Labels With Shortcomings – Speakers Corner – Classical

Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner – Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn VAGUE

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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Rimsky-Korsakov – The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner

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 a while 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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Albeniz / Suite Espanola – De Burgos – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas! Excellent sound and lovely music. This pressing also sounds much better than the Super Analogue pressing of the same music.

When you get the right original pressing — London or Decca — they’re even better, but they sure are hard to find on quiet vinyl.

Brahms / Piano Concerto #1 / Curzon / Szell – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

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 when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

One of the best of the Speakers Corner heavy vinyl reissues. As you may know they have gone way downhill lately. Haven’t played this LP in a while but I remember liking it quite a bit back in the day.

Grieg / Piano Concerto – Curzon / Boult – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

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.

One of the best Deccas — superb sound and music that belongs in your life!

This performance also includes Franck’s “Variations Symphoniques” and Litolff”s “Scherzo from Concerto Symphonique, Op. 102”.

Liszt / Sonata in B Minor / Curzon – A Speakers Corner Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

More vinyl dreck from Speakers Corner and a Hall of Shame pressing if there ever was one. Pure mud. (more…)

Mozart / Symphonies No. 40 & 41 / Giulini – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca. They released this title on Heavy Vinyl in 1998; it was one of the few Speakers Corner classical recordings we used to carry and recommend.  It of course has the usual shortcomings.

Below are some thoughts from a recent classical listing that we hope will shed some light on our longstanding aversion to the sound of modern remasterings. The Heavy Vinyl Scorecard in our Commentary sections has a great deal more on the subject as well.


This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in a real concert hall, this is the record for you. It’s what Golden Age Recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but new records do not, ever.

Transparency

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY.

Modern records are just so damn opaque. We can’t stand that sound. It drives us crazy. Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a group — including those that pass themselves off as champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.

It is our contention that no one alive today is capable of making records that sound as good as the vintage ones we sell.

Once you hear this Hot Stamper pressing, those 180 gram records you own may never sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we are in the enviable position of being able to play the best properly-cleaned older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the newer ones. This allows the faults of the current reissues to become much more recognizable, to the point of actually being quite obvious. When you can hear the different pressings that way, head to head, there really is no comparison. (more…)

Respighi / Pines Of Rome / Maazel – Passable on Speakers Corner

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Sonic Grade: C

We were only slightly impressed with the Speakers Corner 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.

All true.

Stravinsky – Petrushka – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B (I’m guessing)

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.

“One of the best of the Deccas. Superb sound. Ansermet’s performance here is definitive.”

 

Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto #2 – Katchen – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: Unknown

In the late ’90s we described the sound of this pressing this way:

“Outstanding Rachmaninoff, dark and rich. Highly recommended.”

Since we have not played a copy of the album in over ten years, we have taken down our previous Sonic Grade of B as we have no idea how the record would fare today on our much-improved system.

For all we know it’s been recut, which is another problem with our old reviews of records we used to like: the new version could have very different sound from the one we played (and that’s not even taking into account the pressing variability, which we all know is sometimes huge).

Mozart’s Wonderful Clarinet Concerto on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca reissue.

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90 when this record came out, but here it is anyway. 

One of the best of the Deccas. I raved about this one years ago when it came out. If I had to pick a record to demonstrate how wonderful Decca recordings are, musically and sonically, this would be an easy choice. (more…)