_Conductors – Reiner

We Heap Scorn Upon Chesky Records, With Good Reason

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Our Favorite Performance of Scheherazade – Ansermet with the Suisse Romande

Sonic Grade: F

Chesky is one of the WORST AUDIOPHILE LABELS in the history of the world. Their recordings are so artificial and “wrong” that they defy understanding. That some audiophiles actually buy into this junk sound is equal parts astonishing and depressing.

Their own records are a joke, and their remasterings of the RCA Living Stereo catalog are an abomination.

The best RCA Living Stereo pressings are full of Tubey Magic. The Chesky pressings I have played have none.

What else would you need to know about their awful records than that?

If there is a more CLUELESS audiophile label on the planet, I don’t know what it could be, and I don’t want to find out. 

(Turns out there is someone producing the worst kind of remastered junk vinyl who may be even more clueless than Chesky, imagine that!)

Tchaikovsky – Better Front Ends Actually Reduce Surface Noise

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

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.


FURTHER READING

Revolutions in Audio, Anyone?

Making Audio Progress 

Unsolicited Audio Advice

(more…)

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Heifetz / Reiner

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • An outstanding pressing of Heifetz’s amazing 1958 recording for RCA in glorious Living Stereo sound, earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • A superb pressing, with lovely richness, warmth, and real immediacy throughout – the overall sound is rich, sweet and Tubey Magical
  • Heifetz is a fiery player – this pressing will allow you to hear the subtleties of his bowing in a coherent, natural and realistic way
  • The texture and harmonic overtones of the strings are near perfection – as we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity he brings to this difficult and demanding work
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings that offer the discriminating audiophile pressings with the Best Performances and Top Quality SoundThis record has earned a place on that list.

For those of you who have only heard the Classic pressing, you are in for a world of better sound. The Classic is both aggressive and lacking in texture at the same time, the worst of both worlds. Bernie’s cutting system is what I would call Low Resolution — the harmonics and subtleties of the sound simply disappear.

We write about it on our blog, under the heading Bernie Grundman’s Work for Classic Records in Four Words: Hard, Sour, Colored and Crude. Search for it if you would like to know more.

(more…)

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…)

Albeniz / Falla / Granados / Spain / Reiner

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Spain has been an audiophile favorite for a very long time. Everybody should know it by now, what with both Chesky and Classic Records having remastered it in the ’90s, dismally of course, as neither of these companies showed the slightest sense that they understood how lackluster, if not downright awful, the resulting products of their efforts turned out to be.

No doubt Analogue Productions will see fit to ruin the recording the way they ruined Scheherazade.

This has never been one of the best Living Stereo titles in our experience. The highest grade I would give it would probably be a B.

“Our experience” is the key phrase in the above sentence. I can’t say there aren’t amazing sounding pressings of the album, it’s simply the case that we have never played one.

If I saw one for cheap I would of course pick it up, but in the modern world of records, that is very unlikely indeed.

(more…)

A Simple Listening Test Makes It Easy to Judge Pressings of Scheherazade

Hot Stamper Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Advice on What to Listen For on Classical Records

The Classic reissue of LSC 2446 is a disaster for many reasons, but it does have one specific failing that is easy to recognize and worth further discussion and analysis.

As I noted for some of the Classic Heifetz titles a while back, for all I know the CDs for his Living Stereo recordings may have better sound. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s rather poor track record regarding the remastering of his music.

Case in point: The Living Stereo CD I own (both the CD and the SACD) of Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it.

Audiophiles who don’t notice what is wrong with the Classic pressing need to get hold of a nice RCA White Dog pressing to see just how poorly the Classic stacks up. (They could even find one that’s not so nice and listen through the surface noise. The difference would still be obvious.)

The solo violin in the left channel at the opening of the first movement should be all it takes.

Anyone has ever attended a classical music concert should have no trouble recognizing that the violin on any of the Heavy Vinyl pressings, including the Analogue Productions pressing, is completely wrong and sounds nothing like a violin in a concert hall would ever sound.

And I mean ever.

No matter where you might be sitting.

No matter how good or bad the hall’s acoustics.

The violin on these Heavy Vinyl pressings is dark, it’s veiled, and it’s overly rich, as well as lacking in overtones.

Solo violins in live performance never sound anything like that.

They are clear, clean and present. You have no trouble at all “seeing” them, no matter where you sit.

My best sounding White Dog pressing had that kind of clear and present sound for the violin.

Neither of the Heavy Vinyl reissues I auditioned did.

A pressing of Scheherazade that fails to reproduce the solo violin, the musical voice of the young lady herself, fails utterly and completely, no matter how big, rich and powerful the opening brass may be.

If you think your Heavy Vinyl pressings are doing justice to the sound of classical music, please attend a live concert as soon as possible in order to disabuse yourself of that notion.

Once you hear how unfaithful your classical records are to the sound of the live performance, you can begin to collect records of higher fidelity.

Would Adjusting the VTA for the Heavier Weight Vinyl Fix the Problem?

Probably not. VTA is all about balance. You can get the violin to be brighter and clearer by changing the VTA, but now listen for the weight of the opening brass. When the VTA is wrong, the brass won’t sound right. Neither will the percussion. Neither will the space of the hall be right. Neither will the orchestral perspective.

Adjusting for all these elements involve tradeoffs. When all the elements sound close to their best, and none of them are “wrong,” the VTA is pretty much right.

And that solo violin will not be much better. It is what it is, it sounds the way it sounds, because the mastering engineer got it wrong. You cannot fix bad mastering by changing the VTA.

Tea for the Tillerman?

Back in the ’80s, when I first got into the audiophile record business, I had a customer tell me how much he liked the UHQR of Tea for the Tillerman. This was a record I was selling sealed for $25. And you could buy as many as you liked at that price! I was paying $9 for them and could order them by the hundreds if I’d wanted to. (Yes, I admit I had no shame.)

I replied to this fellow that “the MoFi is awfully bright, don’t you think?”

“Oh no, you just adjust your VTA until the sound is tonally correct.”

At the time I could not adjust my VTA, so I filed that bit of information away for a later time.

When I finally did get a tonearm with adjustable VTA, I quickly learned that trying to correct the tonality of a record with VTA adjustments was a fool’s game.

The tonality might be better, but the bass would get wonky and weird, the deepest notes would disappear or become boosted, the highs would sound artificial, various elements of the recording would randomly become louder and softer, wreaking havoc with the balance of the mix, and on and on.

In other words, fixing one thing would cause lots of other things to go wrong.

This fellow couldn’t hear it, and like a lot of audiophiles writing about records these days, he simply did not have the critical listening skills to notice all the problems he was creating with his “fix.”

My skills were pretty poor back then too. I have worked very hard for the last 30 years or so to improve them. I did it by experimenting on records, and experimenting with VTA adjustments has taught me a lot.

It showed me that I could get dramatically better sound by playing with the VTA for ten or twenty minutes until I found the ideal setting.

It also taught me that trying to fix a mastering problem by adjusting the VTA will only work if you haven’t developed much in the way of critical listing skills.

Comparing the way the violin sounds on various pressings of Scheherazade will help you to develop these skills, as long as you know what this music should sound like in performance. You need both, and doing one without the other won’t get you very far. I spent my first twenty years in audio “in the wilderness,” so to speak, so I believe I am on solid ground with this advice.


A PUBLIC SERVICE

(more…)

The Reiner Sound – A Demo Disc for Energy, Dynamics and Top End

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Music Conducted by Fritz Reiner

This review was written in 2010. I don’t think we have found a Reiner Sound as nice as this one since then.

Wow, the first nice Reiner Sound on Shaded Dog to make it to our site. Why? Because the few copies we’ve run across that looked decent enough to clean and play were just too noisy to enjoy. Not many copies have survived the bad turntables of their day with all their top end and inner grooves intact, but we’re proud to say that this one has! 

This former TAS List record really surprised us on two counts. First, you will not believe how DYNAMIC the recording is. Of all the classical recordings we’ve played lately I would have to say this is THE MOST DYNAMIC of them all. 

I really don’t have the wattage to handle the explosively loud sections of these wonderful works, with their huge orchestral effects, dynamic contrasts that are clearly part of the composer’s intentions but ones that rarely make it from the concert hall to vinyl disc the way they do here. 

Second, there is simply an amazing amount of TOP END on this record. Rarely do I hear Golden Age recordings with this kind of ENERGY and extension up top. Again, it has to be some of the best I have heard recently.

This is of course one of the reasons the Classic reissue is such a disaster. With all that top end energy, Bernie’s gritty cutting system and penchant for boosted upper midrange frequencies positively guarantees that the Classic Reiner Sound will be all but unplayable on a proper system. Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that The Reiner Sound needs.

(more…)

Mussorgsky-Ravel / Pictures at an Exhibition – A Couple of Key Tracks to Play

Click Here to See Our Favorite Pictures at an Exhibition

More Reviews and Commentaries for Pictures at an Exhibition

Reviews and Commentaries for Music Conducted by Fritz Reiner

This TAS List record with a Super Hot stamper side one has some of the best sound we have ever heard for the Shaded Dog Reiner/CSO Pictures, and side two, although it starts out a little weak, gets going soon enough and earns a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade as well.

Side one is open and natural in the best Living Stereo tradition, with rich lower strings that have virtually no Golden Age smear.

Turn it up and listen for the big cymbal crashes — that’s the sound we love. It’s so good it even allows me to enjoy Reiner’s performance, never one of my favorites.

Side One

A++, transparent and free from smear, not many copies are going to beat this one! A little more top would have been nice.

Listen to: Samuel Goldenburg und Schmuyle

Superb sound! The brass and strings on this part of the work are as good as it gets. No smearing of the brass — it’s clean and clear like it is in the concert hall. We’re so used to hearing it wrong that it takes a record like this to remind us how good a full brass choir can really sound. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Excerpts from The Nutcracker

Reviews and Commentaries for The Nutcracker

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

This RCA reissue pressing of LSC 2328 has some of the BEST SOUND we have ever heard for The Nutcracker, and we’ve played them by the dozens, on the greatest Golden Age labels of all time, including, but not limited to, the likes of Mercury, RCA and London.

In a somewhat (but not too) surprising turn of events, the reissue pressing we are offering here beat all the originals and early reissues we could throw at it. Finally, this legendary Mohr/Layton production can be heard in its full glory!

If you like your Nutcracker exciting and dynamic, this is the copy for you.

Don’t buy into that record collecting / audiophile canard that the originals are better.

We like our recordings to have as many Live Music qualities as possible, and those qualities really come through on a record such as this when reproduced on the full-range speaker system we use.

A Wealth of Recordings

For our shootout we played Ansermet’s performance of the Suites on London, as well as pressings by Reiner and Fiedler, both of whom opted against using the Suites as Tchaikovsky wrote them, preferring instead to create a shorter version of the complete ballet with excerpts of their own choosing (shown below).

The CSO, as one might expect, plays this work with more precision and control than any other. They also bring more excitement and dynamic contrasts to their performance, adding greatly to our enjoyment of the music.

(more…)

We Make the Case that Even CDs Have Better Sound than Classic Records

brahmvioli_1903_debunk

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records

The Classic reissue of LSC 1903 is a disaster: shrill, smeary and unmusical.

In these four words we can describe the sound of the average Classic Records Living Stereo pressing.

The best Heifetz records on Classic were, if memory serves, LSC 2734 (Glazunov), LSC 2603 (Bruch) and LSC 2769 (Rozsa).

They aren’t nearly as offensive as the others. If you can pick one up for ten or twenty bucks, you might get your money’s worth depending, I suppose, on how critically you listen to your classical records.

The CDs are better for all I know. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s generally poor track record.

The Living Stereo CD of Reiner’s Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it.

Audiophiles who cannot hear what is wrong with the Classic pressing need to find themselves a nice — even one that’s not so nice — RCA White Dog pressing to see just how poorly the Classic stacks up.

The solo violin in the left channel at the opening of the first movement should be all it takes.

Anyone has ever attended a classical music concert should recognize that the violin on any of the Heavy Vinyl pressings of the recording is completely wrong and sounds nothing like a violin in a concert hall would ever sound.

And I mean ever.

No matter where you sit.

No matter how good or bad the hall’s acoustics.

It is dark and veiled and overly rich, lacking in overtones.

Solo violins in live performance never sound that way.

They are clear, clean and present. You have no trouble at all “seeing” them clearly.

My best sounding White Dog pressing had that kind of clear and present sound for the violin.

Neither of the Heavy Vinyl reissues I auditioned did.

A pressing of Scheherazade that fails to reproduce the solo violin, the voice of the young lady herself, fails utterly and completely, no matter how big and powerful and rich the opening brass may be.
(more…)