Jeremy Lee writes
The ugliest thing, however, is the truth that strikes you when you buy it: the price. Sure, single CDs are all under $100, but depending on where you buy it, the price range for a single CD can be as wide as $20–certainly a lot of money in comparison to the (inexpensive) price that you buy it for. DISCLAIMER: All the prices and price ranges listed below are just for reference–don’t come finding me if ever you can’t find it less expensive than the top of the range I suggested!
Eloquence CDs are normally priced around $55 to $70, although I got my only Eloquence disc (Karajan’s Mozart Requiem) for $30, and that was during sales. Virtuoso’s price range is very wide: Abbado’s Mahler 5th is yours for $55 at Prosound, with a possible 5% discount; it’s $75 at HMV.
EMI’s Encore series can be bought for $45 at Win Win, but you’re looking at $60 at the top of the price range. Classics for Pleasure discs are yours for $55 at Prosound but my Rattle Mahler 10 was $65 when I bought it at HMV (that was a long time ago). Old Red Line discs are also $55 at Prosound, and the new ones range from around $45 to $60.
Sony/RCA’s Classical Masters’ single CDs can be bought for $59 at DiscPlus and $69 at Hong Kong Records. The box sets, however, are scarier. Take Levine’s 10CD Mahler set as an example: while it’s yours for $239 at Hong Kong Records, it can be $539–twice the price–somewhere else.
However, possibly the ugliest truth of the whole budget label phenomenon is when you realize you can buy the performance on your full-priced CD, complete with fancier packaging and booklet notes–at half the price on a budget series. Imagine how cheated those who bought Solti’s Verdi Requiem in its 2CD incarnation on the mid-to-full-priced RCA Classic Library series would feel! And imagine how smug those who bought it on Classical Masters at a 1CD price would feel! It’s the same thing with my Previn Gershwin: it’s available on Decca’s flagship Originals mid-price reissue series, and even though I bought my Virtuoso at the top of the price range, I still saved myself at least $20.
So then, all bases covered: good, bad, and ugly. That’s useful Top Ear Consumer Advice to you!