Labels With Shortcomings – Cisco/Boxstar

Shostakovich / Symphony No. 5 / Bernstein – Cisco Reviewed and Recommended

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

More music written or performed by Leonard Bernstein

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Sonic Grade: B

Years ago we wrote the following:

This Cisco 180 gram LP has EXCELLENT SOUND. Without a doubt this pressing is a HUGE improvement over the majority of shrill originals. Robert Pincus, Mr. Record himself, loaned me his best original Columbia pressing for the shootout. Not surprisingly it sounded every bit as hard, shrill and aggressive as others I have heard. Sounds lovely in the quiet passages, but you better cover your ears in the tuttis.

That’s why you see so few Columbia classical LPs on our site; the sound is usually terrible, and almost always in the same way: boosted upper midrange/ lower highs.

These records no doubt sounded great on the consoles of the day, with speakers aimed at your knees, but on modern hi-fi rigs they are positively deadly.

The aforementioned Mr. Record was also kind enough to provide us with an acetate of the very same recording, one which was cut a bit too loud and couldn’t be used. It sounded very much like our test pressing — warm, rich, and natural, with not a hint of phony sound from top to bottom. It was, however, a bit more textured, spacious and resolving of detail, exactly what you would expect. That said, the finished record has more than enough of all the best qualities we look for in a classical LP, especially that rare quality of Right On The Money Tonality. The string tone is superb. Not many modern remasterings can make that claim. Very few in fact.

This wonderful music belongs in any serious collection. Now that the sound matches the performance, it can be yours, on quiet vinyl no less.

This one gets a Top Recommendation from Better Records as one of the few heavy vinyl pressings that can actually beat some if not most of the originals.

We can’t be sure we would still agree with any of this but I’m guessing the Cisco pressing is still a good sounding record at the price. (more…)

Doc Watson / Home Again – Another Dog from Cisco Records

More Doc Watson

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Folks, if you made the mistake of buying the Cisco Heavy Vinyl reissue of this album that came out in the early 2000s, you are in for treat if you are able to grab one of our Hot Stamper pressings.

Instead of Doc and his bandmates playing from behind a thick curtain at the back of your sound room, they can now be heard where they should have been all along: front and center between your speakers!

The difference between a truly outstanding vintage pressing and this Modern Mockery of Analog could not be more striking.

We never got around to putting the Cisco pressing in our Hall of Shame (300+ strong!). There are just not enough hours in the day…

(more…)

Dexter Gordon / One Flight Up – A Dubby Mess on Cisco Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex /  Boxstar.

You will have a hard time finding any pressing that doesn’t sound better than this “dubby” Cisco LP. (The DMM reissues are worse, but I can’t think of any others offhand that would be. The CDs of course, but that’s a case of apples and oranges.)

If smeared transients and zero ambience are your kind of sound, this is the record for you! 

Brahms / Concerto for Violin & Cello on Cisco Heavy Vinyl

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[An old review. We would not stand behind what we say here about the superiority of the Cisco pressing over the Shaded Dog.]

180g Cisco LP. The performances here are of course extraordinary, but this has never been one of RCA’s best recordings. The originals have more Tubey Magic; these 180 gram versions more accuracy of presentation, clarity and definition. Much less distortion too. (more…)

Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto – Milstein – Cisco Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B? C?

This review was written long ago, when the sonic problems of even the best Heavy Vinyl pressings were not as bothersome as they are now that we have a much improved playback system (equipment, tweaks, room, electricity, cleaning regimen and all the rest). “C” would probably be the grade I would give the record now. For the price — cheap compared to anything we can sell you — it might represent good value to audiophiles on a budget.

This new Cisco 180 gram LP has WARM, SWEET, TUBEY MAGICAL sound. Tired of the shrill Classic with Heifetz? Here’s a romantic violinist with the kind of tone that draws you into this enchanting music. And Cisco’s sound here will have the same effect. This is a WONDERFUL record in every respect. We love what Milstein did with the famous Dvorak concerto. We think you will love his performance of the Tchaicovsky work every bit as much.

When it comes to romantic violinists, Milstein is The Man.

“It’s another offering from Cisco’s favorite violinist, Nathan Milstein, performing Tchaikovsky’s emotionally enigmatic and structurally sophisticated violin concerto. Every memorable melody and sharply dynamic contrast teems with yearning, purpose and subtext. Milstein’s silvery tone and respectful phrasing illuminates the rich orchestral detailing and majestic arrangement.”

Source: Cisco Music

Tchaikovsky – Serenade for Strings – Munch – A Cisco Recommended LP

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Sonic Grade: B

[Reviewed many years ago, so take it with a grain of salt.]

This Cisco 180 gram LP has Very Good sound. The original Shaded Dogs tend to be warmer and sweeter, but also more compressed and a bit smeary. This pressing is alive and present, although the string tone can be a bit steely at times.

If you have a warm, tubey system this record may just be the ticket. If your system leans toward the dry and analytical, this is not the record for you.

Be that as it may, the PERFORMANCE IS KING HERE — one of the best ever recorded, more powerful and more emotional than any I know. This orchestra is on fire with this stirring music. If you haven’t heard Munch’s definitive performance, you haven’t really heard the Serenade for Strings. This is your chance to hear string playing that will have you sitting up in your chair, transfixed by the energy and enthusiasm of the Boston Symphony strings. (more…)

Jennifer Warnes – Famous Blue Raincoat – How Do the Heavy Vinyl Versions Sound?

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What’s interesting about the Cypress LPs is that they come two very different ways. Most of them are ridiculously thin, bright, grainy and digital sounding. This explains why some audiophiles in the past have preferred the Canadian pressings: they are smoother and fuller.

However, compared to the good stamper domestic versions they are dull and lifeless.

The Classic 180 gram reissue that came out a number of years ago was somewhere in between the good stamper originals and the bad stamper originals. The better sounding Cypress pressings absolutely MURDER it.

As far as the new Cisco 45 RPM pressings are concerned, we’ve never bothered to crack one open and play it. It’s been quite a while since Bernie cut any record that we thought sounded good, and some of his recent work has been unbelievably bad (the Doors box comes readily to mind), so we’ve never felt motivated enough to make the effort.

He cut many versions of this record as you probably know, some of which have turned out to be Hot Stampers, but that was a long time ago.

Does the Audio World really need another Heavy Vinyl Debunking entry from us? If Heavy Vinyl pressings are giving you the sound you want, you sure don’t need to be on our site. Those sacred cows get slaughtered pretty regularly around here. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Real Aja Vs. Cisco Aja

More Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

It’s amusing that even Golden Ears who have the attention of large readerships can miss and misunderstand so much. You don’t have to understand the technical why of the variability of LPs to appreciate just how profound the audible differences can be from stamper to stamper. Even in acknowledging that differences are present, they do not seem to appreciate the extreme degree of the variation in sound among LPs from different stampers.

As so many of us have learned from you, a “hot stamper” LP is simply in a whole different league in sound quality. A good sound system is necessary to realize just how big that difference is and the more optimized that system is the better.

Beyond the audible reality and the technical issues, it is the subject of value that is not understood or appreciated. The ability to simply find a nice playable copy of a vintage LP is a major task. So many LPs have suffered the gouging of what must have been a rusty nail used as a stylus as well as all the other sins that can be wreaked on the plastic disc. Then the incredible task of assembling enough different copies to be able to do the “shoot-out” would seem impossible.

I have, as many now may have tried, done a simple “shoot-out” of a few copies of a favorite LP. Among those I have always found the “better” of the bunch. Now and then and just by luck (since the statistics of not having enough samples was not working in my favor) I have found what must indeed be a “hot stamper). And WOW …..what a difference!

The number of times this has occurred fits on less than one hand yet when you hear an LP that has been mixed and mastered really well and then “transferred” with care and quality via an excellent stamper, there is an epiphany. Suddenly you hear what you often refer to as “master tape” sound. As I have said before, this is really a sad statement about the quality and consistency of record production throughout its history.

The “Audiophile” Half-Speed thing only piles it on top of this with the way mastering at half speed seems to extract the dynamic life and frequency response from an album in contrast to a standard copy. The logical intention that mastering at half speed would allow the cutting lathe tool to have “more time” to lay down more of the music signal just never really worked. You would think the “Golden Ears” that developed this idea would have compared the result with real-time cutting speed (not brain surgery). I never wanted all this to be the way it is and didn’t even know it until I stumbled upon Better Records one day. But it is the way it is!

There seems to be a focus on the “wear” of the stamper as the primary cause of differences in the quality of the vinyl LP. My sense is that there is much variation over time in the production of stampers regarding the audio mastering and transfer in tonal balance and especially in the degree of compression used for a specific stamper that can destroy the “life and transparency” of the sound. This has nothing to do with stamper wear or physical variation but can vary from stamper to stamper over the duration of being in print and production and in some cases, never get transferred correctly.

I purchased the new Cisco Steely Dan “Aja” album hoping it would deliver perhaps even greater sound than the original and the hype regarding the remix quality, heavy virgin vinyl, etc, etc. certainly suggested that. After playing a few very smooth and quiet bands I put on my excellent vintage copy of Aja that proceeded to destroy the Cisco. The life, dynamics and transparency were in a totally different and superb league above. I very carefully returned my now even more precious copy to its sleeve. A few dealers that sell reissues like Aja will sometimes admit this but they certainly don’t want the world to know it. (more…)

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto – Misty – Reviewed in 2010

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This is a Factory Sealed 33 RPM Three Blind Mice 180g LP which comes highly recommended! This was the first Three Blind Mice recording I ever heard, over 20 years ago. A fellow audiophile who went on to become sort of an audio guru for me (George Louis) played me this record to demonstrate his stereo. It had to be the most dynamic piano recording I had ever heard in my life. 

Yamamoto likes to tinkle the keys very softly, and then really pound them. And the Three Blind Mice engineers were able to capture both the quiet tinkling because of the Japanese vinyl, and the full-on pounding because of the audiophile recording equipment they used. It was an ear-opening experience.

Over the course of the next year or two, I sold off my Fulton Premiers and my Audio Research Electronics, because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get Misty to sound like it did at George’s house. I realized that it takes better equipment than those companies ever produced to get the sound of that record right, and that put me on, to quote Cat Stevens, ”the road to find out’.’ (more…)

Jennifer Warnes / The Well – Records Like This Make Audiophiles the Laughing Stocks of the Music-Loving World

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Some of the worst sound I have ever heard in my life, worse than The Hunter even, and that’s saying something!

If this kind of crap is what audiophiles choose to play then they deserve all the derision heaped upon them.

We’re glad we no longer offer embarrassments such as The Well, although we did, many years ago. In our defense we would simply offer up this old maxim: de gustibus non est disputandum.

Our old slogan was Records for Audiophiles, Not Audiophile Records, but we also followed this business rule: Give the Customer What He Wants.

If this is your thing, more power to you, but you may suspect you are on the wrong site. We sell real music, with much better sound than anything ever pressed on Heavy Vinyl.