find much to like here

A wonderful batch of short violin pieces with piano accompaniment: Previously we had written: (more…)

Brahms / Symphony No. 1 in C Minor / Krips

More of the Music of Brahms

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Hot Stamper sound of both sides of this fairly quiet London Blueback pressing.

It has been our experience that good sounding Brahms Symphonies are exceedingly difficult to find on vinyl. This may in fact be the first one to make it to the site. This copy has many nice sonic qualities which we discuss in more detail below. It’s Old School but enjoyable. Krips’ performance with the Vienna Phil is excellent. (more…)

The Brahms Violin Concerto – Unplug or Suffer the Consequences!

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

The massed strings here, such as those found at the opening, are close miked and immediate in the “Mercury recording style.” Your electricity better be good when you play this record, because it presents a test many of you will have trouble passing at even moderate levels. 

We’ve often encouraged our readers and customers to go about unplugging things in their homes in order to test the effect of clean electricity on their playback systems. The opening of this record is a perfect example of the kind of material with which everyone should be testing in order to hear these changes. I’d be very surprised if the strings on this record don’t sound noticeably better after you’ve unplugged a few things in your house, and the more the better.

The effect should not be the least bit subtle. It’s certainly not subtle in our system.

The same would be true for any of the tweaks we recommend. The Talisman or Hallographs would be a godsend for proper playback of this record. Hard to imagine what it would sound like without them. (To tell you the truth we don’t really want to know.)

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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. 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.

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Milstein / Encores / Pommers – Reviewed in 2009

This original Rainbow Label Capitol pressing has D1 / D1 stampers (!) and the shrink still on the cover — now how rare is that!? Copies in this condition regularly fetch $300-400 on ebay these days, some as much as $450, and it’s highly unlikely that any of those sound as good as this one. (Unless those sellers use the same advanced cleaning fluids and techniques we do and have access to an $8000 record cleaning machine, that is.)

The sound is SUPERB, especially on side two, which we rated A Double Plus. Side two had a bit more presence and transparency than side one and that, along with quieter vniyl, kicked the grade up a notch. The third work on side two, a piece by Fritz Kreisler, is one of the highlights of the entire album.

The sound is smooth and sweet throughout, and of course the playing is superb. We are big fans of Nathan Milstein here at Better Records and it’s records like this that justify our enthusiasm. The album comprises works for violin and piano by Kreisler, Schumann, Szymanowski, Handel, others. 

Brahms / Piano Concerto No. 1 – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas.

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

“One of the best of the Speakers Corner heavy vinyl reissues. As you may know they have gone way downhill lately. Haven’t played this LP in a while but I remember liking it quite a bit back in the day.’