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Bruch - Mozart / Violin Concertos / Heifetz

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: bruchvioli_2011) 



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

Both sides of this Shaded Dog pressing of Heifetz and the New Symphony Orchestra of London have sound that earned the quite respectable sonic grades of A+ to A++.

Side one is tonally correct and lively, but suffers from a bit of the all-too-common tube smear, no doubt from the mastering chains and record presses that were in use at the time. (Most modern mastering chains and record presses are, to our ears, even worse, so this is not to denigrate the engineers at RCA in any way. It's simply to say that with Tubey Magic you often get tubey smear.)

More of the music of Max Bruch


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Schuller / Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee / Dorati

Reviewed in 2006

  (Item #: schulseven_2006) 



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

RFR1/ 2. DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND.

This record has the sound that Mercury is famous for: immediate, dynamic and spacious. This record lives up to the Mercury claim: You immediately feel as though you are in the Living Presence of the orchestra.

This is precisely the kind of record that Speakers Corner would not have a clue how to master. I'd stake my reputation on it, for what it's worth.

Classical Commentaries


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Set-up Discs, Part Three

Dialing in the Azimuth

  (Item #: setup_azimuth) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

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

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 arm are exceedingly small. At some point the bass started to go deeper, dynamics improved, and the overall tonal balance became fuller and richer.

More Set-Up Advice / More Audio Advice


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Set-up Discs, Part One

Start with a Large Scale Orchestral Recording

  (Item #: setup_orchestral_recording) 



Classical music is surely the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge set-up. The Liszt recording you see pictured is a superb choice for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like.

One of the reasons $10,000+ front ends exist is to play large scale, complex, difficult-to-reproduce music such as Liszt’s two piano concertos. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you choose to, it would surely be the kind of record that can show you the sound your tens of thousands of dollars has paid for.

More Set-Up Advice / More Audio Advice


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Set-up Discs, Part Two

Dialing in the Anti-Skate

  (Item #: setup_anti-skate) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

I once adjusted my anti-skate while playing this very album, at the time dialing it in to a "T". Over the years I've found that the best test for fine anti-skate adjustment is massed strings, and not just at the end of a side but right at the beginning too.

When you have all the rosiny texture, the high-end harmonic extension, the least shrillness and the widest and deepest staging, you are there, assuming that tracking weight, azimuth and VTA are correct as well.

More Set-Up Advice / More Audio Advice


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Bruch / Scottish Fantasy / Heifetz

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: bruchscott_2603_2012) 



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

WHITE HOT Stamper sound for the Bruch side of this original RCA Shaded Dog, one of the best Heifetz concerto titles of all time. (I'm trying to think of a Heifetz title that sounds better and coming up blank.)

This was our shootout winner on side two, beating all comers, earning our highest grade, the full Three Pluses (our blue ribbon, gold medal, and best in show all wrapped into one). The sound is nothing short of DEMO DISC QUALITY.

More of the music of Max Bruch


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Gershwin / An American In Paris & Rhapsody In Blue

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: gershrhaps_6091_2015) 



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

I’ve always loved these performances, but the shrill Columbia sound has been hard to get past. So many copies suffer from upper-midrangy, glary, hard sound and blary brass. I've come to accept that this is nothing more nor less than the "Columbia Sound," and as a consequence I rarely put much effort into surveying their prodigious catalog these days.

I won't say all that's changed; it really hasn't. The vast majority of Columbia classical pressings are still going to sound as awful as they have in the past.

More of the music of George Gershwin


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Sibelius, Liszt, Dukas et al. / Bernard Herrmann Conducts

London Phase 4 Debunked

  (Item #: sibelberna_phase_4) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing.

While preparing for a Finlandia shootout recently we happened to drop the needle on this album, a 1977 Phase 4 recording made in Kingsway Hall and engineered by Arthur Lilley. We could hardly believe how bad it sounded. The multi-miking is the worst I have ever heard! We like lots of Phase 4 recordings -- especially those of Bernard Herrmann -- but this is definitely not one of them.

More of the music of Bernard Herrmann


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Gilbert and Sullivan / Pirates of Penzance

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: gilbepirat_lon_2009) 



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

EXCELLENT sound on EVERY side, which means it is truly a Demo Disc. On virtually every side it has the kind of rich, sweet Decca/London sound over which we audiophiles have been known to drool. It's nothing short of AMAZING on the White Hot side -- so lively, rich and HUGE. This is a Top London pressing in every way.

And it just so happens that such superb sonics are found on a lowly budget reissue, the Jubilee London label, pressed in Holland no less! Thank goodness we don't judge records either by their labels, their country of manufacture or their pressing era.

More Gilbert & Sullivan


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Records We've Played Vs. Records We've Heard

What's the Difference?

  (Item #: playing_vs_hearing_) 



Please note that we should, but often don't, make a vitally important distinction between two words we tend to use interchangeably on the site. There is a difference between the sound of records that we've played and the sound that we've heard.

The stereo, the listening room, our cleaning technologies and who knows what else are all undergoing constant changes. This means that we may have played a better pressing in the past but couldn't hear it sound as good as it does now. The regular improvements we make in all areas of playback make sonic comparisons over time all but meaningless.

More Orchestral Recordings


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Grieg / Peer Gynt / Fjeldstad / LSO

Speakers Corner Reviewed / VTA Advice

  (Item #: griegpeerg_speakers_corner) 



Sonic Grade: C+

The Fjeldstad has long been one of our favorite performances of Peer Gynt here at Better Records.

This record is handy for VTA set-up as well, a subject discussed below in our listing from 2010.

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)


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Rimsky-Korsakov - The Tale of Tsar Saltan

Speakers Corner Reviewed

  (Item #: rimsktaleo_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.

See more of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov in stock


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Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon / Vienna Octet

Original Versus Reissue

  (Item #: schubtrout_6090_2013) 



This unusual 2-pack combines two very different pressings from very different eras to create a complete performance of The "Trout" Quintet with SUPERB Super Hot Stamper (or better) on both sides. One pressing, the one shown, is from the early '60s; the other is from 1982. How could an imported budget late reissue beat a superb Golden Age pressing on any side you ask? Well, the answer to that question is provided by the records we will send you.
More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)


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Gershwin / Concerto in F / Boston Pops (LSC 2586)

Reviewed in 2005

  (Item #: gershconce_2586_2005) 



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

The best copy I've ever heard. Takes this recording to a new level beyond the best shaded dogs. It's plainly cut cleaner. One dead giveaway is that the tape hiss is reproduced accurately for the first time, which means that all the high frequencies and their attending harmonics are fully evident, for the first time in my experience anyway.

The explosive opening on this wonderful LP is a prime example of DEMONSTRATION QUALITY sound. Incredibly deep and powerful bass. Great brass.

More of the music of George Gershwin


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Liszt / The Music of Franz Liszt / Fiedler

Our Shootout Winner from 2010

  (Item #: lisztmusic_2442_2010) 



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

The rich, textured, rosin-on-the-bow lower strings on this record are to die for. Find me a modern record that sounds like this and I will eat it, and by "modern record" we hasten to include both modern recordings and modern remasterings of older recordings. NO ONE alive today can make a record that sound even remotely like this.

To call it a lost art is to understand something that few vinyl-loving audiophiles appear to have grasped since the advent of the Modern Reissue, which is simply this: they don't sound as good.

More of Franz Liszt's music in stock


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Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture / Kunzel

Telarc UHQR Debunked

  (Item #: tchai1812_UHQR) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

This is what we had to say about the UHQR back in 2005 or so:

Having played this record all the way through, I have to comment on some of its sonic qualities. It's about the most dynamic recording I've ever heard. This was the promise of digital, which was never really delivered. On this record, that promise has been fulfilled. The performance is also one of the best on record. It's certainly the most energetic I can remember.

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


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London Orchestral Records from the '70s

And the Problem of Opacity

  (Item #: straualsos_6978) 



Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning records.

The average copy of this 1976 recording has that dry, multi-miked modern sound that the '70s ushered in for many of the major labels, notably London and RCA. How many Solti records are not ridiculously thick and opaque? One out of ten? If that. We're very wary of records recorded in the '70s; we've been burned too many times.

And to tell you the truth we are not all that thrilled with most of what passes for good sound on Mehta's London output either. If you have a high-resolution system these recordings, like those on Classic Heavy Vinyl we constantly criticize, leave a lot to be desired.

More orchestral music conducted by Georg Solti


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Paganini / Violin Concertos 1 & 2

Expensive Heavy Vinyl Trash

  (Item #: paganvioli_outrage) 



Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning (usually old) records.

Had I paid good money to buy this pressing in the hopes of hearing the supremely talented Yehudi Menuhin of 1961 tear it up on Paganini's legendary first two concertos, I can tell you one thing: I would be pissed.

Where is the outrage in the audiophile community over this kind of trash? I have yet to see it. I suspect I will grow quite a bit older and quite a bit greyer before anyone else notices just how bad this record sounds. I hope I'm proven wrong.

More of the music of Niccolò Paganini


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Offenbach & Chopin / Gaite Parisienne & Les Sylphides

Reverse Your Polarity

  (Item #: offengaite_rd_2016) 



This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

Amazing in every way! The top end of this record is clear, clean and correct. No other copy sounded like this one on the first side. When you hear all the percussion instruments -- the tambourines, triangles, wood blocks and what-have-you -- you know instantly that they sound RIGHT.

The overall sound is very different from many of the other recordings of the work that we have offered in the past. Rather than smooth, rich and sweet, the sound here is big and bold and clear like nothing we have ever played.

More of the music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)


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Brahms, Handel, Chopin - Lincoln Mayorga, Pianist

Reverse Your Polarity!

  (Item #: variobrahm_mayorga) 



This IMMACULATE Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP with Very Little Sign Of Play (VLSOP) is one of the best Sheffields. Lincoln Mayorga is an accomplished classical pianist: this is arguably his best work. (I had a chance to see him perform at a recital of Chopin's works early in 2010 and he played superbly -- for close to two hours without the aid of sheet music I might add.)

You might want to try reversing the phase when playing this LP; it definitely helps the sound, a subject we discuss below.

See more of our Direct to Disc recordings


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Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Rossi

How Does the Narrator Sound?

  (Item #: prokopeter_van_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate ANY version of Peter and the Wolf.

The narrator for this piece almost always sounds like he's in a sound booth, of varying sound quality to be sure. (Bernstein's narration is one of the worst in this respect, sounding more like Aqualung than Lennie.)

Somehow Boris Karloff sounds like he is on stage with the orchestra here. He's either been recorded on stage, or precisely the right amount and kind of reverb has been added to his voice to match the sound of the hall.

See more of the music of Sergei Prokofiev


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Mussorgsky - The Power of the Orchestra

Chesky Debunked

  (Item #: mussopower_chesky_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Record and another Remastered Audiophile Pressing debunked.

Lifeless, compressed and thin. It’s clean and transparent, I’ll give it that, which is no doubt why so many audiophiles have been fooled into thinking it actually sounds better than the original. But of course there is no original; there are thousands of them, and they all sound different.

The Hot Stamper commentary below is for a pair of records that proves our case in the clearest possible way.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Bizet & Saint-Saens / Carmen Fantasie

This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

  (Item #: bizetcarme_wtlf) 



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. Which is why I've had a copy of this record in my own collection for about fifteen years marked "My Demo Disc". But this copy KILLED it. How could that be?

It just goes to show: No matter how good a particular copy of a record may sound to you, when you clean and play enough of them you will almost always find one that's better, and often surprisingly better. Shootouts are the only way to find these kinds of records. Nothing else works.

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


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Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon

Live Sound Versus Chesky Sound

  (Item #: schubtrout_6090_wtlf) 



What I hear on this pressing is sound that is absolutely free from any top end boost, much the way live music is. There’s plenty of tape hiss and air; the highs aren’t rolled off, they’re just not boosted the way they normally are in a recording.

A few years back I had a chance to see a piano trio play locally; they even perform a piece by Schubert. The one thing I noticed immediately during their live performance was how smooth and natural the top end was. I was no more than ten feet from the performers in a fairly reverberant room, and yet the sound I heard was the opposite of what passes in some circles for Hi-Fidelity.

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)


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Classical Music on Vinyl

An Overview

  (Item #: classical_benefits) 



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.

More of the Best Recordings Made in Victoria Hall


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Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture, Op. 49 / Kunzel

Telarc Debunked

  (Item #: tchai1812_telarc) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

If you want an amazingly dynamic 1812 with huge amounts of deep bass for the firing of the cannon you can't do much better than this (or its UHQR brother).

But if you want rich, sweet and tonally correct brass and strings you had best look elsewhere. I've never liked the sound of this record and I'm guessing if I heard a copy today I would like it even less. Who thinks live classical music actually sounds like this?

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


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Saint-Saens - Carnival of the Animals

180g Klavier Debunked

  (Item #: saintcarni_debunk_2015) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

Yet another murky, smeary Audiophile Piece of Trash from the mastering lathe of the formerly brilliant Doug Sax. He used to cut the best sounding records in the world. Then he started working for AP and to my knowledge hasn't cut a good sounding record since.

For those of us who remember his consistently superb work in the '70s, we sadly note that he passed away in 2015. I was honored to have met him a few years back at a Chopin concert performed by Lincoln Mayorga.

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens


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Gershwin / An American In Paris & Rhapsody In Blue / Bernstein

What To Listen For

  (Item #: gershrhaps_6091_wtlf) 



This original Six Eye LP has the smooth brass and full-bodied strings that allow this wonderful music to astound the listener.

Smooth and solid, not brash or blary, what really impressed about the sound here was how full it was, yet it was never thick or murky. Instead it was transparent in the lower mids and below, and that sound was just glorious after listening to too many thin and brash pressings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and very percussive -- there is no tubey Old School smear to be heard, and that too was a surprise.

More of the music of George Gershwin


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Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Obvious Differences Don't Seem to Register

  (Item #: rimskscheh_reviews) 



There is a newly remastered 33 RPM pressing of the album which has garnered rave reviews in the audiophile press. We have played it and will report our findings at the appropriate time.

Have you noticed that in many of the reviews for the new pressing, the original used for comparison is a Shaded Dog? In our experience almost no Shaded Dog pressings are competitive with the better White Dog pressings, and many of them are just plain awful, as we have mentioned previously on the site. At best one out of three would qualify to be offered as a Hot Stamper; most simply would not make the cut.

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


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Albeniz / Suite Espanola / De Burgos

What to Listen For

  (Item #: albensuite_wtlf) 



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

Wow, is this record ever DYNAMIC! I would put it in the top 2 or 3 percent of the most dynamic recordings we have played over the course of the last twenty five years. It also has tons of DEPTH. The brass is at the far back of the stage, just exactly where they would be placed in the concert hall, which greatly adds to the realism of the recording.

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz


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Philips Classical Recordings

Must They All Be So Thick, Dull and Opaque?

  (Item #: phillips) 


Most Philips records are much too thick, dull and opaque to be taken seriously, by us anyway. In this respect they have many sonic attributes in common with Londons from the '70s and '80s.

Dropping the needle on the Ravel Piano Concertos with Haas, however, was a wonderful surprise. It's big and spacious throughout, with no trace of smear on a piano that is solid and clear. This is a difficult combination to achieve in our experience, the kind of sound we tend to rave about. It sounds right, and when the sound is as right as it is here, the wonderful piano music of Ravel can truly work its magic.

See more entries in our Classical Commentary series


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Holst, Steinberg and The Planets

A Shootout Years in the Making

  (Item #: holst_2014) 



In July of 2005 we noted on the site that Hot Stampers for this album were discovered, and interested parties should watch the site for killer copies in the coming months. Obviously we didn’t know at the time that the number of coming months would be THIRTY TWO. That's how long it would be before we could offer our loyal customers truly Hot Stampers, but hey, good things come to those who wait, right?
More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)


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Stravinsky - The Song of the Nightingale

Thoughts on the TAS Super Disc List

  (Item #: stravsongo_tas) 



Some thoughts on The Absolute Sound’s Super Disc List and one of its more famous members: Stravinsky’s Song Of the Nightingale with Reiner.
More of the music of Igor Stravinsky


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Mozart / Quintet - Piano + Winds & Trio

  (Item #: mozarquint_6109_vta) 



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

This is a handy record for VTA setup as well. Listen for fullness and solidity, especially in the piano, although a rich, full sounding clarinet is a joy here as well.

More Mozart


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Brahms Violin Concerto

Is the 1s Pressing Always the Best?

  (Item #: brahmvioli_1903_myth) 



This early Shaded Dog pressing of a 1958 recording has surprisingly good Super Hot stamper sound on side two. On the second side the sound opens up and is very sweet, with the violin becoming much more present and clear. The whole of side two is transparent with an extended top. Usually the earliest Living Stereo titles suffer from a lack of top end extension, but not this one.

Maybe the 1S is that way. For some reason audiophiles tend to think that the earliest cuttings are the best, but that's just another Record Myth in our experience, easily refuted if you've played hundreds of these Living Stereo pressings and noted which stampers sound the best and which do not.

More recordings featuring the violin


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My-Fi Versus Hi-Fi

  (Item #: fidelity) 


We went wild recently over a marvelous copy of the Ted Heath record you see pictured. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound was positively uncanny. This was vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you'll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve upon it.

This is our kind of sound. It's also important to keep in mind that our stereo seemed to love the record. (Stereos do that.) Let's talk about why that might be the case.

Our system is fast, accurate and uncolored. We like to think of our speakers as the audiophile equivalent of studio monitors, showing us exactly what is on the record, with nothing added and (hopefully) nothing taken away.

More Audio Advice


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Table / Arm / Cartridge Set-up Advice

  (Item #: set-up) 



Click here for advice on how to go about adjusting tracking weight, Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA), azimuth, Anti-skate and the like.

This link will take you to more advice for improving the sound of your playback.



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Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA)

A Few Moments of Experimentation Can Really Pay Off

  (Item #: paganvioli_vta) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically adjust your Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA).

Experimenting with the VTA for this record in preparation for a shootout we found a precise point where it all came together, far exceeding whatever expectations for the recording we had at the time. Correct VTA revealed what to our ears now sounded like a gloriously real violin floating in the room, a huge concert space surrounding it...

More recordings featuring the violin


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Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto #1 / Richter / Karajan

Another Audio Myth Explodes

  (Item #: tchaipiano_myth) 



The original Large Tulip early pressings are the best on this record, right?

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth, as explained in the commentary for our recent Hot Stamper 2-pack. That pair of pressings was all the proof we required to back up our contention that either label can be the best on this classic DG recording. Original is better? Again, not so much. Original can be better fits more with our experience.

See all pressings of Tchaikovsky's music in stock


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Paganini / Violin Concertos 1 & 2

Fenn Music Debunked

  (Item #: paganvioli_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl Classical LP debunked.

We managed to get hold of the Heavy Vinyl pressing from Fenn Music in Germany, about which a well known record dealer on the web (you may recognize the style) had this to say:

Stunning Reissue Of EMI ASD 440 Recorded In Stereo In 1961. This Recording Featuring The Royal Philharmonic Conducted By Alberto Erede Provides Convincing Proof, If Any Were Needed, That Menuhin Was One Of The Great Violinists Of The 20th Century.
More of the music of Niccolò Paganini


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The Fantasy Worlds of BH and HP

Decca Vs. London

  (Item #: herrmfanta_decca) 



There’s a reason this record is on the TAS List of Super Discs -- if any LP should be called a Super Disc, this one should. (With Phase Four sound you might even call it a Super-Duper-Disc.)

But Harry is, not atypically, rather misinformed about the catalog number and country of manufacture. He exclusively admits the Decca pressing to his list, and that is clearly contrary to our experience in general as well as our findings for this shootout . The best Decca pressing we played rated no better than a B+ for either side. That’s five -- count them, five -- sonic grades lower than the A Triple Plus sides of our best London copy.

More Bernard Herrmann


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Holst - The Planets

Testing with Mars and Saturn

  (Item #: holstplane_emi_wtlf) 



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

Mars on the first side and Saturn on the second present serious challenges for any vinyl pressings you may own. Generally speaking, the White Hot copies tend to have a bit more top end extension, and/or more lower end weight. Let's get to the specifics of the two movements we feel are the best test for The Planets as a whole.

More of Gustav Holst's music


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The Music of Leonard Bernstein

Hot Stampers Revealed

  (Item #: bernsmusic_stampers) 



Looking to pick up a Hot Stamper locally on your own? Easy -- all the best Decca and London copies (UK pressed only of course) are 1L on both sides. I suppose it's only fair to point out that all the worst copies are 1L on both sides, the reason being that all the copies are 1L on both sides, regardless of how they sound. And here you thought we were actually trying to be helpful.

But we are being helpful. We're being honest with you. Stamper numbers are often misleading. They're misleading in the same way that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The numbers only tell a part of the story, and more often than not they tell the wrong part of the story.

More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series


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Various Artists - Witches’ Brew on Classic

Whose Idea of an Audiophile Record Is This?

  (Item #: variowitch_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

I've long held that the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl remaster (scandalously it's on the TAS List of Super Discs) is nothing less than a crime against music lovers and audiophiles of every stripe. Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world Witches' Brew needed.

At the risk of insulting some of you out there, if you think the Classic Records version of this album sounds good, your system must be very dull and bass shy, or you must like really hi-fi-ish sound.


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The Brahms Violin Concerto

Unplug or Suffer the Consequences!

  (Item #: brahmvioli_test) 



The massed strings here, such as those found at the opening, are close miked and immediate in the "Mercury recording style." Your electricity better be good when you play this record, because it presents a test many of you will have trouble passing at even moderate levels.

We've often encouraged our readers and customers to go about unplugging things in their homes in order to test the effect of clean electricity on their playback systems. The opening of this record is a perfect example of the kind of material with which everyone should be testing in order to hear these changes. I'd be very surprised if the strings on this record don't sound noticeably better after you've unplugged a few things in your house, and the more the better.

More recordings featuring the violin


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Stravinsky / The Firebird / Dorati

Classic Records 45 RPM Debunked

  (Item #: stravfireb_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: C-

A customer alerted me to a review Wayne Garcia wrote about various VPI platters and the rim drive, and this is what I wrote back to him:

Steve, after starting to read Wayne's take on the platters, I came across this:

That mind-blowing epiphany that I hadn't quite reached with the Rim Drive/Super Platter happened within seconds after I lowered the stylus onto the "Infernal Dance" episode of Stravinsky's Firebird (45 rpm single-sided Classic Records reissue of the incomparable Dorati/LSO Mercury Living Presence recording).
See more of Stravinsky's music


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Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: rimskscheh_classic_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

In 2009 or 2010, during our testing of the TT Weights turntable products, the record I played again and again -- close to a hundred times over the course of two days -- was a wonderful White Dog pressing of LSC 2446. The sound was glorious, some of the best reproduction of large orchestra I have ever heard.

See more of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov in stock


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Classic Records

First Three Classical Releases
Debunked

  (Item #: classic_180_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame Pressings, Every One

I’m reminded of the nonsense I read in TAS and elsewhere in the mid-’90s regarding the reputed superiority of the Classic Records Living Stereo reissues. After playing their first three titles: 1806, 1817 and 2222 (if memory serves), I could find no resemblance between the reviews I read and the actual sound of the records I played. The sound was, in a word, awful. To this day I consider them to be the Single Worst Reissue Series in the History of the World.


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Columbia Classical LPs

So Many Are So Bad -- How Can This Be?

  (Item #: columbia_c) 



Columbia classical recordings have a tendency to be shrill, upper-midrangy, glary and hard sounding. The upper mids are usually nasally and pinched; the strings and brass will screech and blare at you in the worst way. If Columbia's goal was to drive the audiophile classical music lover screaming from the room, most of the time they succeeded brilliantly. Occasionally they fail. When they do we call those pressings Hot Stampers.
See more entries in our Classical Commentary series


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Albeniz / Suite Espanola - De Burgos

Speakers Corner Reviewed

  (Item #: albensuite_speakerscorner) 



Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas! Excellent sound and lovely music. This pressing also sounds much better than the Super Analogue pressing of the same music. When you get the right original pressing -- London or Decca -- they’re even better, but they sure are hard to find on quiet vinyl.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz


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Gershwin / Concerto in F / Boston Pops (LSC 2586)

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: gershconce_2586_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: C-

I must admit Classic did a passable job with this one. The two things that separate the good originals from the reissue are in some ways related. Classic, as is their wont, boosted the upper midrange, and that, coupled with their transistory mastering equipment, makes the strings brighter, grainier and yet somehow lacking in texture and sheen compared to the originals (a clear sign of a low-res cutting chain). Once you recognize that quality in the sound of a record it's hard to ignore, and I hear it on every Classic Record I play.

More of the music of George Gershwin


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TAS List Thoughts on Albeniz

Where on The List Is This Record?

  (Item #: albeniberi_tas) 



Another nail in the coffin for HP’s TAS List. The fact that questionable entries such as Reiner’s Pines of Rome make the cut, and an amazing recording such as this doesn’t, should tell you everything you need to know concerning the value of such an incomplete list.

This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! Records simply do not get any more spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet.

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)


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Massenet - Le Cid Ballet Music

Klavier Debunked

  (Item #: masselecid_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

This hi-fi-ish Doug Sax/ Acoustic Sounds re-butchering of the Fremaux on Klavier is insufferable. Back in the day audiophiles in droves bought them from all the major mail order audiophile record dealers (you know who I'm talking about), apparently not noticing the overblown bass and spark-spark-sparkling top end. (Perhaps the same audiophiles who think that Mobile Fidelity makes good sounding records?)

If your system needs boosted bass and highs try this Klavier pressing. Better yet, fix your stereo so you won't need phony audiophile records like this one to make it sound good!

More of the music of Jules Massenet (1842-1912)


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Azimuth, VTA, Anti-Skate and Tracking Weight

We Got to Live Together

  (Item #: Azimuth) 



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


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