Top Producers – James Walker

Bizet / Carmen Fantaisie on Speakers Corner Vinyl

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

More Performances by Ruggiero Ricci

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: C

Speakers Corner remastered this title back in the ’90s and did a decent enough job. I would guess my grade would be about a “C.” We carried it and recommended it at the time. I doubt if I would have very many kind things to say about it now. We’ve played an enormous number of superb classical records in the last ten years or so, raising the bar dramatically higher than it used to be.

To illustrate what we don’t like about these Heavy Vinyl pressings, even when they’re good, we have reproduced our review for the Speakers Corner pressing of The Tale of the Tsar Saltan which we played in a recent shootout against the vintage Londons we had on hand.

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing in order to see how it would fare up against our wonderful sounding Londons. 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. Similar and even more problematical losses can be heard in the area of top end extension. 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.

This particular Heavy Vinyl reissue is more or less tonally correct, which is not something you can say about many reissues these days. In that respect it’s tolerable and even enjoyable. I guess for thirty bucks that’s about the most you can hope for.

But… when I hear this kind of sound only one word comes to mind, a terrible word, a word that makes us recoil in shock and horror. That word is DUB. This reissue is made from copy tapes.

Copies in analog or copies in digital, who is to say, but it sure ain’t the master tape we’re hearing, of that we can be fairly certain. How else to explain such mediocrity of sound?

Yes, the cutting systems being used to master these vintage recordings aren’t very good; that seems safe to say. Are the tapes too old and worn? Is the vinyl of today simply not capable of storing the kind of magical sound we find so often in pressings from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s?

To all these questions and more we have but one answer: we don’t know. We know we don’t like the sound of very many of these modern reissues and I guess that’s probably all that we need to know about them. If someone ever figures out how to make a good sounding modern reissue we’ll ask them how they did it. Until then it seems the question is moot.

Back in 2011 we stopped carrying Heavy Vinyl and other Audiophile LPs of all kinds. So many of them don’t even sound this good, and this sound bores us to tears. (more…)

Bartok & Beethoven – Music For Strings Percussion And Celeste / Grosse Fuge / Ansermet

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More of the music of Bela Bartok (1881-1945)

  • An outstanding copy of this wonderful release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • I’ve never been a fan of the Grosse Fugue, but the Bartok piece on side two earned a Nearly White Hot stamper grade, and it is one of the best on record
  • Clear and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling
  • Vintage Decca natural and relaxed sound, with wonderfully textured string tone – it’s all here and more
  • “… one of the best-known compositions by the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók.”

NOTE: our cover does not have the tear in the upper right corner shown in the picture. (more…)

Bizet – L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites – Ansermet

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

More music conducted by Ernest Ansermet

  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one mated to a nearly as good side two, this pressing has the best sounding Carmen Suite we have ever heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is the best sounding and quietest Carmen Suite to ever make it to the site, and it was worth the wait – the sound of this vintage Blueback is absolutely breathtaking
  • If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good ’60s All Tube Analog can be, this killer copy should be just the record to do it
  • Recorded in 1961 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 Blueback 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 1961 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…)

Beethoven – Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) – Ansermet

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Classical Recordings

xxxxx

  • With solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides, this is an outstanding find from our recent shootout
  • The texture on the strings is captured perfectly – this is an area in which modern pressings fail almost completely
  • Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is almost nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There
  • Recorded in Geneva’s exquisite Victoria Hall in 1959, this is a top performance from Ansermet and the Suisse Romande, the best we know of

In our opinion this is the best sounding Beethoven 6th Symphony ever recorded. It is the most beautiful of them all, and has long been my personal favorite of the nine Beethoven composed.

Ansermet’s performance is clearly definitive to my ear as well. 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 any other hall we know of. There is a richness to the sound that exceeds 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 and the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is practically nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There.

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 none of them, will ever begin to sound the way this record sounds. Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time.

The texture on the strings is captured perfectly; this is, by the way, an area in which modern pressings fail almost completely. We have discussed this subject extensively on the site. The “rosin on the horsehair” is a sound that is apparently impossible to encode on modern vinyl. (more…)

Chabrier / Orchestral Music – Ansermet

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

Reviews and Commentaries for Chabrier’s Orchestral Music

xxxxx

  • 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 Track Listing 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. (more…)

Beethoven / Symphony No. 5 / Ansermet / L’Orchestre De La Suisse Romande

xxxxx

  • This superb performance of the 5th makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • The texture on the strings is captured perfectly – this is an area in which modern pressings fail almost completely
  • Clear and transparent and natural – your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all
  • This is a wonderful recording in every respect – it’s guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own

Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is practically nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. Practically none of them will ever begin to sound the way this record sounds.

Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time. (more…)

Stravinsky / The Firebird Suite / Ansermet – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

More on The Firebird

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds.

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

“Excellent sound with a wonderful performance from Ansermet.”

What We Think We Know about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral)

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 with Hot Stampers

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

xxxxx
xxxxx
xxxxx
xxxxx

 

In our opinion this is the best sounding Beethoven 6th Symphony ever recorded. It is the most beautiful of them all, and has long been my personal favorite of the nine Beethoven composed.

Ansermet’s performance is clearly definitive to my ear as well. 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 any other hall we know of. There is a richness to the sound that exceeds 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 and the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

We have a section of classical recordings that we nominate for The Best Performances with Top Quality Sound, and this record is of course one of its founding members. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner – Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn VAGUE

rimsktaleo_speakerscornerSonic 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 a while 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.
(more…)

Stravinsky – Petrushka – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B (I’m guessing)

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

“One of the best of the Deccas. Superb sound. Ansermet’s performance here is definitive.”