Based on my own experience over the years, I'd say the following labels can be generally relied on to have releases that have high quality audio: Dorian; Reference Recordings; Telarc; Erato; Harmonia Mundi; Opus 3; Proprius; BIS; Water Lily; Astree; M-A; Nimbus; Analogue Productions; and Mapleshade. Going back 40+ years, the RCA Living Stereo LP's, as well as the Mercury Living Presence LP's, had superb sound, and many of those old releases have been re-issued (some are coming out again on JVC XRCD).
Among the major classical labels, you can usually also count on Sony, Phillips, London, Decca, and (sometimes) DG to offer good music and good sound. Among jazz labels, you can usually count on getting pretty fair audio quality on: Blue Note; Verve; Soul Note; Black Saint; ECM; Contemporary; and Chesky (not very many genuine jazz releases, but the ones they've done have both good music and good sonics). The other labels that release jazz, such as Atlantic, Columbia, etc., have had mixed success with recordings that have both good music and good audio quality. Among the jazz re-issue labels, I have generally been satisfied-to-pleased with the older recordings done by Contemporary and Riverside.
I agree with Sdcampbell and in addition, you can checkout certain Japan Import CDs (these offer a wider variety of music). XRCD's are generally well done.
Most people w/ our disease generally can agree on whether or not a given recording provides good resolution, tonal quality and dynamic range, but opinions are like .... and nearly everyone dislikes some great artistic achievments that are beautifully recorded. Gotta agree w/ the above, (especially w/ ECM and Soul Note). Here are a few other labels that send a jolt of electricity though the fingers and brain when I get to hit the record stores:
IDA(France), Justin Time(U.S.,CAN.), CMP(Germany),9Winds,(U.S.),Creativeman(Jap.),Red,(Italy)Arabesque(U.S.)Intakt(Switz.), Ramboy(Neth.), Buzz(U.S./Neth.), Intuition(U.S.), Tone Center(U.S.), Cryptogramophone(U.S.), Koch(Int.), Ambiences Magnetiques(Can.), Songlines(Can), Hat(Switz), Cuneiform(U.S.),New World Records/Crosscurrents(U.S.), Tzadik(U.S.), Day Eight Music(Swed.), Enja/Tutu(U.S.), Jazz Haus(Ger.), Avant(Jap.), Carbon7(Bel.), GM(U.S.), NaxosJazz(Int.), Altri Suoni(Italy), Brain(Ger.).
You probably have found a few landmines if you're purchasing by the label. The artist and instrumentation info(if available) on the back can also provide good clues when you're on the hunt for new audio intoxicants. Good luck, save some for the rest of us!
some great information, guys! i'd add 4ad, tomato, red house and ryko. BTW, sad news from the most recent TAS: nimbus has gone under. buy what you can while there's still some stock on the shelves. -cfb
Here are a few other labels that I should have included on my first post: Teldec (German); Lyrita (small British label); and two labels that I think are now defunct, Supraphon and Hungaraton. These two latter labels were Czech/Hungarian, and they issued some excellent classical LP's during the 1970's and 1980's. Some of their catalog may have been re-issued on CD.
A Japanese label that issued a limited number of D-to-D LP's in the late 1970's and early 1980's was East Wind. And, staying with the D-to-D LP theme, there were also some good recordings from M&K, Crystal Clear, and Century Records.
The other jazz label which also deserved mention is Concord Records, founded and operated by Carl Jefferson (he also started the Concord Jazz Festival). Concord has consistently released some of the best sounding jazz recordings which, happily, also contain some first-rate mainstream jazz. I've also been impressed by the sound quality of the releases on Premonition Records (Patricia Barber's label.)
Last: Sundazed Records has been getting some great write-ups about the quality of their re-issue catalog (such as the mono LP's done by Bob Dylan). I have not heard any of their stuff, and thus will have to let others comment from direct experience.
I agree with the above suggestions of the XRCD offerings.
I have heard that MFSL is to be making a comeback...any truth to this?
I may be crazy,,..but I have never had any of the Telarc's that I buy capture my inner brain/ear thing that get's you into the music? Can't say as to why.
Thanks for all the info. Those labels should keep me hunting for awhile. Let the games begin.
After I made my 2nd post, I pulled out some CD's to listen to while working on the computer, and realized that I had forgotten to mention a jazz label that I've grown to like quite a bit: OmniTone. They have a small but very nice catalog, and all of the releases I've purchased have excellent audio quality. One of the recent releases was a Grammy nominee.
Their Web address is: www.omnitone.com
Very good observation Whatjd regarding the Telarc Label.
This label has produced consistently muddy sonics and lackluster upper treble , robbing the music of the sparkle that captures the excitement of live.
Regardless of their huge cult status, and overwhelming popularity, MFSL, seems to have done the same thing on a majority of releases. This quality, we'll call it thickish, is, in its own way, just as annoying as the "tear your head off" thin and bright school of recordings...Just my view......Frank
Somebody mentioned in another thread that "mapleleaf" (?) produces very good recordings. But I couldn't find any information about that label any more. Does any one know the label?
Aliu, I've not heard of mapleleaf...but there is a lable called MapleShade.
SD, Supraphon still exists, I picked up a recently-recorded Mahler 9th with Macaal and the Prague Symphony (I think) when I was in Prague last year, along with a number of other titles. Might currently need a US importer. Recording quality was good, not great--sounds like the recording equipment is not up to current best standards, but certainly respectable. On the Telarc comments, I know what the complaints are about, although they work quite well on my speaker system, which is a quasi-omni, wide dispersion speaker system. I would imagine it has to do a lot with their spaced omni recording technique, which certainly is not conducive to pinpoint imaging or spotlighting individual instruments in a soundstage. I do note that some of the Telarcs recorded overseas with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, which had Malkinson and Tony Faulkner, I believe, doing the engineering, sound quite different than the usual Telarc house sound and may be more to your liking. On thread, I generally concur with SD's recommendations, though I would add Delos to the list of high quality classical labels (some of their early recordings were a bit bright, but on the whole they are excellently engineered).