recommended versions of Beethoven symphonies?

anybody got any favorite versions of Beethoven symphonies?
I just got into the 9th and am floored by it's brilliance. I would like to become familiar with the better recordings of it and the others (the best performances as good as available sonically). I have a vinyl copy whose sonics are great and the orchestra seems excellent; but I'm new to these waters. It is a Japanese pressing from 1977; dennon "pcm recording" (mfg'd by Nippon Columbia co.). vaclav neumann conducting the czech philharmonic orchestra; prague philharmonic choir. I stumbled on this in mint condition for $6.00 and it blew me away (very intricate and subtle instumentation). so i went out and got all 9 in a set on cd: the Karajan 1963 versions, remastered 1997 on Deutsche Grammaphone. this seems to be recommended by some as "the best". I dunno about that but the 9th and the 1st (all i've heard so far) are certainly amazing! very powerful! quite different in places in approach from the vinyl 9th described above.
So: what else should I seek out?
Thanks very much for your thoughts.
I am too tired to look it up, so here is an earlier thread on the same subject.
IF YOU CAN GET IT: the early Karajan on vinyl.
The by far best recording of the so often played 5th is Carlos Kleiber with the VPO
Good luck!
If you search by Beethoven in the old threads, you will get lots of hits. The thread I listed above is for a box set of all 9 symphonies. There are others recommending individual symphonies. The Kleiber 5th on DG is a top choice for that one for the perfomance.
Sugarbrie, thanks. I just did some hunting and found a lot.
If anyone has a recommendation and did not post it before, please do. I want as much info and as many opinions as I can get.
Since Vaclav Neumann is mentioned here, I would like to suggest another recording of his live performance (dated December 14, 1989) of Beethoven Symphony No. 9 (op. 125) to show my personal respect to a hero who loves his "Ma Vlast" so much that he even resigned from the position of Gewandhausorchester Leipzip when the Prague Spring of 1968 happened.

Just want to share with you few words from Vaclav Neumann regarding that performance:

"On this recoding I can still very much feel the excitement of the moment, for on that evening we were all participants in an event of great solemnity. I hope this compact dick will stand as a permanent reminder of those unforgettable days in the autumn of 1989 that at last provided a conclusion to what had been hinted at with such promise by the Prague Spring of 1968."

Hope all of you will enjoy this recording.

Give the cycle recorded by John Eliot Gardiner a try. When it came out, it was a fresh rediscovery of the sometimes revolutionary energy Beethoven's symphonies can have.
thanks Hassel, I have been listening to many versions over the last 10 days and the diferences are startling. I had not tried the Gardiner, but I will based on your suggestion.
The Karajan 6th sounds like he's in a rush to get to his next engagement. I suggest instead the Karl Boehm version with the Vienna Philharmonic. The Karajan 9th (1963) is the best I've heard so far.
I also like the Gardiner cycle. Period Orchestration and instruments. 20th century recordings are typically with larger orchestras which can obscure some of the subtle detail of this glorious music. The Gardiner cycle as a whole are very transparent with good overall performances and highly recommended.

Of course there are individual performances that stand out, One can never forget Bernstein's 7th at Tanglewood, one of my very favorites.
i wouldn't usually recommend this to someone new to beethoven, but as you appear to be venturing off into the HIP of beethoven (gardiner) i would suggest you give Harnoncourt's performances a listen. He doesn't restrict his instruments to period ones (horns) nor does he try to replicate the "original performance". all and all i find his work very enjoyable. it sounds a little closer to modern performances than gardiner or norrington but with a much leaner score(than in modern).
I do like the Harnoncourt a lot, it is one of the sets I got 2 weeks back. I also am enjoying the current Barenboim, another non period non historical performance (the playing is incredible and the recording very beautiful). also the Kleiber 5th (and 7th) on xrcd are great as suggested. Despite the fact that a lot of people remark that the Karajan is "heavy handed" or whatever, each time I come back to it and put it on it I am very happy to hear it (especially the ones I've found so far on vinyl). Furtwangler is...Furtwangler. like a rock, you can't argue with it. but on cd anyway the sound quality is so lacking that I gravitate to the other versions. (I don't have his live 9th yet, though).

Otto, thanks for the Neumann live recommendation (and the quote). I look forward to finding it.
Bruno Walter with the great Columbia S.O.
The 1963 recording of the 9th by Karajan, released several times by DG is still the best 9th IMO.
Then again, don't think I've ever heard a performance or recording of ANY Beethoven symphony that did not do the music justice.
It's the music!!!! Just listen to the music!!!!
No need to worry about who plays it.....
I agree that the 1963 Karajan 9th in rarefied company as among the best recordings of this great work. However, focusing just on the music and not the sound I would place it at best in the middle of my list of greats. While the sound on the following performances is not that great the performances all are:

Weingartner VPO 1935
Furtwangler Lucerne 1954
Furtwangler Bayreuth 1948
Toscanini NBC 1938
Mengelberg Concertgebouw 1938
Klemperer Philharmonia Live 1957

All are readily available on CD.
The 1963 Karajan recording is not tops in sound, but is still surprisingly good if one gets one of the 20-bit remaster cd's. However, any of the more recent recordings will have better sound quality.
My parents were at that Tanglewood concert of Bernstein "Last Concert) conducting the 7th.
hummm, I've read somewhere (Gramophone maybe), that there is some such thing as "Karajan groupies"...?!...
Willem Mengelberg with Concertgebouw. His performances IMHO really capture the spirit of Beethoven... spontaniety, a sense of making it up as we go, weight, elegance, humanity, and divinity. If there were any recordings with Bruno Walter and Vienna Phil, that would be something too.