Labels We Love – RCA Living Stereo

Overtures and Dances / Reiner

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This RCA Pink Label TAS List LP plays Mint Minus (except side two starts a little noisier) . The cover is immaculate.

Side one of this record sounds AMAZING, especially the Dvorak piece.

Here are the comments for the copy we recently sold on the site:

Superb string tone. This is one record that deserves to be on the tas list, and you have to give harry credit for going against the audiophile tide and recognizing a cheap, thin pink vic! Side one sounds incredible. I never recall hearing sound like this on this victrola! It’s demonstration quality sound!

Classic Records remastered this record not long ago and ruined it. This is what it’s supposed to sound like. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 4 in Living Stereo – What Does It Sound Like Now?

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Years ago we wrote:

This is a 1s / 5s Shaded Dog. TAS List (or at least it used to be). Probably the reason HP likes this LP so much is that it has a very wide soundstage. It also has good solid weight. A little soft on top, but that comes with the territory.

This is a very old review, probably from about 15 years ago. I don’t think I could recommend this record today. It probably belongs on this list, but I cannot truthfully say one way or another. As I recall, the copies I’ve played more recently were not impressive.

If I played it today, would I find it to be as bad as this Living Stereo pressing? Who knows? That experiment has not been run.

Some Advice

We much prefer Mravinsky for the symphonies, but good sounding copies of his records are just too hard to find, so we have never actually done a shootout for them.

Eric Rodgers’ Slaughter on Tenth Avenue – How is this title not on the TAS List?

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This copy was 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 [now years 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 prompts the question — why is no one exploring, discovering and then bringing to light the exceptional qualities of these wonderful vintage recordings (besides your humble writer of course)?

HP has passed on. Who today is fit to carry his mantle into the coming world of audio? Looking around I find very few prospects. None in fact. But then again, I’m not looking very hard. I could care less what any of these people have to say about the sound quality of the records they play. They all seem to like records that don’t sound very good to us, so why put any faith in their reviews for other records?

Reviewer malpractice? We’ve been writing about it for more than 25 years.

But I digress. (more…)

23 Glee Club Favorites / Men of the Robert Shaw Chorale

More TAS List Records

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This record is pristine and amazing! A great choral record. DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. TAS List of course.

Here is a complete list of the Living Stereo titles we have available on the site at this time  On our blog you can find reviews for hundreds more that we have auditioned over the years.

Demo Discs for Tubey Magic

TAS Super Disc Recordings

Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne / Fiedler

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  • Stunning sound on both sides of this Shaded Dog pressing from 1954 with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is a true Demo Disc quality recording – both sides are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with huge amounts of energy and tons of space around all of the players
  • This 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work from all the way back in 1954 – can you believe it?
  • Two mics and two channels and it blows away most of the classical recordings that followed it
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – this record proves it
  • In the ’90s I was regularly selling this title for $1000+ and people were happy to pay it!

NOTE: *There is a mark about 1″ from the end of the side that plays 10 times at a light to moderate level.

In a listing from a while back we wrote:

I love Fiedler’s performance and the 1954 two track RCA Living Stereo sound but finding an original Shaded Dog pressing in clean condition under $500 with the right stampers (something above 10 as I recall) is all but impossible nowadays. If you want to go that way more power to you.

Well we found one! With the right stampers! There are other good stampers for this album, but none that sounded as good as these in the shootout. And the vinyl is exceptionally quiet for a pressing from circa 1958 (the first year that stereo pressings were available; before that you had to buy the music on reel to reel to hear it in stereo). (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Now’s The Time

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  • An outstanding copy with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side two mated to a very good side one
  • Ray Hall once again engineered brilliantly for RCA – the Tubey Magical richness and dynamic energy of the sessions are captured with audiophile quality sound
  • Forget the Classic Records reissue from the ’90s and whatever Heavy Vinyl they’re making now – it sure won’t sound like this!
  • Features performances by Rollins with Herbie Hancock, Thad Jones, Ron Carter, Bob Cranshaw and Roy McCurdy on several bebop tunes

(more…)

Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records – RCA Released This Awful Living Stereo with Reiner in 1958

More of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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 LSC’s on the original label.

More than that, he might limit himself to 1S Indianapolis pressings. Hoorah! 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 2216, and we’ve played plenty of them over the decades we’ve been in the business of selling Golden Age Classical records.

A copy came in just last week and I figured it was time to give it a spin and see if there was any reason to change my opinion. Hey, maybe this one had Hot Stampers! Can’t say it wouldn’t be possible. Unlikely, yes, impossible, no.

So here’s what I heard. No real top above 6k, hardly any bottom, dry and thin, but with a very wide stage – the textbook definition of “boxy sound.”

If you are a fan of Living Stereo pressings, have you noticed that many of them – this one for example – don’t sound good?

If you’re an audiophile with good equipment, you should have. But did you? Or did you buy into the hype surrounding these rare LSC pressings and just ignore the problems with the sound?

There is plenty of hype surrounding the hundreds of Heavy Vinyl pressings currently in print. I read a lot about how wonderful their sound is, but when I actually play them, I rarely find them to be any better than mediocre, and most of them are downright awful.

Music Matters made this garbage remaster. Did anyone notice how awful it sounded? I could list a hundred more that range from bad to worse — and I have! Take your pick: there are more than 150 entries in our Heavy Vinyl Disasters section, each one worse sounding than the next.

It seems as if the audiophile public has bought completely into the hype for these modern Heavy Vinyl pressings. Audiophiles have made the mistake of approaching these records without the slightest trace of skepticism. How could so many be fooled so badly? Surely some of these people have good enough equipment to allow them to hear how bad these records sound.

Maybe not this guy, or this guy, but there has to be at least some group of audiophiles, however small their number, with decent equipment and two working ears out there, right? (Excluding our customers of course, they have to know what is going on to spend the kind of money they spend on our records. And then write us all those letters.) (more…)

Strauss / Ein Heldenleben / Reiner on Victrola – Reviewed Way Back When

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

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This Plum Label original Victrola pressing has EXCELLENT SOUND on side one, earning a grade of A++. It’s quite a step up from the other copies we played. As you may know, this is one of the earliest RCA stereo recordings, dating from 1954 and the same sessions as the famous Reiner recording LSC 1806. This two microphone, two-channel recording, however, was never released in stereo on vinyl until the Victrola era ten years later.  

The sound on side one is very transparent, with nice texture to the strings and brass. It’s not nearly as dark as the average copy.

Side two suffers from some of that dark quality and rated an A Plus grade. It has more of a distant quality.

One further note: we used to like the RCA Half-Speed pressing of the work, but playing it recently made me realize just how dark, smeary and thick it is. Don’t know what I ever saw in it to tell you the truth.

Respighi / Pines of Rome / Reiner – Reviewed (Probably Inaccurately) in 2006

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[Back in 2006 we liked Red Seal pressings of Living Stereo recordings a lot more than we do nowadays, so take this commentary with a huge grain of salt. Only the advent of top quality  cleaning equipment and our much improved playback made it possible for us to hear the earlier pressings in all their glory.]

Live and Learn we say!

This Minty looking RCA Red Seal pressing has EXCELLENT SOUND. We did a big shootout today with a number of pressings, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. The Shaded Dogs tend to have more weight to them, but are never cut as cleanly and usually lack top end extension. The Red Seals and White Dogs are lower distortion and have better highs but tend to lack weight down at the bottom. (more…)

Witches’ Brew / Gibson – Living Stereo Pressing Reviewed in 2007

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DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND, of a sort. As I’ve said elsewhere on the site, this is not my idea of natural tonality.

As for the music, I have long held that the Danse Macabre on this album is the best ever. I probably still agree with that [not anymore, here’s a better one], but so much of the material on this record is amazingly good that that’s actually kind of a left-handed compliment. The entire side 2 is outstanding from start to finish.

The excerpt on side 1 from Pictures at an Exhibition and the complete A Night on Bare Mountain are both played with a kind of energy and requisite orchestral technical quality that makes these pieces come alive right in your living room.

Only the Arnold piece on this record is not particularly inspiring, although it does have excellent sound. All in all, an amazing group of warhorses given a fresh reading by Alexander Gibson and the New Symphony Orchestra of London.

Now let’s talk about the Classic Records 200 gram version, painful as that may be. I’ve long held that the remastering of that album is nothing less than a crime against music lovers and audiophiles of every stripe. Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that Witches’ Brew needed.

At the risk of insulting some of you out there, if you think the Classic Records version of this album sounds good, your system must be very dull and bass shy, or you must like really hi-fi-ish sound. There is no way that that record should ever sound good on a system that’s remotely accurate. I’ve heard this record played by people attempting to demonstrate the sound of their system, which nearly caused blood to run from my ears. All the while they had a big grin on their face, so pleased with the sound. I don’t understand how anyone can put up with that kind of sound, but obviously people do, so what can I say? People like lots of things I don’t like, and the Classic record is just one more to add to that list. If you want to know why I hate the Classic, buy this pressing and see for yourself where Bernie went wrong.