7 best-produced recordings of the 21st century to test your system

Sixtyten

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Even a cursory look at the Dynamic Range Database would quickly show that, the Surfjan Steven's album aside, these are dynamically compressed abominations. The Drake album, for example, has a dynamic range comparable to a 1980s LW pirate station.
 
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Navanski

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Even a cursory look at the Dynamic Range Database would quickly show that, the Surfjan Steven's album aside, these are dynamically compressed abominations. The Drake album, for example, has a dynamic range comparable to a 1980s LW pirate station.
I would agree. It's not all about dynamic range but I would expect most of the recordings to have some dynamism.
I'd love to know how WHF arrived at this set of recordings. There seems to be a complete lack of logic and reason particularly when you take into account that no medium is mentioned. Are these CDs, vinyl, DSD or the infamous MQA? I don't suppose they're available on Minidisc.
 

skinnypuppy71

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Black Country New Road " Ants from up there " is the finest indie/alternative analogue recording I've heard.....ever...dr of 18 when I checked my cd copy in roon but I really love my deluxe vinyl box set.lol.. Absolute fantastic album.
 

JennaChaplin

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Very pleased to see an update on this as I commented on a similar forum that there was nothing more recent than 2003 and most of the 10 were significantly older. Recording technology and engineers' skill have all improved a lot in my opinion. No matter how great or well-loved some of the most often cited recording are I tend to find most of them unlistenable: the classical recordings are muddy, the instruments are levelled unrealistically and there is no sound stage at all; rock is often ruined by 'loudness' and clipping.
 

JennaChaplin

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Have to disagree massively. The most 'realistic' recordings I have are from 'the old days' when engineers simply recorded the room/hall. It then went a bit cut-and-paste. The classical pieces you listen to must have something wrong with them or be from the bottom of the barrel.
Thank you for the conflicting opinion, something that should be welcomed more in today's fractious world.
May I suggest a recent recording that I like for you to listen to and tell me what you think, and you can do the same for me - give an example of an 'old days' recording. There's a good chance that I might have it in my library and, as I think it puts greater demands on an audio system, I'd prefer a piano concerto. My recommendation for you is Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor with Lief Ove Andsnes and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra on Warner Classics and yes, it's from 2022.
 
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Thank you for the conflicting opinion, something that should be welcomed more in today's fractious world.
May I suggest a recent recording that I like for you to listen to and tell me what you think, and you can do the same for me - give an example of an 'old days' recording. There's a good chance that I might have it in my library and, as I think it puts greater demands on an audio system, I'd prefer a piano concerto. My recommendation for you is Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor with Lief Ove Andsnes and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra on Warner Classics and yes, it's from 2022.
I can't think of a bad classical recording that I have, though it's only a very small part of my collection. Anything on Deutsche Gramophon should serve you well - I have a recording of The Planets which must be thirty years old.

Away from classical, try Cry by Ray Charles or Bob Marley's Exodus - even Try a Little Tenderness from The Commitments OST. If the first two don't sound wonderfully clear, natural and presented in an expansive soundstage, something's definitely not right!
 
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JennaChaplin

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I can't think of a bad classical recording that I have, though it's only a very small part of my collection. Anything on Deutsche Gramophon should serve you well - I have a recording of The Planets which must be thirty years old.

Away from classical, try Cry by Ray Charles or Bob Marley's Exodus - even Try a Little Tenderness from The Commitments OST. If the first two don't sound wonderfully clear, natural and presented in an expansive soundstage, something's definitely not right!
Thanks. I've been able to find some 1970s Beethoven piano concertos with Vladimir Ashkenazy, Georg Solti and the Chicago Symph which are on Decca. I will give those another serious listen. Also, the others you've listed I can find easily enough. I suspect that I'll still prefer the newer ones but, I do know that I've heard some very good recordings from the 70s, and I've heard some really good Bob Marley recordings.
In the end, all 'good' recordings shouldn't be vastly different and it will come down to personal preference rather than any sort of 'objective' criteria I believe. What I suspect is true now is that the conductor and soloist can have input to the final sound of the recording (yes, so it might get 'tweaked' a lot - which might explain why I find I can pick out individual instruments more easily) whereas in the old days, you got one recording of the Hall on tape and that was it; either it was great or it wasn't. I will let you know what I think.
 

JennaChaplin

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Well, I finally did listen to this recording, or at least the first 5 minutes of it. It was awful. It sounded like I was in the back of a large auditorium and, even worse, the sound of the strings was like sandpaper being rubbed across my eardrums. So, if there are great 'old days' recordings, this certainly isn't one of them! My collection has been culled many times over the years and I don't seem to have that much DG left but I will do some digging.
Next up: (tomorrow or Saturday) I'll listen to your Ray Charles and Bob M. I am expecting to like them.
BTW, I do have good equipment: Cambridge CXA81, B&W speakers and I was playing if from an EAC file, copied from my CD, through my LG OLED CX55 via Optical cable. My ears are pretty good too.
 
Well, I finally did listen to this recording, or at least the first 5 minutes of it. It was awful. It sounded like I was in the back of a large auditorium and, even worse, the sound of the strings was like sandpaper being rubbed across my eardrums. So, if there are great 'old days' recordings, this certainly isn't one of them! My collection has been culled many times over the years and I don't seem to have that much DG left but I will do some digging.
Next up: (tomorrow or Saturday) I'll listen to your Ray Charles and Bob M. I am expecting to like them.
BTW, I do have good equipment: Cambridge CXA81, B&W speakers and I was playing if from an EAC file, copied from my CD, through my LG OLED CX55 via Optical cable. My ears are pretty good too.
Be interested to hear what you think, as they are things I go for if someone asks me what my system really sounds like. As I say, if they sound wrong something is amiss. Happy listening.
 

JennaChaplin

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Ray Charles 'Cry'. I see what you mean; this sounds really good but, what I don't like is the excessive 'stereo-ization' (to coin a word) where, although Mr. Charles's voice is well placed, the strings are almost entirely in the R channel and the piano in the L. So, this isn't something I'd use to demonstrate my system. I'm listening to this, and the others, on my B&W P9's connected to my Mac via the Audioquest Cobalt with Apple Music as the source.

Exodus. This is an excellent recording and I particularly like 'Turn Your Lights Down Low'. However, I don't think it's better than most of the newer recordings I listen to, although I rarely listen to reggae.

Try a Little Tenderness. Best of them all. If it were more to my taste, I'd be happy to play this to show off my system.

The hunt for an older classical DG continues but, in the meantime, may I suggest the 2004 album 'The Ground' by the Tord Gustavsen Trio - try the track 'Being There'. Or 'Grounded' (coincidence!) on 'Never-Ending January (2015)' by the Espen Eriksen Trio. Possibly you might find the sound a bit too 'forward' as it sounds (to me) as if you are in the front row, and this may not be what you like.
 
I'm glad you enjoyed them. I like the new word too, although if you're getting the best from your system, the piano shouldn't be all the way to the left, though the strings are entirely in the right. I think I agree that things could be more evenly-spaced, but in a recording of that vintage, you get what was there - which is what I like about good, older recordings.

By Exodus, I was meaning the song itself, not the album - I haven't got that. Might be worth a quick re-listen just to that one track?

I'll try to make some time to find one of the songs you suggest, but they'd be fighting with one hand tied behind their backs as I'd be streaming via Bluetooth - plus I'm on hols this week.

Another 'front row' experience is Alexandra Leaving from Leonard Cohen's Live in Dublin.
 

JennaChaplin

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Dec 13, 2020
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Yes, I'll re-listen to Cry on the speakers - Phones definitely give you a different image or soundstage. For a while I was using an Earstudio ES100 Mk2 which has an option on the app to variably simulate speakers by 'sharing' (don't have the app any more so can't remember what the control was called) the channels but I quickly abandoned it becuase the mid-highs were very 'edgy' / grating.

I can go back to Exodus and try it on both the speakers and phone, along with the Cohen.

No rush to respond, and I think I can find some other examples with a bit more going on that might be better - the ones I listed have great sound, I think, but all you have are piano, bass, and percussion (which is too much in the background). I think I'll give you one or two with sax or trumpet added to the mix.

Hopefully I'll find that I still have a really good DG classical recoding in my collection - now that it's the weekend I am more optimistic. Thank you for the interesting exchange of views.
 
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You're welcome, and likewise.

However, maybe we're onto something here. Based upon experience and what I have read, I don't believe that a stereo signal played through headphones will ever give you a proper stereo image. You'll be needing those speakers.
 

JennaChaplin

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Cry: On speakers - much better than on phones for the soundstage but I still found it to be too accentuated to the sides, so, even though this has a lot going for it, particularly the rich timbre of Mr. Charles's voice, it wouldn't be one of my choices, but I do agree that this has a natural and clear sound and is a good candidate, particularly if this is the type of recording one might generally listen to.

Exodus: Well, I heard this a lot when it came out but exclusively either on the radio or other people's systems so I never heard it at its best but, when I played it, well, wow, I was seriously impressed. Definitely a good choicel

Alexandra Leaving: Yes, great presence and an open natural soundstage.

And yes, I did find a great DG recording from the 1960s: Karajan's Beethoven symphonies with the BPO. One of my favourite movements is the 4th from the 3rd symphony ('Eroica') and I was really suprised by this: the sensation of being in the middle (I'd say) of the auditorium was well captured and the sound was quite electrifying. - Karajan creates it but the recording captures it.
I compared it with three other more recent recordings, two of which it easily outdoes in rendering the music as a performance rather than just a recording, and one of which was quite similar in presentation. I can quite easily see how the 60s recording would be considered preferable as all three of the newer ones have a detectable 'analytic' quality. That works both ways: it gives you better clarity for following the various melodic lines and picking out the instruments but at the same time it sounds like more like a great recording than a great performance. So, what one prefers at any time may be a matter of mood, perhaps, as well as where you're going to place your attention - I know I can get lost in analyzing the sound rather than enjoying the music.

So, this exercise has definitely made me more willing to give the older recordings the benefit of the doubt; quite likely if I were to pick the most enjoyable (and hair-raising) recording of the Eroica, I'd be tempted to pick the Karajan, although I do have many others but haven't had the time to listen to them all - LVB is very demanding of the listener!

Here's one with both sax and trumpet over piano, bass, and percussion, that you might like to try: Good Influence on the album Neighbourhood by Manu Katché. It's on ECM who have a reputation for excellent recordings.
 
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