_Composers – Elgar

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.


Everything But the Beer / Fiedler Conducts a Boston Pops Concert

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

This VERY RARE 2 LP Shaded Dog pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound. Much of what’s good about Golden Age recordings is heard here, with side one for example having the sound of a HUGE hall and that Three-Dimensional quality that the best vintage recordings are able to convey so well.

We constantly knock Heavy Vinyl here at Better Records for the simple reason that we play vintage recordings such as this by the score every month and can hear what they do so well. Unfortunately the huge hall and the 3-D soundstaging they effortlessly reproduce cannot be found on any Heavy Vinyl pressing we know of.

Such qualities allow this record to sound — in some ways, to be sure not all — like live music. Heavy Vinyl just plain doesn’t. (more…)

Elgar / Enigma Variations in Living Stereo – Sometimes Tubey Magic Comes at a Price

Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

This famous Shaded Dog, containing two superb performances by Monteux and the LSO, has many of the Golden Age strengths and weaknesses we know well here at Better Records, having auditioned hundreds upon hundreds of these vintage pressings over the last twenty years or so. 

The wonderful sounding tube compressors that were used back in the day result in quieter passages that are positively swimming in ambience and low-level orchestral detail. Tube compression is often a large part of what we mean when we use the term Tubey Magic.

If you want to know what Zero Tubey Magic sounds like, play some Telarcs or Reference Recordings from the ’70s and ’80s. Or a modern digital recording on CD.

But all that sweet and rich Tubey Magic comes at a price when it’s time for the orchestra to get loud.

It either can’t, or the louder passages simply distort from compressor overload.

Fortunately on this copy the orchestra does not distort, it simply never gets as loud as it would in a real concert hall, clearly the lesser and more preferable of the two evils. (more…)

Handel, Bach, et al. / Pipe Organ Favorites / Rees

More Bach

Side two of this exceptionally quiet London Blueback (CS 6102) has the Super Hot sound we love, with tons of deep bass and plenty of top end air too. It’s also incredibly transparent — you can really feel the space and appreciate just how big the church must be.

Side one is not quite as good, earning a single plus Hot Stamper grade (A+). It’s rich, smooth and big like side two, but not quite as transparent and not extending low and high the way side two does.

This album comprises a number of quite well known pieces by Bach, Handel and Elgar, so if you already have a plenty of organ recordings you probably don’t need this one. If this is your first it’s a very good place to start! If your system plays deep bass well, so much the better. 

Tchaikovsky / Serenade for Strings – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

This original Shaded Dog pressing has WONDERFUL sound and exceptionally quiet vinyl for a record made in 1958. Like most recordings from the era, it has the strengths and weaknesses of simply-miked analog tapes recorded and mastered during The Golden Age. It’s every bit as RICH and Tubey Magical as one could ever want, but evidences some congestion in the loudest passages and a touch of tube smear even when quiet. With All Tube Mastering, this is of course to be expected.

The soundstage is especially wide on both sides but not quite as deep as one might expect. With more copies we could have done a better job of investigating the sound of the recording, but where does one find minty Shaded Dogs these days at affordable prices? Most of what we see is scratched and overplayed.

Be that as it may, the PERFORMANCE IS KING HERE — one of the greatest ever recorded, more powerful and more emotional than any with which we are familiar. This orchestra is on fire with this stirring music. If you haven’t heard Munch’s definitive performance, you haven’t really heard the Serenade for Strings. This is your chance to hear string playing that will have you sitting up in your chair, transfixed by the energy and enthusiasm of the Boston Symphony strings. (more…)

Tchaikovsky – Serenade for Strings – Munch – A Cisco Recommended LP

Sonic Grade: B? C?

[Reviewed many years ago, so take it with a grain of salt.]

This Cisco 180 gram LP has Very Good sound. The original Shaded Dogs tend to be warmer and sweeter, but also more compressed and a bit smeary. This pressing is alive and present, although the string tone can be a bit steely at times.

If you have a warm, tubey system this record may just be the ticket. If your system leans toward the dry and analytical, this is not the record for you.

Be that as it may, the PERFORMANCE IS KING HERE — one of the best ever recorded, more powerful and more emotional than any I know. This orchestra is on fire with this stirring music. If you haven’t heard Munch’s definitive performance, you haven’t really heard the Serenade for Strings. This is your chance to hear string playing that will have you sitting up in your chair, transfixed by the energy and enthusiasm of the Boston Symphony strings. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Serenade for Strings – Munch

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Charles Munch’s recording with the Boston Symphony
  • The 14 minute long Elgar piece is on the second side here, with strings that are substantially more Tubey, rich and sweet than on any other side two we played
  • Surely one of the greatest performances ever recorded, more powerful and emotional than any with which we are familiar
  • “In his conception of the Serenade, Tchaikovsky envisioned a work which falls somewhere between a symphony and a string quintet. The work is as personal as any of the composer’s symphonies and as intimate as his chamber music.”

The texture and harmonic overtones of the strings are near perfection. As we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity the performers brought to the work in 1958, as well as the quality of RCA’s engineering. (more…)

Elgar / Enigma Variations / Monteux / LSO – Reviewed in 2011

This famous Shaded Dog, containing two superb performances by Monteux and the LSO, has many of the Golden Age strengths and weaknesses we know well here at Better Records, having played literally hundreds upon hundreds of these vintage pressings over the last twenty years or so. 

Both sides earned sonic grades of at least A+ to A++ (with side one being just a bit better than that but maybe not quite A++). The sound is rich and sweet and full of Living Stereo Magic!  

The wonderful sounding tube compressors that were used back in the day result in quieter passages that are positively swimming in ambience and low-level orchestral detail. Tube compression is, in large part, what we mean when we use the term Tubey Magic. (If you want to know what Zero Tubey Magic sounds like, play some Telarcs or Reference Recordings from the ’70s. Or a modern digital recording on CD.)

But all that sweet and rich Tubey Magic comes at a price when it’s time for the orchestra to get loud. It either can’t, or the louder passages simply distort from compressor overload. Fortunately on this copy the orchestra does not distort, it simply never gets as loud as it would have in a real concert hall, clearly the lesser and more preferable of the two evils. (more…)

Elgar/ Pomp & Circumstance / Solti – Reviewed in 2005

Near Demo Quality. Solti is magnificent here. This record has even better sound than the famous Barbarolli. Another Wilkinson/ Kingsway winner.

It would be demo quality if it were recorded in ’67 instead of ’77; it doesn’t quite hang together in the climaxes the way an earlier recording would.