Composers

Overtures in Hi-Fi – Wolff – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. 

This is a very early stereo recording, which means it is spacious and open, with little spotlighting. But what is especially memorable is the choice of material, with a few of the more obscure overtures really brought to life here, such as the opening piece by Adam on side one: Si j’etais roi. Although not long, every second is packed with color and energy, exactly what a good overture needs. And it even has a glockenspiel! How can you go wrong?

Classic Records 45 RPM Remaster – This Is Your Idea of a Great Firebird?

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Classic Records 45 RPM Debunked

Sonic Grade: C-

A customer alerted me to a review Wayne Garcia wrote about various VPI platters and the rim drive, and this is what I wrote back to him:

Steve, after starting to read Wayne’s take on the platters, I came across this:
That mind-blowing epiphany that I hadn’t quite reached with the Rim Drive/Super Platter happened within seconds after I lowered the stylus onto the “Infernal Dance” episode of Stravinsky’s Firebird (45 rpm single-sided Classic Records reissue of the incomparable Dorati/LSO Mercury Living Presence recording).

That is one of my half-dozen or so favorite orchestral recordings, and I have played it countless times.

This is why I have so little faith in reviewers. I played that very record not two weeks ago (04/2010) against a good original and the recut was at best passable in comparison. If a reviewer cannot hear such an obvious difference in quality, why believe anything he has to say? The reason we say that no reviewer can be trusted is that you cannot find a reviewer who does not say good things about demonstrably bad and even just plain awful records. It’s the only real evidence we have for their credibility, and the evidence is almost always damning. (more…)

Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon / Vienna Octet – Original Versus Reissue

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This unusual 2-pack combines two very different pressings from very different eras to create a complete performance of The “Trout” Quintet with SUPERB Super Hot Stamper (or better) on both sides. One pressing, the one shown, is from the early ’60s; the other is from 1982. How could an imported budget late reissue beat a superb Golden Age pressing on any side you ask? Well, the answer to that question is provided by the records we will send you. 

Side one of this London Whiteback pressing is dark and opaque, with a serious lack of both top end and clarity. Side two however is GORGEOUS: so big, rich, clear and lively, it earned a sonic grade of A++ to A+++! In our shootouts the person reviewing the records (in this case me) never knows which pressing is being critiqued. Imagine my surprise when the late London handily beat the early one.

Actually it’s easy to imagine my surprise, because there was simply no surprise to imagine. In our shootouts here at Better Records late pressings beat early pressings regularly. We let the records speak for themselves, and that’s what they told us, at least on side one of The “Trout”. The reason the late pressing even made it into our shootout was that in a preliminary round it showed us that it had very good sound on side one. Side two didn’t hold up, but any record with good sound on any side is going to go in the shootout, regardless of the “incorrectness” of its label or country of origin.

On the earlier pressing (CS 6090) the sound is rich and sweet; some might say it’s too rich, but for this music it works. The piano and the strings have that Golden Age Tubey Magical sound we love. It’s been years since I’ve had the opportunity to play this record; most copies are just too beat up to bother with, so I was glad to find this one in such minty condition. (more…)

Where Cheap Turntables Fall Flat – The Music of Franz Liszt

 

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Classical music is unquestionably the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge set-up. The Liszt recording you see pictured is a superb choice for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like.

One of the reasons $10,000+ front ends exist is to play large scale, complex, difficult-to-reproduce music such as Liszt’s two piano concertos. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you choose to, it would surely be the kind of record that can show you the sound your tens of thousands of dollars has paid for.

It has been my experience that cheap tables more often than not collapse completely under the weight of a mighty record such as this.
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Stravinsky / The Firebird / Dorati – Mercury Golden Import Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

A mediocre at best reissue from Philips, bad enough to get into our Hall of Shame.

Dead as a doornail sound, not remotely competitive with the real Mercury pressings we’ve played.

Gershwin / Rhapsody In Blue / Thomas

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  • Gershwin’s rendition of his stunning Masterpiece makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last 
  • Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this copy sounds
  • Using the piano roll capturing the performance of the composer himself, Gershwin’s take on the Rhapsody is spirited and jazzy – the work is performed at a thrilling pace
  • This performance and arrangement is sure to give its audience a new perspective on what Gershwin was trying to accomplish with his “experiment for piano and jazz band”

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Brahms – Concerto No. 2- Reiner / Gilels – Cisco Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C+?

Another Heavy Vinyl pressing from Cisco / Impex reviewed.

It’s been quite a while since I played the Cisco pressing, but I remember it as being quite good. At the time we wrote: “The overall sound is smooth and spacious. The piano may lack the full weight of the live instrument, but that’s RCA’s fault, not Cisco’s. If you can look past that you will find this to be one of the better Living Stereo reissues available today.” and we’ll just have to stick with that for now, since we haven’t played the record in more than ten years.

Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl and the Loss of Transparency

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We recently gave the Heavy Vinyl pressing from Speakers Corner, the same one that we had previously recommended back  in the ’90s, a sonic grade of C+ in our current Heavy Vinyl Scorecard section. To our ears now it has many more shortcomings than it did back then, which we discuss below.

So often when we revisit the remastered pressings we used to like on Heavy Vinyl we come away dumbfounded — what on earth were we thinking? These are not the droids sounds we are looking for. Perhaps our minds were clouded at the time.
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Paganini / Violin Concertos 1 & 2 – Expensive Heavy Vinyl Trash

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Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning (usually old) records. 

Had I paid good money to buy this pressing in the hopes of hearing the supremely talented Yehudi Menuhin of 1961 tear it up on Paganini’s legendary first two concertos, I can tell you one thing: I would be pissed.

Where is the outrage in the audiophile community over this kind of trash? I have yet to see it. I suspect I will grow quite a bit older and quite a bit greyer before anyone else notices just how bad this record sounds. I hope I’m proven wrong.

Screechy, bright, shrill, thin and harsh, it’s hard to imagine worse sound to be subjected to from this piece of Heavy Vinyl trash.

NO warmth. NO sweetness. NO richness. NO Tubey Magic. In other words, NO trace of the original’s (or the early reissue’s) analog sound. I may own at most one or two classical CDs that sound this bad, and I own quite a few. I have to wonder how records this awful get released. Then again, the Heavy Vinyl Buyer of today is not known for his discrimination; if he were Sundazed and Analogue Productions would have gone out of business many years ago. (more…)

Set-up Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

I once adjusted my anti-skate while playing this very album, at the time dialing it in to a “T”. Over the years I’ve found that the best test for fine anti-skate adjustment is massed strings, and not just at the end of a side but right at the beginning too.

When you have all the rosiny texture, the high-end harmonic extension, the least shrillness and the widest and deepest staging, you are there, assuming that tracking weight, azimuth and VTA are correct as well.

Four variables to mess with is admittedly a bitch, but having the right record to test with is absolutely critical as well. Maybe we should call it five variables.

And if I only had one record to bring to someone’s house in order to evaluate their equipment, this would certainly be a top choice. If you can make this record sound the way it should, your stereo is cookin’. If you are having problems, this record will show them to you in short order. (more…)