Acoustic Sounds
By: Mark Ward

March 25th, 2024



Karajan + Bruckner, and The Next Generation of Deutsche Grammophon’s Original Source Vinyl Reissue Series

Emil Berliner Studios breaks new technological ground with this deluxe AAA reissue of Herbert von Karajan’s legendary Bruckner Symphony cycle

Master tape for one of Karajan's Bruckner recordings

It’s finally official - and it’s HUGE news.

Herbert von Karajan’s legendary complete cycle of all the Bruckner symphonies is being re-released as part of the Original Source Series of deluxe vinyl editions, the centerpiece of Deutsche Grammophon’s celebrations for this year’s Bruckner bicentenerary.

That in itself is significant. The Karajan Bruckner cycle has long been considered one of the benchmark recordings in the catalogue.

But the importance of this release lies in the fact that, like all the other OSS releases so far, it is being mixed, mastered and cut directly from the multitrack master tapes.  So, nothing new for the Original Source series - you say.

Actually something very new indeed!

The Bruckner cycle (with the exception of the first three symphonies, more on these later) was originally recorded to 8-track analogue.  8-track.  All the previous OSS releases were derived from 4-track masters.

Yes - you read correctly.  And you’re thinking this means that, unlike the previous Original Source reissues cut directly from the 4-track masters, these Bruckner recordings must have been cut from a 2-track stereo mix-down.  Why?  Because no one has ever mastered and cut vinyl directly from an 8-track master tape.

Well, actually, now they have.  These records have been cut directly from the 8-track master tapes.  And this is what makes this next phase in the DG OSS reissue program so groundbreaking.

1 inch tape heads for mixing Karajan's Bruckner symphonies, Emil Berliner Studios

Rainer Maillard at Emil Berliner Studios has built a tape deck and mixing console that allows him to mix, master and cut directly from 8-track master tapes.

Passive mixer for 8-track, Emil Berliner StudiosThe specially built passive mixer: note the use of the classic yellow coloring of the iconic DG cartouche!

No mix-down to a stereo tape.  Shortest possible path from the 8-track master tape to the cutting lathe.

Cutting head, Emil Berliner Studios

To my knowledge no-one has ever done this before. (If someone knows otherwise, please leave a comment below).

This is quite the technological feat (and certainly had its challenges - more details in the review to come). It’s a game changer.

I will confess that when I first heard from Rainer that they were doing this I was certifiably gobsmacked.  And you should be too.

Sidney C. Meyer and Rainer Maillard, Emil Berliner StudiosSidney C. Mayer (l.) and Rainer Maillard at Emil Berliner Studios. Mixing console is on the left.

Included in this set will be an extensive essay by Maillard going over the technical side of remastering these recordings for vinyl.  Here is a short extract from that essay:

“[Karajan’s] recordings both fascinate and divide audiophiles in terms of sound. With this reissue, we want to show that – with innovation and refinement – further sonic subtleties can be extracted from the master tapes, adding new audiophile dimensions to the so-called ‘Karajan sound’ … The aim of this new release is to preserve the highest possible sound quality for the analogue long-playing record. For both the analogue and the digitally produced symphonies, we are using the original multitrack tapes (with the exception of the Third Symphony, where the multitrack tapes are missing). This was the method used in DG’s Original Source Series of vinyl reissues released in 2023–2024: mixing and cutting directly from the original multitrack master tapes, without producing an intermediate ‘mix-down’ stereo tape. In this way we avoid going back one generation in sound quality in the mastering of the record, and thereby achieve maximum sonic fidelity to the master tape. Each movement was also cut to a separate LP side to get shorter playing times on the records (except for Symphony No. 1). This brings many benefits, including a much higher frequency response.”  (Extract from: “Ways to Make Technology ‘Disappear’: Getting as Close as Possible to Karajan’s Original Bruckner Sound” by Rainer Maillard)

In the video below, you can watch Maillard and Meyer mastering and cutting the last movement of the 8th symphony.:

Karajan Bruckner Master Tape

Beyond this Karajan Bruckner set, what this now means is that a huge amount of the later analogue DG catalogue is now available to be given the OSS treatment.  What riches await us!

Apparently, with the move to 8-track, DG continued to record with the possibility of quadraphonic/surround releases in mind (although this never happened).   So these 8-track tapes retain the two tracks of ambient information which were also a feature of the 4-track master tapes reissued earlier in the OSS series.  As a result we will be continuing to get that huge soundstage and three-dimensional quality that so distinguished the earlier OSS releases.

As to the first three symphonies in the Karajan cycle, as mentioned above, these were recorded digitally, and were always felt to be a considerable step down sonically from the rest of the cycle that was recorded all-analogue.  However, I have every confidence that Maillard and cutting engineer Sidney C. Meyer will have wrought every ounce of sonic goodness out of both these compromised digital masters and the 8-track analogue masters for the later symphonies.

Berlin Philharmonie interiorInterior of the Berlin Philharmonie, a masterpiece of modern architecture that revolutionized concert hall design (architect: Hans Scharoun)

Recorded in the Berlin Philharmonic’s own concert hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, Karajan’s cycle - released between 1975 and 1981 - has, as I mentioned earlier, long been considered a benchmark version of this extraordinary symphonic cycle.

Anton BrucknerAnton Bruckner

I bought all the original LPs as they came out, and for DG records of the period they sounded really good (with the exception of the digitally recorded Symphonies 1-3).  This was how I got to know these works.  Since then, Bruckner’s epic, grandiose conceptions have become amongst the most reliable sellers in the classical charts, and there are a plethora of first-rate cycles and individual symphony recordings to choose from when it comes to lining your library shelves.  However, Karajan - steeped in the music of Bruckner since his earliest days - remains one of the supreme guides in the symphonies, listening to which can be a transcendental experience in the right hands.

Karajan conducting in Berlin Philharmonie 1968Karajan recording Beethoven's 9th Symphony in 1968, in the Berlin Philharmonie. (Photo: Siegfried Lauterwasser, Karajan Archive)

On the basis of previous OSS reissues, I can only imagine how great this set is going to sound, even the digital recordings.  Again as mentioned above, but worth re-emphasizing, DG and EBS have also made the very smart decision to split some of the symphonies over a greater number of LPs than on the original releases, thus obviating the sonic perils of cutting overlong LP sides - a decision to be applauded.  I am practically drooling at the prospect of listening to these classic recordings in their new OSS incarnation - and you should be too!

Karajan Bruckner Complete Symphonies DG Original Source vinyl

I anticipate there will be quite a bit to discuss with regards to the technological advancements inherent in this momentous release, and what those advancements mean in terms of where the OSS reissues go from here.  Visions of sonically rejuvenated classic recordings from across the entire analogue DG catalogue are dancing before my eyes:  Karajan in Berlin; Giulini in Chicago; Abbado in London and Vienna; Ozawa in Boston; Carlos Kleiber, Eugen Jochum, Karl Böhm, Martha Argerich, the Melos Quartet - the list goes on and on….. And let’s mention here the catalogue of the legendary Italian pianist, Maurizio Pollini, who just passed away.  How amazing would it be to get some of his records given the OSS treatment.

As to this Bruckner set, according to DG’s press materials:

“Housed in a slipcase, with O-card, eight gatefolds and one single sleeve, 17 LPs are presented with artwork based on the respective original releases, the original liner notes, and additional material including facsimiles of recording protocols and artist photos.”

This is a limited edition of 2000, and I predict it will sell out if not before, then soon after its release date (August 2nd in Europe), so I recommend you preorder your copy sooner rather than later.

At the moment this set is only available for pre-order directly from the DG Shop. A wider pre-order date from other retailers is currently set for May 31st.

Karajan Bruckner symphonies DG Original Source

Karajan Bruckner Complete Symphonies DG Original Source vinyl


  • 2024-03-25 12:51:06 PM

    Diogo wrote:

    Oh boy. Time to start saving up for these upcoming releases.

    Here's hoping that they remaster some of the Böhm recordings of the era. Great interpretations, but not the best soundwise.

    • 2024-03-26 03:28:34 AM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      The gorgeous Bohm Beethoven 6th is in the next batch.

  • 2024-03-25 02:28:09 PM

    Josquin des Prez wrote:

    Wow. I'm in, but I'll wait to order it domestically.

    I wonder how many of the records in the box will have pressing defects? I'll say 3-5, based on my experience so far with the series.

    • 2024-03-25 03:34:57 PM

      Tim Ware wrote:

      My thought exactly! I’ve been getting them from Amazon as it’s so easy to return defective items. With 9 LPs, you’re bound to have several with annoying rotational ticks and non-fill. I’ll likely wait for the SACDs.

      • 2024-03-25 04:09:56 PM

        Josquin des Prez wrote:

        It's 17 LPs, not 9 (like the OG).

        Don't count on SACDs. The Original Source series is analog LPs only. None of the prior titles have been issued in any digital form.

        • 2024-03-25 05:49:58 PM

          Tim Ware wrote:

          Then I'd definitely skip this as it's bad enough dealing with ONE noisy/defective LP, let alone 17! And, of course, who's gonna listen to all 17 to ensure their quality within the window to return defective product. I've been mightily disappointed with the vinyl quality of these Original Source reissues. When the vinyl's great, they're stunning, but that unfortunately isn't the case with these DG reissues. Caveat emptor...

    • 2024-03-25 03:34:59 PM

      Tim Ware wrote:

      My thought exactly! I’ve been getting them from Amazon as it’s so easy to return defective items. With 9 LPs, you’re bound to have several with annoying rotational ticks and non-fill. I’ll likely wait for the SACDs.

      • 2024-03-25 05:08:53 PM

        Zaphod wrote:

        I guess buying a box set from Amazon might be okay, however I had to stop buying from Amazon because they have no clue on how to ship vinyl. It got sooo bad that they actually shipped the David Bowie Spiders from Mars in a plastic bag with no cardboard protection. I mean really? So the replacement was instead sent in a large empty box with no packing so it can slide around and bust the spine. This was typical on every album I bought!

        • 2024-03-25 05:10:42 PM

          Zaphod wrote:

          Yes it is easy to return to Amazon but it is a pain to never get a damaged album!

    • 2024-03-29 05:38:56 PM

      Robert Bubeck wrote:

      Although the OS DG releases can be striking sonically, obtaining defect free pressings has been a big problem with several returns. I hope that their QC improves.

  • 2024-03-25 03:26:15 PM

    Nels Ferre wrote:

    I’m in, but I won’t order from the DG store again. They should be removing VAT for shipping to the US, but they don’t.

    • 2024-03-25 04:11:27 PM

      Josquin des Prez wrote:

      To whom are they paying VAT collected from U.S. customers? 🤔

  • 2024-03-25 04:46:05 PM

    Thomas Ream wrote:

    Well, sonically this sounds very interesting, and it is the Bruckner year....but we are getting Barenboim's 4th in this series, and they are redoing Giulini's 7,8,and 9 so there is already a lot of Bruckner on the hoizon. But I did place my order.... What I'd like to see is if any of Pollini's recordings will be in the OS releases. It was very sad to hear of his passing.

    • 2024-03-25 05:19:23 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Very sad indeed. We will be getting some Pollini in the next OS batch, yet to be announced.

  • 2024-03-25 07:32:32 PM

    Come on wrote:

    Although I’ll leave out this box, I’m thrilled regarding the perspective you mentioned!

    Just yesterday I heard the Strauss/Janowitz LP, which sounds spectacular, so let more come DGG!

    • 2024-03-26 03:27:40 AM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Yup that Strauss LP is one of my faves. And yes there's more OSS in the pipeline.

  • 2024-03-26 03:31:25 AM

    Lemon Curry wrote:

    8 tracks into a lathe is remarkable. Why shouldn't Apple do this with The Beatles and Abbey Road, I wonder? All analog, no master!

    Looking in, I have curiosity to try a title or two. I picked up the DG four track of Schubert's Trout Quintet, and that was wonderful. I didn't need them all, tho. Any word if these titles may sell individually, too?

  • 2024-03-26 09:10:36 AM

    David Gow wrote:

    The CDs of the set are unlistenable with a horrible digital edge to the brass so I look forward to the vinyl. Karajan is a great Bruckner conductor. Price for 17 LPs is reasonable given that in UK individual OS issues are priced around £50.

  • 2024-03-26 05:06:02 PM

    Thomas Ream wrote:

    A comment and a question for Mark. Comment - it will be interesting to hear what is done with the 3 digital recordings that are part of this cycle. I am currently listening to DG digital Parsifal, led by Karajan, and while this is not the worst digital recording I have heard, it lacks the depth of an analog recording - really too bad, because it is a fine performance of Parsifal. To my ears, the onset of digital recording was akin to the adoption of the twelve-tone methodology....sterile and unnatural. Fortunately we have made it past the age of 12 tone composition, but sadly digital recording is still amongst us. (I am currently reading Sach's book "Why Schoenberg Matters"...interesting read, but that question has yet to be answered.) Will there be magic made with these? The question is future availability of earlier Original Source recordings....I have on order with Acoustic Sounds the Brahms concertos and the Verdi Requiem, and have had them on order since August. Acoustic Sounds continues to indicate that they were promised an allocation, and each month the shipping date moves, at month end, to the following month. Any news/updates on availability? I would be grateful to DG for a repress here.

    • 2024-03-27 06:45:38 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Yes I am afraid the American distribution of the OSS releases has been a moveable feast to say the least. On those older titles I have no idea if they're going to eventually appear. DG has repressed the first four releases. You might want to start looking elsewhere for the Verdi and Brahms..... re. the Bruckner - I have no doubt the three digital recordings will be made to sound the best they possibly can be.

  • 2024-03-27 03:46:41 PM

    NLak wrote:

    On the fence as to whether or not I will order, but still very tempted. I have them all on vinyl and CD, and they are sonically very poor so not sure how much better this new release will be. For $325 for 17 records isn’t all that bad, but think about it, how often am I going to play all of them. The 4th, 7th, 8th and 9th are gimmes, they will get played multiple times. The 5th and 6th probably, more than once but not guaranteed but the others? Meh. That’s a lot of money to spend for a multiple listen of four symphonies, probable one listen of five. So pondering this large outlay.

    • 2024-03-27 03:49:38 PM

      NLak wrote:

      Should also add they are available on Blu-ray Audio which is not the optimum solution but far cheaper at $45 USD, and my universal player can play them.

  • 2024-03-28 11:00:23 PM

    Jeff Richards wrote:

    All these announcements of DG reissues make it tough for listeners like me to buy the original source in the USA. I’ve been ordering from Deutschland as a result since the first releases. I can never get them from acoustic sounds. I’ve tried. Btw, I’ve had no pressing defaults from the series. I wonder if classical listeners buy these or collectors…

    • 2024-03-29 08:11:48 AM

      NLak wrote:

      Same, have bought quite a few of them and not one pressing default. All have been dead quiet.

    • 2024-03-29 06:36:05 PM

      Thomas Ream wrote:

      I have had one issue, which is about a minute of ticks at the beginning of the slow movement of the Tchaikovsky 4th. I bought this direct as well, so no possibility of a return and replace. I

    • 2024-03-29 06:36:07 PM

      Thomas Ream wrote:

      I have had one issue, which is about a minute of ticks at the beginning of the slow movement of the Tchaikovsky 4th. I bought this direct as well, so no possibility of a return and replace. I

  • 2024-05-01 01:32:22 AM

    James Nordbeck wrote:

    This sounds very exciting!! I hope we can listen to and watch a video of the third movement of Symphony No. 7 on Michael's system.

  • 2024-05-11 07:04:30 AM

    Swann36 wrote:

    As a newbie to classical, so far I have now got all these releases as they came out, bar 3 on the 2nd edition repress having been unsure first time around … I’ve gone for the Giulini 7-9 which seems to be produced in a similar way to the OSS ? Except half speed mastered (what ever that is?) rather than the big box set as the complete 9 symphonies is too much in one go for me and I’m not sure how often I’d pull them out to listen all the way through … and not too mention the possible issues over getting a “perfect set” … outside of that I’m really enjoying what I’ve got so far and excited about future releases in the series