Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Balalaika Favorites on Classic Records – Unpleasantly Hard and Sour

What else is new?

Sonic Grade: F

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as unpleasantly hard and sour. Many of the later Mercury reissues pressed by Columbia had some of that sound, so I was already familiar with it when their pressing came out in 1998 as part of the just-plain-awful Mercury series they released.

I suspect I would hear it that way today. Bernie Grundman could cut the bass, the dynamics, and the energy onto the record. Everything else was worse 99% of the time.

The fast transients of the plucked strings of the Balalaikas was just way beyond the ability of his colored and crude cutting system. Harmonic extension and midrange delicacy were qualities that practically no Classic Records Heavy Vinyl pressing could claim to have.

Or, to be precise, they claimed to have them, and whether they really believed they did or not, they sure fooled a lot of audiophiles and the reviewers that write for them.

The better your stereo gets the worse those records sound, and they fall further and further behind with each passing year.

Here are a few commentaries you may care to read about Bernie Grundman‘s work as a mastering engineer, good and bad.

More Balalaika Favorites


FURTHER READING

Classic Records – Classical

Classic Records – Jazz 

Classic Records – Rock and Pop 

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

Heavy Vinyl Disasters 

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities 

Heavy Vinyl Winners

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture – Classic Records and the TAS List

This is a classic case of Live and Learn. We used to like the Classic Records pressing of LSC 2241 a lot more than we do now. Our system was noticeably darker and also far less revealing when we last auditioned the Classic back in the ’90s, and those two qualities did most of the heavy lifting to disguise its shortcomings.

We mistakenly noted: HP put the Shaded Dog pressing (the only way it comes; there is no RCA reissue to my knowledge) on his TAS List of Super Discs, and with good reason: it’s wonderful!

The rest of our commentary still holds up though:

But for some reason he also put the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl reissue on the list, and that record’s not even passable, let alone wonderful. It’s far too lean and modern sounding, and no original Living Stereo record would ever sound that way, thank goodness. 

If they did few audiophiles would still be paying the top dollar collector prices that the Shaded Dog commands to this day.

Updated Thoughts on the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl Reissue

The Classic on Heavy Vinyl (LSC 2241) is lean and modern sounding. No early Living Stereo pressing sounds like it in our experience, and we can only thank goodness for that. If originals and early reissues did sound more like the Classic pressings, my guess is that few would collect them and practically no one would put much sonic stock in them.

Apparently most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a classical recording of the quality of a good original pressing (or good ’60s or ’70s reissue). If they had Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and recognized and identified as such by us way back in 1994.

I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled — to this very day! There are dozens on the TAS List for Pete’s sake — but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases. (We do admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock records, and we have the We Was Wrong entries on the site to prove it.)

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

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Deja Vu – This Classic Records Knockoff Is Not the Answer, But We Have One

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Rock LP badly mastered for the benefit of audiophiles looking for easy answers and quick fixes.

If you bought the Classic Record Heavy Vinyl pressing of Deja Vu, you should know by now how badly Classic Records ripped you off. If you feel disrespected, you should. They took your money and gave you practically nothing of value for it. The right CD (not the current one, that’s for damn sure) is dramatically better sounding than their vinyl reissue.

On the other hand, if you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you.

We of course want nothing to do with records like those remastered by Classic Records. We only want to play good sounding records, and most Classic Records, including this title, are definitely not good sounding, not by our standards anyway.

Records Are in a Sorry State – Here’s What You Can Do About It

It’s a sad state that we currently find ourselves in, but is it really any different than it used to be? Audiophiles used to like half-speeds, they used to like Japanese pressings, they used to like direct to disc recordings with questionable sound and even more questionable music.

Now they like SACDs, Heavy Vinyl and 45s. If you ask me it’s the same old wine in a different bottle.

The path out of that morass is exactly the path we have taken and charted for everyone, free of charge.

With our approach to finding the best sounding records, cleaning them the way we do, playing them against each other the way we do, using the sound improving devices and equipment we recommend, we know you can succeed. If we can do it you can do it.

Letters and Commentaries for Deja Vu

More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young

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Rachmaninoff / Symphonic Dances / Johanos – Audiophile Reviewers Raved About This Muddy Mess

I guess things never change.

Sonic Grade: F

This Athena LP is now long out of print, but it received rave reviews when it was released. (We quote many of them below.) This album is a member of the TAS Super Disc list, but we found the sound awfully opaque, smeary, slow and compressed, the kind of bad “analog” sound that Doug Sax brought to the early AP releases. 

The sticker on the shrink wrap of a previous copy had these quotes:

“…for this is the definitive symphonic recording to date.” – J. Gordon Holt/ Stereophile

“Wins ‘Best Record of the Year’ award against tough competition.” – Joe Hart/High End Audio Press & Music Review

“HP heard the Athena remastering of the Rachmaninoff and found it stunning. He could recommend it without reservation.” – Harry Pearson/The Absolute Sound #57

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

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Chabrier / Espana / Paray – We Review the Classic Records Pressing on the TAS List

Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another record perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

I much prefer Ansermet’s performances on London to those of Paray on Mercury. I know of none better. The famous Classic pressing of the Mercury is a grainy, gritty, shrill piece of crap.

I don’t know how dull and smeary a stereo would have to be in order to play a record this phony and modern sounding and make it listenable, but I know that it would have to be very dull and very smeary, with the kind of vintage sound that might work for Classic’s Heavy Vinyl pressings but not much else.

It’s a disgrace, and the fact that it’s on the TAS Super Disc List is even more disgraceful. Of course the lovely London (CS 6438) we prefer is nowhere to be found on Harry’s List, which should not be too surprising. Most of the best records we play are exactly that — nowhere to be found on his list.

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chabrier

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Deep Purple / Machine Head on Rhino 180 Gram Vinyl

Sonic Grade: F

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

I’m guessing that very few people have ever heard this record sound good. The average copy is nothing special, but this one is a boring, lifeless mess, so save your money.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino touts their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

More Deep Purple

More British Blues Rock

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Led Zeppelin II on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl – Seriously, What Could Be Sadder?

An absolute DISASTER — ridiculously bright, ridiculously crude, in short, a completely unlistenable piece of garbage.

Over the years we have done many Led Zeppelin shootouts, often including the Classic Heavy Vinyl Pressings as a “reference.” After all, the Classic pressings are considered by many — if not most — audiophiles as superior to other pressings. What could be sadder?

In fact. you will find very few critics of the Classic Zep LPs outside of those of us (me and the rat in my pocket) who write for this very website, and even we used to recommend three of the Zep titles on Classic: Led Zeppelin I, IV and Presence.

Wrong on all counts.

Since then we’ve made it a point to review most of the Classic Zeps, a public service of Better Records. We don’t actually like any of them now, although the first album is still by far the best of the bunch.

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

More Led Zeppelin on Classic Records Reviewed

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Billy Joel / 52nd Street – A Random Copy Tells You What, Exactly?

More Billy Joel

Reviews and Commentaries for 52nd Street

Sonic Grade: Side One: F / Side Two: C+

The Impex (Cisco) 180 gram remastering of 52nd Street was cut by Kevin Gray, under the direction of Robert Pincus (aka Mr Record), at the now defunct AcousTech Mastering in Camarillo. We noted the following in a recent review for a much superior (how could it not be?) Hot Stamper pressing:

Side one is a joke (zero ambience, resolution, energy, etc.) but side two is actually quite good. Side two fixes the biggest problem with the album: hard, honky vocals.

In his review appearing in The Absolute Sound, Neil Gader plucks two songs out of the album’s nine as especially meritorious. Oddly enough they’re both on side two. I wonder why.  (more…)

Bernard Herrmann The Fantasy Film World of… on MoFi Anadisq

More Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F

Obviously our customers know by now that a Hot Stamper London pressing is going to be far better than the Anadisq MoFi cut in the mid ’90s. How much better?

Words fail me. (more…)

Various Composers / The Reiner Sound – Classic Records Reviewed

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Sonic Grade: F

There is simply an amazing amount of TOP END on the original pressing we played a while back (reviewed below). Rarely do I hear Golden Age recordings with this kind of ENERGY and extension up top.

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 good system.  

Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that The Reiner Sound needs.

You may have read on the site that, unlike many soi-disant audiophiles who buy into HP’s classical choices, I am not the biggest Reiner fan. On these works, though, I would have to say the performances are Top Drawer, some of the best I have ever heard. The amount of energy he manages to coax from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is nothing less than BREATHTAKING.

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