Reviews from Earlier Days

Tchaikovsky – Better Front Ends Actually Reduce Surface Noise

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

No marks that play appreciably but that RCA vinyl is up to its old tricks again. Mint Minus Minus with constant light surface noise underneath the music in the quieter sections is the rule here. The first half inch of side two is where you will notice it the most. We are of the opinion that good sound and good music allow you to pretty much ignore surfaces such as these, scratches being another thing entirely of course. If there is any problem we offer a money back guarantee on this one.

Better Front Ends

I would make the further point that the better your front end is the less likely you are to have a problem with vinyl like this, which is the opposite of what many audiophiles perceive to be the case. In other words, some of the cheaper tables and carts seem to make the surface noise more objectionable, not less. On the other hand, some pricey cartridges — the Benz line comes to mind — are consistently noisier than those by Dynavector, Lyra and others, in our experience anyway.


FURTHER READING

Revolutions in Audio, Anyone?

Making Audio Progress 

Unsolicited Audio Advice

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Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door

More Led Zeppelin

  • You’ll find solid excellent sound on both sides of this outstanding copy of Zep’s final release
  • It’s all here: huge amounts of rock-solid bass, grungy guitars, breathy, natural vocals, and jump out of the speakers presence and energy
  • Fool In The Rain and All My Love are two of the best, and best sounding, tracks on the album
  • “The album’s opening number, ‘In the Evening,’ with its stomping rhythms and heavy, staggered riffs, suggests that Zeppelin haven’t deviated from their course, but by the time the rolling shuffle of ‘South Bound Suarez’ kicks into gear, it’s apparent that they’ve regained their sense of humor.”
  • If you’re a Zep fan, this title from 1979 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1980 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This may not be Zep’s best album, but there are some great songs here, and the music really works when the sound is this good. (more…)

Earl Fatha Hines – Fatha

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  • Fatha is back on the site with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Both sides are clean, clear, lively, and super transparent, with sound that was smoother, sweeter, and richer than we are used to hearing for this album
  • You won’t believe how dynamic this copy is – when Fatha’s really pounding on the keys, you might just jump out of your chair
  • The opening track, “Birdland,” with just a high hat, a tuba and Fatha on piano is worth the price of the disc alone (well, maybe not at these prices…)

This M&K Direct to Disc SMOKED the other copies we played it against — the difference was NIGHT and DAY! The sound is smoother, sweeter, and richer than we are used to hearing for this album. There’s lots of space around the drums, and the tuba sounds tonally Right On The Money.

You aren’t going to believe how DYNAMIC this copy is — when Fatha’s really pounding on the keys, you’re gonna jump out of your chair! The overall sound is clean, clear, lively, and super transparent. The edgy, hard piano sound that plagued our lesser copy is nowhere to be found.

One of the BEST Direct to Discs on M&K! This is especially good jazz piano music; Earl Hines plays up a storm on this album. The opening track, “Birdland,” with just a high hat, a tuba and Fatha on piano is worth the price of the disc alone.

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Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique – Gorgeous Living Stereo Strings

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More Records that Are Good for Testing String Tone and Texture

Gorgeous Golden Age Tubey Magical strings, lovely hall acoustics. The size and power of a large orchestra in Living Stereo sound. One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork.

This is a piece that’s difficult to squeeze onto two sides of a single LP, clocking in as it does at around 45 minutes, which means that the mastering engineer has three options when cutting the record: compress the dynamics, lower the level, or filter out the deep bass. The RCA mastering engineer for this pressing managed to hold on to the powerful dynamics captured by the Decca (as far as I know) recording team, seemingly without doing harm to dynamics, levels or deep bass. How, I have no idea.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous Living Stereo strings and hall acoustics that let us forget about the possibility of compromises in other areas.

So open and spacious, with gorgeous, richly textured Living Stereo strings — this is the VIVID sound we love from the Golden Age!

The hall is huge, the brass solid and powerful, the top and bottom extends properly, the stage is wide and clear — what more can you ask for? 

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Vivaldi / 4 Bassoon Concertos in Living Stereo

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

If you’re a fan of Vivaldi, this Living Stereo from 1959 belongs in your collection. The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This rare and mostly quiet Shaded Dog pressing has SUPERB sound on side one, earning a sonic grade of A++. To our surprise side two was even better; we called it A++ to A+++.

It was surely one of the best sounding records we played in our classical shootouts that day.

This is Golden Age Living Stereo sound at its Tubey Magical best.

Side One

A++, with tonality that is Right On The Money (ROTM). Huge stage as well, deep and wide. Not as transparent as some of the other Golden Age pressings we played that day, we call this one Super Hot.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, and here the music seems to be better as well as the sound, which is more open and even sweeter and smoother (in a good way). (more…)

Vivaldi, Bach, et al. / Concertos for Cello / Janigro

Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

  • A glorious Living Stereo recording from 1960 of cello concertos on the early Shaded Dog label – this copy had Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, remarkably quiet for a record that is 60 years old
  • Janigro’s cello is immediate, real and lively here – you are in the presence of greatness with this copy
  • This record will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listeners among you will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it.

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Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat

More Al Stewart

  • Boasting Double Plus (A++) sound throughout, this pressing is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other copy of Year of the Cat you’ve heard
  • With engineering by Alan Parsons, the top pressings are every bit the Audiophile Demo Discs you remember
  • The best sides have Tubey Magical acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, huge amounts of space, breathtaking transparency, and so much more
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A tremendous example of how good self-conscious progressive pop can be, given the right producer and songwriter — and if you’re a fan of either prog or pop and haven’t given Al Stewart much thought, prepare to be enchanted.”

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Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with Solti on Decca/London

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Kenneth Wilkinson

Deep bass; rich, smooth strings, lots of lovely hall space – this copy was right up there with the best we heard, and clearly won the shootout for side two. You will hear immediately why this side two could not be beat – it’s wonderful. (more…)

Delibes / Coppelia / Ansermet – Reviewed in 2010

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

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Very good sound from the Master Ballet Conductor, with only a few slightly bright passages marring an otherwise wonderful recording.

[I doubt we would have any trouble with the bright passages these days. Better cleaning and better playback would have solved that problem, probably. Of course, this copy is long gone, so no one can ever really know if it was bright or not. I’m guessing, not.]

Ernst Ansermet conducted some of the best sounding records ever made — here are some of the ones we’ve reviewed

Production and Engineering

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from April of 1957 in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound beyond all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass, combined with unerring timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section of the orchestra.

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Debussy / Images For Orchestra / Munch

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Claude Debussy

  • This is one of the most magnificent Golden Age Classical titles we have played in longer than I can remember – we put it in the top 1-2% of their best sounding releases, a nice place to be
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording combines amazing richness with transparency, and even at its loudest, it is still smooth and sweet
  • It is very unlikely that all but a few of our best customers have any records in their collections that sound as good as this one!
  • The rich, textured sheen of the strings that Living Stereo made possible in the ’50s and early ’60s is clearly evident throughout these pieces, something that the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound just does not exist on modern records
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, and for recordings of Debussy, that is quiet indeed

DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! It’s also a better performance than the famous Reiner. Munch understands this music perfectly.

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