Labels With Shortcomings – Speakers Corner (All)

Stravinsky / Le Sacre du Printemps – Speakers Corner Reviewed

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Stravinsky

Sonic Grade: ?

We used to think this was one of the better Speakers Corner Deccas.

Having recently played the London pressing of the same performance, cut by Decca of course, we think we are almost certainly wrong about the quality of the sound, but who knows? Maybe Speakers Corner remastered the record properly and fixed its shortcomings.

Hah, just joking. In our experience that has never happened and we think it is very unlikely that it ever will.

Years ago we wrote the following:

Wow! What a performance! What dynamic full bodied sound! To be fair, I pulled out my original London, one of those awful mid-’70s English pressings that are never quiet, and yes, some of the ambience on the original is missing here on the new version, but everything else seems right: dynamics, tonality, the frequency extremes (including some pretty awesome deep bass).

Some of the above could be right, the parts about the tonality and such. Speakers Corner could have added some bass and lower midrange to make the sound less thin, and taken out some of the upper midrange to make the loud passages less blary, but it certainly doesn’t solve the most serious issues we had with the recording, which is the fact that it is opaque and flat, two qualities that are the death of orchestral music on vinyl.

Here are the notes we made for the London.

The two paragraphs you see reproduced below are also full of bad advice we had given out in the past:

1. Can’t be sure we would still feel that way but I’m guessing this is a good record if you can pick one up at a cheap price. 

2. If you have a quiet original, great, consider yourself lucky. As few of you have any copy at all, I recommend this one. The alternative is to miss Solti’s energetic performance and the precision of the Chicago Symphony, one of the few orchestras capable of making sense out of this complex and infuriating work. (At least it used to infuriate audiences. Now our modern ears can take a difficult work like this and appreciate the complex rhythms and atonality as the expression of a truly original mind.

This paragraph we would still agree with wholeheartedly:

This is not music to play while you are having dinner. This is music to engage the mind fully. It belongs in any collection. Yours in fact. Unless you have small speakers, in which case you would be wasting your money, as small speakers cannot begin to reproduce the power of this work in the hands of Solti and the CSO [or anybody else for that matter].


FURTHER READING

More music conducted by Georg Solti

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Kenneth Wilkinson

What to Listen For on Classical Records

Best Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Rimsky-Korsakov on Speakers Corner – Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn VAGUE

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Hot Stamper Pressings of Decca/London Recordings

Sonic Grade: C

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing shown here in order to see how it would fare up against a pair of wonderful sounding Londons we were in the process of shooting out some time ago. Here’s what we heard in our head to head comparison.

The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount.

But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.

There was a cloud of musical instruments, some here, some there, but they were very hard to SEE. On the Londons we played they were clear. You could point to each and every one. On this pressing that kind of pinpoint imaging was simply nowhere t be found.

Case in point: the snare drum, which on this recording is located toward the back of the stage, roughly halfway between dead center and the far left of the hall. As soon as I heard it on the reissue I recognized how blurry and smeary it was relative to the clarity and immediacy it had on the earlier London pressings. I’m not sure how else to describe it – diffuse, washed out, veiled. It’s just vague.
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Borodin / Symphonies 2 & 3 / Ansermet – Speakers Corner Reviewed

More of the music of Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

A decent enough Speakers Corner Decca.

The Speakers Corner heavy vinyl reissue of this title is not bad, but like all reissues it lacks the weight found on the originals. I remember it being a little flat and bright. I haven’t played it in years so I could easily be wrong. The glorious sound I hear on the best London pressings is not the kind of thing I hear on 180 gram records by Speakers Corner, or anybody else for that matter.

They do a good job some of the time, but none of their records can compete with a vintage pressing when it’s mastered and pressed properly. 

The best pressings of this UK London Stereo Treasury from the Seventies will beat the pants off of it. That ought to tell you something, right? A budget reissue that is clearly superior to the best that modern mastering has to offer?

It happens all the time. It’s the rule, not the exception.


The second symphony is a work that audiophiles should love. It shares many qualities with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, which you will surely recognize. It also has some lovely passages that remind me of the Tale of The Tsar Saltan, another work by the same composer. If you like exotic and colorfully orchestrated symphonic sound, you will be hard-pressed to find better.

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Mozart / Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Mozart (1756-1791)

We were impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing of this album when it came out back in 1994. We wrote at the time:

Probably the best sound and performance of the Eine Kleine available — highly recommended!  

We haven’t played a copy in years, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds.

Our Hot Stamper Classical Pressings will be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short in in our experience.ings.


FURTHER READING

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records (more…)

Al Di Meola et al. / Friday Night in San Francisco – on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

Sonic Grade: D?

The Speakers Corner remastered Heavy Vinyl pressing of this famous jazz album has two big strikes against it right from the get go. It’s both congested and hard.

With these guys hell-bent on one-upping each other right off of the stage, even our best Hot Stamper pressings struggle with clarity, transparency and harmonic sweetness

Do you really want to add all the problems of the modern remastered heavy vinyl pressing to a tape that already has plenty of its own?

Congested and hard is the kind of sound Speakers Corner should be quite familiar with by now. You can hear it on plenty of their mostly mediocre pressings.

Sourced from a digital tape of the master? Maybe, but who cares what tape was used to make this dog?

It’s a loser and should be avoided at any price.

Our Hot Stamper pressings of this album will be dramatically more transparent, open, harmonically-correct, resolving of musical information, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are the most obvious areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short, if our experience with hundreds of them over the last few decades has any bearing.

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Two Reviews of Child Is Father to the Man – Fremer Vs. Better Records

More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

Audiophile Reviewers – Who Needs ‘Em!

In 2010 MF reviewed both the Sundazed and Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl pressings of the album.

I think his review is mistaken on a number of counts, and mostly unhelpful. The commentary below will discuss his errors in detail, in the hopes that you, dear reader, will not make the same mistakes yourself. 

He talks about his history with the album for a while, and then notes:

Anyway, the original “360 Sound” edition of this record sounds fantastic. It’s a high quality Columbia studio recording, with vivid harmonics, impressive transparency and dynamics, shimmering highs and tight extended bass. The soundstage is expansive and the images tightly presented. I’m not sure it can get much better than the original given how well-pressed Columbia records were in those days, especially if you have a clean original.

We, however, seem to hold precisely the opposite view. I quote from our review:

Why did it take us so long [to do a Hot Stamper shootout]? Let me ask you this: have you ever played this album? The average copy of this record is a sonic MESS. Even the best copies have problems.

We then go on to discuss in detail what most copies do wrong and what to listen for in order to find a copy that gets it right. (More on that later.)

Shortcomings? What Shortcomings?

Fremer continues:

There are two reissues of this. One is from Sundazed and there’s a far more expensive one from Speakers Corner…

The Speakers Corner reissue, which uses the wrong label art is pressed at Pallas and consequently it’s quieter and better finished overall. However, the Sundazed copy I got was very well finished and reasonably quiet, but not as quiet.

On the other hand the Speakers Corner version was somewhat more hyped up at the frequency extremes and cut somewhat hotter, but not objectionably so. The Sundazed sounds somewhat closer to the original overall, so for half the price, you do the math!

“Somewhat hyped up”? We liked it a whole lot less than Mr. Fremer apparently did. Early last year I gave it a big fat F for FAILURE, writing at the time:

This is the worst sounding Heavy Vinyl Reissue LP I have heard in longer than I can remember. To make a record sound this bad you have to work at it.

What the hell were they thinking? Any audiophile record dealer that would sell you this record should be run out of town on a rail. Of course that won’t happen, because every last one of them (present company excluded) will be carrying it, of that you can be sure.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, out comes a record like this to prove that it can. I look forward to Fremer’s rave review.

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Schubert / Symphony No. 9 on Speakers Corner

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

Sonic Grade: B

We think this is probably still one of the better Speakers Corner Deccas.

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway. 

Superb sound with a great performance to match. A TOP TOP TITLE in every way. This performance has never been equaled and probably never will be (on any format I can stand to listen to!)

It definitely beats the original London pressings we have played.

But is that the standard for sound quality, the original pressing?

No. The idea that the original is the best sounding version of any album is a myth, and an easily debunked one.

To make the case, here is just a small sampling of records with the potential to sound better on specific reissue pressings when compared head to head against the best originals. We also have some amazing sounding reissues available should you wish to purchase pressings that beat the originals, any originals, or your money back.

How Did We Do It?

There are more than 2000 Hot Stamper reviews on this blog. Do you know how we learned so much about so many records?

Simple. We ran thousands and thousands of record experiments under carefully controlled conditions, and we continue to run scores of them week in and week out to this very day.

If you want to learn about records, we recommend you do the same. You won’t be able to do more than one or two a week, but one or two a week is better than none, which is how many the average audiophile seems to want to do.

When it comes to finding the best sounding records ever made, our advice is simple.

Play them the right way and pay attention to what they are trying to teach you. You will learn more this way than any other.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Ben Webster / Meets Oscar Peterson on Speakers Corner

Hot Stamper Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Ben Webster

This is a Speakers Corner 180g LP. Years ago we wrote:

“Superb music and sound! This one gets a Top recommendation. This recording captures an intimate Webster session. Ben is at his best in this sort of setting. (He’s at his worst when called upon to “battle” with a gang of loud, frantic exhibitionists.)”

I doubt we would like it as much now as we did then, but if you can get one for cheap, and can stand the typical faults of most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days, we say go for it.

Liner Notes

The sensitive, alert and propulsive Peterson Trio frames his stories and statements handsomely, and contributes many notable statements of its own. Pianist Peterson, inspired perhaps by Ben, is in a fine, funky frame of mind (his Kansas City heritage.)

The artists take a bunch of strong, standard songs and personalize them — to say the least. With wonderful humor, Ben can take a sophisticated show tune like This Can’t Be Love (Rodgers and Hart) or Ray Noble’s romantic The Touch of Your Lips and turn it into an earthy finger-poppin’ affair. Or he can paint a picture of profound sadness in his tender, moody When Your Lover Has Gone, or that one-time Sinatra soliloquy, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Speakers Corner – Jazz

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

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Rodrigo – Boieldieu / Harp Concertos – Speakers Corner Does a Disservice to DG

More of the music of Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)

Sonic Grade: C-

A mediocre Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl reissue.

About ten years ago [twenty by now] a Heavy Vinyl version of this album was remastered and pressed by Speakers Corner, part of their disastrous foray into the DG catalog.

This title was decent, the Beethoven Violin Concerto was okay, as was one of the Tchaikovsky Symphonies with Mravinsky (#5), but the rest were just plain awful, offering disgracefully bad sound.

Funny, I don’t recall reading any bad reviews of these albums at the time.

Oh, that’s right, these Heavy Vinyl records never get bad reviews, no matter how lifeless, opaque and unpleasant they might sound.

Except from us of course. We were writing about them back in the day and trying to sell just the better ones.

We long ago gave up on that effort as so few are really very good when you get right down to it.

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Schubert / The Trout Quintet – Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

Sonic Grade: B?

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We were impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing when it came out back in the day. We’ve come to learn that it is such an exceptional recording that even their second rate remastering of it was still capable of resulting in a very good sounding record. 

One of the ways you can tell how great a recording this is is simply this: as soon as the needle hits the groove you are immediately involved in the music, listening to each of the lines created by the five preternaturally gifted players, all the while marveling at Schubert’s compositional skills.

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