Records that Are Good for Testing High Frequency Extension

Debussy / Clair de Lune – Compare and Contrast Sides One and Two

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the music of Claude Debussy

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This Shaded Dog LP has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND, if what you’re demonstrating is not a Hi-Fi spectacular, but rather a sublime presentation of an exceptionally sweet and natural string section in an orchestra, presented here on analog disc pressed more than sixty years ago.  

I can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the program and the sound. This record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers were able to capture on tape, and the RCA mastering engineers were able to master from that tape.

Even though the album was recorded by Decca, it’s a superb example of Living Stereo Tubey Magic at its best. There will never be a reissue of this record that even remotely captures the space, transparency, sweetness and richness of the sound here.

Side Two

A++ to A+++ or better! Without more copies in hand it’s hard to know how good the sound can get, but we found it Hard To Fault (HTF).

This side has more extension up top and down low and more texture to the strings.

Side One

A++, although it starts out a bit weaker than that and only really gets good a few minutes into the side. (We hear this effect fairly often on the records we play. Noticing things like this is what we do for a living.)

There is some smear and it is slightly opaque as well.

You will hear what we mean when you flip it over and those two problems disappear.

The music is superb on this side. One could play this record every day for a month and never tire of it.

Performed by the London Proms Symphony under the direction of Raymond Agoult. This performance also includes works by Massenet, Faure, Bach, Tchaikovsky and Gluck.

The record you see to your left is a budget reissue produced by Decca in 1970 of the same recording, and on the best pressings it too can sound amazing.


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

John Klemmer / Touch – A Great Test for Your Tweeters

More of the Music of John Klemmer

Mobile Fidelity, maker of some of the worst sounding records in the history of the medium, is the KING on this title.

Klemmer says pure emotion is what inspired the album’s creation. Whatever he tapped into to find the source of that inspiration he really hit pay dirt with Touch. It’s the heaviest smooth jazz ever recorded. Musically and sonically, this is the pinnacle of Klemmer’s smooth jazz body of work. I know of none better. (If you want to hear him play more straight-ahead jazz try Straight from the Heart on Nautilus.)

High Frequency Testing

MoFi was famous for demonstrating on an actual scope that the standard domestic ABC pressing had nothing above about 8 or 10 thousand cycles up top, which is why they all sound insufferably dull and dead. Some MoFi copies have no real top end either, which is the reason to we do these shootouts — to find the copies that are actually mastered and pressed right, not just the ones that should have been.

There’s plenty of information above 15K I would guess on this record — all those delicate percussion instruments ring so sweetly, the highs have to be extending way up there. (This album would probably make a good test to see how well your tweeters work, as well as for turntable setup. The right tracking weight and VTA are crucial to getting all the harmonics of a record like this right.) (more…)

Stan Getz / Getz Au Go Go – Critical Listening Exercise

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

This album is useful as a test disc. The third track on side 2, The Telephone Song, has a breathy vocal by Astrud, soon followed by Getz’s saxophone solo. If those two elements in the recording are in balance, your system is working, tonally anyway.

Track Commentary

Side One 

Corcovado (Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars) 

On the best copies the voice is perfection. The horn is always a bit hard sounding on this track though.

It Might As Well Be Spring

The best copies are warm, rich and sweet here, with much better sound for Getz’s sax. This track has some of the tubiest magic you will find on the album.

Eu E Voce (Me and You)
Summertime

This one has real dynamics — the playing and the sound are lively, but somehow still cool…

Nix-Quix-Flix

Side Two

Only Trust Your Heart
The Singing Song
The Telephone Song

The best song on side two, certainly the most fun, and a wonderful test track as mentioned earlier.

One Note Samba
Here’s That Rainy Day

This is one of Rudy Van Gelder’s greatest recordings. I think it’s as good as it is because he was out of his studio (mostly) and had to revert to Recording 101, where you set up some good mics and get the thing on tape as correctly as you can. There’s hardly a trace of his normal compression and bad EQ on this album. (The sax is problematical in places but most everyone else is right on the money.) (more…)

Bob and Ray – This Buck Dance Had Highs Like No Other

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More Living Stereo Recordings

[This review is probably about ten years old.]

It’s been nearly two years but the waiting is over — we’ve found another copy of the famous Bob and Ray on Living Stereo with DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! Without a doubt this is the best sound I have ever heard for side one of this album. The sound here is so amazing I’m willing to go out on a limb and make the following recklessly bold statement. Buck Dance on this pressing has the most extended, natural and harmonically correct high frequencies I have ever heard from my speakers (or anyone else’s for that matter). 

And the crazy thing about it is, when played against an actual original pressing of Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp, this copy, which one would assume is made from a dub, SOUNDS FAR BETTER.

Now of course we don’t have ten copies (or even two copies) of LSP 1866 which would allow us to find one with an even better Buck Dance than the one heard here on Bob and Ray, which means we cannot be definitive in any way about the disparity in sound between the two albums.

We can only judge the records we have in hand, not the ones we might have heard years ago or — even worse — speculate about the sound of records we have not actually played, recently or otherwise.

So we will stick to the facts, and the facts of this side one are that it is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING sounding.

But not perfect. We had three Bob and Rays and one of them was a bit more transparent. One of the them had more deep bass. (That first crack of thunder on side one is an obvious test for bottom end; it can really rattle the room on the right copy.)

So let’s be fair and say that overall this copy earns a grade of A++, having two shortcomings, but that Buck Dance earns a grade of A+++, having NO shortcomings!

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Buffalo Springfield – Finally, A Pressing with Some Highs and Lows

More of the Music of Buffalo Springfield

Hot Stamper Pressings of Country and Country Rock

This review was written many years ago.

This is the first White Hot Stamper pressing of Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled LP to ever hit the site, and folks, you are in for shock if you know this album at all. Although for the most part this is no Demo Disc, this super-rare pressing is SO MUCH BETTER than any other version we know of that it just blows our minds. I had my mind blown about ten years ago when I found my first one, and nothing has changed. It’s still the best pressing ever.

Side One

A+++, and my notes say that this is the only side one that actually has any frequency extension on either end. For whatever reason, the mastering engineers who cut this first album rarely managed to put any real top or bottom on the record. Why I can’t imagine. Highs and lows are on the tape; this copy proves it.

Again, notes for this side say it’s by far the best, with Tubey Magic, richness, bottom end, presence and freedom from distortion that no other copy could touch. You will not believe it, and the more copies you have tried in the past, the more astonishing the sound of this copy will be to you.

Side Two

A+++, yes, it won both sides in our shootout, and there actually is Demo Disc sound on this side. Track three, Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It, is AMAZING sounding here, probably because the arrangement is so simple that not much studio trickery was needed. (Kind Woman on the third album is that way too — Demonstration Quality on the best pressings.)

So rich and Tubey-Magical, yet clear and very high-rez, this version of the album changes everything. There is simply nothing like it, and when you hear it you will know that that is no hype.

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Airto – Fingers – Top End Extension Is Key to the Best Pressings

airtofinge_

The best copies have the highs that are missing from so many of the CTI originals. When you play them against most copies there is an extension to the top end that you won’t hear elsewhere. Since this album is heavy on percussion, that difference is critical. The HARMONICS of the percussion are critically important to the music. When they go missing it’s as if the music seems to slow down, a strange effect but a fairly common one with rhythmically dense arrangements such as these. 

With an extended top end the sound is SWEET, not HARSH. Believe us when we tell you, the last thing you want is a harsh sounding pressing of a Rudy Van Gelder recording. (Not unless you have a dull, dull, deadly dull stereo. Those “Old School” stereos are practically the only way one can tolerate some of his early recordings.) (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues – Implore You to Turn Up Your Volume

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

S9 is hands down the best example of a recording that truly comes to life when you Turn Up Your Volume.

There’s not much ambience to be found in their somewhat dead sounding studio, and very little high frequency boost to any instrument in the soundfield, which means at moderate levels this record sounds flat and lifeless. (You could say it has that in common with most Heavy Vinyl pressings these days, if you wanted to take a cheap shot at those records, which, to be honest, I don’t mind doing. They suck; why pretend otherwise?)

But turn it up and man, the sound really starts jumpin’ out of the speakers, without becoming phony or hyped-up. In fact, it actually sounds more NATURAL and REAL at louder levels.  

A Quick and Easy Test

Play the record at normal levels and pick out any instrument — snare, toms, sax, bass — anything you like. Now turn it up a notch and see if the timbre of that instrument isn’t more correct. Add another click of volume and listen again. I think you will see that with each increase in volume, assuming your system can handle it, the tonality of each and every instrument you hear continues to get better.

This record would sound right at something very close to, if not actual, LIVE levels. Of that I have no doubt. (more…)

Prokofiev’s Lt. Kije at 45 RPM – An Audiophile Pressing to Shame Them All

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

This Japanese 45 RPM remastering of our favorite recording of Prokofiev’s wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to these. Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can’t recommend the record any more highly. 

Most of what’s “bad” about a DG recording from 1978 is ameliorated with this pressing. The bass drum (drums?) here must be heard to be believed. We know of no Golden Age recording with as believable a presentation of the instrument as this.

The drum is clearly and precisely located at the back of the stage; even better, it’s as huge and powerful and room-filling as it would have been had you attended the session yourself. That’s our idea of hi-fidelity here at Better Records. (more…)