Tuesday, August 6, 2013

EMI ASD 254 A special Beethoven

ASD 254

Beethoven Symphony No. 7 in A Major

Guido Cantelli, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing:  W/G
Condition:  NM

2YEA 9-4
2YEA 10-6

Performance:  8/10

Sound:  7/10

Price range:  $36-596, mean $236 on popsike

Comments:  Just after I criticized the sound quality of the early stereo EMI recording of Beecham conducting Bizet, here comes another early title in the EMI ASD series as redemption.  Guido Cantelli (1920-1956) was about to be the next Toscanini when he was prematurely killed in an airplane crash* just one week after he was named the Musical Director of La Scala, Milan.  He left behind a limited recording legacy, most of which was in mono for EMI, but a few stereo recordings exist, including this one.  This is the only stereo recording that was published by EMI in the ASD series, and as such, it is a rare collectable.  A near mint copy of this will run easily in the $200-400 range.  It is a wonderful record, and for a recording from 1956, the sound quality is pretty decent.  I caught no evidence of distortion in the louder passages.  Dynamic range was not extensive but decent, but most importantly, the music sings.  Tempos are just right for a non-historically informed performance.  The Allegretto is given a lyrical treatment without being sluggish; the third and fourth movements are energetic.  This record stands as the testament to this incredibly talented  conductor whose full potential was tragically not to be realized.

If you'd like to sample this recording before committing to the original LP, keep in mind that 1) it is available on CD as either the out-of-print Guido Cantelli EMI Artist Icon or in the recently released Guido Cantelli EMI Icon boxed set, and 2) it has been reissued on vinyl by EMI Testament for $35.  I have heard the CDs, which give you a flavor for the performance though lack the warmth of the analog LP, but have not heard the Testament reissue.

*Similar fates befell the violinists Ginette Niveu (1949) and Jacques Thibaud (1953) as well as the pianist William Kapell (1953).


  1. What an incredible story! This album looked very interesting when I was researching (looks like top copies selling for $350 lately). There is a Regal reissue of this LP (SREG2011).

    I've concluded that Regal was a pop label that was trying to bring interesting classical to its buyers. Thing about it. Record stores might not normally carry classical and the Regal line up would bring in some great titles. The cover features silhouettes of naked dancing girls (60's style moves).

    My five concert classic SXLP20000 series LPs all sound quite tubey. This Regal pressing should be quite interesting and could easily rival the original ASD.

    I just bought the Regal off of ebay from the UK for about $16 delivered (along with a CFP of Beecham Overtures and a couple David Munrow Early Music Consort LPs, all for less than $10 each delivered.) Regal's are hard to get as dealers can sense when they have something fairly rare. The Regal should be nice. I'll report back on my impressions in a couple weeks.

  2. The Regal of this recording is in. It does not look like a Columbia pressing to these eyes (Columbia has an easier to read typeset that makes a clearer impression.) I'll report back on the sound.

  3. Ahhh, excellent! I'd love to hear your thoughts. What are the stampers on that?

  4. So pretty much the same stampers as the original.

  5. I would deny that the matrix number means this is the same stamper. I highly doubt this as I've seen later 70's Concert Classics with the same matrix. I think it just sticks with the master tape.

    My guess I think was spot on. This sounds like many of the SXLP 20000 recordings (none of which were released on ASD or SAX). Some kind of tube pressings more like an ASD, but not quite the same to my ears.

    I am glad to have this LP and performance in reasonably good sound. I would favor the original, but this one is good with a deep soundstage and no break up. I'd put Regal on the shopping list, but I wouldn't go crazy. This one was a bargain compared to the original.

    1. I've been checking out some of these lower priced EMI reissue labels on a few different UK dealer sites. You're right. They can usually be had for quite a bit less than the originals, and for some of the ones which are super hard to get, they may be very nice vinyl alternatives. You've got me now on the lookout for these Regals, Concert Classics, and CFPs!

    2. I want to revise my opinion of the Regal slightly as I had in my mind that the original was a Blue and Silver SAX. The Regal might be very competitive with the ASD original.

      My system is in disarray as not only am I messing with loading (cap and resistance) and getting results (a more sublime treble presentation), but some of my 5751/12AX7 are croaking in my power supplies for the phono and line stage. Very hard to find tube type/brand/vintage that was in place. This vintage throws an incredible soundstage. I've been laying in wait for about six months on ebay for these and just snagged a couple sets of which one is an even rarer vintage. I expect the sound to be much improved once I have fresh examples in place. The rarer vintage I put in last night throws an even more impressive sound stage. I've got 5 more of the more typical vintage in route for cheap ($90), so it will be interesting. I've got one shaky one still in the system. I've got another tube failure somewhere too I suspect, but I am well stocked with back ups so once I sort that out it shouldn't be a major change. Life with a high gain tube phono stage is not recommended.

      All this has me rudderless on truly evaluating these reissues especially with my recent new found respect for the Big Dog pressings. The Classic for Pleasure Beecham Overtures (CFP40358) I picked up with this regal has pieces from ASD 420 and ASD 259 (thinking you reviewed and complained about break up). I love, love this record. I adore the performances and want more Beecham. This record has the subtly addictive low noise floor and crushingly good deep bass with a very nice sound stage and highs. Midrange is a bit diffuse sounding, but I expect this pressing trounces the original gold and cream overall. The Beecham reissues really give me a headache because they mixed up all the selections from the original albums. Given your warnings on the originals, I will be acquiring more of these. They too may have some breakup. It could be on the tape. It could be my low power tube amps are running out of gas. Its not that bad.

      We'll see how my system shakes out (need to throw in more low noise ICs in crossover that are on hand) on the noise front. I might be selling my soul (midrange) once this is done and going for the Big Dogs. Too many changes to know where everything stands.

    3. I find it fascinating that such small changes in tube equipment and other components can translate into a significant sonic change. As I have never done much tweaking to my system except for upgrading full components, I have yet to experience how tweaking makes a difference. It seems that you have really noticed some differences. As a novice, I'd be grateful to hear and understand more about your thoughts on this.

      I'm glad to hear that the Beecham CFP could be better sounding than the gold/cream. I wouldn't doubt it. If I see some of these for cheap, I may pick them up for comparison. Maybe with EMI reissues, sound quality is better. I don't know if the same holds true for London Stereo Treasuries. From other people, I've heard that these are not so great, and Ace of Diamonds are the ones to get.

  6. I've got pleny of Acd of Diamonds and they are nothing different from stereo treasury. These labels are just as good as the main label pressing wise. I am sure if you were to bother to compare the later pressings with each other, one might be better for a given record. I've got plenty of Ace of Diamonds and I don't really care for any of them. I've got some STS I like a lot.
    The Beecham's are a no brainer. An early Beecham is SXLP 30158 (=B&w) which has the same tracks as the CFP I have. Its earlier. If they made enough you might actually see that in a big dog as concert classics ditched the blue labels for the standard emi labels around the time of the color stamp with white ring (late 70s). Go as late as you can on the Beecham. I am not aware of any early Beecham reissues, but of course you have 2nd and 3rd label often. Look for big dogs, color stamp with ring, and late white dogs on the original ASD numbers too. I favor the big dog over the two prior labels, that's why these are great ones to get and see what you think. Only in the case of second and third pressings in the mix with the original ASD do you have a conundrum as to which to get.

    That one tube is big. As your system gets better, tweaking out a weak link can make a large improvement. Remove that weak link in a system with a lot of other weak links and its not that much of am improvement. You are building a house of cards with tweaks in a way. The fun part is when you correct something that was really holding you back, then its like you just added ten stories to the skyscraper of cards.

    I have a feeling you might want to attach the turntable and cartridge area. Unfortunately, I don't have strong recommendations in the more moderate price ranges. If you are interested I can check around with the turntable guy and the DL103 owner. I suggest this area as you don't have to deal so much with the amp/speaker interface. My table is nice and shows up on ebay a lot, Well Tempered Classic Turntable. They seem to do pretty well price wise, but you might be able to snag one for less than $500. There may be better options. Let me know and I can check or maybe I can get them hooked into the blog if they want to.

    1. Thanks for the offer to help! I'd be open to hearing your suggestions. Right now I have a Rega RP6. The guy who sold me that DL110 said that this moving coil bested several cartridges that were 2-3 times its price and that I'd have to pay a lot more to really see a difference. I'm not about to drop a lot of cash right now for a new cartridge, but it may be a goal for the next year. I think if I were to upgrade, I'd try to get something in the $500-1000 range if I could afford it. My phono amp is pretty good but not the final word (Musical Fidelity VPS-Link II). I wonder how much of a difference it would make to get an amp that is a lot more expensive. Some of them have knobs to adjust various parameters, something which I find interesting.

  7. I just looked up some of your stuff. What speaker? The Musical Fidelity M6i looks very serious. It looks like your phono stage is rated down to 0.5 mV. I saw posts stating a gain of 55db and the ability to handle .3 mV. That gets you just to the point of handling the likes of the Lyra Delos and many other top moving coils. I would not got below 0.5 mV without consulting the manufacturer. That could be a conservative number that handles lower gain line stages and high input sensitivity amps.

    Your integrated is a great strength of the system, so you could easily upgrade your front end a lot and probably get nice improvements. Benz Ace was one the turntable guy was recommending this Spring to a friend who wanted good tracking. The low output version is rated 0.4 mV, but that is on a more conservative scale so this is really something like 0.6 mV. They have another version that doubles this output. The nice thing with Benz is the trade in policy on higher cartridges. They give huge discounts. If you took an ACE to a Ruby I think you are $2800 instead of $4000 for example. I got my $3000 Ruby for like $1600 with a Glider trade in many moons ago. Lyra Delos is another great choice, but that is double the price with no trades. The lowest output moving coils will have half the mass in coils versus the one with double the output. They will sound better, so be bold.

    I wouldn't go crazy upgrading the phono stage, but I would think a wall wart could be surpassed with some kind of vintage solid state power supply. Let me know if you are interested. I can ask around the local DIY group. Call me crazy, but I am running a 30 volt supply in place of a wall wart for my actively shielded power cord. A difference, but not huge, but again shielding is a far cry from the phono stage in the food chain.

    You need to take a look under the hood of the phono stage. The MC is set at 100 ohms. Ideally you may want another setting (the case for Benz), so you want to see if it can easily be removed ( cut a lead or desolder.) Alternative loading probably could then be attached right at the input jack if that is not where it already is. You could even poke around with low value caps, 100 pf or so. A switch is nice, but it always limits your settings and once you have it dialed in, the switch will degrade the sound slightly.

    1. Hey, thanks for the insight! So far, I've been pretty happy with the M6i powering my Von Schweikert VR-2 floorstanding speakers. Got the M6i used (1 year old) for $1600 on Audiogon and got the speakers about 10 years ago in my last year of medical school and have loved them since. I think that upgrading the front end, as you say, will probably make the biggest impact. I'm not quite clear about the differences between low output and high output moving coil cartridges. What are the advantages to each? They are usually priced the same. Is there a distinct advantage of moving coil over moving magnet?

    2. Nice speaker. I am not real familiar. Your amp opens up a lot of possibilities (I've always had a soft spot for the Thiel line up, but they are not tube friendly.)

      The medium output .8mv Benz is probably for a high gain tube phono stage. For us tube lovers that is a great choice since we can avoid a step up transformer (great ones start at $2500 for the Coincident Technology Silver wound). The lower should have less mass, better tracking, and nicer highs.

      Low output moving coils are the big leagues. My original glider did not seem like a giant step, but when I went from the Glider to the Ruby that was really nice. I remember being bowled over by the improvement in the bass with rock recordings. You'll need to work on the table, so ACE would be a nice move. We can consult when the time comes closer as things do change. I would think the current Ace could nip at the heels of my older Ruby. I think the big advantage for low output MC is in the mass. Just brings out the music with greater felicity.

    3. I just checked out the Benz ACE. That's a sweet cartridge. I saw it selling for $700. I'd better start saving up.

    4. Don't move without a final consultation with the local guru here. If you see one used for $200 or $300 that makes it real interesting as you can trade in said cartridge for a Benz Ref S Copper and get it for $1875 (-$625), and a Ruby for $2800 (-1200). Trade in an old rub, ref, or gulwing and you get a Ruby for $2400 (-1600). Those are the best upgrade deals in the line (for the far thinking consumer). A benz wood L2 is on Agon for $600 (or less). Trade in for ruby down the line for $2600 (-1400). I might be able to sniff out a deal locally here. Couple of audiophiles seem to be well connected.