_Composers – Khachaturian

Gresham’s Law and The State of Reviewing As Seen by Us in 2015

More Living Stereo Recordings

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Even twenty years ago reviewers noted that tracks on compilations such as this 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.

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


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*.

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 we normally assume.  (more…)

Compromised Recordings and the Rapture of the Purely Musical Experience

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

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The best classical recordings of the ’50s and ’60s like the one you see pictured above were compromised in every imaginable way. Yet somehow they manage to be sonically and musically head and shoulders above virtually anything that has come after them, now that we can play them on the high quality equipment of today.

The music lives and breathes on those old LPs. Playing them you find yourself in the Living Presence of the musicians. You become lost in their performances. Whatever the limitations of the medium, they seem to fade quickly from consciousness. What remains is the rapture of the musical experience.

That’s what happens when a good record meets a good turntable.

We live for records like these. It’s the reason we all get up in the morning and come to work, to find and play good records. It’s what this site is all about — offering the audiophile music lover recordings that provide real musical satisfaction. It’s hard work — so hard nobody else seems to want to do it — but the payoff makes it all worthwhile. To us anyway. Hope you feel the same.

The One Out of Ten Rule

If you have too many classical records taking up too much space and need to winnow them down to a more manageable size, pick a composer and play half a dozen of his works. Most classical records display an irredeemable mediocrity right from the start; it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it.

If you’re after the best sound, it’s the rare record that will have it, which makes clearing shelf space a lot easier than you might imagine. If you keep more than one out of ten you’re probably setting the bar too low if our experience is any guide.


FURTHER READING

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

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

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This copy 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.

But I digress. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Romeo & Juliet / Dorati – Reviewed in 2011

Hot Stamper Classical Pressings Available Now

30+ Reviews of Mercury Classical Recordings

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SUPERB Nearly White Hot Stamper sound on side two. With a grade of A++ to A+++, this is clearly the best sounding Romeo and Juliet we have ever heard. Rich lower strings, clear horns, big cymbal crashes, zero smear — rich and tubey but clear, right up there with the best of the RCA’s and London’s. And Dorati turns in a top performance with the London Symphony.

Was We Wrong?

We played an Orange label late reissue of this title a while back and had this to say about it:

DEMO QUALITY thanks to superb low distortion mastering. Another very exciting Mercury recording. Some of these Orange Label pressings, which are cut with much better cutting equipment than was available when the original album was released, can show you just how good the master tape really is. This kind of sound is not easy to cut, and it appears that the amplifiers of the day just weren’t up to it. This copy gets rid of all the cutter head distortion and coloration and allows you to hear what the Mercury engineers accomplished!

Dorati breathes fire into the famous Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet on side 2. Unfortunately, the mastering on this copy is not very good. The sound is bright and dry.

This work frequently is recorded with harsh sound; the orchestration must be difficult to capture on tape. But Mercury here seems to have managed a feat few others can claim. I’m guessing the earlier pressings have too much cutter distortion to get this one right; I don’t recall the other copies I’ve heard sounding this good.

This RFR early Colorback pressing — is there an FR pressing? Don’t know — has superb mastering for the Tchaicovsky, so in that sense we can say that the old cutter heads were doing just fine, thank you very much.

But side one is awful — crude, harsh and full of the old school cutter head distortion we decry above. So which is it?

Both I guess. Depends on the record, right? That’s why you have to play them to know. Which we don’t mind doing as long as we can charge $150 for our trouble (not to mention what it takes to find a pressing like this nowadays). (more…)

Rodgers – Slaughter on Tenth Avenue with Arthur Fiedler in Living Stereo

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This record is 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 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 simply begs the question — why is no one exploring, discovering and then elucidating for the record loving public the wonderful qualities of these vintage recordings (besides your humble writer of course)?

HP has passed on; who is fit to carry his mantle into the coming world of audio? Looking around I find very few prospects.

But I digress.

Side Two

White Hot and simply amazing on every level. Rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, with depth and transparency like few recordings you may have heard, the music flows from the speakers effortlessly. You are there.

The loudest brass and string sections of the music are never brash or shrill, something that no other side could manage.

Side One

My notes read: The Big Living Stereo Sound, and man is it ever! The players are arrayed on a huge stage, with transparency that lets you hear all the way to the back of the hall.

This record will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listener will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it. (more…)

The “Not-So-Golden-Age” of RCA, Mercury, London and Others

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We ran into a number of copies of this title that had what we like to call that “Old Record” sound, which is surprisingly common on even the most revered Golden Age labels, RCA included.

No top, no real bottom, congested climaxes and a general shrillness to the sound — we’ve played Living Stereos by the dozens that have these shortcomings and many more.

Some audiophiles may be impressed by the average Shaded Dog pressing, but I can assure you that we here at Better Records are decidedly not of that persuasion. Something in the range of ten to fifteen per cent of the major label Golden Age recordings we play will eventually make it to the site. The vast majority just don’t sound all that good to us. (Many have second- and third-rate performances and those get tossed without ever making it to a shootout.)

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Khachaturian Conducts Spartacus

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Probably more than ten years ago we had written

The famous TAS list recording. The Decca 180 gram version is very good, but those of you who appreciate the qualities of the original mastering will want to have this one. 

We played three or four copies of the album recently and none of them quite worked for us.  The sound was a bit opaque, and not as tubey as we would have liked.

A good record, not a great one, and for that reason really not worth cleaning up and doing a shootout for.  The best copy would not pay for the labor to find it.

Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne / Boston Pops / Fiedler – Reviewed in 2008

More of the Music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.  

12s Hot stampers. The best sounding copy I’ve ever heard.

Jim Mitchell is famous for pointing out that many of the RCA’s that were re-recorded a few years later are inferior to their earlier counterparts. This record is no exception. LSC 1817 is an amazing record. This record is merely good, with depth, soundstaging, nice string tone, etc., but not the kind of sonic fireworks to be found on the 1954 2-track recording that RCA first did of this work.

A very good Sabre Dance as a bonus, check it out! It’s the lead off track on Destination Stereo (LSC 2307) for good reason: it sounds great. (more…)

Destination Stereo – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

More Living Stereo Recordings

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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 we normally assume. 

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*. (more…)