Labels We Love – RCA Living Stereo

Rachmaninoff / De Falla – Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini / Nights In The Gardens Of Spain

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

More Classical Recordings in Living Stereo

  • You’ll find STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound throughout this vintage (but not original) RCA pressing of these wonderful classical compositions
  • The rich, textured sheen of the strings the RCA engineers achieved in the ’50s and ’60s is a joy to hear throughout these pieces
  • This is something the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound just does not exist on modern remastered records the way it does on these vintage pressings
  • The Tubey Magical richness is off the charts on this copy – if you want to know what kind of sound wins shootouts around these parts, this pressing will show you
  • To see more of the best orchestral recordings with top quality sound we’ve done shootouts for, click here
  • If you’re a fan of Rachmaninoff and/or Rubinstein, this Living Stereo from 1960 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Until we heard the right later pressings, we had always been disappointed with this TAS List recording, wondering what all the fuss was about.

Well, now we know. The early Shaded Dog pressings have consistently worse sound than the reissues we are offering here.

We never offered the record in Hot Stamper form because we didn’t think the sound of the originals was all that impressive, TAS List or no TAS List.

Mystery solved, and truly Hot Stampers have now been made available to the discriminating audiophile.

Harry’s list, as was so often the case, did not provide the information needed to hear the recording properly. Did Harry ever have a good pressing? We’ll never know.

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Gilbert and Sullivan – Overtures / Ward

More of the music of Gilbert and Sullivan

More Classical Recordings in Living Stereo

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides of this superb Living Stereo pressing of Gilbert and Sullivan’s music
  • Rich and sweet Living Stereo sound from the first note to the last – who can resist these sublime orchestral arrangements?
  • The Overtures are played to perfection – for music and sound, this one is hard to fault, a Top Title in every way and one that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection

The hall is HUGE: spacious and open as any you will hear, but not at the expense of richness or fullness. The orchestra is solid and full-bodied, yet the woodwinds and flutes soar above the other sections, so breathy and clear. How did the Decca (recording) and RCA (mastering) engineers succeed so brilliantly where so many others have failed, failed right up to this very day?

Who knows? It’s still a mystery that has yet to be explained, to my satisfaction anyway.

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

Hot Stamper Pressings of Orchestral Spectaculars

More Living Stereo Recordings

This copy from years ago 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.

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The Ames Brothers with Esquivel – Hello Amigos

More Exotica

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

  • By far the best sound we have ever heard for The Ames Brothers
  • 1960 Webster Hall vocals in RCA Living Stereo sound at its best
  • Huge, rich, smooth and natural, the Tubey Magic is off the charts
  • Esquivel and His Orchestra bring some fun Exotica flourishes to these Latin tunes

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. This is vintage analog at its best, so rich and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to “improve” upon it.

This recording is the very definition of The Sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, nor will any CD ever be able to capture what is in the grooves of this pressing.

For the audiophile of wide ranging taste, both the sound and the music should be lots of fun. If you want to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, I’d be hard pressed to think of another record that could do the job better than this one.

Perfect for demo-ing your stereo to anyone who thinks audio recording technology has improved in the last forty years. (more…)

Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique – Gorgeous Living Stereo Strings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

More Records that Are Good for Testing String Tone and Texture

Gorgeous Golden Age Tubey Magical strings, lovely hall acoustics. The size and power of a large orchestra in Living Stereo sound. One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork.

This is a piece that’s difficult to squeeze onto two sides of a single LP, clocking in as it does at around 45 minutes, which means that the mastering engineer has three options when cutting the record: compress the dynamics, lower the level, or filter out the deep bass. The RCA mastering engineer for this pressing managed to hold on to the powerful dynamics captured by the Decca (as far as I know) recording team, seemingly without doing harm to dynamics, levels or deep bass. How, I have no idea.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous Living Stereo strings and hall acoustics that let us forget about the possibility of compromises in other areas.

So open and spacious, with gorgeous, richly textured Living Stereo strings — this is the VIVID sound we love from the Golden Age!

The hall is huge, the brass solid and powerful, the top and bottom extends properly, the stage is wide and clear — what more can you ask for? 

Classic Records Pressings and Their Abysmal String Tone

Of course this was always the downfall of the Classic Records RCA remasterings. Their records had bass and dynamics, no one could deny it, but the strings were usually shrill and the hall practically non-existent. We found out just today [which was quite a while ago of course] that there is a new series of recuts coming from Acoustic Sounds. Based on their dismal track record I will be very surprised if they are much better than mediocre. We look forward to playing one or two.

Monteux Is The Man

According to the biographical sketch in Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Monteux “was never an ostentatious conductor … [he prepared] his orchestra in often arduous rehearsals and then [used] small but decisive gestures to obtain playing of fine texture, careful detail and powerful rhythmic energy, retaining to the last his extraordinary grasp of musical structure and a faultless ear for sound quality.” – Wikipedia

Ballet Music From The Opera – Listening for Smear and Compression

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

This Super Rare, Highly Collectible copy of LSC 2400 has vintage RCA Golden Age sound, for better and for worse. Even though the album was recorded by Decca, it’s got a heavy dose of Living Stereo Tubey Magic. There will never be a reissue of this record that even remotely captures the richness of the sound found here.  

And the hall is HUGE — so spacious and three-dimensional it’s almost shocking, especially if you’ve been playing the kind of dry, multi-miked modern recordings that the ’70s ushered in for London and RCA. (EMI is super spacious but much of that space is weird, coming from out of phase back channels folded in to the stereo mix. And often so mid-hall and distant. Not our sound, sorry.)

Side One

Big and lively. The Tubey Magic colorations are a bit much for us, with too much tube smear on the strings and brass to earn more than a single plus.

Side Two

Even bigger and more spacious, with some smear from compression of course, but the quiet passages are magical.


This Recording Is Good for Testing the Following Qualities:

Ambience, Size and Space

Compression 

Smear


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

Bob and Ray / Throw a Stereo Spectacular

More Bob and Ray

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this Living Stereo pressing with be very hard to beat
  • Originally produced as a sampler record for the Living Stereo line, it is an absolute MUST OWN for serious audiophiles looking to take their system to the next level
  • Our reference copy here at Better Records is so vital to our operation that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price!
  • 4 stars: “The gleefully cacophonous Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band takes the prize for providing the most unusual musical selection, but the overall program is extremely diverse [and] the comedy and music are enjoyable.”

Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment — we seem to do them almost weekly these days — has to pass one test and one test only: The Bob and Ray Test.

This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: “The Song of the Volga Boatman.”

For the purpose of mounting new carts, our favorite track is “The Song of the Volga Boatman” on Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular (LSP 1773). It’s by far the most difficult track we know of to get to sound right.

There are about twenty places in the music that we use as tests, and the right setting is the one that gets the most of them to sound their best. With every change, some of the twenty will sound better and some will sound worse. Recognizing when the sound is the biggest, clearest, and most balanced from top to bottom is a skill that has taken me twenty years to acquire.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. The longer you have been in audio the more complicated it seems, which may be counterintuitive but comports well with our day-to-day experience very well.

All our room treatments and tweaks must pass The Bob and Ray Test, as well. It’s the one record we have relied on more than any other over the course of the last several years.

Presenting as it does a huge studio full of brass players, no record we know of is more dynamic or more natural sounding — when the system is working right. When it’s not working right, the first thirty seconds is all it takes to show you the trouble you are in.

If you don’t have a record like that in your collection, you need to find one. It will be invaluable to you in the long run.

The copy we have is so good, and is so important to our operation here, that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price.

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Beethoven / ’Kreutzer’ Sonata – Putting Your System to the (Violin and Piano) Test

Hot Stamper Pressings with Jascha Heifetz Performing

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings Featuring Jascha Heifetz

Do you want a recording that is going to put your system to the test? Well this is that record! That violin is REAL. As you compare equipment or tweak your system, you will hear the sound of that violin change and it should be obvious when it gets better and when it gets worse. 

The piano is also very well recorded. If you lose some body to the piano you’re probably going in the wrong direction. But since that direction would make the violin almost unbearable sounding, I’m going to guess that would be easily recognized as a mistake.

The balance between those two instruments on this recording is perfection, so if you get this record right, you’re making progress of the most important kind: toward musical naturalness.

Otherwise this violin, at least on the Kreutzer Sonata, is going to tear your head off.

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Vivaldi / 4 Bassoon Concertos in Living Stereo

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

If you’re a fan of Vivaldi, this Living Stereo from 1959 belongs in your collection. The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This rare and mostly quiet Shaded Dog pressing has SUPERB sound on side one, earning a sonic grade of A++. To our surprise side two was even better; we called it A++ to A+++.

It was surely one of the best sounding records we played in our classical shootouts that day.

This is Golden Age Living Stereo sound at its Tubey Magical best.

Side One

A++, with tonality that is Right On The Money (ROTM). Huge stage as well, deep and wide. Not as transparent as some of the other Golden Age pressings we played that day, we call this one Super Hot.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, and here the music seems to be better as well as the sound, which is more open and even sweeter and smoother (in a good way). (more…)

Vivaldi, Bach, et al. / Concertos for Cello / Janigro

Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

  • A glorious Living Stereo recording from 1960 of cello concertos on the early Shaded Dog label – this copy had Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, remarkably quiet for a record that is 60 years old
  • Janigro’s cello is immediate, real and lively here – you are in the presence of greatness with this copy
  • This record will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listeners among you will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it.

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