Without a doubt...it has to be Popllama records out of Seattle. Malt records is also excellent. The fabulous sounds of the pacific northwest...
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I avoid most of the FIM labels. The brand is heavily showered with favourable comments from the Chinese magazines because of the huge spending in advertisement FIM made to those magazines. In general FIM products are but mediocre and it is a shame that even those which failed in sound engineering or playing are held in virtue by those so call famous reviewers.
I want to comment on REISSUES (mostly): The best label for vinyl is Classic Records. I want to get to know Bernie Grundman sometime, since I have his autograph in vinyl a couple of hundred times....for current "recording" labels.......I don't know if there is a "best" label, it depends on what you want. Naxos are not to be missed, just because of their affordablility (quality varies, but all the ones I've heard that were recorded in the last 4 years or so are very good, and are KILLER for the mere $5!!!!). Reference Recordings have awesome dynamics in HDCD, but string tone has never been "right", IMHO, and that goes for their analog tape/vinyl releases also. The problem is either with the mics, or spectral electronics, perhaps...I don't know. It's not with the "digital process", or HDCD process. I still have quite a few of their titles (both vinyl and CD), and they are very enjoyable. I don't know as much about Telarc, although they are legendary...I'll learn. Never heard of Narada. I personally like FIM, they aren't all of equal quality, but are nice in general (the XRCD's). The Riverside XRCD's of Bill Evans are unreal! Mapleshade are decent, I have a few. Several of Analog Productions, esp reissues (Bernie and RTI again) are just killer! All of the 3 Blind Mice jazz reissues are killer. The MCA Heavy Vinyl, esp all of the Jimi Hendrix, are incredible! DCC are quite good, both CD and LP. Speaker's Corner, and other Decca vinyl reissues are not to be missed either. IT IS A GLORIOUS TIME FOR REISSUED VINYL...I can't stress enough, that if you aren't into vinyl, but ever EVEN THINK you might want to get into it...THE TIME IS NOW, and has been for the past 4 or 5 years...stop waiting for the next digital format. Put your money into vinyl, and download Napster files for free, and burn CD-R's later, after they're forced to shut down...I CAN'T STRESS THAT ENOUGH...cheers, Carl
Mapleshade/Wildchild are the best recording label period. Although they record primarily jazz and blues, they have recorded some great country, rock cd's, and without a doubt the best reggae album in the United States. In addition, they also record classical. Nevertheless, their recording techniques are arguemently the best. Because the 'shade doesn't do vinyl, the best label for vinyl is Analogue Productions' reissues and Classic Records. If you want great recordings and great sounds you gotta go Classic. Finally, the most humongous soundstage and incrediable imaging for classic recordings go to The Decca Records/London Records "Phase4stereo" recordings. This series of recordings will scare you if you have a full range speaker set-up that can reproduce all harmonics and fundamentals. AIN'T NO HALF STEPPIN' HERE!