_Conductors – Munch

Classic Records and Audio Progress

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP debunked.

Classic Records ruined this album, as anyone who has played some of their classical reissues should have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance.

In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price.

Apparently, most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a top quality classical recording reproduced properly. If they had, Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and labeled as such by us way back in 1994. I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled, but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases.

(We admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock, and we have the We Was Wrong entries to prove it.)

UPDATE 8/2010

Classic Records has officially gone under. They will not be missed, not by us anyway, except for this reason: to borrow a line from Richard Nixon, I guess we won’t have Classic Records to kick around anymore. We’ve been beating that dead horse since the day they started making records back in 1994. There are scores of commentaries on the site about their awful records for those who are interested.

The last review we wrote for the remastered Scheherazade, which fittingly ended up in our Hall of Shame, with an equally fitting sonic grade of F.

TAS Superdisc List to this day? Of course it is!

Audio Progress

With every improvement we’ve made to our system over the years, their records have somehow managed to sound progressively worse. (This is pretty much true for all Heavy Vinyl pressings, another good reason for our decision to stop carrying them in 2011.) That ought to tell you something.

Better audio stops hiding and starts revealing the shortcomings of bad records. At the same time, and much more importantly, better audio reveals more and more of the strengths and beauty of good records.

Which of course begs the question of what actually is a good record — what it is that makes one record good and another bad — but luckily for you dear reader, you are actually on a site that has much to say about those very issues.

There are scores of commentaries on the site about the huge improvements in audio available to the discerning (and well-healed) audiophile. It’s the reason Hot Stampers can and do sound dramatically better than their Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile counterparts: because your stereo is good enough to show you the difference.

With an Old School System you will continue to be fooled by bad records, just as I and all my audio buds were fooled twenty and thirty years ago. Audio has improved immensely in that time. If you’re still playing Heavy Vinyl and Audiophile pressings, there’s a world of sound you’re missing. We would love to help you find it.

One amazing sounding  Orchestral Hot Stamper pressing might just be what it takes to get the ball rolling.


FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records

Top Quality Classical “Sleeper” Recordings

Best Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

Demo Disc Quality Orchestral Recordings

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Destination Stereo and the State of Reviewing As We See It

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Your Destination — Stereo!

“Your passport to great music in new sound by the world’s greatest artists.”

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*.

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 many assume. 

This record is designed to show off the Living Stereo sound at its best and it succeeds magnificently. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy. If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

Just play Gnomus to hear The Power of the Orchestra, Living Stereo style.

The fourth and fifth movements of Capriccio Espagnol, the second track on side one, sound superb, CLEARLY better here than on the Shaded Dog pressings we played about a year ago (which were terrible and never made it to the site. Great performance but bad mastering of what obviously was a very good master tape).

You can also hear the Living Stereo sound especially well on the excerpt from “The Fourth of July” performed by Morton Gould. It’s one of the best sounding tracks here.

I don’t think the RCA engineers can cut this record much better — it has all the Living Stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the bass and dynamics that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

This is as good as it gets, folks.

The State of Reviewing

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

(more…)

Debussy / Images For Orchestra / Munch

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Claude Debussy

  • This is one of the most magnificent Golden Age Classical titles we have played in longer than I can remember – we put it in the top 1-2% of their best sounding releases, a nice place to be
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording combines amazing richness with transparency, and even at its loudest, it is still smooth and sweet
  • It is very unlikely that all but a few of our best customers have any records in their collections that sound as good as this one!
  • 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 just does not exist on modern records
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, and for recordings of Debussy, that is quiet indeed

DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! It’s also a better performance than the famous Reiner. Munch understands this music perfectly.

(more…)

Saint-Saëns, Chausson – Poème / Introduction And Rondo Capriccio / Oistrakh

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout this original RCA Victrola Stereo pressing
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that most of our classical records, even the mintiest ones, cannot quite manage
  • One of the best violin recordings we offer – the rich, textured sheen of the strings is clearly evident throughout these pieces
  • The sound is big and rich and ALIVE with pyrotechnic fireworks on side one – if you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them
  • The highlight for us on a collection like this is always going to be The Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, “one of Saint-Saëns’ few genuine showpieces.”

The violin here is superb — rich, smooth, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound. The Tubey Magical richness is to die for.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Zero smear, high-rez transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — it takes the sound of this recording beyond what we thought was possible.

The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented (on side one; side two is simply violin and piano) with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy. If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

The richness of the strings is on display for fans of the classical Golden Age.

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years. It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that is not lost on us.

I don’t think the RCA engineers could have cut this record much better — it has all the stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

(more…)

Violin Recordings and the Problem of Smear

More Hot Stamper Pressings of Violin Recordings

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

This Shaded Dog pressing of LSC 2129 had practically no smear on either the violin or the orchestra.

Try to find a violin concerto record with no smear.

We often say that Shaded Dogs, being vintage All Tube recordings, tend to have tube smear.

But what about the ’70s Transistor Mastered Red Label pressings – where does their smear come from?

Let’s face it: records from every era more often than not have some smear and we can never really know what accounts for it.

The key thing is to be able to recognize it for what it is. (We find modern records, especially those pressed at RTI, to be quite smeary as a rule. They also tend to be congested, blurry, thick, veiled, and ambience-challenged. For some reason most audiophiles — and the reviewers who write for them — rarely seem to notice these shortcomings.)

Of course, if your system itself has smear it becomes that much harder to hear the smear on your records.  Practically every tube system I have ever heard had more smear than I could tolerate – it comes with the territory. And high-powered transistor amps are notoriously smeary, opaque and ambience-challenged. Our low-powered, all-transistor rig has no trouble showing us the amount of smear on records, including those that have virtually none.

Keep in mind that one thing live music never has is smear of any kind. Live music is smear-free. It can be harmonically distorted, hard, edgy, thin, fat, dark, and all the rest, but one thing it can never be is smeary.

That is a shortcoming unique to the reproduction of music, and one which causes many of the pressings we sell to have their sonic grades lowered.

(more…)

Dvorak / Cello Concerto – Hard to Recommend in Living Stereo or on Heavy Vinyl

More Bad Sounding RCA Shaded Dog Pressings

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Titles Available Now

I have never heard a copy of this record sound better than decent. This title is very unlikely to have the wonderful sound of the best Living Stereo pressings that you can find on our site, each of which has been carefully evaluated to the highest standards.

If you can get one for cheap, go for it. Otherwise I recommend that you pass if what you are looking for is audiophile quality sound.

Perhaps the poor recording quality (I’m guessing; obviously I’ve never heard the master tape) explains the poor sound of the Classic Records remastered version from 1994.

Not that that stopped anybody from buying those awful 180 gram pressings! They may have been mastered by one of the greats, Bernie Grundman, but he was well past his prime when he was working for that awful label, as we explain here.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

(more…)

Mendelssohn & Prokofiev / Violin Concertos – On Classic Records

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Sonic Grade: F

An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP we found wanting.

Classic Records ruined this album, as anyone who has played some of their classical reissues should have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance.

In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price.

Apparently, most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a top quality classical recording. If they had, Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and labeled as such by us way back in 1994. I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled, but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases.

(We admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock, and we have the We Was Wrong entries to prove it.)

UPDATE 8/2010

Classic Records has officially gone under. They will not be missed, not by us anyway, except for this reason: to borrow a line from Richard Nixon, I guess we won’t have Classic Records to kick around anymore. We’ve been beating that dead horse since the day they started making records back in 1994. There are scores of commentaries on the site about their awful records for those who are interested.

The last review we wrote for the remastered Scheherazade, which fittingly ended up in our Hall of Shame, with an equally fitting sonic grade of F.

TAS Superdisc List to this day? Of course it is!

Audio Progress

With every improvement we’ve made to our system over the years, their records have somehow managed to sound progressively worse. (This is pretty much true for all Heavy Vinyl pressings, another good reason for our decision to stop carrying them in 2011.) That ought to tell you something.

Better audio stops hiding and starts revealing the shortcomings of bad records. At the same time, and much more importantly, better audio reveals more and more of the strengths and beauty of good records.

Which of course begs the question of what actually is a good record — what it is that makes one record good and another bad — but luckily for you dear reader, you are actually on a site that has much to say about those very issues.

There are scores of commentaries on the site about the huge improvements in audio available to the discerning (and well-healed) audiophile. It’s the reason Hot Stampers can and do sound dramatically better than their Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile counterparts — because your stereo is good enough to show you the difference.

With an Old School System you will continue to be fooled by bad records, just as I and all my audio buds were fooled twenty and thirty years ago. Audio has improved immensely in that time. If you’re still playing Heavy Vinyl and Audiophile pressings, there’s a world of sound you’re missing. We would love to help you find it.

One amazing sounding  Orchestral Hot Stamper pressing might just be what it takes to get the ball rolling.

(more…)

Milhaud / La Creation du Monde / Munch

xxxxx

M-/ M- – to M-. 1s/ 2s. Side 2 has DEMO QUALITY sound. These rare Soria pressings have a tendency to be noisy so this is as quiet a copy as you are likely to find.

Unusually smooth sound. Just the opposite of the Mercury recordings. Perfect for this kind of music.


FURTHER READING

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records

Classical – “Sleeper” Top Quality Recordings

Classical – Best Performances with Top Quality Sound

Classical – Demo Disc Quality Recordings

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Tchaikovsky / Romeo & Juliet / Munch – Reviewed in 2006

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

This is a very old review which we may no longer agree with.

This Minty RCA Plum Label Victrola has that BIG BIG BOSTON SYMPHONY SOUND! It”s big as life — spacious, dynamic, and tonally correct, with the lovely textures of the Boston strings fully intact. This is actually a better recording than the more famous Munch re-recording (which is the one that Classic reissued). 

The Francesca da Rimini on side two is only so-so.

Ravel / Concerto in G – Munch / Boston Symphony

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

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DEMO QUALITY SOUND!

Boy does this record ever sound good! It’s alive. Dynamic and immediate, like a good Mercury but with plenty of ambience and sweet strings — the best of both worlds.

This is one of the great RCAs. Classic Records did a passable job with this title, which is about the best they ever do. It’s a far cry from the sound heard here but for those of you who do not want to spend the money, or insist on quiet surfaces, check that one out.

The performance is excellent as well, and of course the Ravel Concerto is a piece of music that belongs in any serious collection. (more…)