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Want great audiophile music for pennies?
If you’re into jazz music and prefer to buy CDs (and thereby support your favorite artist) instead of streaming, you are in for a big treat. I’ve just come across a fantastic bargain series published by Universal Music Group. Universal Music has released literally dozens of 5-disc collections under the “5 Original Albums” series. Essentially, you get 5 major albums for a package price of under 15 Euros each which works out to be about 2-3 Euros per CD. Because Blue Note, Verve and Prestige are all under the corporate umbrella of Universal, you can tap into a huge pool of music. In my opinion, this is a screaming bargain and wonderful for music lovers who are just building a collection. Guys, it has never been cheaper to get into CDs! I do plan to purchase as many boxes as I can get my hands on.
So far I have purchased three sets, specfically Kenny Burrell and Sonny Rollins. And because I’m a huge fan of west-coast cool jazz, I also snatched a 5-album set with Stan Getz goodies.
Here’s what they look like:
So what’s usually in the box?
Each box set comes with a sturdy, laminated hardpaper cover. The actual CDs are enclosed in tasteful paper sleeves and look much like a cute miniature replica of the original vinyl record. This is reminiscent of some Japanese audiophile CD reissues. Unfortunately, the album description is a bit hard to read because of the small physical size of the CDs but I can live with that. Both artwork and presentation are equally beautiful respecting the artists work.
Sound quality and mastering
Unfortunately I don’t see any references as to what masters have been used for this particular reissue but in the case of Blue Note, I suspect their releases are likely based on the older Ron McMaster tape transfers of the 80s and not the newer Rudy Van Gelder remasters. Those aren’t favored by many audiophiles anyway and I personally don’t enjoy the RVG digital reissues that much either so no big deal here. Sound quality is incredibly good across the board. I think sonically my Prestige reissues of Sonny Rollins have a slight edge over the over two sets but I need more box sets to compare. I even think for “Saxophone Colossus” they might have secretly taken an audiophile remaster because it just sounds very natural to my ears. Funny, I own an early LP pressing of “Stan Meets Chet” but to my surprise I prefer the CD version in the box set quite a bit more. Again, this is my subjective impression so please don’t get upset my fellow vinyl fans ;)
Value for money
2-3 Euros per CD brand new – need I say more? A listeneable LP reissue and even a “better” CD version, mastered well can easily cost 10 times as much. I really hope we will see more artists publishing their collections which is godsend for music lovers on a budget – and to be honest, everyone is on a budget these days…
What titles and genres are available?
I have seen a strong focus on jazz but also some classic rock. I expect to see more box sets showing up as record companies are looking for new ways to compensate for streaming services and falling CD sales.
Where to buy and warnings of counterfeit versions
You can get the “5 Original Albums” box sets on Amazon (see my links page). Prices and availablitiy vary by country so please check them out individually.
CAUTION: A number of dubious reissue labels are offering similar box sets, often bundling 10 albums. These were often taken from unknown sources (sometimes MP3s) and are NOT official releases. I personally avoid those.