Labels With Shortcomings – Speakers Corner – Classical

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 it was impossible.

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

Sonic Grade: C?

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…)

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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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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Mahler – A Decent Speakers Corner Reissue from 1996

More of the Music of Gustav Mahler

More Music Conducted by Georg Solti

Sonic Grade: B?

Probably one of the better Speakers Corner Decca reissues.

It was recorded in Kingsway Hall early in 1964, so it already had a lot going for it.

We haven’t played a copy of this reissue in years, but back in the day (1996 or thereabouts) 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.

Obviously we can’t be sure we would still like it, and it’s very unlikely we would like it as much as we used to, but it’s probably a good reissue at the price, assuming the price is around $30.

As the years went by, we started to notice more and more problems with these pressings, and some time in the early 2000s we wrote about them in a commentary we called: The sonic signature of the modern Heavy Vinyl Classical Reissue in Four Words: Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Vague.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

What to Listen For on Classical Records

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Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker – Ansermet (Reviewed in the ’90s)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Nutcracker

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

Sonic Grade: B?

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! New records just don’t sound any better! This is the complete Nutcracker Ballet as conducted by Ansermet for Decca, a record that sets a standard of performance and sound that is unlikely ever to be equaled, and almost certainly not to be surpassed.


A Must Own Classical Record (on Vintage Vinyl)

Ansermet breathes life into this ballet as only he can, and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud.

It’s an Orchestral Spectacular that should have a place of honor in any audiophile’s collection.

Others that belong in that category can be found here.

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Respighi / Pines Of Rome / Maazel – Another Mediocre Speakers Corner Decca Reissue

Click Here to See Our Favorite Pines of Rome

More Reviews and Commentaries for The Pines of Rome

Sonic Grade: C

We were only slightly impressed with the Speakers Corner Decca pressing of this album, writing at the time:

The famous TAS List recording. Very good sound. You can do better but it’s not easy. This work is just too difficult to record.

Mostly true. Not sure about very good sound but difficult to record is spot on.


More Heavy Vinyl Reviews

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.

Labels With Shortcomings – Speakers Corner – Classical

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Heavy Vinyl Super Discs – “Nobody should have to listen to sound like that.”

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

This entry links up a few of the commentaries I wrote as I went back through the Classic catalog, comparing their pressings to both originals and reissues.

We take to task Classic Records, The Absolute Sound, and Chesky, as you will see below.

This commentary was written in 2005, prompted at the time by a rave review in TAS for one of the new Speakers Corners Mercury reissues. I detested the sound of the first one I heard, and subsequent releases only confirmed that the mastering of the Mercury catalog for Speakers Corner was abominable, an affront, in my none-too-humble opinion, to all right-thinking audiophiles.

Some thoughts on the Heavy Vinyl version

Here is what a real Mercury pressing sounds like…

when you get hold of an exceptionally good one and know how to clean it.

As for my commentary, it should be obvious that these awful remastering labels have not gone out of business, but instead have prospered, making millions of dollars from audiophiles eager to lay down their hard earned money for one Heavy Vinyl pressing after another, often of the same title even.

When Harry Pearson (of all people! — this is the guy who started the Living Stereo craze by putting those forgotten old records on the TAS list in the first place) gave a rave review to LSC 1806, I had to stand up (in print anyway) and say that the emperor clearly had removed all his clothing, if he ever had any to begin with. (And now he has a CD List? Ugh.)

This got me kicked out of TAS by the way, as Harry does not take criticism well. I make a lot of enemies in this business with my commentary and reviews, but I see no way to avoid the fallout for calling a spade a spade.

Is anybody insane enough to stand up for LSC 1806 today? Considering that there is a die-hard contingent of people who still think Mobile Fidelity is the greatest label of all time, there may well be “audiophiles” with substandard audio equipment or weakened powers of observation and discrimination, or both (probably both, as the two go hand in hand), that still find the sound of that steely stringed Classic pressing somehow pleasing to the ear. Hey, anything is possible.

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