Labels We Love – RCA Victrola Budget Reissue

Beethoven / Wagner – Symphony No. 4 / Siegfried Idyll / Monteux

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This early Plum Label Victrola pressing of these lively and masterful performances earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • 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
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – all qualities the best vintage vinyl classical pressings have in abundance
  • A top performance of the 4th by Monteux and the LSO, with strings that are tonally correct, rich, and sweet
  • The horns on the Wagner piece are exceptionally well reproduced here as well – how could a Wagner record be any good without good horns?
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings that offer the discriminating audiophile pressings with the Best Performances and Top Quality Sound. This record has earned a place on that list.

Both sides of this early Plum Label Victrola pressing are superb, with the kind of string tone only found on the best of the Living Stereo releases and other top quality Golden Age recordings.

Here is the kind of sound that Classic Records could not ignore, even though the original was only ever made available as part of RCA’s budget reissue series, Victrola.

Don’t let its budget status fool you — this pressing puts to shame most of what came out on the full price Living Stereo label. (And handily beats any Classic Records reissue ever made.)

And Monteux is once again superb.

We played a large group of Beethoven’s symphonies this week and this was clearly one of the best, if not THE best. Well recorded Beethoven is hard to come by. The box sets we played were mediocre at best, and that left us with only a handful of clean early pressings. These records just aren’t out there like they used to be.

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Vintage Vinyl Sound You Won’t Find on Modern LPs and CDs

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

More Recordings from Kingsway Hall

Here is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. 

It’s also proof positive that Decca’s choice of Kingsway Hall as a recording venue was a good one. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy.

If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are so consistently unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD and no Heavy Vinyl pressing ever sounded like this in our experience.

The richness of the strings, a signature sound for Decca in the Fifties and Sixties, is on display here for fans of the classical Golden Age. It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years (and this of course includes practically everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl).

It may be a lost art, but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play, it’s an art that is not lost on us. I don’t think the Decca engineers could have recorded this music much better than they dhave here — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

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Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque (RCA Victrola) / Fiedler

More Music Conducted by Arthur Fiedler

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this vintage RCA Victrola stereo pressing of these delightful orchestral pieces
  • Unlike the original Shaded Dog pressings, this Victrola is in correct polarity on both sides
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – this recording, when mastered and pressed right, as is the case here, is the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • When we talk about space and transparency, we’re talking about recordings that sound like this one
  • A favorite title with audiophiles – it’s full of lovely orchestral colors and, as usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops know how to bring them out
  • More of the music of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1863)
  • More of the music of Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)

Fiedler has a way with the Ibert piece here like nobody’s business; the performance is definitive, although the sound is not as good as La Boutique Fantasque, which is nothing short of amazing. The Kay piece sounds excellent here and is beautifully performed. Fiedler is hard to beat on music like this.

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Saint-Saëns, Chausson – Poème / Introduction And Rondo Capriccio / Oistrakh

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout this original RCA Victrola Stereo pressing
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that most of our classical records, even the mintiest ones, cannot quite manage
  • One of the best violin recordings we offer – the rich, textured sheen of the strings is clearly evident throughout these pieces
  • The sound is big and rich and ALIVE with pyrotechnic fireworks on side one – if you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them
  • The highlight for us on a collection like this is always going to be The Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, “one of Saint-Saëns’ few genuine showpieces.”

The violin here is superb — rich, smooth, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound. The Tubey Magical richness is to die for.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Zero smear, high-rez transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — it takes the sound of this recording beyond what we thought was possible.

The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented (on side one; side two is simply violin and piano) with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy. If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

The richness of the strings is on display for fans of the classical Golden Age.

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years. It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that is not lost on us.

I don’t think the RCA engineers could have cut this record much better — it has all the stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

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Shostakovich – Symphony No.1 / The Age Of Gold Ballet Suite / Martinon

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

  • The Symphony No. 1 concludes for about the first inch on side two and is excellent as well, with many of the same attributes, as rightly befits a true Golden Age Classic from 1959
  • Recorded in Kingsway Hall with the London Symphony, this Decca licensed title has orchestral sound to rival the best you’ve heard
  • “This is an example of what art as recorded sound should strive to be. A triumph for all participants.”

The second picture you see is the original Living Stereo release.

Our Story

The first copy of the album I got my hands on and needle-dropped blew me away with its big, open, clear, solid orchestral sound. Close to three years later, when we had enough copies to do this shootout, sure enough it won. That rarely happens — in a big pile of records there’s almost always something better than whatever we’ve heard — but it happened this time.

Imagine if I had played one of the bad sounding or noisy ones to start with. It’s unlikely I would have been motivated to pursue the title and consequently the shootout we just did would have never happened. Lucky for us all that that first copy was so good.

These sides are “real” sounding, with a clean bottom and clean lower mids. Little to no smear. The sound is full-bodied and rich, yet clear and clean, and spread out on a huge stage – it’s yet another example of proper Orchestral Reproduction.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage.  (more…)

Gounod – Does Your Copy Have Clipped Bass?

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

This RCA Plum Label Victrola LP has many shortcomings, but its strengths more than compensate for them. The MIDRANGE is pure MAGIC. The sweet, textured strings, the back of the stage percussion, the placement of the orchestral sections in the soundstage, the performance itself — all combine to make you forget you are listening to an old, somewhat flawed record. What has been captured in the grooves of the vinyl allows the listener to do what few recordings can — suspend his disbelief.

It’s not an old record. It’s living, breathing music being performed in the present, at this very moment. It’s happening — one is under the sway of Bizet’s music just as if one were attending the live event. The mind has somehow lost track of the fact that its owner is sitting at home. The listener is transported by the sound, mentally, not physically, to a plane where the real world has no meaning, where music is the only reality.

I played this record and made critical notes for a while. At some point I lost interest in that activity. I simply began to marvel at what the Decca engineers had managed to do, which was to draw me in completely.

Enough about me. 

Here are the comments for the other copy of 1108 we just put up.

This RCA Plum Label Victrola LP, the budget reissue of the incredibly rare LSC 2449, has some of the best and worst Golden Age sound I’ve ever heard. It has most of the magic of the better VICS copy I rave about.

When a cutting amplifier runs out of juice, the bass simply “clips.” The beginning of the bass note is heard, and then it just stops. A fair number of RCA Shaded Dog originals have this problem. The cutting amplifiers of the day were often not up to the job. They ran out of power.

It’s amazing to me that so few collectors of these records even know what I’m talking about when I mention this shortcoming. They just assume it’s something in the recording perhaps. But it’s not. Oftentimes it is simply stamper variations that separate the clipped records from the unclipped records.

The more compression that is used, the less likely it is that the amplifiers will clip at all. But that’s obviously not the solution. And of course if you play records like this back on say, Quads, a notoriously compressed and bass-shy speaker to begin with, you’ll never notice any of this.

You also won’t hear it on this system.

Ah, but here is a wonderful recording that, on the better pressings at least, has deep, powerful, unclipped bass that can rattle the walls and sound like your flooring is in danger of being warped. But you need big woofers to get that effect, and lots of them.

But side two actually sounds quite good. Not as good as the best Shaded Dog copies possibly, but since those are $1000 and up, this has to be considered a good alternative at a fair price.

Lots of Living Stereo magic and a wonderful performance by Gibson make this record easy to recommend.


FURTHER READING

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What to Listen For on Classical Records

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Bach / Mozart / Two Violin Concertos – Laredo

More Violin Recordings

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

This original plum label Victrola pressing from 1965 has SUPERB sound on both sides. The Bach piece is a rich tapestry of strings spread across the stage and clearly separated left to right. There’s not much depth but that seems of little consequence; all the instruments are heard in their proper space and location. The tonality is right on the money throughout.

The Mozart concerto starts out sounding a bit opaque, but about an inch or so into the side it opens up wonderfully, with sweet, spacious, natural sound from there on out. Jaime Laredo plays both works superbly, and the Living Stereo quality sound brings his playing to life in a way that few recordings can.

Although never released as a real LSC, this Victrola pressing is every bit the equal of most of the better Living Stereo pressings. (more…)

Verdi / Rossini / Overtures and Intermezzos

More Classical and Orchestral Music

More Living Stereos

  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for this classic Decca engineered “Living Stereo” Victrola from 1965 – both sides of this pressing earned our top grade of A+++
  • Listen to how rich the cellos sound — this is Tubey Magical Analog and its most luscious and enchanting.
  • You could easily play one hundred classical albums and not hear this kind of sound!
  • If you have the real Living Stereo pressing (with the cool die-cut cover), let us send you this pressing to compare — who knows, you might like it even better than your Shaded Dog
  • Classic Records did this title back in the ’90s, and it was one of the worst of their sorry releases

This 1959 Decca recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl.

On this copy you will find As Good As It Gets sound. It’s so BIG and RICH you will have a hard time believing that it’s a budget reissue from 1965, but that’s precisely what it is.

Ah but it’s a reissue from back in the day when they knew how to cut a record properly, regardless of its retail price.

The rich, textured, rosin-on-the-bow lower strings on this record are to die for. Find me a modern record that sounds like this and I will eat it.

And by “modern record” we hasten to include both modern recordings and modern remasterings of older recordings. NO ONE alive today can make a record that sound even remotely as good as this. To call it a lost art is to understand something that few vinyl-loving audiophiles appear to have grasped since the advent of the Modern Reissue, which is simply this: they can’t begin to compete.

After twenty years of trying and literally hundreds of failed examples the engineers of today have yet to make a record that sounds as powerful and life-like as this London from almost fifty years ago.

Fortunately for the both of us we are not trying to make a record that sounds the way this one does. We’re just trying to find one, and folks, we found the hell out of this one. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 1 – 1957 Living Stereo Is Hard to Beat

  • Both sides of this vintage Victrola pressing are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully preset piano and three-dimensional space around the musicians
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • I used to think that the Classic was better than the Victrola, but that was a long time ago, and I hear a lot of midrange magic on this LP that I don’t think you can find on practically any modern remaster, by Classic Records or anyone else
  • The Classic will be quieter though – we had a devil of a time finding Vics pressings with audiophile quality vinyl

I highly recommend this one, musically and sonically. Everybody loves Rachmaninoff, especially when Byron Janis is at the keyboard, and the Strauss piece is engaging on its own as well.

1957 stereo, can you imagine?

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

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Shostakovich / Symphony No.1 – Lucky for Us the First Copy We Played Was Good

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

The first copy of the album I got my hands on and needle-dropped blew me away with its big, open, clear, solid orchestral sound. Close to three years later, when we had enough copies to do this shootout, sure enough it won. That rarely happens — in a big pile of records there’s almost always something better than whatever we’ve heard — but it happened this time.

Imagine if I had played one of the bad sounding or noisy ones to start with. It’s unlikely I would have been motivated to pursue the title and consequently the shootout we just did would have never happened. Lucky for us all that that first copy was so good.

These sides are “real” sounding, with a clean bottom and clean lower mids. Little to no smear. The sound is full-bodied and rich, yet clear and clean, and spread out on a huge stage – it’s yet another example of proper Orchestral Reproduction.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. 

Classic Records Release on Heavy Vinyl

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as fairly typical of their mediocre-at-best catalog, tonally fine but low-rez and lacking space, warmth and above all Tubey Magic.

I don’t think I’ve ever played an original or a VICS reissue that didn’t sound better, and that means that the best grade to give Classic’s pressing is probably a D: below average.

When Classic Records was blowing out its unsold inventory through the Tower Records Classical Annex in Hollywood, this was a title you could pick up for under ten bucks. I remember it being $7, but my memory may not be correct.

And even at that price it seemed nobody really wanted it.  Which is as it should be. Heavy Vinyl or no Heavy Vinyl, a bad record is a bad record and not worth the bother of sitting down and listening to it.

If you own this record, my guess is it is MINT. If you played it, you played it once and put it away.

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