What Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Classical CD

If you are here and reading this, you probably already know that most classical works have several, sometimes in the hundreds, versions of recordings. A lot of those starting down the classical music rabbit hole will have a hard time deciding which choice to make when purchasing a classical cd. Don’t worry, there is not a right answer as everyone has different tastes and opinions of the what represents the definitive copy of a recording. Also, if you do not get some recording you do not like, you will not have a reference of what you should avoid. Learning and experimenting is half the fun.

There are some things you can consider to help you along your journey of building up your classical music collection.

1. Cheaper Usually Does Not Mean Better

A lot of those starting a collection of classical music favorites will look for the cheapest option to collect some classic recordings. Although this can be adequate for a little while, you will eventually start gaining experience you will realize that the starter CD that was inexpensive was not that great. Typically you are better to do some research and purchase a nice CD that you will continue to appreciate as your experience gains.

Here are some tips to help you get started with nice copies of recordings without breaking your budget.

A good starting point is the Record Label offering the performance. For Classical Music I usually recommend the following major labels.

  • Deutsche Grammophon
  • EMI
  • London/Decca
  • Philips
  • RCA
  • Sony/CBS

These six labels are what I consider safe labels and will offer a consistently high standard. As you continue your music journey you may later consider some additional labels such as Chandos and Hyperion Records, which goes off the beaten track.

, and it’s unlikely you’ll go wrong choosing a recording from one of these companies. Other high-quality labels with more limited catalogues include Bis, Chandos, Harmonia Mundi, Hyperion, and Virgin Classics. Naxos is a popular label with an enormous catalogue that often has very good recordings at very low prices. However, some Naxos CDs are only mediocre, and it’s hard to know which is which. Common labels to avoid include the $2 to $4 discs on labels such as Laserlight, Excelsior, Vienna Masters and Point Classics. These labels technology, performers and engineers are typically are not up to the standard of the major labels.


Most classical music discs will have over 60 minutes of music. This means if the piece you are wanting is only 30 minutes the remaining disc will be filler pieces. When looking to purchase a disc make sure to consider the disc as a whole since you will often be listening to the entire disc. I typically look for filler works by the same composer.

Performers and Conductor

There are lots of different performers and conductors and you will acquire your own taste on which speak to you. As you start your collection note the conductors and performers you enjoy and look for other pieces of work they have done.


It is great to check out reviews ahead of a purchase. I never rely totally on a review as everyone has different preferences. What I have done is over time find reviewers that typically have similar tastes to myself and look for them to find new and interesting pieces.


For me price is another important factor. I am frugal by nature and will typically look to find the best performance at the lowest possible price. You can do this a variety of ways, for instance buying used is a great way to get a amazing disc at a discounted price. Another way is to make your purchases when your store of choice is running a sale. I do typically avoid the no name labels that offer discs for under $5.

Want more information, learn more about Classical Music Compared to Popular Music.

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