Labels With Shortcomings – Classic Records – Rock and Pop

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…)

Louis Armstrong / I’ve Got The World on a String – Classic Records Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: B (probably)

I first heard this album on the wonderful Classic Records pressing from the ’90s. I remember really enjoying the music and liking the sound of Bernie Grundman’s remaster very much. We reviewed and recommended the album (along with Under the Stars) in our old paper catalogs.

I have no idea what I would think of their version these days — well, to be honest I do have some idea of what I would think of it — but their version is at least good enough to make the case that Russell Garcia’s orchestral arrangements and Louis Armstrong’s sublime skill at interpreting The Great American Songbook are a match made in heaven.

You may have seen Russell Garcia‘s name on one of the landmark recordings of the ’50s: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Porgy and Bess for Verve in the previous year, 1959. Watch for copies coming to the site one of these days. We’ve discovered some exceptional original and reissue pressings (as well as some that really do a disservice to the music and the engineers who recorded it. What else is new in the world of records?).

Now all that remains is for us to track down enough clean copies with which to do the shootout. At the rate were going it may be a year or two, but having heard how good the music and sound can be on the best copies, we are on it! (more…)

Bernie Grundman’s Work for Classic Records in Four Words: Hard, Sour, Colored and Crude

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Oh, and airless. Make that five words.

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as unpleasantly hard and sour. Many of the later Mercury reissues pressed by Columbia had some of that sound, so I was already familiar with it when their pressing came out in 1998 as part of the just-plain-awful Mercury series they released.

I suspect I would hear it that way today. Bernie Grundman could cut the bass, the dynamics, and the energy onto the record.

Everything else was worse 99% of the time.

The fast transients of the plucked strings of the Balalaikas was just way beyond the ability of his colored and crude cutting system. Harmonic extension and midrange delicacy were qualities that practically no Classic Records Heavy Vinyl pressing could claim to have.

Or, to be precise, they claimed to have them, and whether audiophiles really believed they did or not, Classic Records sure fooled a lot of them and the reviewers that write the facile and reductive superficialities that pass for audio journalism.

The better your stereo gets the worse those records sound, and they continue to fall further and further behind with each passing year.

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Led Zeppelin / Led Zeppelin III – Bright and Harsh on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Ridiculously bright and harsh, nothing like the good pressings we sell.

We are proud to say this was one of the Classic Zep releases that we never carried on the site (along with II and Houses, both of which stink).

You will find very few critics of the Classic Zep LPs outside of those who write for this very website, and even we used to recommend three of the Zep titles on Classic: Led Zeppelin I, IV and Presence.

Wrong on all counts. Live and Learn, right?

Since then we’ve made it a point to create debunking commentaries for some of the Classic Zeps, a public service of Better Records. We don’t actually like any of them now, although the first album is by far the best of the bunch. (more…)

Bruce Springsteen / Born To Run – Bernie Grundman’s Standard Operating Procedure Strikes Again

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If you own the Classic Records reissue from the early 2000s, hearing a Hot Stamper pressing is bound to be a revelation.

Their pressing was as dead as a doornail – more thick, opaque and compressed than most originals, which of course have problems in all three areas to start with. Bernie did the album no favors, that I can tell you.

Head to head in a shootout, our Hot Stampers will be dramatically more solid, punchy, transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short.


FURTHER READING

Classic Records – Rock and Pop 

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Sarah Vaughan / The Lonely Hours on Classic Records

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Classic Records remastered this album back in the day, and I can see why: the average pressing on Roulette is borderline unlistenable. Of course we didn’t know that when we started this shootout. We had found a nice sounding copy and subsequently went on the hunt for more. Little did we know how wide the variation in sound quality we would find on the original Orange Label pressings. There was simply no denying that many of the copies we played were just too thin, shrill and pinched in the midrange to be of any interest to our audiophile customers.

As mediocre as Bernie’s Classic cutting may be, it’s still better than the average Roulette original one might throw on the turntable.

And you can forget the monos completely; they were by far the worst sounding of them all.

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Burt Bacharach – Casino Royale Is Really a Mess on Classic Records Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D

Casino Royale under the sway of Bernie’s penchant for bright, gritty, ambience-challenged sound? Not such a good match. There is no reissue, and there will never be a reissue, that will sound as good as a good 3s original. (And I hope it would go without saying that most copies cannot begin to do what a real Hot Stamper original can.)

As is often the case, the Classic Heavy Vinyl Reissue is simply a disgrace.


FURTHER READING

Labels With Shortcomings – Classic Records – Classical (more…)

The Who – Who By Numbers

More of The Who

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  • An outstanding pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Glyn Johns’ MAGIC is on display here, with open mics in a big studio space creating the 3-D Soundscapes we love
  • Features two of their most iconic songs, Slip Kid and Squeezebox, and both sound great on this copy
  • 4 Stars – Rolling Stone raves: “They may have made their greatest album in the face of [their personal problems]. But only time will tell.”

In our opinion this is the best — and best sounding — Who album released post-Quadrophenia. (more…)

VTA Adjustment on Crosby Stills and Nash – Using the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl LP

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More VTA Adjustment

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This commentary from way back when (2005!) describes how to go about adjusting your VTA for 200 gram vinyl, using the CSN track Helplessly Hoping from the first album.

Helplessly Hoping is a wonderful song with plenty of energy in the midrange and upper midrange area which is difficult to get right. Just today (4/25/05) I was playing around with VTA, having recently installed a new Dynavector DV-20x on my playgrading table (a real sweetheart, by the way), and this song showed me EXACTLY how to get the VTA right.

VTA is all about balance. The reason this song is so good for adjusting VTA is that the guitar at the opening is a little smooth and the harmony vocals that come in after the intro can be a little bright. Finding the balance between these two elements is key to getting the VTA adjusted properly. (more…)

Axis: Bold As Love – More Heavy Vinyl Trash from Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: F

One of the worst things the dummies at Classic ever did. Flat and dry with no Tubey Magic whatsoever. It positively screams “CHEAP REISSUE.” That description reminds me of this record, although to be fair the sound is quite a bit worse on the Hendrix.

MORE CLASSIC RECORDS REVIEWS

Classic Records – Classical (26)

Classic Records – Jazz (11)

Classic Records – Rock and Pop (45)

and here is the most important section of them all, one that might help you avoid wasting lots of money on audiophile records that don’t sound good:

Bad Sounding Audiophile Records – The Complete List (272)