- An early Shaded Dog pressing of this wonderful classical Masterpiece with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
- It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
- The vibrant colors of the orchestra are captured brilliantly in All Tube Analog by the RCA engineers, creating an immersive and engrossing listening experience for the work without equal in our experience
- There is plenty on offer for the discriminating audiophile, with the spaciousness, clarity, tonality and freedom from artificiality that are hallmarks of the best Living Stereo recordings
- “Reiner’s close familiarity with the score and personal relationship with Strauss himself add extra weight to the authority and importance of his interpretation of Also sprach Zarathustra.”
Explosive dynamics, HUGE space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other.
But are they? The so-called “glorious, life-changing” sound of one heavy vinyl reissue after another seems to be the only kind of record audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them want to talk about these days.
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 mediocre-at-best 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 these records.
A Must Own Living Stereo from 1959
A record as good as Destination Stereo belongs in every serious audiophile’s collection. Allow me to make the case.
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 so often lacking in many of the qualities prized by audiophiles, all you have to do is put this record on for them.
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). [We’re not so sure that is true, the record may in fact be a lot better than we give it credit for.]
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 could have 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 review is from many years ago. I cannot say we would still feel the same way about the reissue reviewed here.]
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.
A++, Super Hot! The quieter passages have some of the richest, sweetest, most Tubey Magical sound you will ever hear in your home. There is not a trace of phony sound anywhere to be found, and the most pronounced effect it has on the listener is to make him relax and forget entirely about the sound. With this record the music is all.
The hall is huge with space around all the instruments.
Listen to how breathy the flutes are. This of course is a result of the judicious use of compression. The loudest string passages can get congested, another result of the use of compression (unavoidable in classical recordings), so we are holding the grade at A++.
A++ to A+++, and some of the best sound we heard all day in our shootout! Every bit as rich and full-bodied as side one, but with less compression this side is more dynamic and exciting than any other that we played. A little dark, but that prevents the strings from becoming strident when loud.
The clarinet is especially musical on this recording. What a record!
Reissues Vs Originals
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.
This early Shaded Dog pressing of the 1958 recording has surprisingly good sound on side two. On the second side the sound opens up and is very sweet, with the violin becoming much more present and clear.
The whole of side two is transparent with an extended top. Usually the earliest Living Stereo titles suffer from a lack of top end extension, but not this one.
Maybe the 1s is also that way. For some reason audiophiles tend to think that the earliest cuttings are the best, but that’s just more mistaken audiophile thinking if our experiencecan serve as any guide, easily refuted if you’ve played hundreds of these Living Stereo pressings and noted which stampers sound the best and which do not.
The 1s pressings do not consistently win our shootouts.
About half the time, maybe less would be my guess.
Of course, to avoid being biased, the person listening to the record doesn’t know the stamper numbers, and that may help explain why the 1s loses so often.
If you are interested in finding the best sounding pressings, you have to approach the problem scientifically, and that means running record experiments.
Practically everything you read on this blog we learned through experimentation.
When we experimented with the Classic Records pressing of LSC 1903, we were none too pleased with what we heard. Our review is reproduced below.
The Classic reissue of LSC 1903 was a disaster: shrill, smeary and unmusical.
(In a recent commentary we went into some detail about Bernie Grundman’s shortcomings as a mastering engineer for those of you who might be less familiar with his more recent work. He was great in the ’70s, but the work he did in the ’90s leaves a lot to be desired.)
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 and how revealing your system is.
My guess is that the CDs are probably better sounding. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s track record and the fact that CDs are cheap now because nobody wants them anymore.
If you must have Heifetz’s 1958 performance, our advice is to buy the CD.
We know for a fact that the Living Stereo CD of Reiner’s Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it, TAS Super Disc Listing or no TAS Super Disc Listing.
As you may know, Classic is a label which we found very hard to like right from the beginning. We like them even less now. They may have gone out of business but their bad records are still plentiful on ebay and you can actually still buy some their leftover crap right from the world’s biggest retailer of bad sounding audiophile records, Acoustic Sounds.
If you don’t care how bad your records sound, Chad Kassem is your man.
And if you do decide to buy some of these Classic Records reissues, chances are good they will be pristine.
This is a very old review. We may no longer agree with the assertion that the White Dog pressings are better sounding than the Shaded Dogs.
This White Dog pressing is the best sounding copy I’ve ever heard, much better than the earlier pressings. The piano doesn’t break up like it does on those, especially in the second movement.
Finally the piano sounds right – solid and with the correct overtones. It goes without saying that this is an exceptionally good performance as well.
One of the best of the Cliburn recordings which, as you may know, are rarely any good, the worst of them being LSC 2252 and the best of them being, probably, LSC 2507.
This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review
Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.
We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)
We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.
Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.
As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.
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.
- TAS List Super Discs with Hot Stampers
- Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings
- More Records that Do Not Belong on a Super Disc List
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:
- Our standards are quite a bit higher now, having spent decades critically listening to vintage classical pressings by the hundreds.
- Our stereo is dramatically more revealing and more accurate than it used to be.
- 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.
- Boasting two STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sides, this original Shaded Dog pressing is the BEST we have ever heard
- Explosive dynamics, huge space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other
- Shockingly real – proof positive that the cutting systems of the day are capable of much better sound than many might think
- 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
- Problems 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
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 few years 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.
Sonic Grade: F
In 2009 or 2010, during our testing of the TT Weights turntable products, the record I played again and again — close to a hundred times over the course of two days — was a wonderful White Dog pressing of LSC 2446. The sound was glorious, some of the finest reproduction of a large orchestral work I have ever heard.
(Late in life, Harry Pearson disgraced himself by putting this Classic Record on his TAS List of Super Discs.)
A week later I was still testing the system, and again using Scheherazade. A friend brought over his Classic pressing, probably the same one I would have sold him in the mid-’90s. Now we could compare the two.
It was a massacre. The sound on the reissue is simply AWFUL.
There is no transient information anywhere on that heavy vinyl pressing whatsoever. No instruments have any texture — not the strings, not the woodwinds, nothing. There is no air going through the flutes. There is no rosin on the bow of the solo violin.
The tympani are a blurry mess. Triangle: okay. Bass drum: okay. Everything else: FAIL.
Not having played it in years, I could not believe how much worse the record sounded than I remember. The gulf between the real thing and the Classic wannabe was now so huge that the reissue was nothing less than positively UNPLEASANT to listen to. Enjoyment? Out of the question.
TAS List? The original is, but the Classic is too. Now how messed up is that?
Disgraceful, that’s all I have to say about it.
If I were in charge of the TAS Super Disc List, obviously I would not have put this record on it.
Here are some others that we do not think qualify as Super Discs.
Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that actually have audiophile sound quality, guaranteed.
And if for some reason you disagree with us about how good they sound, we will be happy to give you your money back.
Back in 2006 we liked Red Seal pressings of Living Stereo recordings a lot more than we do now, so take this commentary with a huge grain of salt. Only the advent of top quality cleaning equipment and much improved playback 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.
- You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout this vintage (but not original) RCA Living Stereo pressing of these wonderful classical compositions
- The rich, textured sheen of the strings the RCA engineers achieved in the ’50s and ’60s is a joy to hear throughout these pieces
- This is something the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound just does not exist on modern remastered records the way it does on these vintage pressings
- Tonally correct from top to bottom and as transparent as practically any vintage recording you may have heard, the combination of clarity and Tubey Magic here will be hard to beat
- To see more of the best orchestral recordings with top quality sound we’ve done shootouts for, click here
- If you’re a fan of Rachmaninoff and/or Rubinstein, we think this Living Stereo from 1960 belongs in your collection.
This superb Living Stereo recording checks off a number of boxes for us here at Better Records.
- It’s one of the best sounding piano concerto recordings we know of
- It’s a piano recording of the highest quality
- It’s a personal favorite, and
- It’s part of our Core Collection of well recorded classical and orchestral albums
Until we heard the right later pressings, we had always been disappointed with this TAS List recording, wondering what all the fuss was about. The original Shaded Dog pressings we had played left a lot to be desired. Like many of the old records we audition, it was somewhat crude and congested, and badly lacked both highs and lows, our definition of boxy sound.
Well, now we know. The early Shaded Dog pressings have consistently worse sound than the reissues we are offering here.
We never offered the record as a Hot Stamper pressing because we didn’t think the sound of the originals was all that impressive, TAS List or no TAS List.
Mystery solved, and truly Hot Stampers have now been made available to the discriminating audiophile.
Harry’s list, as was so often the case, did not provide the information needed to find the pressing that captured all the qualities of the recording the way this one does.
Did Harry have a good later pressing? Did he have an original and simply liked it more than we did? We’ll never know.