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ohfourohnine
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Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

Went out today and bought a couple of Naxos recordings. I'd never bought any of that label before, but I wanted to give a listen to some of Marin Alsop's work and that was the only game in town. The first one I tried was the Brahms First Symphony with Alsop conducting the London Philharmonic. I thought I might be having a bad day when I had to strain to hear the pizzacato strings early in the first movement, but then my wife who was far from the sweet spot and listening only casually while doing something else spoke up and said, "What's wrong with the system? Everything sounds muddled." She was absolutely right. I stopped the record and put on the London CD of the CSO/Solti performance and everything was as expected - nothing wrong with the system, just a really lousy recording. Since I was in the mood to hear the Brahms, I switched again to the London vinyl of the CSO/Solti. This was better still, and provided the whole symphony.

My other purchase was Alsop again conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Orchestra doing a variety of Bernstein stuff including the Chichester Psalms and excerpts from On the Town and On the Waterfront. Sonically, this recording was all one could ask from a CD and gave me a chance to enjoy what the conductor and the musicians were doing. Marin Alsop is definitely worth another listen, but is Naxos the answer?

Two recordings - really a small sample. One just fine and the other atrocious. I don't like the idea of writing off a label with lots of apparently interesting stuff in their catalog and budget pricing, but if half of what you buy are throw-aways the pricing is lots less attractive.

Someone out there must have a lot more familiarity with Naxos than I do. What can you tell me?

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

It's a crap shoot with many labels if you don't read reviews first. Perhaps, Naxos is a long odds situation since they use so many different recording teams. I did find their Brahms kinda muddy in stereo but with more detail and open-ness in MCH.

Kal

Yiangos
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

Hiya Clay

I only own 2 Naxos cds.Both samplers i bought ages ago.
You have to understand Naxos is a budged label.It is not meant for audiophiles with equipment most of us have.I know this is not an excuse for bad sonics but to be honest,i did not find those two samplers terrible sounding.Of course there weren't that great either lol Anyway,sonics aside,i did find many pieces from Vivaldi and Mozart quite refreshing but i have to admit,i would never go out and purchase full titles from that company.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

Clay,

Like you and Kal I find Naxos quality variable, but there are some cheap treasures to be had. This is not leveled at us per se, but for most and the MP3 crowd it is a great place to create a first time classical collection. I just love browsing their FREE catalog (paperback book). I feel like I should support such an effort to some degree.

There is no question that from Telarc and others there are great performances captured by great recording engineers, ie Tony Faulkner, Jack Renner. You probably have many LPs that will sound better than some Naxos CDs. For $7-8 bucks I'll take my chances and usually get pretty lucky.

You have just helped us to know one to avoid.

Todd
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

Naxos is more variable than audiophile and major labels soundwise. Performance wise, too. Generally, for standard rep, I generally don't go for Naxos, instead relying on them for lesser known works. Even there, the Naxos record is spotty.

The best examples of Naxos getting sound and performance right would be any of the Ned Rorem discs; the Mahler 8 with Antoni Wit (standard rep, I know, but quite fine); the last two volumes of Szymanowski's piano music (the first two have fine performances is not so hot sound); the disc of Takemitsu's chamber music (though it's a bit bright); the Antoni Wit led Lutoslawski series (almost all the performances are superb, the sound varying from average to superb); Leif Segerstam's recording of Wozzeck; Zdenek Kosler

ohfourohnine
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

Thanks for the specific recommendations, Todd. I was hoping I'd find someone who had more familiarity with the label because some of the listings are, as I said, quite tempting at the price.

Logan
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

I have some excellent/good Naxos recordings. I also have some that are mediocre. I have some excellent/good Decca/EMI/DG/Sony/CBS/RCA/(you name the label) recordings. I have bad recordings from the same, more noted labels. So why pick on Naxos?

Performance quality, recording techniques and equipment, and the recording venue all play a part. For instance I've just been listening to the Gergiev recordings of the complete Prokofiev symphonies (Philips). I have no idea as to the quality of these performances because the sonics are so bad. Why? Because the London venue (Barbican Hall) is an acoustic disaster. But this does not mean that Philips is a lousy or an unreliable label per se.

ohfourohnine
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

With all due respect, Logan, I wasn't "picking on" Naxos, I was asking for advice. Out of a sample of two records - nearly the smallest possible sample - I got one excellent and one horrible record. I was particularly disappointed because the Brahms was the bad one and I'd hoped it would be the vehicle for me to get some measure of Marin Alsop's conducting. Given the orchestra involved and the venue, it seemed reasonable that a first class recording team might have been assigned. Obviously that wasn't the case, nor did anyone in post-production make what would have been the wise decision to scrap the product of that recording session. That aside, my post had the purpose of learning from those with more familiarity than I with Naxos, whether such sonic atrocities as the Brahms First were the exception or the rule. Apart from your response, my question was answered as I'd hoped, with some specific recommendations of the best offerings the label has produced as well as an acknowlegement that Naxos purchases are, indeed, something of a crap shoot. In the future I'll depend on reviewers to screen Naxos offerings for me.

My apologies to you for having apparently posted in a manner that allowed for so much misinterpretation on your part.

Logan
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

No offence taken.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

This all goes back to something we have touched on lightly in the past as to how an audio engineer who just "shows up" and really doesn't agonize over the final sound he is in the midst of capturing. This is a serious matter as most of these chaps are not dealing with Behringer mixers and mics and really have no excuse for such an end product.

We know the performers are excellent, and maybe not the absolute best, but very accomplished none the less, and deserve a good recording.

Some things you can try and fix in mastering, but you would rather start with a well adjusted recording effort dealing with the sound of the venue first hand and not try to EQ it later on.

My example would be Ray Kimber and JA's latest effort with the Iso-Mic and the floor covering in front of the piano, not something you would generally see in a live performance. This allows two great engineers to adjust the environment to better capture a great performance.

Jeff Wong
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

Clay - You might want to start with Sam Tellig's Naxos recommendations from 2000:

http://www.stereophile.com/interviews/254/index5.html

ohfourohnine
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Re: Naxos - Is it the ultimate crap shoot?

If you decide to charge for research services, I'm in trouble, Jeff. Thanks again. I've copied the file and I figure since I've taken his old nickname and some of his advice regarding equipment, I might as well give his musical recommendations a chance.

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