_Performers – Heifetz

Bruch / Scottish Fantasy – These Are the Stampers to Avoid

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin Available Now

More Stamper and Pressing Information (You’re Welcome!)

The 70s Red Seal pressings we’ve played recently have all left a lot to be desired, but, since we had one sitting on a shelf in the backroom with lower stampers, we figured what the hell, let’s clean it up, throw it into our next shootout and hope for the best.

As you can see, the best was not to come.

There are quite a number of other records that we’ve run into over the years with obvious shortcomings.

Here are some of them, a very small fraction of what we’ve played, broken down into the three major labels that account for most of the best classical and orchestral titles we’ve had the pleasure to play.

London/Decca records with weak sound or performances

Mercury records with weak sound or performances

RCA records with weak sound or performances

We’ve auditioned countless pressings in the 36 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands.

This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made, through trial and error. It may be expensive and time consuming, but there is simply no other method for finding better records that works. If you know of one, please write me!

We are not the least bit interested in pressings that are “known” to sound the best.

Known by whom? Which audiophiles — hobbyists or professionals, take your pick — can be trusted to know what they are talking about when it comes to the sound of records.

I have never met one, outside of those of us who work for Better Records. I remain skeptical of the existence of such a creature.

We’re looking for the pressings of albums that actually do sound the best.

If you’re an audiophile with an ear for top quality sound on vintage vinyl, we’d be happy to send you the Hot Stamper pressing guaranteed to beat anything and everything you’ve heard, especially if you have any pressing marketed as suitable for an audiophile. Those, with few exceptions, are rarely better than mediocre.

And if we can’t beat whatever LP you own or have heard, you get your money back.  It’s as simple as that.


Letter of the Week – “What I experienced was how emotionally heavy and complex this music is.”

More of the Music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

More Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Our good customer Aaron wrote to tell of us his experience playing some copies of Heifetz’s recording of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. He already had a plain Hot Stamper pressing, probably a Red Seal reissue.

He started off his first email to me by saying this:

The striking difference between the white hot and the hot stamper is in how much the emotional character of the music comes through. Even though the instruments sound more immediate and organic on the white hot, the overall tone is darker and more anguished. The difference isn’t so much in the technical details, like the size of the soundstage, but rather, in the realism of the instruments, and the aggregate effect of that on the emotional impact of the music.

I replied:

Reading between the lines a bit, the Shaded Dog seems to be tonally a bit darker, but I hope that it should sound more tonally correct, as most of the time the later pressings are thinner and less real sounding. I think that’s what you are saying, but I wanted to make sure.


In terms of the tone, what I can tell you is that the cello was absolutely chilling and sounded lifelike to me. The violin is rich without being shrill.

What I experienced was how emotionally heavy and complex this music is. Sure, there’s moments of dizzying ecstacy in it, but so much is aching and sad. I don’t want anybody to think I’m saying the white hot is muffled. It’s wonderfully transparent and realistic, and that shows off the melancholy in the music, creating a darker mood / color palette, even though I didn’t experience a darker tone.

Nicely put.

After Aaron had spent another week with the work, he had arrived at a much deeper understanding of the music and the sound:

I’ve now spent a lot of time with the Heifetz Sibelius WHS, the regular hot stamper, and a couple other copies I was able to find at my local shops over the years for $5-$12 each.

You know that before I commit to keeping a white hot stamper, I like to make full use of your 30-day money-back guarantee. By the time I’m splurging for a WHS, it’s usually an album I’ve already got several copies of. Sometimes, one spin is all it takes for me to be able to tell the WHS is delivering the goods. Rumours and Thriller were like this.

Other times, I’ve got to really listen, and carefully do my own shootout to be sure I want to keep it.

This time’s no different. I’m keeping the white hot of the Sibelius, and I’ll be returning the regular hot stamper. It was a more tricky shootout than some others. I can cut to the chase like this – for $5 you can hear Heifetz’s wonderful recording of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. For $495 more, you can hear a violin sound like a violin.

It’s crazy what my stereo can do now with violin and vocals, two particularly egregious weak spots before I got the Tri-Planar. I’m going a little nuts here. Some records I had cast off as having groove wear actually sound perfectly lovely. I guess female vocals was particularly challenging for my old tonearm to track. I took your blog’s advice and purchased some Beethoven string quarets (Julliard and Quartetto Italiano) that are just magnificent. I’ve no doubt proper hot stampers would beat them, but you gotta start somewhere.

Thanks Tom.


Experiencing the illusion of a “realistic” violin floating dead center between your speakers is indeed something that only the highest quality equipment can pull off, and we are glad your Triplanar arm is helping to deliver that magical sound to you.

I struggled with Shaded Dog pressings of Heifetz’s recordings for years back in the 90s. I couldn’t clean them right until the Walker fluids and better machines came along, and I couldn’t play them right until my turntable, arm, cartridge, setup, vibration control and who knows what else had gone through a great many changes.

Now it is obvious to me just how good these recordings can be. I had this to say about a favorite violin concerto not long ago:

This is truly The Perfect Turntable setup disc. When your VTA, azimuth, tracking weight and anti-skate are correct, this is the record that will make it clear to you that your efforts have paid off.

What to listen for you ask? With the proper adjustment the harmonics of the strings will sound extended and correct, neither hyped up nor dull; the wood body of the instrument will be more audibly “woody”; the fingering at the neck will be noticeable but will not call attention to itself in an unnatural way. In other words, as you adjust your setup, the violin will sound more and more right.

And you can’t really know how right it can sound until you go through hours of experimentation with all the forces that affect the way the needle rides the groove. Without precise VTA adjustment there is almost no way this record will do everything it’s capable of doing. There will be hardness, smear, sourness, thinness — something will be off somewhere. With total control over your arm and cartridge setup, these problems will all but vanish. (Depending on the quality of the equipment of course.)

We harp on all aspects of reproduction for a reason. When you have done the work, records like this are nothing less than GLORIOUS.

More recently I wrote about the completely unnatural violin tone found on the Heavy Vinyl reissues of Scheherazade. Both suffered greatly from their mastering engineers’ predilection for overly-smooth, overly-rich sound, a sound that apparently not many audiophiles found as bothersome as I did.

These records present a violin that sounds nothing like the violin one hears in a concert hall, and anyone who had ever been to a concert hall and heard a violin there should have recognized instantly how wrong these modern records are. The writers for The Absolute Sound, at least the ones who added the Analogue Productions pressing on The TAS List (along with the RCA, a favorite of HP’s), may want to try and get out more.

Aaron, thanks for your letter,


Further Reading


Beethoven / “Kreutzer” Sonata & Bach / Concerto For Two Violins / Heifetz

Hot Stamper Pressings with Jascha Heifetz Performing

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings Featuring Jascha Heifetz

  • With two solid Double Plus (A++) Living Stereo sides, this original Shaded Dog pressing of these classical violin performances will be very hard to beat
  • 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
  • This copy had the balance of clarity and sweetness we were looking for in the tone of the violin, and the orchestra sounds amazing – so rich and full-bodied
  • These sides are doing pretty much everything right – they’re rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, and have depth and transparency to rival the best recordings you may have heard

If you want a recording that is going to put your system to the test, this is that record! That violin is real. The piano is also very well recorded, and the balance between those two instruments on this recording is perfection.


Brahms – Is the 1s Pressing Always the Best?

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

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.


Bruch / Vieuxtemps – Scottish Fantasy / Concerto No. 5 / Heifetz

More of the music of Max Bruch (1838-1920)

More Classical Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • Boasting two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sides, this early Shaded Dog pressing of these wonderful Romantic works could not be beat
  • The Heifetz Scottish Fantasy on side two is our favorite and contains the best sound we know for the work
  • The orchestral passages are rich and sweet, the violin present, all of its harmonics gloriously intact
  • As usual for a Living Stereo Heifetz violin recording, he is front and center, with every movement of his bow reproduced clearly, without being hyped-up in the least
  • 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
  • We will have some Super Hots coming soon for those of you looking for quieter vinyl

If you want to demonstrate the magic of Living Stereo recordings, jump right to the second movement of the Bruch. The sonority of the massed strings is to die for. When Heifetz enters, the immediacy of his violin further adds to the transcendental quality of the experience. Sonically and musically it doesn’t get much better than this, on Living Stereo or anywhere else.

The violin is captured beautifully on side two. More importantly, there is a lovely lyricism in Heifetz’s playing which suits Bruch’s Romantic work perfectly. I know of no better performance.

The Bruch brings to mind some of Tchaikovsky’s works. It’s so sweet and melodic, it completely draws you into its world of sound. This is a work of unsurpassed beautymusic that belongs in any serious classical collection.

The performance of the Vieuxtemps Concerto No. 5 is also wonderful, and the Romantic music is even better than I remember it from our last shootout.


Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Heifetz / Munch

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • Our vintage pressing of this brilliant Living Stereo recording — from 1956! — boasts outstanding solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • 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
  • Heifetz’s violin is immediate, real and lively here – you are in the presence of greatness with this recording
  • The orchestra is wide, tall, spacious, rich and tubey, yet the dynamics and transparency are first rate
  • White Dogs and Shaded Dogs can both sound quite good on this title – just avoid the Red Seals and later pressings if you are looking for the best sound
  • There are about 150 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of offering the Best Performances with the Highest Quality Sound, and this record certainly deserve a place on that list.
  • If you’re a fan of Beethoven’s music, this superb All Tube Recording from 1956 belongs in your collection.
  • This Classic Records pressing, however, was a piece of garbage, and we made our position clear right from the start

The reproduction of the violin here is superb — harmonically rich, natural, clean, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound, as well as the fact that they become less congested in the louder passages and don’t get shrill or blary.

The best copies display a Tubey Magical richness — especially evident in the basses and celli — that is to die for.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Little smear, exceptional resolution, transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — the best copies take the sound of the recording right to the limits of what we thought possible.

Heifetz is a fiery player. On the best pressings you will hear all the detail of his bowing without being overpowered by it. As we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity he brings to such a difficult and demanding work.


RCA’s Chamber Recordings


Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Titles Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Hundreds of Living Stereo Records

What do the best copies of this album sound like?

The sound is RICH and TRANSPARENT, and unlike a lot of RCA’s chamber recordings, not dry. The tonality is Right On The Money.

The performers are present and the transients of their instruments are not in the least bit smeared, regardless of whether there are vintage tubes or not in the recording chain.

Classical Shootouts

RCA is justly famous for its chamber recordings, which tend to be somewhat rare for some reason. Let’s be honest: we did not conduct this shootout with a dozen copies of the album. (It would take us at least twenty-five years to find that many clean pressings.)

What we had were quite a few other Heifetz RCA chamber recordings, as well as some favorites by the Quartetto Italiano and I Musici that we are very fond of and know well.

After thirty two years in business selling vintage vinyl, by now we’ve played scores if not hundreds of good violin recordings. We have no problem recognizing good violin sound (as well as correct violin tone, not exactly the same thing) when we hear it. In the past our top Hot Stamper classical pressings would go directly to our best customers, customers who want classical recordings that actually sound good. not just the kind of Golden Age Recordings that are supposed to. Now that we are able to do classical shootouts on a regular basis, we hope to have enough superb sounding classical recordings for all of our audiophile customers.

I’ve commented often over the years of the benefits to be gained from listening to classical music regularly. Once a week is a good rule of thumb I would say. I love rock and roll, jazz and all the rest of it, but there is something about classical music that restores a certain balance in your musical life that can’t be accomplished by other means. It grounds your listening experience to something perhaps less immediately gratifying but deeper and more enriching over time. Once habituated, the effect on one’s mood is not hard to recognize.

Orchestral Music Is Hard to Record, Master and Press, Apparently

Of course it should be pointed out that the average classical record is a sonic disaster. There are many excellent pressings of rock and jazz, but when it comes to classical music, being so much more difficult to record (and reproduce!), the choices are substantially more narrow. Most of what passed for good classical sound when I was coming up in audio — the DGs, EMIs, Sheffields and other audiophile pressings — are hard to listen to on the modern equipment of today.

I would say we audition at least five records for every one we think might pass muster in a future shootout, and we’re pulling only from the labels we know to be good. I wouldn’t even take the time to play the average Angel, Columbia or DG, or EMI for that matter. The losers vastly outweigh the winners, and there are only so many hours in a day. Who has the time?

All that said, it should be clear that assembling a top quality classical collection requires much more in the way of resources — money and time — than it would for any other genre of music. We are happy to do the work for you — our best classical pressings are amazing in every way — potentially saving you a lifetime of work… at a price of course.

Sibelius / Violin Concerto on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Superb Recordings with Jascha Heifetz Performing

Sonic Grade: F

An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP badly mastered to the detriment of those lured by the promise of easy answers and quick fixes.

Classic remastered this title in the ’90s — of course they did, it’s clearly one of the better Heifetz recordings.

As expected, their version was awful, as bad as LSC 1903, 1992, 2129 and others too numerous to list.  

It’s 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.

The world is full of them.

In these four words we can describe the sound of the average Classic Records pressing. If you have the Classic, do your own shootout. We guarantee any of our Hot Stamper pressings will murder theirs.


Sibelius – Violin Concerto / Heifetz / Hendl

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Superb Recordings with Jascha Heifetz Performing


  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this copy of the Sibelius Violin Concerto boasts seriously good Living Stereo sonics from 1961 and a fiery performance from Heifetz in his prime
  • It’s some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, right up there with Ricci’s on Decca/London
  • The nothing-less-than-breathtaking performance by Heifetz may raise this one to the rank of First Among Equals for those of you who prize immediacy and energy in your violin recordings
  • If you have one of our killer Hot Stampers of the Beethoven or Tchaikovsky violin concertos, you know exactly the sound I am talking about
  • “In the easier and looser concerto forms invented by Mendelssohn and Schumann I have not met a more original, a more masterly, and a more exhilarating work than the Sibelius violin concerto.”
  • Here is a list of records that, like this one, contain some of our Favorite Performances with Top Quality Sound
  • 1960 was a great years for classical recordings – other Must Own Orchestral releases can be found here.

Early Shaded Dog pressings of Heifetz’s records rarely survived in audiophile playing condition. Top quality early pressings in clean condition come our way at most a few times a year, which means shootouts for them get done infrequently. There are hundreds, even thousands, of clean, vintage classical pressings sitting in our stockroom waiting for a few more copies to come our way so that we can finally do a shootout. These things cannot be rushed.

As for the sound, it’s practically impossible to find the richly textured, natural string tone offered here on anything but the vintage pressings produced in the 50s and 60s. Record making may be a lost art, but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play, it’s an art that is not being lost on us.


Beethoven / Violin Concerto – Classic Records Reviewed

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings Featuring Jascha Heifetz

An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP we found seriously lacking in some of the most important qualities we listen for on the classical and orchestral recordings we audition.

The Classic pressing of this album does not present the listener with the sound of a real, wood instrument, bowed by horsehair, in a physical space.

It is an airless fraud, a cheap fake reproduction that’s incapable of fooling anyone currently in possession of two good ears, a properly set up hi-fi system and a decent collection of Golden Age violin concerto recordings.

The fact that a great many writers identifying themselves as audiophiles embraced Classic’s mediocre-at-best reissues tells me that they were lacking some or all of the above.

Bernie Grundman’s low-rez, crude, smeary cutting system did this wonderful 1956 Living Stereo recording no favors. Other records we’ve played and found to have similar problems are linked below.

Notes from a Recent Hot Stamper Pressing (more…)