Top Studios and Concert Halls – Victoria Hall

Does Anybody (Other than Us) Ever Talk About the Dry String Tone of Some London Pressings?

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Not that we know of. If audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them are listening critically to these famous recordings on high quality equipment, why do they never talk about this problem?

Here is what we noticed when we played a big batch of Nutcracker recordings on London and Decca:

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

And we imagined that this might be the culprit:

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

Our Dynavector 17Dx Karat is ruler flat and quite tonally 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.

We discussed the issue in a commentary entitled Hi-Fi Beats My-Fi If You Are At All Serious about Audio.

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?

Case in Point

We occasionally take the time to create a little “test” to see if audiophiles — customers or just visitors to the blog, makes no difference to us — can hear a specific quality we’d noticed when auditioning a record. Normally this would be a quality that jumped out at us when playing the record, and we were just curious as to whether it jumped out at anybody else.

On this version of Sweet Baby James we heard something that took us by surprise, an artifact we subsequently dubbed an “EQ Anomaly.” We put the question of what this anomaly might be to our readers and waited for someone to spot it. And here is what we got in return. (more…)

Albeniz / Turina – Iberia / Danzas Fantasticas / Ansermet

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More Spectacular Orchestral Recordings

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  • This SUPERB classical release finally returns to the site with STUNNING sound, earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides
  • We have some good sounding reissues with condition issues, but they do not win shootouts the way the right originals do
  • A huge hall, correct string tone, spacious and open as practically any orchestral recording you can find
  • Listen to the plucked basses – clear, not smeary, with no sacrifice in richness. Take it from us, the guys that play classical recordings by the score, this is hard for a record to do!
  • Ernst Ansermet conducted some of the best sounding records ever made — here are some of the ones we’ve reviewed

The sound of this copy is so transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic, that we knew we had a real winner on our hands as soon as the needle hit the groove.

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…)

Classical Music on Vinyl – An Overview

Recordings Made in Victoria Hall Available Now

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings

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We often mention the benefits to be gained from regularly listening to classical music. Once a week would make a good rule of thumb for playing a classical record or two I should think.

We all love our rock, jazz, folk and the rest, but there is something about classical music that has the power to restore a certain balance in your musical life that, for whatever reason, cannot be accomplished through other music. Perhaps it grounds your listening experience in something less immediately gratifying, something that grows deeper and more enriching over time. Once the effect has taken hold, the changes in one’s mood are easy to recognize.

Of course it should be pointed out that the average classical record is at best a mediocrity and more often than not a sonic disaster. There are many excellent pressings of rock and jazz, but when it comes to classical music — by its nature so much more difficult to record (and reproduce!) — the choices narrow substantially.

Most of what passed for good classical sound when I was coming up in audio — the DGs, EMIs, Sheffields and other audiophile pressings — are hard to take seriously when played on the modern high quality equipment of today.

We probably audition at least five records for every one we think might pass muster in a future shootout, and we’re pulling only from the labels we know to be good. We wouldn’t even waste our time playing the average Angel, Columbia or DG, or EMI for that matter. The losers vastly outweigh the winners, and there are only so many hours in a day. Who has the time to hunt for so few needles in so many haystacks?

Commitment of Resources

With the above in mind, it should be clear that assembling a top quality classical collection requires much more in the way of resources — money and time — than it would for any other genre of music.

We are happy to do some of that work for you — our best classical pressings are amazing in almost every way — potentially saving you a lifetime of work. But we do so at a price; the service we provide is labor-intensive. And, as you may have noticed, vintage classical records are not getting any cheaper or easier to find.

On the positive side, every Hot Stamper we sell is 100% guaranteed to satisfy in every way: music, sound, and playing condition. Ideally this means less work for you and more time for listening enjoyment, weekly or more if you can manage to carve it out of your schedule. (more…)

Ravel / Honnegger / Dukas – Works by Ravel, Honegger and Dukas / Ansermet

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

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  • An outstanding copy of this superb release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – here you will find some of the best orchestral Hot Stamper sound we offer
  • With so many quiet passages, records that play better than Mint Minus Minus are tough to come by in this world – this one is exceptional indeed
  • The sound of the orchestra is dramatically richer and sweeter than you will hear on most pressings — what else would you expect from Decca’s engineers and the Suisse Romande?

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. (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…)

Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker – Ansermet (Reviewed in the ’90s)

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Nutcracker Available Now

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

More Classical Music

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Sonic Grade: B?

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.

Superb! New records just don’t sound any better! This is the complete Nutcracker Ballet as conducted by Ansermet for Decca, a record that sets a standard of performance and sound that is unlikely ever to be equaled, and almost certainly not to be surpassed.


More Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners

There are many kinds of audiophile pressings — Half-Speeds, Direct-to-Discs, Heavy Vinyl Remasters, Japanese Pressings, the list of records offered to the audiophile with supposedly superior sound quality is a long one indeed.

Having been in the audiophile record biz for more than thirty years, it has been our misfortune to have played them by the hundreds,

In order to help you avoid the worst of the worst, we put a great many of them in a section of their own, which we call:

Bad Sounding Audiophile Records – The Complete List

How did we find so many bad sounding records? The same way we find so many good sounding ones. We included them in our shootouts, comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stampers.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

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…)

Beethoven / Symphony No. 9 / Ansermet

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

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Both of these sides are wonderfully rich, lively and musical yet still super clear and spacious, making this pressing a Must Own Beethoven 9th
  • Both sides play reasonably well for a London pressing from 1960
  • “…the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande play very well, facing every challenge with musical integrity that reveals to the listener that emotional engagement with the score is far more meaningful than virtuosity for its own sake.”

A Great 9th

The is the best recording of the Beethoven 9th Symphony we have ever played here at Better Records

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.

Both sides are big, rich and clear, and both were showing us pretty much everything that’s good about a vintage symphonic recording.

The chorus on side two plays cleanly and sweetly all the way to the end, no mean feat for this particular work on vintage vinyl. (more…)

Beethoven – Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) – Ansermet

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

More Classical Recordings

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  • 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…)