_Composers – Strauss II, Johann

Strauss – As Good As Some Say? As Good As We Thought?

The original, favorable review for this album you see further down is from at least ten years ago and probably more like fifteen.

When we revisited the copies we had of this title more recently, we felt the sound was badly lacking in many respects, with no real extension up top nor much weight to the bottom, the very definition of boxy sound.

Many of the vintage classical records we audition have sound that we liked well enough in the past but now no longer meet our standards. Those pressings might sound fine on an Old School Stereo (or its modern equivalent), but we have something very different to play our records on, courtesy of the many Revolutionary Changes in Audio that have dramatically altered the quality of analog playback over the last twenty five years.

We much prefer Boskovsky’s performances for Decca for waltzes and the like, by Strauss or anyone else.

TAS List Thoughts

We wanted to like the record, it’s on the TAS List for cryin’ out loud, shouldn’t it at least be pretty good?

It very well may be amazingly good, we can’t say it is or it isn’t. In order to be more sure of our opinion, we would need a great deal more data to back it up. We would need to have a large number of copies on hand, clean them all and play them in order to make it possible to find the killer stamper that may be hiding in the pile, assuming one might be.

But why spend all that money and all that time chasing after a record that may turn out to be just another mistake Harry Pearson made when he included Strauss Waltzes on his famous list?

He regularly updated his list of Super Discs from year to year. Some records were added, some removed, so perhaps we might give him the benefit of the doubt and posit that, were he living today, LSC 2500 would have long ago been given the boot.

Our review for the album from years ago:

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Disc LPs, but it’s the rare copy that deserves such an exclusive ranking.

This copy delivers the sonic goods on side one with Super Hot Stamper sound.

Side two is not quite up to the standards set by side one. It’s darker, not as open and lacks some of the richness of the first side. That said, it’s still better than the average copy we’ve played and worlds better than any reissue.

Both sides have some deep powerful bass and are fairly dynamic.

Three things we always keep in mind when a pressing doesn’t sound like we remember it did, or think it should:

  1. Our standards are quite a bit higher now, having spent decades critically listening to vintage classical pressings by the hundreds.
  2. Our stereo is dramatically more revealing and more accurate than it used to be.
  3. Since no two records sound the same, maybe the one we played long ago actually did sound as good as we thought at the time.

All things considered, the consensus would now be that LSC 2500 is very unlikely to be as good a record as we used to think it was.

As for other records we think we got wrong — we may change our minds again, you never can tell, all it takes is one good pressing to change our minds — you can find more examples under the heading of Live and Learn.


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.


Strauss / Schubert – Dances of Old Vienna / Boskovsky

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

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • An original UK Decca pressing of this wonderful sounding record boasting STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades from first note to last
  • Tonally correct from top to bottom and full of Tubey Magic, it’s unbelievably spacious and three-dimensional, with depth to rival any recording you may own
  • The violin (played by Boskovsky himself) is immediate, real and lively here – there is a transparency and ease to the sound that is not often heard in recordings from any era, making this a very special record indeed
  • Gordon Parry and James Lock handled the engineering duties for Decca and their work here is hard to fault

Wow, what a find! This is a WONDERFUL sounding record with vintage Decca/London sound. There is not a trace of hyped-up sound to be found on this record.

So spacious! This is a fairly small ensemble, not a huge orchestra, playing in a lively hall, exactly the kind of hall in which this music was meant to be heard. The reason everything on this disc sounds right is that the venue, the sound and the music are authentic to these works in practically every detail.

This vintage UK import 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.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Dances of Old Vienna Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For On Dances of Old Vienna

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.


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.


Rachmaninoff / Favorite Classics for Piano / Pennario

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Records We’ve Discovered

We found White Hot Stamper sound on side two of this solo piano recording.

It’s big, rich and above all REAL sounding, with natural studio space. The legendary soloist Leonard Pennario is presented here at the height of his powers.

Superb choice of material, from Clair De Lune to Liebestraum to the Hungarian Rhapsody No . 2.

On the rare Stereo pressing of course — we want to hear all that studio space reproduced, just as your two ears would have heard it (more or less).

Side One

Graded Super Hot for the huge, solid-sounding piano, played with such verve and skill. The musical power on this side is stupendous. 

Side Two

Even better! No smear, with incredible clarity, and no sacrifice in weight or richness.

All of which adds up to a top quality piano recording in every way.


Strauss / New Year’s Concert / Boskovsky

More of the music of Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • New Year’s Concert makes its Hot Stamper debut with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout this original unboxed Decca pressing
  • Tons of musical energy, loads of rich detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • The orchestra is wide, tall, spacious, rich and tubey, yet the dynamics and transparency are first rate
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes 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


Everything But the Beer – Pros and Cons from a Long-Ago Shootout

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.

Side One

Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 – Elgar
Mignon Overture – Thomas
Largo from Xerxes – Handel
Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin – Wagner


A++, with the huge hall and 3-D sound we mentioned above. Very clear, especially when quiet. There’s a big bass drum on one of these tracks that is killer. A little more Tubey Magic would have been nice. As it is, this side sounds REALISTIC, like a real live concert.


Strauss / Tales of Old Vienna / Boskovsky

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

This BETTER than Super Hot Side one has shockingly good sound, some of the best we have ever heard for lovely marches, polkas and waltzes such as these (the Radetsky March being the most famous).

The hall is HUGE, the strings so rich, with the kind of wall to wall sound that makes the stereo and speakers utterly disappear. The sound of this London Whiteback pressing is just right for this music — so natural and real. Boskovsky of course was a master of these forms and displays consummate skill with each of the famous works here, bringing them to life as only he and the Vienna Phil. can.

If only side two were as good! But of course, when one side is killer, the chances that the second side will be as good or better are well below average.

Side One

Slight smear and slight edge keep this side from three pluses, but it’s close!

Side Two

Listen for the uncannily realistic whistle at the start of the first piece — it’s DEMO DISC material.

A step down to be sure but still big and rich, just the way we like our Londons.

Strauss et al. / Vienna Holiday / Knappertsbusch

More Johann Strauss

This is a super rare and quiet early UK Decca LP (SXL 2016) with two very good sounding sides!

Side one is spacious and transparent but could use a bit more extension on the top and bottom, rating an A+.

Side two is similar sounding, but has some added fullness that nets it an A+ to A++ grade.

Both sides play about Mint Minus with no inner groove distortion and only very light surface noise.


Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records – RCA Released This Living Stereo with Reiner in 1958

More of the Music of Johann Strauss

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

Some audiophiles buy albums based on their labels. For example, this Shaded Dog pressing from the Golden Age of RCA Living Stereo might appeal to a certain kind of audiophile who treasures LSC’s on the original label.

More than that, he might limit himself to 1S Indianapolis pressings.

Hooray! What could be better?

However, many records from this era simply do not sound good, and this is one of them. We have never heard a good sounding copy of LSC 2112, and we’ve played plenty of them over the decades we’ve been in the business of selling Golden Age Classical records.

A copy came in just last week and I figured it was time to give it a spin and see if there was any reason to change my opinion. Hey, maybe this one had Hot Stampers! Can’t say it wouldn’t be possible. Unlikely, yes, impossible, no.

So here’s what I heard: A wide stage. A bit dry.

But then the trouble started: Shrill strings?! That’s all she wrote.

A Johann Strauss record with shrill strings is a non-starter. (more…)