I’ve been thinking for a while to put together a comprehensive, but by no means complete, list of Hi-Def audio labels so as to offer choices for top-notch sound quality to be purchased for pleasure, or for demonstrational purposes (when the neighbour comes around to justify the amount you’ve spent on your rig.) I’ve been working on this list for a few weeks in the very limited free time I have, but today I have a full day off, so I sat down and finally put it together, at least the first part of it. I was thinking to post it on Head-Fi, but to me this website embodies the future of HF - Tons of info with minimal meaningless comments. I’ve always wondered by attending Audio shows/expos, why many of the vendors utilize music of sub-optimal quality to demo their gears. Led zeppelin II might easily be a cornerstone of hard rock music, but just because (in optimal case) the master tapes got transferred into a 24-192 bit bucket, it won’t magically fill up the storage space and will sound better than the old vinyl at home. It’s physically impossible as the best analog recorders have a dynamic range of about 70-72db. In digital terms, that’s less than 12 bits if we assume that one bit equals to 6db. And that’s the first generation master tape – each time you make a transfer, you lose a few dbs. If the engineering is done right, however, it can easily sound great, but it’s not High-Definition in my book. The core fidelity is locked in the recording when it actually happens and later on there’s nothing can be done to increase that core fidelity of a recording. So, before getting onto the list, I would like to lay down the premise that truly High-Def music is which was recorded (when the musicians were around), mixed and mastered (if needed) in Hi-Def (at least 24-88.2). With that being said, you won’t see in this list the usual names, such as HDTracks, the Pono Store (is it not already dead by the way?), et.al. If you really think about it, it's a shame to see the state of true Hi-Def records in 2017. Considering the fact, that 24 bit recordings are around since 1996 (the first one was a Pat Metheny album from that year) and that Hi-Def carriers and hardware are around since 1999 (SACD - roughly 24-88.2) and 2000 (DVD-Audio 24-96) and the major labels (Warner, Universal, Sony) are still pushing this over compressed, dynamically dead cd recordings (with a few exceptions), our only hope lies in these niche, independent labels. So this list will contain mostly underground labels with True Hi-Def stuff at their disposal, I’ve come across through the years. Before I got into this hobby, I’ve hardly thought about female jazz singers or experimental music, let alone to listen to them, but, alas, most of the True Hi-Def stuff comes from those genres and classical. And finally, as I’ve said in the beginning, I’m here to learn about more labels like these, too, so, if you have other candidates to be included in this list, by all means, let the community know about them below. That being said, let's get down to business! Naxos Records (https://www.naxos.com/) I assume that this label is one of the most well known on this list, and rightly so. By far not all the recordings available on Naxos are true Hi-Def material (recorded, mixed and mastered in Hi-Def)but the quality is in general exquisite. Marin Alsop’s take on Dvorak’s 9th with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is a regular in my player. Highly recommended label. Da Capo Records (http://www.dacapo-records.dk/en/) According to Wikipedia, “Da Capo Records is a Danish classical music and new music record label. It was founded in 1989 to promote the classical and new music of Denmark and represents itself as "the Danish National label" ("Danmarks nationale pladeselskab"). The board includes university and Danish Radio appointees. Da Capo also produces jazz and experimental music.” I have yet to obtain an album from them but it will be most likely one of the orchestra or choir pieces. San Francisco Orchestra Records Shop (https://www.shopsfsymphony.org/shop/SFS-Media/) Same applies to this one. Only some of the recordings are true Hi-Def, but in general, these recordings are highly praised when it comes to quality regardless of resolution. Please note that just because a recording was not recorded in True Hi-Def, it doesn’t necessarily mean mediocre quality. Not at all. AIX Records (http://www.aixrecords.com/) Dr. AIX (Mark Waldrep) is a singular entity in the utterly deceptive world of so called High Definition music. He creates genuinely Hi-Def records from scratch in his own studio (which is super close to me in the SF Valley – one day I would love to experience his 5.1 system) with the artists performing LIVE and capture the sound right on the spot without any excessive mastering.Talking about natural sounding audio reproduction! At times he records in large churches or halls. Ravel’s Bolero is best captured in his Audio-DVD. I have heard many versions of this masterpiece but they can’t get close to Mark’s record. Not to mention listening to Bolero on vinyl, the first 1-2 minutes you only hear analog hiss and pops due to extreme dynamic range of this classical piece and the limited dynamic range vinyl can handle. Do yourself a favour and visit his store. If you have a more than decent 5.1 system, he should be the first to buy music from. Yarlung Records (https://www.yarlungrecords.com) I have bumped into this Los Angeles based audiophile recording company through my research of the best solo piano record. They have many other albums in their catalogue, but this one is the most praised one on online forums. Just breath-taking. They also cater native-DSD, vinyl and tape enthusiasts, too. Stockfisch Records (http://www.stockfisch-records.de/) If you ask me a year ago, I would have described this label as Germany’s best kept audio secret. I have a few albums in my collection from this label and all I can say is that you can’t go wrong here, whichever album you purchase from them. They have a very unique experiment combining the pleasant distortion (smoothness) of analogue with digital technology, from which you can read more here. I own both of their demo albums of this DMM-CD scheme, and I love them to the last bits. A truly singular experience indeed. Hint: they have a cooperation with Pauler Acoustics, the so-called Infinity Demo Discs. To my best knowledge, they are not available through their website. I have bumped into them, however, on second hand online shops for relatively cheap. I did a compilation from the three Infinity demo discs for driving. Fabulous! 2L Records (http://www.2l.no/) 2L hails from Norway and they are the pioneers (in my mind) of DXD. I think they were the first ones make recordings in that super high PCM format. (It’s an altogether different question if you will ever need more than 88.2, though). Anyhow, aside from this, their records are truly epitomizing the Hi-Def mentality. Generously from 2L, free samples from their records can be downloaded for free here, so you can decide if you like their style. Frighteningly real sound what they produce, if you ask me. Pentatone Records (https://www.pentatonemusic.com/) Another one from the more well-known labels of true Hi-Def. When you hear recordings from this label, you will instantly understand why they are one of the most popular labels among the Steve Hoffman forum residents. Highly recommended. Naim Records (https://naim.bleepstores.com/) “...leave in mistakes, provided the intention is good... I want the people, the human beings. I want the smell of cigarette smoke in the atmosphere and I want the feel of hot bodies. The last thing I want is a perfectly made-up corpse. It’s a different philosophy, and I know it sometimes frustrates reviewers.” Words of the founder of this independent label. I currently own one recording from this label but I have had the luck of listening to many of them and it was no question that this one had to be included in my list. The one in my possession is truly a priceless item to evaluate your system. They detail each and every song regarding hall characteristics, etc. - amazing. Check it out: Hint: The new website of this label is coming soon and said to be a blast. Premonition Records (http://premonitionrecords.com/) Mostly jazz. Not my cup of tea, but the quality of this recording label is beyond doubt. If you are into the genre, this is a must. Chasing the Dragon Audiophile Recordings (http://chasingthedragon.co.uk/) Hailing from the United Kingdom, this is one of the lesser known labels in the USA as far as I have seen. This needs to be corrected. Catering to both analogue and digital fans, this relatively new company has been impressing European audiophiles from its inception. As a big binaural fan, my first purchase from them will be one of those recordings. MDG Musik (http://www.mdg.de/) MDG, Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm, to be exact. Remember when I was talking about Germany's best kept Audio Secret? You got it, this little gem is the one. Let me just start by saying that if you are an organ (church organ) conoisseur and want the best recordings available, start here: This release has two volumes and I have the first one, only, but boy, it sounds eerily realistic. To be blunt, organ didn't sound that good through music reproduction to Yours Truly's ears. Read more about their 2+2+2 recording style here. If you like classical I strongly urge you to check this label out. It is guaranteed that you will not regret obtaining music from them. My only gripe is their insistence on SACD, but long live Foobar and its accurate converter to PCM! Unamas (http://unamas-label.net/) A Japanese (starts good!) audiophile label focusing on Jazz, and to a lesser extent, classical and traditional Japanese tunes. Mostly 24-192, when it comes to recording, so you can be sure that each and every note and even the highest cymbal sounds are recorded. They have a very unique surround concept going on on some records. More here. Part two is coming soon as I don't want to make the first post too long.