JIMMY HUGHES: A very welcome daily dose: Decca Get It RIGHT!

Throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Decca, in my opinion, had the happy knack of making recordings that sounded great on the hi-fi of the day. Their classical LPs sounded amazingly vivid and highly detailed, with wide stereo and impressive dynamics. Decca’s engineers had a somewhat proactive approach to recording. Rather than just setting up the mics and letting things happen, they would actively manipulate balances.

Sample the opening of the third movement of Solti’s 1970 Chicago Mahler 5, for example, with its hugely powerful solo horn. It all but blows you out of your chair! Decca’s forte was the ability to suggest the power and presence of live sound while keeping within the limits of what an LP could encompass.

Other classical labels went for a less exciting but arguably truer and more natural sort of presentation, with a more integrated left/right stereo soundstage, less explosive dynamics, and a smoother tonality. Such recordings, played on an average turntable, could seem somewhat bland and lacking in colour. But often, the master tapes sounded fine

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