Top Producers – James Walker

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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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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Bizet / L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites – Ansermet

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More music conducted by Ernest Ansermet

  • If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good ’50s All Tube Analog can be, this killer copy should be just the record to do it
  • Recorded in 1958 using the amazing Decca Tree mic setup, it’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording

This is High Fidelity Audiophile Gold, with an orchestra that sounds so real it will take your breath away. The Golden Age tapes have clearly been mastered brilliantly onto this vintage London vinyl.

No doubt you have run into something like this in our classical listings:

This London is energetic, dynamic, spacious, transparent, rich and sweet. James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these 1958 sessions in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology,

We were impressed with the fact that this pressing excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, allowing the listener to inhabit the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way. (more…)

Delibes / Coppelia & Sylvia / Ansermet – London Vs. Decca, Again

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

Once again, the right Decca reissue blows the doors off the original we played. This has lately become a pattern, but keep in mind it’s a pattern that’s reliable less than half the time, if memory is any guide. Many of the Decca reissues we’ve played over the last few years have failed badly in a head to head with their earlier-mastered and -pressed counterparts.

But the ones that beat all comers are the ones that stick in our minds and show up on our site.

Clearly a case of confirmation bias, but at least we know something about our own biases, and that puts us well ahead of the audiophile pack.

Record collectors and record collecting audiophiles will tell you it shouldn’t happen, but fools like us, who refuse to accept the prognostications of those supposedly “in the know,” have done the work and come up with the experimental data that’s proven them wrong again and again.

Sort of. We had one, and only one, pressing of the original London (CS 6185), and boy was it a mess — crude as crude can be. It sounded just like an “old record” — we’ve played them by the thousands, so we know that sound fairly well at this stage of the game — not the Decca engineered and mastered vintage collectible we know it to be.

Are there copies that sound better? Surely there are, but how are you going to find them? Are you going to shell out the going rate of $25-50 on ebay for one (or more) clean copies, only to find that it/they sound every bit as bad as the one we auditioned? The question answers itself.

If, however, you are one of the lucky few who has a nice London or Decca original of this recording, please let us send you this copy so that you can do the shootout for yourself. You may be shocked at how good this music can sound on the right pressing. And if your copy sounds better than ours we will be very shocked indeed. [This offer was only good while we had the record, and it is long gone at this point. We still remember the sound though!]

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

Hot Stamper Decca and London Pressings Available Now

Production and Engineering

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from April of 1959 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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Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan / Ansermet

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

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • An INCREDIBLE London stereo copy with Shootout Winning Triple (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • It’s so rich and real, with huge WHOMP factor down low, as well as clear, uncolored brass and robust lower strings – wow!
  • Here is the kind of depth and three-dimensional soundstaging that the recordings by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are famous for
  • The Speakers Corner pressing of Ansermet’s famous recording is mediocre, with many faults, all discussed here
  • We would love to be able to find Ansermet’s Scheherazade on London vinyl, but as you may have read on the blog, the right stampers of that record are almost impossible to find these days, although that has not stopped us from trying

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from April of 1959 in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The gorgeous 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 timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. None of them, I repeat not a single one, can 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 you decision to rid yourself of their insufferable mediocrity.)

This London pressing contains a stunningly BEAUTIFUL Tale of the Tsar Saltan Suite. It’s clearly one of the great Demo Disc Quality recordings from the Golden Age (or any age for that matter), with everything that a top Golden Age Orchestral recording should have: all the magic; all the timbral and harmonic subtlety; all the sweetness and warmth; all the Tubey Magical richness.

All that and more. Folks, this is the kind of record that makes you sit up and take notice. Finally, HERE is the kind of sound that can bring an orchestra to life in your very own listening room.

It has the kind of depth and three-dimensional soundstaging that the recordings by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are famous for. (Unlike some of their recordings — Pictures at an Exhibition comes readily to mind — the tempi here are not too slow. The tempi are in fact just right. We love the sound of Ansermet’s records but when the performance drags it’s hard to enjoy the music. For top quality performances of the work by other conductors — rarely in stock I regret to say — please check the site.)

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Some Stereo Systems Make It Difficult to Find Better Sounding Pressings

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Many London and Decca pressings lack weight down low, which thins out the sound and washes out the lower strings.

On some sides of some copies the strings are dry, lacking Tubey Magic. This is decidedly not our sound, although it can easily be heard on many London pressings, the kind we’ve played by the hundreds over the years.

If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange that so many moving coils have these days, you will not notice this tonality issue nearly as much as we do.

Our 17Dx is ruler flat and quite unforgiving in this regard. It makes our shootouts much easier, but brings out the flaws in all but the best pressings, exactly the job we require it to do.

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.

If you have vintage equipment, you never have to worry about the strings on your London orchestral recordings being overly dry sounding.

You haven’t solved the problem, obviously.  You’ve just made it much more difficult — impossible even — to hear what is really on your records.

Some audiophiles have gone down this road and may not even realize what road they are on, or where it leads. It is a dead end, assuming you want to make progress in this hobby. If you want to find Better Records, you need equipment that can distinguish good records from bad ones.

Vintage tube equipment is good for many things, but helping you find the best sounding records is not one of them.

A rack full of equipment such as the one shown here — I suspect it is full of transistors but it really doesn’t matter whether it is or not — is very good at eliminating the subtleties and nuances that distinguish the best records from the second- and third-rate ones.

If you have this kind of electronic firepower, Heavy Vinyl pressings and Half-Speed Mastered LPs don’t sound nearly as irritating as they do to those of us without the kind of filtering you get with this kind of electronic overkill.

In my experience, this much hardware can’t help but get between you and the music you are playing.

This guy is the poster child for mistaking a rack of expensive components for the kind of equipment that can tell him how bad some records are, the Mobile Fidelity Kind of Blue in this case, which is very bad indeed. (Review coming, someday!)

We assume our customers can hear it — our good customer Conrad had no problem appreciating its shortcomings — but we are pretty sure our customers can recognize a good record from a bad one, otherwise they would not see the value in Hot Stampers, right?

But the blue lights look awesome, the stuff costs a fortune, and for those with better eyes than ears, it’s impressive as hell.

Good equipment is necessary but far from sufficient to get good sound, a subject we discuss here and at some length throughout the blog in our commentaries about audio equipment.

Why Are Some Common Subjects Concerning the Sound of Recordings Not More Widely Discussed?

Can we really be hearing all these characteristics of recordings that nobody else seems to be hearing? A few examples:

If audiophiles and audiophile reviewers are hearing these things on the records they review, in magazines and audiophile forums, why aren’t they discussing them? (Of course, they may in fact be discussing the hell out of them. I rarely read anything they write. But I don’t think they are discussing these things much. If they are, and you read them, please shoot me a link so that I can take part in the discussion.)

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Bizet / Carmen Fantaisie / Ricci – A Decent Decca Reissue

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

More Performances by Ruggiero Ricci

This Ace of Diamonds UK pressing of the famous Ricci recording has fairly good sound, but it is a far cry from the real thing on either Decca or London disc.

The right originals are just too good. There is nothing like them. They are simply amazing recordings, the likes of which have not been equaled in fifty or more years. If you want that sound, you’d better plan on going back to 1960 or thereabouts to find it.

The Speakers Corner Reissue was my first exposure to this music and I fell in love with it. I recommended it highly back in the days when I was selling Heavy Vinyl. I haven’t heard one in years but my guess is that you are much better off with this Decca Ace of Diamonds pressing that anything Speakers Corner might have put out.


These are our comments for the last killer copy we had on the site.

Ricci’s playing of the Bizet-Sarasate Carmen Fantasie is OUT OF THIS WORLD. There is no greater performance on record in my opinion, and few works that have as much Audiophile Appeal.

The Average Copy

When you play a copy of this record and hear a smeared, veiled violin, don’t be too surprised. This is not the least bit unusual, in fact it’s pretty much par for the course. The soundstage may be huge: spacious and 3-D; it is on most copies. But what good is a record of violin showpieces if the violin doesn’t sound right?

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