How do you find great sounding CDs?
Jan 10, 2006 at 1:17 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 23

dead of night

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Hi. It's hard to enjoy a hand picked headphone system consisting of a headphone amp and a CD player if you can't find CDs that are mixed and mastered very well. Some remastered CDs actually sound worse, according to fans. Is there a site devoted to guiding music fans to CDs that sound very good?
 
Jan 10, 2006 at 2:00 PM Post #3 of 23

Old Pa

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Reviews, labels, engineers and producers. AllMusic.com, Grammaphone, and forum reviews (in that order as to reliability) have put me onto some of my best recordings. After a couple of decades, I've come to identify some labels with sound I like (Telarc, Reference Recordings, and ECM, to name three). And during the same time, individual engineers (like Steve Hoffman and Rudy Van Gelder) have demonstrated their artistry in recording. It's all part of the hobby.
 
Jan 10, 2006 at 2:28 PM Post #4 of 23

kontai69

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Also look at the reviews on www.amazon.com for the recording of interest. Often times one or more of the reviewers will discuss the sonics of the recording.
 
Jan 10, 2006 at 5:31 PM Post #6 of 23

drarthurwells

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Many CDs have mixed reviews in regard to their sound quality.

Much depends on the audio equipment used by the reviewer. Many highly regarded components have some problem or another in reproducing sound in a natural and realistic way.

I have made component changes from time to time and found changes in which of my CDs sound good and which were bad. There is an interaction effect.

However when you finally eliminate problems from your equipment, you can hear a natural instrumental timbre and realistic presentation from many CDs - the number of bad ones reduces, and then they are mostly bad in parts.

I have achieved this in my systems at a very low cost.

One reference quality CD I use to evaluate components and tube changes in my system is Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" on Philips conducted by Gergeiv. The instrumental timbre is so natural here, when my tube set up is the best sounding one in terms of naturalness and realism. Changes in timbre, to varying degrees of unnaturalness, are readily heard by changing components or tubes in my amp, using this recording.

However, though rated as excellent sound quality in one review, this CD is rated only just slightly above average in another review - a big discrepancy. I am sure my assesement is correct, in agreeing with the former review rather than the latter, and would bet the latter reviewer has problems in his/her system that are unrecognized. Many people do, which is why they are always upgrading in search of the holy grail. I did that myself for 50 years, starting at 10 years old.
 
Jan 10, 2006 at 5:34 PM Post #7 of 23

clarke68

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Two other label recommendations: Chesky and Mapleshade. Everything I've heard from either one sounds incredible...even the free downloadable mp3s from Mapleshade sound good.
 
Jan 10, 2006 at 5:36 PM Post #8 of 23

gtortorella

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Indeed, there are many poorly mastered and/or mixed CD recordings out there. While it is not always an infallible method, I tend to stick with those labels that have impressed me: MA Recordings, Reference Recordings, Dorian Recordings, and Naxos. Naxos, which is essentially a "budget" classical label, catalogues thousands of recordings--most of which costing only $5.99--and many of them are equal or superior to the expensive recordings.
 
Jan 10, 2006 at 6:56 PM Post #9 of 23

bigshot

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If you get stuck with a really badly mastered CD, return it to the store you bought it from. I've done this on several occasions, and they always took them back. Returns for quality reasons will encourage the labels to take more care in their production.

See ya
Steve
 
Jan 10, 2006 at 7:20 PM Post #10 of 23

jagorev

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I buy CD's containing performances by composers and artists who I like, whose aesthetic approaches are consonant with mine. Couldn't care less about the mastering process - a good recording is just icing on top of good music.

Since my tastes lie in the direction of historical performances (much of it before the advent of stereo), I can't be too picky. I count CDs remastered from scratchy 1940s tape recordings (Furtwangler, Kleiber, Toscanini, etc) as among my most treasured possessions, because of their tremendous musical intensity.

Sorry, but I don't listen to equipment (either mine or the recording studio's).
 
Jan 11, 2006 at 1:13 AM Post #11 of 23

bigshot

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Historical recordings are the most prone to being destroyed by shoddy mastering... It's not the pops and clicks that are the problem... It's the draconian methods used by some transfer technicians to use them. The Schnabel Beethoven sonatas are a great example of this. The EMI transfer is massively compressed, robbing Schnabel's performances of much of their expression. (With Schnabel, the notes themselves weren't as important as the *shape* of the notes.) Other transfers make the piano sound like a xylophone. If you are fortunate enough to have a set of the original 78s, or happen to have Mark Obert-Thorne's transfers for Naxos, you know a lot better why these recordings are so highly prized.

The other problem is pitch... many LPs and CDs of historical material are transferred a half tone or more off. This can completely change the character of voices, and will alter the way solo instruments sound. Add to that the fact that there was no RIAA equalization standard in the 78 era... each recording has to be equalized by ear by the transfer engineer. This makes the quality of the mastering of paramount importance for older recordings.

It isn't a matter of listening to equipment... it's making sure that the way it sounds on modern equipment relates to the way it originally sounded when the record was first released.

See ya
Steve
 
Jan 11, 2006 at 1:39 AM Post #12 of 23

jagorev

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bigshot
It isn't a matter of listening to equipment... it's making sure that the way it sounds on modern equipment relates to the way it originally sounded when the record was first released.


Completely agreed. There's some real crapola out there. Don't even get me started on bootleg Italian recordings of Celibidache
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So far, I've been very impressed with Music & Arts' handling of old tape recordings - if you don't get the tape speed exactly correct, you alter the pitch.

Pristine Audio does a great job of transferring old 78s to digital. And they even make everything downloadable as standard MP3s.

BMG's RCA Victor Red Seal series of remasters has been surprisingly good.

Sony Classical, EMI and Deutsche Grammophon have their impressive moments, though I've been let down occassionally as well.

However, most of the historical CDs still trump a lot of stuff from the early days of compact discs and digital recording. 1983-1989 was a bad period, when everyone jumped on the DDD bandwagon and produced some terrible CDs that sound like 128 kbps MP3s.

For modern recordings, Teldec/Telarc has had the most incredible sound quality I've ever experienced. The Barenboim and Harnoncourt Beethoven cycles (both recorded in the last 15 years) are unsurpassed for their combination of beautiful performance and skillful engineering.
 
Jan 11, 2006 at 7:28 AM Post #13 of 23

AintLDS

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Quote:

Originally Posted by jagorev
For modern recordings, Teldec/Telarc has had the most incredible sound quality I've ever experienced. The Barenboim and Harnoncourt Beethoven cycles (both recorded in the last 15 years) are unsurpassed for their combination of beautiful performance and skillful engineering.


Definitely, that Harnoncourt cycle is something. Most of what I've heard from him and his various orchestras is very well done. His Hayden Paris Symphonies on BMG classics is very well recorded also.

I'm definitely sick of buying highly recommended (i.e. Grammophone) recordings only come to find out they are poorly recorded. If you have a well stocked local library, you should make use of it to check out recordings before you buy. This usually works better for classical and jazz than other genres.
 
Jan 11, 2006 at 8:10 AM Post #14 of 23

omedon

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My best suggestion is to listen around and find a label, artist, or engineer you like.

I was snapping up Blue Notes RVG re-issues long before I discovered Hi-Fi and internet music boards. I am also quite fond of some of the Columbia-Legacy editions out there but I find RVG to be a super safe bet. I don't have much ECM (not budget priced like Blue Notes & Legacy) but I find what I have heard to sound superb. Figured all that out with my untrained ears on a panny micro system.

My first batch of Mapleshade Records is on the way as we speak.
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Jan 11, 2006 at 8:19 AM Post #15 of 23

fewtch

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Quite honestly, my musical preferences have changed to favor well recorded material. In my experience, jazz, classical and 'new age' music have the best ratio of good:bad recordings. I was getting out of rock/metal anyway (prefer relaxing music these days vs. sonic angst), so no great loss. Guess this is the lazy man's approach to finding good recordings
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