Originally Posted by daerron
It depends how they've gotten to the recording, whether it was directly from the master or perhaps from another source. You can look up a lot of records on the dynamic range database and see the recording quality. Have to say I've been mostly happy with all the records I've downloaded from them, some records really sound fantastic. Just a tiny bit annoyed now as I bought most of Joni Mitchell's records on HD Tracks last month....
This and the how good the master sounds. You cannot polish a turd. If the master wasn't recorded well you cannot go back into the studio and re-record it. Dynamic compression, too much/incorrect eq, etc. ruin most recordings. Sad truth is that most recordings aren't that good to begin with. So, you simply have a HD version of an average sounding recording. So, yeah you probably will not be able to tell a difference, and the HD version might actually sound worse (a turd in high resolution). I guess you can dress it up under the guise of "HD" 49/99000 or whatever and tell people it is better and charge more for it. Some will buy it though and mentally justify it by thinking this is HD and expensive.
Also, the condition of the master matters. Some tapes have to be baked as over time as the tape gets stuck to itself. The plastic tape with magnetic particles degrade over time, so even if it was great to begin with it may not be great 50 years later. Oh, and the tape machines need to be in good order as tape heads degrade/wear, caps dry out and change value, Mastering engineer's ears go bad, and poor quality monitoring equipment might be used.
Having said the above, there are a few recordings that sound better than in HD. Whether you actually like the music is another story. I've got several audiophile friends that play the same damn music over and over again and they don't actually like the music, but listen to it because it is recorded well. I'll take my fav music on an am radio over music I'm lukewarm about on HD on $200k system anyday. Kind of like, I'd rather eat a hamburger over the best most expensive lamb chops, because I cannot stand the taste of lamb.