Classical Audiophiles Rejoice!

The audio quality of recordings now available has recently made huge gains with various remastering techniques used by major labels to greatest recordings in their past catalog, and released at mid price! EMI "great recordings of century" uses ART (Abbey Rd tech.), DG uses original image bit processing, Sony uses SBM (superior bit mapping), RCA "living stereo" uses UV22 super CD encoding, DECCA "legends" uses 24bit/96khz digital transfers, etc etc. Even budget lines like Naxos have very good sound! For example I am now listening to Mahler 2nd Sym EMI label Klemperer/Schwarzkopf remastered using ART. I had original CD, and sound was average at best for 1963 recording. What a transformation now, huge gains in every dept.....much larger gain than a Gold CD gives to average recording. Mahler 2 on one CD, mid price, excellent sound quality, great performance with SCHWARZKOPF! Some of the RCA remasters from late 1950s are better than any recordings made today! Any other comments on this subject.......
I agree. Also, the Classic Records vinyl reissues should not be missed by anyone, especially the 12 inch 45 rpm ones!
Thanks for the info Megasam.I had a cd sent by BMG in this 24/96 equiptment pressing format.It was an auto shipment,I saw the 24/96 based re pressing,but I was skeptical,and sent it back.I was angry because it was already on my cc statement.That won't happen again,and thanks again.
Megasam, 100% agreed. I have the same discs you mentioned, I gave the old cd to my friend next day. Bryan
I am not rejoicing. Naxos and some small labels are great, but a lot of what comes lately from the major labels really suck big time. They are mixing them to sound good on cheap stereos and boom boxes in order to sell to the mass market. On high-end equipment the instruments are all way out of balance with a boosted and bloated midrange. Since people don't like the hiss that is in all historical recording they cut off the highs to remove all the hiss, leaving a less than real sounding recording. I listened to some of those DG "Originals" recordings and the strings are a lot louder than the rest of the orchestra. I sit in live classical concerts every month, so I am use to how things should sound. If the microphones are placed well, there should be no reason to do any remixing. That is one reason the Naxos sound good. They are budget discs, so what you get is the raw recording put on discs with no tricks. Most are recorded in churches and old concerts halls in Europe, so the natural room sound comes through as if you are there. I am very wary buying any recent recording or re-mix from the major labels other than Decca/London who have got it right. The Bernstein Century discs from Sony are also good.
Sugarbrie, the comments you make are absolutely correct. That is even more reason to listen to the Classic Records reissues on LP. I have every 45 RPM that Classic has issued. These are pressed from the RCA masters that had music lovers the world over, chasing after the "shaded dogs" pressed in the 1960's. And, if the RCA's masters are not exactly to your taste, much of the Decca masters have been perfectly repressed, and without any remixing on them either. The Decca's are becoming very difficult to find though.
Sugarbrie, I have a couple DG "originals" that I feel may be exaggerated as you say, but I don't feel it applies to entire series, must be judged case by case.....but the other lines DECCA "Legends", EMI "Recordings of the Century" and RCA "Living Stereo" are very successful, I have replaced several of my original CD recordings with these new remasters and find increased 3D soundstage, more bloom, and improved detail, Bernstein reissues all use Sony SBM technology for remasters. I rarely buy new CD releases at full price from major labels, because of huge and mostly superior back catalogs at mid and budget prices, so I cannot comment on current audio quality....regards Sam
Anyone who has been at this audio game for twenty years or more knows that we have recently emerged from the darkest period of recording history into the brightly lit day of digital sound. Nothing was worse than LP's in the late 60's and all 70's into mid-80's. Recordings were ruthlessly manipulated to soup them up, vinyl was recycled garbage and fillers, pressings were done poorly with dirty plates, etc. We would pay $25 or $30 for a "direct to disc" with crappy music by second-rate performers only because we wanted to hear something, anything, which approached real sound. CD's were promising but poorly done initially. There is more music with far higher quality sound now than ever before. Anyone who says differently is a neophyte, or simply stodgy beyond comprehension. Sure, there is still a lot of junk available, many modern classical releases are for illiterates who wouldn't know Mahler from Mozart. Not all the digital sound and remasters are equally well realized, but their intent is to make the best possible sound available to the consumer, and for that they should be applauded. When they get it right, DAMN, they get it great. I hear music now in a way that was not possible 20, or even 10, years ago. If you're a vinyl dinosaur, fine, go that way. But digital technology has opened up a treasure chest of vintage recordings, and the best digital, SACD, is yet to come. The only thing magical about putting a sharpened piece of rock against a distorted piece of rotating plastic to get sound is that some peole are still spellbound by it.
The thing to keep in mind about DG recordings is that their recordings tend to utilize many microphones and a multi-track recorder to be mixed down after the session by their "Tonemeister". They tend to exaggerate most everything in the recording and are very unnatural sounding. Decca, RCA Living Stereo, Mercury Living Presence, Everest, etc... utilized much different recording philosophies than typically used today. They had many fewer microphones and often only had 2 or 3 tracks to work with. Remember that recording technology in the days of RCA was very basic and it forced the engineers to be better at what they did with less equipment. Decca became famous for the Decca tree recording technique and the same configuration is still widely used today. Just as an example Shawn Murphy uses a Decca tree with three Neumann M-50s to record most of his work (most blockbuster movie soundtracks), the same rig Decca pioneered. However, my favorite part about the old Decca recordings is not only the glorious sound but the rumble of the subway beneath Kingsway Hall! Lastly, being a "mainstream" label doesn't neccessarily mean that the label is going to use more or fewer microphones or more or less processing in the mastering phase (DG uses a lot any way you cut it). That is totally dependendent on the recording and mastering engineers and the record label. I can guarantee that often what goes on a disc and what went on the master are two different stories for a modern recording. High quality artificial reverberation is very cheap and easy to add at the mastering phase and done more often than not so don't believe that the sound you hear is the sound of the hall the recording was made in. The amount of loss/change between a commercial CD and the master is sometimes simply mind-boggling. I am fortunate to have heard 1st generation open reel copies of the masters from many of the labels discussed here and can say that on modern playback equipment, you would be hard pressed to find a recording made today that can match these old classics... especially the Deccas!
I am glad I was able to stir some debate. To clarify further, the problem with a lot of remastering is that while the strings, winds, brass, etc sound very clear on all of these new reissues; the sound you are hearing while clear is not how the real instruments sound. They all sound fake to me. If is not possible to improve the sound of an original master recording without altering the sound. That is what I mean when I say they sound terrible; it's not the clarity it is how natural the instuments in the recordings sound. Also the balance is way off. On a lot of concerto recordings the solo instrument has been enhanced and is now in your face, along with maybe the strings, while the rest of the orchestra is playing a block away behind a curtain. On new recordings the practice in many cases is to put microphones pratically inside every instrument, so what you end up with is not the sound of an orchestra playing together, but the sound of many instruments recorded separately and then mixed together by some sound engineer. Also then, why tinker with the artistry of two chamber musicians playing together as one voice and turn it into two instruments mixed by a machine into something else??? Luckily some groups are going back to using a few microphones placed in the hall in front of the stage to capture the sound of the ensemble as a whole, which gives the listener the the feel of sitting in the concert hall. The Decca/London reissues I was referring to are on CD, not vinyl. They go by "The classic Sound" series. Decca did not try to remove all the hiss in the master, thereby preserving the original sparkle in the playing. They also did not boost the midrange to please the boombox crowd. Happy listening!! After all, if it sounds good to you, then in the end that is all that really matters.
Madisonears has a swearword in caps...needs to be warned of your policy immediately.
Madisonears absolutely has a swear word in his posting. The word was DIGITAL. If he thinks this is enlightenment, perhaps he also prefers fluorescent light to daylight. The modern fluorescent was advertised to be perfect light with long life (sound like the promise of CD?) However, there are many of us that are actually bothered by the flickering at 60 times per second. You say that the human eye cannot see the flickering at 60 times per second? Well, sit under a room full for 8 hours, and tell me which is better the Sun, or fluro's? The comparison is not that far apart. Digital is an approximation, that means it is trying to be analog. And, it does switch on and off to try to trace the signal that true analog can do. Perhaps today's digital will beat the analog of 10 or 20 years ago, but guess what? All things change, and some of today's analog is absolutely astounding.
Anyway, Audiogon has threatened to revoke my membership for doing what the so-called "ears" guy did, so all of you should be warned against it.
If you listen solely or mostly to classical on CD, you'll find a lot of variation in production values. I love Naxos for their extensive (and very rapidly growing) catalog of 20th century works. Their problem is that the production value is not very consistent. Fortunately, it's not much of a gamble for me to buy a disk for $6 to find out whether it was recorded as well as the Vaughn Williams disk or as poorly as the Creston symphonies that I recently purchased (although these are a couple of great pieces, and I do think that the purchase was worth it). Some of the new HP line of disks sound wonderful. I found the Bartok/Kodaly at a Border's outlet for 4.99, because it was missing the jacket booklet. I've already got 3 or 4 recordings of both pieces, so I can't imagine that there's much in that book that I haven't already read, or that I didn't learn in 3 years of Music History class in college. Anyway, the recording is fabulous. At the quiet beginning of the Concerto for Orchestra, there is an incredible palpability to the winds. Hey, for anyone who's interested in Classical(I'll probably regret letting the cat out of the bag), I've found that I have very little reason to buy disks at full price. Check out Since most classical works have been recorded many many times, you're bound to find multiple recordings of almost anything. Happy listening!
I wish you could hear Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra on 45 rpm vinyl...
As do I. I wish that you could've heard Cleveland play it at Severance Hall three or four years ago. Truly a fine performance! I'm not particularly interested in debating the finer points of vinyl vs. cd, since I don't have the time, money, inkling or need to purchase anything on vinyl. Unfortunately for me, the music is actually more important than the hi-fi. Although I have spent what, for me (and for my wife), is a tremendous amount of money on my system, I really enjoy the music too much to worry about investing in vinyl. I've listened to the most recently released pieces of music by one of my favorite living composers, Mark-Anthony Turnage, as they are released. I doubt that it would be easy to find such recordings on vinyl. Even harder for me to listen to them, since the only turntable I own is an old Pioneer from the mid-'70s, and it's in storage. I appreciate your love of vinyl, but I am very satisfied with the ability to easily find any recording that I wish immediately on CD. The Meridian player that I own has given me a great amount of satisfaction with CDs. The enjoyment of music is why I don't particularly mind buying a Naxos CD that sounds like it was recorded from under a dozen wet towels. As long as the music is good, who cares?! I admit that I love the excitement of high-end audio and the experience of a great recording (try any of the recordings on the RR label), but that isn't what ultimately does it for me (This isn't to say, of course, that I am willing to go back to the pathetic Jensen speakers that I owned in college.).
Kurtisjeffers, the posting does say, (I quote) "Some of the RCA remasters from late 1950s are better than any recordings made today! Any other comments on this subject.......". I think Carl did just that. The recording he is speaking of is from that era, and is an excellent performance. I understand why you prefer CD, and I certainly understand why you prefer a performance at Severance Hall, but this is not only a music site, but an audiophile site as well. The comments concerning format are generally passionate, as this is the next most important thing, aside from the performance itself. So if someone here wants the same quality performance as you, but prefers a format that they believe is superior, it is not wrong. In a sense it is an attempt to share. Much like the postings that perhaps claim that the Black Crows are better than anything classical or maybe that Bartok is superior to Ray Charles.
Kurtis, it is good to hear that you appreciate fine music, and I apologize for offending your software sensibilities regarding vinyl. For what it's worth, I too enjoy CD playback, have many RR and Naxos titles. So perhaps you assume too much in that area. Look, I'm happy that you've spent so much money, and that you have a decent CD player. Mine is perhaps better, and yes, I agree that it is good to be able to buy any title you might want in whatever format you want. Unfortunately, you can NOT buy every title you want in a SINGLE format. And as far as the reissues Albert and I are speaking of goes, you need to educate yourself more, before you speak out about them................And Albert, thanks again for shedding light in this area. Also, very thoughtful of you to point out that I was merely responding to Megasam's suggestion, afterall.
Guys, although you are correct RCA vinyl from late 50s, especially Reiner/Chicago, is fabulous, I was refering to RCA "living Stereo" CD remasters from that period which are also mainly Reiner/Chicago and some sound as good as any classical CD orchestra recordings made today using current state of the art recording techniques. Unfortunately only limited selection currently available. Kurtis that Berkshire CD site has tons of smaller label catalogs at really low Naxos range prices, I'm sure many of them are quite well many CDs, so little time. And regarding the CD/Vinyl format comparisons, the single most important advantage CD has which I never hear anyone mention is the ability to program tracks. I can think of very few albums where I want to hear all tracks, CD allows programing of tracks, eliminates flipping over record, don't have to clean record each time to play etc. My Linn LP12 front end became too much work, and although it had qualities I miss, I went digital now I have more time to relax and enjoy the music...regards Sam
Megasam, You could also add that with CD, you can enjoy the entire performance, without interruption. In that sense, CD can present the performance as you would enjoy it live, where LP requires a break to turn over or even change discs. For those of us that at LP junkies, it is a frustrating problem.
I have 9 of the 10 Apogee remastered Living Stereo CD's, and I do like them very much, but the fidelity doesn't compare to even the 33 rpm vinly reissues...much less the 45 rpm ones. I do appreciate the convenience of CD. Again, that's why I enjoy both.
Albert have you heard the story that when Phillips NV was deciding what size to make Cds, Karajan told them it should be big enough to hold entire performance of beethoven 9th uninterrupted, so that is how they came up with current size disc......Carl you are true audiophile, do you have any money left over for any other hobbies, hehehe....regards Sam
That is a wonderful story. Only a conductor as great a Karajan would have enough sway with the Dutch to make such a demand.
Megasam, I should ask you the same question, since your system and music collection likely costs at lest 5 times what mine costs. Yes, I have another expensive hobby (for me, anyway). I like to ride dirtbikes and ATV's. I'm not rich like most of you are, and it's kind of not cool to point that out...
I certainly did not intend to suggest anything resembling a format war. Obviously each of the above formats has its advantages. I only wish that I could hear quality vinyl recordings. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of dealers in my area, and even fewer who carry any phono equipment. I have to wade through the ever deepening bog of home theater to find a few two-channel components. I am just glad that there are others on this website who enjoy "classical" as much as I do! I have begun (more than begun), however, to feel a certain weariness with the CD vs. vinyl battle into which every Audiogon thread seems to transform. Back to the original thread topic: does anyone know anything about the Collins label? I was at the Border's Outlet yesterday, and they just got in a shipment of Britten disks on this label. I didn't have any scratch with me, though, and didn't end up buying anything. How is the sound on these disks? And Carl, don't feel bad. I am anything but rich myself. Just obsessed.