Thursday, August 8, 2013

Plum Philips?

I have to admit, I don't own many of these fine albums.  If anyone has some experience with the different Philips labels and their sound quality, I would very much like to hear your thoughts!  To my understanding, Philips also reissued several albums from the U.S. which came out on the Mercury and Columbia labels.  I'd be interested to know if these Dutch releases sound superior to their U.S. counterparts. 






9 comments:

  1. A brief treatise ...

    http://www.absolutemusik.com/portal/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=34&Itemid=32&lang=en

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    1. Are you referring to early Philips when they subsumed Mercury? Of course, there are the Golden Imports from the late 70s which I would think you are well aware of.

      I am sure I have some late Mercury and early Philips with some Mercury based stuff. I don't recall either of these sounding good at all, rather noisy too. I am not sure how the Columbia based pressings came into play. I don't know if I understand exactly why the Vendor pressings are so bad, as the dead wax shows the hand written RFR. For Mercury, you want the RCA typeset FR pressings, and then with RFR pressings you want a color back (picture on back is color, not black and white). Not sure if RFR reissue pressings of FR material (~SR90266 and back if I remember), can be better, but it seems FR better.

      Later Philips pressings even extended to Decca/London. I've never like many of these (bass), but I just got Golden Import of Brazilian Impressions figuring that it might work nicely with the suave, smooth sound of these pressings. I've heard that Deutsche Grammophone polished their later stampers to remove noise which also removed high frequency detail. To my ears, the late Philips pressings seem to have suffered a similar fate.

      I truthfully have avoided Philips, but do have 30 or so on hand that I picked up for $3 a grocery bag worth. The one Philips pressing I like are some of the early French ones that come with a thick cardboard jacket. Tresors Classiques is the name and I guess they are mid-sixties as no copy write date is on the LP.

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  2. I'm referring to the early Dutch Philips records from the late 50s to early 60s. First label was the "Plum Philips", and on this label you'll find recordings from Arthur Grumiaux, I Musici, Eduard van Beinum, Colin Davis, Bruno Walter, and others. Some of these were recorded by Philips engineers, but some of them (e.g. Bruno Walter) I believe were recorded by US Columbia and then licensed to Philips. I'm not 100% sure of this last statement, but that's my conclusion, considering that the releases are almost the same (same conductor, same orchestra, same works, etc). These Plum Philips can be quite collectable. Later Philips are not quite as valuable, though they have super quiet surfaces and some memorable performances.

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    1. The plum labeled records with Hi-Fi Stereo in the label and cover go for a premium over the plan plum labels which in turn command a premium over the later red or grey labels. These labels are analegeous to the HMV W/G, S/C and DIS labels. In the UK the Hi-Fi Stereo versions were usually part of the SABL series. These are well recorded and were probably produced with valve (tube) equipment. The plan plum labels are to my ears indiscernible from the Hi-Fi Stereo ones. Quality is again excellent. The later Red and Grey labelled pressings are also very good and the vinyl used is generally quieter. Like with ASD and SAX the earlier label may not always be the best but it will be the most expensive.

      The early Philips recordings are a mix of original Philips recordings and Philips pressed CBS recordings. I have compared a CBS 6 eye copy of Oistrakh's Sibelius VC with a Philips Hi-Fi Stereo version and the Philips was clearly the better of the two

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    2. Thanks for the insight. I had a plum philips of Walter conducting Beethoven's 6th -- the 6-eye is a TAS list record, which I had and sold a few years ago. It was a VG copy (lots of marks) but I found it for $0.99. Too bad it had far too much surface noise to be enjoyable. Unfortunately, some of the other Plum Philips of US CBS recordings have been a bit of a disappointment for me (I think you've already seen my review of the Bernstein Beethoven 7th). I was really hoping that the PHilips would be a marked improvement over the CBS releases. That Oistrakh Sibelius is pretty highly coveted in its plum Philips edition ... maybe it sounds superb and that's why it sells for as much as it does.

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  3. I have Walter's Beethoven 3 and 6 on plum Hi-Fi Stereo Philips SABL and the same on an early UK issue SBRG CBS. The CBS is clearly better on both recordings so I think there may be issues with the Philips Walter Beethoven's as the ones I have are in excellent condition. Generally though, I've found the SABL issues to have good SQ although some of the performances can fall a little short of the mark.

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    1. What's your take on Dutch pressed plum Philips vs UK pressed plum Philips? I have not heard a major difference, though I have never been able to do side by side comparisons between different pressings of the same album. I believe that UK pressed plum Philips are generally well respected.

      I was under the impression that UK issued CBS recordings would've been superior to the US ones, but I was relatively disappointed in a UK pressed 3 LP box set of the Szell Brahms symphonies. They weren't bad, but they weren't leaps and bounds above the US pressings. In general, though, I have a great respect for UK pressings. In general, would you say that there is a greater public appreciation for classical music and recordings there than here? You have the Proms, for instance, which is huge public celebration of classical music.

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    2. If there are any differences they are minor as I've not notice any.

      I think the UK CBS pressing are generally better than the US ones but there will always be exceptions. I was once told by a dealer that the problem with CBS classical records was in the recording chain and that was the cause of the steely edge to the strings that a lit of people dislike. I don't know if this is true but it might explain why the CBS recordings are generally overlooked.

      Classical music is very much a minority genre in the UK. The Proms have always been elitist and if it wasn't for BBC radio and then later TV broadcasts I think they would be relatively unknown. We were fortunate to have two recording powerhouses in EMI and Decca bur Joe public probably had more exposure to good recordings through subscription services like Readers Digest and World Record Club.

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    3. I think I'd have to concur with the problem with the recording chain. It's unfortunate, considering the artist roster that CBS had in the 50s-60s. They could've released some real outstanding records had the sound quality been better. Some of the Bernstein Columbia 6-eyes are pretty decent (e.g. Le Sacre du Printemps or anything by Aaron Copland). I should review some of the ones I have.

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