Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Testor Chorus--Christmas Carols from Many Lands (1959; recorded in 1957)

From December 27. 1957, this is the Testor Chorus singing live in Rockford, Illinois.  This taped performance was released two years later on today's LP, Christmas Carols from Many Lands.  I didn't feel like ripping the Messiah excerpts, so we get Side 2 only.  My copy is all snap, crackle, and pop, with a jump in Carol of the Drum when I played it with my regular stereo stylus.  I switched to my wider mono needle and laid on the tracking force, and the results were way better.  And no jump.  The declicking filters of VinylStudio and MAGIX spelled the end of the Rice Krispies noise.

Carol of the Drum, of course, was stolen in 1958 by Harry Simeone and Henry Onorati and retitled The Little Drummer Boy.  Actual author Katherine K. Davis got her song back, but had to share credit with the thieves, because that's how copyright "law" works, so to speak, in our country, I guess.  Totally absurd, and Wikipedia glosses over the issue in its usual irresponsible fashion in its Little Drummer Boy entry.  W. keeps asking me for money.  When pigs fly.

Love the way the chorus races through Drum--ironic that, between the taping of the number and its appearance on vinyl, it would be stolen and retitled.  The really cool thing about this LP is that we get two more Davis choral compositions--Swedish Dance Carol and As It Fell Upon a Night.  The side starts with Gustav Holst's "choral fantasy" Christmas Day, which is many levels below what I'd expect from that amazing composer, but so it goes sometimes.  Nice to encounter such a serious, professionally done company holiday LP (from an outfit that makes model kits and adhesives!), and, while the chorus isn't world-class, it's quite good.  I find myself focusing on accompanist June Olson Ives' excellent work, though.  The sound glitches at the start, by the way, were in the original tape--it's nothing I did.

Funny how they race through Carol of the Drum but sing Silver Bells like a dirge.  Winter Wonderland fares much better, though I was almost expecting the High Spirits to step in with their tambourines and other classroom percussion.  Doesn't happen.

Considerably better than you might expect.  This effort from Testor doesn't test our patience.  Get it?  Testor, "test our."  Ha, ha, ha!

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: The Testor Chorus--Christmas Carols from Many Lands

Christmas Day (Holst)
Swedish Dance Carol (Davis)
The Snow Lay on the Ground (Sowerby)
What Can This Mean (Staley)
Carol of the Drum (Davis)
As It Fell Upon a Night (Davis)
Silver Bells (Livingston-Evans)
Sanctus (Verdi)
Winter Wonderland (Smith-Bernard)



Ernie said...

Funny, I was going to request this last night, but forgot about it, yet here it is today! I found a copy of this records at some point, but it skipped all over the place, so I never did anything with it. I also remember it being pretty noisy, so maybe it's a pressing issue.

What manes a needle mono? Wouldn't it just be a wiring issue? Or did they actually change needle sizes when stereo LPs came out?

Buster said...

A much wider-ranging repertoire than you usually get from private pressings. I was a fan of Testor's products back then. I can't imagine it was a very big company, so it's amazing that the chorus was so good.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Ernie--Yes, it's size. A mono needle is 1.0 mil. I'm a little annoyed with mine, since I paid good dough for it (Rek-O-Kut) and it's conical. I prefer elliptical styli, as they pull out far more detail, to my ears. For some reason, when using my 1.0 needle, I have to use a lot of VTF to get decent results on those mono sides with 1.0 mil grooves. Complicating things is that records cut in mono often have stereo-width grooves--the later monos, mainly.

My copy has all those little needle marks that mess up the sound. VinylStudio has a very sophisticated declicker, luckily. Very discerning. It won't allow music freqs to get lost in the process.

Buster--I agree completely. Maybe the chorus members were hired exclusively for that job!

Buster said...

Lee - I have a 1.0 mil truncated elliptical stylus, but it's stereo and made to fit the Stanton cartridges I use for transfers. Stereo allows me to choose one or the other channel on mono pressings if there is a difference in noise content (as there often is).

Ernie - Once stereo came along, both mono and stereo pressings had narrower grooves, necessitating the 0.7 mil stylus. To my ears (and eyes), many late mono-era pressings also require the narrower stylus. Before then, a 1.0 mil stylus was standard.

Lee (again) - Funny you should mention tracking force. I also have found that early LPs respond well to greater tracking force.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

I was just reading at the Steve Hoffman forums about something that continues to bug me. Namely, I do the common thing of "summing" left and right for mono. My cartridges are wired for stereo, of course, and so they read the mono signal in stereo, producing a vertical component/aspect/whatever that isn't there, since mono is strictly lateral. Summing supposedly cancels out that false vertical reading, but I wonder if a cartridge wired for mono would produce better, cleaner results. And, if so, why. Not my electronics knowledge is up to understanding it, in any event.

A lot of people choose left or right when doing mono, but more often than not, mono groove wear is uneven, due to tracking error. This means that, to get all the sound, you have to sum. And discs are almost never perfectly flat, so in mono you get rumble that's cancelled when L&R are combined.

Buster said...

Lee - Good points. I use a program called DeNoiseLF (a de-rumbler). It has a function that sums stereo L&R low-frequency signals to achieve the effect you mention.

Ernie said...

Hmm, I didn't know the mono microgrooves were a different size from the stereo microgrooves! Live and learn. I really like the way Clickrepair can take a stereo recording and create a mono version from the best-sounding side of the groove. I don't know how it decides which is best, or how it handles the fact that both sides are never truly the same volume, but I've been very happy with the results. Maybe my ears aren't trained as to what to listen for. :)

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Cool. My MAGIX has a rumble filter that kicks in whenever I use noise sampling.

This is me being my usual obsessive self, pondering away for no special reason, but I wonder if we're literally getting two sides of a mono groove or a kind of false construct. Stereo cartridges impart depth, just as eyes that work in stereo (mine don't) construct a third dimension (depth/distance/volume). The vertical aspect that people talk about is that depth. The "third" channel. Stereo carts try to find that aspect in mono grooves, but of course it isn't there. But it goes ahead and reads mono as stereo, anyway, because that's what it was designed to do. The two mono channels produced are two sides of a false reading and therefore can't be authentic.

And--wow. Just found this Ortofon page,, and it confirms my suspicions. We already know we're getting two different channels, that the sides are being read separately, but this confirms that summing the channels is only the partial fix that I assumed it was....

"If you play a mono record with a stereo cartridge you will not achieve the same signal in the two channels due to imperfections such as crosstalk, noise, phase errors, tracking error, antiskating and distortion. This difference between the channels will result in an unstable and partially fuzzy image. A mono switch, to some extent, can improve this."

To some extent. As I thought. It's probably why the results of choosing L over R, or vice verse, sounds wrong to me. And...

"Playing the same record with a mono cartridge will have none of the aforementioned problems, as this cartridge only produces one signal, which afterwards is directed to both channels in the system."

As I thought--the lateral aspect alone is read. Can't believe I was right about this, given my lack of audio education.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Ernie--(I hate the way these post out of sequence!), I tend to avoid picking the better channel, because the sound lacks volume or fullness. Either/both. I do it when one groove wall is trashed, but otherwise I find the result too flat-sounding. That Ortofon page probably tells us why, but my understanding of audio only permits me to get the gist of what the page explains. My own primitive guess is that we're dealing with a portion of a mono signal, not its full lateral aspect. A discussion at the Steven Hoffman site gives me some insight into what the up and down portion of a signal means, but the folks chiming in are engineers and people otherwise versed in physics, unlike me. Not surprisingly, a sound waveform is part + to - electronics, party a matter of how sound operates (air pressure!). All I remember about sine waves from my Navy training is that they contain "information." Electrical recording technology clearly came straight from radio tech, given the need for a microphone, and the whole bit of "information" on a constant vehicle (cartridge signal, radio signal). As ever, I sense more than I'm able to articulate.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Ernie--Oh, and please note, as Buster points out, that the closer you get to the stereo era, mono grooves start becoming the same size as stereo (.07 mil). Hence, the crappy results I get from rock-era 45s. Rek-O-Kut pushes its larger widths as idea for worn grooves, but I personally feel that it's always a matter of matching groove width, regardless of the rate of wear. And a wider stylus can just as easily pick up more noise as well as more music.

Ernie said...

I just wonder what I need to listen for to see what I'm missing. I've never been much of an audiophile.

Buster said...

Honestly, you guys both produce excellent sounding recordings, so I think you may be worrying too much.

Lee - I am not convinced by the mono/stereo argument. The groove walls ought to be more or less identical L to R (ideally). Summing them does sound better - and I do it the way Ernie suggests - that's true, but the difference is marginal in my estimation.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

You're right. I'm just obsessing, like I always do. It's an interesting topic, but the price of tea in China is still at last week's rates. I need to get off of this....

There's a slight probability that the difference is significant. Likely, it's not. I'm just caught in a thinking loop!

DonHo57 said...

And I can't believe you guys aren't sniffing Testor's glue and paint to get the full effect of this one.

I marvel a little at your discussions of groove size and stylus and so forth, even though I am familiar with all that, having studied some recording technology way back when as a music education and technology kid in college. I used to drive the guys at our local stereo gear shop nuts when they would say "it's just a stylus that goes on your tonearm, dude." No, there's much more to it. Thanks to all of you who do this work to preserve and share both favorites and obscurities.

Kwork said...

Thank you for this, and reading the discussion is interesting. I didn't know that the mono and stereo grooves had standardized by the end of the mono era.