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Columbia (UK) SAX vs. early EMI ASD

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  • Columbia (UK) SAX vs. early EMI ASD

    I now own a fair number of both SAX’s and first label ASD. While there are certainly a number of sonically excellent ASD’s, I find the SAX’s to generally be superior. Given that both were issued by EMI, I wonder why that would be the case. Note that I assume that they were issued at about the same time, but may be incorrect. In particular, the SAX Cluytens recordings are some of the finest sonically which I own.

    thanks for your comments.
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  • #2
    The SAX also tend to be more expensive on the used market than the ASDs. I've been collecting both SAX and ASDs (early and later) for many years. I have 88 blue/silver SAX records, and 215 white/gold ASDs. I'm getting very close to the point that anything I don't have as an original early label I can't afford!

    A little history of EMI Columbia and EMI HMV. There was a definite rivalry between executives running the two sides. Columbia SAX had Walter Legge as the driving force behind it. His Philharmonia Orchestra, which he founded after the war was the main orchestra for the Columbia SAX label, while David Bicknett led the production of the HMV ASD label. Notice that many artists only recorded with the Columbia side of the house, while others recorded only with the HMV side of the house. For example, Klemperer was the house conductor for Philharmonia Orchestra on Columbia SAX and Beecham and his Royal Philharmonic recorded for HMV ASD. Menuhin recorded with HMV ASD and Oistrakh and Kogan for Columbia SAX. The origin of the two sides came many years before when the two companies, Columbia and HMV merged to form EMI.

    After Walter Legge left (was fired from) EMI in 1964, things were merged together and many of the early SAX releases found themselves reissued on ASD and other EMI SLS box sets. Columbia SAX closed down as a label sometime in the mid-late '60', while the ASD line continued on into the digital era in the '80's.

    Interestingly, both Bicknell and Legge married musicians who recorded for their respective sides of EMI. Bicknell married violinist Gioconda de Vito while Legge married soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

    The sonic differences between the early Columbia SAX (Blue/Sliver) and EMI ASD (three digit white/gold label) may well be attributed to the difference between Legge and Bicknell. Legge was a perfectionist, and generally regarded as an SOB by members of the industry at the time (told to me directly by a Decca engineer who did many records in the golden era).

    The four record Cluytens Ravel set is one of the best and most expensive of the SAX releases, although these days original Kogan SAX pressings have gone through the roof in price. Testament did a very nice reissue of the Cluytens set, and much of it was reissued on separate Classics for Pleasure the EMI bargain label. The Testament and CfP versions were the only ones I could afford.

    Cluytens was one artist who recorded for both sides of the house. He also did several opera recordings for the EMI SAN (Angel) label which I have.

    Larry
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    • #3
      You both might be interested to know that the same label, if I am reading you right- the Columbia/EMI blue black label from England- was where some very good hard rock records came from-- first pressings of Jeff Beck's Truth were on that label and sound totally unlike the US Epics. The blue/black label has a far more dimensional, dynamic and wide-ranging sound than the US issues--to the degree that the US pressings are really 'meh'- and these UK ones are startlingly good- "almost audiophile." There were a few seminal hard rock records issued on this label, including the early Pink Floyd. Click image for larger version

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Bill Hart View Post
        You both might be interested to know that the same label, if I am reading you right- the Columbia/EMI blue black label from England- was where some very good hard rock records came from-- first pressings of Jeff Beck's Truth were on that label and sound totally unlike the US Epics. The blue/black label has a far more dimensional, dynamic and wide-ranging sound than the US issues--to the degree that the US pressings are really 'meh'- and these UK ones are startlingly good- "almost audiophile." There were a few seminal hard rock records issued on this label, including the early Pink Floyd. Click image for larger version  Name:	fullsizeoutput_273.jpeg Views:	1 Size:	639.0 KB ID:	94089
        Hi Bill,

        These look like the second SAX label, so called ER1. About the time these came out, Columbia made a deal with Epic in the US to release a bunch of Epic classical recordings (George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, pianist Charles Rosen, etc) as Columbia SAX. I believe they were all remastered, clearly the matrix information was different and sometimes the contents were combined from different original releases. Didn't know that they did the same for the rock releases. On that SCX series, which started with a green/silver label, which looks a lot like the original SAX blue/silver label, they released some more popular classics recordings, sort of like Boston Pops records on RCA. There were some exceptions, like the Epic Beethoven Piano Concerti with Leon Fleisher which came out on the SCX series. I've attached images of the SAX red second label and both the SAX blue/silver and SCX green/silver first labels. In some cases I have both the Epic original and Columbia SAX versions of the same album. The Columbia SAX versions are always more expensive. However, sometimes the Epics sound better and sometimes the Columbia SAX sound better. Larry
        Click image for larger version  Name:	SAX ES1 Label.jpg Views:	1 Size:	14.4 KB ID:	94127Click image for larger version  Name:	SCX early Label.jpg Views:	1 Size:	10.1 KB ID:	94128
        Click image for larger version  Name:	SAX ER1 label.jpg Views:	1 Size:	7.4 KB ID:	94126
        Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0 BottleheadPhonoPre,Herron VTPH-2A
        Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,Mykerinos,PacMicroModel2
        Dig Play-mchNADAC, LampiGG, Roon, HQP, Oppo105
        Electronics-Herron 360Pre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
        Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
        Other-512Engineer/Marutani Symmetrical Power, ArtKelmGround1, AudioDiskVinylCleaner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects,
        Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

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        • bonzo75
          bonzo75 commented
          Editing a comment
          I compare a test pressing of szell Cleveland Beethoven 5th to the ED1 of that red Sax. This particular test pressing was carefully sourced and was way superior
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