Do classical CDs made from early analog tapes sound better on your system than new CDs?


I find that classical CDs produced from analog recordings originally made in the late 50’s and early 60’s really make my system sing, and, by far, give me the best sound staging over most modern recordings.  This is especially true in those produced in the pre-Dolby era.  The overtones are just there in abundance and the space is endless and real.
 I’m wondering if others have that experience.
7c67ab18 c2ce 4b45 9523 fc4a71684ce0rvpiano
I’m really just starting to take CDs seriously, and have found a similar quality on some early prog/psych obscurities. Where the CD was mastered from tape--they let the tapes (or safeties) out in the early days. In a couple instances that I can think of offhand, the early CD seems much better sounding than its new issue counterpart- even where the original recording was analog, the CD was mastered from a digital file, not the tape and it lacks the overtones and body of the early, straight from the tape mastered CD. Whether that is solely the result of tape (these records were originally made in the late ’60s) or the mastering (not just the straight from the tape aspect, but the compression, EQ, not everything at ’11’), I don’t know. Qualification: my digital front end is borderline junk right now, I haven’t stepped up yet, and it is still very noticeable on both my vintage system and my main system.
Yes, especially the ones from HighDefTapeTransfers.com and PristineClassical.com

Also, the AAD/ADD discs I have from the 80's do sound a lot better through the Schiit Yggdrasil than any other CD/DAC I've had. 
It is a profoundly stupid idea to convert into digital what was recorded in analog. Not surprisingly all of those cds, both original and remasters sound like junk. The degree varies but it is the same junk.
Digital recording on the other hand can sound acceptable if done right. That's the only kind of cds that I listen to. And you do need high-end equipment, I'd say even more so than with records and tapes.
Inna, 

I guess your ears are different from mine, or you don’t listen to a lot of classical music.

Profoundly stupid, eh?
One of the most treasured CDs in my collection, both musically and sonically, is Chesky’s remastering of Jascha Horenstein conducting the Royal Philharmonic in a 1962 (!) performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The original recording was engineered by the great Kenneth Wilkinson, and of course in the days before the use of a forest of microphones and extensive post-processing in the recording of symphony orchestras became the norm.

Frankly, I find the sonics on this recording to be so amazing that I would expect anyone having a bias against the CD format would find themselves re-thinking their outlook after hearing it.

Chesky’s CD re-issue of the 1962 Horenstein/London Symphony performance of Brahms' Symphony No. 1, also originally engineered by Mr. Wilkinson, is also quite wonderful, both musically and sonically.

Best regards,
-- Al

Of course, high-end labels such as Chesky are re-releasing many, many classic analog-original recordings produced by wonderful engineers such as Wilkerson, Mohr and Layton and many others from the 50’s and 60’s, and eagerly picked up by audiophiles.  Not to mention, RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence releases originally recorded during that period that are audiophile classics.
OP, you got no ears at all, it would seem.
Inna,

Are you OK? There are many transfers of what were originally analog recordings to digital that sound great. Tastes change with time and so do interpretations and performances as well as recording techniques. I am not surprised to see a preference for 50’s classical - the budgets back then were bigger in classical than today.

There is nothing inherently wrong in converting analog to digital after all EVERYTHING except electronic generated music starts off as Analog. All the microphones in use today are actually analog devices so there is no way to avoid the A to D conversion at some stage if you are listening to digital.
Inna, the OP may be too modest to say so, but I happen to be aware that he is an accomplished classical pianist and harpsichordist, whose background includes performances in a number of this country's best known and most respected venues.

In the future you might consider thinking twice before speaking disrespectfully to someone whose background you are unfamiliar with.

Regards,
-- Al
 
Sorry for the redundancy!
my tablet sometimes hangs up
DDD recordings almost always sound overly clean but threadbare and bland, lacking musical color, bloodless. AAD and ADD almost always sound more like vinyl, especially when the recordings are prior to circa 1970, you know, when the industry moved to solid state electronics.

Do I really have to state the obvious?: To put music that was recorded in the analog domain onto a CD or SACD, the signal MUST be digitized. There are some fine sounding CD's and SACD's, so to say it is a stupid idea seems odd to me.
I’m in it now, only b/c many of the records I’m chasing are crazy money- thousands of dollars in some cases. Not only do I not want to spend that kind of money on a single record-- i’m a retired pensioner living on my investments- but do you really want to think about the value of that every time you cue up such a record?
I’ve started to buy older CD issues of some of these obscurities in hard rock, proto-metal and psych- prog.
Plus, I’m actually amazed at how good the digital sounds, even using a cheap, old CD player. I intend to optimize my digital front end.
I don’t think this is crazy at all, at least from my row in the peanut gallery.
Inna- You must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed today! You are usually far more diplomatic even if you disagree with somebody.
I agree about the chesky stuff.  Petrouchka on chesky is amazing as well.  Beethoven Cycle, Sir Adrian Boult Concert favorites all recorded by  the great Kenneth Wilkinson.  Beethoven's Seventh is amazing and Night on Bald Mountain found on Sir Adrian Boults Concert favorites is incredible on CD.  The lp analog version is reference quality and is actually taken off of A festival of  Light Classical Music from Readers Digest Collection, also, insanely good.
Hi Rvpiano, 
My music genre is predominantly jazz but your listening experiences I can relate to.  I own many jazz recordings from the mid 1950s - 1960s (analogue tape and surely tube microphones ) AAD CDs.  With rare exception there is beautiful natural tone/timbre and the capturing of space and presence. Just a joy to listen to.

I think modern recording has been kinder to the jazz genre than much of classical music. Most jazz recordings are well done these days.  My limited collection of classical does include RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence of the era you mention, they are very enjoyable. 
Charles 
Al,
If I can find the Chesky Jascha Horenstein I’ll buy it, thanks. I really like the classical recordings without the multi miking. Two or three good microphones was the better method IMHO.
Charles

The Cheskys Al mentions are indeed great recordings and very well-made CDs.  I think that while many of the analog recordings have been well-transferred to CD, many were not, particularly early on when the major labels started reissuing their old recordings in a rush to sell CDs of their old catalogs without taking much care in what they were doing (like using original masters, paying closer attention to the analog to digital conversion, etc.).  Specialist companies like Chesky and Classic Records took the plunge on doing quality reissues of excellent recordings, and eventually major labels like RCA and, especially, Mercury, started to reissue their old catalogs with quality in mind.

I do find that many current all-digital classical recordings can be excellent as well, as digital recording has come a long way.  However, I do think that certain instruments, solo piano, in particular, sound better on recordings that were originally analog recordings--to my ears the overtones and decay are better preserved, as the OP notes. 

Just my two cents.


I don’t share that experience - for me the picture is far too mixed for that. There were great recordings in the old days, but there are also great modern recordings. The problem with old recordings is the limitations of the technology (not enough headroom so a need for manual compression, higher distortion levels, tape saturation etc). The problem with modern recordings (though less so in the classical genre) are intentionally limited dynamic range (the loudness wars), excessive manipulation of the original sound in the mastering stage, and as Shadorne observes, lower budgets for classical recordings. There are quite few Youtube videos that demonstrate all this (both the limitations of old recording technologies and the evils of the modern mastering). Seeing a graph from an audio spectrum analyzer can be a sad experience.
My listening tells me that in fact the ""old technology"" was actually very good quality, I just have too many excellent sounding recordings to say otherwise. Here’s a handful of jazz labels from the 1950s thru 1960s that consistently sound terrific on CDs.
Columbia
Riverside
Prestige
Contemporary
EmArcy
Blue Note
Atlantic
There are others. The tape recorders and microphones utilized captured the numerous jazz musicians of that time period splendidly!
Charles

I don't want to freak anybody out but another variable is absolute polarity, for which there is no (repeat no) standard in the industry. CDs that are in reverse polarity often sound bland, unfocused and bass shy. Ironically, many audiophile recordings and sometimes even the entire catelogues of premier labels, according to the Polarity List compiled by the Polarity Pundit, are in reverse polarity. The Polarity Pundit concludes that 92% of all CDs are reverse polarity. Freak out! 😳
To add to Geoff's statement, there is no guarantee that every channel of a multi-track recorder in a studio was in phase with every other channel, whether because of a phase reversal in a microphone or in the recorder's electronics. Listen to the mid-to-late 1970's/early 80's recordings made at Shelter Studio in Hollywood (early Dwight Twilley and Tom Petty). Something is seriously wrong, with all kinds of unintended, swirling phase shift.
@geoffkait , @bdp24 
Excellent points regarding polarity. Often overlooked. Wish more pre-amps and integrateds came with polarity switches. 

Tom
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I bought my Eastern Electric Avant over other tube pre’s because it has phase switch .
I have zero doubt that Classical Cd’s bearing the AAA sound reduce greatly
the listener fatigue effect which for someone who listens to Classical
6-7 hours a day is most important .

As has been said the overtones are VERY important and Dolby is bad news .
Re: Brahms 1st with Horenstein on Chesky

Just listening to it now. 
As wonderful as described, in every way.

IMHO, 1962 was the apex of recorded sound.  With Dolby, transistors and the like,  it went downhill from there.
As Brahms 1 is one of my all-time favorites I'll have to get the Chesky .
If sound is not the primary thing the great old 1952 mono recording of this masterwork by Toscanini on Testament is a must hear. Actually, the sound is not bad at all .







Hi Tenenbaum16, 
I happily accept your very kind offer and thank you. My email is [email protected] 

I've ordered the Dvorak recommended by Al. As a jazz guy I'm trusting your taste in classical music Al.😊
Charles 
I can't imagine that you would be disappointed in either recording, Charles :-) 

Simply put, both recordings are magnificent performances of magnificent music engineered with magnificent sonics! 

Like Len ("Schubert"), Brahms' Symphony No. 1 is one of my all-time favorites, and in my case probably stands alone as my all-time favorite symphony.  The Dvorak "New World" Symphony is up there as well in my personal pantheon, and of the two works is the one that I think is likely to be a bit more appealing to those who are relatively new to classical symphonic music. 

Enjoy!  Best regards,
-- Al
    
Al, in my case Brahms 4 is my absolute favorite followed closely by 1 and Schubert 9.
In his lifetime Brahms had a passion for two composers, Schubert and Cherubini .I've read about everything written in English and some in German
about Brahms. IMO  he was the most generally intelligent of all the greats .
... in my case Brahms 4 is my absolute favorite followed closely by 1 and Schubert 9
All are great works, of course, and literally in the case of Schubert’s 9th :-)

(For those reading this who may not be particularly knowledgeable about classical music, Schubert’s 9th symphony is known as "The Great." That name originated as a means of distinguishing the 9th from another Schubert symphony which is in the same key (C Major), but befits the grand character of the music as well).

Best regards,
-- Al

Is there on A'gon a "Classical Aficionados" thread as Orpheus started for jazz?  
That would be a great idea!
Unfortunately I don't think such a thread exists here, Ghosthouse.  The thread entitled "What's On Your Turntable Tonight" has had some good discussions and recommendations of classical recordings at times over the years, although less frequently of late.  There are also a few older threads discussing which classical record labels tend to be the best sounding.  And of course a perusal of the "Music" sub-forum will turn up occasional mentions and discussions of classical recordings in various other threads.

Best regards,
-- Al
 
Maybe one of you could start it?
(dontcha just love people with "big ideas" that make work for others? :-)

I note Jazz Aficionados clearly benefits from Orpheus’ "moderating", so time and attention (not to mention subject matter expertise!) are helpful for keeping things on track.

Jazz for aficionados is very unique.  Nearly 5 years old, over 10,000 posts and it remains interesting,  insightful and thought provoking. Many good recording recommendations although with the jazz genre this isn't difficult as there's a true wealth of excellent material. With the caliber of contributors such as the OP, frontman and others this inconsistency  is no surprise. 
Charles  
I would be interested in starting such a classical discussion forum.
Does anyone know how to go about it?
Rvpiano,
Between you, Al and Schubert, you 3 could certainly get it off to a good start.
Charles
+1 to charles1dad’s tacit nominations...that’s a good core of experts to start with. I’m sure there are others who will join in. Maybe even Frogman and Orpheus.

@rvpiano
Use Jazz Aficionados as a template. Start a new thread (just as you did here) and "prime the pump" by naming some of your own favorite classical recordings. Details about composer/composition, orchestra, conductor, recording label, maybe even venue...all grist for the mill. Finding samples that can be linked to on YouTube - icing on the cake (if you will permit me to mix pump, mill and cake figures of speech in one paragraph).

c1d is right about Jazz Afic., but it started out with one single post.
ghosthouse:

Thanks for the tip.
I will follow through!
Ghosthouse this would be very educational for me. I’d rate my jazz knowledge 8.5/10 and continually expanding. Classical music 2/10 , much room for growth😊. Brownsfan where are you?
Charles
Chas. - Following O's Jazz Aficionado thread (even if not rigorously) definitely broadened my very limited jazz knowledge.  I'm not much better off w/respect to classical, so same expectation as you have: educational.  Looking forward to seeing how the thread develops.
Would certainly be a great Christmas present to this old man !
Post is up and running if anyone wants to view it!
I have really been taken aback by some of the retorts given here and have to say that I am greately pleased by some of the reissues from old analogue recordings. Early last year I purchased Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde in the EMI recording with Klemperer conducting. I can only say the quallity is breathtaking. I had this recording originally over 30 years ago and the quallity on the original vinyl was bearable. I think in early 2011 EMI revisited this recording and did some remarkable work on it. In the original they had Wunderlichs wonderful tenor voice so strident I couldn't bear it. On the new CD version the voice is crystal clear and beautiful and they have brought a freshness and beauty to Christa Ludwigs contributions. In the final abshied it moves from beauty to awe at the very end. The orchestral part before Ludwig's final verse has the hairs standing on the back of my neck. No as far as I am concerned you can keep your ancient vinyls if I am going to get remastered works like this. I have also just purchased a hi rez file of Heifetz playing the Bruch G Minor violin concerto and the Scottish Fantasy . Again as someone who had most of Heifetz's works from the sixties again I will keep these a digital works of art against any other formats now. As to the original question I find modern CD's made sympathetically from old analogue tapes to be far superior to the original records.