Living Stereo Goes Social and Streaming

In a definite sign of the times, Sony Classical is poised to bring the 60-year old classic RCA Victor Living Stereo series to streaming, hi-rez download, and social media platforms. Beginning on Friday April 27, and lasting for two months, Living Stereo playlists—Living Stereo Spectaculars, Living Stereo Top 50, and Living Stereo Deep Cuts among them—will stream on Apple Music, Spotify, and Deezer.

Since Sony also lists HDTracks as a source for its catalog, I presume that it, too, would have been listed as a streaming site had its long-anticipated streaming service actually launched in time. It is also possible that any number of streaming services known mainly in Europe and Asia will participate in the program.

In addition, all sorts of Living Stereo visual and editorial content will appear on social media sites that include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Lots of rarely seen session photos plus "behind-the-scene glimpses" of the remastering process will receive star billing, as will the curated streaming playlists.

Living Stereo stars: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner.

The real stars, of course, are the artists and the recordings. For conductors, RCA made frequent use of Fiedler, Leinsdorf, Munch, Reiner, Kondrashin, and Stokowski with orchestra that included Boston Symphony, Boston Pops, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For pianists, they turned to Cliburn, Gilels, Wild, Horowitz, Szeryng, Janis, Richter, and Rubinstein. For other instrumentalists, we're talking Bream, Heifetz, Fox, and Piatigorsky. Last but hardly least, their roster of singers included Price, Nilsson, Björling, Tebaldi, Rysanek, Milanov, Moffo, Lanza, Anderson, and the Robert Shaw Chorale. These were not the only stars of the 1950s and '60s, but they were certainly among the greatest and best-known.

As for the recording technology, many were set down in three channels. Many decades after their initial release on LP, they were reissued first on CD, then remastered for three channels and issued on SACD, remastered on LP, and then remastered again for CD. (I've probably missed several steps and reissues.) It is doubtful that anyone who likes classical music and has ever visited a high-end dealership or an audio show has emerged without hearing at least one Living Stereo track. Why? For the simple reason that, when it comes to color saturation, realistic recording perspective and balance, and thrills, many of the best Living Stereo recordings set indelible sonic as well as artistic benchmarks.

Sony isn't the only label to jump on the streaming bandwagon. Warner's catalog has been streaming for a while in hi-rez "Masters" (MQA) format on Tidal, and ECM has recently come on board. With US consumers turning more and more to streaming platforms for their music, and embracing phones and tablets as their streaming medium, labels large and small have seen the writing on the wall. Artist compensation may remain a major area of concern, but that doesn't seem to be stopping music lovers from streaming music to their heart's content.

returnstackerror's picture

…about the glory of these recordings.. it might have been worth stating that at least on Deezer, despite me having a CD quality Deezer subscription, these playlists are MP3’s!!!!!!

So not quite the Gift from God they would appear.


PAR's picture

The streaming of Living Stereo titles in 16/44.1 resolution has been available here in Europe on Qobuz since at least 2015. Currently many are also available for streaming in 24/88.2 resolution.

So that leaves these new playlists. Very nice I am sure but a playlist does not really excite me enough to fully consider it a news item. BTW, Qobuz does not, at the time of writing, appear to be participating in this playlist promo.

So what this piece is to me is a promotion about a promotion :-)

OffordTimperley's picture

I honestly do not think a single day passes that I am not pleasantly surprised or even joyously shocked by what I find on Qobuz ... so many obscure classical recordings I thought I may never hear , only perhaps read about ... what a fantastic time it is we live in to be a music lover ! :)

SnellKrell's picture

Thought you should know that Henryk Szeryng was not a pianist, he was a famous violinist!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I do know that. His name wasn't on the press release, and I inserted it in the wrong place. My bad. Thanks for pointing it out.

As for other criticisms of this simple news story, I think what's important is that new generations of music lovers may discover these titles via the playlists. No bonafide audiophile is going to be hanging on Deezer, but a lot of other people will.

I first began to spend a bit of time on Qobuz when I wrote the review of the LG V30 phone. Your comments make me want to spend more time listening. The main reason I haven't is that I don't use music as background, and spend much of my days in silence punctuated by terrier barking attacks.

I was told at CES that Qobuz hi-rez streaming would arrive in the US in May. As for obscure classical, the original people who put together Tidal put quite a number of historical recordings on the site. Its a goldmine in that respect, albeit a spotty one. You can tell what older opera and lieder singers they liked by their selections. Richard Tauber, for example, scores big time.

Qobuz Hi-Res Music Evangelist's picture

Just looked on Qobuz and to my delight, they're listed. Listening now. Thanks for the tip!

NeilS's picture

I fear there's not much time to enjoy them as the Mercury engineers recorded them before they're forever withdrawn and replaced with "deblurred" MQA-ed versions on streaming.

Indydan's picture

Yup. And the best way to listen to them will be on a "Class A" LG mobile phone. You can sell your audio system right now.

tonykaz's picture

Is that what they give it? ,

I give it A+, at least until the newer revised and improved R2R version is released in : ( 2019 ? ). hmmm. I hear that LG is gonna try to make the new phones in California, it'll have an OLEG screen.

Traditional Audiophiles clinging to major Audio Systems won't have to worry; Chad Kassem will still be re-producing a continuing stream of new Re-Releases ( at $50 per ) for our Collector Brethrens, few as they may be ( I just hope that there's going to be enough $8,000 Phono Cartridges to go 'round and Reviewers able to review them ).

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

I thought that meant the phone's battery would go flat real fast.
Was I wrong? :-)

spacehound's picture

"Warner's catalog has been streaming for a while in hi-rez "Masters" (MQA) format on Tidal"

Only a near-microscopic portion of it.

Overall, MQA is less than 0.02 percent of Tidal's catalog. And it is decreasing, because Tidal continually releases far more non-MQA music than it does MQA music.

Even its constant 'vanity publishing' of Beyonce and Jay-Z isn't usually MQA.

tonykaz's picture

I'm delighted with 16/44.1 so all this MQA excitement is a distraction to my enjoyment ( of the quality of my nearing 8 decades ) of life.

How do I have nice Sounding Gear on a Narrowboat? ans: probably a little AK240 and a small pair of Genelec 8020.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

And I'm no spring chicken either. But then neither are the Stereophile reviewers.

Quite frankly I have tried to convince myself that I can tell the difference between 44.1 and genuine hi-res, but I'm still not sure I can.
And MQA isn't real hi-res anyway, it's bit depth is reduced to 17 at best, from the original 24, and everything above 96 sample rate is thrown away - it just uses upsampling by adding 'null' samples to fool your DAC into displaying a higher rate.

Tidal and MQA? I've never met anyone who has ever heard of Tidal, let alone MQA. Even including UK country pub landlords (I'm a frequent visitor to such places) who very often use Spotify via broadband to provide pub background music, often on quite high quality systems. So even though they've never heard of Tidal they are familiar with 'streaming'.

And I've never seen an advertisement for Tidal or MQA or a report on either outside of audio magazines. Very few people ever read them, even online ones.

dalethorn's picture

I joined a "premier" Facebook group that was supposedly dedicated to MQA, and even Herr Stuart participated occasionally there. But it turned out that they didn't want to discuss MQA outside of Tidal. No discussion whatsoever. To make matters worse, their #2 guy in the group made it his mission to stop any such discussion. At this point in time, barring an angel or similar spirit flying in and changing things, I think MQA should die away quietly and unmourned, since they lack the will to police their own front groups. I put about $400 USD into it - no great loss.

tonykaz's picture

...has kept us in the Debate and kept us feeling like our contributions are relevant. Is this "feeling" an Illusion or are we simply sitting in Stereophile's Pub discussing the directional vector of all things Audio?

I'd like our Vocal input here to influence the Editors, not that I think they need direction, or much direction.

I'm hoping for a Wire Reviewer to have a Monthly report on all things wire. Wire and Accessories are a Significant portion of the Audio Hobby Business. I'll nominate Robert Schryer in O'Canada since we can no longer have Enid Lumley.

And "OF COURSE" we now HAVE to have a Smart Phone Reviewer since all our New Blood Audiophiles will come from the vast Hoards of Smart Phone Music Lovers. For Smart Phones I'll nominate someone rather young like : Jana the video lady.

Tony in Michigan

chtgrubbs's picture

Thanks for using "wire" instead of "cab**". Otherwise the Doubly Blind Measuring Objectivist trolls would start their wailing about snake oil and and rip-offs.

tonykaz's picture

Thanks for reminding us that we need reviewing of these kinds of things.

A "Proper" Snake Oil Specialist Reviewer is definitely someone that should have a Monthly Columb to keep us Capacitors charged and keep that "Click" button "Activated"!

Thanks, you da man.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

We don't have any influence on anyone except ourself - you influence you, I influence me, and we don't influence each other.

And STEREOPHILE HAS EVEN LESS - it doesn't influence anyone at all. It just likes to think it does.

For example, there's two recent reviews, on a NAD box and a Mark Levinson one.
I've never wanted a NAD box but have always had a 'soft spot' for Mark Levinson, though I've never owned one.
So I ignore the NAD review, note the Mark Levinson price and see that it is fairly high but not outrageous. I don't read the review, I already know it won't be the 'best there is' but it won't be total c**p either. So what's to read?

Nobody ever buys or doesn't buy audio gear because of a magazine review. It's a hobby, so automatically of no great importance - basically it's 'frivolous', it doesn't have to be 'practical', 'good value' or whatever. So we just buy what we take a fancy to.

These audio magazines influence nobody. They are just 'entertainment' when we have nothing more pressing to do and there isn't anything interesting on TV.
For example, the only thing on British TV at this very moment of any interest whatsoever to me is a programme on Amelia Earhart. She was a pretty useless pilot, just a good self publicist, and so I'm not interested enough to watch that and not type/post this, though it remains on as a background item.

And comments section like this allows us readers to 'meet' each other. Which is FAR more interesting than the stuff in the magazine.

As for MQA, Stereophile has got itself 'hooked' on it and can't think of a way to back out without losing face. So it carries on with this pointless product.

tonykaz's picture

I owned Esoteric Audio in Farmington Frills Michigan ( an Aspiring High End Shop ). mid 1980s

I got early releases of "The Absolute Sound" Magazine as well as Audio Magazine where I advertised ( a nice hello to Laura Lovechio ).

When either one of these Magazines gave a positive review of Gear I Represented, that gear Sold Out rapidly.

I would contact my Manufacturers with an early committed Sales Order, early as-in a few days before the Magazine's Delivery Date.
I had that arrangement with the Magazines, in trade, for Carrying these Magazines in my Store ( 4-Sale ) and for Selling Subscriptions to all of the British Hi-fi Magazines to USA Subscribers.

Any "Hot" Review became that month's "POWER SELLER" !!!

I'd like to have anything Mark Levinson ( the person ) put his hand to , he is an exceptional talent. I had the chance to carry the Madrigal owned Mark Levinson line but was not sufficiently impressed to carry the line. ( I already had an ideal relationship with Karen Sumner and Electrocompaniet )

On NAD, I have a local Morel TV Repair place where NAD Gear is sent for repair. I owned the original NAD 3020 integrated but now realize NAD is a far differing Company with doubtful products, the new 3020D is sealed ( and unrepairable ). I'll pass on NAD .

PS Audio is the NEW Super Outfit in HighEnd. I've was involved with Paul in the early 1980s, PS Audio is a Man & Company of High Integrity!

On a smaller scale : Schiit is outstanding in many ways. I think that their Valhalla ll is the finest headphone Amp out there and the darn thing is a hell-of-a-preamp. for $350 US ! I don't like their shitty name, should be Stoddard & Mike.....!

Magazines had a powerful influence on my Customers

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

So Stereophile has (or once had) a far greater influence on US buyers than HFN&RR (always a small circulation magazine) ever did.
I accept that.

But today in the UK the 'hifi' business, once a powerful industry, possibly more powerful in proportion to the population numbers than the USA industry, is very small and still decreasing. (Witness the takeover of Naim, possibly the biggest survivor, by Focal. Though Naim likes to call it a 'merge'.)

Why? because the general 'consumer' audio market, for the electronics, though maybe not the speakers, has improved so much that a there is very little actual performance difference between a 600 dollar Sony amp and a 5,000 dollar Naim. And which is the 'better' of the two is entirely subjective so can go either way.
(Which of course is why the Hifi industry hates blind tests so much.)

Indydan's picture

"there is very little actual performance difference between a 600 dollar Sony amp and a 5,000 dollar Naim."

Wow, just wow! I read some nutty things on audio sites, but this one is Hall of fame nutty.

spacehound's picture

We don't have a reference as we were not in the studio when the recording was made. So we don't know how it is supposed to sound.

As it happens I have both, though in fact the 'Sony' I mentioned is an 800 dollar Yamaha AV receiver.

It doesn't sound 'distorted, or 'weak' or whatever. Nor does it inflict its 'character' on everything it plays as it doesn't seem to have any, which of course is how it should be.

So which is 'better'? We can't tell so it's down to personal preferences. Which has got nothing to do with how 'hifi' it is or isn't.

funambulistic's picture

Thank you for confirming what has been banging around in my noggin as of late. My "Sony" is also a Yamaha - an A-S801 integrated. I wanted to simplify my system by getting a jack-of-all-trades (and, hopefully, a master of some) and thought the Yamaha would be a good option whilst I saved up for something a bit more, say, esoteric. It replaced a T+A Power Plant (the T+A received a glowing review from this magazine) which I never really warmed to - and I tried. The Yamaha has the T+A beat in clarity and its apparent wattage deficiency (100 vs 140) is not really, um, apparent. It measures well (excellent, in fact) has a built in DAC (DSD rules!) a really nice phono stage and excellent headphone amp. It is like my embarrassing little secret, I like it so much.

Case in point: I went to a KEF listening event last week (also sponsored by Hegel and Nordost). The rep asked me what I had at home. I held my head high and told him (not that I needed to hold my head high - right?) which got a polite "Hmm, nice". After a few songs and libations, I was told I "will really want one of those" - meaning the Hegel integrated - if I was going to listen to any of the KEF R series, much less the Reference.

I suppose I will - at least to be able to listen to one (or a Parasound or a Classe or an Anthem) so I can at most see (hear) what I may or may not be missing. I'll forgo the Valhalla IIs for now...

And now, back to the Living Stereo discussion!

tonykaz's picture

China built a Railroad to directly connect England to China's low cost labor supply.

Here they come.

Tony in Michigan

ps Trump's Spokesman just announced that Trump himself has been paying off a Porn Star to keep her quiet, illegally !

funambulistic's picture

"Trump's Spokesman just announced that Trump himself has been paying off a Porn Star to keep her quiet, illegally" Wow! Also, the Washington Redskins cheerleaders are complaining that they were told to pose topless during a trip to Costa Rica, to which I say, "I demand proof before these serious allegations!"

What do these events have to do with Living Stereo, Tidal, MQA or the price of rice in China? Nothing as far as I can tell, but you can't help but to inject Trump and/or the (r)epublicans and/or the people who voted for them into these forums...

tonykaz's picture

China is being largely ignored by a Washington Executive Branch fighting to survive.

China is building a Global market for it's undercutting cheap labor and it's Intellectual Property thieveries.

Fake Rolex ? , how about Fake Everythings ?

or, is all this just more Fake News ?

Tony in Michigan

funambulistic's picture

... please explain to me what this has to do with Living Stereo, Tidal, MQA, et all. Whenever one interjects topics that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand, those topics that you seem so concerned about do indeed become "Fake News".

tonykaz's picture

this is a Stereophile "sitting-around-the-campfire" discussion, China and Washington are part of an all-things-affecting/effecting Consumer Audio discussion, it's part of the Larger View of the directional vector our lovely Industry is heading : Audio in the 21st Centruy.

My Almamater is one of the Giant Companies in the Audio Industry, I'm still a participant.

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

Most of what the masses watch or listen to that they consider 'news', and to an ever-dwindling extent what's printed in newspapers, is manufactured as a product by giant corporations, and you can skim through most of it and you'll not likely miss anything important.

This audio thing on the other hand, represented by Stereophile and its partner publications like Analog Planet, Innerfidelity, etc., is very different from that. I think Stereophile is to modern-day "news" as high-res audio is to mainstream pop music engineered for the Loudness Wars.

spacehound's picture

90% of the time. When you are going to the supermarket, driving your car somewhere, watching TV, or whatever.
The only time you aren't is when you are utilising your field of expertise, assuming you have one.

And as for the 'media', a plane crash killing 90 people is a plane crash killing 90 people no matter which part of the media reports it. And a cheetah chasing an antelope on a nature programme is the same, as is a good detective series.

'Quality' of the media? If it agrees with your politics it's good, if it doesn't, it's bad. That's why half of the 'masses', one of which is you, and whatever side they are on, says the 'media' is rubbish.
Which is a very high degree of dissatisfaction, but doesn't mean a thing. Almost all of the media is extremely high quality at doing what it aims to do.

Loudness wars? The target market appears to like it or it wouldn't happen. So it is 'high quality' to those it's aimed at, including those who hear it in a high background noise (Ravel's Bolero is rubbish in a car), whether played though a 20,000 dollar Stereophile approved box or not.

dalethorn's picture

You say "The Media" as though there were no difference between "news" manufactured and regurgitated by giant corporations, and independent sources whose reputations are earned rather than manufactured.

As though there were no difference between audio reported by Stereophile and pcmag or cnet.
As though there were no difference between mainstream pop music manufactured by warner and music issued by Chesky or MFSL.

Granted there are crossovers in all media as well as pollution in the better sources, but there is still a huge difference in intent between those who seek discerning customers and those who seek only profits.

tonykaz's picture

I'm writing a specific note to someone. If it doesn't resonate for you, you aren't the person I'm talking to, are you?

Here is something specifically for you : the newish NAD 3020D is a Sealed and unserviceable piece of gear. It breaks -- it goes to the landfill, it's a $400 package of Chinesium. Now, any bystander hearing this observation explained to you proooooobbbibly won't have any idea what we're talking about, especially if you and I have been discussing various things about affordable imported electronics.

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

Trump and pornstars is a specific note to a specific person? Bullshit!

Indydan's picture

Be careful making political comments Tony. The self appointed moderator Dale will scold you.