Recording Fidelity and Reproduction: Real-World Systems
post-171972
Thread Starter
Post #1 of 8

Matt

Are there any women on this board?
Joined
Jun 25, 2001
Messages
974
Reaction score
10
Joined
Jun 25, 2001
Posts
974
Likes
10
Hello, all.

This is a topic I've been meaning to post since the HeadRoom Goodwill Tour.

At the tour, I took advantage of Tyll's kind offer to allow us to bring our own CDs and listen. To get to the point, I stuck in, for example, George Michael's Songs from the Last Century and while I would ordinarily think of this recording as pleasantly hi-fi enough (for a pop-ish, major label disc), it was clearly inferior in fidelity and accuracy and beauty to the discs provided by HeadRoom. I would even go so far as to say that with this material, the amps/cans were "not worth it" relative to lesser amps.

My verdict, for instance, on the BlockHead/HD600 combo, which I otherwise LURVED with this recording was more on par with my verdict of the lesser HeadRoom amps. The great-sounding material was given a full-out treatment, but the amps didn't perform some sort of perfect, magic process on everything, revealing it's true, deeply hidden inner beauty.

Those observations got worse on some vintage (50's) live jazz recordings I had with me. It just wasn't nearly as good as the top-notch material they had there and the systems (including the Orpheus) didn't perform that well with the inferior material. Since experiencing that show, I've come to really realize that there is really no absolute audio panacea out there (though you can get close, such as with the Orpheus).

The question, then, is that short of changing one's musical tastes to better fit the sort of material that most audiophile labels put out, where does that leave those with pop/rock/jazz tastes, all of which tend somewhat towards relatively lower-fi recording methods (especially the rock and pop)?

Clearly the people with those sort of tastes will be far better served by something that performs the same sort of sins of ommission (or possibly commission) that music producers and engineers assume will be the case with the end listener (like a sweetened, euphonic sound, a midbass hump or whatever the case may call for), albeit with as much grace and finesse as possible.


- Sir Mister Matt
 
     Share This Post       
post-171977
Post #2 of 8

RickG

Electrostatic Elvis
Joined
Aug 2, 2001
Messages
4,722
Reaction score
11
Joined
Aug 2, 2001
Posts
4,722
Likes
11
Matt-

I listen to a wide variety of music and have at least as many old recordings as new (on both vinyl and CD). I view my Stax system as a sort of "microscope" that really shows me not only "what the recording sounds like", but "what the music sounds like". I'm older and I grew up listening to records from the 40's on up. I realize the limitations of these recordings as compared to today's "state of the art" products. However, I'm more interested in the music and I'm glad I'm able to listen to it with the most revealing gear. I'll take all the tape hiss, poor microphone placement, pops and ticks, etc., because I know the "music" is being reproduced with the same clarity as the artifacts.

 
     Share This Post       
post-172078
Post #3 of 8

Budgie

Never looks a gift amp in the jackhole.
Joined
Jun 22, 2001
Messages
2,154
Reaction score
18
Joined
Jun 22, 2001
Posts
2,154
Likes
18
For myself I have found that the more I love the music, the more I can tolerate a bad recording. If the music "speaks to me" the poor recording is sometimes what I have to put up. Sometimes I luck out and find a remastered re-release of some music I love.
 
     Share This Post       
post-172161
Post #4 of 8

Matt

Are there any women on this board?
Joined
Jun 25, 2001
Messages
974
Reaction score
10
Joined
Jun 25, 2001
Posts
974
Likes
10
Well, for instance, when I try to listen to The Four Tops' recordings from the mid Sixties, I find it nearly unbearable. The drums clip constantly, the sound is crappy and congested.

About the remaster thing, the funny thing is that Motown releses from the same time period sound great, such as the newly-released/remastered Temptations two-disc set. It sounds way better. I wonder if that crap sound is purely a mastering thing...

I also listen to 78-source CD's, mostly young Judy Garland performances. There I'd agree with the warts-and-all style of listening, as it really does bear some excellent fruit, if you can get over the compromises.

The main group this thread is adressed to, I guess, is pop-music fans or fans of any sort of music where fidelity in recording is rarely or never on the front burner.

- Sir Mister Matt
 
     Share This Post       
post-172208
Post #5 of 8

elambo

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 28, 2002
Messages
30
Reaction score
0
Joined
Jul 28, 2002
Posts
30
Likes
0
Matt - you have a great point. This is something that a lot of us must have noticed at some point.

Because of this there are some recordings that are better enjoyed by less revealing systems. I have heard so many albums that I really enjoy on less-than-hi-fi systems, but I don't get nearly the same enjoyment when listening on better, more revealing systems. There's just some information in those recordings that's better left unheard.

There are many recordings in the jazz genre that you WOULD call audiophile-quality, but not so many in rock or pop. Many reference systems use CDs by Diana Krall and Patricia Barber, both jazz singers, to show off their sound, but not many rock or pop albums I've heard would sound good in these systems. This is not exactly rock OR pop, but Steely Dan's "Two Against Nature" is one awesome sounding CD. It should be an essential listen when auditioning any system. Lyle Lovetts "Joshua Judges Ruth" is another great sounding CD, but not exactly pop or rock either.

Many of the pop and rock albums were recorded and/or mastered with so much fidelity-crunching compression and processing to make them "L--O--U--D" for radio play that they just don't sound good in high-fi systems. The CDs I mentioned above have little of this processing and were recorded and mixed VERY well, so they pass the headphone test. But some of my absolute favorite albums, like Radiohead's "OK Computer" and "The Bends", and a few Bjork and Beck CDs just aren't as enjoyable under the microscope of a great headphone system. This is very unfortunate.

Speaking for myself, I know that I'm very limited on selection when shopping specifically for sonic quality. On the other hand I've gotten used to my favorite album content being reserved for listening in the car or on the computer. A shame really...

For what it's worth, it's not really the producers or engineers that are responsible for the "sins of omission" (good one), but the record company. Radio stations are always compressing the crap out of their songs to make them louder than other stations. It's become a contest among stations to have the loudest sound on the dial. This is inevitable because the majority of listeners respond to that loudness and, whether they know it or not, prefer it. So the record companies tell the producers and recording engineers and mastering engineers to "make it louder, because if you don't the station is going to", and it will sound even worse if they do it. So this is why pop and rock in particular are compressed to the pegs and therefore sound kinda crappy on hi-fi systems. A damn shame...
 
     Share This Post       
post-172262
Post #6 of 8

Matt

Are there any women on this board?
Joined
Jun 25, 2001
Messages
974
Reaction score
10
Joined
Jun 25, 2001
Posts
974
Likes
10
...specifically says of their Supreme (as compared to their Cosmic) that it does "round off the edges of your crap portable source" where the Cosmic will give you a fuller, more revealing fidelity of your (probably) crap CD source.

By the same token, as we've established already in this post, just like a CD player can be crappy, the CD recording itself can be crappy, it simply being an earlier link in the same chain. With this in mind, where can we look for sources, amps and cans that will "round off the edges" and deliver us perfect pop music, killer rock, etc. without necessarily the excellent "meter man" hi-fi of some of what many of us aspire towards?
What brands/models of gear "reconstitute" these types of music best?

Also, I guess an assesment of what an effective pop or rock performance equates to. For instance, if I feel hit in the guts with bass and crunchy distortion guitar texture that has a real, palpable timbre that feels like it does when you hear someone playing for you on a good amp, I am pretty satisfied.

For pop, if I am hit by the groove and bass and nothing is particularly grating and the overall sound is loud, clear, smooth and euphonic, I'm most satisfied.

- Sir Mister Matt
 
     Share This Post       
post-172275
Post #7 of 8

Poddy

Head-Fier
Joined
Apr 26, 2002
Messages
65
Reaction score
0
Joined
Apr 26, 2002
Posts
65
Likes
0
The saying your only as strong as your weakest component is very pertinent to this discussion. As such if you have a top system but poorly recorded material it is going to bring out every inaccuracy within the music. By the same token very good gear is often thought of as such because it presents a fairly flat frequency response. Which isnt pleasant to listen to music to. Depending of course on your tastes and ideals. The cheaper amps may boost the lows and highs a little more due to the nature of their circuitry. Thus providing a more lively and enjoyable mix. The level you listen to the song at also has an affect on how much you enjoy the tune. Our ears have recessed hearing capabilities in the high and low spectrums. The louder the material the flatter that response gets. Hi fi components have a compromising nature with each other.
 
     Share This Post       
post-172297
Post #8 of 8

Matt

Are there any women on this board?
Joined
Jun 25, 2001
Messages
974
Reaction score
10
Joined
Jun 25, 2001
Posts
974
Likes
10
...I see what you're saying, Toddy.

I guess what I'm getting at ultimately is you have this arena of music in which bad sound quality is a given, so are there systems (or rather should there be systems) designed around that concept?

It seems like the majority of the people out there listen to pop music day in, day out, so why not build systems that are both audiophile (in that they'll give the cleanest, clearest, most accurate reproduction) while also compensating, if you will, for the flaws inherent in your typical pop record?
A ****ty boombox could probably compensate for the flaws by glossing everything over, but is it going to give the most musical/musically accurate/transparent performance within those confines? No.

- Matt
 
     Share This Post       

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top