Monday, February 17, 2014

Lyrical Lyrita Series

Before we get into some sonic histrionics of this storied British Label and its British Artists, let’s get into some history. Hopefully, the following will reveal some clues as to what makes Lyrita unique. Please feel free to comment with contributions and we will update this post.

In October 1959, Lyrita began mail order subscription of Lyrita Recorded Edition. Founder Richard Itter, businessman and record collector, was determined to make quality recordings. Itter produced, engineered, edited, and recorded these early Recorded Edition releases in the music room of his own country home. Pianist Margaret Kitchin recalls recording Michael Tippett's Fantasy Sonata with the composer lying on the floor during takes.  At the lunch Itter's mother had cooked, "Michael talked a lot," Kitchin remembered, adding "Michael spoke French quite badly." Clearly Itter was intimately involved early on with all of the Lyrita recordings.

By the early 60s, Itter had expanded his efforts, contracting Decca for orchestral recordings and preferring the services of legendary recording engineer Kenneth Wilkinson, a "wizard with mikes - nothing sounded artificial - his subtle technique was fabulous". In reality, a host of Decca engineers were used and we’ll try to make note of them in our reviews by referring to the recent excellent CD releases with their engineering notes. Lyrita issued the monaural RCS series, and stereophonic SRCS series beginning at SRCS.31.

Phil Rees Record Buying Guide states, "Despite what has been said in some sources about Lyrita pressings, I have never heard any bad sounding Lyrita, regardless of pressing. The earliest were pressed by Decca and were, in my view, the best. Then came Nimbus pressings. Finally there were a number of different pressing sources including EMI.

The basic rule is that the lower the SRCS number the more likely it is to be a Decca pressing. Conversely, with the higher SRCS numbers it is increasingly unlikely to be a Decca pressing. Beyond SRCS116 most were never pressed by Decca at all, but were pressed by Numbus. So it can confidently be said that there is either a Decca or a Numbus pressing for every Lyrita.

The Decca pressings are easily recognised by the fact that the engraving on the vinyl carries a stamper number in the standard Decca SXL typeface, and is of the form ZLY-nnnn-na, e.g. ZY-5069-G2. This engraving will be found on the vinyl on both sides of the record.

Nimbus pressings are also readily identified (though more care is needed): Somewhere on the vinyl you will find engraved the word "NIMBUS" on top of the word "ENGLAND", but this engraving is very small.

The pressings after this have 'hand written' scrawl on the vinyl and are easiest identified by the negative fact that they have neither Decca nor NIMBUS engravings."

We will comment on the pressings and recordings as we go through our Lyrical Lyrita Series. Unfortunately, little is known of the history of Mr. Itter’s involvement in the Decca recording process. I suspect he was there offering encouragement and input for many of the recordings. Perhaps he stayed hands off, unlike Decca which did have some requirements/standards in the recording process, but I suspect he was quite involved in some choices which would account for the unique Lyrita sound.

And with our history complete, we move onto some sonic histrionics. Lyrita has always been a label with an elusive sound quality. By that I mean, one where others say it is great, but it never quite seems so great on one’s own system. Mr. Salvatore of Supreme Recordings fame admits that it might be consistently the best label, but only the best Lyrita’s are in the third tier basic list:


None make the Supreme Recordings Divinity or Demi-God list.

Lyritas have been elusive for me until some recent noise/sound floor improvement, but that still only got me to the point where I thought Salvatore had them classified correctly. They had a decent sound floor, but they clearly were not great. My ears were opened a few months ago on a friend’s quad system. Here were the lyrical Lyrita highs with a truly unique sound quality that one could call fast.

At the same time I also brought over some recently acquired basic list Decca recordings. Why do I mention this? Because all Lyrita releases were recorded by Decca engineers and most of the LPs were pressed by Decca in their original incarnations. And what of those Decca recordings? On my system they seem fine, but with a bit of a “recordy” sound (like an old LP, as in a bad one). On the Quads, they might be even less remarkable and so once again we are back to the elusive Lyrita and the question of why do they sound so different from Decca?

I’ve been playing Lyrita’s recently as I’ve made system improvements, but the lyrical Lyrita of the Quad’s still eluded my grasp. Twice this last week I’ve taken over Lyrita’s and Decca to the Quadophile’s system to further explore the situation. There all Lyritas were awesome. The Decca Lyrita pressings played favored the highs slightly less than the Nimbus or EMI pressings, but were still Lyrical extending this feeling into the midrange. Finally this weekend, something changed in my system (I believe a retuning of some speaker levels with the right midrange L-pad moving up 3 dB). Now, the Lyritas appear to be eminently lyrical on my own system which has spurred the commencement of this Lyrical Lyrita Series of reviews (40 releases on hand.)

At this point, clearly to my ears, Lyrita is underrated in the Supreme Recordings. I’ll be listening back and forth on both systems as much as I can in order to decipher what might be the key parameters and attributes required for a system to speak Lyrita. At this point, the hypotheses are:
1.  Low sound floor – important, but perhaps not the key sonic requirement
2.  Fast transducers – planar speakers like Quads seem to do well, but still at best only part of the picture.
3.  Flat in room bass response – I measured the bass response of the Quads at the listening position and the flatness of the bass response was scary. Good luck achieving this with dynamic subwoofers and speakers; you’ll need a lot of bass traps ($).
4.  Bass definition – really the whole spectrum cannot have any tube flabbiness or the clarity will be smeared. I suspect this is the least critical factor, but may be where my system has closed the gap the most.

It will be fascinating chasing down the elusive Lyrita sound in the upcoming series and hopefully this will be of help in maximizing our reader’s enjoyment of this fine label.


  1. I discovered your website over the holidays during AQL's hiatus. I find it to be a treasure trove of information and want to thank both AQL and Mele especially for your many contributions. I have been a serious collector of classical vinyl for a long time (my first purchase was the Karajan box of Beethoven symphonies which I bought for $18.95 IIRC in 1963.) Currently, I have about 15,000 records, 90% of which are stereo classical. Since this section is on Lyrita, I will make a few comments on that.

    I discovered Lyrita in the late '70's or early '80's after reading about the label in the Absolute Sound magazine. Being in the US, I didn't have an easy way to acquire Lyritas or EMI's or Deccas. However, beginning in the mid '80's I began to travel to London with increasing frequency and started buying Lyritas from shops like Farringdon's, new - they were more expensive than Deccas or EMI's. I found out later these were all Nimbus pressings. After I started buying used records in London and from other Great Britain dealers, I was able to put together a complete collection of the stereo Lyritas, including all ones pressed by Decca (many duplicated by my earlier Nimbus purchases.) Lyritas also began to be imported by Allegro IIRC so I could buy them in the US. Right now all my Lyritas are the earliest pressings (Decca or Nimbus) except for 7 Lyrita pressings (the ones with the big handwriting in the deadwax.) I have been diligently looking for Nimbus pressings of these (111, 113, 115, 116, 121, 125, 127). So if anyone has dups they would sell or trade, please let me know. Many dealers call the pressings with the wide, raised, gently curved band in the label area Nimbus pressings, but they don't have the little block NIMBUS in the deadwax.

    I agree with the late Phil Rees (from whom I bought many, many records) that the sonics of the Decca pressings are the best, but the Nimbus pressings are quieter.

    More on another post.

    Thanks again,


    1. Larry,
      It is very gratifying to see your post. I can't reply in detail yet as I am listening to the first two Lyritas for review. Trading is possible. I recently bought 115 and 125. I"ll look through my piles more. I bought quite a few doubles in order to compare pressings and already had a bunch of doubles.


    2. Flipping sides. The Rubbra 127, both my copies are not Nimbus, Ibid for my single copies of Lloyd 113, Maconchy 116, Vaughan Williams 125, and Bush 115. I believe that is all I have. I think you may be onto something which is that these don't exist as a nimbus recording block pressing. Dealers in the UK will say anything to inflate LP prices. It hasn't worked with Lyrita, but vintage Decca (vs. London) along with the EMI ASD and SAX is another story.

  2. Here is some more on Lyrita.

    The switch from Decca pressings to Nimbus pressings occurred because Richard Itter was not happy with the quality of the Philips Baarn, Netherlands pressings, which happened when Polygram bought Decca Records in 1980 after Sir Edward Lewis died, and then quite quickly shut down the Decca New Malden pressing facility. He switched to Nimbus for pressing, though he kept the engineering with Decca. Itter (Lyrita rhymes with Itter) liked the work of Kenneth Wilkie Wilkinson and when he started to do stereo recordings in late 1965, Wilkie was the engineer. Wilkie did more than half of the Lyrita stereo recordings. If you look at the recording dates of last 25 or so Lyritas, they are all in the late '70's to early '80's. However, there is a break in the release dates. There were a bunch that were released in the late '70's and these were all originally Decca pressings. Then no more were released until 1982 includng many that were recorded in the late 1970's. Those were all pressed by Nimbus. So there are discontinuities in numbering, a Decca, then a Nimbus, then a Decca, since the recording and release dates did not match. I can do a little table if anyone wants.

    I contacted Lyrita, which is now associated with Nimbus in Wyastone Estates in Wale, near the British and Welsh border, near Monmouth. They were selling some of the last of Richard Itter's collection of new Lyrita records. I ordered the seven listed above, after I was assured that these were original pressings. However, when I got them, they were all the later "Lyrita" pressings which I already have. Fortunately they took them back and gave me a refund. From my understanding, Mr Itter is still alive, but not in good health.

    Finally, one disclosure. I have been retired for several years, but for the past years I have been working part time for First Impression Music, owned by Winston Ma. FIM does high quality CD releases, including some reissues. Winston commissioned me to write a book about the golden age of Decca Classical Records, which I have done and it will be released in the late spring, along with 4 CD's of excerpts from some of the finest of the Decca recordings, remastered by Michael Bishop and Robert Friedrich of Five Four Productions. As a major part of this work, I was able to conduct some extensive interviews with several of the remaining "Decca Boys" who worked in the golden era. John Dunkerley was one who also did many of the later Lyrita recordings, including the famous SRCS109 Arnold Dances, which many consider to be the finest Lyrita recording. John gave me a copy of the stage microphone layout sheets which will appear in the book. Too had I don't have the same opportunity with EMI.

    Thanks again. I will try to post some comments about EMI under a more relevant blog.


    1. Dear Larry,

      Thank you very much for your kind words and for sharing with us your perspective on Lyrita's and Decca's. I sincerely look forward to the release of your upcoming book, which I think will be a very welcome resource! Readers and collectors like yourself are what motivate both Meles and me to keep this blog going! We'd absolutely welcome any other comments you have about any of the topics we have discussed so far.

      Thanks again!

    2. If I recall correctly, didn't Winston Ma do a lot of work remastering several Decca recordings on XRCD?

    3. Larry,
      A little table on the Nimbus/Decca overlap would be nice and perhaps once we get our ducks in order, we should do a definitive post.

      I am going to rock your world and state that their may be up to three possible Decca pressings for the earliest Lyrita. Up through SRCS 37 or so, the original release would predate the Neumann SX-74 cutter head. According to Michael Gray's Birth of Decca Stereo:

      "Some important procedures were different. All stereo discs cut between 1957 and 1967 were half—speed mastered, including ones from Dolby master tapes using specially modified Dolby replay machines. Half—speed cutting helped control high-frequency distortion by moving the 8 KHz peak of the early Teldec head (and those of some later Neumann models) to a point around sixteen KHz. with improvements in high—frequency behavior there unfortunately came linearity and distortion problems at the low end, a factor which along with a thirty—Hertz “Kingsway filter" to eliminate that venue's subway rumble may account for the absence of really deep bass on many early Decca stereo discs.
      By 1968, Decca was using a new Neumann cutting head. With the installation of a Neumann SX-74 cutting head in 1974 ......."

      I do fully believe the early tube cuts were half speed, but I am a little skeptical that the mid-sixties transistor laden cuts were half speed, but that would explain the unique sound versus other labels. In any event, based on the above, we have half-speed transistor pressings for around SRCS 37 and back. These would be the original pressings and would have flipback covers (looks like these go through about SRCS 64?) However, by SRCS 40 the original pressings would be on the very different helium cooled Neumann SX-68 at regular speed. By 1974 the SX-74 was in place which has full cutting capability beyond 20,000 Hz. The half speed cutting still has treble issues, but in general according to Stan Ricker half speed mastering has strong advantages:
      "One of the primary reasons for doing the half-speed analog recording is that more tape playback problems are solved by playing the tape back at half speed. Hysteresis problems in the playback head, the slew rate problems in the tape head preamplifier. The resonance peak of the playback head circuitry is a fixed resonant peak, so in terms of the music you're transcribing, it's moved up an octave and is way out of the audible range of any of those high frequency resonance circuits. So when you consider all of this, therefore, the signal is cleaner as it passes through the system, especially anything that involves cymbal crashes, brass instruments (trumpets, trombones, etc.), other high frequency-type tone bursts. At half speed they go through the system quite easily and are not apt to cause any kind of power supply or slew rate distortion, or TIM, or any of this stuff. So if you can cut a disk that way and you have a really pristine disk playback system, like many audiophile folks do, then you get to enjoy the advantage of a record that was cut from a tape in a way that you get away from a lot of these tape playback anomalies."

      So, what we have here are three distinct pressings. The SX-68 and 74 are kissing cousins, with the SX-68 flat out to 16kHz, but I am sure they each have their unique sound and that the 74 does not supercede the 68 in all sonic departments (differences in electronics driving the heads no doubt). Three possible Decca pressings for the early releases, and two for releases until about 1974.


    4. So, the question is do you have different Decca pressings of the same Lyrita release. I am guessing that the later 1A Decca with the opaque, rice paper lined sleeves would all be SX-74. The flipback cover or more modern cover might help distinguish the earliest half speed release from subsequent reissues, but I am pretty confident that my non-flipback, 2K pressing of SRCS 34 is an original pressing, so I think the cover change just makes it worth taking a look at the mastering engineer (the letters in the deadwax like 2K, 2L, 1G, 1A where the letter indicates a certain engineer). I have not studied my Lyritas for label changes and this might be an excellent indicator as with Decca. With Decca/London, the advent of the Neumann helium cooled cutter heads appear to coincide with the narrow band label (which to my ignorant eyeballs always looks like a smaller label where some of the vinyl is covering the outside of the label leaving a ridge). Nothing has lept at to me with Lyritas.

      I think many of our readers (and AQL) are in a similar situation to where you started collecting which is all nimbus and emi pressed Lyritas. I had just a few Decca pressings until this Fall when I did a monster order from England. Most of the following are Decca pressings, with some EMI and Nimbus:

      SRCS 32 Ireland. Prelude The Forgotten Rite/Mai-Dun/Ov. Satyricon/Legend for piano. Parkin/LPO/Boult.
      SRCS 34 Holst. Lyric Movmt/Brook Green Suite/Nocturne/Fugal Concerto/St Paul's Suite
      SRCS 36 Ireland. Piano concerto/These Things Shall Be. Parkin/Case/etc/LPO/Boult
      SRCS 37 Holst-Fugal Ov./Moeran-Sinfonietta/Bax-November Woods. Boult/LPO
      SRCS 38 Finzi. Before & After Summer/I Said To Love/Till Earth Outwears. Carol Case/Tear/ferguson
      SRCS 39-40 Elgar. Symphony no 1-2. Boult/LPO. 2 individual Lps
      SRCS 41 Rubbra-Symphony no 7/Vaughan Williams-Tallis Fant. Boult/LPO
      SRCS 43 Moeran. Cello Concerto/Ov. For A Masque/Rhapsody no 2. Coetmore/LPO/Boult
      SRCS 44 Holst. Double concerto/Capriccio/Golden Goose/2 Songs Without Words. I Holst/ECO
      SRCS 46 Robert Still. Symphony no 3 (Goossens/LSO)/Symphony no 4 (Fredman/RPO)
      SRCS 50 Holst-Japanese Suite (Boult/LSO)/Bliss-Melee Fant. (Bliss/LSO)/ Berkeley/Britten-Mont Juic
      SRCS 51 Finzi. A Young Man's Exhortation/Earth and Air and Rain. Jenkins(ten.)/Case (bar.)/Ferguson
      SRCS 57 Maconchy-Ov. Proud Thames/Bush-Music for Orch./Berkeley-Symphony no3/Alwyn-4
      SRCS 61 Alwyn. Mirages/Divertimento/Naiades. Luxon/Willison/Robles/Hyde-Smith
      SRCS 63 Alwyn. Symphony no 3/The Magic Island. Alwyn/LPO
      SRCS 65/66/118 Ireland. Songs (Vols 1-3). Hodgson (cont.)/Mitchinson (tenor)/Luxon (bar.)/Rowlands
      SRCS 75 Finzi. Intimations of Immortality. Partridge/GuildfordPO/Handley
      SRCS 78 Arnold Cooke. Symphony no 3/Jabez and the Devil Suite. Braithwaite/LPO
      SRCS 79 Malcolm Williamson. Organ concerto/Piano concerto no 3. Williamson/LPO/Boult/Dommett
      SRCS 80 Berkeley. Symphony no 1/Concerto for 2 pianos op30. Beckett/McDonald/LPO/DelMar
      SRCS 84 Finzi. Severn Rhap./Introit/Nocturne/etc. Boult/LPO
      SRCS 85 Alwyn. Symphony no 2/Sinfonietta for strings. Alwyn/LPO
      SRCS 90 Rawsthorne. Symphony no 1/Symph. Studies. Pritchard/LPO
      SRCS 91 Bridge-Phantasm/Moeran-Rhapsody. Wallfisch/McCabe/LPO/NPO/Braithwaite
      SRCS 92 Finzi. Clarinet conc/Grand Fantasia for piano & strings/Eclogue for piano & strings
      SRCS 95 "Overtures". Alwyn/Chagrin/Arnold/Rawsthorne/Bush/Leigh. Var. conductors/orchs
      SRCS 96 Rubbra. Symphony no 2/Festival Ov. Handley/NPO


    5. SRCS 100 Hurlstone. Piano concerto/Fant. Var. on a Swiss Air. Parkin/LPO/Braithwaite
      SRCS 101 Rawsthorne. Piano concertos 1/2. Binns/LSO/Braithwaite
      SRCS 102 Stanford. Piano concerto no 2. Binns/LSO/Braithwaite
      SRCS 103 Cyril Rootham-Symphony no 1/Josef Holbrooke-The Birds of Rhiannon. Handley/LPO
      SRCS 104 Bridge. Oration for cello & orch./2 Poems/Allegro Moderato. Lloyd-Webber/LPO/Braithwaite
      SRCS 105 Moeran. Violin concerto. Georgiadis/LSO/Handley
      SRCS 106 Patrick Hadley. The Trees So High/One Morning In Spring. Allen/etc/NPO/Handley/LPO/Boult
      SRCS 107 Coates. Merrymakers Ov./Summer Days/3 Bears/etc. Boult/NPO
      SRCS 115 Geoffrey Bush-Symphony no 1/Arnold-Sinfonietta no 1/Benjamin-Cotillon/Braithwaite/LSO
      SRCS 119 Rubbra. Soliloquy for cello op57 (Saram/LSO/Handley)/Symphony no 7 (Boult/LPO)
      SRCS 125 Vaughan Williams-The Sons of Light/Parry-Ode on the Nativity. Cahill/BachCh/etc/LPO/Willcocks
      SRCS 130 Vaughan Williams-Piano concerto/John Foulds-Dynamic Triptych op88. Shelley/RPO/Handley.

      I am just beginning to explore them and will be doing some pressing comparisons between Nimbus, EMI, and Decca. I think the Nimbus probably beats any Decca pressing for noise/sound floor, but a Neumann SX-74 is hard to beat. The Decca/Nimbus comparisons will be fun with the current state of my rig (getting lower noise all the time as I modernize the circuitry).


  3. Yes Winston did 17 Decca albums in the mid 2000's on XRCD24. The release with my book with come from those releases and a couple more, but remastered to his newest and I believe best Ultra HD system. I have heard the test pressings for the first two of the samplers that Michael Bishop has remastered and they are really fine, better than the XRCD issues. However, they are only samplers, so don't contain the entire albums.


  4. I looked at my early Lyritas this morning after reading your comments about the different Deccas. It looks like I may have copies of three different types of Deccas like you mentioned. When I bought them (all used) back in the late '90's or early 2000's I didn't have any real knowledge about Deccas except that there was a distinct printing in the deadwax. So I only have one Decca pressing of each of my Lyritas (until Decca stopped pressing them). I looked at 31 through 38 and a brief summary: 1) There are the grooved labels that I think all have the trifold albums. 2) There are the flat labels that all have the single vertical stripe that looks like yellowed cellophane, and 3) an odd ball where the outer edge of the label area has a narrow raised rim, also with the vertical stripe on the album. I have later pressings (all Lyrita so far) of most of them which look like they came from International Records and Books (not Allegro Imports) which I bought mail order in the US new back in the late '80's.


  5. Larry,
    I think the vertical stripe you are talking about is the yellowed cellophane on the back cover adjacent to the covers spine? I think when you say trifold this is the same as a flip back, which was a cover style on early Decca (not London), and much of the EMI catalog until the late sixties. The front cover at the top and bottom is folded over onto the back cover. The folded portion still retains the glossy finish. The yellowed cellophane strip really isn't the distinguishing feature of a flip back and I would say that the later earlier non-flipback covers show this strip up to SRCS 101 or so (yellowing dependent on age). ... I just spotted some yellow stripe covers up to SRCS 118 so far that are Decca pressings. They probably go up to that two year gap in production in the early 80's you mentioned? I suspect this has something to do with the staggered table you offered. I don't think the covers are great indicators as I just spotted a flip back that has a later sleeve and very late looking vinyl to my eyes.

    Labels are another story, but I'll pass for now except to say that noneof my SRCS 31-39 look like grooved deccas which is odd because quite a few are flip backs. Are you sure yours are truly grooved in the Decca style? With the Decca/London, the radius of the groove is just under 1.5 inches from the center of the label. A large label non-grooved Decca has a fine ridge at a radius of about 5/8 inches. This is what I see on all my early Decca pressed Lyritas.

    SRCS 32 Ireland Satyricon, plain rice paper sleeve dated 7-78 and nice 3W pressing which looks like the earlier Neumann SX68, back cover has yellow stripe. The vinyl feels and looks different from the SX74s I mention below.
    SRCS 34 Holst Brook Green, just reviewed, 2K, no date on the poly liner (much typeface on these polys with mono warning.)
    SRCS 35 Bax 6, two copies. 1; is a pristine thin flat 1G pressing that is screaming later 70's SX74 Neumann cutting. 2nd pressing: hand lettering which I take as EMI, however "wide, raised, gently curved band in the label area" the dealers say is Nimbus and my SRCS 129 Lloyd 4 has this same curve with the nimbus stamp (interesting).
    SRCS 36 Ireland PC, oldish looking cover, rice paper lined Decca sleeve, a pristine thin flat 1L pressing that is screaming later 70's SX74 Neumann cutting.
    SRCS 37 Holst/Bax a flipback 1L pressing with slighly different blue lettered poly liner with no print on one side
    SRCS 39 Elgar 1, two pressings. 1; a flipback 1R pressings which I think is so noisey it must be original, but the vinyl has that newer Neumann feel, poly liner dated 5-68. 2nd pressing; a nonflipback 1L with poly liner dated 9-74 which I take to be a late SX68 Neumann. Cover dated 1968.

    Let me know what you think and what pressings you have! I don't think a true groove pressing is possible on a stereo Lyrita, but I am not sure what year the groove stopped at Decca. SRCS is 1966. I am not a Decca expert and only about a year started heeding the grooved pressing difference preferring stamper numbers (I now believe the groove is more accurate than the matrix number, meaning a 1E on FFSS will sound quite different from a 1E of the same record on FFRR label and this might applied to grooved versus nongrooved, but I've yet to listen through the many, many sorted Decca/London piles I have in my listening room.)


    1. Ooops, just found:
      SRCS 38 Finzi, rice liner dated 1976, 3R/1L, yellow stripe, despite the dates, seems like the earlier Neumann SX-68 pressing perhaps.

      Not to bad I just need 31 and 33 to complete the 30s.

    2. Dated 1968 then we jump to 1970 after this.
      SRCS 40 Elgar 2, flipback 2L/1R and liner dated 3-71, so maybe this is first reissue (Larry?)

    3. This conversation on the initial pressings is resumed here:

  6. Larry,
    I'll pile on in regards to non-Decca Lyrita pressings. I have two releases with typeset lettering that do not exhibit the Nimbus swayback. SRCS 79 Williamson, Organ Con. and SRCS 124 Llolyd, Sym. 5. I also have Nimbus pressings of both and I would say I don't care for these non-Decca typeset Lyrita. I need to relisten to the Lloyd, but the Williamson typeset has been extensively listened to recently. The typeset may have some of the best bass and hall depth I've heard with treble extension, but I think the Salvatore Sound Floor suffers and frankly the lyrical Lyrita highs are not there. The covers have no yellow stripe so these are absolutely very late pressings, maybe even early 90's if that is possible. The Williamson has a poly liner dated 1975, but it has a huge cut out of one corner, so I suspect it was reused old stock. My Nimbus Williamson has much yellowing of the white cover in comparison to the typeset. I suspect this may be a "Polygram" pressing, but I am just parroting what I've picked up discussed on the internet.

    All of my other pressings have the large hand written lettering and the Nimbus swayback depression. These I take to be EMI pressings and they have a similar feel. The highs are very extended and shimmering with impressive bass, but the mids may suffer some. I've not listened to these in some time except for SRCS 108 which is an impressive LP and these ultra extended highs work well with Alwyn Harp Concerto on this LP. These handwritten EMI pressings are not bad, but sometimes they can stink. The Finzi Cello Con. with Yo Yo Ma (SRCS 112) has been an egregious disappointment in the past. I've not listened recently or on the Quads, but I suspect no pressing of this LP will sound good. These recordings could have been cut at EMI and pressed by Nimbus which would account for the swayback. That almost must be the case unless someone is aware of another label that has the swayback. The mastering and cutting would be the dominant sonic ingredient and I've done enough provisional comparisons between these and nimbus recording pressings to say that I am very skeptical that these were mastered by Nimbus. Based on the covers and the absence of the yellowed stripe these must also be later pressings, but nowhere near as late as the "Polygram" typeset pressings. In fact looking at the age of the covers, I wonder if Mr. Itter was doing some experimenting and going back and forth between the EMI and Nimbus pressings. Perhaps even the EMI were done first for a brief time (one of my copies of SRCS 43, Moeran Cello Con., has an old yellowed stripe cover). It is a very close thing looking at the covers.


    1. I also have a nimbus wrinkle for you. I've got two nimbus pressings of SRCS 84, Finzi Severn Rhapsody. One has the nimbus swayback. The other which looks slightly older to my eyes, depresses at the same point of the sway back, but it is a much more crisp transition to the thinner area of the label around the spindle. I've yet to compare (and I've got the original Decca), but one other difference is interesting when correlated with the other nimbus and 'EMI' large handwritten pressings. The plain rice paper record liners both say Made in Great Britain, but most nimbus pressings add the initials G.H.. I have five nimbus that don't have this G.H., the above earlier looking SRCS 84 with the abrupt transition, two SRCS 109 Arnold Dances that look earlier with abrupt transitions, SRCS 73 Bridge abrupt, and SRCS 105 Moeran Violin with the swayback. I think the abrupt may be earlier and now that I look closely at all the handwritten EMI, some have the abrupt style transition and some the swayback. It appears we have two kinds of nimbus and EMI pressings.

      Of course just to be difficult I just found a nimbus for SRCS 71 Boult conducts Marches that does exhibit either variation except for having the sharp groove/ridge at 5/8 inches (really a narrow groove truly). Kind of like the typeset 'Polygram' pressings mentioned above.

      Well I'm out of tea leaves to read. I'll have to take a quick listen to some of these especially the doubles to see if there is a noticeable difference or trend.


    2. At this point, I'll say that these were my sonic rankings for the pressings until a few days ago (I'll explain after the rankings.):
      1. Nimbus. My early SRCS 33 Bliss Music for Strings is amazing sound. You would not believe you were listening to a 1968 master tape. Nice dynamics and bass, great sound floor performance, and wonderfully delicate treble.
      1. Early non-Neumann Decca pressings. These definantly have their own magic that extends a bit lower into the midrange. All Decca, but don't sound like Decca to my ears. This and the nimbus are so much better.
      3. EMI pressings - these have the large handwritten lettering and have well defined bass and very extended treble with good nosie floor performance.
      4. Later Decca Neumann SX-74 pressings (1975 on roughly) pristine treble, but a hair rolled off.
      5. Early Decca Neumann SX-68 pressings, well cut to be sure, but a tad undynamic and less involving
      6. Polygram funky typeset pressings

      All of these are good sounding, though the Polygram might be pushing the envelope.

      These were my rankings to a few days ago when I upgraded to high tech Schottky diodes in my bass crossover. The nimbus sound better in that they seem to have more extension and bass solidity like the EMI, but the chimey treble quality and dynamics have been hurt. I am not happy with the upgrade results with the Nimbus. The EMI are a bit more impressive in all ways. The treble on the system is greatly cleaned up (yes I know its a bass crossover). My audio pseudo-engineering brain is struggling with this new reality and the mind says the Schottky is redefining my bass presentation for the better with cleaner perceived treble as a result. The heart says the Schottky's must go. I am giving them a long term listen and hoping something will break in (a pair of black gate capacitors went in at the same time which have legendary break in issues.) In the end it will be a hard pill to swallow if I can't enjoy the Nimbus pressings to their fullest. I highly recommend upgrading diodes but not to Schottky, hexfreds seem to always give good results. Your sound floor will thank you. I'll update here and the in the Sound Floor post when I get a handle on this. My tube cut vinyl seems to like the Schottky change. ON to the audio psychiatrist.....

  7. Larry,
    I think that book is a great idea in combination with the four UltraHD discs. The discs are pricey enough that doing a package deal with a book makes sense. It would make for a very nice gift box. The economics of doing these label books on there own are daunting. None of the current ones are attractive. I hope the book will sell on its own too. The concept of selecting the best pieces for these releases is a great one too giving the listener more bang for their buck. Mr. Ma will have to keep his eye on the high def download seen where an electronic book might be really cool too in the future.

    It must be very enjoyable putting together such a book. If the current endeavor is successful perhaps Mr. Ma and yourself will consider doing an EMI book and release. There is little on the great SAX and ASD releases.