Top Producers – James Walker

Bach – Musical Offering / Münchinger

More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

  • An incredible London pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and fairly quiet vinyl for a pressing from its era
  • Engineered by the brilliant Roy Wallace at one of our favorite recording venues, Victoria Hall, this is the glorious sound that has not been heard on vinyl (or any other medium) for more than fifty years
  • A spectacular Demo Disc recording that is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic
  • The Tubey Magical richness is off the charts on this copy – if you want to know what kind of sound wins shootouts around these parts, this pressing will show you
  • It knocked us out and it is guaranteed to do the same for you

We used to sell the Speakers Corner Decca pressing back in the late ’90s. It was one of the better offerings from that reissue label, and today would probably earn a sonic grade of B or so.

There is a world of difference between a reissue — even a good one such as the Speakers Corner — and the real thing, on either Decca or London press.

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Chabrier / Ansermet – The Best Espana on Record

Ansermet’s performance of Espana is still our favorite — nothing in our experience can touch it, musically or sonically.

We created a special section for recordings of such quality. Classical and orchestral records that we’ve auditioned and found to have the best performances with the highest quality sound can be found here.

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Bizet / L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites – Dry Strings on One Side, Fine on the Other

My notes for side two on a copy we recently auditioned read:

Could use more tubes.

Strings could be a bit smoother.

Needs a bit more weight down low.

My notes for side one:

Side one had all of this and more!

Some Common Issues with Londons

Many London and Decca pressings lack weight down low, thinning out the sound and washing 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.

Can we really be hearing all these things that nobody else seems to be hearing? Things like:

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 be a part of the discussion.)

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

More music conducted by Ernest Ansermet

If you have vintage equipment, you never have to worry about the strings on your London orchestral recordings be 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. It is a dead end if you want to 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 is also very good for eliminating the kinds of 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 electronic overkill shown here. It can’t help but get between you and the music.

But it looks awesome, it costs a fortune, and for those with better eyes than ears, it is impressive as hell.

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Big Speakers, Loud Levels and More Power to the Orchestra

Pressings that Need to Be Reproduced on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

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Recordings that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

More Exceptionally Dynamic Demo Disc Recordings 

The darker brass instruments like tubas, trombones and french horns are superb here. Other Golden Age recordings of the work, as enjoyable as they may be in other respects, do not fully reproduce the weighty quality of the brass, probably because of compression, limiting, tube smear, or some combination of the three.

The brass on this record has a power like practically no other. It’s also tonally correct. It’s not aggressive. It’s not irritating. It’s just immediate and powerful the way the real thing is when you hear it live. That’s what really caught my ear when I first played the recording.

There is a blast of brass at the end of Catacombs that is so big and real, it makes you forget you’re listening to a recording. You hear every brass instrument, full size, full weight. I still remember the night I was playing that album, good and loud of course, when that part of the work played through. It was truly startling in its power. (Back then I had the Legacy Whisper speaker system, the one with eight 15″ woofers. They moved air like nobody’s business. If you want to reproduce the power of the trombone, the loudest instrument in the orchestra, they’re your man.)
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Bizet – Saint-Saens – Carmen Fantaisie / Introduction And Rondo Capriccioso / Ricci / Gamba

NEWSFLASH:

We sold this copy last night (10/10), immediately after one had sold in an auction on ebay for $787, a price almost two hundred dollars more than what we were asking. Note that our copy was cleaned and auditioned and found to be both phenomenally good sounding and reasonably quiet. None of these things could be said of the record on ebay of course, but apparently the word is out that this is an amazing recording and the bidding reflected that fact. I have never seen one go for anything like this kind of dough. Now that they do — there were four bidders about $550 — you should not expect to see a Hot Stamper pressing of the album show up on our site again unless we get very lucky locally, and that is highly unlikely. Here is the link to the auction, which will only be up for about 2 weeks.

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

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound throughout — Triple Plus (A+++) on both sides and vinyl that is as quiet as any that can be found from this era
  • This is a spectacular recording, and one of the Greatest Violin Showpiece Albums of All Time
  • It is certainly a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection. If you’re on our site and taking the time to read this, that probably means you.
  • Ruggiero Ricci is superb throughout – we know of no better performances of this works than those found on this very record
  • 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

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. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade / Ansermet / Suisse Romande

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the music of Rimsky-Korsakov

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  • This outstanding pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides
  • These copies will go head to head with the hottest Reiner pressing and are guaranteed to blow the doors off of it
  • The top end is natural and sweet – THIS is the way the solo violin in the left channel is supposed to sound
  • Extraordinary Demo Disc sound – the brass has weight and power on that powerful first movement like nothing you’ve ever heard in your life outside of live performance
  • Finding the best sounding pressings of this exceptional recording was a turning point for us – here was sound we had never experienced for the work, and what a THRILL it was

We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had potential.

The only recordings that held up all the way through — the fourth movement being THE Ball Breaker of all time, for both the engineers and musicians — were those by Reiner and Ansermet. This was disappointing considering how much time and money we spent finding, cleaning and playing those ten or so other pressings.

Here it is seven years later and we’re capitalizing on what we learned from the first big go around, which is simply this: the Ansermet recording on Decca/London can not only hold its own with the Reiner on RCA, but beat it in virtually every area. The presentation and the sound itself are both more relaxed and natural, even when compared to the best RCA pressings.

The emotional content of the first three movements (all of side one) under Ansermet’s direction are clearly superior. The roller-coaster excitement Reiner and the CSO bring to the fourth movement cannot be faulted, or equaled. In every other way, Ansermet’s performance is the one for me. We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had potential. (more…)

Bizet / Carmen Fantaisie on Speakers Corner Vinyl

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

More Performances by Ruggiero Ricci

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…)

Weber / Overtures / Ansermet / Suisse Romande

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

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GLORIOUS Super Hot Stamper sound or BETTER on side two of this original London Blueback UK pressing. Yes, it has the Decca / London sound we expect from Ansermet, the Suisse Romande orchestra, and the amazing Victoria Hall they recorded in — rich and spacious, with lovely texture to the strings.

But that’s not all. This record is exceptionally DYNAMIC. If you like listening to your records at realistic levels — the only way to fly to our way of thinking — then you had better watch your levels! The huge bottom end makes those dynamic passages a thrill to experience. Make sure your VTA is carefully adjusted — a big deal with us these days — and you will be in for the ride of your life.

Side Two

A++ to A+++. The only reason we did not award the full three pluses was that there is a touch of congestion in some of the loudest passages. Other than that there is practically nothing to fault with the sound! No smear, present and clear. (more…)