Titles by Category

Grade Explanations:

  • A+ = "must have" title with exemplary content and disc engineering or some other attribute of special merit. To earn an A+, the title should have broad appeal. And it should be something you can enjoy (or use as a teacher) over and over.
  • A = excellent content and satisfactory disc engineering.
  • A- = excellent content with some reservation.
  • B = a good title whose weaknesses you will overlook if the subject interests you.
  • C = damnation with faint praise. But will no doubt have appeal to some folks.
  • D = don't bother to buy it unless you have a real good reason.
  • F = fire somebody for signing off to publish this.
  • X-APH=Audiophile recording, often too expensive to recommend to typical fine-arts fan. See the mini-review for the title for more information.
  • Help! = This title has not been graded yet because we haven't had time to adequately review it. If you are able give us a grade, with reasons, this will help us assign a grade to the title.

Further Comments on Standards for Grading

There are many factors that go into a grade, and most of them are highly subjective. We try to come down with a decision that will help you. We see much good stuff and a surprising lot of bad stuff. When it's bad, we give a bad grade. But we also recognize that we could be wrong and other people will like things that we don't. So we try to give our reasons for a grade, which in turn should help you interpret the the grade for your purposes. If you think our grade is wrong or needs more interpretation, we urge you to state your reasons for thinking this in a comment to the story or tell us what you think directly.

Here are some more specific guidelines we apply in our grading:

  • Sound quality:
    • To get an A+ grade, an HDVD of classical music has to be recorded with 96kHz/24-bit technology (or higher) and the disc must have lossless output (usually now LPCM or dts-HD Master Audio). This is a higher standard than the industry is now used to, so we are giving only a few A+ grades for classical music. For example, we graded down Volodos in Vienna and Lang Lang in Vienna for not meeting our sound standards. These are two stupendously good performances, and it's too bad Sony didn't honor their artists by using state-of-the-art sound technology. 
    • We are not this persnickety about sound specs in operas, ballets, plays, and documentaries. State-of-the-art sound is hard to record and reproduce. We know this can be done for classical music in studios and typical locations where the performers take a position and stay there. Recording an opera is vastly more complicated by the movement of the singers on stage. For ballets, the music is important, but not the main event. So far, only a few operas have state-of-the art sound.  So an opera can get an A+ grade with, say, 48kHz/24-bit sound sampling and lossless output.
  • Picture content:
    • Now we are back again into the subject of DVDitis. The basic problem is that the picture resolution of DVD videos can't give a pleasing picture of an entire stage. This results in a tendency to use near and close-up shots in DVDs which will offer better picture quality to the viewer.
    • In ballet, this results in the "leg amputations" that infuriate dance lovers. In operas you hear the chorus which is singing onstage, but you don't see them. Still, these ills are softened to a considerable degree by the fact that the TV director has to show the whole stage fairly often for the viewer to even understand what is happening. When an opera or ballet that was shot for DVD is republished in Blu-ray, the HD viewer gets a reasonable number of whole-stage shots to enjoy at the higher resolution. So DVDitis is a relatively mild irritation with many or most operas and ballets.
    • DVDitis is usually not a problem with recordings of, say, a solo pianist. The viewer is quite satisfied with one or two shots of the whole stage. The soloist is then recorded from near and close-up positions that look good on DVD and better in HDVD.
    • DVDitis is a huge problem, however, with symphony recordings. With DVD resolution, a shot of the whole symphony has little value---it's just too fuzzy to enjoy. So the practice developed of shooting umpteen close-up shots of the conductor combined with hundreds of short close-up shots of soloists and small groups of players.
      •  TV directors starting viewing themselves as "artists" who determine what the viewer experiences from the performance. We view this as a perverted evil that must be exterminated.
      • And we shall exterminate it with the medicine of the HD video camera! With today's video gear, the TV director can shoot a symphony in a manner that is similar to what a spectator in the live audience would experience (i.e., plenty of whole orchestra shots), and the result is reasonably pleasant. The TV director can then improve on what the live spectator sees with a moderate selection of near and close up shots that follow the score and line-up well with what the spectator is likely to find interesting.
      • Most of the symphony HDVDs we are now getting are infected with gruesome cases of DVDitis. We will reduce one or two letter grades for this, which can easily result in, say, a grade of D+ to C+ for fine performances by world-famous orchestras led by the greatest names in conducting.
      • Who are we to be grading down all these famous people? Well, we are the customers who are supposed to buy the recordings. If you want us to pay $35 for the performance of a single symphony, we want it to be made from scratch as a HDVD recording. We don't want to buy a warmed-over, rancid DVD stuffed into a Blu-ray keepcase.
      • For more on DVDitis, see our long special article on good recordings of symphony concerts.

Last updated January 18, 2017.