_Conductors – Reiner

Strauss / Also Sprach Zarathustra – The Sound of this MoFi Makes My Head Hurt

More of the music of Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)

Richard Strauss Recordings We’ve Reviewed

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Is the painting on the cover that of a man whose head is hurting from the ridiculously bright string tone of this MoFi?

Doubtful. Impossible actually. But that’s exactly how my head feels when I play one of these awful MoFi classical releases.

Their rock, pop and jazz remasters were hit and miss in the old days, with some real winners hidden amongst the junk, but every one of their classical releases that I ever played was a dog.

One way you know you dealing with bad records and collector mentality? When you find one of these records in your local used record store, it is almost guaranteed to be pristine.

Good records get played. MoFi’s classical releases got collected and sat on a shelf.

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP reviewed and found to be yet another record perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

Can you believe this bright and phony sounding piece of junk was once on the TAS Super Disc List? Sad, isn’t it? At least Harry had the good sense to delete it way back in the ’80s, along with all the rest of the awful MoFi’s that were on it at the time.  

Hey, I sure liked a lot of my MoFi’s in the ’80s too. Thank god I didn’t have my own Super Disc list at the time. It would be every bit as embarrassing as Harry’s list is these days, although it’s really not Harry’s list these days anymore, or at least not exclusively his list. It now has lots of new stuff on there and much of it appears to be of dubious quality, but that’s pure prejudice on my part of course. I have never played most of the records and have no intention of finding out what they sound like. Much of it is music that does not appeal to me, and some of the new additions are on Heavy Vinyl, so why bother?


Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 1 – RCA 1957 Living Stereo Is Hard to Beat

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  • Both sides of this vintage Victrola pressing are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully preset piano and three-dimensional space around the musicians
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • I used to think that the Classic was better than the Victrola, but that was a long time ago, and I hear a lot of midrange magic on this LP that I don’t think you can find on practically any modern remaster, by Classic Records or anyone else
  • The Classic will be quieter though – we had a devil of a time finding Vics pressings with audiophile quality vinyl

I highly recommend this one, musically and sonically. Everybody loves Rachmaninoff, especially when Byron Janis is at the keyboard, and the Strauss piece is engaging on its own as well.

1957 stereo, can you imagine?

Here is a complete list of Living Stereo Classical titles we have available on the site at this time. On our blog you can find reviews for the hundreds of others we’ve auditioned over the years.

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What Do You Mean by “Boxy” Sound?

More of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Album Reviews of the music of Tchaikovsky

Many Golden Age classical records simply do not sound good, and this is one of them. We have never heard a good sounding copy of LSC 2216, and we’ve played quite a number of them over the decades we’ve been in the business of selling them. (LSC 1901, with Monteux conducting, is no better.)

A copy came in a while back so 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. No real top above 6k, hardly any bottom, but with a very wide stage – the textbook definition of “boxy sound.” (Dry and thin too, on a vintage RCA pressing no less!)

If you are a fan of Living Stereo pressings, have you noticed that many of them – this one for example – don’t sound good?

If you’re an audiophile with good equipment, you should have. But did you? Or did you buy into the hype surrounding these rare LSC pressings and just ignore the problems with the sound?

There is an abundance of audiophile collector hype surrounding the hundreds of Heavy Vinyl pressings currently in print. I read a lot about how wonderful their sound is, but when I actually play them, I rarely find them to be any better than mediocre, and many of them are awful.

Music Matters made this garbage remaster. Did anyone notice how awful it sounded? I could list a hundred more that range from bad to worse — and I have! Take your pick: there are more than 150 entries in our Heavy Vinyl Disasters section, each one worse sounding than the next.

Audiophiles seem to have approached these records naively instead of skeptically.

(But wait a minute. Who am I to talk? I did the same thing when I first got into audio and record collecting in the Seventies.)

How could so many be fooled so badly? Surely some of these people have good enough equipment to allow them to hear how bad these records sound.

Maybe not this guy, or the “In Groove” guy, but there has to be at least some group of audiophiles, however small their number might be, with decent equipment and two working ears out there, right? (Excluding our customers of course, they have to know what is going on to spend the kind of money they spend on our records. And then write us all those enthusiastic letters.)

I would say RCA’s track record during the ’50s and ’60s is a pretty good one, offering potentially excellent sound for roughly one out of every three titles or so.

But that means that odds are there would have to be a lot of dogs in their catalog. This is definitely one of them. (more…)

Respighi / Pines of Rome / Reiner – Reviewed Inaccurately in 2006

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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.

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Gresham’s Law and The State of Reviewing As Seen by Us in 2015

More Living Stereo Recordings

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

Reviewer malpractice? We’ve been writing about it for more than 25 years.


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*.

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 we normally assume.  (more…)

Strauss / Waltzes / Reiner

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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.

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Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Heifetz / Reiner – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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No marks that play appreciably but that RCA vinyl is up to its old tricks again. Mint Minus Minus with constant light surface noise underneath the music in the quieter sections is the rule here. The first half inch of side two is where you will notice it the most. We are of the opinion that good sound and good music allow you to pretty much ignore surfaces such as these, scratches being another thing entirely of course. If there is any problem we offer a money back guarantee on this one.

Better Front Ends

I would make the further point that the better your front end is the less likely you are to have a problem with vinyl like this, which is the opposite of what many audiophiles perceive to be the case. In other words, some of the cheaper tables and carts seem to make the surface noise more objectionable, not less. On the other hand, some pricey cartridges — the Benz line comes to mind — are consistently noisier than those by Dynavector, Lyra and others, in our experience anyway.

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Strauss / Death and Transfiguration and Till Eulenspiegel / Reiner

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This Plum Label Victrola has SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound on side two, the side with Death and Transfiguration. It’s Tubey Magical, rich and sweet in the best Living Stereo tradition of recordings made during the Golden Age, in this case 1958. We had a Shaded Dog pressing of the recording in hand, LSC 2077, and it was better on side one but this Victrola was clearly better on side two.

And Reiner’s performance with the Vienna Phil is outstanding in every way. I have never heard the work performed better or sound better than it does on this very copy.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, nearly White Hot, and with a little more bottom end it would have been.

Clear, transparent, rich, big, spacious, tonally correct, with Tubey Magical textured strings, this record is doing practically everything we want it to.

Side One

A+ to A++, very much like side two but even more bass shy, which may become wearisome over the course of the whole side, depending on how loud you play the record and how full-bodied your system is.

A superb performance of the famous piece, played with verve. (more…)

Festival of Russian Music / Reiner – Reviewed in 2008

Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

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Excellent sound, more mid-hall than some other RCAs. This is the Victrola version of the Shaded Dog of Festival. Some of these pieces are amazing in Reiner’s hands, Marche Slave, for example. Russlan and Ludmilla is also superb here. The sound is quite dynamic and powerful with very little distortion or noticeable compression. Reiner is excellent on music like this.

It should go without saying that this pressing kills the awful Classic Records pressing.

Schumann / Concerto in A Minor / Reiner

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Side two of this RCA Shaded Dog original pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound. It’s rich and smooth, yet it captures the texture and harmonics of the strings beautifully. It’s transparent, high-rez, as well as being open, all signs that the cutting was done on very high quality equipment, properly eq’d and not bandwidth limited or overly compressed.

Side one is not as full as side two; it’s undistorted when loud, which is nice, but does not have all the magic that side two will show you. If you have a nice side one of the album and need a side two to complement it, this is the record for you. Or if you want a record that gets the work mostly right, this might just be the ticket. Finding two good sides for this album is probably not in the cards for us; clean copies are just too rare and expensive these days.