Gourmands and oenophiles love DOC/AOC (controlled designation of origin) wines, artisanally roasted micro lot coffees, cold-pressed olive oils, and heirloom everything.
With the demand for vinyl on the rise, what about artisanal vinyl? Specialty labels such as Classic Vinyl, Impex, and Analogue Productions work hard to bring music lovers and audiophiles vinyl reissues that are of superior quality compared to the originals. They take great care to source the original master tapes, which isn’t always easy because—believe me—major labels often prefer to send digital files instead. You musn’t be fooled: much of today’s vinyl is actually mastered from digital files instead of the original analogue masters. The analogue chain is broken.
I just received three vinyl reissues from the fine German record label, Speakers Corner: Lena Horne’s 1962 LP, Lovely & Alive, and two Deutsche Grammophon reissues of Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1, Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 1, as well as the Concertos for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 and No. 3. The original Deutsche Grammophon recordings were good, but I’d always found the noise on their pressings somewhat distracting. Rice crispies (snap, crackle, and pop) on new, sealed LPs were always an unexpected turn off for me. But not so for these Speakers Corner reissues. They are far superior to the originals—something you can’t say about a lot of things.
Fortunately, a lot of classical audiophile vinyl was already great to begin with. The sound engineers for RCA Living Stereo, for instance, were exceedingly careful with microphone placement and the (typically) all-tube equipment they used, resulting in the stellar audio quality of their records. Mercury Living Presence and much of the older Decca catalogue were also similarly recorded.
Specialty labels actually master their own artisanal vinyl before plating and pressing them to impossibly high standards on first-rate discs. It’s an arduous process, when you consider the work required, care, and quality control that are of the tallest order—just wait till you hear them! And as an added bonus, Speakers Corner’s artwork, print, and photo quality is, likewise, exceptional. Experiencing these heavy, beautifully rendered LPs is an absolute pleasure.
Therefore, the $30 you’d pay for one of these LPs is actually a bargain. Nobody makes money from reissuing artisanal vinyl. Each record is a labor of love, produced by skilled engineers and craftsman for audiophiles who love music and care about achieving the ultimate in sound quality. I can’t recommend these timeless Speakers Corner reissues highly enough.
Above are the new Speakers Corner reissues of Lena Horne and Bartók. The Lena Horne LP has arrangements by Marty Paich, one of the hippest arrangers ever. The 1960s Bartók recordings capture the dark, mysterious, and enthralling character of the great Hungarian composer.