Labels We Love – Philips

Mozart / String Quartets / Quartetto Italiano

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this Philips pressing will be very hard to beat – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • One of the finest string quartet recordings we have ever had the pleasure to play – lovely recreation of space, Tubey Magical richness, and rosiny string textures
  • Clear and transparent and natural – your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all
  • “The playing of the Quartetto Italiano has a freshness, range and subtlety that vividly realizes the music in all its variety, while technical problems seem to have been solved so that the music making can be both spontaneous-sounding and thoughtful throughout.”

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Woody Herman – Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet

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  • A stunning Hot Stamper original stereo pressing of Woody Herman’s highly regarded 1962 Philips release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it
  • The Tubey Magical richness of some of the better Philips pressings from this era have really taken us by surprise – these are some amazingly good recordings!
  • Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied, this is by far the best sounding Woody Herman record we have ever run acrossl
  • “Sticking exclusively to clarinet, he shows himself to be a fine improviser and an expressive player who gives fresh interpretations to a variety of standards, some closely associated with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw [whose good records we never seem to find]. …[an] out-of-print but worthy LP.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1962 All Tube Analog Philips recording can sound, this killer copy will do the trick. (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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Paul Mauriat / More Mauriat – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Paul Mauriat — you may remember him for his big hit “Love Is Blue” which hit Number One in 1968 — must have been a very busy man in 1967 when this album came out — he released six that year! I would bet that most of them do not sound very good — hell, side two of this album doesn’t even sound good — but side one sure does. 

We gave it a sonic grade of A++ for the better sounding tracks on that side. It’s Super Hot all right, 3-D and Tubey Magical like you will not believe. If you have a big, rich, even lush-sounding system, this record is going to blow your mind!

Try tracks 2,3 and 5; talk about fun ’60s pop with great sound!

Side one A++

Side two No Grade, way too shrill and smeary (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Three Symphonies / Waart – Reviewed in 2005

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

Three Symphonies / Waart

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

Three Minty looking Philips Import LPs with EXCELLENT SOUND!

The sound is dark and rich. You may prefer it as I do to the famous Previn performances on EMI, which have that mid-hall, vague ’70s EMI sound. It never appealed to me. 

The performances are excellent as well. The second symphony belongs in any serious collection and you get a very good one in this box set. This set includes Rachmaninoff’s Symphonies 1-3 and ‘The Rock,’ Op. 7.

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Grumiaux – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This White Hot Two-Pack of the most well-known and beloved violin concerto in the classical repertoire gives you a TOP performance with TOP quality sound from first note to last. No single copy had two sides as good as these, so we’ve combined two LPs to bring you the best Tchaicovsky Violin Concerto ever to hit the site.

In choosing these two sides we put special emphasis on the sound of the violin. Many copies suffered from a slight screechiness to the sound of the instrument, but we present here a violin that is rich and sweet, yet retains the full pallette of its complex harmonics.

Side One – Record One

A++, with Tubey Magic to die for. The sound is rich, with a bit of tube smear that does little damage to the overall sound. Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are in evidence throughout the side. There’s so much energy that, in comparison to some copies, this side almost sounded like it was running fast!

Side two of this LP earned a grade of A+ — it’s too smeary and dark for our taste. (more…)

Barber, Bartok, Britten, Respighi / I Musici

More Barber, Bartok, Britten, Respighi / I Musici

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

This Philips Festivo reissue LP (not as pictured by the way, that’s an original) plays Mint Minus or better and sounds GREAT! This is a wonderful record — I Musici is one of my favorite groups. They play with tremendous energy, enthusiasm and feeling, taking works that have been recorded poorly by too many others and giving them a new lease on life.

The ‘Ancient Dances and Airs’ is superb here, one of the best on record. Britten’s ‘Simple Symphony’ is one of the best I’ve ever heard as well. Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ is good but you can find better if you look hard enough. Highest recommendation for music.

Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Grumiaux

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

Violin Concerto / Grumiaux 

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

The reproduction of the violin here is superb — harmonically rich, natural, clean, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound, as well as the fact that they become less congested in the louder passages and don’t get shrill or blary. The best copies display a Tubey Magical richness — especially evident in the basses and celli — that is to die for.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Exceptional resolution, transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — this copy takes the sound of the recording right to the limits of what we thought possible from Philips.

As we listened, we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity he brings to such a difficult and demanding work. (more…)

Ravel / Piano Concertos / Haas – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Piano Concertos / Haas

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

This Philips recording from 1970 on exceptionally quiet Dutch vinyl has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on side one for one of Ravel’s best known piano works, the Piano Concerto in G. Most Philips records are much too thick, dull and opaque to be taken seriously, by us anyway. (In this respect they have many sonic attributes in common with Londons from the ’70s and ’80s.)

Dropping the needle on this pressing, however, was a pleasant surprise. It’s big and spacious on side one, with zero smear on a piano that is both full and clear.

This is a difficult combination to achieve in our experience, and the kind of sound we do not hesitate to praise highly here at Better Records.

To us it sounds right, and when the sound is as right as it is here, the wonderful piano music of Ravel can really work its magic. (more…)

Liszt / Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter – Awful Mercury Mastering

More of Franz Liszt’s music

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Sonic Grade: F

An Orchestral Hall of Shame pressing.

This recording was released through Mercury, recorded by Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart, mastered by George Piros, the legendary Mercury team of renown. It is instructive to note that the Philips mastering is dramatically superior to the mediocre Mercury mastering, which may strike you as counterintuitive, but is nonetheless a fact. It’s precisely the reason we play records all day here at Better Records. You can’t judge a record by its credentials. The only way to know how it sounds is to play it, and to really know how it sounds you must play it against a sizeable number of other copies.

Then, and only then, can you talk knowledgeably about the sound. (Note to forum posters: this means you.) (more…)