Pressings with Middling Sound Quality

The Choir of King’s College / Evensong For Ash Wednesday from the TAS List

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We were very impressed with the sound of side one of this Dutch stereo pressing. For those not familiar with the album, it basically consists of a church service with readings and singing by soloists and choir. Recorded in a huge church, the clarity, naturalness and spaciousness are hard to fault.

Imagine our surprise then when we dropped the needle on side two and heard EVEN BETTER sound — bigger (my notes say “huge in fact”), with a wider and deeper soundstage and even more transparency and resolving power. I suppose it could get better but you will have to prove it to me. Until then I’m calling this one a legitimate Demo Disc for vocal reproduction on side two. I know of none better.

Side one earned a sonic grade of A++, for the sweetness and naturalness of the voices more than anything. This is not a sound that’s easy to capture or reproduce, making this a great test disc as well as a Demo Disc par excellence.

A+++, even better! Compare the two sides and see if you don’t agree with us that side two is even more amazing than side one!

Consisting of hymns, psalms and readings, this is a regular event in the King’s College calendar.

Steely Dan / Katy Lied on Japanese Vinyl – If You Are Serious About Audio, You Cop to Your Mistakes

And to think I used to swear by this pressing — specifically the 2000 Yen reissue, not the 1500 Yen original — another example of just how Wrong one can be.

We happily admit to our mistakes because we know that all this audio stuff and especially the search for Hot Stampers is a matter of trial and error. We do the trials; that’s how we avoid the kinds of errors most audiophiles and audiophile record dealers make when it comes to finding the best sounding records. Of course, being human we can’t help but make our share of mistakes. The difference is that we learn from them. We report the facts to the best of our ability every time out. 

Every record gets a chance to show us what it’s made of, regardless of where it was made, who made it or why they made it. (Like anybody cares.)

If we used to like it and now we don’t, that’s what you will read in our commentary. Our obligation is to only one person: you, the listener. (Even better: you, the customer. Buy something already!) (more…)

Respighi / Pines Of Rome / Maazel – Passable on Speakers Corner

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Sonic Grade: C

We were only slightly impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing of this album, writing at the time:

The famous TAS List recording. Very good sound. You can do better but it’s not easy. This work is just too difficult to record.

All true.

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Szeryng – Munch

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A decent reissue, a record worth buying at the right price but no Demo Disc by any means.

This plum label original Victrola pressing is actually better than most pressings of the rare Shaded Dog that we’ve played, LSC 2363. The violin tone is lovely on side one, but the orchestra is not what it should be.

Side two has Tartini’s Devil’s Trill which takes up about half the side and has the best sound here, earning a grade of A+ to A++.

Szeryng is excellent throughout.

The Who – Odds & Sods

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Wow — an original Black Label Track British Import pressing that plays QUIET and sounds about as good as any compilation of this material can hope to sound. We had about a half-dozen copies to compare against each other and none of them were as good as this one. I really doubt you can do much better. Like any comp the sound ranges from track to track, but relative to the other copies we played we award this one a conservative overall sonic grade of A+ to A++. The vinyl plays Mint Minus or better. 

Those of you who follow the site won’t be surprised to learn that some of the best sound on here is found on the tracks that Glyn Johns worked on.

This one comes in the original cool cover that’s die-cut to appear ripped. The later covers fake the effect. (more…)

Brahms / Concerto for Violin and Cello – Heifetz / Piatigorsky (LDS 2513)

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This RCA Soria pressing plays about Mint Minus, pretty quiet for a Shaded Dog era pressing.

The orchestra is its typical shrill self. The cello and violin sound wonderful most of the time. When they really get going the sound can be a bit much. At moderate volumes the record is very enjoyable.

If I’m not mistaken, reversing your polarity will help the sound some.

This is a famous recording for having distortion and congestion in the louder orchestral passages. There is no such thing as a copy of this record that doesn’t have that problem. You listen to this record for the wonderful interplay between Heifetz and Piatigorsky and not much else.

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – Nothing Special on Heavy Vinyl

 

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Sonic Grade: C (at best)

We were only slightly impressed with both the Speakers Corner pressing of this album and the earlier Impulse Heavy Vinyl edition from the ’90s. In our opinion neither one is worth pursuing.

This could very well be the greatest collaboration between a horn player and a singer in the history of music. I honestly cannot think of another to rank with it. Ella and Louis has the same feel — too giants who work together so sympathetically it’s close to magic, producing definitive performances of enduring standards that have not been equaled in the fifty plus years since they were recorded. And, on the better copies, or should we say the better sides of the better copies, RVG’s sound is stunning.

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They Say It’s Wonderful: Hartman and Coltrane, an Appreciation (more…)

Frank Zappa / Hot Rats – Another Missed Opportunity from Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP debunked.

As for the Classic here, we have only one question:

This is analog? You could’ve fooled me.

And somebody’s been messing around with the sound of the drums on the new version — a certain Mr. Frank Zappa no doubt. He really did the album a disservice.

Classic Meddling

Bernie’s version for Classic beats a lot of copies out there — the later Reprise pressings are never any good — but it can’t hold a candle to a good pressing.

What’s wrong with the Classic? Well, to my ears it just doesn’t sound natural or all that musical. Sure, it’s a nice trick to beef up those drums and give them some real punch, but does it sound right?

The other quality that the best copies have going for them and the Classic has none of is Tubey Magic. The Classic is clean, and at first that’s a neat trick since the originals tend to be a bit murky and congested. But it’s clean like a CD is clean, in all the wrong ways. 

The overall sound of the best originals is musical, natural and balanced. The Classic has that third quality — it’s tonally correct, no argument there — but musical and natural? Not really.

Brahms / Concerto for Violin & Cello on Cisco Heavy Vinyl

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[An old review. We would not stand behind what we say here about the superiority of the Cisco pressing over the Shaded Dog.]

180g Cisco LP. The performances here are of course extraordinary, but this has never been one of RCA’s best recordings. The originals have more Tubey Magic; these 180 gram versions more accuracy of presentation, clarity and definition. Much less distortion too. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – 2 Originals of Led Zeppelin

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This is a Minty looking German Import Atlantic 2 LP set, consisting of Zep’s first two records. We dropped the needle on all four sides of this record and WOW! Side one of Zep II was SHOCKINGLY GOOD. Big bottom, lots of top, clean vocals — what more could you ask for? Our Rough Hot Stamper Grade: A+ or better. (Side two was more typical for this album, a bit recessed and flat. Oh well.)

On Zep I, again, side one was definitely the stand out. Very clean, punchy, smooth and sweet, and not smeary at all (which is unusual to say the least). Side two was a little midrangy and didn’t have the fullness and warmth that the best copies do. (more…)