_Composers – Offenbach

Offenbach – More Bad Tube Mastering from the Formerly Brilliant Doug Sax

Audiophile Quality Pressings of Orchestral Music Available Now

Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

The sound is smeary, thick and opaque because, among other things, the record was mastered by Doug Sax on tube equipment from a copy tape, and not all that well either.

It is yet another murky audiophile piece of trash from the mastering lathe of the formerly brilliant Doug Sax. Back in the day he cut some the best sounding records ever made.

Then he started working for Analogue Productions and never cut a good sounding record again as far as I know. (Obviously I cannot have played everything he worked on from the mid-90s on. Who would want to?)

On this Offenbach record, in Doug’s defense it’s only fair to point out that he had dub tapes to work with, which is neither here nor there as these pressings are not worth the dime’s worth of vinyl used to make them.

Should you buy a record because it was made this way?

According to the back of the jacket:

Mastering by Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab using an all vacuum tube system.

Single Step processing was used for this “Limited Edition” release. The stamper was made from the first generation master and not more than 500 were pressed from each stamper. This process allows all records to be of “test pressing quality.” Klavier records are used by many manufacturers and audio specialty shops for demonstrating their equipment.

Maybe the notoriously hearing-challenged Chad Kassem wanted this sound — almost all his remastered titles have the same faults — and simply asked that Doug cut it to sound real good like analog spossed ta sound in the mind of this kingpin, which meant smooth, fat, thick and smeary. (Back in the 70s, if you had a fairly typical stereo system — Japanese receiver and three-way box speakers with a 12″ woofer — you surely know the sound I am talking about. Record stores are one of the few places one can go to hear that sound these days. If you’re old like me, it can really take you back.)

This Is Analog?

Apparently, even in our modern era this is what some folks think analog should sound like.

Just ask whoever remastered The Beatles on Heavy Vinyl. Somebody boosted the bass and smoothed out the upper midrange, and I don’t think they did that by accident. They actually thought it was good idea.

Harry Moss obviously would not have agreed, but he’s not around anymore to do the job right.

Here is the cover for the real EMI. No idea if the sound is any good, but it has to be better than the awful Klavier, doesn’t it? (We plan on doing a shootout for this title soon.)

Below are some thoughts from a recent classical listing that we hope will shed some light on our longstanding aversion to the sound of these modern remastered records.

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is transparency. Modern records are just so damn opaque. We can’s stand that sound. It drives us crazy.

Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a whole — including those that pass themselves off as the champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.

It is our contention that no one alive today makes records that sound as good as the ones we sell. Once you hear one of our Hot Stamper pressings, those 180 gram records you own may never sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we are in the enviable position of being able to play the best properly cleaned older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the new ones, where the faults of the current reissues become much more recognizable, even obvious. When you can hear them that way, head to head, there really is no comparison.

Offenbach – Strings and Brass Are the Toughest to Get Right

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

More Reviews and Commentaries for Gaite Parisienne

Our favorite recording of the work is this one Fistoulari recorded for Readers Digest.

It’s also an excellent record to test with. As you no doubt know, there is a lot of “action” in this piece of music.

To get the strings and the brass to sound lively yet natural is a bit of a trick. (It doesn’t help that the polarity is reversed.)

When I first played this record many years ago, I was none too happy about the string tone. After making a few tweaky adjustments, the strings became much clearer and more textured. The overall presentation still sounded rich, but was now dramatically more natural and relaxed.

It was this record that made me realize some of the changes I had made to my stereo back then had caused it to have a certain hi-fi-ish quality, which seemed to work fine on the popular and jazz recordings I was using as test discs at the time.

But the reproduction of classical music is the ultimate challenge for any stereo.

And this record was telling me I wasn’t getting it right. I’m happy to report that things are sounding wonderful now, on every kind of record: jazz, rock and especially on excellent classical recordings such as this one, on Readers Digest no less (!)

A famous jazz album by Michel LeGrand was also helpful in getting my playback to be more correct.

We are in the process of making some lists (more lists!) for records we’ve found to be good for testing, tweaking and tuning your system, your room and your front end setup, among other things. So far, we have compiled these groups:

These are the records that challenged me and helped me to achieve more progress in audio. If you want to improve your stereo, these are some of the best records we know of to help you get to the next level.


Offenbach & Strauss – A Waste of Money on the Mercury Original

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

More of the music of Johann Strauss (1804-1849)

This lovely Mercury boasts one of the greatest performances of the piece ever recorded. 

Dorati is surely The Man when it comes to energy, drive and dynamic excitement with this venerable warhorse. He and his Minneapolis Symphony play the hell out of this boisterous music, and luckily for us audiophiles, the Mercury engineers give us Demonstration Quality Sound to go with it.

But not on the original pressing.

The original Mercury release of this record (90016) is a shrill piece of trash, as is the Mercury Wing pressing. So many of the early Mercurys were poorly mastered it seems.

We used to really like the Golden Import reissue, but that was years ago. Not sure how we would feel about it now.

Our current favorite performance of The Gay Parisian is this one on, gulp, Readers Digest.

Many original Mercury records simply do not sound good, and this is one of them. We have never heard a good sounding copy of SR90016, and we’ve played plenty of them over the more than three decades we’ve been in the business of selling Golden Age Classical records.

The originals that we’ve run into have all had shrill sound, and that sound is just not going to be acceptable on today’s highly-tweaked stereos.

Some of the early Mercs seem better suited to the Old School Audio Systems of the ’60s and ’70s than the modern systems of today. Some of these records used to sound good on those older systems, and I should know. I had an Old School stereo and some of the records I used to think sounded good back in the day don’t sound too good to me anymore. For a more complete list of those records, click here.

Aren’t the Original Pressings the Best?

No. The idea that the original is the best sounding version of any album is a myth, and an easily debunked one.

To make the case, here is just a small sampling of records with the potential to sound better on the specific reissue pressings we’ve discovered, in direct head to head comparisons (we call them shootouts) against the best originals.

We also have a healthy supply of amazing sounding reissues available should you wish to purchase pressings that beat the originals — any originals — and we back up that claim with a money back guarantee.

How Did We Figure All of This Out?

There are more than 2000 Hot Stamper reviews on this blog. Do you know how we learned so much about so many records?

Simple. We ran thousands and thousands of record experiments under carefully controlled conditions, and we continue to run scores of them week in and week out to this very day.


Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne – Our Shootout Winner from 2004

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

More Stamper and Pressing Information (You’re Welcome!)

In 2004 we wrote:

11S/10S are the best stampers we have found for this amazing DEMONSTRATION QUALITY record!

I think that information still holds up. I can also tell you that 5S/5S has never impressed us much. We’re not sure if it’s bad enough to belong in the Bad Shaded Dog category, but audiophiles would be wise to give it a miss at anything over a nominal price.

Side 1 plays nearly NM without a pop! Side 2 opens with a half inch scratch. But think about it — isn’t one side about the right amount for this kind of music? Do you really need to play side 2 after hearing side 1? This copy gives you a good portion of the music with AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUND.

This 1954 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work. 1954. Can you believe it? Four mics and two channels and it blows away 90% of all the classical recordings ever made.

Some old record collectors and tube equipment lovers [not so much anymore] say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be. This record proves it. (And this record proves that sometimes old records just sound like old records.)

Further Reading

Offenbach – More Smeary Dreck from Classic Records

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

More Reviews and Commentaries for Gaite Parisienne

Our Favorite Performance of Gaite Parisienne – Fistoulari on Readers Digest

Sonic Grade: F

The last time I played the Classic I thought it was nothing but a smeary mess, as awful as their awful Scheherazade. If I were to play it today, I’m guessing it would join the other Classic Records entries in our Audiophile Hall of Shame.

Here are some other records we played and found had smeary strings. They did not last long on our turntable.

I love Arthur Fiedler‘s performance with the Boston Pops and the 1954 two track RCA Living Stereo sound, but finding an original Shaded Dog pressing in clean condition under $500 with the right stampers (something above 10 as a rule) is all but impossible nowadays.

If you want to go that way, more power to you. 

This 1954 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work. 1954. Can you believe it? A few mics and two channels and it blows away most of the classical recordings ever done! Some old record collectors and tube lovers say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be. This record proves it.

Further Reading

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.

Can we really be hearing all these things that nobody else seems to be hearing? For example:

Not to mention the fact that we have played a lot of these kinds of records and found them seriously wanting:

If audiophiles and audiophile reviewers are hearing these things on the records they review, in magazines and audiophile forums, why aren’t they discussing them?


Letter of the Week – “the violin now is more natural as you described.”

More of the Music of Harry Belafonte

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

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

  Hey Tom, 

I bought the harry Belafonte Carnegie Hall recently, a White Hot. I went to the On The Record site and came across the Offenbach Readers Digest discussion of reversed polarity. I had bought this record on your site a long time ago.

I listened to the record with the polarity reversed.

This is the first time I have heard this record sounding better.

Open, spacious and heard lots of macro and micro details, especially on side one, and the violin now is more natural as you described.

Btw, Do you have records with reversed polarity ready to hit the site? Please let me know.

Very interesting!


Thanks for your letter. Glad I was able to help you get that Offenbach record to sound the way it should. It is a knockout performance with audio quality to match.

Funny how you rarely see much discussion of records with reversed polarity.

Do most audiophiles have polarity switches on their preamps or phono stages?

Can they be bothered to go back and forth enough times to make sure they have the correct polarity setting for the records they play?

Do they listen critically enough to hear any of the changes we describe when the polarity is right or wrong?

All good questions,. none of which we are able to answer. Sometimes our own customers don’t get around to switching the polarity of records that are reversed until many months later. Some of them may not ever switch polarity at all.

We discuss a number of records with well known (well known to us anyway) polarity issues here.


A Simple Test for Polarity – Listen to the Solo Violin

More of the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

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

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

Both sides are reversed.

On side two, the Chopin side, notice how vague the solo violin is with the polarity wrong.

As soon as it is switched, a solid, real, natural, palpable violin pops into view.

That’s how you know when your polarity is correct, folks!

This Heavy Vinyl pressing is also quite vague, but you can reverse your polarity until the cows come home, it ain’t gettin’ any better.

Here are some other Records that Are Good for Testing Vague Imaging

The top end of this record is clear, clean and correct. No other copy sounded like this one on the first side. When you hear all the percussion instruments — the tambourines, triangles, wood blocks and what-have-you — you know instantly that they sound RIGHT.

The overall sound is very different from many of the other recordings of the work that we have offered in the past. Rather than smooth, rich and sweet, the sound here is big and bold and clear like nothing we have ever played.

This is Front Row Center sound for those whose systems can reproduce it.

And this is truly a top performance by Fistoulari and the Royal Philharmonic. I know of none better. For music and sound this is the one!

Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne / Fiedler

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

More Reviews and Commentaries for Gaite Pareisienne

  • Stunning sound on both sides of this Shaded Dog pressing from 1954 with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is a true Demo Disc quality recording – both sides are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with huge amounts of energy and tons of space around all of the players
  • This 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work from all the way back in 1954 – can you believe it?
  • Two mics and two channels and it blows away most of the classical recordings that followed it
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – this record proves it
  • In the ’90s I was regularly selling this title for $1000+ and people were happy to pay it!

NOTE: *There is a mark about 1″ from the end of the side that plays 10 times at a light to moderate level.

In a listing from a while back we wrote:

I love Fiedler’s performance and the 1954 two track RCA Living Stereo sound but finding an original Shaded Dog pressing in clean condition under $500 with the right stampers (something above 10 as I recall) is all but impossible nowadays. If you want to go that way more power to you.

Well we found one! With the right stampers! There are other good stampers for this album, but none that sounded as good as these in the shootout. And the vinyl is exceptionally quiet for a pressing from circa 1958 (the first year that stereo pressings were available; before that you had to buy the music on reel to reel to hear it in stereo). (more…)

Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne / Fiedler

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

This listing is from 2008. In 2004, we liked 11s/10s quite a bit.

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…)

Offenbach et al / French Overtures – Ansermet – Reviewed in 2009

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

This Minty London Blueback LP (not the Decca you see pictured) has a WONDERFUL Tubey Magical Super Hot Stamper Side One. I have never heard this music sound better. Of course Ansermet is exactly the right conductor for these light and colorful orchestral pieces; the performances are uniformly superb.

But as audiophiles we want to make sure the sound is what it should be, and here side one does not disappoint. The string tone is perfection. I defy anyone to find a Heavy Vinyl reissue with string tone even remotely as good. In my experience there is simply no such record.

With vintage classical records there are always trade-offs of course. Here the loudest passages suffer from compressor distortion, so common on these early pressings. A small price to pay for sound this lovely I say. The Zampa overture by Herold is probably the best sound on the album — it’s gorgeous!

Side two is not quite as good. We rated it A Plus, with real weight and energy but a bit too much compression in the loud passages to be completely satisfying. (more…)