Labels With Shortcomings – Classic Records – Classical

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture – Classic Records and the TAS List

This is a classic case of Live and Learn. We used to like the Classic Records pressing of LSC 2241 a lot more than we do now. Our system was noticeably darker and also far less revealing when we last auditioned the Classic back in the ’90s, and those two qualities did most of the heavy lifting to disguise its shortcomings.

We mistakenly noted: HP put the Shaded Dog pressing (the only way it comes; there is no RCA reissue to my knowledge) on his TAS List of Super Discs, and with good reason: it’s wonderful!

The rest of our commentary still holds up though:

But for some reason he also put the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl reissue on the list, and that record’s not even passable, let alone wonderful. It’s far too lean and modern sounding, and no original Living Stereo record would ever sound that way, thank goodness. 

If they did few audiophiles would still be paying the top dollar collector prices that the Shaded Dog commands to this day.

Updated Thoughts on the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl Reissue

The Classic on Heavy Vinyl (LSC 2241) is lean and modern sounding. No early Living Stereo pressing sounds like it in our experience, and we can only thank goodness for that. If originals and early reissues did sound more like the Classic pressings, my guess is that few would collect them and practically no one would put much sonic stock in them.

Apparently most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a classical recording of the quality of a good original pressing (or good ’60s or ’70s reissue). If they had Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and recognized and identified as such by us way back in 1994.

I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled — to this very day! There are dozens on the TAS List for Pete’s sake — but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases. (We do admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock records, and we have the We Was Wrong entries on the site to prove it.)

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

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Chabrier / Espana / Paray – We Review the Classic Records Pressing on the TAS List

Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another record perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

I much prefer Ansermet’s performances on London to those of Paray on Mercury. I know of none better. The famous Classic pressing of the Mercury is a grainy, gritty, shrill piece of crap.

I don’t know how dull and smeary a stereo would have to be in order to play a record this phony and modern sounding and make it listenable, but I know that it would have to be very dull and very smeary, with the kind of vintage sound that might work for Classic’s Heavy Vinyl pressings but not much else.

It’s a disgrace, and the fact that it’s on the TAS Super Disc List is even more disgraceful. Of course the lovely London (CS 6438) we prefer is nowhere to be found on Harry’s List, which should not be too surprising. Most of the best records we play are exactly that — nowhere to be found on his list.

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chabrier

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Various Composers / The Reiner Sound – Classic Records Reviewed

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Sonic Grade: F

There is simply an amazing amount of TOP END on the original pressing we played a while back (reviewed below). Rarely do I hear Golden Age recordings with this kind of ENERGY and extension up top.

This is of course one of the reasons the Classic reissue is such a disaster. With all that top end energy, Bernie’s gritty cutting system and penchant for boosted upper midrange frequencies positively guarantees that the Classic Reiner Sound will be all but unplayable on a good system.  

Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that The Reiner Sound needs.

You may have read on the site that, unlike many soi-disant audiophiles who buy into HP’s classical choices, I am not the biggest Reiner fan. On these works, though, I would have to say the performances are Top Drawer, some of the best I have ever heard. The amount of energy he manages to coax from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is nothing less than BREATHTAKING.

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Classic Records Stops Making Bad Records But Acoustic Sounds Picks Up Where They Left Off

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DATELINE 8/29/2010

Classic Records has officially gone under. They will not be missed, not by us anyway, except for this reason: to borrow a line from Richard Nixon, I guess we won’t have Classic Records to kick around anymore. We’ve been beating that dead horse since the day they started back in 1994. There are scores of commentaries on the site about their awful records for those who care to read about such things.

The last review we wrote for them, for their remastered Scheherazade, is one in which we awarded the Classic a sonic grade of F.

TAS Superdisc List to this day? Of course it is!

With every improvement we’ve made to our system over the years, their records have somehow managed to sound progressively worse. (This is pretty much true for all Heavy Vinyl pressings, another good reason for our decision to stop carrying them in 2011.) That ought to tell you something.

Better audio stops hiding and starts revealing the shortcomings of bad records. At the same time, and much more importantly, better audio reveals more and more of the strengths and beauty of good records.

Which of course begs the question of what actually is a good record — what it is that makes one record good and another bad — but luckily for you dear reader, you are actually on a site that has much to say about those very issues. Every Hot Stamper commentary is fundamentally about the specific attributes that make one copy of a given album better than another, and how much of them you’re getting for your money with the unique pressing on offer.

There are scores of commentaries on the site about the huge improvements in audio available to the discerning (and well-healed) audiophile as you’ve no doubt read by now. It’s the reason Hot Stampers can and do sound dramatically better than their Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile counterparts: because your stereo is good enough to show you the difference.

With Old School equipment you will continue to be fooled by bad records, just as I and all my audio buds were fooled twenty and thirty years ago. Audio has improved immensely in that time. If you’re still playing Heavy Vinyl and Audiophile pressings there’s a world of sound you’re missing. We would love to help you find it. (more…)

Gershwin / Concerto in F – String Tone Is Key

More George Gershwin

More Orchestral Spectaculars

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Sonic Grade: C-

I must admit Classic Records did a passable job with this one. The two things that separate the good originals from the reissue are in some ways related. Classic, as is their wont, boosted the upper midrange, and that, coupled with their transistory mastering equipment, makes the strings brighter, grainier and yet somehow lacking in texture and sheen compared to the originals (a clear sign of a low-res cutting chain).

Once you recognize that quality in the sound of a record it’s hard to ignore, and I hear it on every Classic Record I play. (This commentary has more on the subject.)

RCA is more famous for its string tone than anything else. If the strings on the Classic Records LPs don’t bother you, you can save yourself a lot of money by not buying authentic RCA pressings — and get quieter vinyl to boot.

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.


HOT STAMPERS

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection (more…)

Classic Records Had an Epiphany in 2007 – UHQRs Actually DO Sound Good!

More on the UHQR

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[This commentary is from 2007 and admittedly a bit long in the tooth for the brave new world of Heavy Vinyl we currently find ourselves in. Classic Records has been gone for quite a while and when that happened we said good riddance to their bad records.]

Mike Hobson finally figured out why his pressings often don’t sound good and/or are noisy. We’ll let him explain it. If you want the whole story (which goes on for days) you can find it on the Classic Records web site. While you’re there, remember the sound.

One day, while out for a run, I had an epiphany and rushed home to dig out a JVC pressing from the 1980’s pressed for Herb Belkin’s Mobile Fidelity. The Mobile Fidelity UHQR pressings were always revered as sounding better than the standard weight pressings from JVC – but why I thought? To find out, I cut a UHQR pressing in half and guess what I found? First, it weighed 195 grams and IT WAS A FLAT PROFILE! I cut a 120g JVC pressing in half and found that it had the conventional profile that, with small variations, seems to be a record industry standard and is convex in it’s [sic] profile – NOT FLAT.

So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings! [italics added]

There was no need to saw up a record; Mofi actually explained in the booklet for every UHQR how its shape differed from a conventional disc. Here is one of the images they used in the technical specs booklet that came with most UHQRs. Yes, it’s flat. (The later ones didn’t have the booklet because the whole project was such a disaster that they didn’t want to spend the money to print them for records they were selling below their cost. When I first got in the audiophile record biz in the late ’80s I was buying boxfuls of sealed UHQRs for $9 each.)

Let’s Get Real

UHQRs were junk then and they are junk now. They are plain and simply bad sounding records. The UHQR pressings may have been revered in their day, may even be revered now, but they are truly awful sounding records, Tea for the Tillerman probably being the worst among them.

Do UHQRs sound better than the standard weight pressings MoFi was pressing at the time? Some do and some don’t, but what difference does that make? Bad sound is bad sound; whether one bad record is slightly better than another bad record is not particularly helpful to know. (more…)

Shostakovich / The Age of Gold – If You Own This Pressing, My Guess Is It’s Pristine

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

When Classic Records was blowing out its unsold inventory through the Tower Records Classical Annex in Hollywood many years ago — apparently they had run into some financial trouble — this was a title you could pick up for under ten bucks. I remember it being $7, but my memory may not be correct on that point. Whatever the price, it was cheap.

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 pristine.

If you played it at all, you played it once and put it away on a shelf where it probably sits to this very day. Good records get played and bad records don’t. If you have lots of pristine records on your shelves, ask yourself this question: Why don’t I want to play them?

You may not like the implications of the answer: They aren’t any good.

And that means you should never have bought them in the first place. But we all make mistakes. Owning up to them may be hard, but it is the only way to make any real progress in this hobby.

The One Out of Ten Rule

If you have too many classical records taking up too much space and need to winnow them down to a more manageable size, pick a composer and play half a dozen of his works. Most classical records display an irredeemable mediocrity right from the start; it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it.

If you’re after the best sound, it’s the rare record that will have it, which makes clearing shelf space a lot easier than you might imagine. If you keep more than one out of ten you’re probably setting the bar too low, if our experience is any guide.

If you want nothing but amazing sounding classical records, we typically have quite a selection.


Gounod / Ballet Music from Faust / Gibson – Classic Records Reviewed

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

Reviews and Commentaries for Guonod / Faust Ballet Music

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Sonic Grade: C

Classic Records did a passable job with LSC 2449, one of their better efforts, but of course it has almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have, and they have them more often than not in abundance.

Their version is not awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and considering that the original goes for many, many hundreds of dollars, might be worth picking up at a reasonable price.

Most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a classical recording of the quality of a good original. If they had Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and labeled as such by us way back in 1994 as soon as we had a chance to play them.

I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled (HP, how could you?), but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases. (We admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock, and we have the We Was Wrong entries to prove it.)

And the fact that so many of them are currently on the TAS List is a sad comment on how far the mighty have fallen.

FURTHER READING

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

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Beethoven / Violin Concerto – Classic Records Reviewed

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings Featuring Jascha Heifetz

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

It is an airless fraud, a cheap fake reproduction that’s incapable of fooling anyone with two good ears, a properly set up stereo and a decent collection of Golden Age violin concertos. 

The Classic pressing of this album does not present the listener with the sound of a real, wood instrument bowed by horsehair in physical space.

Notes from a Recent Hot Stamper Pressing (more…)

Debussy / Iberia on Classic Records – What, Specifically, Are Its Shortcomings?

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the music of Claude Debussy

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

The Classic of LSC 2222 is all but unlistenable on a highly resolving, properly set-up hi-fidelity system.

The opacity, transient smear and loss of harmonic information and ambience found on Classic’s pressing was enough to drive us right up the wall. Who can sit through a record that sounds like that?

The Classic reissue has plenty of deep bass, but the overall sound of the Classic is shrill and hard and altogether unpleasant, so the better bass comes at a steep price.

Way back in 1994, long before we had anything like the system we do now, we were finding fault with the “Classic Records Sound” and said as much in our catalogs.

With each passing year — 28 and counting — we like that sound less.  The Classic may be on Harry’s TAS list — sad but true — but that certainly has no bearing on the fact that it’s not a very good record.

For a better sounding recording of Iberia, click here.

MORE RECORDS GOOD FOR JUDGING THESE QUALITIES

Ambience, Size and Space

Smear

String Tone and Texture

Transparency Vs Opacity

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