I've been supplementing my collection lately and scarfing up some Salvatore Supreme Recordings Demi-Gods and Basic list items (see our links in the lower left). I must say I am going to break away a bit from the great one (I've been modeling my system to gain better "Sound Floor" and Aqlam just got the Salvatore rave components, Frankenstein 300B and Coincident Phono Stage.) First up is the famous SXL 2296 pictured left. I've not loved my Speaker Corner reissues of Decca and they have appeared to be the victim of a dry sound (please stay away from the La Folia reissue also as the ATR mastercut can be had used and sometimes sealed for reasonable prices and their is no comparison). The Falla under review is in Salvatore's Basic list and the originals are quite expensive even on the London Blueback, so I decided to give this a try (I'll report in part 2 on Janis/Rach3 Mercury). Surely, a quite dynamic sound, but very dry. I hope the originals don't sound this bad and for me this opens the door in a big way that the prescribed Salvatore system and recordings may be flawed in that their does not appear to be a reverence for the microdynamic and palpability of some of the original pressings on RCA, Mercury, Decca/London, EMI ASD and SAX. I am stumped by this, but must conclude that the step up transformer based high output MC sound in even the best configurations, must improve the sound floor markedly while also losing some of the microdynamics and palpability of an all tube signal path. The Speakers Corner under consideration here does impressive in the macro-dynamics area and definition, but falls utterly flat in the palpability and microdynamics. We'll get back to this in some further reviews below, but onward for now!
Sargent's Prokofiev 5 is an impressive affair sonically. Despite some palpability issues, the dyamics are impressive and could the 35mm sound be more dynamic in some ways? A very worthy occupant of the Basic List and highly recommended though I must say I doubt this is the best performance of a piece that is not one of my many favorite Prokofiev pieces.
These two Everest and the one's coming up in part two are still available new. At this time Acoustic Sounds has great prices and if wait for one of their 10% of sales (Memorial day, etc.), you should be able to score 4 Everests for $90 delivered which is an awesome price for a ticket to Salvatore land. The Classic reissues look awesome with very thick stock on the covers and vinyl noise is acceptable, but not perfect.
In part 2, I will make an effort to compare to some of the original Everest pressings, but I seriously doubt they will be competitive with Grundmann's laudable efforts. Any palpability advantages of the originals will not overcome the impressive dynamics and 35mm vividness revealed by Grundmann's efforts.
I really had trouble selecting a Hi-Q release as the Electric Recording Company has greedily locked up the rights to the 60 best vintage EMI recordings. Hi-Q has been left to pick the remains of the catalog, but fortunately their is a lot of meat on the EMI bone. It was a hard call, but on listening to the digital versions and performance reviews of many of the recordings I went with the Kletzki Sibelius 2 recorded in 1955. Online, one could hear that the digital copies had a bit of a rolled off sound without the greatest dynamics, but it seemed like it had potential, Kletzki's performance was a bit under the radar, but well liked. Mind you this was pressed by EMI just like the Testament stuff (which I detest and reader Kho concurs). Another reader pointed out that this was a direct metal disaster or DMM. Usually, DMM is the kiss of death in most cases unless it is done very, very well. I have quite a few DMM german pressings of French Harmonia Mundi which are unbelievably good (see Salvatore Land link where many of these are in the mighty Divinity and Demi-God sonic classifications.) So, actually when I heard the Hi-Q were DMM I secretly had high hopes.
The Resphigi Queen of Sheeba was a fun selection from Reference. These are technically all reissues as for some time Reference stopped LP production putting out only CDs. The local audiophiles have quite a few of the recent Reference Recording efforts on hand, but not this one. Queen of Sheeba is a rarely recorded piece, which set this apart. The Queen was very enjoyable and the sound is astounding. Professor Keith O. Johnson (of Astounding Sound Show fame) has really out done himself. I believe one of the factors that has pushed these Reference LPs to new heights is Chad Kassem's QRP pressings (Chad owns Acoustic Sounds, aka Analog Productions, bought the defunct Classic Records, etc., a vinyl God). These are pretty quiet, but where they excel is in their reproduction of the extremes. Reference has been playing with their own half speed mastering setup for some time if memory serves me right with their point .5 masters at the end of their original run of LPs. Now, "the lathe system has custom electronics by Nelson Pass. The simple signal path contains no compression, equalization or unnecessary circuitry. RR Chief Engineer and Technical Director, “Prof.” Keith Johnson consulted on the design of the system and helped with the rebuilding of the lathe and electronics, which is owned and operated by long-time mastering expert Paul Stubblebine. “Prof.” Johnson has pronounced it equal to the challenge of our master tapes!" The results are really impressive and the sound is very different from the rest of the LPs under review which are all reissues of Golden Era recordings (1958-1963). Unbelievable bass extension and dynamics. A very clean crystalline sound that I am sure will impress on any type of system. This is the future of audiophile vinyl and it is a very bright future indeed. Reference Recordings sonically are a very different animal from any other label and I highly recommend them. My only complaint is the repertoire which seems to feature titles for which renowned audiophile records already exist. The B side of this LP is the Pines of Rome, need I say more.
In my confusion for the Shoot Out, I got it into my little brain that my STS 15014, Falla, El Amor Brujo/Retablo De Maese Pedro, was the Stereo Treasury reissue of the very desirable earlier London Blueback with Argenta (CS 6050). Its not, its a reissue of the revered Decca SXL 2260. So, somehow this LP found its way into the melee last night. I'd heard it before and thought it was extremely impressive, but had not given it a full listen. Master Peter's Puppet Show was an astounding tour de force on the lowly Stereo Treasury. It had 95% of what one might associate with tube magic with an uncanny edge in the definition department.
Two years ago I made piles and piles of Deccas and Londons in the hopes of chasing down this elusive type of sound. STS 15015, Bruch/Scottish Fantasia, was a very nice LP (though I've got a number of copies and the Decca SDD Ace of Diamonds and other STS are not as good). I even wrote a piece on the late Bluebacks on this site.
The winner for the night and this article is the STS Puppet Show. A wonderful blend of tube sound with excellent definition. This may be the best pressing of this recording. I think I coughed up $12 for this copy as an additional piece for on an ebay order. I am glad I did. It seems I may have to work on my Decca piles to see if I can find more of these sonic gems. I am astounded.