Labels We Love – Philips

Liszt / Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter

More Franz Liszt’s music

Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter


  • This pressing has Beyond White Hot Stamper (A++++) sound on both sides – sound that must be experienced to be believed! – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • The finest Liszt 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos we know of for their performances, and unquestionably for sonics (when the sonics are this good!)
  • More like LIVE MUSIC than any classical recording I have played in longer than I care to remember
  • So big, rich and transparent we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto recording – this is a game changer, the first time a single pressing of the album has earned grades these high on both sides

NOTE: *Unlike Concerto No. 1, The Second Piano Concerto opens very quietly, so there will likely never be a vintage pressing of the album that will get that opening to play like a CD. Expect to hear some random ticks, a small price to pay to hear this wonderful performance on top quality analog.

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.  (more…)

Mahler / Symphony #1 / Haitink – Reviewed in 2006

More of the music of Gustav Mahler

Symphony #1 / Haitink


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

This IMMACULATE looking Philips Dutch Import LP is the best sounding version of this music I’ve ever heard and one of the all time great performances as well.

The Solti on 180g Decca is a good record. This is a great one. 

Debussy / La Mer / Haitnik – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Claude Debussy 

More La Mer / Haitnik 


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

This early Philips pressing has very good sound and a SUPERB performance from Haitink. (Gramaphone, the “world’s authority on classical music since 1923”, raves about it.) Finding a quiet, good sounding La Mer is as difficult as finding a quiet good sounding Bolero. As popular as both of these works are, and considering how many times they have been recorded in analog, quiet vinyl and good sound are still the exception and not the rule, and that goes for Bolero especially.  (more…)

Liszt / Piano Concertos 1 & 2 / Arrau / Davis – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Franz Liszt’s music

More Piano Concertos 1 & 2 / Arrau / Davis


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

SUPERB orchestral sound on side one, dramatically better than what you might expect from the typical Philips import pressing. The sound is BIG, rich, clear and present for the first piano concerto. The piano is percussive and weighty, and the strings have lovely texture — this is Top Quality Sound. You know it when you hear it! We rated side one Super Hot: A++. No other side of any copy in our shootout scored higher. 

Liszt wrote two of the greatest piano concertos of all time and they are both here, played to near perfection by Claudio Arrau.

This is a BRAND NEW Philips LP that we cracked open ourselves and were shocked — SHOCKED — to hear truly wonderful orchestral sound. It’s rich, transparent and spacious in the best Golden Age tradition; remarkably, Philips still knew how to record a piano and orchestra as late as 1979, which just happens to be the date of this recording. Coincidence you say? Not really. (more…)

Handel / Water Music / Leppard

More Handel

More Water Music / Leppard


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.  (more…)

Gerry Mulligan Quartet – Spring Is Sprung

More Gerry Mulligan Quartet

More Spring Is Sprung


  • With shootout-winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides, it just doesn’t get any better than this copy of Mulligan’s superb sounding and Hard To Find 1963 release on Philips
  • Quincy Jones directed, and Phil Ramone made sure the album would be exceptionally well-recorded, which it is!
  • Big, rich, and Tubey Magical, this pressing let us hear Mulligan’s quartet with the energy and clarity these classic jazz performances deserve
  • 4 Stars: “Mulligan and Brookmeyer always seem to stimulate one another’s playing to a high level, and this album is no exception. The group gets into a swinging groove right away with its updated treatment of a Count Basie favorite, “Jive at Five,” followed by Mulligan’s brisk yet intricate jazz waltz “Four for Three.””

Clean and Clear Yet Rich and Sweet

This copy managed to find the ideal balance of these attributes. You want to find that rare copy that keeps what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of ’60s Jazz while managing to avoid the pitfalls so common to them: compression, opacity, and blubber. (more…)

The Dvorak Violin Concerto with Accardo on Philips – Was Sound This Good Still Possible in 1980?


You’ll find amazing nearly White Hot Stamper sound on side two of this exceptionally quiet Philips recording.

Yes, it was still possible to record classical music properly in 1980, though few labels managed to do it.

A SUPERB performance from Salvatore Accardo, certainly competitive with the best we have heard.

Yes, it was still possible to record classical music properly in 1980, though not many labels managed to pull it off. (Londons from this era are especially opaque and airless. We find them as irritating and frustrating as most of the Heavy Vinyl releases being foisted on the audiophile public today.) (more…)

Where Cheap Turntables Fall Flat – The Music of Franz Liszt

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886)



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.