Labels We Love – RCA Living Stereo

Who Can’t Hear Differences in Sound from Side to Side?

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Audiophile Reissues of the Reiner/CSO Recording

Both the Chesky and Classic reissue pressings of LSC 2446 are just plain terrible. Embarrassingly the latter is found on the TAS List.

There is a newly remastered 33 RPM pressing of the album garnering rave reviews in the audiophile press. We will didn’t like it either.

Please note that in many of the reviews for the new pressing, the original vinyl used for comparison is a Shaded Dog pressing. In our experience almost no Shaded Dog pressings are competitive with the later White Dog pressings, and many of them are just plain awful, as we have noted previously on the site.

The “original is better” premise of most reviewers renders the work they do practically worthless, especially to those of us who take the time to play a wide variety of pressings, judging them on the merits of their sound, not the color of their labels.
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Beethoven Kreutzer and Spring Sonatas – Shaded Dogs Vs. Red Seals

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The Shaded Dog original RCA pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth.

In this listing for one of our Hot Stamper 2-packs we compare the sound of the originals (which tend to be crude, veiled, recessed and a bit smeary) with the reissues, which can be awful or wonderful depending on which side of which copy you are playing.

OUR COMMENTARY

This Red Seal Super Hot stamper Two-Pak may be comprised of reissue pressings, late ones even, but the sound is SUPERB. And with a Two-Pak, you get two great sides (just not on the same records of course). The immediacy of the violin was shockingly good; it was Right There, solidly between the speakers, the kind of sound that left the vast majority of pressings we’ve played of LSC 2377 in the dust. (Including the sound on the “bad” sides, which are mediocre at best.)
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Rodgers – Slaughter on Tenth Avenue – Arthur Fiedler – A Forgotten Classic

More music conducted by Arthur Fiedler (1894-1979)

More Rodgers / Slaughter on Tenth Avenue

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

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. (more…)

Living Stereo Tubey Magical Sound from 1958

This copy is WHITE HOT!

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As much as I like Fjeldstad’s Peer Gynt on Decca/London with the LSO, I have to say that Odd Gruner-Hegge (love that first name!) and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra turn in the better of the two performances. To these ears theirs is more lyrical; it flows more naturally both within and between the individual movements.

Joy

The Oslo Phil also gives me more of a sense that they are feeling the joy in the playing of these works; I do not get quite the same feeling from the LSO. As we worked our way through more and more Living Stereo copies, the Oslo Phil.’s enthusiasm and love for the music became recognizably stronger, and, as one would expect, more agreeable and involving.

Our preference for this performance is of course a matter of taste; we cannot be sure you will feel the same. No doubt you have a version of the Fjeldstad on hand for comparison purposes, perhaps the Speakers Corner pressing (which we used to like quite a bit), but any will do. I expect that playing a handful of select movements from the two performances back to back will show this one to be superior. (more…)

Elvis Presley – It Happened At The World’s Fair – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • An insanely good sounding copy: Triple Plus (A+++) on the first side, Double Plus (A++) on the second
  • If you want to know just how rich, spacious, natural and Tubey Magical an Elvis record can sound, here’s your chance to find out
  • Fairly quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus – it’s unlikely any early pressing would ever play as well
  • Elvis’s early albums are rarely in audiophile playing condition, so finding these later pressings with such good sound has been a real ear opener

See all of our Elvis Presley albums in stock

This pressing has the glorious sound of 1963 in its grooves. It has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

160+ RCA Living Stereo Albums Reviewed

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RCA Living Stereo Albums

in Stock

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RCA Living Stereo Recordings

We’ve Auditioned

Chet’s later remixed and re-recorded version, released in 1961, seems to have the better sound overall, but the difference in the best sounding original pressing and the best sounding later version would probably not be obvious to most listeners without the two versions playing side by side.

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for pointing out to us with his TAS List what a great record this is, although I’m pretty sure anybody playing this album would have no trouble telling after a minute or two that this copy is very special indeed. (more…)

Della Reese – Della – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • Stunning sound throughout with each side rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it
  • Both sides here are rich and smooth with a big bottom end and a lovely musical quality that’s missing from the average copy
  • Plays Mint Minus Minus on side one and even quieter on side two — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Recorded in 1959, this excellent album finds Reese backed by an orchestra that Neal Hefti arranged and conducted.” – All Music

See all of our Della Reese albums in stock

If you’re a fan of vintage female vocals – the kind with no trace of digital reverb – you may get quite a kick out of this one.

Tubey Magic Is Key

This early Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we heard them all. (more…)

Harry Belafonte – Belafonte at Carnegie Hall – Our Shootout Winner for 2018

 


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • This later black label pressing boasts excellent sound, with a shootout-winning Triple Plus (A+++) side three and excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or close to it for sides one, two and four
  • You’ll hear a very large group of musicians bring their wonderful energy to this music, all backing Harry live on the stage in real time and in ANALOG
  • Harry Pearson made his reputation bringing this kind of amazing recording to the attention of the audiophile public, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude
  • 5 stars: “The granddaddy of all live albums, this double-LP set captures the excitement of a Harry Belafonte concert at the height of his popularity.”

See all of our Harry Belafonte albums in stock

Harry Pearson brought this record to the attention of audiophiles with his TAS list a long time ago, and rightfully so: it’s an amazing recording.

We happen to love the music too, which makes it one of the most recommendable records we have ever offered. If you can find a better combination of demo disc sound, with music worth the hassle and expense of reproducing it properly, more power to you. We sure can’t.

Because this is a live recording, because it has lots of natural instruments as well as a vocal, because it was recorded in the Golden Age by one of the greatest labels of all time, RCA, by Bob Simpson no less — for this and many other reasons, it has to be considered one of the most amazing recordings in the history of the world.

That said, it is our contention (and the basis of our business model) that the brilliant quality of the recording can only be appreciated if you have the pressing that captured the sound that the engineers recorded. In other words, a Hot Stamper. (more…)

Jim Reeves – The Intimate Jim Reeves

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Jim Reeves – The Intimate Jim Reeves

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame .

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music found here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you.

All the copies we played were stereo. We’ve had very poor luck with mono pressings of Living Stereo recordings and tend to avoid them.

Produced by Chet Atkins in Nashville, 1960, with Bill Porter engineering. This is superb countrypolitan pop by the man who practically invented it.

More Living Stereo

Jim Reeves is lucky to have had the Bill Porter and his staff of RCA engineers from the era on his team. Although we love to do these vintage Hot Stamper shootouts, finding clean copies of these albums is getting harder every day.

What do we love about these Living Stereo Hot Stamper pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The instruments here are recorded with remarkable fidelity. Now that’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi”, not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days.

There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange. There’s no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice).

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and any of you out there who pick this one up are guaranteed to get a real kick out of it!

Turn Up the Volume on Prez Prado

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Tube smear is common to most pressings from the late ’50s, and this Prez Prado record is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least amount of smear, or none, yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich. Full sound is especially critical to the horns: any blare, leanness or squawk ruins much of the fun, certainly at the loud levels the record should be playing at.

Which brings up a point that needs making. The tonality of this record is correct when it is playing loud. The trumpets do not get harsh at loud volumes the way they will on, say, a Chicago record. The timbre of the instruments is correct when loud, which means that it was mixed loud to sound correct when loud.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve). (more…)