- This original Mercury Stereo LP of the Eastman Wind Ensemble’s performance of these wonderful orchestral compositions debuts on the site with INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
- It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than all of what we played
- Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
- INSANELY GOOD Living Stereo sound can be heard from beginning to end on this Shaded Dog pressing
- Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – this phenomenally good recording when mastered and pressed right is the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
- It’s hard to find a better record with more Tubey Magical hear-all-the-way-to-the-back-of-the-hall sound than this – when we talk about space and transparency, we’re talking about recordings that sound like this one
- A favorite title with audiophiles – it’s full of lovely orchestral colors and, as usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops know how to bring them all out
- Side one has its polarity inverted, something we’ve known about for twenty years – the sound is dark and smeary without the polarity corrected, so those of you who cannot change their polarity should pass on this title
- More of the music of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1863)
- More of the music of Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)
Fiedler is hard to beat on music like this.
These days, most Golden Import reissues we play sound much too much like the bulk of the Philips pressings we’ve played over the years tend to sound: smooth, smeary, compressed, recessed and veiled.
Can’t say what this one sounds like, it sold many years ago, but I would not expect any Golden Import to sound good to me now.
More than anything the changes we hear in the records we play now tie into the idea of Progress in audio, since without progress the records that sounded good to me in 2006 would still sound good to me now, and thank goodness they don’t.
Live and Learn is our motto, onward and upward, and we have made that approach to audio the very foundation of our business.
(You may of course not be aware that you are stuck in a rut. Most audiophiles aren’t. The best way out of that predicament is to hear how mediocre these modern records sound compared to the vintage Hot Stampers we offer. Once you hear the difference, your days of buying newly remastered releases will most likely be over. Even if our pricey curated pressings are beyond your budget, you can avail yourself of the methods we describe to find killer records on your own.)
A TAS List Mistake?
The famous Bolero on the TAS List had seemed to me to be a Harry Pearson mistake from the old days, a record he clearly liked at one time and simply had not played later in life on better equipment.
In 2006, mostly what we were doing in the commentary you see below was bashing the Just Plain Awful Speakers Corner Mercury series that seemed to please everyone else. We thought those remastered pressings were disgraceful, the worst of the worst. Every title from that series that I played was so wrong as to defy understanding. I stopped after two. Two was all I could take.
And where, may I ask, are those awful Mercury’s now?
On the trash heap of Heavy Vinyl Rip-offs from the past I hope. (I hope — audiophiles seem to like so many bad sounding records that it would not surprise me if there were still some die-hard fans of the series.)
How bad does a stereo have to be to keep you from hearing what is wrong with the sound of these awful records? (more…)
Sonic Grade: C (at best)
I found a bit of commentary in a listing for Scheherazade, and right away it was clear to me that the shootout we did for that title had much in common with the one we did recently for The Pines of Rome.
Here it is with the necessary changes having been made.
We did a monster shootout for this music in 2021, one we had been planning for more than twenty years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London; the Maazel on Decca and London (the Decca being on the TAS List), the Kempe on Readers Digest, and quite a few others we felt had potential.
The only recordings that held up all the way through — the last movement being a real Ball Breaker, for both the engineers and musicians — were those by Reiner and Kempe. This was disappointing considering how much time and money we spent finding, cleaning and playing about twenty or so other pressings.
We learned from that first big go around something that we think will remain true for the foreseeable future: the 1960 Reiner recording with the Chicago Symphony on RCA just can’t be beat.
Could other pressings be better sounding? Of course they could.
Would we ever buy another copy? Not a chance.
Here are the notes for the Decca pressing I played, mastered by G, Ted Burkett.
If you find a good one, please let me know the stampers so I can go out and find one myself.
The above is of course all in good fun. We both know that there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that anyone reading this commentary is going to go out and buy some Decca pressings of The Pines of Rome, clean them up and critique them.
The most likely thing is that, if you have any Decca pressing of Maazel’s Pines, it’s sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Odds are it has not been played in a very long time.
Which is as it should be. Good records get played and bad ones sit on shelves.
Sonic Grade: C
We were only slightly impressed with the Speakers Corner Decca pressing of this album, writing at the time:
The famous TAS List recording. Very good sound. You can do better but it’s not easy. This work is just too difficult to record.
Mostly true. Not sure about very good sound but difficult to record is spot on.
More Heavy Vinyl Reviews
Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.
- With two Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing was showing us a lot of the RCA Living Stereo sound we were looking for on this famous record
- This Shaded Dog pressing of Reiner’s superb 1960 recording for RCA has glorious Living Stereo sound on both sides and plays reasonably quietly for such a vintage pressing
- There were only three performances with truly audiophile quality sound, and the Shaded Dog pressing not only had the best performances, but the sound that the team of Mohr/Layton managed to record was second to none
- If you know anything about these works, you know that have tons of top and bottom end, and it is the rare pressing that can capture both
- The texture and harmonic overtones of the Living Stereo strings are near perfection – as we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity Reiner and the CSO brought to these difficult and demanding works 60 years ago
Back in 2006 we liked Red Seal pressings of Living Stereo recordings a lot more than we do nowadays, so take this commentary with a huge grain of salt. Only the advent of top quality cleaning equipment and our much improved playback quality made it possible for us to hear the earlier pressings in all their glory.
A lot of records that I used to like because they were cleaner and brighter — later Red Seal Living Stereos, some OJC jazz, some reissues of rock — sounded much better when my system was darker and less revealing. There are a lot of Live and Learn entries about these records, and this is one from 15 years ago that could (probably, the record is long gone and not around to be played) not be more wrong.
Sonic Grade: F
MoFi’s version of this recording (#507) is one of the worst sounding classical records they ever made, and that’s saying something, because most of their classical catalog is awful. Thin, bright, with sloppy bass and completely unnatural string tone — the MoFi makes the typical Classic Record sound good! And that’s REALLY saying something.
The UHQR is somewhat better, especially in the lower octaves, but it’s maybe a D+ or C-, not a Better Record by any means.
How dull and opaque does a stereo have to be to make this record listenable? The answer is VERY dull and VERY opaque.
Stone Age Audio Systems are the only ones that can play junk like this and get away with it. (more…)
Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records. Deutsche Grammophon Made This One.
I’ve been playing a lot of different pressings of this music lately, trying to find the recordings that are most likely to win a shootout.
My notes for this one read:
Very multi-miked. No depth, but the stage is wide. Not warm but dynamic.
There are a lot of DG recordings that have this kind of sound. We’ve played them by the score. Most went directly into the trade bin.
We simply do not sell classical records with this kind of second-rate sound regardless of the how good the performances may be.
Our job is to find you good sounding pressings. That’s the reason we carry no Heavy Vinyl of any kind, exactly one Half-Speed mastered title (John Klemmer’s Touch), rarely any Japanese pressings, and almost nothing made in the 21st century.
If these kinds of records sounded good — in other words, if they did well in shootouts — we would be happy to offer them to our customers.
But they don’t.
This Maroon Label Mercury TAS List reissue with a black and white back cover has a decent sounding ”The Birds”, but an EXCEPTIONALLY nice ”Brazilian Impressions’.’ I don’t know when I’ve heard a better copy for that work.
It’s everything that a good Mercury should be: dynamic, open, immediate, exciting, and of course, with Dorati and the LSO, beautifully performed. The Golden Import on this title is excellent and I’m quite sure it’s better on side one. But the side two here gives you the REAL Mercury sound that Mercury fans love. I count myself among them. (more…)