Labels With Shortcomings – Classic Records – Classical

The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – on Classic Records

More Reviews of Classic Records Classical Titles

More Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

Sonic Grade: C or Better 

Probably a fairly good Classic Records album. When I played this record years ago I thought it was one of the better Classic RCA titles. You can be sure it won’t sound like the original — [almost] no Classic record does — but it might be pretty good all things considered. One thing to consider is that the original in clean condition sells for many thousands of dollars!

Here are a few commentaries you may care to read about Bernie Grundman‘s work as a mastering engineer, good and bad.


FURTHER READING

Heavy Vinyl Disasters 

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities 

Heavy Vinyl Winners

Classic Records and Audio Progress

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP debunked.

Classic Records ruined this album, as anyone who has played some of their classical reissues should have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance.

In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price.

Apparently, most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a top quality classical recording reproduced properly. 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. I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled, 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.)

UPDATE 8/2010

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 making records back in 1994. There are scores of commentaries on the site about their awful records for those who are interested.

The last review we wrote for the remastered Scheherazade, which fittingly ended up in our Hall of Shame, with an equally fitting sonic grade of F.

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

Audio Progress

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.

There are scores of commentaries on the site about the huge improvements in audio available to the discerning (and well-healed) audiophile. 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 an Old School System 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.

One amazing sounding  Orchestral Hot Stamper pressing might just be what it takes to get the ball rolling.


FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records

Top Quality Classical “Sleeper” Recordings

Best Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

Demo Disc Quality Orchestral Recordings

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Liszt / Rhapsodies / Stokowski – Classic Records Reviewed

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

Our Favorite Hungarian Rhapsodies

Sonic Grade: F

The lower strings are wonderful on the original — wall to wall, with that rosiny texture we love. I wrote at the time — this is twenty or so years ago — that the Classic pressing took that rich, dark sound and brightened it up, ruining it in the process.

Cellos and double basses just don’t sound like that. On the best pressings of LSC 2471 their timbre is Right On The Money. Of course, that’s the real thing, not some audiophile rebutchering. 

Now if you’re a Classic Records fan, and you like that brighter, more detailed, more aggressive sound, the original is probably not the record for you.

We don’t like that sound and we don’t like most Classic Records. They may be clean and clear but where is the RCA Living Stereo Magic that made people swoon over these recordings in the first place?

Bernie manages to clean that sound right off the record, and that’s just not our idea of hi-fidelity.

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Offenbach – More Smeary Dreck from Classic Records

More of the Music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

More Reviews and Commentaries for Gaite Parisienne

Our Favorite Performance of Gaite Parisienne

Sonic Grade: F

The last time I played the Classic I thought it was nothing but a smeary mess, as awful as their awful Scheherazade (both shamefully on the Super Disc List as I recall). If I were to play it today I’m guessing it would join the other Classic Records entries in our Hall of Shame. 

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 a rule) is all but impossible nowadays.

If you want to go that way, more power to you. 

This 1954 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work. 1954. Can you believe it? A few mics and two channels and it blows away most of the classical recordings ever done! Some old record collectors and tube lovers say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be. This record proves it.

FURTHER READING

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

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When It Comes to Prokofiev, Classic Records Got One Thing Right

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

Sonic Grade: F 

The Classic has dreadful sound. Their entire Mercury series is a complete disaster.

No audiophile with good equipment and two working ears should have been fooled by the hype swirling around their Heavy Vinyl pressings, although plenty of audiophiles were. 

Bad equipment? Ears not working? Your guess is as good as mine. 

Classic Records is right about the performance, however. See for yourself:

“Whether you prefer the fabulous bass dynamics and savage paganism of the Scythian Suite, the colorful and captivating sound-portrait of the fairy tale Love for Three Oranges Suite, Dorati’s super-charged readings of these scores are unsurpassed. Acclaimed by critics and audiophiles alike as among the very best of the best Mercury’s, this dramatic and riveting combination of Prokofiev, Dorati and Mercury Living Presence is a sure winner.” – Classic Records  

What they are not telling you is that their mastering of the album was dreadful.

If you know the sound of Mercury’s records well, you know that the last thing you would want would be a pressing of SR 90006 that could be described by any of the following five words: Hard, Sour, Colored, Crude or Airless.

But that is exactly what you get with the Classic Records pressing.

If you own the Classic, we can demonstrate just how awful it is, right in your own home. Just buy one of our Hot Stamper pressings and you will hear all the things that your Classic is doing wrong. It does take two working ears and good equipment though, so if you have a top quality system, we have a top quality pressing for you to play on it.

FURTHER READING

Here are a few commentaries you may care to read about Bernie Grundman‘s work as a mastering engineer, good and bad. He cut some amazingly good records in the ’70s and ’80s but the by the ’90s we are not aware of any record he cut that would be worth owning.

Classic Records – Classical

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

Heavy Vinyl Disasters 

A Simple Listening Test Makes It Easy to Judge Pressings of Scheherazade

Hot Stamper Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Advice on What to Listen For on Classical Records

The Classic reissue of LSC 2446 is a disaster for many reasons, but it does have one specific failing that is easy to recognize and worth further discussion and analysis.

As I noted for some of the Classic Heifetz titles a while back, for all I know the CDs for his Living Stereo recordings may have better sound. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s rather poor track record regarding the remastering of his music.

Case in point: The Living Stereo CD I own (both the CD and the SACD) of Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it.

Audiophiles who don’t notice what is wrong with the Classic pressing need to get hold of a nice RCA White Dog pressing to see just how poorly the Classic stacks up. (They could even find one that’s not so nice and listen through the surface noise. The difference would still be obvious.)

The solo violin in the left channel at the opening of the first movement should be all it takes.

Anyone has ever attended a classical music concert should have no trouble recognizing that the violin on any of the Heavy Vinyl pressings, including the Analogue Productions pressing, is completely wrong and sounds nothing like a violin in a concert hall would ever sound.

And I mean ever.

No matter where you might be sitting.

No matter how good or bad the hall’s acoustics.

The violin on these Heavy Vinyl pressings is dark, it’s veiled, and it’s overly rich, as well as lacking in overtones.

Solo violins in live performance never sound anything like that.

They are clear, clean and present. You have no trouble at all “seeing” them, no matter where you sit.

My best sounding White Dog pressing had that kind of clear and present sound for the violin.

Neither of the Heavy Vinyl reissues I auditioned did.

A pressing of Scheherazade that fails to reproduce the solo violin, the musical voice of the young lady herself, fails utterly and completely, no matter how big, rich and powerful the opening brass may be.

If you think your Heavy Vinyl pressings are doing justice to the sound of classical music, please attend a live concert as soon as possible in order to disabuse yourself of that notion.

Once you hear how unfaithful your classical records are to the sound of the live performance, you can begin to collect records of higher fidelity.

Would Adjusting the VTA for the Heavier Weight Vinyl Fix the Problem?

Probably not. VTA is all about balance. You can get the violin to be brighter and clearer by changing the VTA, but now listen for the weight of the opening brass. When the VTA is wrong, the brass won’t sound right. Neither will the percussion. Neither will the space of the hall be right. Neither will the orchestral perspective.

Adjusting for all these elements involve tradeoffs. When all the elements sound close to their best, and none of them are “wrong,” the VTA is pretty much right.

And that solo violin will not be much better. It is what it is, it sounds the way it sounds, because the mastering engineer got it wrong. You cannot fix bad mastering by changing the VTA.

Tea for the Tillerman?

Back in the ’80s, when I first got into the audiophile record business, I had a customer tell me how much he liked the UHQR of Tea for the Tillerman. This was a record I was selling sealed for $25. And you could buy as many as you liked at that price! I was paying $9 for them and could order them by the hundreds if I’d wanted to. (Yes, I admit I had no shame.)

I replied to this fellow that “the MoFi is awfully bright, don’t you think?”

“Oh no, you just adjust your VTA until the sound is tonally correct.”

At the time I could not adjust my VTA, so I filed that bit of information away for a later time.

When I finally did get a tonearm with adjustable VTA, I quickly learned that trying to correct the tonality of a record with VTA adjustments was a fool’s game.

The tonality might be better, but the bass would get wonky and weird, the deepest notes would disappear or become boosted, the highs would sound artificial, various elements of the recording would randomly become louder and softer, wreaking havoc with the balance of the mix, and on and on.

In other words, fixing one thing would cause lots of other things to go wrong.

This fellow couldn’t hear it, and like a lot of audiophiles writing about records these days, he simply did not have the critical listening skills to notice all the problems he was creating with his “fix.”

My skills were pretty poor back then too. I have worked very hard for the last 30 years or so to improve them. I did it by experimenting on records, and experimenting with VTA adjustments has taught me a lot.

It showed me that I could get dramatically better sound by playing with the VTA for ten or twenty minutes until I found the ideal setting.

It also taught me that trying to fix a mastering problem by adjusting the VTA will only work if you haven’t developed much in the way of critical listing skills.

Comparing the way the violin sounds on various pressings of Scheherazade will help you to develop these skills, as long as you know what this music should sound like in performance. You need both, and doing one without the other won’t get you very far. I spent my first twenty years in audio “in the wilderness,” so to speak, so I believe I am on solid ground with this advice.


A PUBLIC SERVICE

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Shostakovich / The Age of Gold – Another “Problematical” Classic Records Reissue

Sonic Grade: D

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 at all, you played it once and put it away on a shelf where it sits to this very day.

You may not have been able to put your finger on exactly what was wrong with it, but on some level, perhaps subconsciously, you knew there was something missing, something “off.” Whatever it was doing, good or bad, it wasn’t a record you felt the need to return to again.

And that’s why it’s mint. It was played once or twice and stored. You kept it perhaps because it filled a hole in your classical collection. Shostakovich Age of Gold? Yes, I have that one, here it is right here, in the S’s.

The world is full of mediocre records. This is not the brilliant insight it appears to be. They are mediocre by definition, since the average record is average. Classic Records made quite a number of them. They were joined in these efforts by lots of other incompetent mastering houses marketing their wares to audiophiles, the self-described “lovers of sound,” the ones that are apparently fooled by fancy packaging, quiet vinyl and a good story. (You, dear reader, are unlikely to be so easily fooled, or you would have stopped reading this post by now.)

Our records don’t come in fancy jackets, they rarely have quiet vinyl, and most people, audiophiles included, don’t think our story of the Hot Stamper records we sell and how we find them is the least bit plausible.

But our records sound good, and we think that ought to count for something.


FURTHER READING

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Mendelssohn & Prokofiev / Violin Concertos – On Classic Records

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Sonic Grade: F

An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP we found wanting.

Classic Records ruined this album, as anyone who has played some of their classical reissues should have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance.

In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price.

Apparently, most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a top quality classical recording. 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. I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled, 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.)

UPDATE 8/2010

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 making records back in 1994. There are scores of commentaries on the site about their awful records for those who are interested.

The last review we wrote for the remastered Scheherazade, which fittingly ended up in our Hall of Shame, with an equally fitting sonic grade of F.

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

Audio Progress

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.

There are scores of commentaries on the site about the huge improvements in audio available to the discerning (and well-healed) audiophile. 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 an Old School System 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.

One amazing sounding  Orchestral Hot Stamper pressing might just be what it takes to get the ball rolling.

(more…)

We Make the Case that Even CDs Have Better Sound than Classic Records

brahmvioli_1903_debunk

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records

The Classic reissue of LSC 1903 is a disaster: shrill, smeary and unmusical.

In these four words we can describe the sound of the average Classic Records Living Stereo pressing.

The best Heifetz records on Classic were, if memory serves, LSC 2734 (Glazunov), LSC 2603 (Bruch) and LSC 2769 (Rozsa).

They aren’t nearly as offensive as the others. If you can pick one up for ten or twenty bucks, you might get your money’s worth depending, I suppose, on how critically you listen to your classical records.

The CDs are better for all I know. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s generally poor track record.

The Living Stereo CD of Reiner’s Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it.

Audiophiles who cannot hear what is wrong with the Classic pressing need to find themselves a nice — even one that’s not so nice — RCA White Dog pressing to see just how poorly the Classic stacks up.

The solo violin in the left channel at the opening of the first movement should be all it takes.

Anyone has ever attended a classical music concert should recognize that the violin on any of the Heavy Vinyl pressings of the recording is completely wrong and sounds nothing like a violin in a concert hall would ever sound.

And I mean ever.

No matter where you sit.

No matter how good or bad the hall’s acoustics.

It is dark and veiled and overly rich, lacking in overtones.

Solo violins in live performance never sound that way.

They are clear, clean and present. You have no trouble at all “seeing” them clearly.

My best sounding White Dog pressing had that kind of clear and present sound for the violin.

Neither of the Heavy Vinyl reissues I auditioned did.

A pressing of Scheherazade that fails to reproduce the solo violin, the voice of the young lady herself, fails utterly and completely, no matter how big and powerful and rich the opening brass may be.
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Chabrier / Espana – We Review the Classic Records Pressing on the TAS List

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.

With the amp you see pictured you might be able to play Classic’s awful pressing.

My advice is to get better equipment and that will allow you to do a better job of recognizing bad records when you play them.

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