Top Studios and Concert Halls – Victoria Hall

Debussy / La Mer / Ansermet

More of the music of Claude Debussy 

More La Mer / Ansermet 

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

We were impressed with the fact that this vintage London 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. Depth and transparency are key to losing yourself in the music, and this pressing offers plenty of both.

White Hot Stamper “can’t be beat” sound on side one for La Mer. Side two is also White Hot for this 1965 Victoria Hall recording. Front row center seating for both sides in the best Decca tradition. Ansermet and the Suisse Romande bring out the beauty in this enchanting, enigmatic work. (more…)

Debussy / Images Pour Orchestre / Argenta

More of the music of Claude Debussy 

More Images Pour Orchestre / Argenta 

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

Presenting Super Hot Stamper sound on side two of this Stereo Treasury LP, which is where this superbly performed, wonderul sounding Iberia can be found. Although lacking in orchestral weight, from about 200 cycles up this copy is perfection. In its own way — especially on systems with not a lot of firepower down low — this side two qualifies as a Demo Disc. 

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 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. (more…)

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

More of the music of Leo Delibes (1836-1891) 

More Coppelia & Sylvia / Ansermet 

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

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. 

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. (more…)

The Tale of Tsar Saltan – What to Listen For: The Triangle

More Rimsky-Korsakov

More The Tale of Tsar Saltan / Ansermet

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your pressing of the album. 

This is a work that makes extensive use of the triangle, and I don’t know when I’ve ever heard a better recording of that instrument. (I think there are actually two being played.) It’s incredibly sweet, detailed and extended, without calling attention to itself in an unnatural manner. When you hear it, you know it, and I’m hearing it in my head as this is being written. 

Want a good tweeter test next time you’re in the market for new speakers? Play a record with a well-recorded triangle. It’s a surprisingly hard instrument to reproduce.  (more…)

Chabrier / Orchestral Music / Ansermet – What to Listen For

More Emmanual Chabrier

More Orchestral Music / Ansermet

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

On many 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 17D3 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. (more…)

Chabrier Orchestral Music – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner

More Emmanual Chabrier

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

The Espana side earned our rare and coveted Four Plus (A++++) Sonic Grade – Wow! Monstrous size and dynamic power thanks to the brilliant Decca engineering of Roy Wallace. Without a doubt the most spectacular sound we’ve ever heard from CS 6438.

This Beyond White Hot Stamper London pressing has some of the loveliest orchestral music reproduction we’ve ever heard. Man, this copy sure has it going on: it’s super clean and clear, tonally correct from top to bottom, with all of the weight of the orchestra down low on side one which is very, very hard to come by on this record!

And all that weight and energy down low is what really makes Espana magical. You won’t believe the sound!  (more…)

Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn Vague

 

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Rimsky-Korsakov – The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner

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 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.
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Azimuth, VTA, Anti-Skate and Tracking Weight – We Got to Live Together

Azimuth,

VTA,

Anti-Skate and

Tracking Weight 

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With a shout out to my man Sly!

In this listing you can find commentary and advice about tonearm azimuth adjustment, Ansermet’s recordings, Speakers Corner 180g pressings, and more.

More of the Best Recordings Made in Victoria Hall

The Borodin title you see pictured has DEMO QUALITY SOUND OF THE HIGHEST ORDER!

One of the great London records. The performance by Ansermet is definitive, IMHO, and this recording ranks in the Top Ten Decca/ Londons I’ve ever heard.

The powerful lower strings and brass are gorgeous. Ansermet and the Suisse Romande get that sound better than any performers I know. You will see my raves on record after record of theirs produced in this era. No doubt the wonderful hall they record in is the key. One can assume Decca engineers use similar techniques for their recordings regardless of the artists involved. The only real variable should be the hall. Ansermet’s recordings with the Suisse Romande have a richness in the lower registers that is unique in my experience. His Pictures At Exhibition has phenomenally powerful brass, the best I’ve ever heard. The same is true for his Night On Bald Mountain. Neither performance does much for me — they’re both too slow — but the sound is out of this world. Like it is here.

One of the reasons this record is sounding so good today (1/12/05) is that I spent last weekend adjusting my Triplanar tonearm. The sound was bothering me somewhat, so I decided to start experimenting again with the azimuth adjustment. I changed the azimuth in the smallest increments I could manage, which on this turnable are exceedingly small increments, until at some point the bass started to go deeper, dynamics improved, and the overall tonal balance became fuller and richer. Basically the cartridge was becoming perfectly vertical to the record. I don’t think this can be done any other way than by ear, although I don’t know that for a fact. (more…)

Perhaps This Explains Why This Decca Reissue Sounds So Good

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This Decca reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. Roy Wallace was the engineer for these sessions from 1955 to 1961 in Geneva’s glorious sounding Victoria Hall.

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.
(more…)

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 with Ansermet – Our Favorite for Performance and Sound

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

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Beethoven / Symphony #6 (Pastoral) / Ansermet

 

  • 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

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.

Other Pressings (more…)