Top Engineers – Roy Wallace

Rimsky-Korsakov on Speakers Corner – Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn VAGUE

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Hot Stamper Pressings of Decca/London Recordings

Sonic Grade: C

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing shown here in order to see how it would fare up against a pair of wonderful sounding Londons we were in the process of shooting out some time ago. Here’s what we heard in our head to head comparison.

The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount. But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.

There was a cloud of musical instruments, some here, some there, but they were very hard to SEE. On the Londons we played they were clear. You could point to each and every one. On this pressing it was impossible.

Case in point: the snare drum, which on this recording is located toward the back of the stage, roughly halfway between dead center and the far left of the hall. As soon as I heard it on the reissue I recognized how blurry and smeary it was relative to the clarity and immediacy it had on the earlier London pressings. I’m not sure how else to describe it – diffuse, washed out, veiled. It’s just vague.
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Ravel and Ansermet Produce The Best Bolero on Vinyl

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

Best Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

The sound is clear, with wonderful depth to the stage.

As a rule, the classic ’50s and ’60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande in Victoria Hall are as big and rich as any you may have ever heard.

These recordings may just be the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made.

Side One

Bolero (Ravel)

Tubey and clear, with both the snare and the flute coming from so far back in the hall! OUTSTANDING energy and dynamic power.

Turn it up and it really comes to life like LIVE MUSIC. It’s big, wide and believable. We loved it!

Side Two

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Dukas)

ZERO compression. ZERO distortion when loud. Which means it has ZERO compressor distortion, something not five out of a hundred Golden Age recordings can claim. Nice extended top too.

There is depth and richness to beat the band, as well as clarity and tonal correctness that let you forget the recording and just enjoy the music. This piece is not quite as transparent as the Ravel, but still has earned every one of its Three Pluses.

The timbre of the brass is right on the money. As we have noted before, the brass of the Suisse Romande is some of the best to have ever been committed to analog tape.

Again, this side had OUTSTANDING energy and dynamic power the likes of which we think you may never have heard.

La Valse (Ravel)

Boasting some of the best sound of the three works we played on this copy. Again, with that wondrously huge hall adding a sense of space that will allow your speakers to disappear. The performers are not too close, which is very much in keeping with live music.

In his tribute to Ravel after the composer’s death in 1937, Paul Landormy described the work as follows:

“….the most unexpected of the compositions of Ravel, revealing to us heretofore unexpected depths of Romanticism, power, vigor, and rapture in this musician whose expression is usually limited to the manifestations of an essentially classical genius.”


FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records

Top Quality Classical “Sleeper” Recordings

Demo Disc Quality Orchestral Recordings

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade – Yes, Sometimes There Is Only One Set of Magic Stampers

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Rimsky-Korsakov

More Stamper and Pressing Information

In 2015 we wrote:

There are certain stampers that seem to have a consistently brighter top end. They are tolerable most of the time, but the real magic can only be found on the copies that have a correct or even slightly duller top. Live classical music is never “bright” the way recordings of it so often are.

It’s rarely “rich” and “romantic” the way many vintage recordings are — even those we rave about — but that’s another story for another day.

We recently did the shootout again, and now with a much more clear, accurate upper midrange and an even more extended top end, the stampers that we used to find “brighter than ideal” are almost always just too damn bright, period.

We will never buy another copy with those stampers.

We was wrong and we don’t mind admitting it. We must have learned something, right?. We ran an experiment, we discovered something new about this album, and that has to be seen as a good thing.

If you have been making improvements to your system, room, electricity, etc., then you too own records which don’t sound as good as you remember them.

You just don’t know which ones they are, assuming you haven’t played them in a while.

One Stamper to Rule Them All

Which leaves one and only one stamper that can win a shootout. There is another stamper we like well enough to offer to our discriminating customers, but after that it is all downhill, and steeply.

Here are Some Other Albums with One Set of Stampers that Consistently Win Shootouts

Of course the right stampers are the hardest ones to find too. All of which explains why you rarely see a copy of the album for sale on our site.

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Chabrier / Orchestral Music – Ansermet

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chabrier

  • This superb Chabrier album contains our favorite Espana Rhapsody, and this copy lets you hear it with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER and exceptionally quiet vinyl on both sides
  • The “Espana” rhapsody for orchestra in Nearly White Hot stamper sound here is guaranteed to blow your mind
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
  • All the energy and power of Chabrier’s remarkable orchestration, thanks to the brilliant engineering of Roy Wallace
  • Ansermet’s Chabrier disc has long been a favorite of ours here at Better Records – this copy will show you why

If you want a classical record to TEST your system, if you want a classical record to DEMO your system, you will have a hard time finding a better pressing than this very copy.

Who can resist these sublime orchestral works? To quote an infamous (around here) label, they are an audiophile’s dream come true. The Tracklist tab has extensive background information on most of these works.

So clear and clean, and spread out on such a huge stage, either one or both of these sides will serve you well as your go-to reference disc for Orchestral Reproduction.

Listen for the waves of sound in Espana — only the best copies bring out the energy and power of Chabrier’s remarkable orchestration.

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Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake Ballet Highlights / Ansermet

More of the music of Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Records on Decca and London

  • This vintage London stereo pressing of the Suisse Romande’s extraordinary performance of the the Swan Lake Highlights boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • It’s also impossibly quiet at Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, a grade that practically none of our vintage classical titles – even the most well-cared-for ones – ever play at
  • Rosiny string tone and texture, rich tonality, a big hall, practically no smear, lovely transparency – the sound here hard to fault
  • The miking is tasteful, with much less spotlighting than most of the classical recordings we play
  • That gorgeous clarinet says it all, so rich and Tubey Magical – not many copies had the full measure of that sound the way this one did

I rank the performance here by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande second to none. (The Fistoulari on London can be especially good on the right pressing as well.)

Ansermet is surely the man for this music, and the famously huge hall he recorded in just as surely contributes much to the wonderful sound here. (The Royal Gala Ballet is a good example. If you have the two grand to spend we highly recommend you find yourself a good one. And don’t waste your money on the Classic no matter what you may have read elsewhere.)

Speaking of bad sounding Heavy Vinyl, Speakers Corner reissued the complete Swan Lake 2-LP recording on 180g fifteen years ago or so and ruined it. Imagine that. (I happily admit their Nutcracker was quite good for a Heavy Vinyl reissue. It cannot hold a candle to a good vintage pressing but it will beat most of what’s out there on audiophile vinyl, which, truth be told, isn’t saying much.)

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Perhaps This Explains Why This Decca Reissue Sounds So Good

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Music of Claude Debussy

This Decca reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. James Lock was the engineer for these sessions from 1955 to 1962 in Geneva’s glorious sounding Victoria Hall, and his work here is superb in all respects.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s, 1972 to be exact.

We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40+ years ago, not the mediocre-at-best modern mastering of today.

The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these superb sides.

We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

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Borodin / Symphonies 2 & 3 / Ansermet – Speakers Corner Reviewed

More of the music of Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

Sonic Grade: C?

A decent enough Speakers Corner Decca.

The Speakers Corner heavy vinyl reissue of this title is not bad, but like all reissues it lacks the weight found on the originals. I remember it being a little flat and bright. I haven’t played it in years so I could easily be wrong. The glorious sound I hear on the best London pressings is not the kind of thing I hear on 180 gram records by Speakers Corner, or anybody else for that matter.

They do a good job some of the time, but none of their records can compete with a vintage pressing when it’s mastered and pressed properly. 

The best pressings of this UK London Stereo Treasury from the Seventies will beat the pants off of it. That ought to tell you something, right? A budget reissue that is clearly superior to the best that modern mastering has to offer?

It happens all the time. It’s the rule, not the exception.


The second symphony is a work that audiophiles should love. It shares many qualities with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, which you will surely recognize. It also has some lovely passages that remind me of the Tale of The Tsar Saltan, another work by the same composer. If you like exotic and colorfully orchestrated symphonic sound, you will be hard-pressed to find better.

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Debussy / Images for Orchestra / Ansermet – London Versus Decca

More of the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

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

  • INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout this early London Wideband Stereo pressing
  • Our Shootout Winner here was exceptionally lively and dynamic – the RCA with Munch was slightly richer and sweeter, but you will find very little to fault in the sound of this record if you don’t have the right stampers for that one
  • And we’re eager to point out that the Decca pressings were not in the same sonic league as our best Londons, something that we run into on a regular basis but for some reason surprises audiophile record lovers to this very day, why we have no idea, all the pressings we play in our shootouts are mastered by Decca in England from the same tapes
  • 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.

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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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Debussy / Images Pour Orchestre – Argenta

More of the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this London Stereo pressing
  • Both the Ansermet on London and the Munch on RCA are better recordings, but both sell for quite a bit more money than this Stereo Treasury, so if can’t see spending the kind of bread they command, here is a much more affordable alternative that is guaranteed to satisfy
  • These sides are open, airy and sweet, with a lovely extended top end and spaciousness for days
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, and for recordings of Debussy, that is quiet indeed

Argenta is the man for this music; he brings out the folky quality in the work. We much prefer Argenta’s performance to Reiner’s on LSC 2222, which was one of the early releases from Classic Records as well; poorly remastered, of course, and best avoided. The Classic may be on Harry’s TAS list — sad but true — but that certainly has no bearing on the fact that it’s not a very good record. This STS LP will show you exactly what’s missing from that Heavy Vinyl pressing.

Brilliantly performed by the L’Orchestre de La Suisse Romande under the direction of Ataulfo Argenta.

The famously huge hall The Suisse Romande recorded in immeasurably contributes to the wonderful sound to be found here and on their other recordings. The Classic of LSC 2222 with Reiner, on the other hand, is all but unlistenable on a high-resolution system. The opacity, transient smear and loss of harmonic information drives us up a wall. Who can stand that sound? All the way back in 1994, long before we had anything like the system we do now, we were disparaging the “Classic Records Sound” in our catalogs. With each passing year — nearly 30 and counting — we like it less.

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