Labels We Love – RCA Living Stereo

This Living Stereo from 1958 Didn’t Make the Grade

More of the Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

Our notes read “blary, bright, not nearly as good as Anserment’s recordings,” which is what we compared it to.

In other words, it just sounded like an old record.

If you are looking for a top quality pressing with a performance to match, we recommend two:

  1. The complete ballet on three discs with Anserment conducting, and/or
  2. The highlights, on a single disc, again with Ansermet conducting.

This Shaded Dog might be passable on an old school audio system, but it was too unpleasant to be played on the high quality modern equipment we use.

There are quite a number of other vintage classical releases that we’ve run into over the years with similar shortcomings. For fans of vintage Living Stereo pressings, here are some to avoid.

Some audiophiles may be impressed by the average Shaded Dog pressing, but I can assure you that we here at Better Records are decidedly not of that persuasion.

Something in the range of five to ten per cent of the major label Golden Age recordings we play will eventually make it to the site. The vast majority just don’t sound all that good to us. (Many have second- and third-rate performances and those get tossed without ever making it to a shootout.)


Sam Cooke – Hits of the 50’s in Living Stereo

  • Hits of the 50s returns to the site for the first time in many years, here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound or close to it on both sides of original RCA pressing
  • If you want to hear one of the great vocalists from the 50s, in his prime, with top quality audiophile sound, this is the album that will do the trick!
  • This is the way it must have sounded in 1960, in the New York studios where it was recorded, with legendary RCA engineer Bob Simpson behind the board
  • This is not the typically radio-EQ’d singing-out-of-tin-can sound of so many male vocal albums from the era – Cooke’s voice is warm and rich here
  • “…constitutes [Cooke] reaching full pop maturity from his gospel beginnings. These are hit tunes of the 50s…and he handles them in straight, ungimmicked style, to the accompaniment of tasteful, small group scorings by Glenn Osser” – Billboard Magazine


Chet Atkins – Caribbean Guitar

More Chet Atkins

More Recordings in Living Stereo

  • You’ll find superb Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides of this famous TAS Super Disc RCA Living Stereo LP
  • Plays fairly quiet too – about as quiet as these RCA pressings from the early 60s ever will
  • If you have ever heard one of our luscious Living Stereo Chet Atkins records, you know what to expect – off the charts Tubey Magic unlike anything made in the last fifty years, or more!
  • Engineer Bill Porter just doesn’t know how not to make an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording – everything the guy touches is gold
  • If you’re a fan of the smooth guitar stylings of Mr. Atkins, this is a classic from 1962 that belongs in your collection.

This is one of Chet Atkins’ best albums. Sonically, it’s right up there with The Other Chet Atkins and the Hollywood album. It seems like Bill Porter just doesn’t know how not to make an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording. He knocked this out of the park.

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 can tell after a minute or two that it’s in that very special class of great recordings.

This album is a little more lively than some of his other recordings, which can be criticized for being a little too laid back. For example, try side 2, cut 2 where Chet actually jams.

The last track on side 2 where Chet is joined by a trumpet player is my favorite on the album. That guitar-trumpet combination is pretty magical on that song. And you’ve got to love the kind of sound Bill Porter get from a trumpet. That’s the kind of sound we audiophiles drool over. I do anyway.


Strauss / Also Sprach Zarathustra / Reiner

More of the music of Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)

Richard Strauss Records We’ve Reviewed

  • An early Shaded Dog pressing of this wonderful classical Masterpiece with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • The vibrant colors of the orchestra are captured brilliantly in All Tube Analog by the RCA engineers, creating an immersive and engrossing listening experience for the work without equal in our experience
  • There is plenty on offer for the discriminating audiophile, with the spaciousness, clarity, tonality and freedom from artificiality that are hallmarks of the best Living Stereo recordings
  • “Reiner’s close familiarity with the score and personal relationship with Strauss himself add extra weight to the authority and importance of his interpretation of Also sprach Zarathustra.”


Prokofiev / Symphony No. 5 in Living Stereo

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

In 2010 we wrote:

This rare Shaded Dog pressing of LSC 2272 has an absolutely AMAZING side two. It’s transparent, with sweet (yes, for the Prokofiev 5th!), smooth and rich strings. Listen to how natural the woodwinds are on this side.

Side two here is the fluke, since most of the time this record sounds terrible. But now we know how well engineered it really is. We have the copy right here to prove it.

If you’re a fan of the music of Prokofiev, this superb recording from 1959 belongs in your collection.

Our Hot Stamper pressings of recordings from 1959 — a great year for records — can be found here.

The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.


Bruch / Scottish Fantasy – These Are the Stampers to Avoid

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin Available Now

More Stamper and Pressing Information (You’re Welcome!)

The 70s Red Seal pressings we’ve played recently have all left a lot to be desired, but, since we had one sitting on a shelf in the backroom with lower stampers, we figured what the hell, let’s clean it up, throw it into our next shootout and hope for the best.

As you can see, the best was not to come.

There are quite a number of other records that we’ve run into over the years with obvious shortcomings.

Here are some of them, a very small fraction of what we’ve played, broken down into the three major labels that account for most of the best classical and orchestral titles we’ve had the pleasure to play.

London/Decca records with weak sound or performances

Mercury records with weak sound or performances

RCA records with weak sound or performances

We’ve auditioned countless pressings in the 36 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands.

This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made, through trial and error. It may be expensive and time consuming, but there is simply no other method for finding better records that works. If you know of one, please write me!

We are not the least bit interested in pressings that are “known” to sound the best.

Known by whom? Which audiophiles — hobbyists or professionals, take your pick — can be trusted to know what they are talking about when it comes to the sound of records.

I have never met one, outside of those of us who work for Better Records. I remain skeptical of the existence of such a creature.

We’re looking for the pressings of albums that actually do sound the best.

If you’re an audiophile with an ear for top quality sound on vintage vinyl, we’d be happy to send you the Hot Stamper pressing guaranteed to beat anything and everything you’ve heard, especially if you have any pressing marketed as suitable for an audiophile. Those, with few exceptions, are rarely better than mediocre.

And if we can’t beat whatever LP you own or have heard, you get your money back.  It’s as simple as that.


Copland – Not as Good a TAS List Title as We Thought, Sorry!

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

We had a handful of copies of this famous TAS List title in the backroom, so we decided it was high time to get a shootout going. We pulled all the pressings of the music (both Billy the Kid and Rodeo) we had on hand on every label and proceeded to needle-drop them in preparation for a big Copland shootout.

Much to our chagrin, without exception all the copies of LSC 2195 were awful. The sound was completely hopeless. Our notes read:

  • Smeary — (more records with smeary sound can be found here),
  • Dry — (more records with dry sound can be found here),
  • Bright — (more records with bright sound can be found here),
  • Flat — (more records with flat sound can be found here),

Those records weren’t cheap. That was a lot of money down the drain. Not only can’t we sell records that sound as bad as this Living Stereo — our customers simply would not buy them — but we would never even try. Unlike other record dealers, we actually know what our records sound like. We don’t care about the reputations of the records we sell. We only care about their sound.

Some of the records on the TAS List seem better suited to the old school audio systems of the 60s, 70s and 80s than the modern systems of today.

Many of them used to sound good on those older systems, and I should know, I had an Old School stereo. Some of the records I used to think sounded good back in the day don’t sound too good to me anymore. For a more complete list of those records, not just the ones on the TAS List, click here.

What Pressings Did They Have

Whatever pressings they were playing over there at The Absolute Sound — they almost never say, which is something that has bothered me since I first started paying much attention to the list in the early-90s — I hope they were better than the Shaded Dogs we auditioned.

Who knows? Better yet, who cares? Who cares what Harry put on his TAS List all those years ago?

There are a lot of records I used to like and don’t anymore, why should he be any different? The fact that he is no longer around to change his mind is unfortunate and casts a shadow on all the records from the list that he was responsible for, a very large number.

Not that the new additions are any better. Once the Classic Records titles were added, I surmised that whaever standards had been in place back in the day had been lowered in order to accommodate the advertisers’ wishes that newly remastered pressings be recognized as Super Discs too, even the worst of them.

Live and Learn

LSC 2195 has been on the TAS List for a very long time, and we raved about a copy of the album back in 2011, but it now seems pretty clear that we were wrong.

The sound of the RCA originals was much too unpleasant to be played on high quality modern equipment. There are quite a number of others that we’ve run into over the years with similar shortcomings.

An old school stereo is perfect for all your bad sounding golden age recordings.

You can also get that sound by powering your modern system with the Mac 30s you see pictured. They are very good at hiding the faults of old records, and plenty of new ones too. Just the thing for you Heavy Vinyl fans, but the opposite of what you should use if you want to know what your records sound like.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with others that — in our opinion — are best avoided by audiophiles looking for hi-fidelity sound. Some of these records may have passable sonics, but the music is weak. These are also titles you can safely avoid.

We also have an Audiophile Hall of Shame for records that were marketed to audiophiles with claims of superior sound. If you’ve spent much time on this blog, you know that these records are some of the worst sounding pressings we have ever had the misfortune to play.

We routinely put them in our Hot Stamper shootouts, head to head with the vintage records we offer. We are often more than a little surprised at just how bad an “audiophile record” can sound and still be considered an “audiophile record.”

If you own any of these so-called audiophile pressings, let us send you one of our Hot Stamper LPs so that you can hear it for yourself in your own home, on your own system. Every one of our records is guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.


Esquivel – Strings Aflame

More Recordings in Living Stereo

More Exotica Recordings

  • Boasting KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound or close to it on both sides, this original copy could not be beat
  • Exceptionally big, rich and Tubey Magical, on this pressing you will find the kind of sound that is at the heart of the best Living Stereo LPs
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than all of what we played


Don’t Waste Your Money on this Living Stereo with Munch from 1962

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Franz Schubert

Some audiophiles buy albums based on their labels. For example, this Shaded Dog pressing from the Golden Age of RCA Living Stereo might appeal to a certain kind of audiophile who treasures LSCs on the original label.

More than that, he might limit himself to the most sought-after 1S Indianapolis pressings. Hooray! What could be better?

However, many records from this era simply do not sound good, and this is one of them. We have never heard a good sounding copy of LSC 2522, and we’ve played plenty of them over the decades that we’ve been auditioning Golden Age Classical records for sale.

This Shaded Dog might be passable on an old school system, but it was too unpleasant to be played on the high quality modern equipment we use.

There are quite a number of other records that we’ve run into over the years with similar shortcomings. Here are some of them, a very small fraction of what we’ve played, broken down by label.

  • London/Decca records with weak sound or performances
  • Mercury records with weak sound or performances
  • RCA records with weak sound or performances


Chet Atkins – The Other Chet Atkins

More Chet Atkins

  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — it’s all here
  • Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? This record is overflowing with it
  • It seems as though Bill Porter just doesn’t know how not to make an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording. Everything the guy touches is GOLD!
  • If you’re a fan of Chet Atkin’s album from the Golden Age of the 50s and 60s, this vintage Living Stereo pressing from 1960 surely belongs in your collection

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 the recording is very special indeed.

Amazing Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies. The harmonic coherency, the richness, the body, and simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum.