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Positive Feedback ISSUE 47
january/february 2010


Two Clarity Vinyl 45RPM Singles from Classic Records
by Tom Gibbs




Louis Armstrong, Satchmo Plays King Oliver 45RPM 200G Clarity Vinyl Audio Fidelity ST 91058-45-200G-CLARITY


Dusty Springfield, The Look Of Love – 33/45RPM 200G Clarity Vinyl ColGemsCR 5005-12-200G-CLARITY 

Classic Records' newest vinyl formulation is cleverly called Clarity Vinyl, not only because it's claimed to be made from 90% pure co-polymers, but also because they've chosen to forgo the addition of the Carbon pellets that virtually all commercial vinyl formulations include to give LPs that distinctive black color, and therefore the new LPs are clear, as in Clarity. According to the Classic Records' website, there's some pretty good science behind the "less is more" approach offered by the Clarity formulation; it appears that the black carbon pellets routinely added to otherwise clear vinyl solely for colorization contain trace metals and are somewhat magnetized, causing electrical distortions during LP playback. One of Classic Records' sister companies, Elite Audio, is a distributor for Furutech's stable of highly regarded products, and among their offerings is an LP Demagnetizer. When I first saw this product for sale a while back I naturally scoffed—magnetized LPs, oh, really? However, Classic ran a series of listening tests with otherwise identical LPs pressed with their regular 200g black vinyl formulation and the new Clarity formula, and after hearing both, the listeners all agreed the Clarity discs were clearly (pun intended) superior in their resolution of the music. The standard black vinyl discs were then treated by the demagnetizer and were again compared head-to-head with the Clarity discs, and low and behold, the demagnetized discs were then indistinguishable from their clearer counterparts. I have to give a lot of credence to Classic's claims, because others (including some here at PFO) have conducted similar experiments with the Furutech demagnetizer and experienced shockingly similar results. Even without access to the demagnetizer, I'd readily assess that the Clarity formula is among the quietest vinyl I think I've ever experienced during LP playback—and it's so darn pretty!

The 45RPM single titles that Classic has offered as a relatively inexpensive introduction to their new vinyl formulation are really the stuff of legend; the two tracks from Louis Armstrong's classic Satchmo Plays King Oliver—especially the remarkable performance on "St. James Infirmary" are nothing short of sheer ear candy. If you've never heard these amazing tracks—trust me, you've really never heard them until you hear them at 45RPM and on Clarity Vinyl. Louis Armstrong's voice and horn have that "right there in the room" quality that just makes the hair stand up on my neck every time without fail. When that last cymbal crash strikes at the end of "St. James Infirmary," it hangs in the air for what seems like an eternity; this disc really helps you to easily suspend your disbelief—yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and Louis Armstrong is alive and in your listening room! The other classic offering, Dusty Springfield's "The Look Of Love," (from the Casino Royale soundtrack) has been on Harry Pearson's Absolute Sound list for decades—only, how many of us have been lucky enough to stumble across a clean original? Not likely—and now, thankfully, it can be had by the unwashed masses for a relatively modest handful of rubles. And to make the conspiracy theories even more intriguing, the disc is 45RPM on one side, and 33RPM on the reverse, so you can be the judge—oh, don't even bother! The 45RPM side offers a so much more silken presentation of Dusty's already so-seductive voice, it's really not a fair competition. I really have to admit, when I heard the 45RPM playback of this legendary track the first time, nothing could have prepared me for how jaw-droppingly good that experience was—it truly shocked me! Also available is Roy Orbison's classic "Pretty Woman," although that title wasn't offered for this review.

A couple of observations are in order: 1) Clarity vinyl—really, really good! 2) 45RPM—really, really, really good! There's a lot of speculation going on out there in the audiophile community these days regarding the merit of relatively high-priced 45RPM, multi-LP reissue sets of material that would otherwise fit on a single standard LP—and amazingly enough, the most noise is being made by the complainers who bitch about having to get up and flip the 45RPM records so often. Please! We need to live for the moment, and if living is enjoying five or ten minutes of supremely satisfying, amazingly realistically presented 45RPM music—then I vote YES!! Hell, we probably all need the exercise, anyway! In my book, Classic's Clarity Vinyl is clearly (once again, pun intended) a step in the right direction—perhaps an even "greener" choice for us vinyl enthusiasts—and I'm really looking forward to hearing more of their 45RPM Clarity offerings. For those looking for a relatively cheap introduction, these Classic singles can't be beat. Highly recommended!