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struts
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Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels

Seems to me it's been a bit quiet on the boards recently so I thought a sort of 'omnibus' thread might liven things up.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to nominate one, restraint brothers! (and sisters!)(*), recording that in your view is really state-of-the-art (or SOTA as Todd would have it, although that always sounds like a synthetic foodstuff to me), but not by an 'audiophile' label. In my experience that usually lands us in the 'golden era' of analogue or with digital recordings from the last ten years-or-so. I can enjoy Schnabel, Casals, Knappertsbusch, the Busch Quartet, Toscanini, Furtwangler et al. as much as the next man (or woman), but while the performances may be great, with the best will in the world very few of them provide demonstration quality sound. Think of it as a kind of "Readers' R2D4".

It should go without saying that great performances of beautiful works are preferred! But the principal requirement here is discs that really put you 'in the hall', church, parlor, or whatever. Not the multi-miked, reality-distortion-field kind of stuff that we all know the majors can pump out if we, their rapidly evaporating customer-base, don't keep them honest. Oh, and Red Book only please, no SACD player chez moi at the moment.

Oh, and I know this forum is brimming with such recommendations (thanks Todd!), however I thought it would be nice to gather a sort of 'best-of-the-best' in one place so it's easy for folks to find. My ulterior motive is that I have committed myself to some hardware evaluation projects over the next few weeks and thought it was high time I gave my test-disc roster a makeover!

The reason for ruling out audiophile labels is simple. Given the choice I would rather pay $5 a disc or less, not $25. Probably 99% of my purchases over the last year have been through Amazon marketplace, usually through bucket-shops like Caiman, where I can pick up premium discs from the major labels for about a quarter of the price charged by the most competitive Swedish retailers. That still means I've bought more than my quota of audiophile fare by the way, I'm certainly not trying to drive the small guys out of business!

So, how do we define an audiophile label? Well, since the distinction is only intended to provide the means to an end, which is to drive the supply curve over as far as possible and thereby ensure the most competitive pricing, I propose we use Occam's Razor and shave our audiophile chins (or legs) thus. All labels/discs available through Amazon or equivalent non-specialist channel shall be considered 'non-audiophile'. Discs available through Acoustic Sounds (and as far as I know these sets are mutually exclusive) shall be considered 'audiophile'. Nota bene, this definition is not intended to spark a debate, any fist-fights or send this thread veering off-topic into the audiophile long grass.

So, can I go first?

Thanks. My nomination would have to be Une Larme by Giaocchino Rossini performed by Ensemble Explorations and Roel Dietlens (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901847). Okay, so perhaps DHM is an audiophile label, I am certainly not trying to rob them of that appellation, but I bought this disc for ten bucks recently on Amazon and that, audiophile brothers and sisters, is what counts!

I choose this particular disc because:

  • it is truly beautiful music, spanning almost all of Rossini's productive lifetime
  • it contains some rarer pieces not part of the standard repertoire
  • the playing is superb
  • the recording is, in my humble opinion, a five-star jaw-dropper. Honestly, I would say this disc could make any darn system sound good - if I didn't know I would immediately come to regret it
  • last-but-by-no-means-least I have not seen it mentioned in any of the audiophile press (having said that I'm sure someone will now enlighten me). I can't believe this isn't a reviewer's staple. If it turns out it was 'phile's RotM only last month I can but apologize. My memory is good, but short.

Anyway, get ye onto Amazon, order this disc (rip it onto your hard drive), pour a small glass of your 'preferred beverage' and cue up track 5, the allegro from Duetto pour violincelle et contrabasse. I guarantee you'll be instantly teleported to audiophile nirvana.

I look forward to a shower of responses!

* Okay, Todd, you get two, as an honorable exception!

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels

"Oh, and Red Book only please, no SACD player chez moi at the moment. " Ah but most SACDs will play on your RedBook player because they are hybrids.

Kal

struts
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels

Kal,

You're quite right of course, however I haven't yet seen them hit the price-points that the (presumably higher volume) pure red-book programme is reaching.

Anyway, I'm more than happy leaving this open to any disc with a red-book layer that meets the criteria and can be had at sub-audiophile label prices.

The Nakamichi/J

Jeff Wong
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels

Wouldn't Harmonia Mundi count as an audiophile label? In any case, I've recommended this release in the past in the forums, but, it's worth mentioning again:

S

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels


Quote:
Kal,

You're quite right of course, however I haven't yet seen them hit the price-points that the (presumably higher volume) pure red-book programme is reaching.

Anyway, I'm more than happy leaving this open to any disc with a red-book layer that meets the criteria and can be had at sub-audiophile label prices.

I missed the price criterion.

Kal

struts
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels


Quote:
Wouldn't Harmonia Mundi count as an audiophile label?

Jeff,

Of course it would, at least judged by every parameter except price. Maybe I should have just said great sounding discs that can be had for south of $20 and made this whole thing a lot simpler!

I suppose I was trying to accomplish two things, the price criterion, and also highlighting discs that folks might not expect to sound great because they weren't produced by an 'audiophile' label. If I pony up for an expensive disc from Acoustic Sounds I damn well expect it to sound great! I guess I didn't straighten this out in my own mind before committing fingers to keyboard and the result was ambiguity, which I then compounded with my own recommendation.

So, let's say price/availability is the principal criterion and if the disc is a real stunner but from a major label (which usually means variable quality) then so much the better!

That must mean I can go again!

Soooo....Leif Ove Andsnes's Haydn Piano Sonatas (EMI Classics 7243 5 56756 2 0).

pbarach
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels

One of the best recordings of the Boston Symphony I've heard is Strauss: Don Quixote (Ma, Ozawa) on Sony. It really captures the feeling of a concert hall. (Maybe this is cheating, since the engineer was Jack Renner of Telarc<g>).

Todd
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels

Only two? How about volumes 1 & 2 of Michel Beroff's Debussy cycle on Denon. Superb sound, superb playing (though leaner and more pointed than some Debussy fans may like) and a nice price. (Also - see my recent thread on Nancarrow. That's three, but I can't help it.)

-

struts
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels

Thanks Todd! Your restraint was admirable!

bobedaone
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels

Ben Harper's "The Will to Live" has some engaging cuts and it's very well recorded. I often use it to audition equipment because of its musical complexity and excellent quality. The stereo separation in the beginning of the tenth track, "Glory and Consequence", is so robust that you might think you accidentally twisted your balance knob fully to one side. I highly recommend it.

bobedaone
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Re: Truly excellent recordings by non-audiophile labels

Oops! Sorry, guys, I just saw that this was in the "Classical" section. I quite enjoy Haydn's first and second cello concertos, performed by Yo-Yo Ma and the English Chamber Orchestra and released by Sony Classical. But, then, I'm a sucker for cello.

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