A+ = exemplary content and disc engineering or some other attribute of special merit.
A = excellent content and satisfactory disc engineering.
A- = excellent content with some reservation.
B = a good title whose weaknesses you will overlook if the subject interests you.
C = damnation with faint praise. But will no doubt have appeal to some folks.
D = don't bother to buy it unless you have a real good reason.
F = fire somebody for signing off to publish this.
NA = Not available (because we haven’t got around to grading the title yet)
Further Comments on Standards for Grading
There are many factors that go into a grade, and most of them are highly subjective. We try to come down with a decision that will help you. We see much good stuff and a surprising lot of bad stuff. When it's bad, we give a bad grade. But we also recognize that we could be wrong and other people will like things that we don't. So we try to give our reasons for a grade, which in turn should help you interpret the the grade for your purposes. If you think our grade is wrong or needs more interpretation, please let us know.
Here are some more specific guidelines we apply in our grading:
Artistic quality is, of course, fundamental. This is also the most subjective thing to judge. Fortunately, most of the titles that get published in HD video offer good to wonderful artistic quality. The biggest issues we see in artistic quality would be weak opera singers and ill rehearsed opera orchestras.
To get an A+ grade, an HDVD of classical music has to be recorded with 96kHz/24-bit technology (or higher) and the disc must have lossless output (usually now LPCM or dts-HD Master Audio). This is a higher standard than the industry is now used to even now, so we are giving only a few A+ grades for classical music. For example, we graded down Volodos in Vienna and Lang Lang in Vienna for not meeting our sound standards. These are two stupendously good performances, and it's too bad Sony didn't honor their artists by using state-of-the-art sound technology.
We are not this persnickety about sound specs in operas, ballets, plays, and documentaries. State-of-the-art sound is hard to record and reproduce. We know this can be done for classical music in studios and typical locations where the performers take a position and stay there. Recording an opera is vastly more complicated by the movement of the singers on stage. For ballets, the music is important, but not the main event. So far, only a few operas have state-of-the art sound. So an opera can get an A+ grade with, say, 48kHz/24-bit sound sampling and lossless output.
Picture quality: Because of the way we exclude legacy material we mostly sidestep problems with PQ.
Now we are back again into the subject of DVDitis. The basic problem is that the picture resolution of DVD videos can't give a pleasing picture of an entire stage. This results in a tendency to use near and close-up shots in DVDs which will offer better picture quality to the viewer. But the viewer will get bored fast with a particular small-scale shot. So the videographer responds with many short clips. The result is what we call a too-fast "pace."
Most of the symphony HDVDs we saw in recent years were infected with gruesome cases of DVDitis. We will reduce one or two letter grades for this, which can easily result in, say, a grade of D+ to C+ for fine performances by world-famous orchestras led by the greatest names in conducting. But recently we have seen some improvement in the symphony recordings with more big-scale shots and a slower pace.
DVDitis is usually less of a problem with recordings of chamber music or solo performers.
DVDitis is a serious issue in ballet and dance. The best videographers shoot the full bodies of the dancers most of the time and deliver a moderate or slow pace. But others give us a headache with a blistering pace and too many close-up shots.
DVDitis is less of a problem in opera because the TV director has to show the whole stage fairly often for the viewer to even understand what is happening. We are still trying to figure out if any objective standards can be applied to the content of opera videos.
Last updated March 14, 2018.