J. Gordon Holt

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J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 07, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1966  |  9 comments
Music to Listen to KLH By
Excerpts from recordings by Everest and Concert-Disc.
KLH VSR-101 (LP).

Don't be misled by the title of this. It's fine for listening to KLH by, and it is also fine for listening to any other top-notch reproducer by. It is, in fact, the best, and most musical, stereo demonstration disc that's come along to date.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 02, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1987  |  4 comments
The unsung sage who first observed that high-end audio is a solitary vice was probably not implying that audiophiles are antisocial; he was merely acknowledging the fact that a decent stereo stage is usually only audible from one place in the entire listening room—the so-called sweet spot. Stray from that spot, and the whole soundstage shifts to one side, spaciousness collapses, and images become vague and unstable. This is the antisocial aspect: only one member of a group can hear good stereo at any one time. (The gracious host at a listenfest will take a secondary seat, allowing his guests to take turns sitting in the sweet spot.)
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 31, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1966  |  6 comments
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos.4 & 5, The Swan of Tuonela, Tapiola
Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan
Deutsche-Grammophon 138 974 (LP, Symphony 4). Both symphonies reissued on CD (Deutsche Grammophon 457 748 2)

Magnificent, musically natural recordings with some of the deepest, fattest bass and richest, warmest orchestral sound that's been committed to recordings for many years. The discs are a shade more lucid than the tapes, but not much. Take your pick.—J. Gordon Holt

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 10, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1966  |  0 comments
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake & Sleeping Beauty Selections
New Philharmonia Orchestra, Stokowsky
London Phase-4 SPC 21008 (LP); Ampex LCL-75008 (open-reel tape). Tony D'Amato, Marty Wargo, prods.; Arthur Lilley, eng. TT: 46:50.

These are exciting, lilting, concert-style (as opposed to ballet-style) performances of the best-known excerpts from Tchaikovsky's second- and third-most-popular ballets. (First, of course, is the Nutcracker.) The recording is a surprise, after the excesses we've heard on earlier Phase-4 recordings.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 05, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1967  |  34 comments
An Audio Obstacle Course: The Shure Trackability Test Record
Shure Bros. TTR-101.

Shure's new "Supertrack" V-15 Type II pickup was designed as an answer to all those high-powered discs whose excessive modulations make them shatter all over the place on lesser pickups, But just in case anyone didn't happen to own any of these difficult discs, Shure decided to issue one of these, too. The result is a collection of some of the meanest modulations ever gathered together in one place.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jun 28, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1968  |  18 comments
Chopin; Nocturnes
Arthur Rubinstein, piano
RCA Victor LSC-7050 (2 LPs) (reissued on CD as RCA Victor Red Seal 0902 663049-2). Max Wilcox, prod.; Tom MacCluskey, Sergio Marcotulli, engs. Recorded August 30–September 2, 1965, 2 February 21, 1967.

If these Nocturnes are never played better than this, we couldn't care less. These are exquisite performances!

The recording, via RCA Victor's Dynagroove process is a far cry from the earlier excesses that gave Dynagroove its horrid reputation among perfectionists. One is simply not aware of the recording at all, as long as it is played at the right volume, which is about what you would hear from a good first-balcony concert-hall seat.

Dick Olsher, J. Gordon Holt, Martin Colloms  |  Jun 07, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1986  |  0 comments
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) loudspeaker projects are quite common in the UK, where details about several excellent designs, including a recent one by Martin Colloms, have been published for public domain consumption. Stateside, the situation is rather grim, where only an occasional subwoofer project (always popular) makes it into the commercial magazines.
J. Gordon Holt  |  May 08, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1969  |  6 comments
The first time we saw an AR amplifier (at a Hi-Fi Show), we were struck by its bland, almost antiseptic appearance. Amidst all those other audio products that looked as though they had been high-styled for Madame's boudoir, the unadorned simplicity of the AR amplifier made it stand out like an Eames chair at Williamsburg.
J. Gordon Holt  |  May 08, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1970  |  6 comments
Pentangle: The Pentangle
Terry Cox (drums), Bert Jansch & John Renbourn (guitars), Jacqui McShee (vocals), Danny Thompson (double bass), Shel Talmy, prod.
Transatlantic TRA162 (English LP), Reprise RSLP63 15 (US LP). TT: 30:52.

The first "pop" recording we've ever reviewed in Stereophile may set a precedent for future reviews if there are others that sound like this. To this untutored ear, the material is rock out of raga, but it is beautifully done and, except for the larger-than-life singer, the sound is almost shockingly good. No filthy fuzzed-up guitars here, and the pickup of the double-bass simply has to be heard to be believed. Get it, at least as a demo.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 10, 2018  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1971  |  1 comments
Early pre-recorded cassettes were so shockingly variable that reviews of their sound would have served no purpose. Some later ones are remarkably good, though. Following are some recordings that we have found to combine excellent performance and superb recordings, some on cassette as well as LP:
J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 03, 2018  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1972  |  5 comments
Lincoln Mayorga: Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues Vol.II
Lincoln Mayorga, arranger, harpsichord, piano.
Lincoln Mayorga, Doug Sax, prods.; Bill Schnee, eng.; Sherwood Sax, design engineer.
Sheffield Lab S-10 (LP).

Ever wonder just how much sound quality is lost by recording stuff on tape before making a disc? Here's your answer. This program of soft rock and cool jazz arrangements was recorded straight from studio to disc, and the sound is incredible! Suddenly, a veil that we never realized was there has been lifted, and we had the feeling we were listening to a direct-wire transmission rather than to a recording. We're not at all sure we will ever feel quite the same again about any. other recording, such is the dramatic difference in transparency and cleanness.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Mar 08, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1993  |  1 comments
Sony's first CD player, the much-maligned CDP-1 (reviewed in Vol.5 No.10), did all the things we'd been promised from CD except deliver perfect sound. It met CD's incredible claims for frequency range and linearity, harmonic and intermodulation distortion, and signal/noise ratio, yet—despite my own initial enthusiasm for it—it proved ultimately to be a disappointing-sounding player (footnote 1). Its sound was rather hard and grainy, and quite spectacularly uninvolving to listen to. But considering that it was the first of its kind, it was a good start despite its many sonic shortcomings (footnote 2).
William Marsh, J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 05, 2017  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1975  |  0 comments
The King's Singers: A Contemporary Collection
Works by Peter Dickinson, Malcolm Williamson, Richard Rodney Bennett, Krzystof Penderecki, Paul Patterson
EMI EMD 5521 (UK LP). MMG Records MMG 1142 (US LP). 1975. Christopher Bishop, prod.

Astounding performances! Every piece here was commissioned by the King's Singers, those six English gentlemen whose vocal artistry surely has never been surpassed. The works here are by Peter Dickinson, Malcolm Williamson (recently appointed by HRH Elizabeth II to the post of Master of the Queen's Musick, succeeding the late Sir Arthur Bliss), Richard Rodney Bennett, Krzystof Penderecki, and Paul Patterson.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Nov 09, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1987  |  1 comments
Founded in the mid-1970s, Acoustat was the first manufacturer of full-range electrostatics literally forced to address what had long been a major weakness of such speakers: high-voltage breakdown, or "arcing." The original design was built and used in JP (Jeep) Harned's home, where the living-room french windows opened out onto a stream in the back yard. That, plus Florida's legendary humidity, conspired to produce summer days when moisture would trickle down every vertical surface in the house, including the speaker elements.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 31, 2017  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1977  |  0 comments
Direct From Cleveland
Orchestral works by De Falla, Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz
The Cleveland Orchestra, Lorin Maazel (cond.)
Telarc 5020 DD1 (LP). Robert Woods, prod.; Jack Renner, sound eng.; Glenn Glancy, Michael Bishop, disc-cutting engs.

Potentially the best news for perfectionists in years is the announcement of the first stereophonic direct-to-disc recording (in the US, at least) of a major symphony orchestra. Advent records of Cleveland, in collaboration with Discwasher, Inc. of Columbia, MO put four complete and usable runsthrough onto two sets of lacquers. The program was a collection of potboilers—what Sir Thomas Beecham used to call "lollypops"—much of it musically rather trivial, but all ideally suited for demonstrating what a no-holds barred recording can do in terms of sonics: works with bass drum, percussion, deep double-bass material, rich string sonorities" and so on.

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