Label raid: Dutch grab DG pianist

Label raid: Dutch grab DG pianist


norman lebrecht

July 20, 2017

Just in from Pentatone:

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, winner of the 2017 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, has signed with the label. The French pianist intends to record key works from his repertoire, spanning three centuries and ranging from Bach to Kurtág.  His move to PENTATONE follows an exclusive association with Deutsche Grammophon that began nearly a decade ago.

This significant new partnership will be launched next March with the release of Messiaen’s complete Catalogue d’oiseaux, a first in Aimard’s discography. The pianist was personally very close to the composer himself and his wife, Yvonne Loriod, for whom Messiaen wrote the Catalogue. The cycle is inspired by the composer’s annotation of the birdsong he heard across various regions of France.





  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:


  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    -a very cerebral pianist. This is not a compliment.

  • Myrtar says:

    The Boulez of the piano. Not a compliment either.

  • Alceste de Léon-Trégor says:

    Probably, the authors of those short-sighted and partial comments have better to look at Yuja Wang, Katia Buniatishvili, or any other male or female pianist more interested in gesture and theatricality than to listen to the Dvorak Piano Concerto op. 33 by P.-L. Aymard in Wien (2001), for example, with the late N. Harnoncourt & the Wiener Philharmoniker, or his Liszt Project which denotes as much intelligence as sensibility. It takes all sorts to make a world… Über Geschmack kann man nicht streiten!

  • Tommy says:

    A super-great and skilled pianist! Some really strong recordings exist at DG, which I think hasn’t got the recognition they deserve. His repertoire is both wide and deep, a dream pianist for most label. Back in the old days e.i.

    Today he doesn’t sell much recordings. He is kind of all over the place, lacking a relevant commercial profile to build upon. The first Pentatone project suggests that he will sell even less there, despite most likely being dressed up in DSD/SACD clothes.

    • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

      DSD/SACD is a myth. High resolution PCM is also a pure marketing gimmick. It is well explained and summarized in the following two articles. If you care about music replay, you should definitely read them. And anyone with a basic understanding of signal theory would agree.

      – DSD Myth

      – 24/192 Music Downloads …and why they make no sense

      If some of the new recordings packaged in SACD do sound better, then it’s because they are better recorded, not because of the final audio format in HD! Higher sampling rate and bit depth DO make senses for recording and mastering, but NOT for replay with consumer electronics & ordinary hifi systems.

      Any company actively promoting these pseudo-progressive technologies should be condemned. Either they are totally ignorant of the physics (which I could hardly believe) or they have a very questionable business ethics.

      In this context, companies like ECM deserve even more respect. They just keep making highest quality recordings in CD format without joining these DSD/SACD and 24/192 PCM nonsenses.

      • Christopher Culver says:

        The reason that the SACD format (and DVD/Bluray) appeals to so many classical fans is not necessarily the higher sampling rate, which may well be snake oil as you say, but rather the 5.0 surround sound. CD is a stereo-only format.

        • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

          Thank you for pointing out that. I didn’t realize that multichannel is considered a sought-after essential feature by classical fans. I thought it was something for home theater with fabricated movie sound effect.

          Does it really work well in the practice? Firstly, I think the 0.1 subwoofer channel is superfluous. I see SACDs by BIS don’t have that. And then what about the satellite speakers? I think for 99% of the cases in classical music, the sound source is in front of the listeners. I can’t imagine the satellite speakers are used to reproduced early reflections. Who has an extremely low reflection listening room at home? Last but not least, aren’t central speakers mainly for speech? I thought most of them don’t even have full range frequency response of 20 – 20khz. Or maybe I am wrong.

          I am really just asking, because I didn’t have the chance to test multichannel systems for classical music replay. Your first-hand user experience would be appreciated!

          • Thornhill says:

            1. Very few multichannel recordings do anything gimmicky like put you in the center of the orchestra (though there are a few labels that specialize in it).

            A well done multichannel recording sounds night and day better than the stereo version. As I noted in my post below, the stereo image is spread wider and there is a more realistic sense of front to back depth.

            2. There are a lot of misconceptions with the LFE channel (the .01).

            LFE is a legacy from Dolby audio for movie theaters in the 1980s.

            Many labels like BIS don’t utilize it because modern A/V receivers provide automatic bass management — very, very simply put, they automatically take care of sending the low frequency parts of the audio signal to the subwoofer.

            So just because a surround sound recording doesn’t have a LFE channel doesn’t mean that the subwoofer isn’t used.

            So what about the subwoofer — does it make a difference? Absolutely. First, your speakers may not have a dynamic range that covers those big organ pipes. But even if they do, and you have big floor standing speakers, the woofer is still going to do a better job handling low frequencies.

            Going back to the LFE channel — some labels still use it because I guess they don’t trust how A/V receivers will do bass management. When I see it used, 50 percent of the time it is with recordings that have organs.

          • Christopher Culver says:

            “Firstly, I think the 0.1 subwoofer channel is superfluous.”

            Indeed, that’s why I said 5.0 surround sound instead of 5.1, as few classical labels expect you to necessarily keep your subwoofer turned on.

            “I think for 99% of the cases in classical music, the sound source is in front of the listeners.”

            While “99%” may in fact be true, as a fan of 20th-century music where the composer often writes spatialization into the work (part of the ensemble positioned offstage or among the audience, electronics moving around in space, etc.), surround is fantastic. A work like Kalevi Aho’s “Luosto” symphony simply cannot be heard as intended in stereo. But even for the 99% of conventional repertoire, the sound stage is noticeably deeper in surround than stereo even if the orchestra is positioned directly in front of the audience.

            “Last but not least, aren’t central speakers mainly for speech? I thought most of them don’t even have full range frequency response of 20 – 20khz.”

            You can use full-sized speakers for your central speaker and side speakers. You aren’t limited to the tiny speakers sold as part of cheap home theatre setups.

        • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

          May I ask why do you have an avatar and how could I get one? Thank you.

      • Thornhill says:

        1. The articles you cite are a lot more nuanced than your claims. The first one points out that most labels — with the exception of Channel Classics — convert DSD recordings to PCM for editing, so the end product is not pure DSD. But I believe most labels record in PCM and are quite transparent about that — all the specs about the recording equipment are usually listed in the liner notes. The second article claims you cannot hear the difference but still says that recording in 24 bit is important.

        2. I think most labels and listeners would agree that the benefit of the SACD format is the multi-channel sound which provides a wider sound stage and better front to back depth than stereo. In fact, the stereo vs multi-channel difference with a piano recording is probably more pronounced than orchestral, so hooray for another talented pianist recording in multi-channel. While other formats are capable of multi-channel playback, the advantage of SACD is that its backwards compatible with CD-players. There’s been some experimentation with blu-ray audio only discs, but they only work with blu-ray players.

        • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:


          I think I get your points and basically agree with them.

          So you mean modern mch receivers have built-in frequency splitter function (maybe digitally?) so that the subwoofer acts just like another bass unit of the speaker? Do you have any links which describe how exactly that works in typical products on the market?

          Although I do believe that with current technology, the whole processing pipeline should be transparent enough so that ordinary consumer won’t hear any “data & information loss”, I still consider it a very questionable business ethnics to sell DSD/SACD as a promise of higher quality audiophile format. The key point is that the conversion between DSD and PCM is in its nature NOT lossless. If you record and process in PCM, I don’t see any benefit of converting it back into DSD in the final product. Or maybe once again I miss a point?

          One point you missed or didn’t mention is that ordinary amplifiers and speakers aren’t designed and engineered for extended frequency range far beyond 20khz. They are analogue components which by their nature have (drastically) different characteristics with changing signal frequencies. Therefore, not only won’t 192khz format improve the sound quality at home replay, it even has good potential to deteriorate the final result. That was one of the central point of the second article. And so far as I can understand, the argument is quite convincing.

          Actually I am quite interested in multi-channel systems. I just want to figure out whether it really makes sense before making any purchase decision.

          • Thornhill says:


            On the subwoofer: In very basic terms, yes, that how it works. It’s called the crossover point:


            Most mid-range A/V receivers made in the last 10 years come with a microphone. You place it where you sit, and the receiver runs a diagnostic and calibrates everything based on your room size and its acoustics, including optimizing the subwoofer’s integration into your system.

            I started out with floor standing speakers and never thought I needed a sub. Eventually I did add one and wow! It makes a big difference with everything — orchestral to chamber to solo piano.

            Point #2

            I don’t quite follow. Even when recordings are made in PCM it’s still high resolution — higher than it was in the first decade or so of digital recordings. And sound quality isn’t being degraded by converting PCM to DSD for the SACD release.

            I think that labels like BIS which record in high-resolution PCM believe that it is helping them deliver a superior sounding product. I do not believe that they are engaged in any kind of chicanery.

            Hindsight being 20-20, it probably would have made more sense for SACD to have been a PCM format. As the article you cited notes, editing in DSD is very difficult, which is why people were converting DSD recordings to PCM and almost everyone now just records in PCM. I guess back in the late 90s Sony didn’t foresee this problem.

            Your very last point:

            Multichannel is absolutely better than stereo. But to verify that I’m sure you want to hear it for yourself. I’d invite you over, but I’m sure you live nowhere near me 🙂

      • Christopher Culver says:

        Another reason that SACD might be sought after by fans is that the way of mastering CDs may be trending towards pop-music expectations. I believe that at least one classical label is now mastering the plain CD layer of its SACDs for what is now the most common way to consume music: headphones or crappy computer speakers in loud environments, so dynamic range is very compressed, the “loudness wars” come to classical music. The only way to hear the music conventionally mixed and mastered for speakers in a quiet home listening environment is the SACD layer.

        • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:


          OK, I see. And I agree that for some modern and avant-garde pieces, a multi-channel system seem to be indispensable. But it also imposes higher requirement and standard on both the recording and the replay side. If the recording companies are putting some real efforts in this front, liking making some new recordings of contemporary pieces, but not just repackaging their old catalogue as high-resolution, near-master quality re-releases, I do appreciate this technological advance .

          • Thornhill says:


            It’s worth pointing out that in the 1970s everyone recorded in quad and many of those recordings have been released in 4.0 sound for the first time thanks to SACD. Pentatone does a lot of this.

            In some instances the 4.0 version is significantly superior to the 2.0 mix.

      • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

        There are a few things here which are actually independent of each other, but in the reality, due to whatever reason, often co-exist in the same physical medium. In order to have a more effective discussion, I would like to, at least for myself, clear my minds about the following concepts: SACD, DSD, PCM, high resolution audio (i.e. 24bit/96khz or 24/192), as well as multichannel.

        1. DSD
        DSD was originally conceived for pure archiving purposes. Its promised advantages can only be realized with an all-DSD workflow.That is,record (actually the analogue-to-digital conversion) in dsd, then perform no or minimal processing and editing, and final playback (DA conversion) using dsd. However, it is obvious that it can’t be (practically) deployed for new productions. The only sensible use case I could imagine is: there is an old recording which has been recorded and edited in a pure analogue way, then we can use DSD to digitize the final analogue master, which requires no further editing and mixing, and then issue an SACD or DSD download release. It could, at least theoretically and therefore worth the effort, sound better than previous CD re-release.

        2. SACD
        Although (as far as I am aware of) always coupled with DSD, probably because both were invented by Sony, but SACD is just a CD with larger capacity (technically maybe not correct, but it’s not critical here). The more sensible usage of SACD would be multichannel PCM. But then it won’t have any practical difference with blu-ray and dvd audio, except for the individual technical implementations. They are all just “bigger” CDs where you can put more data.

        Yes, the backward compatibility with CD seems to be an advantage of SACD. However, the earliest SACDs were not compatible with CD. This niche market was just too small, so they started to make both the disc and the laser system of the player hybrid. That means, they just add the functionality of CD to SACD. I don’t know whether it is possible to add an CD layer to a blu ray. But I am sure we can make a bluray player which can also play CD.

        All in all, there seem to be no inherent advantage of such SACD/DSD combo. Indeed, it’s currently the de facto format of (sometimes self-proclaimed) higher quality audio products. But it is just because Sony didn’t want to throw away this relic and somehow managed to market it as a game-changing audiophile format.

        3. High Resolution Audio
        Many people seem to firmly believe that CD is not hifi-ready. 16bit/44.1khz is not enough, we need 24bit/96khz or even 32bit/192khz. Anyway, the motto is always “the higher the better”. While I agree that we ordinary people all tend to believe this claim because it fits our human intuition so nicely, science and physics have proved the opposite. It’s beyond my capacity to explain that in words here, so may I refer interested readers to the 2nd article I cited above and any classic textbooks of signal processing theory. Here I would just like to briefly summarize the non-mathematical aspects:

        * While there are all kinds of TV display out there who claim to reproduce better video quality, using a plethora of technologies, none of them go so far to claim that they can obtain better picture by reproducing non-visible wavelength! But that’s exactly what HD audio is doing. Isn’t it ridiculous? It should be noted that most of the people can’t even hear the whole range of 20-20khz.

        * Well, if providing more data and information than what human can perceive is not that helpful, but at least it is not a bad thing, right? In theory, yes. But in the reality, due to the harmonic distortions induced from non-audible frequency range, it may actually be really bad to have those additional signals with higher-than-necessary frequency components, if your hifi systems, especially the analogue subsystems(amplifiers, speakers), weren’t designed to coupe with such high signal bandwidth.

        4. Multichannel
        Personally I don’t have experience with multichannel systems for classical music replay. But judging from the discussion so far I could conclude that it seems to be the only new technology which has widely acknowledged audible benefits. We can not say the same to DSD and HD PCM though.

        Nevertheless, multichannel and SACD are two technologies that in truth totally independent from each other. In order to enjoy multichannel, we don’t have to convert PCM to DSD and then burn it to SACD. Let’s say 16bit/44.1khz or 16bit/48khz is good enough, and multichannel is worth pursuing, why not just make multichannel PCM in 16bit/48khz, and then let people play it in a flash media(such as SSD). Reading large amount of real-time critical data from a fast spinning disc is soooooooo unnatural and counterintuitive. And they charge you a fortune for these SACD players, while what you really need is just an embedded computer together with a dedicated high quality DAC with multichannel capability.

        • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:


          I just wanted to ask what is the sense of the central speaker. I assumed that the people who invented quadraphonic recording back in the 1970s were pretty smart and already thought about this topic pretty hard. And they decided not to use this 5th channel. So the central speaker is (at least in theory) superfluous?

          Will normal 5.0 or 5.1 SACDs play on a 4.0 system? We can not just leave out the central speaker without losing something essential, right? I could not imagine the AV receiver would be able to intelligently reassign the signal in this case.

          Then I have a problem here, albeit not fatal. Although actually 4 channels are enough, I have to buy 5 high quality speakers instead of 4 simply because the current standard is 5ch. Moreover, the placement of the central speaker seems to be the more serious issue. Should I lay it flat or put it upright? Or only speakers with single full range driver would come into question?

          • Thornhill says:


            2 channel sound is a function of the LP’s technical limitations. Audio engineers originally thought the future would be 3 channel. As I’m sure you know, Mercury Living Presence and RCA originally recorded in 3 channel in the 1950s, and there was some 3 channel experimentation with radio broadcasts during this era. Had there been a media storage medium capable of 3 channel by the late 1950s, 3.0 might have been a thing.

            Same deal with 4.0

            After 60 some years of stereo recordings engineers have certainly become skilled creating the stereo image with a phantom center speaker, but 3 channels is the preferred option.

            Some early multichannel releases for SACD didn’t really utilize the center channel — I suppose there was an assumption that maybe people would ultimately want 4.0 because that would be one less speaker they have to buy — most do now. Home theater systems probably helped solve that. If you played back a 5.0 recording on a system without a center the sound wouldn’t be right.

            In a perfect world all five speakers should be identical, but we all live on budgets, of course. I think you can enjoy the benefits of 5.0 with a center that’s not identical (and frankly, your rears could also be different). But you want to get a center that’s more robust than something designed for a home theater that’s really just intended for dialogue. Speaker companies like B&W have this in their mid-range series. So a setup could be nice floor standing speakers for the FL and FR, nice center, and good bookshelf for RL and RR.

            The center speaker should be laid however the manufacturer says (probably flat).

            And, the tweeter should be at ear level — along with the tweeters of the other speakers.

            Bottom line: Despite what some audiophiles may claim, non-uniformity is fine, and you’ll be happy to have made the switch to 5.0. And the A/V receiver will help balance everything out.

            And when you can, add a woofer to the system.

        • Thornhill says:

          1. Your history is a little bit inaccurate. Sony deliberately decided not to release Hybrid SACDs at first because they wanted to force people to buy SACD players. They feared that people would just buy the discs for the CD layer and if consumers never invested in the hardware the format had no chance of taking off.

          I think they had a point and the overarching reason that the format never took off was because the market was shifting to portability and to take full advantage of SACD you need a multichannel systems.

          One place where Sony and other labels could have done a better job was taking advantage of the SACD technology was its storage capacity. A disc can hold like 20 CD’s worth of music if the data file is 16/44 stereo. So you could have the entire Ring on a single disc (which labels are now doing with Blu-ray audio). I don’t think that would have saved SACD, but it would have probably helped boost catalogue sales. And I would much rather get big box budget releases on a single disc than a dozen.

          2. To your last point, labels have been offering multichannel FLAC downloads at various resolutions for quite a while. Channel Classics even offers multichannel DSD downloads. I suppose that is the feature for the entire music industry, but enough people still prefer having a physical disc (that’s why vinyl sales are booming — a lot of buyers don’t actually have turntables; the LP is a collector’s item).

          • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:


            Thank you for your info. I learned something again.

            Your arguments sound quite convincing to me and I would say I am ready to give multichannel a try. I think the three most significant limiting factors for any audiophile are: budgets, space and his wife. The last one always keeps an critically scrutinizing eye on practicality and aesthetics. As much as I value the promising benefits of a surround system, the last thing I want to have is a living room that looks like a showroom of hifi dealers and is filled with messy cable salad.

            Here are my further questions concerning some practical aspects:

            1. Do you have any practical advice for cable management? How can I reasonably connect the two surround speakers sitting in the opposite corners to the amplifier? I would need a pair of 10m long speaker cables and have to hide them properly so that no one will be aware of their existence when entering the room.

            2. Requiring a tweeter at ear level means that the central speaker should be placed at sight level, right? Won’t it obstrue the video screen?

            3. Do I have to take a seat somewhere in the middle of the room in order to properly enjoy a surround system? Since the answer seems to be an obvious yes, I can already make a safe bet that in the family no one other than me will enjoy this system:( Even if one can have a private reading room of proper size for music listening, I find it just too weird and impractical to place free-standing seats in the middle of the room.

            Although it may sound sarcastic, I do believe that if we can redesign hifi systems to be reconcilable with wives and their philosophy of modern living, they can be as ubiquitous as computers. I am convinced that every decent household should have a decent hifi system.

          • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

            I don’t think a large capacity disc that accommodate more ordinary CD tracks would do the industry any good. It’s merely a low level convenience without any genuine added value and artistic appeal. Today when I look at my CD collection, I really wish I had never bought those budget complete cycle box-sets. In many cases, only full price first release can justify their existence as physical medium. They are much better made and have much more appealing overall design than those cheapo final-sale paper box. Even in the 90s, full price CD would feature four different articles in four different languages written by four different authors in the booklet. Nowadays however, more often than not, there will be one text in maybe two languages and it looks just like one of those articles in Wikipedia.

            They should try to make better CDs with better physical quality rather than throwing out their legacy through clearance sale, which is suicidal. If hi-res surround download could be packaged in a medium like LP, I would be extremely optimistic about its business perspective:) The Berliner Philharmoniker has issued some LP with digital download code attached. I don’t know about the sales figure. but I think it is not a bad idea, although far from perfect.

          • Christopher Culver says:

            “Requiring a tweeter at ear level means that the central speaker should be placed at sight level, right? Won’t it obstrue the video screen?”

            If you are listening to a SACD, it’s an audio-only format, so there is no need for a video screen. But if you want to watch video where the audio is in surround format, the best solution is to get a projector and a projection screen with tiny performations to allow sound from the central speak through. That is the solution that cinemas use.

            “They should try to make better CDs with better physical quality rather than throwing out their legacy through clearance sale”

            Physical media is dead (except for LPs bought as collector’s items). Those big box sets are a last attempt by labels to make some money on older generations that are still interested in physical media. In any event, it hardly matters for me that the boxes are cheaply made: I only open them a single time to rip the CD to my media library in lossless format.

          • Christopher Culver says:

            Sorry, that should have read: The best solution is to get a projector and a projection screen with tiny perforations to allow sound from the central speaker through.

          • Thornhill says:


            1. Speaker wires are a mess. Only way around that is to put them in the walls or under the floor.

            2. If you have to put the center under your TV it will be fine.

            3. There’s plenty of documentation on the internet about the ideal size of a listening room, where the speakers should be placed, and where you should be sit. But unless you’re gutting a room you have to work within the confines of the existing space. Don’t fret about this. Just do your best on the placement and let the A/V receiver take care of making adjustments — that’s why they all come with that microphone.

            If you’re sitting off of center that’s fine. I often listen to music lying flat on my coach. It will only get weird if someone is right up against a rear.

            Hi-Fi just takes up a lot of space. Over the years I’ve had many people over to my house for movie night and after the surround sound experience they were all ready to buy a whole setup. But they all change their mind because of the clutter.

          • Thornhill says:


            Physical media may be dead, but there are probably enough classical music listeners who prefer playback over a real Hi Fi system (vs headphones or Bluetooth speaker) to keep CDs and SACDs going for a while.

      • Anon says:

        “Higher sampling rate and bit depth DO make senses for recording and mastering, but NOT for replay with consumer electronics & ordinary hifi systems.”

        That statement is not correct. 60 kHz sampling rate and 20 bit resolution would be sufficient to deliver HiRes audio to the consumer. 44.1/16bit are not.
        Even higher resolutions (96kHz/24bit) in the production stage make sense as well.

        DSD is nonsense, true. It is a format pushed by SONY for 80% greed (they saw their monopoly on the CD patent disappearing with a new DVD-Audio HiRes format) and 20% copyright protection (DSD being hard to make illegal digital copies due lack of DSD burners). SONY killed the HiRes physical disc market with it pretty much. Greedy bastards.
        DSD for consumers is a spin off from the US Library of Congress proprietary technology developed by SONY, that required a digital standard able to replay in the unforeseeable future with simplistic technological means. DSD does that, since all it requires for sufficient information retrieval is basically a High-Pass filter…
        Since SONY had that one-trick Pony up their sleeve right at a time the DVD-Audio format was about to hit the market, they thought they would like to kill that format and place a competitive format they had patented revenue guarantee with instead.

  • says:

    I think cerebral pianists don’t belong in music. They should become mathematicians – if they have the brains for that,

  • says:

    Cerebral pianists should become ditch diggers

  • Steve P says:

    Easily my favorite living pianist. Wonderful news!

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:


    Although SACD is an audio-only format and for most of the time I just need the sound channels, I do want to have more flexibility when I install a complete multichannel system in decent quality. In the ideal case, I won’t have to hear my crappy computer and tablet speakers anymore since all sound will be coming out of the hifi speakers, even when I am just watching some casual video or playing games. One of the new trends that I personally find very appealing is opera performance in live stream. I am sure that more and more content providers will offer surround option in the future. Bayerische Rundfunk has been doing that for a few years, I think. Excuse me for the rude word, but to be honest, watching opera performance in a real opera house is just stupid. Staring at the stage miles away from a fixed perspective for several hours is against humanity! The live sound is the only reason to attend live opera performances. But hifi can be pretty good as well, at least so good that I am willing to drastically reduce my opera attendance.

    Your suggestion of projection screen with tiny “holes” is quite enlightening. Do you have a link to such product which is readily available on the market? I am actually considering quite seriously about getting a set of beamer and projection screen. Otherwise I would just place the central speaker in a lowboard, it doesn’t have to be that perfect:D

    • Christopher Culver says:

      “Your suggestion of projection screen with tiny “holes” is quite enlightening. Do you have a link to such product which is readily available on the market?”

      See here, for instance, for an explanation of the phenomenon, but a Google search for “projector screen perforation” should bring up plenty of options.

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    I don’t think physical media is or will be dead, at least in the foreseeable future. And I am not nostalgic, not at all. Actually I have converted my whole CD library to flac and have been intensively playing around with different streaming hardware & software for quite a few years. Believe it or not, it was exactly this experience with streaming players that opened my eyes to some of the truly remarkable advantages and ingenious design of CD players. For instance, every streaming player would need at least 30 sec to startup and get connected to the network. And then you have to “(1)pick up your phone, (2)unlock, maybe you have to enter the password or gesture pattern (3)click to open the remote app, (4)click several more times to navigate through the menu and directories and finally arrive at the files you want to play”. Moreover, in order to enjoy all these “benefits”, you have to “always stay connected”, which is the utter nonsense. And they also want you to have a NAS which keeps running 7/24/365. With a CD player on the other hand, you are ready to go in 5 sec. With an IR remote, all you have to do is just pick up the device and press a key. When these smart stuffs and touch screen gimmick started to get popular, we were all fascinated. But after using them day in day out for a while, I am starting to get a little bit tired of them and find them in many cases pretty stupid and inconvenient. Most importantly, it strikes me that the designers of these stuffs actually don’t care much about music. But the guys who invented CD players did care about music, I think. Choosing a storage capacity which can accommodate Beethoven 9th was a pretty wise decision. In comparison, even if I have several TB of music locally and a so-called unlimited online library, I would much prefer a bookshelf full of CD and LP. Searching and navigating my digital library is really a pain in the ass. Obviously almost all those software out there aren’t geared towards classical music.

    I admit that digital download will eventually become the dominant format in the future and it has a huge potential of technological improvements which will greatly enhance the experience of home listening. But it is not perfect yet, in fact far from it. And to be honest, I am not sure whether digital download will outperform physical media in every essential aspect (especially in terms of user-friendliness and emotional attachment) and therefore be legitimate to replace them completely. Anyway, there will be a long way to go. We’ll see.

    • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

      “… physical media will NOT be dead …” 😀

    • Thornhill says:


      My hot take on music downloads:

      The holdup for classical music is the software.

      A year or so ago I ripped my entire 2,000+ CD collection to iTunes as Apple Lossless files. I went this route for a few reasons: 1. Only iTunes offered gapless playback; 2. The user interface is pretty good; and 3. Using my AppleTV it’s really easy to get the music from my computer 3 rooms away to my A/V receiver — I just AirPlay it.

      The problem with iTunes is that it doesn’t support surround sound files (or hi-rez). To play these files you have to put them on a USB stick and connect to the A/V receiver. As far as I know, there is no software out there that will push surround sound files from your computer over a network to your receiver (I guess I could hook up a computer to my receiver, but that’s new hardware, and I believe the software does not support gapless playback).

      If iTunes could handle surround sound files I would probably stop buying SACDs.

      • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

        @ THORNHILL

        I am astonished to hear that in your perception gapless playback is a rare feature.
        I don’t have experience with the Apple world. But for Linux users, MPD a the ubiquitous playback software and maybe the de facto standard. Gapless playback has been working fine there since a long time.

        As far as I know, Apple Lossless is a proprietary format, as against to FLAC, which is an open source lossless compression format. I am afraid your laboriously digitized and immensely precious music library would become obsolete as soon as Apple is dead, which maybe would sound ridiculous at this very moment, but actually not impossible in the foreseeable future. We all know too well that the IT business and all those different audio formats are inherently short-lived creatures, while the music should be immortal.

        That’s why I generally stick to Linux and open source software, even if they are sometimes pretty quirky and frustrating in terms of user-friendliness. What makes the open source software so invaluable is that in case the original developer has dropped the project, there will always be someone out there who can keep it running and improving. On the contrary, big companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft just give you convenience but take your freedom.

        Many people think free software is “free of charge”, which is in the same category of “being cheap”. What a big mistake. Free open source software means freedom. And freedom is invaluable.

        • Thornhill says:


          I don’t think there are even 100,000 active Linux users worldwide. Whatever is happening with Linux is a statistical anomaly.

          Apple Lossless can easily be converted to FLAC, AIFF or any other format. It’s a lossless codec — no data was lost when the original audio file was converted to ALAC.

          And Apple isn’t going anywhere in our lifetimes. Not only is it one of the most profitable companies, but they have a $250 billion cash reserve. No matter what happens to future iPhone sales, they can live forever on that cash.

          • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

            @ THORNSHILL

            That’s true. Apple will probably be immortal in our lifetime. What my actual concern is that such companies might one day actively make their old products obsolete in order to force consumers to buy something new, “new” in the sense of “old stuff in new package”. They are always good at making up excuses to make us think it is inevitable.

            You mentioned that Apple doesn’t support multichannel and hi-res (yet). I think the only reason they didn’t do it is because the economic incentive was too small (for them). However, I don’t want democracy in the audiophile world. If the number of “likes” is the ultimate criterion, then most of the hifi equipment will never be made so we only have iPods.

            Maybe the number of active Linux developers is very small, but the number of users could be much bigger than our subjective perception, because Linux is actually everywhere, from super-computer to embedded hand-held devices. During several visits to some Hifi exhibitions in the past few years, I found out that many HiFi streamers are in fact Linux-based.

          • Thornhill says:


            I actually misspoke about iTunes. ALAC supports up to 8 channels and resolutions up to 32/284, so in theory multichannel ALAC files are possible. Also, I see that some labels like Hyperion sell 24/96 stereo ALAC downloads.

            In terms of my ripped CD collection, I don’t see how Apple could financially gain by ceasing to support their own lossless codec. And, as I see it, because AppleTV helps keep people in the Apple ecosystem, I think I can count on that piece of hardware being available for many years to come (it’s key to getting music from my computer to my receiver).

      • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

        @ THORNHILL

        I bought an LP last weekend, a rare oratorium by Robert Schumann. It is published by EMI in 1975. On the cover it reads “quadraphonic system, fully compatible with stereo”.

        As you pointed out earlier in the post, also according to my own understanding of sound reproduction in LP, namely using the modulation of the two sidewalls of the V groove, there can be nothing quadraphonic in this LP, right? But since I know too little about the good old analogue world, so I think it would be advisable to ask some experts.

        Can I use this LP for a surround system?

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    One more word about physical vs. digital media:

    The resurgence of paper books shows that physical media is not dead. People still need and love it.

    I am still a big fan of E-Ink technology and find it one of the truly useful inventions in recent years ( while tablet computer is not). But I find myself starting to read more and more books in paper again. In most of cases, if I have the choice, I would much prefer a physical book.

    I know that the situation for music replay is not exactly the same as reading books. But it does speak for some of the inherent superiority of physical media.

  • David H Spence says:

    I just recently auditioned Aimard’s Schumann disc, not expecting to be able to as fully enjoy him in this repertoire, as much as in the Debussy, Messiaen, Ligeti, etc. It may not have the full flight of fancy of a few other of the best artists, and a few of the variations in Symphonic Etudes came across a little stiff, but only a few of them. I found the clarity of the playing, and the free allowance for nuance within such a context altogether refreshing. Most refreshing of all is the absence of so much tired cliché one finds in every garden variety interpretation or attempt at it of either Schumann’s Opus 9 or Opus 13.

    The only rival Aimard has for playing Brahms D Minor Concerto – potentially on disc – is British pianist Paul Lewis, who might as well be accused of being too cerebral as well. A particularly fascinating recital I picked up on BBC recently was the pairing of Messiaen’s Visions de l’amen and Brahms Piano Sonata, Opus 34a (?), with Tamara Stefanovic playing the other part. The part writing in the Brahms I found to be more clear than on some piano-and-quartet versions of the same work, and their affection for the idiom no less complete. If this is cerebral playing, let’s have more of it. Too much else out there has a tendency to sound so generic to be the same as everyone else’s playing too much of the time.

    One other particularly fascinating broadcast of Aimard consisted of him playing and conducting Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto, Ligeti Etudes, but most memorable of all, conducting Haydn’s Symphony No. 102, with so much strong humor, partly in the very strong inflection of the rhythms, as to give one a start. The usual Romantic enveloping of the phrasing in the Haydn was just abandoned enough, not to cross a line over to having to make excuse for vulgar playing. I believe the orchestra was the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Hopefully the new partnership will provide us some Haydn symphonies and Mozart piano concerti, all sure to be chock full of fresh insights.

    With having said all that, does the adoption by Pentatone mean a departure from DGG? Might there be a Book Two to the Bach WTC as well?