Older Reviews – Classical / Orchestral

Most of these are reviews for records that did not go through the shootout process that we invented. We found these by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then sold based on the sound we heard. Most of this kind of work was done from 2000-2010. Nowadays virtually all the records we sell have been through a shootout.

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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Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique – Gorgeous Living Stereo Strings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

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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Delibes / Coppelia / Ansermet – Reviewed in 2010

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

Hot Stamper Decca and London Pressings Available Now

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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Albeniz / Falla / Granados / Spain / Reiner

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Spain has been an audiophile favorite for a very long time. Everybody should know it by now, what with both Chesky and Classic Records having remastered it in the ’90s, dismally of course, as neither of these companies showed the slightest sense that they understood how lackluster, if not downright awful, the resulting products of their efforts turned out to be.

No doubt Analogue Productions will see fit to ruin the recording the way they ruined Scheherazade.

This has never been one of the best Living Stereo titles in our experience. The highest grade I would give it would probably be a B.

“Our experience” is the key phrase in the above sentence. I can’t say there aren’t amazing sounding pressings of the album, it’s simply the case that we have never played one.

If I saw one for cheap I would of course pick it up, but in the modern world of records, that is very unlikely indeed.

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Beethoven / Symphony No. 6 – Reviewed in 2005

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Beethoven

This is a lovely sounding RCA Shaded Dog.record, with a smooth, natural top end, the opposite of a hi-fi spectacular. Some may find it dull, but it’s actually correct.

Monteux has a wonderful feel for this symphony. His Beethoven in general is actually quite good. This music belongs in any serious collection. String tone is everything in the Pastoral, and Living Stereo gives you the string tone rarely found elsewhere.

Our favorite Beethoven 6th is of course the Ansermet from 1960. Decca does a pretty good job recording strings too in our opinion.

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Sibelius / Symphony No. 2 on Shaded Dog – Reviewed in 2013 and Again More Recently

More of the Music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Jean Sibelius

More RCA Shaded Dogs with Questionable Sound Quality

Back in 2013 we liked the performance and the sound of this recording on Living Stereo, but recently when we played a copy or two it did not impress us much.

Our system was very different in 2013, and, of course, the copies of the record we have now are not the same as the ones we played all those years ago.

We currently prefer the performance by Barbarolli on Readers Digest.

The Mackerras reissued on London or RCA Victrola may be good too. We have not played them in quite a while, so take this recommendation for what it is, an old memory that may be faulty.

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Delibes / Coppelia / Dorati – Reviewed in 2008

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

Sonic Grade: C

SRI 77004 – Not a bad Mercury Golden Import, but not a very good one either — there aren’t too many of those by the way — and certainly not in the same league with the better recordings of the work. 

Best to give this one a pass if you are looking for audiophile sound.

We have four categories of sound for the thousands of records we’ve auditioned over the years.

These categories are not quite as definitive as they sound, as there could be a Hot Stamper pressing — perhaps a reissue of some kind — of the album that would better fit in the Excellent Sound Quality category.

Pressings with Mind-Blowing Sound Quality

Pressings with Excellent Sound Quality 

Pressings with Middling Sound Quality 

Pressings with Weak Sound Quality or Music

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The Reiner Sound – A Demo Disc for Energy, Dynamics and Top End

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Music Conducted by Fritz Reiner

This review was written in 2010. I don’t think we have found a Reiner Sound as nice as this one since then.

Wow, the first nice Reiner Sound on Shaded Dog to make it to our site. Why? Because the few copies we’ve run across that looked decent enough to clean and play were just too noisy to enjoy. Not many copies have survived the bad turntables of their day with all their top end and inner grooves intact, but we’re proud to say that this one has! 

This former TAS List record really surprised us on two counts. First, you will not believe how DYNAMIC the recording is. Of all the classical recordings we’ve played lately I would have to say this is THE MOST DYNAMIC of them all. 

I really don’t have the wattage to handle the explosively loud sections of these wonderful works, with their huge orchestral effects, dynamic contrasts that are clearly part of the composer’s intentions but ones that rarely make it from the concert hall to vinyl disc the way they do here. 

Second, there is simply an amazing amount of TOP END on this record. Rarely do I hear Golden Age recordings with this kind of ENERGY and extension up top. Again, it has to be some of the best I have heard recently.

This is of course one of the reasons the Classic reissue is such a disaster. With all that top end energy, Bernie’s gritty cutting system and penchant for boosted upper midrange frequencies positively guarantees that the Classic Reiner Sound will be all but unplayable on a proper system. Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that The Reiner Sound needs.

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Vivaldi / The Four Seasons / I Solisti di Zagreb – Reviewed in 2012

More of the Music of Antonio Vivaldi

More Hot Stamper Violin Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for The Four Seasons

Folks, we have some good news for those of you who have been waiting for one of the best sounding, most beautifully performed Four Seasons ever recorded. THIS IS IT! White Hot on both sides, I can’t say the sound is better than the White Hot Shaded Dog pressing we heard in our recent shootout. It’s certainly different, and one could easily make the case for either. Of course one’s taste enters into the calculation, so choosing a clear winner is simply not possible with markedly superior pressings such as these.

Let’s just say that this small ensemble recording is as close to perfect as any we have ever heard. The harpsichord is especially good on the Vanguard recording, better than the RCA I would venture. Its placement in the soundfield is subtly natural, precisely the way one would expect to hear it in performance.

All four movements are performed with great spirit, and other than a sour note right at the start — listen for it! — the playing is of the highest quality. I prefer the performance — slightly — to the famous RCA. 

It should be noted that this is only the second time we have heard a good pressing of this Vanguard title. Normally the vinyl is abysmal — not just noisy, but grainy and lacking in top end. (You can listen for the sound of the vinyl itself on the lead-in grooves before the music starts.) This pressing is an absolute FLUKE. It gets all the sound of the tape onto the vinyl in a way that we have never heard before and would not have thought possible. But, as we never tire of saying, hearing is believing! (more…)

Ravel / Haydn / Acoustic Recording Series, Volume 2 – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

More of the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

A good sounding audiophile record? Yes, it is possible, we would never deny it.

In fact, we actually sell some of the best ones ourselves.

The sound on the record is excellent. It was engineered by Mark Levinson, on special equipment designed to create virtually noiseless ultra-low-distortion master tapes, without noise-reduction systems. It’s mastered by Robert Ludwig

The first side contains Ravel’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales played on the piano by Lois Shapiro.  Side two contains her performance of Haydn’s Sonata No. 49.


FURTHER READING

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