Reviews from Earlier Days

Overtures and Dances / Reiner

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This RCA Pink Label TAS List LP plays Mint Minus. Side one of this record sounds AMAZING, especially the Dvorak piece.

Here are the comments for the copy we recently sold on the site:

Superb string tone. This is one record that deserves to be on the tas list, and you have to give harry credit for going against the audiophile tide and recognizing a cheap, thin pink vic! Side one sounds incredible. I never recall hearing sound like this on this victrola! It’s demonstration quality sound!

Classic Records remastered this record not long ago and ruined it. This is what it’s supposed to sound like. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 4 in Living Stereo – What Does It Sound Like Now?

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Years ago we wrote:

This is a 1s / 5s Shaded Dog. TAS List (or at least it used to be). Probably the reason HP likes this LP so much is that it has a very wide soundstage. It also has good solid weight. A little soft on top, but that comes with the territory.

This is a very old review, probably from about 15 years ago. I don’t think I could recommend this record today. It probably belongs on this list, but I cannot truthfully say one way or another. As I recall, the copies I’ve played more recently were not impressive.

If I played it today, would I find it to be as bad as this Living Stereo pressing? Who knows? That experiment has not been run.

Some Advice

We much prefer Mravinsky for the symphonies, but good sounding copies of his records are just too hard to find, so we have never actually done a shootout for them.

Eric Dolphy – Copenhagen Concert

More Eric Dolphy

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  • Dolphy’s superb 1961 live release returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, and wonderfully natural, this is the sound we love here at Better Records
  • I’ve known about Dolphy’s legendary Copenhagen Concert for close to thirty years. When an audiophile hears a bass clarinet reproduced the way it is on this record, he is very unlikely to forget it
  • Dolphy stretches out on the flute and the bass clarinet as well as his alto sax here
  • “Eric Dolphy’s tour of Europe is one of the best documented periods of his much-too-short career… a must for Dolphy collectors.”

Rarely have I heard a string bass sound better than it does here. The flute is equally gorgeous. They could record a live jazz concert this well in 1961? Apparently.

The sound of the bass clarinet is so real it will take your breath away. No pop or rock record has this kind of fidelity, ever. The resolution is amazing, you can hear the keys clacking away as he plays. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Selections From Peer Gynt Suites Nos. 1 and 2

More Duke Ellington

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  • This superb copy of Duke Ellington’s 1961 release boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) from top to bottom – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is gloriously ANALOG – smooth, relaxed and full-bodied – almost no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally natural sound
  • Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, room-filling All Tube Radio Recorders Studio sound like nothing you have ever heard
  • One of Ellington’s most enjoyable classic collaborations with Billy Strayhorn
  • “All in all, it’s one of Ellington’s most focussed large-scale efforts… It ends on a swinging Ray Nance solo (on violin, yet!), miles away from the politesse of Grapelli. I’ve heard only one other violinist (and not a jazz violinist, surprisingly) swing this hard.”

(more…)

Got Old Records? Played ‘Em Lately? What Did You Think of the Sound?

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It’s not that most copies of 5th sound bad; it’s that most of them just sound like old records — thick, dull, opaque, smeary, closed-in, two-dimensional, lifeless and boring.

You know that sound. It’s on a lot of the records we play, and no doubt on a lot of the records you own, especially the records you haven’t cleaned and played in a while (it’s there; you just aren’t aware of it).

Pull out your old copy of 5th. Back in the day it sounded just fine, but if you’ve been listening to mostly better records lately (assuming you haven’t fallen into the Heavy Vinyl trap), doubtlessly on much improved equipment than you had 40 years ago, your old A&M copy probably doesn’t sound as good as you remember it.

The records may not have changed, but your stereo and your standards should have.

Couple that with improved listening skills and before long the average old record starts to sound a lot more average than you wish it did. Even today’s better pot can’t fix the problems of most vintage pressings (or the Heavy Vinyl and CD reissues which are two of the biggest jokes ever played on the audiophile public).

But we can fix the problems — well, not really: we’re just finding the copies that managed to be mastered and pressed without the problems — and our Hot Stampers are 100% legal to boot! (more…)

Grace Williams / Fantasia On Welsh Nursery Tunes / Groves – Reviewed in 2012

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Super Hot Stamper sound for this TAS List title, containing the most famous piece for which Grace Williams is known. The sound is BIG and RICH, two adjectives we rarely apply to a ’70s EMI. Big maybe — lots of EMI’s are big, but the reason you see so few EMI Hot Stampers on our site is that they are usually big in a vague, phasey way, which is a sound I frankly have never seen the need to take seriously, TAS Listing or no TAS Listing. (Screen speakers tend to sound that way to me, and I’ve never been a fan of them either.)

But rich — now that’s a sound we do like! It’s also not shrill and hard like most EMI’s. Instead it’s transparent, lively and tonally correct from top to bottom.

Add it all up and you have a very special EMI record that qualifies for Super Hot Stamper status. You will have a very hard time finding a copy of the album that sounds like the side one here. (more…)

Strauss / Ein Heldenleben / Reiner on Victrola – Reviewed Way Back When

More of the music of Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)

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This Plum Label original Victrola pressing has EXCELLENT SOUND on side one, earning a grade of A++. It’s quite a step up from the other copies we played. As you may know, this is one of the earliest RCA stereo recordings, dating from 1954 and the same sessions as the famous Reiner recording LSC 1806. This two microphone, two-channel recording, however, was never released in stereo on vinyl until the Victrola era ten years later.  

The sound on side one is very transparent, with nice texture to the strings and brass. It’s not nearly as dark as the average copy.

Side two suffers from some of that dark quality and rated an A Plus grade. It has more of a distant quality.

One further note: we used to like the RCA Half-Speed pressing of the work, but playing it recently made me realize just how dark, smeary and thick it is. Don’t know what I ever saw in it to tell you the truth.

Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 1 ’Winter Dreams’ – Muti – Reviewed in 2009

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EMI Postage Stamp pressing with EXCELLENT SOUND and a remarkably energetic and nuanced performance. This is the first recording of this symphony that I’ve ever liked. Muti gets it! And the sound is actually quite good for EMI in this period, 1976.

Stuart Eltham is the recording engineer and he is to be commended for getting some real dynamics and power into the grooves of this record.

Respighi / Pines of Rome / Reiner – Reviewed (Probably Inaccurately) in 2006

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[Back in 2006 we liked Red Seal pressings of Living Stereo recordings a lot more than we do nowadays, so take this commentary with a huge grain of salt. Only the advent of top quality  cleaning equipment and our much improved playback made it possible for us to hear the earlier pressings in all their glory.]

Live and Learn we say!

This Minty looking RCA Red Seal pressing has EXCELLENT SOUND. We did a big shootout today with a number of pressings, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. The Shaded Dogs tend to have more weight to them, but are never cut as cleanly and usually lack top end extension. The Red Seals and White Dogs are lower distortion and have better highs but tend to lack weight down at the bottom. (more…)

Supertramp – Indelibly Stamped – Reviewed in 2010

More Supertramp

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This is a British Original pressing with the best sound I have ever heard for this album. It’s sweeter, smoother, more delicate and more tonally correct overall than any American copy I have ever heard.

After doing the shootout with some other domestic copies, I put this record in the pile to be cleaned, and today I played it. Like many British pressings of British Rock albums, there is a whole layer of grunge and distortion that has been removed. A veil has been lifted, and you hear into the music in a way that was never before possible. There is no question this record is made from the master tape and the domestic pressings are made from dubs.

This is only the 2nd British copy I have ever seen (in clean condition anyway). My experience with British mastering is that it is all over the map, just like American mastering. Other British copies probably do not sound like this one, but I have no way of being sure.

I thought my last Hot Stamper copy was better sounding than this one, but that was only true for the track Potter, which on this Brit copy sounds a bit tame. Everything else is better here. It’s easy to make a mistake like that when you’re only comparing one song. (more…)