Top Engineers – Kenneth Wilkinson

Ted Heath – Shall We Dance – Absolutely Amazing Sound (and We Love the Music Too)

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One of the best sounding records we have ever played, the Gold Standard for Tubey Magical Big Band. Both sides are huge, rich, weighty and dynamic like few records you have ever heard. Three elements create the magic here: Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson and the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.

More Big Band Jazz

Years ago we wrote in another listing “We had a copy of Heath’s Shall We Dance not long ago that had some of the biggest, richest, most powerful sound I have ever heard. Watch for Hot Stampers coming to the site soon.” Well, now they’re here, and this copy fulfills the promise of the album like no copy we have ever played.

DEMO DISC SOUND barely begins to do this one justice. This is Audiophile Quality Big Band sound to beat them all. The American big bands rarely got the kind of sound that the Decca engineers were able to achieve on records like this. For one thing they didn’t have Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson or the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.

Unlike some of the American big band leaders who were well past their prime by the advent of the two-channel era, Heath is able to play with all the energy and verve required for this style of music. He really does “swing in high stereo” on these big band dance tunes. (more…)

Rossini / Overtures with Maag – The Best on Record

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a side two that’s not far behind, the orchestral power of display here is positively PHENOMENAL
  • This Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Performances and sound like no other – Maag’s William Tell is in a league of its own
  • “You’d think Maag would approach the scores the way most conductors do: gung-ho and hell bent for leather. He doesn’t. In fact, Maag displays a good deal of reserve, calculating his interpretations for the biggest payoff. For instance, in William Tell he keeps the opening sections in check, and then he builds the final segment into a most-exciting whirlwind, the conclusion carrying you away.”

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Schubert / Symphony No. 9 “The Great” / Krips / LSO

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  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard this powerful orchestral masterpiece sound remotely as good as it does here
  • One of the truly great All Tube Wilkinson “Decca Tree” recordings in Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty on this very disc
  • The 1950s master tape has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1976, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer
  • Don’t expect to ever see an original on this site – the two we had were crude, flat, full of harmonic distortion, and with clearly restricted frequency extremes

Krips’ 1958 recording for Decca is here brought to life on a fairly quiet and certainly quite wonderful World of the Great Classics pressing from 1976. This copy was clearly the best we played, showing us a huge hall, with layered depth that was only hinted at on most pressings, regardless of age.

The strings are remarkably rich and sweet. This pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers of the day were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. (more…)

Debussy / Clair de Lune on Stereo Treasury

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The STS is not impressive on the few we’ve played, for no reason other than they are simply not that sonically impressive. British vinyl, British mastering, just not especially good sound. Save your money. (more…)

Bruch – Scottish Fantasia / Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto – Campoli

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  • As good as the Mendelssohn is on side one – with Double Plus (A++) sound it would have to be excellent indeed – the crowning glory of this disc is the Scottish Fantasy on side two  
  • It’s some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, right up there with our longtime favorite, the Heifetz on Living Stereo (LSC 2603) 
  • One of the truly great 1959 All Tube Kenneth Wilkinson “Decca Tree” recordings in Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty on this very disc
  • Referring to the Mendelssohn, Gramophon noted: “[Campoli’s] virtuosity in the finale are as self-evident as is the excellence of the accompaniment under Sir Adrian Boult. There are many felicitous touches and the distinguished soloist plays magnificently throughout.”

If you want an outstanding Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and an out of this world Scottish Fantasy, this is the copy for you!

The Bruch brings to mind some of Tchaikovsky’s works. It’s so sweet and melodic, it completely draws you into its world of sound. This is a work of unsurpassed beauty, music that belongs in any serious music collection.

As we noted above, Kenneth Wilkinson engineered in the legendary Kingsway Hall. There is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least. 

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years (and this of course includes practically everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl). It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that is not being lost on us.

It’s also 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 timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

I don’t think the Decca engineers could have cut this record any better — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the resolving power, clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. They cannot begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in your decision to rid yourself of their unforgivable mediocrity.) (more…)

Schubert / Symphony No. 9 “The Great” / Krips / LSO – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

Krips’ 1958 recording for Decca (from Kingsway Hall, with the legendary Kenneth Wilkinson behind the board) is here brought to life on a quiet and wonderful World of the Great Classics reissue from 1976. This copy was one of the best we played, showing us depth and transparency that was only hinted at on most pressings, regardless of age.

The strings are so, so rich and sweet — this pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers of the day were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The ’50s master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1976, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.  (more…)

The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – Classic Records Repress – Reviewed in the ’90s

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Sonic Grade: C or Better 

Probably a fairly good Classic Records album. When I played this record years ago I thought it was one of the better Classic RCA titles. You can be sure it won’t sound like the original — [almost] no Classic record does — but it might be pretty good all things considered (since the original sells for well over a thousand dollars!). Ansermet is the king of the ballet here and the Decca engineers do him proud. (more…)

Chabrier / Orchestral Music / Ansermet – Reviewed in 2011

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

This Super Hot Stamper Decca reissue pressing has superb sound on both sides, with some of the loveliest orchestral music reproduction we’ve ever heard.

On both sides it is very RICH and TUBEY. Some might even say that it’s too “Tubey Magical”, but of course that’s a matter of taste. If you like the dry sterility of the modern Heavy Vinyl pressing, perhaps this is not the right record for you. Or maybe this is EXACTLY the record you need, the one that can show you what real vintage Golden Age Glorious Analog is all about. (more…)

Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This Shaded Dog pressing of the famous TAS List Super Disc title has TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a side two that is White Hot! We have never heard a copy with such a huge hall sound and so much weight down low. As we said last time we did a shootout for this title in 2007: “DEMO DISC QUALITY ORCHESTRAL SOUND like you will not believe. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this for huge orchestral dynamics and energy.” 

As you know, if you’ve been on our site for any length of time at all, we’ve made a good number of significant improvements to our stereo and room since 2007, so it’s entirely accurate to say we have never heard this kind of Demo Disc sound for this album until now, because we haven’t!

Side One

A++. The hall is wide and deep as any you will hear. Tons of power and weight down low. A touch dark, otherwise it would have earned the full Three Plus top grade.

Side Two

A+++, White Hot and Hard to Fault! The strings are so richly textured — who does it better than Wilkinson? Cymbal really crash on this side, something you rarely hear correctly reproduced on recordings.

This could easily become your go-to record for demonstrating not just the Power of the Orchestra, but the power of Old Analog! (more…)

Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz – Awesome In Mono

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This is the kind of record that the mono cartridge owners of the world worship. And for good reason. But you don’t need to have a mono cartridge to hear how good — in fact, how much BETTER — this copy sounds than most of the stereo pressings out there.

I found out about mono classical records one day when I got a mono copy of The Power Of The Orchestra, VCS 2659. It sounded better than any stereo recording of that work I had ever heard. All the instruments were so much more solid sounding, so palpable, so free from distortion, that it made me recognize for the first time what the mono record lovers of the world were talking about. (more…)