- One of the finest string quartet recordings we have ever had the pleasure to play – lovely recreation of space, Tubey Magical richness, and rosiny string textures
- Clear and transparent and natural – your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all
- “The playing of the Quartetto Italiano has a freshness, range and subtlety that vividly realizes the music in all its variety, while technical problems seem to have been solved so that the music making can be both spontaneous-sounding and thoughtful throughout.”
We were impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing of this album when it came out back in 1994. We wrote at the time:
Probably the best sound and performance of the Eine Kleine available — highly recommended!
We haven’t played a copy in years, 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.
Our Hot Stamper Classical Pressings will be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short in in our experience.ings.
Sonic Grade: B? C?
I wrote this review in 2001, practically the stone age in my world, and would now disagree with a great deal of what I said about the sound of the record. The music and performances are fine, but the sound has all the hallmarks of bad cutting equipment and dead-as-a-doornail RTI vinyl.
This is the review I wrote in 2001:
Hearing this performance from Thomas Nee and his orchestra is like hearing the work for the first time. It may be difficult to reproduce the magic in these grooves but wonderfully rewarding when you do. You won’t be bored! The sound is intimate and immediate; this is the record for those of you who appreciate more of a front row center seat. Count me in; that’s where I like to sit myself.
I worked hard on my system for about 4 hours one night, using nothing but this record as my test, because of its wealth of subtle ambience cues, excellent string tone, and massed string dynamics. There is a lot to listen for, and a lot to get right, for this album to sound right.
The performance of the Mozart’s 35th Symphony is definitive. Without a doubt this is the best Mozart record currently available, one that belongs in any serious record collection. I give it a top recommendation for its sublime musical qualities that set it apart from other current releases. In short, a Must Own!
Twenty years and a great deal of Audio Progress later I have changed my tune. Now I would say:
Cisco’s titles had to fight their way through Kevin Gray’s opaque, airless, low-resolution cutting system, a subject we discussed on the blog in some depth here.
As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound. Modern remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing.
Good EQ or Bad EQ, they all suffer to one degree or another from a bad case of audio enervation.
Where is the life of the music?
You can try turning up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want; they simply refuse to come to life.
A textbook case of Live and Learn.
Cisco Music had this to day about their record:
One of Mozart’s most popular symphonies is given a visceral and driving performance. Instead of slowing down the tempo in service to lyricism, conductor Thomas Nee chose to adhere to Mozart’s written instructions: ‘The first movement must be played with fire; the last, as fast as possible.’ Even if you own several recordings of this bright and joyous work, you’ve never heard it played like this, and certainly never with this kind of audiophile sound!
This is exactly the “kind of audiophile sound” I fell for 20 years ago, long before I had a clue just how good a great orchestral recording could sound.
Like most of the folks who pursue records in search of higher quality sound, I sure thought I did, which is why it’s easy for me to write about it. I’ve been there.
- With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard these symphonic masterpieces sound as good as they do here
- It’s also reasonably quiet at Mint Minus Minus considering that RDG vinyl is often a problem -It’s one of the main things that keeps some pressings from sounding their best, obviously not a problem here
- This Readers Digest pressing of Krips’s superb 1964 recording for Decca has glorious sound for any LP produced by this notoriously difficult label (difficult for audiophiles, everybody else loved the fact that a whole set of amazing sounding records was less than twenty bucks!)
- The texture and harmonic overtones of the strings are superb – as we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity Josef Krips and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra brought to these difficult and demanding works nearly 60 years ago
This vintage 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.
- An early EMI UK import pressing with STUNNING Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
- The amazingly well recorded Toy Symphony on side two (which is fairly quiet by the way) is the real reason to own this record – you will be shocked at how realistic the toys sound, and how spaciously they are arrayed in the soundfield
- These sides are clear, full-bodied and present, with plenty of live venue space around the players, the unmistakable sonic hallmark of the properly mastered, properly pressed vintage analog LP
- The first pressing of the album I ever played, back in about 1995, was on the Japanese Soundphile Series, and it blew my mind at the time
- Fast forward 25 plus years and now we know that, as good as the Japanese pressing can be, the real EMI can be even better. That’s what shootouts are for, right?
Many years ago we got hold of a Japanese pressing of Marriner conducting The Toy Symphony and were blown away by the audiophile quality sound. When listing the record for sale, I raved:
“DEMO QUALITY SOUND! This is the best sounding Toy symphony you will ever hear!”
Now we know definitely that this is clearly not true! We did the shootout in 2022 and found out that the best of the original EMI pressings are even better, a classic case of Live and Learn.
I believe I had at least one or two UK EMI pressings to play against the Japanese ones, but all the details of how I came to this conclusion — a proto-shootout, carried out long before I knew how to do a real one — are lost to the mists of time.
My stereo was dramatically less revealing back then, I had not learned how to clean records properly, and those two facts, combined with the underdeveloped listening skills that go with them, helped me to arrive at the wrong conclusion.
No, the Japanese pressing, specifically targeted to audiophiles, or “soundphiles” if you prefer, is not superior to a properly mastered and pressed UK LP.
If you have more than a handful of Japanese pressings in your collection, you can be sure that there is still plenty of room for improvement in your audio system. An advanced system — the kind we are using today in our shootouts, and didn’t exist back then — will quickly reveal the shortcomings of these formerly desirable pressings.
The Japanese pressings of this album are still good sounding, just not as good sounding as the real thing. For that reason we would not consider them Stone Age Audio records. Perhaps Bronze Age Audio records is a better way to think about them.
OUR REVIEW FROM MANY (10? 15?) YEARS AGO
I discovered how good this Japanese EMI Soundphile Series recording is almost 20 years ago [that would have been in the early 90s]. In that time I can say that I think I may have run across at most two other copies. This is a tough one to find!
But it’s worth the effort, because all the little toys that play along with the music just JUMP out of the speakers. The recording is so transparent and the toys are so well miked it’s like hearing this work for the first time, or live.
This album can easily become a favorite Demo Disc — it has that kind of “you-are-there” sound. This recording was made at Abbey Road in 1976 under the direction of the two Christophers. Perhaps that accounts for the quality of the recording.
The Eine Kleine on side two is also very nice, although I wouldn’t say it’s world class the way The Toy Symphony is.
- This original Shaded Dog pressing boasts INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
- It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that most of our classical records, even the mintiest ones, cannot match
- The Tubey Magical richness is off the charts on this copy – if you want to know what kind of sound wins shootouts around these parts, this pressing will show you
- The rich, textured sheen of the strings that Living Stereo made possible in the ’50s and early ’60s is clearly evident throughout these pieces, something that the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound simply does not exist on modern records
- Marks in the vinyl are the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
- This very rare Ark LP features excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
- Features a selection of classical masterpieces from some of the world’s greatest composers, beautifully performed by famed organist Edward Berryman, S.M.D.
- This title was always a hit at Fulton Audio demonstrations, as it contains a true 16 cycle note, which most stereos cannot reproduce
- If you can reproduce it, and you can hear it, so much the better
This is a Very Rare Ark LP. The piece by Mozart on side one has a 16 cycle note. Since it has virtually no overtones, the note is more often than not completely undetectable; few stereos in my experience have ever been able to reproduce it. If you have a full-range system, this record will allow you to hear deep bass you may have never heard before.
Let me warn you that these records require extremely transparent, full-bandwidth, neutral stereo systems to sound their best. Most records are “goosed up” in various ways to play on any stereo, regardless of quality. These Fulton records have the opposite of that sound.
From my admittedly prejudiced point of view, tubes are an absolute must for the magic of these live recordings to come through. (Or so I thought in 2006. Now, not so much.)
If your system leans more toward the budget side, these Ark records will leave you wondering what in the world that Tom Port character was talking about.
And of course organ records require good deep bass, the hardest part of the frequency range to reproduce in the typical living room. With this organ record at least you’ll know what the goal should be.
This original plum label Victrola pressing from 1965 has SUPERB sound on both sides. The Bach piece is a rich tapestry of strings spread across the stage and clearly separated left to right. There’s not much depth but that seems of little consequence; all the instruments are heard in their proper space and location. The tonality is right on the money throughout.
The Mozart concerto starts out sounding a bit opaque, but about an inch or so into the side it opens up wonderfully, with sweet, spacious, natural sound from there on out. Jaime Laredo plays both works superbly, and the Living Stereo quality sound brings his playing to life in a way that few recordings can.
Although never released as a real LSC, this Victrola pressing is every bit the equal of most of the better Living Stereo pressings. (more…)
- This STUNNING classical masterpiece finally returns to the site with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on the first side and nearly Super Hot Stamper sound on the second
- Spacious, three-dimensional and real beyond practically any DG recording you’ve heard – you hear into the soundstage on this record like you will not believe
- If you want to do your own sonic comparison of two of the very best concertos from this era, this is the perfect copy to do it with
- “Mozart’s piano concertos are filled with assured transition passages, modulations, dissonances, Neapolitan relationships and suspensions. Today, at least three of these works (nos 20, 21 and 23) are among the most recorded and popular classical works in the repertoire…”
The string tone here is especially rich and sweet, yet full of texture and that lovely rosiny quality that vintage pressings capture so well. (Sometimes capture so well. We’ve played plenty of copies with a smeary quality that robs the strings of their lovely sheen.)
The piano is beautifully recorded as well. Geza Anda’s performance is hard to fault here. You will have a very hard time finding better recordings of these Mozart piano concertos, of that we have no doubt. (more…)