This $430 Electric Recording Company Record Mesmerized Listeners at CES 2016

I brought to CES 2016 this £300 Electric Recording Company reissue of Recital Magda Tagliaferro because as well as sharing the experience with friends and colleagues I wanted to watch their reaction to it.

Everyone from producer Rick Rubin, to esteemed designer of tube electronics Vladimir Lamm, to Kronos turntable designer Louis Desjardins among others reacted with astonishment. A few applauded. No kidding.

Vladimir Lamm, snapping a shot of the cover on his iPhone and said "I must have a copy". When I told him the price, he didn't flinch, but then his big amps cost $140K. Like the $430 record, the ML3s are worth it if you have the desire and the scratch.

I had never heard of the artist, but a visit to Popsike indicated many had, with all of her records fetching high prices. Originals of this one went on average for around $500 as did many other of her albums.

Tagliaferro had an exotic background: French parents living in Brazil, she spent her early years there moving at age thirteen to France to further study piano.

This recital is of Spanish music by De Falla, Granados, Albeniz and Villa-Lobos. If you like Sketches of Spain you'll like this too! for the music, for the performance and for the recording quality, which is amazing—an 11+. You are in the room where it was recorded and the piano sounds as convincing as on any record I've ever heard. Yes, it is an expensive record, but if you go for it based on this short write-up, you absolutely will not be disappointed. And the packaging is as always, heroic.

jazz and cocktails's picture
Paul Robertson's picture

Wow, that must have been great being able to impress like that. The power of analog, but this LP sounds ridiculous. The names you dropped also, makes for a very cool and eclectic group of people who were obviously blown away. Nice.

tallguy's picture

Sorry Michael, I'm confused. You own this record and brought it along, yet you've never heard of this artist? And lots of intriguing build-up for it, but little to no explanation of its appeal. Please don't leave us hanging like this! :-p

guidedbyvoices's picture

Michael, Villa-Lobos is a Brazilian composer, not Spanish.

Sal1950's picture

Analog lovers how much are you going to fall for this snake-oil?
$430 for a squashed hockey puck of a unknown artists.
Wake up and quick letting the hucksters hose you!
You turned Audiophiles into the laughing stock of social media!

Michael Fremer's picture
These people invested about $200,000 obtaining and restoring a vintage Lyrec/Ortofon all-tube cutting system. It took almost two years to do. That costs $$$$$ not "snake oil". The covers with "old school" printing that's hardly done anymore but used here to produce authentic jackets printed on stock as close to the original as possible (etc.) costs $$$$$. So yes these are expensive. She is NOT an "unknown artist" among the fans who pay large sums for original pressings. She was unknown to me before getting this record but not any more. No one is laughing---other than at you!
Sal1950's picture

Money wasted on antique technology with you the P T Barnum of con men leading the lambs to the financial slaughter. Wake up people, a 57 Chevy is cool but it's no 2016 ZO6 Corvette. The SOTA in audio has been digital for 30+ years, quit wasting you money and making the con men rich.

Analog Scott's picture

You say this as though MF and others are not familiar with digital technology or digital SQ. Where is the con? Are records not real? Are we imagining them? What is and is not SOTA is entirely subjective.

Michael Fremer's picture
He's good for entertainment value. And knows less than zero about digital audio's many shortcomings, some of which are finally being addressed by Meridian's MQA technology.

Were you to hear it at CES you'd have heard a typically unpleasant sounding CD (Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert) doing all of the things you and especially your brain dislike about digital audio--the piano didn't sound particularly like a plano, there was no stage-focus no image of a piano, the attack, sustain and decay of a piano was mixed up and combined with the hall reverb, producing the unpleasant sensation that makes you NOT want to listen. ...

And then we heard the MQA processed version, where they get the A/D converter originally used for the recording (or one like it) and correct for the unit's gross phase errors and other problems digital apologists like Sal1950 conveniently ignore, that many of us immediately heard and more of us eventually heard...and then they play it again and FINALLY it sounds almost as good as a record.

Analog Scott's picture

Known or unknown, having listened to some samples of her playing I am of the opinion that she is quite good.

Sal1950's picture

Don't be afraid to drink the Koolaid. Mikey needs his kickback for that new Mercedes.

gbdrummerguy's picture

I've always found Mikey's reviews to be very honest and on the money, in fact before purchasing an LP (or CD) I'll see if Mikey has reviewed it to see if there are any sonic aberrations I should be aware of. But "SAL1950" how kind of you to be SO concerned about how we choose to spend our "leisure income". Now if you can't hear the difference between good analogue and good digital please - don't scold us because we can - it seems more likely that there is an "auditory" issue of some type that you're dealing with. You also seem to be very "uptight" about this, we all have "anomalies" that we each must deal with. Unfortunately for us we can't hear as you do so my suggestion would be "if you can't hear or don't like something then don't buy it" but I appreciate you expressing concern on our behalf. Despite what you may think this is NOT "snake oil"! I've been a professional musician for 40+ years and have been in some extremely fine studios and had the pleasure of recording with some excellent musicians. Because of this I've managed to, over time, assemble a fine system at home to try and equal what I'm hearing in the studio and stay on top of new "audio" trends. I'm extremely sensitive when it comes to recorded sound and haven't heard ANY digital that surpasses analogue (given GOOD sources for each). Digital is getting closer to analogue and with the advent of MQA on the horizon - maybe. I'm looking forward to hearing it and do enjoy my CD's and LP's every chance I get but do prefer analogue.

Analog Scott's picture

For those of us in the U.S. The shipping drives the cost up to $480.00.
Almost 500 bucks for one LP. Can't pull the trigger on that one. It is great music and excellent performances. But that is sooooo disproportionately priced.

SoundBound24's picture

Well, I can't say I am really agreeing with the price of these LPs as well, but given their limited number of copies I can understand if not appreciate their strategy. Compare this to the price of limited run art prints, they may make more than 300 copies of an art print and charge hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, for a mechanically produced art image. These LPs are can be likened to the art print.

Andrew L's picture

A bargain when you consider you get a free LP thrown in for the price of the sleeve artwork.
I'll check my own original copy later as I don't remember it being anything extraordinary.

Michael Fremer's picture
Musically or sonically? It certainly strikes me as being extraordinary on both counts and the response at CES backed that up with no cheerleading from me..
Analog Scott's picture

I think he was making a joke about the album cover art

Andrew L's picture

Michael, thanks for your comment. It is wonderful when a recorded performance can spontaneously move so many different people and I don't wish to detract from it. I've had a chance to listen to this LP albeit in a French Pathe Marconi pressing and whilst there is much to enjoy with it, I will stick to my original assessment. Without getting too deeply into specifics of performance, I still find a performer like Alicia de Larrocha peerless in the Spanish repertoire. Just compare the stillness of her performance of the introduction to Albeniz's Cordoba conveying the vastness of Cordoba's cathedral to Tagliaferro's rather more perfunctory rendition. Whilst Villa-Lobos is Tagliaferro's forte, it is colourful music rather than profound.
I would certainly welcome a fresh pressing of this record as sonically my version is pants. However I don't like this performance enough to want to invest in ERC's pressing.
It appears ERC's A&R is based more on the scarcity and market price of the original pressings compared to any intrinsic musical merit (which is why we are unlikely to see any ERC pressings of de Larrocha - or Brendel, Ashkenazy, Barenboim et al.

Analog Scott's picture

You put De Larrocha, Brendel, Askanazy and Barenboim on a pedestal. And that is fine. But I wouldn't rate any of them above second tier. And in fact I wouldn't put Brendel in any conversation except one about the most over rated pianists in classical music history. But it is all subjective. I would also say that Tagliaferro was a far superior pianist to Brendel or Barenboim on her worst day. And I think she is very much in the same class as De Larrocha or Ashkenazy. But that is just my subjective opinion. I don't believe those prices are *just* based on scarcity.

Andrew L's picture

>> I don't believe those prices are *just* based on scarcity.<<
This has been confirmed elsewhere, obviously ERC are not producing these for altruistic reasons otherwise their prices wouldn't raise an eyebrow. They are simply producing a modern facsimile collectible product in a limited edition. Either buy in or look elsewhere.

As for my examples, I was merely citing pianists whose recordings are readily available at beer budget prices and are unlikely to feature in ERCs reissue plans. I could equally have chosen numerous other examples, but to protect the innocent I stuck with a few household names.

I think many performers from the past are placed on a pedestal, whereas we have today some really outstanding instrumentalists both young and old. Personally I don't want to hear Bach, Mozart or Beethoven played as it used to be 60 years ago no matter which instrument or performer. We shouldn't just be pedalling old LP recordings. I for one am delighted with the crop of recent LP issues of contemporary classical performers. How long it will last I don't know, but I'll enjoy it whilst I can.

Analog Scott's picture

Or we can compare them to other limited editions in the world of records. These are still disproportionately expensive by that measure. And for me the price tag is a deal breaker. I get the strategy and I do appreciate the huge investment they made in the gear. But they can just as easily do larger runs for less money and do about as well. Why not runs of 1,000 for 1/3 the price? I would actually consider these LPs at 1/3 the price. But that is just me.

english pete's picture

After reading reviews of the Mahler ERC produced recently I seriously considered purchasing it, but at $900 for the pair I just couldn't justify it. And I do have the "scratch". Maybe if you have a rig like Fremer's you can feel the music as well as he states above. I'm currently running a VPI Classic through a vintage McIntosh C20 and MC250, not a $150k + system, and although it sounds great to me can I justify $900 albums to play on it. Probably not. I balk at $50 albums (MM, AP, MOFI, etc.) of which I have lots of.

Anton D's picture

I think I will hold off on this one until Better Records lists a "hot stamper" version.

Anton D's picture

Should be Veblen Records.

TrueGrit's picture

I wish I could hear it.

javabarn's picture

Perhaps a vinyl rip of it for us poor and unfortunate to sample?? :)

boukman's picture

ERC is doing an amazing job with these vintage titles. I have A/B'd a few against pretty clean originals, and the ERC's are sonically equivalent or better. More detail, beautiful quiet pressings, which is remarkable given that ERC uses vintage equipment, and you would expect deterioration of the tapes.

In addition, the painstaking detail in the reproduction of the artwork is astonishing. They are super expensive, but should be regarded as limited edition works of art. I doubt they will make much on these records given the effort and time ERC puts into each release.

I would personally be happy with cheaper art work and offset or digitally printed sleeves, as I am primarily interested in the quality of the record. Sonically, ERC issues are a great alternative to rare vintage first pressings.

I have A/B'd them using an EMT930 with the modern TNS stereo head and the vintage OFD ortofon cartridge for Mono's. Replay over tube amplification and vintage cinema speakers. Lovely stuff

Merv55's picture

Holly crap, I am glad I found this article. I was in the Constalation/Martin Logan room at the Venitian when he was playing this album. The track was La Vida Breve Dance Espagnole No.1. This sounded amazing, I shazamed it and I couldn't believe it pulled it up. There was only about 5 or 6 people in the room at the time. Simply amazing. Of course the system was out of my reach by around $300,000. Would drop $400 on the album in a heart beat though.

allvinyl's picture

This French EMI 2 CD set sounds fantastic. Catalog # "7243 5 69476 2 7". It's both mono and stereo. CD 1: Falla, Granados, Albienz, Villa-Lobos. CD 2: Villa-Lobos, Mompou, Debussy, Chopin, Schumann.