_Composers – Copland

Rodgers / Slaughter on Tenth Avenue – How is this title not on the TAS List?

Hot Stamper Pressings of Orchestral Spectaculars

More Living Stereo Recordings

This copy from years ago was so good on side two it almost left me speechless.

How is this title not on the TAS List?

Why is it not one of the most sought-after recordings in the RCA canon? Beats the hell out of me.

But wait just one minute. Until a month ago [now years ago] I surely had no idea how good this record could sound, so how can I criticize others for not appreciating a record I had never taken the time to appreciate myself?

Which more than anything else prompts the question — why is no one exploring, discovering and then bringing to light the exceptional qualities of these wonderful vintage recordings (besides your humble writer of course)?

HP has passed on. Who today is fit to carry his mantle into the coming world of audio?

Looking around I find very few prospects. None in fact. But then again, I’m not looking very hard.

I could care less what any of these people have to say about the sound quality of the records they play.

They all seem to like records that don’t sound very good to us, so why put any faith in their reviews for other records?

Reviewer malpractice? We’ve been writing about it for more than 25 years.

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Copland / Lincoln Portrait / Mehta

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

More Recordings conducted by Zubin Mehta

AMAZING A+++ sound from START TO FINISH for all three works on this White Hot Stamper 2-pack!

Both of the copies in this 2-pack have one Shootout Winning superb sounding side and one side that plainly just didn’t cut it, so we combined them to give you out of this world White Hot Stamper sound for the entire album. The two good sides (out of four) boast Demo Disc sound quality!

This may not be a Copland work you know well, and I’m guessing the percussion concerto is not familiar either. Both are quite interesting and enjoyable if not exactly Must Owns. That said, the main reason audiophiles will LOVE this album is not the music, but the SOUND. The percussion works which start on side one and take up all of side two have amazing depth, soundstaging, dynamics, three-dimensionality and absolutely dead-on tonality — it’s hard to imagine a recording that allows your speakers to disappear more completely than this one.

We are on record as rarely being impressed with the recordings Zubin Mehta undertook as Music Director of the L.A. Phil. Audiophiles for some reason hold them in much higher esteem than we do, but then again audiophiles hold a great many recordings in much higher esteem than we do. It’s dumbfounding how many audiophiles and reviewers revere records which strike our ears as hard to take seriously. The TAS Super Disc List is full of them, and so are the entries in the annual Stereophile Records to Die For issue. We debunk them on the site by the carload, and even the hundreds that we’ve done are but a fraction of the bad records receiving undeserved praise in the audiophile rags over the years. (more…)

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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Copland / Appalachian Spring Suite on Reference Records

Exceptional Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Reference Record reviewed and found wanting.

In all the years I was selling audiophile records, one of the labels whose appeal escaped me almost completely was Reference Records. Back then, when I would hear one of their orchestral or classical recordings, I was always left thinking, “Why do audiophiles like these records?”

I was confused, because at that time, back in the ’80s, I had simply not developed the listening skills that today make it so easy to recognize their faults. I thought other audiophiles must be hearing something I wasn’t. I could not put my finger on what I didn’t like about them, but now, having worked full time (and then some!) for more than twenty years to develop better critical listening skills, the shortcomings of their records, or, to be more accurate, the shortcomings of this particular copy of this particular title, took no time at all to work out.

My transcribed notes for RR-22:

  • Lean / No weight
  • No Tubey Magic
  • Blurry imaging when loud
  • No real depth
  • Hot tonal balance

Does this sound like what you are looking for in an audiophile record?

Shouldn’t you be looking for audiophile quality sound?

Well you sure won’t find it here.

This link will take you to some other exceptionally bad records that, like this one, were marketed to audiophiles for their putatively superior sound. On today’s modern systems, it should be obvious that they have nothing of the kind and that, in fact, the opposite is true.

We’ve just started a list of records that suffer from a lack of Tubey Magic like this one, and it can be found here.


A PUBLIC SERVICE

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 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, that much less excusable.


Bose Salutes the Sound Of Mercury Records (Along with Some Audio Lessons I Learned Long Ago)

This Bose / Mercury Demonstration LP is autographed by none other than Amar G. Bose. The autograph reads “To EMI, with regards and best wishes, Amar G. Bose.”

Bose may not have ever made very good speakers, but they sure knew good recordings when they heard them. This LP has excerpts from some of the top Mercury titles, including music by Copland (El Salon Mexico), Kodaly (Hary Janos Suite), Mussorgsky/ Ravel (Pictures At An Exhibition), and Rimsky-Korsakov (Russian Easter Overture).I played one of these Bose records years ago and was surprised at how good it sounded. The transfers of the Mercury tapes were excellent! I guess that makes sense — if you want to show off your speakers you better use a well-mastered record for the demonstration.

I was duped into buying my first real audiophile speaker, Infinity Monitors, when the clever salesman played Sheffield’s S9 through them. I bought them on the spot. It was only later when I got home that none of my other records sounded as good, or even good for that matter. That was my first exposure to a Direct to Disc recording. To this day I can still picture the room the Infinity’s were playing in; it really was a watershed moment in my audiophile life.

And of course I couldn’t wait to get rid of them once I heard them in my own system with my own records. I quickly traded them in for a pair of RTR 280DR’s. Now that was a great speaker! 15 panel RTR Electrostatic unit for the highs; lots of woofers and mids and even a piezo tweeter for the rest. More than 5 feet tall and well over 100 pounds each, that speaker ROCKED.

This was the mid-’70s, 40+ years ago, and I am proud to say I have never owned a “small” speaker since. I’ve heard a lot of them — some good, most of them not so good — but that’s a sound I personally could never live with. Especially if you are trying to play large orchestral works like those found on this LP. Small speakers just can’t move enough air to bring this music to life in any way that gives meaning to the term Hi-Fidelity.

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Copland / Billy The Kid / Rodeo – Johanos

More Classical Masterpieces

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This Copland masterpiece returns with superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – reasonably quiet vinyl too, with no audible marks and no Inner Groove Distortion (IGD)
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – here is the BIG, BOLD sound we love
  • There is a note on the inner sleeve that says this was a Record Club of America purchase in 1973
  • Can you imagine that a Record Club was offering records in 1973 that were better sounding than anything made today? Astonishing!
  • “To the ultimate delight of audiences Copland managed to weave musical complexity with popular style.”
  • If you’re a fan of orchestral showpieces such as these, this is a recording from 1967 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This vintage Turnabout pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for —this sound. (more…)

Rodgers – Slaughter On Tenth Avenue / Fiedler

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A+++) sound throughout this RCA Shaded Dog pressing in Living Stereo – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are doing pretty much everything right – they’re rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, and have depth and transparency to rival the best recordings you may have heard
  • The music flows from the speakers effortlessly. You are there.
  • This record will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listeners among you will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it.
  • If you’re a fan of orchestral showpieces such as these, this Living Stereo from 1959 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Years ago we wrote:

This copy was so good it almost left me speechless. Why is it not one of the most sought-after recordings in the RCA canon? Beats the hell out of me.

But wait just one minute. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found out just how good this record could sound, so how can I criticize others for not appreciating a record I had never taken the time to appreciate myself?

Which more than anything else prompts the question — why is no one exploring, discovering and then bringing to light the exceptional qualities of these wonderful vintage recordings (besides those of us here, of course)?

(more…)

Ambrosia – Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides of this truly phenomenal ’70s Big Rock Production – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The best sides have the trademark Alan Parsons sound, with huge amounts of space in the studio, and the kind of musical energy that made the first Ambrosia album (which he mixed) such a joy to play
  • This band, their producers, and their engineers sweated every detail of this remarkable recording
  • “There is an unusual dreamlike quality that pervades its work. The songs seem to be reaching the listener direct from some strange and beautiful realm of the unconscious. It is an experience rare in popular music today or at any time. ” – Billboard

Alan Parsons produced this album, and at its best, it is truly a Demo Disc — if you have the system to play it.

This album needs lots of space and a big, wide, open soundstage if it’s going to work, and the best sides deliver that sound. It’s a rare copy that manages to have real presence and top end without getting too edgy; on the good ones, the bass is big, solid and punchy and the energy is superb. (more…)

Ambrosia / Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the Music of Ambrosia

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ambrosia

This SUPERB WHITE HOT STAMPER copy is our overall winner from the recent huge Hot Stamper shootout we did for Ambrosia’s second — and second best — album. Friends, it’s been a long time coming but, judging by this copy and the others which fared well, it was worth it. We LOVE this music.

Ambrosia is one of the few groups that has mastered the technique of being both far-out galactic in scope of vision and mainstream AM commercial in execution… There is an unusual dreamlike quality that pervades its work. The songs seem to be reaching the listener direct from some strange and beautiful realm of the unconscious. It is an experience rare in popular music today, or at any time.

Billboard, 1977

We here present one of the best sounding copies for Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled we have ever played. Side one rated A+++, As Good As It Gets, with a side two that was not far behind at A++. From beginning to end this pressing is KILLER. (more…)

Copland / Billy the Kid / Morton Gould – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides, with side one so energetic and exciting it would easily qualify as a Demo Disc. This title is almost impossible to find in anything but beat up condition. Records like these got played over and over and few survived the ten grams of stylus pressure and mis-aligned cartridges of the day.   (more…)