Monday, August 12, 2013

Columbia SAX 2302

SAX 2302

Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture
Berlioz: Hungarian March
Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
Sibelius: Valse Triste
Weber: Invitation to the Dance

Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing: ED1

Condition: EX

YAX 239-2
YAX 78-4

Performance:  9/10

Sound:  7/10

Price range: $29-116, mean $52 on popsike

Comments:  With the exception of the Valse Triste by Sibelius, the works on this album are among the orchestral showpiece repertoire.  What better way to demonstrate the dynamic range of your audio system than to launch into Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, complete with cannons and bells?  This album would be just that kind of album, if it just weren't for the issue with blurriness and loss of clarity during those forte and fortissimo passages.  I'm beginning to wonder if I need to upgrade my cartridge, in the case that this issue is due to my cartridge's inability to clearly resolve the music here.  If anyone else has this album and claims that it sounds perfect on their system, please let me know.  I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts.

The performances here are quite enjoyable.  Although I don't listen to it regularly, I do appreciate and like the 1812, and much of the musical fun occurs when the orchestra is playing its heart out.  I love the cannons and the bells, but on this recording, the cannons and bells are somewhat blurred in with the orchestra, whose sound also gets blurred at the same time on the record.  So, instead of being able to appreciate the variety of instruments, you get something like a sonic mess.  Rather regrettable, to be honest, since this record would otherwise be a winner.  Side 2 with the Liszt, Sibelius, and Weber is better in this regard than side 1 but not immune to the same problems with sound in the loud passages.  Perhaps I'm being too critical here, but I figured that if you are going to dish out some dough for this album -- and I have seen buyers on Ebay do that -- just be aware.  That being said, when the music is played at lower dynamic ranges, which it does for most of the record, the record sounds beautiful.  This is one example of an analog album in which you can feel the presence and realism of the orchestra more than on a digital album.  You get an idea of the hall acoustics here.  So, recommended for the performances and the sound (mostly).


  1. The blue and silver is the only pressing. $50 for top condition has been the latest price. Sounds like one worth checking out given the price.

  2. If you get it, I'd love to hear your thoughts about its sound on your system. Maybe your Lyra can resolve the lack of clarity heard on my system in the louder parts of the record.

    1. I've got an old Benz Ruby H and I doubt it would fair better. I need to mess around with VTA soon on my Toy symphony to see if that helps. I also am messing around with capacitive loading of my MC which is yielding pleasing highs, almost too pleasing. I'll have to try that LP there too. My G&C and B&S tracked well on the Lyra Delos system, but not quite as well as the Titan setups. These were all setup by the same person. I'd say something that tracks as well as the Delos ($1500) is the minimum in a nice moving coil. The Delos is considered better than the well regarded Lyra Helikon. There may be other lower priced moving coils and moving magnets than can do the job, but I would get a cartridge know for excellent tracking to handle the Gold and Cream ASDs, and the Blue and Silver SAX.

    2. Damn, well now you've got me wishing for a better cartridge! My Denon DL-110 can't compete with the likes of Benz or Lyra! Do you think they would make a monumental difference?

  3. Friend has DL 103, but I've not been over there in some time. Another table set up buy the same guy. I'll try to get over there in the next month with the LPs and see how they fare. You'd need more gain for that one.

  4. I just received a 2nd ed. (r/s, magic notes) pressing, and don't hear the distortion you mention. Dynavector cartridge tracks almost anything I've ever tried. Quite a decent sounding record; I'd suggest a higher sound rating.
    David M.

    1. Very interesting. Thanks for the comment. What are the matrix numbers on your ER2 pressing?

  5. I am sitting here listening to this very record - it sounds excellent, including a good soundstage,fine clarity, no distortion. Matrix No. on side two is YAX 78-8; I can't see side one as the record is on the turntable! I wish all my records sounded this good! I expect you have/had a clapped-out pressing that some twit played with a worn stylus.
    Best, David M.

    1. That may very well be true. I'm encouraged by your comments about your own pressing!