TAS Super Disc List

Jerry Read Smith & Tom Fellenbaum – The Strayaway Child

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  • This superb collaboration has been a member of the TAS Super Disc List for decades, and here it is with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy is surprisingly spacious, full-bodied and natural, with few of the problems that plague most of the pressings we played
  • The sound of Smith’s dulcimer is enchanting here, with a nice extended top end and plenty of space around all the instruments
  • “The full, shimmering waterfall of Jerry Read Smith’s hammered-dulcimer playing takes center stage, flowing together with a sumptuous variety of accompanying instruments…”

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Respighi / Ancient Airs and Dances / Dorati

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Both sides of this TAS List early Colorback RFR copy have SUPER Hot Stamper sound, so much richer and sweeter and less strident than the typical copy you might find. (I must admit the Mercury approach to sound has not worn as well as I might have hoped. When it comes to the Big Three from the Golden Age, these days we prefer London, followed by RCA, then Mercury.) 

Of course the music is wonderful, with Respighi looking back and paying homage to the music and the musical structures of the past. This is no Pines of Rome. Please see the Ancient Airs and Dances tab above for more on the music.

Side One

A++ Superb Living Presence sound. Listen especially to how textured and natural he cellos sound, as well as the strings in general. Mercury rarely recorded strings properly but here they sound tonally correct, neither nasally nor strident. (more…)

Bob and Ray – Throw a Stereo Spectacular – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Living Stereo

More Bob and Ray

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

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. (more…)

Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances – Johanos – (Reviewed in the ’90s)

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Symphonic Dances / Johanos

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl Classical LP debunked.

This Athena LP is now long out of print, but it received rave reviews when it was released. (We quote many of them below.) This album is a member of the TAS Super Disc list, but we found the sound awfully opaque, smeary, slow and compressed, the kind of bad “analog” sound that Doug Sax brought to the early AP releases.  (more…)

Dick Schory – Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp – Check Your Polarity!

More Dick Schory

More Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises .

An amazing discovery from Better Records. Many copies of this album are REVERSED POLARITY on side two (the side with Buck Dance, one of the better tracks on that side and great for testing). Yes, once again you heard it here first, folks. We had two 4S copies of the album and both of them had side two out of polarity.  

NEWSFLASH: 7s on side two is out of polarity too. Just played one today. There’s practically no real top end extension until you reverse the polarity.

Reversing the absolute phase on this record today was a REVELATION. There before me was all the ambience, openness, sweetness, silkiness and warmth I had come to expect from the best pressings of this longtime member of HP’s TAS List of Super Discs, a record that really is a Super Disc when you hear a good one, and this is a very very good one indeed, on side two anyway. (more…)

TAS List Thoughts on Willie Nelson’s Stardust

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Stardust

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There’s a reason Willie Nelson’s Stardust is on HP’s TAS List of Super Discs, but you’d never know it by playing the average Columbia pressing. Most copies of this record just sound like an old Willie Nelson record. You wouldn’t have a clue how magical this recording can be if you dropped the needle on the average copy, a copy that for all intents and purposes appears to be exactly the pressing that Harry Pearson recommends on his Super Disc list. The catalog number may be the same, but the sound won’t even hint at Super disc status. (Which, sad to say, most audiophiles don’t seem to notice.)

Get real. Unless you have at least a dozen copies of this record (and we had more than double that) you have very little chance of finding even one side with exceptional sound.

This has always been the problem with the TAS list. The pressing variations on a record like this are HUGE and DRAMATIC. There is a world of difference between this copy and what the typical audiophile owns based on HP’s list. I’ve been complaining for years that the catalog number that Harry supplies has very little benefit to the typical audiophile record lover. (more…)

Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Heifetz – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

Violin Concerto / Heifetz

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This TAS List Shaded Dog has AMAZINGLY NATURAL violin tone, especially on side two, which earned a seriously good grade of A++. This side two will show you exactly what Living Stereo Magic is all about. The violin is very well recorded, and with a side two as good as this one you hear just how big and rich it can sound.

Side one is actually even more Tubey Magical, but it’s a classic case of too much of a good thing, with more tube smear than we would like. It’s musical when the violin solos but a bit much when the orchestra comes in. (more…)

Chabrier / Espana – Argenta – A Speakers Corner Winner

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

Espana – Argenta 

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Sonic Grade: B

This is a Speakers Corner Decca 180 gram LP reissue of the famous Argenta performance, a recording which can sound positively amazing on the right original London, but only about 2 out of 10 copies actually do. (And where in the world are you going to find 10 clean copies of a record that’s practically 50 years old?)

This pressing gets you most of the way there, on reasonably quiet vinyl, for a lot less money. (more…)

Saint-Saens – Piano Concerto No. 2

More Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

Piano Concerto No. 2

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Harry Pearson put this recording on his TAS List of Super Disc LPs, and with good reason — the sound is wonderfully relaxed and natural. This is no Hi-Fi Spectacular, as is the case with so many of the records on his list. (Hey, we like our Demo Discs every bit as much as he does; just not the same ones. SR 90006 and LSC 2225 on Classic? Really?)

Side two of this White Dog pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound, and side one is not far behind with a sonic grade of A+ to A++. The richness of the strings, a signature sound for RCA in the Living Stereo era, is displayed here beautifully for fans of the classical Golden Age. It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years. It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that will not be lost on us.   (more…)

Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain – Our Shootout Winner in 2016

More Miles Davis

More Sketches of Spain

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

The first White Hot copy to hit the site in nearly EIGHT years! Both sides were stunning, knocking us out and earning our top Triple Plus (A+++) grade.

When you get a Hot Stamper like this one the sound is truly MAGICAL. (AMG has that dead right in their review.) Tons of ambience, tubey magic all over the place; let’s face it, this is one of those famous Columbia recordings that shows just how good the Columbia engineers were back then. The sound is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite just like the real thing. What more can you ask for?

Harry Pearson added this record to his TAS List of Super Discs a few years back, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording?

Of course you can be quite sure that he would have been listening exclusively to the earliest pressings on the Six Eye label. Which simply means that he probably never heard a copy with the clarity, transparency and freedom from distortion that these later label pressings offer.

The Six Eyes are full of Tubey Magic, don’t get me wrong; Davis’s trumpet can be and usually is wonderful sounding. It’s everything else that tends to suffer, especially the strings, which are shrill and smeary on most copies: Six Eyes, 360s and Red Labels included. (more…)