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Question for classical vinyl collectors

Discussion in 'classical' started by julesd68, Jun 13, 2010.

  1. julesd68

    julesd68 pfm Member

    I started collecting classical vinyl last year, using The Penguin Stereo Record Guide as my bible. Most of my records seem to be HMV ASD's - the consistency of their sound quality is staggering. All my DGG stuff sounds great aswell. I have been very dissapointed by the two Decca SXL's I have bought - they were supposed to be top recordings, but I found them really lifeless, dull sounding records, at least on my system. Just wondering if anyone else has come to the same conclusion about 70's Decca, or if it's just me .... Is it possible to generalise about the characteristics of HMV or Decca sound quality - is there a "house" style for both labels?
  2. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I'm surprised you are disappointed by SXLs, they usually sound lovely. Which ones do you consider to be turkeys?

    The established stereotype is that DGG are somewhat dry and analytical sounding, Decca the opposite, and ASDs and Columbia SAX somewhere in the middle. I've found this to be largely untrue and like a lot of stuff on all these labels. They all vary recording to recording to some degree as one would expect. As a general rule of thumb the late 50s and early 60s pressings tend to be the best sounding, i.e. the really expensive ones are so for a reason, but there is great stuff from all periods on each label IME. I'd also throw Philips into the ring, hugely underrated / undervalued from a collector perspective, but consistently nice recordings pressed on lovely quiet vinyl.

  3. flatpopely

    flatpopely Prog Rock/Moderator

    Oh yes! Look at that 'Rite of Spring' I bought from you on Philips. Me and my Dad listened to it last night in full after the 'match'.

    I really am staggered by how good it is as a performance and recording/pressing.
  4. julesd68

    julesd68 pfm Member

    Tony - I bought SXL 6493 - Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, Chung & Previn. The other one was SXL 6554 - Rachmaninov Piano Concerto 2, Ashkenazy & Previn. They are both 3 star records in the Penguin Guide. When discussing Decca records Penguin often refer to a Decca "warm glow"! I found them very one dimensional, lacking the dynamics and excitement of my ASD's. I have so many good examples, but typical of them would be another Previn recording - ASD 3002 - Holst, The Planets. Are there any particular SXL's you think are particularly good?

    Couldn't agree more with you guys about Philips - only got a couple but they are supremely musical recordings...
  5. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Those are both 70s recordings and pressings, i.e. we are into the world of solid state, multiple mics and a little jiggery-pokery when it comes to mixing etc. That is not to say they are bad, they are both widely respected records, but if you want to see what the fuss is about with SXLs you need to go back to the early days of simple mics, tube consoles and tube cutting lathes, i.e. any SXL 2000 series and the first few years of the SXL 6000s. It's hard to make specific recommendations as there are just so many, but if possible try to get a listen to a few early wide-band deep-groove cuts. I know it's easier said than done, but that's where the SXL magic tends to lie. One tip is to research Decca's Ace Of Diamonds reissue series as a lot of them use early SXL recordings, some even use the exact same stampers! They just take a little time to identify as they often pair works from two different SXLs. If you find a AOD with a deep-groove label you can be onto a real winner, i.e. it can be the exact same cut as an SXL worth into the hundreds.

  6. julesd68

    julesd68 pfm Member

    Thanks Tony, that sounds look good advice - I wasn't aware that Ace of Diamonds vinyl has this potential; I will look out for some, if within my meagre budget!
  7. twotone

    twotone pfm Member

    I recently bought La Fille Mal Gardee-Decca SXL 2313 from Tony, unbelievable quality and worth every single penny of the £30 I paid for it.

    It's probably the best record I've ever heard in terms of quality and clarity considering it is nearly 50 years old, to me it sounds brand new as if it's never been played.

    I bought it on the basis of a review by someone in the thread in which it was being sold in and, as excellent as the review was it didn't even go anywhere near how good the recording actually is.

  8. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    I'd agree with Tony L that recordings on any label can vary from stunning to average, and that includes SXLs. I have the highly collectable Schubert's 'Great' on wide band SXL (2046?) and find it not much more than OK, whereas the Kertesch Dvorak New World/Othello Overture (6000 series I think) is superb to these ears.
    I also have a couple of the Dutch pressed silver label SXLs which sound fine to me.

    I agree about Phillips. Massively underrated.

    I suspect also that very often the performance transcends both real and perceived sound quality.

  9. lordsummit

    lordsummit Moderator

    Twotone thanks, amazing isn't it!

    Watch out for World Record Club releases, they're often amazing as well. I'm sure many of them are taken from the original HMV? stampers.
  10. twotone

    twotone pfm Member

    Yeah an amazing record LS, the 'clog dance' is wonderful. I must have heard that music a hundred times over the years, never ever knew where it came from although in saying that Donizetti's 'the elixer of love' is the original source I think.

    Thanks for the heads up re the world record club stuff too, I'll keeep an eye out for those.


  11. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    I think I only have one Hyperion vinyl example. It is Thea King 'doing' the Weber and Crusell Clarinet Concertos. It is one of the best half dozen of all my records. Well worth looking out for Hyperion methinks.
    And another thumbs up for WRC.

  12. lordsummit

    lordsummit Moderator

    Glad you like it. It's one of my favourites, sounds good on CD as well. You get that lovely Decca glow.
  13. julesd68

    julesd68 pfm Member

    Could someone tell me about EMI's CSD label? What era do these records come from, and do they have a good reputation for sound quality?
  14. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    They are excellent quality and ran from the late 50s into the 70s. It often featured a more 'popular' or jazz content, e.g. you'll find Ella Fitzgerald, Earl Hines, Mingus etc, usually licensed from US labels like Verve or Impulse, though there is a lot of classical or 'light classical' content too. There is a CLP mono variant to match the ALP classical mono. To confuse things further there is also a HQS label that has mainly classical content and I've no idea why as the stuff seems to be the sort of thing one would expect on an ASD, e.g. Barenboim playing Mozart piano concertos. I can't fully explain it, though I can certainly vouch for the quality.

  15. MJSM

    MJSM Over 60 and barely alive

    Just found this thread via a general google search for good quality record labels and wanted to thank the OP for his post which steered me on to more info. I have done a fair bit more research since first reading it and found this site to be worth looking at, there is a lot of information here regarding the various issues for each label and dates etc.

    I wonder if there is a similar site for CDs ??
  16. Nic Robinson

    Nic Robinson Moderator

    The vast majority of my 2,000 or so records are classical. When I and they are in the mood there's no better way to listen. I really don't have a preference as to label, every one has its marvels and clunkers. I have wonderful stuff from DG, Decca, Philips, EMI and many smaller labels.

    The Rachmaninov you mention is an interesting one. On balance I think it's still my favourite performance of the opus 18 on record. But I agree that SQ is not in the top rank of SXLs (I've got 3 copies here to compare). Very warm and a bit woolly for me. I think it's been remastered a couple of times for CD (the latest one is harder to come by iirc and I would love to hear it).

    [Edit: Just noticed this thread is a dozen years old. Oops!]
  17. MJSM

    MJSM Over 60 and barely alive

    Not now it isn't :)

    As a matter of interest, I just listened to a recently acquired copy of Rachmaninov, The Ampico Recordings on the L'oiseau Loire label, I feel privileged to listen to the man himself playing his own music, and the SQ is pretty decent too.
    Barrymagrec likes this.
  18. Nic Robinson

    Nic Robinson Moderator

    Yes, I have that, albeit on pre-recorded cassette! It's a remarkable document, for sure.
  19. marshanp

    marshanp ellipsis addict

    What you are hearing is a reproducing piano, controlled by a recording on a punched paper roll. A wind-driven, entirely analogue, computer system :)

    Opinions differ as to how accurately/convincingly the various reproducing piano types succeed in their objective. I have an Aeolian Duo-Art upright, and a few Duo-Art rolls which are interesting - Gershwin playing the Rhapsody in Blue, for one. But it really comes into its own playing "straight" rolls (ones cut without any interpretation, just transcription of the sheet music to punched roll form), when it provides all the piano technique I lack but allows me, via its various control mechanisms, to supply the interpretation.

    I can play Debussy, Liszt, Bach - anything I have a roll for! And make party music with dance and singalong rolls... How those gramophone things ever caught on I will never understand :rolleyes:
  20. MJSM

    MJSM Over 60 and barely alive

    Interesting that you should say that the best are the 'straight cut' rolls, I have read the story behind these recordings and I believe that Ampico went to great lengths to make the recordings true to the original, to the point of having the original pianist approve the recordings as a faithful representation of their performance. So I believe that all rolls are engineered to a certain degree to ensure that the loudness of the notes (determined by measuring the velocity of travel of the piano hammers during the last 1/2 inch of travel !) and the use of the pedals is captured accurately. I have no idea as to how that is transferred to the rolls however.

    As with all music, all performers necessarily reproduce the music according to their own style and interpretation of the score, but in the case of these recordings Rachmaninov himself played the original piece during the recording session so there can be no better performance than that to my way of thinking.

    I have a very good description of the entire process (specifically as applied by Ampico) which came with the LP, let me know if you want a copy and I will scan it for you.

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