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30+ Reviews of Mercury Classical LPs
This commentary was written more than ten years ago, but as far as I can tell, it still holds up!
RFR1/ 2. This pressing has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND.
Here is the sound that Mercury is famous for: immediate, dynamic and spacious. This record lives up to the Mercury claim: You immediately feel as though you are in the Living Presence of the orchestra.
This is precisely the kind of record that Speakers Corner would not have a clue how to master. I’d stake my reputation on it, for what that’s worth.
As you may know, I am one of the most vocal critics of the new [now long in the tooth] Speakers Corner Mercury series, and I can tell you without ever hearing their version of this recording that there is NO CHANCE IN THE WORLD they will ever cut a record that sounds like this. It’s alive in a way that none of their pressings would even begin to suggest. If you don’t believe me, please buy this record and play it for yourself. If you don’t agree, I will refund your money and pay the domestic shipping back.
This record also gives the lie to those who think that Vendor pressings are inferior. This is a Vendor and I would be very surprised if there’s a better sounding copy than this one. I’ve certainly never heard one.
People who like to read labels and find some sort of pattern or connection between the label and the sound of the record are living in a world of their own making. A world that exists solely in their head.
The stamper numbers are the only thing that can possibly mean anything on a record, and even those are subject to so much variation from pressing to pressing that they become only a vague, general guide.
This LP is a good example of a record that a misguided or misinformed record collector would pass up, hoping to find a better sounding non-Vendor pressing.
Of course, the circular reasoning that would result is that such a collector would buy the non-Vendor pressing, possibly with the exact same stamper numbers, hear how good it sounded, and congratulate himself on the fact that the non-Vendor pressings always sound so much better.
All without ever having done a comparison.
A good way to never be wrong.
This is what we mean by Unscientific Thinking.
Some approaches to this audio hobby tend to produce better results than others. When your thinking about audio and records does not comport with reality, you are much less likely to achieve the improvements you seek.
Without a good stereo, it is hard to find better records. Without better records, it is hard to improve your stereo.
You need both, and thinking about them the right way, using the results of carefully run experiments — not feelings, opinions, theories, received wisdom or dogma — is surely the best way to acquire better sound.
A scientific, empirically-based audio approach leads to better quality playback. This will in turn make the job of recognizing high quality pressings — the ones you find for yourself, or the ones we find for you — much, much easier.