$1,995.00. Available from various online retailers or via your local dealer.


Entry-level model from esteemed cartridge maker, Lyra. Designed by Jonathan Carr and hand-built in Japan.

Specifications (from manufacturer)

Type: Medium weight, medium compliance, low-impedance moving coil cartridge
Stylus: Namiki microridge line-contact nude diamond stylus (2.5um x 75um), surface-mounted
Cantilever system: Solid boron rod with short one-point wire suspension, directly mounted into cartridge body
Body: Anodized aluminum
Coils: 3-layer deep, 6N high-purity copper, square-shaped permalloy former, 6.3ohm self-impedance, 9.5uH inductance
Output voltage: 0.6mV@5cm/sec., zero to peak, 45 degrees (CBS test record, other test records may alter results)
Frequency range: 10Hz ~ 50kHz
Channel separation: Greater than 30dB at 1kHz
Compliance: Approx. 12 x 10cm/dyne at 100Hz
Cartridge mounting screws: 2.6mm 0.45 pitch JIS standard
Distance from mounting holes to stylus tip: 9.5mm
Cartridge weight (without stylus cover): 7.3g
Tracking force: 1.65g – 1.75g (1.72g recommended)
Recommended load directly into MC phono input: 97.6ohm ~ 806ohm (detailed guidelines in instruction manual, finalize by listening)
Recommended load via step-up transformer: Use a step-up transformer designed for 5 – 10 ohms cartridge impedance (step-up transformer’s output must be connected to 10kohm ~ 47kohm MM-level RIAA input, preferably via short, low-capacitance cable)
Recommended tonearms: Medium to Medium-High mass arms recommended, which is bulk of tonearm market


Cartridge was mounted on a vintage Technics EPA-100 tonearm with Technics SH-100 detachable head shell, using the recommended tracking force of 1.72g and a SRA of approximately 92 degrees. An AudioQuest Wildcat tonearm cable was used and connected to a Manley Chinook tube phono preamp, which was set to 50 db of gain and loaded at 265 Ohms.


Breathtaking. Extremely revealing and transparent sounding. No overhang. Sounds start and stop on a dime. Virtually no distortion — inner groove or otherwise. Can be somewhat dry and analytical, depending on the material being played. Treble extension and finesse is outstanding. Mids and voices are spooky good. Bass is nimble, tuneful, and highly controlled. Might be thin with leaner setups.

Compared to my retipped Denon DL-103 with similar microridge line-contact stylus, the Delos is more precise and images better. The Denon is looser and more romanticized. Both are really fun and neither is going anywhere. At a third of the price, the retipped Denon is the value winner. However, if you want to hear what is truly on a the record, the Delos is the cartridge to reach for.


$39.99. Available from online retailers and your local Clearaudio dealer.


Simple and inexpensive record clamp fits most any turntable spindle.


I’ve used this clamp for many years on various turntables including models by Technics, Pro-Ject, and Thorens.


Place the record on the turntable, then hold the Clever Clamp by its outer edge and press it down on the spindle until it makes tight contact with the record. Clamp stays in place until you hold it by its outer edge and pull upward, at which point the plastic flexes to allow the clamp to release its grip on the spindle and be removed.


In my experience, there are two main advantages of using a record clamp. The first is to flatten the record if it doesn’t naturally lay flat on the platter. A clamp can help correct minor warps so the tonearm can travel across a more level surface. This definitely improves sound quality when needed.

The second advantage of a clamp is to better secure the record to the platter while using a dry brush to remove dust. With a clamp in place, you can be sure the record will continue rotating with the platter even when you apply pressure on the brush. Having a record skid and slip on a rubber or cork mat is to be avoided.

Why do I like this clamp instead of other designs? Well, I’ve never used a screw-on type, so I can’t comment on those. But I have used the weighted metal kind, and I can say without a doubt I like the Clever Clamp better.

First of all, the Clever Clamp is light and doesn’t have any sharp edges. Accidents happen when handling records and clamps are no different. I’ve accidentally dropped a heavy metal clamp onto a record while trying to place it on a spindle. It wasn’t pretty! The light plastic design is much less likely to damage your record should an accident occur.

Also — and this could perhaps be a bigger reason to go with a light clamp — heavy clamps put extra weight on your spindle bearing, altering the design and increasing wear on your bearing. A metal weight could represent a small difference or a large difference, depending on the weight of your platter.

Lastly, the transparent plastic used in the Clever Clamp allows you to (kind of) read the label even while the clamp is in place. This comes in handy if you want to check something on the label but don’t want to stop playing the record.

As for value, I think $40 is a little steep given the cost to produce these and the fact they have been in production for several decades. However, given the advantages of the design and the cost of the alternatives, I actually think $40 is a good value. Similar to the AudioQuest carbon fiber record cleaning brush, it’s a tried and true design that lasts a very long time. Get one before the price goes up again!


$2,899. Special Edition MkII version available from Upscale Audio. Standard version available from various online and local dealers.


Highly adjustable tube phono preamp accommodates most any moving magnet or moving coil cartridge. Made in USA by lauded tube-based home and pro audio equipment maker, Manley Laboratories.

Specifications (from the manufacturer)

Vacuum-tube complement: 2 x 6922 x 2 (gain stage), 2 x 6922 (output stage). Any 6DJ8, 7308, ECC88 types may be used
Input termination capacitance (MM/MC): 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, and 350 pF
Moving magnet input impedance: 47k ohm
Moving coil (MC) input impedance: 5-position user-selectable resistor values of 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800 ohm offering 32 loading options
Gain: 45, 50, 60, 65 dB
Output impedance: 91 ohm
Minimum recommended load: 2500 ohm
Internal power supply: Fully regulated linear B+, Heater, and control voltage rails.
Fuse: 500mA SLO-BLO size 5mm x 20mm
Standby transformer fuse: 10mA, SLO-BLO, MDL type size 1/4″ x 1 1/4″
Dimensions (WHD): 17″ x 3.5″ x 11″


Phono preamp was used with various moving magnet and moving coil cartridges, including Ortofon 2M Black, Denon DL-103, and Lyra Delos models. Multiple gain and loading settings were used.


Easy to use and straightforward to adjust. Quiet with just a small amount of tube noise at high volumes. Some static pops from my turntable, but only at high gain and high volume settings.


Colorful and bold. Lots of harmonic richness without being euphoric or syrupy. Big dynamic range. Drums are explosive. Fantastic imaging. Voices hang in mid-air, guitars occupy space and shimmer.

Fun to listen to for all kinds of music — from classical to jazz to rock. The string tone on classical was gorgeous, and the piano sound on well-recorded jazz was exceptional.

Compared to the PS Audio GCPH solid state balanced phono preamp ($995, discontinued), the Chinook outclasses it in all respects save for ease of adjustment. The GCPH has knobs for adjusting gain and loading (but only has four loading settings!), while the Manley uses DIP switches: internal for gain and external for loading.

The GCPH is an overachiever, but the Manley really smokes it. As it should for nearly three times the price.


$34.00 for 16 oz bottle, $50.00 for 32 oz bottle. Available from various online retailers as well as local dealers who sell Osage Audio Products.


Ready to use enzyme cleaning fluid for record cleaning machines. Works as a first step before other formulas, or by itself with a water rinse.


I’ve used this cleaning fluid for many years on many hundreds (thousands?) of records with my Loricraft PRC3 record cleaning machine.


I use it by itself followed by a water rinse. Put the record on the cleaning machine and start the platter turning. Open the flip top on the bottle and squirt a line of fluid onto the spinning record. Use a brush to distribute the fluid across the entire surface of the record, then stop the platter and let the fluid sit on the record for approximately two minutes. Start the platter spinning again, brush the fluid again, then vacuum the fluid off the record. Follow this with a similar cycle using ultra-pure water only.


Using Audio Intelligent Formula No 15 as described above is all that is needed to get a clean record 99.9% of the time. If a record doesn’t get clean using this fluid, I’ve decided it is most surely more trouble than it’s worth, and I will likely toss it instead of trying a different fluid. I’ve used a few other brands, including L’Art du Son, but I never got as consistent results as the Audio Intelligent. I even used Elmer’s glue one time many years ago — don’t bother with that one, it doesn’t work!

My records are generally pretty clean to start with, so this advice doesn’t really apply to records that are really dirty. I have occasionally run two cycles of Audio Intelligent and the second cycle always sounds a little better than the first.

Regarding value, $50 for 32 ounces of anything is rather expensive. However, a 50 oz bottle lasts a long time. I don’t know exactly how many records it will clean, but I’m guessing 100-200 depending on how much fluid you use each time. That’s at most $0.50 per record, which seems quite reasonable when you consider the value of the records themselves and the joy one gets when listening to one that is clean and quiet.


$695.00. Available from various online retailers or via your local dealer.


Flagship moving magnet model from famed Danish cartridge manufacturer. Notable for it’s Shibata stylus and reviews proclaiming it to be the best moving magnet cartridge made today.

Specifications (from the manufacturer)

Output voltage at 1000 Hz, 5cm/sec. – 5 mV
Channel balance at 1 kHz – 1 dB
Channel separation at 1 kHz – 26 dB
Channel separation at 15 kHz – 15 dB
Frequency response – 20-20.000 + 2 / – 0 dB
Tracking ability at 315Hz at recommended tracking force – 80 µm
Compliance, dynamic, lateral – 22 µm/mN
Stylus type – Nude Shibata
Stylus tip radius – r/R 6/50 µm
Tracking force range – 1.4-1.7 g (14-17 mN)
Tracking force, recommended – 1.5 g (15 mN)
Tracking angle – 20°
Internal impedance, DC resistance – 1.2 kOhm
Internal inductance – 630 mH
Recommended load resistance – 47 kOhm
Recommended load capacitance – 150-300 pF
Cartridge colour, body/stylus – Black/Black
Cartridge weight – 7.2 g


Cartridge was mounted on a vintage Technics EPA-100 tonearm with Technics SH-100 detachable head shell, using a tracking force of 1.5g and a SRA of approximately 92 degrees. An AudioQuest Wildcat tonearm cable was used and connected to a Manley Chinook tube phono preamp, which was set to 45 db of gain and loaded at 47K Ohms.


Where a good moving coil cartridge can impress with eery air and delicateness, the best moving magnet designs impress with big sound and sheer fun. This cartridge is well-balanced and does most everything well. Maybe a little boring at times.

Treble is nicely integrated and has great extension. Not the last word in nuance, but for a moving magnet design, is quite nice. Mids and voices are very very good. Tuneful and non-fatiguing. Bass is plentiful and goes deep. Maybe a little overly pronounced on ripe systems.

Compared to the Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge ($99), which is on the opposite end of the 2M line, the 2M Black is clearly superior in every way. The 2M Red is a great bargain cartridge but sounds somewhat opaque compared to the 2M Black. Also, the inner groove distortion performance of the 2M Red is not great due to its less sophisticated stylus profile.

Is the 2M Black worth seven 2M Reds? Yes, yes it is.

Fun fact: Ortofon says the 2M Black and 2M Bronze styli are interchangeable, and the 2M Red and 2M Blue styli are interchangeable. Technically, they are all interchangeable, in that they all fit one another. I actually mounted the 2M Black and occasionally put the 2M Red stylus on the 2M Black body when playing beat up records or I just want some background music. It works and preserves the life of your expensive Shibata stylus!

Sound: 7.2
Pressing/packaging: 9.2
Value: 8.4

ORG Music reissue released in 2014. 180g vinyl, 45RPM, 2LP, limited edition, numbered. Catalog Number: ORGM-1091. Mastered by Bernie Grundman. Pressed by Pallas in Germany. UPC: 711574708413. MSRP: $49. Buy on


This LP was originally released by Atlantic Records in 1964. It consists of tracks recorded in 1960 during the My Favorite Things sessions. It includes six songs, four of which are Coltrane originals. This review focuses on sound quality and value. The music deserves all the commentary it has generated, I’m just not going to add more here.

ORG Music has given this reissue the royal treatment, as they have with several other titles from Coltrane’s Atlantic period. They describe this release as a “180g double LP 45RPM reissue, mastered from original tapes by Bernie Grundman and pressed at Pallas in Germany. Each copy of this limited release is numbered with a gold foil-stamp.”

Sound: 7.2

Overall sound quality on this title is similar to other Coltrane recordings on Atlantic. That is to say, it’s not terrible, but compared to other recordings in the same timeframe, it suffers some.

Saxophone isn’t bad, thank goodness, but other instruments can be murky and distant. Drums are at times papery and boxy, while bass is somewhat undersized and amorphous. Piano is the worst, however, never sounding remotely real and at times sounding like it is coming out of an antique table radio.

There were some superb jazz recordings made in 1959-1960. Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come (also on Atlantic, also reissued by ORG, and also reviewed here) is insanely good; in a different universe as far as fidelity goes (and musically, one could argue). Mega-hits on Columbia by Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck sound better. A typical Rudy van Gelder session for Blue Note or Prestige sounds better, if by a smaller margin.

Here are my raw notes on each track:

1. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes
Nice and clear sax sound
Sax — Left/center
Piano, drums — Right
Bass — Center

2. Central Park West
Murky sound
Sax is more distant
Piano not great — congested, some distortion
Sax — Center
Piano — Hard right
Bass — Center
Drums — Hard left

3. Liberia
Lively, with intense polyrhythmic drumming from Jones
[same as T2, but slightly clearer sax (switched back to soprano)]

4. Body and Soul
[same as T2]

5. Equinox
Nice, mid-tempo blues tune with a quintessential Coltrane melody
Good weight
Decent sax sound
Piano little small
Ride cymbal kind of opaque
Hard stereo separation
Sax — Hard right
Piano, Drums — Hard left
Bass — Center

6. Satellite
Bass should be crystal clear since no piano, but is diffuse
Drums similar to previous track — pretty flat and sort of distant
Sax — Left/center
Piano — none
Drums, bass — Right

(See reference system for context on sound evaluation.)

Pressing/packaging: 9.2

Nicely centered and very, very flat discs. Quiet vinyl surfaces with no ticks, zips, or crackles. Nice gatefold cover with straightforward, high quality rice paper-ish inner sleeves. The jacket quality is excellent but a tick or two below the level of Music Matters, with their glossy finish and gorgeous reproduction of photography and artwork.

Value: 8.4

I don’t think you’ll find a better sounding copy of this record. Maybe a NM original or random Atlantic reissue would be competitive, but I doubt it. Finding one could be expensive and take months of eBay searches. I’d also choose this over the 180g 33RPM Rhino version. I compared the 180g 33RPM Rhino version of My Favorite Things to the ORG Music 45RPM version–both mastered by Bernie Grundman–and the 45RPM killed the 33RPM. No contest.

My advice would be to shell out the $50 and get this before it goes out of print. This record may be less than essential because it is a collection of extras, but given the care ORG Music has put into reissuing it, I doubt any Coltrane fan would want to be without it.

ORG Music reissue LP on

Sound: 7.6
Pressing: 7.4
Value: 5.0

Deutsche Grammophon reissue released in 2016. 180g vinyl. Catalog Number: 479 6653. UPC: 028947966531. MSRP: $23. Buy on


I’ve been on a Chopin rampage lately (if such a thing could ever exist). As far as solo piano works go, I spin Chopin more than any other composer. I also have a ridiculous number of Chopin LPs on the shelf — over 100. Why do I have every Chopin title Brailowsky ever recorded? I don’t know. For some reason, I can’t bring myself to get rid of a Chopin record.

The interpreters I reach for most often are Argerich, Arrau and Moravec. There is also a Connoisseur Society disc of the four scherzi by Antonio Barbosa that I find especially transfixing. Like Rubinstein, Pollini was second tier for me, but I’ve been listening to him a good deal more in recent months and have to say I like his no nonsense approach. Very solid and straightforward, which is sometimes exactly what is needed.

Deutsche Grammophon has been quietly reissuing a good number of classical titles on LP in the last few years. While I applaud the effort, I wish they would be clearer about sources, mastering engineers, and pressing facilities.

The source for this release and others like it is unclear to me. The sticker on the front cover says simply “mastered from original sources,” while the description on the Acoustic Sounds website says “remastered from the original Deutsche Grammophon analogue tapes.” One Acoustic Sounds commenter on another disc in this series says “they are sourced from 24 bit, 96 kHz masters (in turn created from the original analogue tapes),” so maybe that’s it? I asked my contact at Universal, Deutsche Grammophon’s parent company, but have yet to hear back. If the source for this reissue is a digital file, that may explain some of the sonic issues I encountered.

UPDATE: Sam Sklar at Verve Label Group emailed me back about my source question. She wrote: “All magnetic tapes (the original sources as quoted on sticker) have been digitally preserved exactly as they are onto a 24-bit system; this is effectively as close as we can get to the analogue original and ensures the analogue original no longer suffers deterioration from use.”

I compared the 180g reissue to a mint original 110g first pressing from 1976. I used a Signet TK7E moving-magnet cartridge with 0.2 x 0.7-mil nude square-shank miniaturized elliptical tip, mounted to a Technics EPA-100 arm. I adjusted VTA each time I swapped discs to account for the difference in record thickness.

Sound: 7.6

This is not a superlative piano recording in the first place. Both discs exhibited some glare, congestion, and hardness. However, the recording has admirable tone and dynamics, and is less ringy/buzzy than many solo piano titles from this era. I did find Pollini’s vocalizations in parts to be really distracting, though thankfully not as bad as Glenn Gould or Elvin Jones when they get going.

Here are my raw listening notes. Keep in mind, the differences were subtle in absolute terms but easily heard when switching from one disc to the other.


  • More harmonic content
  • More juice, more color
  • Some glare
  • More bloom, notes project out into space


  • Slightly veiled
  • Dimmer than original
  • More glare, hardness
  • Flat, notes stay pinned to a single plane

(See reference system for context on sound evaluation.)

Pressing/packaging: 7.4

Fairly flat and centered, heavy and nice looking vinyl. Appears to have been pressed at Optimal. Sadly, my copy has a few spots of non-fill on side two. High quality jacket on heavy stock. Includes insert with additional sleeve notes as did the original. Includes voucher to download MP3.

Value: 5.0

At $23, I guess you’d call this a mid-to-low-priced 180g reissue. Significantly cheaper than typical $35 audiophile titles, but more than, say, Blue Note’s 75th anniversary reissue series at $18 each (unfortunately, cut from digital files). Given the abundance of 1970s pressings on eBay for $5-10, I’d skip this one and go with an original pressing. If you get a NM original, you’ll save money and get a better sounding disc.

Deutsche Grammophon reissue LP on

Sound: 8.8
Pressing: 8.4
Value: 9.0

Speakers Corner reissue released in 2017. 180g vinyl. Catalog Number: Columbia MS 6157. UPC: 4260019715333. MSRP: $35. Buy on


Speakers Corner is mining the Columbia vaults for early stereo gems, of which this title is one. There are some legendary titles and performances from that era, but per our review philosophy, this review will focus on the sound quality on the disc instead of the music. I happen to love the music here (Sibelius is one of my favorite composers), but that doesn’t make me an expert on it. Surely enough has been said about this popular concerto and this well-known performance over the years.

I compared the 2017 Speakers Corner 180g reissue with an original stereo 1961-ish Columbia 6-eye and a late ’60s 2-eye with white “360 Stereo” lettering. Oddly, the label variant Speakers Corner used for their reissue is the mid ’60s 2-eye with black “360 Stereo” lettering, which would have been the second issue of this release, the first being the 6-eye label.

Sound: 8.8

A few things struck me about this recording. First, the violin is really, really big. Too big compared to the orchestra. It’s fun for a minute, but ultimately gives me the awkward sense of being on stage with the performers instead of in the audience. I’m not sure, but it may also contribute to the rather shallow soundstage depth. Second, like most Columbia recordings, the quality is solid but lacks refinement. Everything sounds just a little aggressive; like there is always a touch of overload on the tape.

What about the differences between these pressings? Well, the 2-eye lost out to the 6-eye, as you may have expected. The 2-eye isn’t bad, actually, but it has some glare and the massed strings are boxy. Double bass sounded surprisingly good, however, and the sweetness of the woodwinds was nicely replicated. I would not pass up a NM 2-eye if you find one for cheap.

The winner between the 6-eye and Speakers Corner is tougher to call. There are some distinct differences, the most obvious of which is the superior transparency of the reissue. Distinguishing individual instruments is easier with the Speakers Corner, due in part to the lower noise floor, but also resulting from what sounds to me like more modern/accurate mastering and cutting equipment.

Similar to the way the cutting heads used early on by RCA and Decca added a little magic to the sound on those original pressings, the 6-eye has tone and substance the reissue doesn’t quite match. The age of the tapes is probably a contributing factor to this as well. If you can get past the grit on the 6-eye (especially in the higher frequency massed strings and brass), and your system is on the lean side of neutral already, an early original could be preferred.

However, on my system, I’d reach for the Speakers Corner reissue more often, simply because I typically like to “hear into” the performance more than I like to hear a sweetened version of it. Both the original and reissue have their charms. Maybe one of each is best?

(See reference system for context on sound evaluation.)

Pressing/packaging: 8.4

Perfectly flat and centered, with no visible defects. This is the norm with Speakers Corner and I have to admit I’ve become spoiled to it. As my recent streak of defective discs from Music Matters proves, just because a reissue is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. Pressing records is hard to do well, but if the quality control dude is sleeping on the job, it’s almost impossible. Luckily, I can’t recall ever seeing a flaw in a Speakers Corner release. Again, spoiled! This record has a few more pops than other slabs from this label, however, which is why the score isn’t higher. Also, the label design isn’t from the first pressing, so I dinged the score a little for that transgression as well! The jacket is flawless.

Value: 9.0

Being able to conveniently purchase lovingly created reissues like this at reasonable prices is a luxury we should all be thankful for. Early stereo 6-eye originals are getting tough to find (check eBay), and clean copies go for more than $35. If you crave the tubey magic of the originals, seek one out. If you prefer accuracy and nice vinyl with only minimal noise, go with this reissue.

By the way, be sure to check out the new website Speakers Corner launched called It’s a great resource for information about how vinyl records are mastered.

Speakers Corner reissue LP on

Sound: 9.8
Pressing: 3.5
Value: 8.5

ORG Music reissue released in 2013. 180g vinyl, 45RPM, 2LP. Catalog Number: ORGM-1081. Mastered by Bernie Grundman. Pressed by Pallas in Germany. UPC: 711574707218. MSRP: $49. Buy on


Much has been said about this, Ornette Coleman’s shot across the bow of jazz as it was known in 1959 — a year that also saw Miles Davis release his modal masterwork Kind of Blue, and (six months later) John Coltrane blaze his own trail with Giant Steps. The six tracks presented on this release, recorded by the quartet — Ornette Coleman (alto sax), Donald Cherry (cornet), Charlie Haden (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums) — are essential in every way, and only get better with age.

But our reviews are about sound quality and value, so stop reading now if you want to learn about the music on this disc. In fact, don’t buy this disc until you sample the music on your streaming service of choice. To the unprepared, it may shock and confuse — in the best of ways, of course.

Sound: 9.8

In a word, unreal. This is unreal fidelity coming off what amounts to two slabs of black plastic. Jaw-dropping and effortless dynamics, exploding from the horns and drumset at every turn. Bass is clear, consistent and tuneful. Big, fat, squeeky, squawky, piercing, lovely tone abounds. The physicality of the sound captured and the sense of presence and space is intoxicating.

This is simply one of the best small scale jazz records I’ve heard in my life. The original recording was obviously done with the highest of standards, and the tapes must be in superb shape. Plus, Bernie Grundman is an exceptional mastering engineer and the 45RPM double-LP is a superior format.

But I think I know the real reason this record stands out so dramatically compared to other quartet records from the period: There’s no piano. So many times, the piano is the instrument that sounds wrong (to put it politely), and here it is absent. And I don’t miss it. I suppose the same advantage can be had with small scale jazz records featuring a vibraphone instead of piano. Vibes are way easier to believably reproduce. But I’m just now getting familiar with some of those records (Jackie McLean’s Destination… Out! comes to mind). So much to explore.

(See reference system for context on sound evaluation.)

Pressing/Packaging: 3.5

The score above isn’t a typo. This record came to me in a confounding and abysmal state. It was scuffed, it was warped, it had multiple areas of non-fill. ORG Music was stunned and immediately sent me a replacement copy. The replacement was indeed better, but it too had some scuffing. Pallas is a premier pressing facility with a great reputation. My copies of ORG Music’s Pallas-pressed John Coltrane My Favorite Things and Freddie Hubbard Red Clay are as pristine and perfect as any records can be. Odd, to say the least. The gatefold jackets on my copies are very nice though (despite what Michael Fremer experienced with his).

Value: 8.5

Assuming you can get a good copy, and there is no reason to think you can’t given any decent return policy, the value is significant. For about $50, which isn’t cheap by any means, you get the best sounding version of this record likely ever made (I assume it sounds better than an original but can’t be sure). For reference, when I compared the $25-ish Grundman-mastered 180g 33RPM Rhino version of My Favorite Things to the $50-ish 45RPM ORG Music version, it was not even close — the 45RPM trounced the 33RPM in every regard. Life is short. Get the 45RPM.

ORG Music reissue LP on

Sound: 9.2
Pressing/Packaging: 9.4
Value: 9.7

Speakers Corner reissue released in 2008. 180g vinyl. Catalog Number: Mercury SR90226. UPC: 4260019714978. MSRP: $35. Buy on

Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird (Complete). London Symphony Orchestra. Antal Dorati, conductor.


As per our review philosophy, we focus reviews here exclusively on sound quality. Lots of analysis out there already of the musical aspects of this fine Stravinsky ballet score.

I compared the Speakers Corner to a still sealed ’70s Golden Imports reissue and a recent Decca 180g pressing. I don’t have an original Mercury, nor do I have a Classic Records on hand. Both are expensive.

Sound: 9.2

At only $20 US new, the Decca is tempting. Unfortunately, my copy sounded like popcorn, making it essentially unlistenable. The other two Dorati LSO Decca titles I got were quiet (Starker Dvorak and Szeryng Brahms), although each had other issues. Those were German pressings, while my Firebird was Dutch.

The Golden Imports is exciting at first, and a bargain at roughly $15 US used. It is transparent and has tremendous mid bass. Timpani whacks at end are HUGE. But overall, the sound is cold, brash and homogenized. The frequency extremes are missing, as are many levels of dynamic and harmonic shadings present on the Speakers Corner.

For $35 US, the Speakers Corner is the one to get. Compared to the Golden Imports, it’s warmer, more resolved and more nuanced. It has more levels of timbral and dynamic gradations, and all the colors of the orchestra are reproduced. It lacks some bass punch, however, and the noise floor might be just a hair more noticeable.

(See reference system for context on sound evaluation.)

Pressing/Packaging: 9.4

Pressing quality on the Speakers Corner is wonderful. Flat, centered, and free from flaws and anomalies. Cover construction, weight and printing are excellent as well. One request, however. I wish reissue companies would remove the text typically included on back covers that often describes the original pressing techniques and replace it with a description of their own. Ideally this would identify the source (always original analog master tapes, right?), equipment, mastering/cutting engineers and pressing plant. Hey, I can dream!

Value: 9.7

If you don’t have a clean original or a Classic Records pressing, skip the eBay madness, and pick up a sure thing with this gem.

Speakers Corner reissue LP on