Author Topic: Best recording label for recording sound  (Read 2249 times)

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Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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Best recording label for recording sound
« on: August 12, 2021, 06:02:06 AM »
What is a recording label/company providing the best quality of recording sound in general iyo? I know it depends on time period, music format, instruments, etc. Also, any opinion on the recording sound of Chandos, CPO, and BIS? Which do you like best? Any Naxos recording with good/effective recording sound?
« Last Edit: August 12, 2021, 08:12:57 AM by Dry Brett Kavanaugh »

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Recording label for best recording sound
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2021, 06:46:22 AM »
What is a recording label/company providing the best quality of recording sound in general iyo? I know it depends on time period, music format, instruments, etc. Also, any opinion on the recording sound of Chandos, CPO, and BIS? Which do you like best? Any Naxos recordings providing a good/effective recording sound?

Thanks to matured digital technology recorded sound quality has been 100 % about the skills of the sound engineer(s) for the last 25 years or so. Any label can produce great recorded sound and for example 21st century recordings done by Naxos are often very good. Same with Chandos, CPO, and BIS. Two labels which I find stellar are Mirare and Sony.
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Offline Daverz

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2021, 07:30:16 AM »
I'd add Ondine, Alba, and Dacapo.  But I agree with 71dB that standards are very high these days, apart from the occasional clinker.  So this doesn't really guide my purchase decisions nearly as much as repertoire and artists do

Offline Brian

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2021, 07:41:58 AM »
Generally speaking on an across-label basis, I'd agree with BIS, Tacet, Reference Recordings, Ondine as being a cut above even in today's standards.

But standards generally speaking are very high. I agree with all the prior comments on that.

There are some labels which accept recordings offered to them by third-party producers or by performers who license the rights to the label. In these cases, the label cannot always uphold its normal standards. This is common on MSR Classics, Avie, and Onyx (though Onyx is usually very high quality), and is also somewhat common on Deutsche Grammophon and Naxos. It also happens on BIS, but on BIS the referrer is usually the producer/engineer, not the artist.

On these labels, you can generally tell by the producer name or fine print copyright; for example, Naxos employs people like Norbert Kraft, Tim Handley, and Sean Lewis - guarantees of a top-notch modern recording - but occasionally you'll see a release that's been recorded somewhere like a college recital hall in Oklahoma (as recently happened in the Scarlatti series) which the label may have had less involvement with.

One label I find frequently disappointing is Hyperion's solo piano engineering style. There are definitely exceptions, but as a whole Hyperion favors closeup piano recordings which take a bit of color and resonance away in favor of intimacy and clarity.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2021, 07:57:21 AM »
The older cpo were often produced by some of the people who later became MDG.
But both cpo and Naxos have productions from different teams and sources, including co-productions with European broadcasting stations. For their more recent recordings, the sound is usually very good, but it is varying because of this. Oehms/Arte Nova recordings are also often from German/Austrian radio and generally very good, especially for a comparably cheap label.
Older (up to early 1990s or so) Naxos (and also Marco Polo, some of which was later re-issued on Naxos) could have worse than average sound, probably due to cheap conditions in Eastern Europe (not true for all things produced in Eastern Europe, of course).
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2021, 08:49:12 AM »
What is a recording label/company providing the best quality of recording sound in general iyo? I know it depends on time period, music format, instruments, etc. Also, any opinion on the recording sound of Chandos, CPO, and BIS? Which do you like best? Any Naxos recording with good/effective recording sound?

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2021, 08:50:47 AM »
A lot depends on what you mean by best recorded sound. Do you mean the most realistic, the most truthful sound. Or do you mean one which has been engineered to produce the most polished and beautiful sound. I am firmly in the former camp. I want the sound of my music at home fo resemble the sound of music in a concert.
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Offline T. D.

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2021, 08:53:27 AM »
The older cpo were often produced by some of the people who later became MDG.
But both cpo and Naxos have productions from different teams and sources, including co-productions with European broadcasting stations. For their more recent recordings, the sound is usually very good, but it is varying because of this. Oehms/Arte Nova recordings are also often from German/Austrian radio and generally very good, especially for a comparably cheap label.
Older (up to early 1990s or so) Naxos (and also Marco Polo, some of which was later re-issued on Naxos) could have worse than average sound, probably due to cheap conditions in Eastern Europe (not true for all things produced in Eastern Europe, of course).

I don't buy much Naxos, and most of my Naxoi are the older vintage, often with less than ideal sound.
All the older Naxoi I pulled off the shelf seem to have been recorded in the performers' home countries (UK, NL, H). So I suspect that the most Naxos provided was engineering; performers would have been responsible for at least the venues.

Offline Brewski

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2021, 08:58:36 AM »
Agree with many of the comments above. We really do live in an age in which excellent recorded sound is (or should be) almost a given.

If I had to choose one label for sound quality alone, my vote would go to Reference Recordings, by a hair. One example is this Rachmaninoff disc with Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra, from 2001. It's hardly a favorite, performance-wise (not awful, just "meh"), but the sound quality is extraordinarily vivid and present.

https://referencerecordings.com/recording/rachmaninoff-symphonic-dances/

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2021, 09:01:38 AM »
For sound that meets my personal standards, my favorites are BIS and Winter & Winter. W&W are fabulous, as well as mainly recording music and players I really like, a great combination. :)

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Offline deprofundis

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2021, 09:13:25 AM »
ZIG ZAG
AEON
CALIOPE
COVELIO
LINN
BIS
Musique en Wallonie
ORF
CHRISTOPHORUS
« Last Edit: August 12, 2021, 12:35:25 PM by deprofundis »

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2021, 10:01:09 AM »
Channel Classics, Linn Records and Reference Recordings


Offline Que

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2021, 11:11:07 AM »
DIVOX, Aeolus

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2021, 12:09:24 PM »
I'm fond of the BIS and MDG sounds. Modern day Naxos has excellent sound, pre-2000, maybe less so. For older labels I've always really liked the old Philips analog sound, and the Columbia sound. I love the RCA Victor Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence stuff, too, though far from what anyone would call state of the art nowadays.

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2021, 12:29:56 PM »
I'm fond of the BIS and MDG sounds. Modern day Naxos has excellent sound, pre-2000, maybe less so. For older labels I've always really liked the old Philips analog sound, and the Columbia sound. I love the RCA Victor Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence stuff, too, though far from what anyone would call state of the art nowadays.

Yes that living stereo series is just amazing!

Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2021, 04:34:08 PM »
A lot depends on what you mean by best recorded sound. Do you mean the most realistic, the most truthful sound. Or do you mean one which has been engineered to produce the most polished and beautiful sound. I am firmly in the former camp. I want the sound of my music at home fo resemble the sound of music in a concert.

Very good point! Probably the former is a good presentation of performance while the latter is a nice presentation of works/compositions.


I love the RCA Victor Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence stuff, too, though far from what anyone would call state of the art nowadays.

+1. I love their thick sound!


Offline Jo498

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2021, 12:38:00 AM »
I don't buy much Naxos, and most of my Naxoi are the older vintage, often with less than ideal sound.
All the older Naxoi I pulled off the shelf seem to have been recorded in the performers' home countries (UK, NL, H). So I suspect that the most Naxos provided was engineering; performers would have been responsible for at least the venues.
Many of the 1990s Naxos recordings were done in some church in Budapest and are a bit reverberant. E.g. many of the Kodaly or Eder Quartet recordings. They are still decent, the sound will not distract most listeners, I think. In fairness one should admit that in the 1980s and 90s major labels or expensive independents didn't always have great sound either. More recent Naxos usually have better sound but as they are from so many sources, it is impossible to tell in general.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
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Offline 71 dB

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2021, 03:01:15 AM »
One label I find frequently disappointing is Hyperion's solo piano engineering style. There are definitely exceptions, but as a whole Hyperion favors closeup piano recordings which take a bit of color and resonance away in favor of intimacy and clarity.

Solo piano music in general seems to be challenging to record, because piano is so large instrument. When the object radiating sound is larger than the distant of the microphone, it is near field which has its own characteristics (sound from different parts of the instrument arrive to the microphone at differing time delay and with differing distance attenuation. When the microphone distance is much larger than the instrument size, it is far field. The time differences and distance attenuations are very small and the instrument is a point source. Of course the further away you are the more reverberation plays a role in the overall sound. Also, people want the piano sound stereophonic, lower notes on the left and higher notes on the right. That is impossible recording from a distance. Solo violin music is much easier, because you can go much closer to the instrument before you are in the near field and nobody expects solo violin sound anything else than than a monophonic sound source. The spatiality comes from early reflections and reverberation.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page <-- NEW track "Jazzz"

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2021, 04:11:39 AM »
In fairness one should admit that in the 1980s and 90s major labels or expensive independents didn't always have great sound either.

Yes I think in general the best sounding recordings came from the 70s and the 00s to present time.

Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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Re: Best recording label for recording sound
« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2021, 04:41:12 AM »
It seems that anytime, we tend to contemporaneously think that the sound quality is best “now.” But decades later, we acknowledge variable sound quality in the same recordings retrospectively.