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Stereo Sound Reference Record Vol. 1

03-19-2019 | By Wojciech Pacuła | Issue 102

Analog Record Collection, Universal Music LLC  Stereo Sound SSAR-028~029

There are some albums that for some reason stay in use in the industry "permanently." We can hear them at many shows, we find in our friends' collections—well, usually even we have at least one version of such titles on our shelf. They are almost always albums with above-average sound quality, not necessarily as interesting from musical point of view, but sounding amazingly well. If, however, people are involved in such project really know what they do, and their point is to reproduce music in the best possible way, with an emphasis on music, the effects can be spectacular. Such discs, both compilations (the so-called "samplers") and complete albums have been released for years by the Japanese magazine Stereo Sound.

One of the most popular, most frequently re-issued albums with its logo, is the Stereo Sound Reference Record Vol. 1. Its premiere took place on June 20th, 1992, and it has been re-issued several times since—you can still buy it. And no wonder—it is a collection of the best pieces of classical music found in the Philips catalog. The interesting thing is that all these are digital recordings—a bold move for a magazine tied to tradition and analog sound. The record sounds so good that it is difficult to resist it though. And no wonder—it was Okihiko Sugano who was responsible for the selection.

Twenty-six years later, the Stereo Sound, on September 28th, 2018, decided to take this step—the album was released as a double LP. Same as on original release, all the recordings on it were sourced from Philips archives.

The edition is truly beautiful. Dust jacket is made of thick cardboard, and the creamy cover features a distinct texture. The original cover was placed in the center, with all the details, such as gilded fragments, around it, on a creamy "frame," there is the magazine's logo and the name of the series: Stereo Sound Analog Record Collection. The only thing that is missing is the name Philips, which was used on the first release. The record was cut by a specialist at Nippon Columbia (Denon), Mr. Shigeru Ozawa. Do you remember that Denon was the first company in the world to digitally record and press LPs? (more here: Digital technology in the world of analogue. Trojan horse or a necessity?). This is a 180g vinyl release.

The sound is dazzling. It rarely happens that the digital recordings released on the analogue medium sound so credible, so natural. There is a brilliant dynamics here, and great, open timbre and depth. The groove noise is negligible, which additionally helps in quieter fragments. It's really a phenomenal record. It is expensive, but worth every of the 10,000 yens!

Sound quality: REFERENCE

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Text: Wojciech Pacuła

Images: Piksel Studio/Bartosz Łuczak | Wojciech Pacuła

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