Classical – Best Performances with Top Quality Sound

Ravel and Ansermet Produce The Best Bolero on Vinyl

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Including this amazing Bolero, the best copy we’ve ever heard!

  • Both sides here earned our highest grade of Triple Plus, making this the best copy to ever hit the site
  • Full, rich, spacious, BIG and present, with energetic performances the likes of which you may have never heard
  • Side one has outstanding depth – the snare drum sounds like it’s located at least fifty feet behind the speakers
  • One of the best Ansermet recordings with the Suisse Romande from Victoria Hall – best performances too

Side two sounded so much better than any copy I have ever heard that I was sorely tempted to give it our coveted Four Plus grade, for the kind of sound that breaks all the rules. Cooler heads have since prevailed, but that doesn’t detract in the least from side two of this remarkable pressing, which has by far the best sound for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice I have yet to hear.

We are rarely able to find a quality recording or performance of Bolero or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, so this pressing comes as a welcome addition to the classical offerings on the site.

The sound is clear, with wonderful depth to the stage. As a rule, the classic ’50s and ’60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande in Victoria Hall are as big and rich as any you may have ever heard. These recordings may just be the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made. (more…)

Rodgers – Slaughter on Tenth Avenue with Arthur Fiedler in Living Stereo

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This record is so good on side two it almost left me speechless. How is this title not on the TAS List? Why is it not one of the most sought-after recordings in the RCA canon?

Beats the hell out of me. But wait just one minute. Until a month ago I surely had no idea how good this record could sound, so how can I criticize others for not appreciating a record I had never taken the time to appreciate myself?

Which more than anything else simply begs the question — why is no one exploring, discovering and then elucidating for the record loving public the wonderful qualities of these vintage recordings (besides your humble writer of course)?

HP has passed on; who is fit to carry his mantle into the coming world of audio? Looking around I find very few prospects.

But I digress.

Side Two

White Hot and simply amazing on every level. Rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, with depth and transparency like few recordings you may have heard, the music flows from the speakers effortlessly. You are there.

The loudest brass and string sections of the music are never brash or shrill, something that no other side could manage.

Side One

My notes read: The Big Living Stereo Sound, and man is it ever! The players are arrayed on a huge stage, with transparency that lets you hear all the way to the back of the hall.

This record will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listener will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it. (more…)

Handel / Water Music / Leppard – Our Favorite Performance with Top Quality Sound

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A distinguished member of our The Better Records Hall of Fame for Orchestral Music.

The performance here by the English Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Raymond Leppard is currently my favorite, owing in large part to the fact that it has the kind of sound I find the most natural and enjoyable. This pressing boasts the biggest hall, the most transparency, and it has more clearly layered depth and more space than any other pressing we played. With White Hot stampers on side two and a Super Hot side one, this copy is right up there with the best Water Music we’ve heard. 

In a way this may not be quite fair to other equally well-known, well-respected performances. We went through an elimination round for the work a few weeks back, winnowing the recordings down to those that had the best sound, regardless of performance — perhaps some of the discarded records had even better performances than Leppard’s. At this late stage who can say?

We audiophiles want the music we play to sound its best, a requirement which more often than not involves compromises of one kind or another. We are happy to report that that does not appear to be the case with The Water Music (keeping in mind the caveat above).

We managed to find three (!) recordings that had both superb sound and top quality performances. This then is my favorite of the three, though not by much; on the best pressings all were Demo Disc quality, and most were pressed on very quiet vinyl. (more…)

Sibelius / Finlandia / Mackerras / London Proms

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – a superb Shaded-Dog-beating Finlandia
  • Both sides are big, clear, transparent and dynamic – no Heavy Vinyl pressing can do what this record is doing
  • Yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago
  • Demo Disc sound and music – spectacular works played with feeling

Yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The 1961 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from the early-’70s, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.

The brass is HUGE and POWERFUL. Not many recordings capture the brass this well. (Ansermet on London comes to mind of course but many of his performances leave much to be desired. Here Mackerras is on top of his game with performances that are definitive.)

The opening track on side two, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, is one of my favorite pieces of orchestral music. Mackerras and the London Proms make it magical. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Mozart / Piano Concertos / Geza Anda

Mozart / Piano Concerto No. 17 & No. 21 / Anda

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,     

The Mozart is wonderful. It blows away my first pressing, flat edge hard board copy that I had heretofore revered. Love it. A brilliant recording.

Phil

Glad to hear it! We sold our original close to ten years ago so it’s good to know this pressing can beat it. Those originals are hard to find; haven’t seen a clean copy since.

TP

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 3 / Janis/ Dorati – Years Ago We Favorably Reviewed a Mono Pressing

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CBFR-1/CBFR-2. This Mono pressing sounds SUPERB, much smoother and more natural than I remember the Stereo pressings sounding. What’s interesting about these Monos is they’re not mastered by Robert Fine. They are mastered by someone with the initials J.J., who apparently does all the Mono mastering. The reason Mercury Monos can sound as good as they do is because they have their own separate microphone feed and their own separate Mono tape recorder dedicated all to themselves. (London did the same thing and that’s why so many London Monos are amazing sounding.)

I don’t think you can find a better sounding Rachmaninoff 3rd on Mercury than this one. 

[Of course we no longer agree with that.  The best stereo copies are in an entirely different league. The mono can be good, but it cannot be great in the way the stereo pressings can be.] (more…)

Prokofiev & Rachmaninoff / Piano Concertos / Janis / Kondrashin

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  • This pressing has Beyond White Hot Stamper (A++++) sound on side one – sound that must be experienced to be believed! – backed with stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • The finest Prokofiev No. 3 and Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 1 – these performances by Janis are legendary, and with phenomenal sonics like these, this combination of sound and performance is all but unmatched in our experience
  • So big, so, rich, so transparent, so dynamic and full of life, we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto record in your life
  • Compare the weight of the piano on the two sides to see why the grades are so different

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

Side one shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it that fourth plus!

This is an exceptionally quiet early Mercury Plum label stereo pressing of two of Byron Janis’s most famous performances (along with the Rachmaninoff 3rd, which is every bit as good). It’s a longtime member of the TAS Super Disc list.

The recording is explosively dynamic and on this copy, the sound was positively jumping out of the speakers. In addition, the brass and strings are full-bodied and rich, with practically no stridency, an unusual feat the Mercury engineers seem to have accomplished while in Russia.

Big, rich sound can sometimes present problems for piano recordings. You want to hear the percussive qualities of the instrument, but few copies pull off that trick without sounding thin. This one showed us a piano that was both clear and full-bodied.

With huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard. Once the needle has dropped you will quickly forget about the sound and simply find yourself in the presence of some of the greatest musicians of their generation captured on some of the greatest analog recordings of all time. (more…)

Iberia from 1960 – Amazing on the Original and the Right Reissues Too

1960 – A Great Year for Top Quality Recordings of Timeless Music

When you look closely at all the great records that were released that year — some of which can even be purchased in Hot Stamper form on this very site — you may come to agree with us that 1960 was a wonderful year for recorded music.

Click HERE to see the records currently on the site that were recorded or released in 1960.

And HERE to see the records from 1960 that we’ve reviewed, a substantially larger group as you can imagine, with more than 90 entries at the time of this writing.

 

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 A Top Quality Reissue (Potentially of Course)

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 A Wonderful Original (On the Right Pressing, Again, Of Course)

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

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from May of 1960 in Geneva’s glorious sounding Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 30+ years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today.)

The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these better than Super Hot sides.

The sound of this copy is so transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic, that we knew we had a real winner on our hands as soon as the needle hit the groove.

We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

Side One – Iberia (1-4)

A huge hall, correct string tone, spacious and open as practically any orchestral recording you can find! (more…)

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky – Our 4+ Shootout Winner from 2019

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound throughout — QUADRUPLE PLUS (A++++) on the first side and Triple Plus (A+++) on the second. Side one has by far the better music – it’s where the most exciting, most percussive movements can be found – and this pressing, with Beyond White Hot sound for that side, is guaranteed to be bigger and more lively than you ever imagined (because that’s how we felt about it, hence the fourth plus).

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

Both sides show up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave side one that fourth plus!

This Angle Melodiya pressing of Bizet’s Carmen, rearranged by Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin for strings and 47 percussion instruments, has two incredible sides. Demo Quality Sound barely begins to do it justice. If you have the system to play it, this copy is a KNOCKOUT.

But boy is it a difficult record to reproduce. You better have everything working right when you play this one — it’s guaranteed to bring practically any audiophile system to its knees. Speed, resolving power and freedom from distortion are what this record needs to sound its best. Is your system up to it? There’s only one way to find out.

And if you have any peaky audiophile wire or equipment in your system, the kind that is full of detail but calls attention to itself, you are in big trouble with a record like this. More than anything this is a record that rewards your system’s neutrality. (more…)

Mussorgsky et al. / Danse Infernale / Fiedler – Our Favorite Night On Bald Mountain

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides make this the consistently best sounding batch of Orchestral Showpieces we have ever played
  • After a two year hiatus, our favorite performance of Night on Bald Mountain is back, and it’s guaranteed to blow your mind (and maybe a woofer or two)
  • Side one also boasts an excellent Danse Macabre, with a powerful finish that may remind you of the thrill of live orchestral music
  • Side two contains a wonderfully exciting Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Both sides are clear and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling
  • Watch your levels – this pressing is dramatically more DYNAMIC than most Golden Age recordings

If you like Orchestral Spectaculars, have we got the record for you!

This pressing clearly has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND — not in every way, but in some important ways. The ENERGY of both the sound and the performances of these barnburning showpieces is truly awesome. Fiedler brings this music to LIFE like no other conductor we have heard.

This pressing boasts relatively rich, sweet strings, especially for a Deutsche Grammophon LP. Both sides really get quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy (and the reason it is so hard to find a copy that plays better than Mint Minus Minus. We do have a quieter copy with lower grades if you are interested though.) (more…)