Stupid Question Time - Recording Quality

Oxfordian

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Over the last few weeks I have enjoyed getting reacquainted with my aging HiFi set up, however one of the things that came to mind and made me start looking on YT is the subject of the quality of musical recordings.

Now we all want to get the very best out of the kit that we have but how do we know if it is the recording that is meh, rather than the actual kit, are we chasing perfection in sound but in reality the quality of the CD transfer or LP pressing is the cause of our woes?

Having viewed a few YT channels and listened to the host‘s view on what is good quality and what is audiophile quality and found some albums appearing on a number of video’s it made me think, a search of ‘Audiophile’ recordings on G came up with lists of many artists that I had never heard of but again with some of those artists mentioned by the YT hosts.

My question after much preamble and babble is this, how important is a good recording and how do we know what is excellent, good or simply not worth worrying about and shouldn’t be in anyone’s collection. I have around 400 LP’s and CD’s, some of which have received high praise on a number of different channels, lists, or forums, most of which I enjoy listening to but there are a few artists that have made me ask why the hell did I buy that!!

I cannot claim to have bought any music over the years on the basis of being an excellent recording, I simply liked the music at the time it was purchased.

So is recording quality a genuine issue in our search for musical perfection or a load of old baloney?
 
Agree, stupid question.... :)

......yes recording quality is an issue which is why people get paid to get it right.
Nobody, as far as I am aware, intentionally issues a bad recording although clearly some are better than others and this is often down to the musical genre itself.
Many mainstream CDs these days are overly compressed that doesn't do anything for the resultant sound quality
With LPs a lot is down the the quality of the producer and it certainly pays to do some homework regarding this and where the album was pressed before parting with heard earned money.
 
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nopiano

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It’s a fair enough question, and as Al says it’s very much an issue. I’ve rarely bought a recording on LP or CD without hearing it or reading a review first. Obviously it depends a lot on genre - if you want Bob Dylan then you probably don’t buy Roxy Music!

As you have noted, there’s any number of people happy to create lists, though personally i tire very quickly of YouTube and much prefer something written down. WHF regularly suggest recordings for specific test purposes or for enjoyment, and often both:-

Or for some classical music, something like this:-
 
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filipplord

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With older LP's surely there is a huge role being played by the production team and music engineers (thus the classical vinyl wars of the 40-50-60-70s) But in general modern cd's (recordings made from 90's to today) have no serious problem regarding sound quality. So yea if you are a vinyl collector, it is important to study a company before buying a set of vinyls but if thats the case I dont really think you would care to get the most out of your system... Even though ofcourse vinyl can sound 10 times better than a CD, it really comes down to just how much do you want to get out of your system? You cant demand to squeeze the dust particles out of a vinyl to have it sound just like when it was printed if you have a set of 300$ speakers…
Same with CDs.
 
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Oxfordian

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Agree, stupid question.... :)

......yes recording quality is an issue which is why people get paid to get it right.
Nobody, as far as I am aware, intentionally issues a bad recording although clearly some are better than others and this is often down to the musical genre itself.
Many mainstream CDs these days are overly compressed that doesn't do anything for the resultant sound quality
With LPs a lot is down the the quality of the producer and it certainly pays to do some homework regarding this and where the album was pressed before parting with heard earned money.
But how do you know what is good and what is bad?

If I go to my local HMV store and pick up a selection of CD’s or LP’s how do I know if the disc is well recorded, apparently Dire Straits is a pretty safe bet as their recordings are very good or excellent but other well known big name artists dont have the same recording quality.

I just wondered how anyone with a interest in listening to music knows where to find well recorded music, can it be obtained from your local record store or do you have to go to a ‘specialist’ store?

Curious as to how others get the good recordings for their systems.
 

Oxfordian

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It’s a fair enough question, and as Al says it’s very much an issue. I’ve rarely bought a recording on LP or CD without hearing it or reading a review first. Obviously it depends a lot on genre - if you want Bob Dylan then you probably don’t buy Roxy Music!

As you have noted, there’s any number of people happy to create lists, though personally i tire very quickly of YouTube and much prefer something written down. WHF regularly suggest recordings for specific test purposes or for enjoyment, and often both:-

Or for some classical music, something like this:-
Thanks for the information, I’ll give the links a read through.
 

millennia_one

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But how do you know what is good and what is bad?

If I go to my local HMV store and pick up a selection of CD’s or LP’s how do I know if the disc is well recorded, apparently Dire Straits is a pretty safe bet as their recordings are very good or excellent but other well known big name artists dont have the same recording quality.

I just wondered how anyone with a interest in listening to music knows where to find well recorded music, can it be obtained from your local record store or do you have to go to a ‘specialist’ store?

Curious as to how others get the good recordings for their systems.
This is where streaming comes in handy, i use it as a gauge to see if i like the album and then if the quality is good enough to buy. Everything i have hard copy wise i listen to on a regular basis. no money wasted and takes the guesswork out entirely.

It also opens you up to new artists that you wouldn't find otherwise
 
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Oxfordian

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With older LP's surely there is a huge role being played by the production team and music engineers (thus the classical vinyl wars of the 40-50-60-70s) But in general modern cd's (recordings made from 90's to today) have no serious problem regarding sound quality. So yea if you are a vinyl collector, it is important to study a company before buying a set of vinyls but if thats the case I dont really think you would care to get the most out of your system... Even though ofcourse vinyl can sound 10 times better than a CD, it really comes down to just how much do you want to get out of your system? You cant demand to squeeze the dust particles out of a vinyl to have it sound just like when it was printed if you have a set of 300$ speakers…
Same with CDs.
Thanks for the feedback and the points raised.

I’m old enough to remember those huge gramophone players with built in speakers that people had in their lounges and the James Last LP’s that got played continuously, so yes I was brought up on good old vinyl.

It is interesting to hear your views on modern CD’s and that they are in the main well recorded, that eases one concern but is contrary to a number of YT’rs who insist that CD quality varies. Certainly my copy of Dire Straits compilation Private Investigations sounded excellent when I played it last night.

I will buy LP’s when I can as I enjoy that interaction with the TT, but are these ‘remastered’ or ‘virgin vinyl’ super special editions at cost plus 50% of a normal edition worth the money or do I stick with bog standard normal vinyl?

My system is never ever going to allow me to extract every detail in any recording but then I don’t have a budget for this unless those lottery numbers come up. Whether this means I should stick to basic recordings and buy more music rather less of the better quality (?) but more expensive variants is a conundrum to resolve.

Maybe my route to musical nirvana is to stick with CD’s, get a good CDT and amp and just leave my vinyl collection to the occasional new LP from an artist I really really enjoy.
 

DCarmi

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Short answer is you don't know. At least not without listening to it first, or reading reviews.

You also have issues with different releases and different media. For example, I find (ignoring the performance value!) that the Killers - Hot Fuss on CD is virtually unlistenable to. Simply because it is horrendously compressed by recording at such high levels. Yet the same album on Vinyl does not have the same level of problem.

Californication by the Chilis is often quoted as an example of extreme loudness and hence poor sonic quality.

Google Loudness Wars. There used to be, and probably still is, a site which had ratings for dynamic range for lots of different recordings.

You also have to be careful with some classic recordings where the re-mastering involves boosting loudness.
 
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Oxfordian

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This is where streaming comes in handy, i use it as a gauge to see if i like the album and then if the quality is good enough to buy. Everything i have hard copy wise i listen to on a regular basis. no money wasted and takes the guesswork out entirely.

It also opens you up to new artists that you wouldn't find otherwise
Strange, I am just talking with my son and he has told to do exactly this, guess that I need to embrace the latest method of listening to music. Thanks for the suggestion.
 

insider9

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Nobody, as far as I am aware, intentionally issues a bad recording
I disagree Al. Poor sounding recordings are issued intentionally more often than you think. And on massive albums too.

Recording music is all about the performance. Great but poor sounding take, trumps super sound quality of a mediocre one. Often it's the spur of the moment thing which will never be replicated, however many times you try.

Take Nirvana's "Something in the Way" by all intents and purposes not a great recording, but a great performance that captures the mood of the song perfectly. Thank god for Butch Vig's clarity of mind to capture this amazing take by Kurt lying on a sofa in the control room. Singing almost at a whisper and playing not quite in time :D
 
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Oxfordian

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Short answer is you don't know. At least not without listening to it first, or reading reviews.

You also have issues with different releases and different media. For example, I find (ignoring the performance value!) that the Killers - Hot Fuss on CD is virtually unlistenable to. Simply because it is horrendously compressed by recording at such high levels. Yet the same album on Vinyl does not have the same level of problem.

Californication by the Chilis is often quoted as an example of extreme loudness and hence poor sonic quality.

Google Loudness Wars. There used to be, and probably still is, a site which had ratings for dynamic range for lots of different recordings.

You also have to be careful with some classic recordings where the re-mastering involves boosting loudness.
This is what concerns me and I guess that what you say is correct, you will never know what you are getting until you play it on your system.

Streaming is helpful and something that I am going to have to get my head round, at least I can find out if I like the artist, the quality of the recording will be found out when the media of choice is played on the system.

Thanks for the contribution.
 

Oxfordian

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I disagree Al. Poor sounding recordings are issued intentionally more often than you think. And on massive albums too.

Recording music is all about the performance. Great but poor sounding take, trumps super sound quality of a mediocre one. Often it's the spur of the moment thing which will never be replicated, however many times you try.

Take Nirvana's "Something in the Way" by all intents and purposes not a great recording, but a great performance that captures the mood of the song perfectly. Thank god for Butch Vig's clarity of mind to capture this amazing take by Kurt lying on a sofa in the control room. Singing almost at a whisper and playing not quite in time :D
I can buy into this, it doesn’t answer any of my questions but does explain why some of the older jazz LP’s that are recorded at live events or jam sessions are often the most sought after. As you say a grest performance by the artist that is half decently recorded will be way better than a masterful recording of a poor performance.

And that I presume is why this hobby(?) can be so infuriating.

Thanks for the contribution.
 

Oxfordian

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That’s the most puzzling statement I’ve ever read. I listen to both, and many others probably do too.

My guess is you’ve never heard early Roxy Music - the first 4/5 albums.
I’m going to keep out of this one, I’ve never listened to Bob Dylan or Roxy Music in any detail, singles on the radio is my limit, is that bad?
 
I can buy into this, it doesn’t answer any of my questions but does explain why some of the older jazz LP’s that are recorded at live events or jam sessions are often the most sought after. As you say a grest performance by the artist that is half decently recorded will be way better than a masterful recording of a poor performance.

And that I presume is why this hobby(?) can be so infuriating.

Thanks for the contribution.
Now you are confusing a poor performance with a poor recording. Make up your mind.
The initial question was to do with recording quality.
 
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insider9

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As you say a grest performance by the artist that is half decently recorded will be way better than a masterful recording of a poor performance.
I was making the opposite point.

And that I presume is why this hobby(?) can be so infuriating.
This hobby can be infuriating if you're trying to use your intellect to understand emotion. And when you're trying to perfect something that by definition should be imperfect. Engineering is about perfection. Art is about feeling and you mostly get that from imperfection.

I don't want this to sound like a personal attack. It isn't. We're all to a certain extent guilty off this when obsessing about sound quality.
 
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Gray

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This is where streaming comes in handy, i use it as a gauge to see if i like the album and then if the quality is good enough to buy.
OK if you ensure it's the identical master you will be buying.
I listened to a track on Spotify a couple of weeks ago on my headphones. It was the best I'd ever heard it.
Went back on Spotify a couple of days later to listen to the same track - but from a different album. Same headphones, all else equal, but nothing like as good. It was obviously not the same master (not an official remix nor one of those dodgy 're-recorded by one or more of the original artists').
If there are multiple re-masters of an album, what you hear depends on which master the streaming company has been given.
 
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Oxfordian

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Now you are confusing a poor performance with a poor recording. Make up your mind.
The initial question was to do with recording quality.
Fair point, but does it not equally apply?

I want to know how to identify a good recording from a bad one and the consensus would appear to be that there isn’t an obvious way of doing this.

As others have pointed out how the artist performs during a recording can determine whether the end result is top drawer or bottom of the barrel. Again we have no knowledge of this when we make a purchase.

It would appear that this is no easy answer to my stupid question, in essence I can listen via a streaming service to determine whether I want to buy a physical copy but how good the recording is on that physical copy is down to a number of factors that we can never know. All we can do is look at and listen for reviews to help our decision making.

Or am I still mixing topics and issues.
 
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Oxfordian

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OK if you ensure it's the identical master you will be buying.
I listened to a track on Spotify a couple of weeks ago on my headphones. It was the best I'd ever heard it.
Went back on Spotify a couple of days later to listen to the same track - but from a different album. Same headphones, all else equal, but nothing like as good. It was obviously not the same master (not an official remix nor one of those dodgy 're-recorded by one or more of the original artists').
If there are multiple re-masters of an album, what you hear depends on which master the streaming company has been given.
My son who is a big believer in streaming his music has told me to use the service to hear artists I don’t know about, if I like them I can explore further before deciding whether to buy it. But you make a good point is the master tape used by Spotify or similar the same as the master used to produce your chosen disc media.
 
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My son who is a big believer in streaming his music has told me to use the service to hear artists I don’t know about, if I like them I can explore further before deciding whether to buy it. But you make a good point is the master tape used by Spotify or similar the same as the master used to produce your chosen disc media.
the music on Spotify is probably taken from a cd.....
 
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Fair point, but does it not equally apply?

I want to know how to identify a good recording from a bad one and the consensus would appear to be that there isn’t an obvious way of doing this.

As others have pointed out how the artist performs during a recording can determine whether the end result is top drawer or bottom of the barrel. Again we have no knowledge of this when we make a purchase.

It would appear that this is no easy answer to my stupid question, in essence I can listen via a streaming service to determine whether I want to buy a physical copy but how good the recording is on that that physical copy is down to a number of factors that we can never know. All we can do is look at and listen for reviews to help our decision making.

Or am I still mixing topics and issues.
there are magazines that review new issue judging by both music quality and recording quality but they may not be reviewing anything you want to hear.
It's a bit similar to those that recommend using YouTube reviews to judge sound quality of equipment....... :)
 
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Oxfordian

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there are magazines that review new issue judging by both music quality and recording quality but they may not be reviewing anything you want to hear.
It's a bit similar to those that recommend using YouTube reviews to judge sound quality of equipment....... :)
This thread is going all over the place but that’s fine, discussion never hurt anyone.

Before www we had magazines and newspapers, they told us what was going on in terms of artists, gigs, releases and equipment, a good number of magazines gave away CD’s, some of well known artists, some less so.

I well remember being a fan of HiFi News, enjoyed reading that mag each month, but when I look back it was a channel on the YT of the day, it was a voice for advice, reviews and other stuff. The esteemed What HiFi was another regular read it offered a different perspective to HFN but both very enjoyable reads, two magazines that at the time I gleaned a lot of long since forgotten information. The key point being that they advised us on all things music, they were the YT of the day.

Now a days it is the influencers on social media trying to get us to buy what ever it is that they are promoting, in reality no different from the magazines of yesteryear, just that nowadays there is far more of them. I don’t dislike this, it is a way of getting to hear about new stuff but the smart bit is being able to sift through the dross to get the key point and that’s not always easy.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is the necessity to listen, only then will we be able to decide if it (what ever ‘it‘ is) works for us as an individual.

So I guess that ultimately the answer to my stupid question is that it doesn’t matter about whether a recording is good or bad, whether the artist was full of beans and up for the session or in a bad mood and just wanted to stay in bed, it will be our ears that determine what we like.
 

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