- A vintage Decca import pressing of these wonderful orchestral pieces that was doing just about everything right, with both sides earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades
- La Mer is on side one and it is lovely – rich and sweet, tonally correct, dynamic, and extended on the top and the bottom
- Two other major works found on this compilation are Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Clair De Lune
- The richness of the strings 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
- When you hear how good this record sounds, you may have a hard time believing that it’s a budget reissue from 1972, but that’s precisely what it is. Even more extraordinary, the right copies are the ones that win shootouts
- There are about 100 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of offering the Best Performances with the Highest Quality Sound, and this record certainly deserve a place on that list.
- This early London pressing of Holst’s phenomenal Magnum Opus boasts stunning sound from first note to last
- These sides are clear, full-bodied and present, with plenty of space around the players, the unmistakable sonic hallmark of the properly mastered, properly pressed vintage analog LP
- Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and scratch-free surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience of this TAS-approved recording
- An original UK Decca pressing of this wonderful sounding record boasting STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades from first note to last
- Tonally correct from top to bottom and full of Tubey Magic, it’s unbelievably spacious and three-dimensional, with depth to rival any recording you may own
- The violin (played by Boskovsky himself) is immediate, real and lively here – there is a transparency and ease to the sound that is not often heard in recordings from any era, making this a very special record indeed
- Gordon Parry and James Lock handled the engineering duties for Decca and their work here is hard to fault
Wow, what a find! This is a WONDERFUL sounding record with vintage Decca/London sound. There is not a trace of hyped-up sound to be found on this record.
So spacious! This is a fairly small ensemble, not a huge orchestra, playing in a lively hall, exactly the kind of hall in which this music was meant to be heard. The reason everything on this disc sounds right is that the venue, the sound and the music are authentic to these works in practically every detail.
This vintage UK import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What The Best Sides Of Dances of Old Vienna Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We’re Listening For On Dances of Old Vienna
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.
- An excellent copy of this wonderful original 4 LP Box Set with roughly Double Plus (A++) orchestral sound across these 8 magical sides
- The vinyl is as quiet as we can find it – like most Shaded Dogs and Mercs, Mint Minus Minus is about the best you can hope for
- We have been readying this shootout for probably twenty years – we had 8 box sets to play, 32 discs in all, searching for the best sound we could find on these famous TAS List records
- There is not much chance we will be able to do such a comprehensive shootout in the near future — we find at most one nice set per year, which means the next big shootout is a very long way off
- Wild’s playing of the Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini here is one of our favorites on vinyl
- Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
- “Rachmaninoff’s music . . . changes as the composer goes along, moving from Romantic to a tentative Modernism in such works as the fourth piano concerto and the Symphonic Dances. In this sense, he walks a path similar to Puccini’s, incorporating new approaches to extend that [which was] already essentially his. Certainly, the works here show these changes, as the composer picks up more experience, both in writing and in hearing music.”
We can, we played it.
Or, to be more correct, we played them. Two pressings, each with one good side and one very bad side.
This 2-pack from many years ago (ten perhaps), described below, boasts White Hot Stamper sound on side two for the Mehta Planets. Yes, it IS possible. Side two shows you what this record is actually capable of — big WHOMP, no SMEAR, super SPACIOUS, DYNAMIC, with an EXTENDED top.
It beat every London pressing we threw at it, coming out on top for our shootout. Folks, we 100% guarantee that whatever pressing you have of this performance, this copy will trounce it.
But side one of this London original British pressing was awful. We wrote it off as NFG after about a minute; that’s all we could take of the bright, hard-sounding brass of War.
If you collect Super Discs based on their catalog numbers and labels and preferred countries of manufacture, you are in big trouble when it comes time to play the damn things.
That approach doesn’t work for sound and never did.
If your stereo is any good, this is not news to you. The proof? The first disc in this 2-pack is Dutch. It earned a Super Hot grade in our blind test, beating every British copy we played against it save one. Side two however was recessed, dark and lifeless. Another NFG side, but the perfect complement to our White Hot British side two!
Hot Stampers are the only way to get this problematical recording to come to life, to convey the real power of Holst’s music. The typical copy of this record is dull, two-dimensional, smeary, veiled, opaque and compressed. If you were never impressed with the sound of HP’s favorite — a member of the Top Twelve TAS Super Disc List — this might just be the copy that will change your mind.
Our best Hot Stampers (depending on how hot they are) can show you an entirely different recording: rich, spacious, sweet, dynamic, full of ambience and orchestral detail — in short, a world of sound (no pun intended) barely hinted at by the standard import pressing.
If you would like a better sounding pressing of the work, with an even more impressive performance, our favorite recording of The Planets can be found here.
Sonic Grade: F
A Hall of Shame Pressing and a Classical Record we can’t recommend.
We’re big fans of Decca/London Records in general, but in this case the sound and the performances are simply not acceptable.
We had three original UK pressed copies of CS 6554 and none of them sounded any good to us.
What’s worse, Mehta and the Los Angeles Phil play the work poorly. How this album got released in 1967 I have no idea.
A Public Service
We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.
You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some Hall of Shame records the sound is passable but the music is bad. These are also records you can safely avoid.)
Accurate VTA adjustment for classical records is critical to their proper reproduction. If you do not have an arm that allows you to easily adjust its VTA, then you will just have to do it the hard way (which normally means loosening a set screw and moving the arm up and down until you get lucky with the right height).
Yes, it may be time consuming, it may even be a major pain in the ass, but there is no question in my mind that you will hear a dramatic improvement in the sound of your classical records once you have learned to precisely adjust the VTA for each and every one of them. We heard the improvement on this record, and do pretty much on all the classical LPs we play. All records really.
VTA is not a corner you should be cutting. Its careful adjustment is critical. Of course, so are anti-skate, azimuth and tracking weight. The links below have a fair amount of advice on turntable setup which might be worth checking out.
This Mobile Fidelity LP contains the music of Star Wars and Close Encounters, conducted by Zubin Mehta. The MoFi pressing is far more transparent than the London pressings we have auditioned of the album, even the ones half-speed mastered by Stan Ricker himself.
Yes, he cut the original Londons! At Half Speed! (We’ve also played some later pressings not mastered by Stan, of course. Who can predict which version would sound the best?)
It’s still one of the better MoFi remasters, all things considered. The music, to these ears, has always been hi-fi-ish schlock, and the recording itself is too multi-miked to be taken seriously. It sounds far too much like a bad Phase IV recording, and we know whereof we speak when it comes to Phase IV, good or bad. We’ve played them by the dozens.
This famous record from the Top Seven of the TAS Super Disc List has the same problem, but I never hear anybody mention it. Why, I cannot imagine, other than our favorite explanation for just about everything that seems to fly under the audiophile radar, or perhaps a better description would be flying over the heads of the self-appointed audiophile cognoscenti, that old standby, reviewer malpractice.
Bottom line, a loser, but the original Londons are even worse!
AMAZING A+++ sound from START TO FINISH for all three works on this White Hot Stamper 2-pack!
Both of the copies in this 2-pack have one Shootout Winning superb sounding side and one side that plainly just didn’t cut it, so we combined them to give you out of this world White Hot Stamper sound for the entire album. The two good sides (out of four) boast Demo Disc sound quality!
This may not be a Copland work you know well, and I’m guessing the percussion concerto is not familiar either. Both are quite interesting and enjoyable if not exactly Must Owns. That said, the main reason audiophiles will LOVE this album is not the music, but the SOUND. The percussion works which start on side one and take up all of side two have amazing depth, soundstaging, dynamics, three-dimensionality and absolutely dead-on tonality — it’s hard to imagine a recording that allows your speakers to disappear more completely than this one.
We are on record as rarely being impressed with the recordings Zubin Mehta undertook as Music Director of the L.A. Phil. Audiophiles for some reason hold them in much higher esteem than we do, but then again audiophiles hold a great many recordings in much higher esteem than we do. It’s dumbfounding how many audiophiles and reviewers revere records which strike our ears as hard to take seriously. The TAS Super Disc List is full of them, and so are the entries in the annual Stereophile Records to Die For issue. We debunk them on the site by the carload, and even the hundreds that we’ve done are but a fraction of the bad records receiving undeserved praise in the audiophile rags over the years. (more…)
- A superb Decca stereo pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
- This recording is from 1976, more than a decade later than the one we recently offered on London from this conductor — the sound holds up though
- Engineered by the brilliant James Lock at Schloss Ludwigsburg palace in Germany, you can feel the cool air of the recording venue
- Karl Münchinger understands this music and makes it come alive – the Decca engineers are of course a big help too