Cheap High Quality Music Labels

Discussion in 'Music' started by Steven Brent, Apr 18, 2004.

  1. Steven Brent

    Steven Brent Extra

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    Does anyone have suggestions about high quality CD labels for classical or jazz music that are bargain priced?

    I've been buying Philips or Telarc CDs most of the time, but I'd like recommendations on good quality labels that give a little more bang for the buck.

    Also, when you look at a CD, how do you evaluate the quality of the performance (besides listening to it)? How important is DDD, ADD, or AAD? Do you know the performers, conductors, orchestras by heart? Is there an on-line source that discusses the best performances of classical music?

    Steve
     
  2. andrew markworthy

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    Steven, you'd be well advised to look through the threads archive - your question (and copious answers) comes up every few months.

    Brief answers to get you started:

    (a) Arguably the most consistent budget label is Naxos.
    (b) There are numerous review sites. One that's well respected (in the UK at least) is by Gramophone, a noted classical music magazine.
    (c) If you need to ask how to tell the difference between two performances, then you don't need to know. The best performance is the one you like the best. However, the reality is that until you really get into classical music, a lot of performances really do sound very similar.
    (d) The differences in recording style are just as for pop or rock. Analogue sourced material often has residual tape hiss, but unless you make a habit of listening through headphones, chances are you won't notice it.
    (e) When you really get into classical music, then the technical quality of the music tends to take a back seat to the quality of the performance. Remember that we have more than a hundred years of classical recordings to choose from, and not all the great performances were done after digital (or even stereo) came on the scene.


    Yes, every one of them. [​IMG]
     
  3. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    Yes, and the danger in this is that people get very caught up in their favorite conductor and orchestra, and refuse to consider the work of others. I know too many people who have convinced themselves that no orchestra in the world can play like Berlin and Vienna, or that it doesn't get any better than Karajan.

    Lastly, always be skeptical when someone declares a recording, "the best" or "definitive." [​IMG]
     
  4. Sathyan

    Sathyan Second Unit

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    First of check out overstock:

    http://www.broinc.com/


    And if you have a turntable, there are many LPs going for $0.25

    Naxos/Amadis has cheap recordings of variable quality

    I've found Decca to be most consistent of the majors. JVC's XRCDs are great but expensive.


    But for _excellent_ cheap recordings on CD:

    Reference Recordings - http://referencerecordings.com/




    In addition, I like these labels (but not necessarily cheap): DG, BIS, Chandos, Channel Classics, Denon, RCA Victor, Delos, Fone, Teldec

    Sony is rarely worth it which is sad as Columbia has great vaults

    I agree with Seth--L's answers to your other questions.



    Karajan/BPO is only the best option for a select few pieces. If you have particular works in mind, followup for recommendations.
    Also ask here: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=e...cal.recordings
     
  5. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    Forgot to mentiont Berkshire. Thanks Sathyan.

    Also checkout: www.mdt.co.uk There's a lot of music available at budget price in Europe but not here (for instance, EMI's various budget lines and Universal's Eloquence series have many more titles available in Europe than here in the states). MDT is the best place to buy them from. They also have pretty good sales from time to time.



    Also add Harmonia Mundi, Hanssler, and Supraphon.
     
  6. Steven Brent

    Steven Brent Extra

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    Thanks for the great answers!
     
  7. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    I second Naxos, Reference and Decca. All superb!

    Channel Classics is a bit pricey here in Atlanta but well worth the extra money and a guaranteed excellent sonic presentation.
     
  8. bolo bison

    bolo bison Auditioning

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    Many of the older Telarc albums are available on CD for $10. Early digital recorders used (such as Sound Stream) but still superb sound quality. Telarc has always had a knack for capturing soundstages.

    Unfortunately Erich Kunzel also had a knack for butchering many otherwise great recordings. While the recordings were often spectacular, his reading of the scores often really sucked.

    The absolute worst I can think of is Telarc's version of
    The Sound of Music.
     
  9. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    I think the closest he's come to making a classical recording is a disc of overtures.
     
  10. Bob K

    Bob K Stunt Coordinator

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    As an aside, for Classical, the Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs includes designations as to which CDs are moderately priced and bargain.

    The Guide is criticized from time to time for UK bias and other foibles. (If you think home electronics is a contentious hobby [not here!], you should read the petty and nasty sniping that goes on in, say, Fanfare magazine.) However, I found it invaluable when I was learning about Classical music and trying to select CDs. While, in the fullness of time, I have found that the editors' top selection may not be my first choice (although it often is), their top selection is almost always one of the best. By contrast, when I selected "blind" I managed to get some real clunkers -- stuff on well-know premium labels by well-known artists that even I could tell was bad.

    I think the guide is well worth buying, but if you don't want to make the investment, at least in my neck of the woods most CD shops with Classical sections have a "store" copy. If you know what you're looking for, e.g., a starter set of Beethoven Symphonies, or Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, you can check the editors' budget selections in the store.

    Penguin also has a Jazz Guide that looks extremely thorough, but I'm no jazz expert, so I'll defer to others as to its utility.

    Tempest and Pi Construction Pix: http://www.audiocircle.com/circles/m...view_album.php
     
  11. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Generally not a reliable indicator at all. The so-called SPARS code has been widely manipulated by the marketing folks at the labels. Much more important is the original recording quality, tape research and mastering for any given album.
     
  12. Scott Strang

    Scott Strang Screenwriter

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    I concur. I've heard some truly excellent CD's from analog masters and some hideous CD's from digital masters.

    One of the nastiest I've ever heard would be Stevie Wonder's In Square Circle. Musically I thought it was pretty good but the sound quality strongly resembled nails scraping on a chalkboard. Supposedly done on a Sony PCM-4424 DASH multitrack and DDD throughout production chain.
     
  13. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Supporting Actor

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    Since I've gotten into SACDs, I've gotten several very nice Telarcs and a sweet Pentatone. They both seem to be recording all theirs w/ DSD, which IMO sounds much smoother & sweeter than even a very well done PCM recording (don't mean to start another war on this topic; just giving a reason why I like these 2 labels).

    Doug
     
  14. andrew markworthy

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    Well it is primarily a UK publication - do you think that might be a reason? [​IMG]
     
  15. Bob K

    Bob K Stunt Coordinator

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    Andrew,

    I'm not agreeing, I mentioned the point just because I was anticipating that someone would raise the typical objection. I believe all three of the editors/contributors are UK-based and contribute or contributed to Gramophone, but they appreciate composers of all countries and recommend performers and performances of all nationalities.

    It does seem strange though that Simon Rattle has never conducted a bad performance of anything![​IMG]

    Tempest and Pi Construction Pix: http://www.audiocircle.com/circles/m...view_album.php
     
  16. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    I highly disagree. Many many European reviewers have a low opinion of American Orchestras, and only give them high marks when a big name European conductor is conducting. Only ClassicsToday.com seems to have the balls to say that the BPO and VPO give bad performances, and that American orchestras are equally as good, if not better.
     
  17. Bob K

    Bob K Stunt Coordinator

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    Seth,

    To give credit where credit is due, it was the Penguin Guide that (for example) led me to purchase the 1955 EMI Rosenkavalier (Karajan, Schwarzkopf, Philharmonia Orch., et al.). Back then, I was very suspicious - why on Earth would one buy a recording from the 1950s? One of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. For that and other, similar leads (e.g., Janet Baker singing Kindertotenlieder) I shall always be grateful.

    Tempest and Pi Construction Pix: http://www.audiocircle.com/circles/m...view_album.php
     
  18. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    Bob,

    That's your own fault for not having faith in the EMI producers and engineers of the '50s, Walter Legge, and Schwarzkopf singing R. Strauss [​IMG].
     

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