The need for at least one bad recording....

Discussion in 'Music and Recordings' started by LFF, Oct 8, 2015.

  1. LFF

    LFF Friend

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    ll too often audiophiles brag that their expensive rig or headphone can play "Jazz at the Pawnshop" with superb dynamic, micro detail and much aplomb.

    Well....sadly, that recording, as well as many other audiophile favorites tend to sound great out of almost every single system, rig, headphone and speaker out there. What's the use of demo'ing something that sounds relatively the same on every other system?

    One way to really test your system is to use a bad recording. It doesn't have to be horrendous but a normal, mediocre recording will do nicely.

    For vinyl folks, take for instance, a gray label pressing of Frank Sinatra's "Song's For Swingin' Lovers". A great record if there ever was one but the recording quality is good...not amazing. Play the second track. Can you hear Sinatra breathe a sigh of relief at the end? If not...your system is lacking detail and resolution!

    For CD lovers and Digital Downloaders, try out a regular issue of Bill Evan's "Portrait In Jazz". Have you ever noticed all the high pitched noise in some of the tracks? How about them drop outs? If you have no idea what I am talking about....your system is lacking in resolution and detail.

    While it never hurts to get your hearing checked by a professional audiologist, a simple, normal recording can do wonderful things for your system and for your benefit. I bet those $2,000 zebra wood headphones don't sound that amazing anymore...do they? [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2015
  2. BioniclePhile

    BioniclePhile The Terminal Man - Friend

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    This is what I like about a lot of older jazz, classical, and rock recordings. The engineers didn't have the tools to get rid of the ultra quiet stuff in the background in the 60's and 70's. Kind of Blue gives you the feeling of being in the room with the musicians because you can hear every movement they make, and especially with Miles' recordings, when he talks to other members of the band. Thelonious Monk mumbles to himself when playing, and sometimes it's hard to hear if you don't play close attention and listen into the recording. Same with Mingus, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat gives me tingles when I hear the tenor lean back in his chair after playing and it squeaks a bit. Older classical recordings have the page turns and people emptying their spit valves (it's condensation, I swear) during quieter scenes.
    I'd even go so far as to say that some newer recordings that implement crap to get rid of 'redundant' noise makes it unlistenable, at least for me. The 'studio sound' has always been the bane of my listening experience. If you can't hear the inhale before an introduction, or the shuffling of drum sticks when changing pace, it really takes the humanity out of acoustic music.
    Also, listening to Jimi Hendrix live is quite the treat, with all that shuffling about on stage and mumbling between guitar screeching. I'd take an imperfect recording any day over the black background crap that lots of engineers do. Sorry for the personal musical preference post. :p
     
  3. Jun

    Jun Friend

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    I want to listen to mostly high end accoustic recordings, recordings that keep scalling with good equipment. I feel like I hit a brick wall with some of my badly recorded music they don't get better, actually they get worse as those flaws are brought out.
     
  4. Priidik

    Priidik Friend

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    In my experience it goes both ways. Flaws and merits in recordings can be masked by crappy equipment. Some recordings that are mediocre won't scale nor sound bad at anything.
    One such album is Truckfighters - Mania, for example. It's sounding clean and exiting on its own, but the sound stage and fluidity of that album is not great. It sounds very similar out of bad or good dac. It sounds flat and boring next to awesome recordings through hi-end system, even though I totally dig their grooves.

    On the extremes there are super flawed and awesome recordings.

    The flawed recordings can have sibilance, smudging, severe weirdness in tonal balance, grain, severe compression etc. There are too many to list, a few that come to mind first: Steak nr Eight - The Hutch (retarded tonal balance and other issues), Naked and Famous (sibilance), Biffy Clyro (severe lack of dynamics), Puscifer - Money Shot (some freakish edge to it).
    Imo great systems tend to bring out flaws here more than raise the merits of these recordings, so I actually enjoy these with my mid-fi devices more.

    The awesome recordings have top notch dynamics, fluidity, full 3D sound stage with proper relations to instruments and no severe flaws.
    Here I put most of latest Hans Zimmer, Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, most of Tool, several orchestra pieces that are too annoying to name and many things from Nicolas Jaar.
    In this category top notch system raises the experience to the Heavens while the mid-fi stuff makes them sound roughly on bar with mediocre recordings.

    @LFF The flaws in Portrait in Jazz are hardly flaws next to what is going on in modern generes :p.
    Neverheless slightly annoying with HD800 --> EC2A3--> Yggdrasil. Less so with other cans, but I can hear the high pitched noise with all of my mid-fi phones.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
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  5. julian67

    julian67 Friend

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    I have a very nice and clear recording of two excellent musicians playing vihuela duets in a home studio. You can tell it's a home studio when you hear a vehicle approach, followed by the crunching sound of said vehicle coming to a halt on the gravel driveway.

    There is no shortage of classical recordings made in ancient churches where you can hear traffic outside. This is often despite recordings being made in the small hours of the morning specifically to avoid urban noises. Some very fine recordings/performances feature this, even 50 years ago, and it doesn't matter much at all. Of course it is a bit more obvious on headphones than speakers.

    Modern digital recording + decent headphones is perhaps sometimes too revealing. I can think of a few CDs I have on which one can clearly hear the buzz from the fluorescent lighting in the church or hall. It's hardly unusual to hear footsteps, doors being opened and closed and so on. I particularly like one performance where you can hear a chair scrape back, followed by stamping footsteps and a door slamming. Probably it was something the conductor said, or maybe an overly spicy snack taken during final rehearsal.
     
  6. ThePianoMan

    ThePianoMan Almost "Made"

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    This reminds me of the (to me reductive) method of mixing on crummy speakers, the thinking being that if it sounds good on crappy speakers it should sound good on anything. I respect some of these engineers a lot... But I also think of listening for audio reproduction gear, and listening for recording quality are two different things. That's just my take though. I demo with music I think is relatively well recorded (some is fabulous, some is just fine) but it's music I like, know or that has something I'm looking for (bass extension for example) I don't think test recordings need to be overthought that much. And I came to that conclusion after going through conservatory and studio schooling!
     
  7. EVOLVIST

    EVOLVIST Rob Watt's Fluffer

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    I try to stay away from the usual offenders, e.g. Patricia Barber, Steely Dan, Norah Jones, et al - those poor wretches who invariably get trotted out by some well meaning connoisseur of audiophilia any time he or she gets the itch show off the virtues of some cables fashioned from unicorn sperm, or whatever it may be this time.

    Instead, like the OP pointed out, there is a wealth of special audio cues in many pieces, across many genres, if only you have the ears (and gear) to hear them. They need not always be tracks of crystalline purity.

    Favorite moments of mine is hearing the kick drum pedal squeek with every kick drum thump during the coda of David Bowie's "Five Years." Do you actually hear the springs in the pedal, or do you merely hear an annoying sound, if you hear it at all?

    Then there are the voices of John Lennon cutting up during Paul's bit in the middle of "A Day in the Life." Can you hear the devilish mirth in his tone, or do you just hear mumbling?

    Or, lastly, do you own any lo-fi/hi-fi albums? That is, albums that were recorded rather poorly, yet even in their lowly state they still sound clear and unmuddied? A perfect example to me is Steve Miller's "Recall the Beginning...A Journey From Eden" (1972) album.

    The story goes that it was written and recorded in just a span of a few days, to where the band didn't even know most of the songs. The album was pro recorded, but in great haste not properly mic'ed, with gaffs left in. All of this adds to the album's charm, where all of the nuances are layed bare to either sneer at, or like me, to revel in, taking its pure honesty and bald production as the unvarshished truth in audio.

    There. Now I've written my second post. Is anyone with me?
     
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  8. Madaboutaudio

    Madaboutaudio Friend

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    There's nothing "high resolution" with most of Johnny Cash albums(Low dynamics, shouty microphones, background hiss, mono sound), but I enjoy all of his albums immensely.

    Ditto with the music sound track from the game fallout 1/2:

     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2016
  9. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    Given how much I hate the dreary "lounge jazz mush" lowest common denominator style of a lot of "audiophile recordings", this pleases me greatly.

    I'm always curious how gear sounds with decent recordings- Dark Side Of The Moon, "Jupiter" from an excellent recording of The Planets, or even (slightly embarrassingly) "Bell" from Tubular Bells 2 (as a layering torture test).

    However, I do always like to play some much loved crappy recordings, as making those an enjoyable listen is a bigger ask... For example:

    • Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue (old, noisy recording)
    • Nirvana - Nevermind (horribly mixed/mastered, very harsh splashy highs)
    • Pretty much any old Cure (Can sound flat and thin)
    • The Sisters Of Mercy - Some Girls Wander By Mistake (can sound flat and thin)
    • Tori Amos - "Waitress" from Under The Pink (chorus can sound awfully shrieky on shrill chain)
     
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  10. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Similarly, what artists/albums will make you walk out of a dealer/show if played during a demo?

    Artists for me:
    • Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler
    • Sade
    • Fleetwood Mac
    • Diana Krall
    • Keith Jarrett
    • Norah Jones
    • The Eagles
    If some salesperson plays that type of audio milquetoast hoping to impress rich old fat white people with comb-overs, I like to play this:



    Or, his "Gloomy Sunday". That'll get the toes tapping.
     
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  11. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    @yotacowboy

    I tend to prefer



    but the principle is the same. As to what'd make me walk out- what a great question. Off the top of my head:

    • Jazz at the pawnshop - I'm sorry, is this just an HF circle jerk?
    • The Eagles - love or hate them, it's all produced to within an inch and mostly pristine mids- almost impossible to use to eval anything.
    • Coldplay - just fucking no.
    • U2 - see Coldplay.
    • Prince - it's a long story*

    Actually, I'm probably likely to be unsatisfied unless I can choose/provide the music, as it's easier when you know the tracks, and what normally always sounds good, what's tricky, and what sounds dodgy just because it's part of the recording.


    * When I was a student, the woman who had the room directly below mine in the shared house used to play Prince loudly every morning. Early. I was always woken up by the jittery twiddling of the purple sex dwarf. This went on for quite a while, and despite requests, didn't stop. In the end, I took the manky old stereo system in my room, tipped the speakers face down on the floor, weighted them, and then played Ministry's "Psalm 69" album at high volume every single time I heard Prince. It took about a week of this conditioning to make my point- but by the end of it, peace as restored, and I got to choose when I woke up.

    I did retain a violent dislike of Prince, though.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
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  12. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Dimmu Borgir is another great artist to break the ice during flaccid demos, too.
     
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  13. SineDave

    SineDave Friend

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    I tend to bring out the really esoteric and/or bass heavy records in my collection to these demos. I love watching the look on the face of a pompous audiophile as I start to play this track:



    In terms of bad recordings, there is so much modern metal that is heavily compressed and just plain awful. One of my favorite albums that is this way is Pretty Maids 2010 album Pandemonium. Great songs, awful compressed recordings.
     
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  14. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Metallica though... :eek:
     
  15. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    Ah yes, Death Magnetic's (in)famous CD mastering job. Where does abysmal mastering fall in for testing purposes?

    (For reference)

    [​IMG]
     
  16. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    To see this was rather inevitable but yes, no additional words are needed. Loudness war at its finest.
     
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  17. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    You can probably tell more from bad recordings than from good. The reason is that good recordings to me will sound decent on almost any system. There are exceptions, but the reason they are good recordings is because it was mixed and mastered well.

    I always try to keep in mind recordings that I know are bright heavy or dark. Bright would be like a John Mellencamp album like Scarecrow or Whenever We Wanted. Dark stuff is like QOTSA, Neil Young Mirrorball, and some Minus the Bear albums. Random Access Memories also has a lot of low end thump. If something is off there when you compare, you know what is going on.

    I always like throwing in some Foo Fighters as it pushes stuff to the limit. It will eat bad op amps for lunch and sound flat, lifeless, harsh, and dead. Basically, if you can actually get some dynamics out of it without strain, then it can pass.

    Some exceptions to the rule of good recordings is what I call a lot of mids recording. Recordings rich in mids, like DSOTM, the Eagles, Bob Dylan Nashville recordings. Seriously, if you listen to Blonde on Blonde on a set of Apple ear buds, it will sound like AM radio. However, on other more refined systems can open a whole new world. Maybe we should start a thread on these type albums.
     
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  18. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    This.
     
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  19. HAL9000

    HAL9000 Almost "Made"

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    I agree totally. The first track I use to test out a rig is Joe Jackson's On The Radio. The harmonica riff will rip your head off on a crummy system. It actually CAN be reproduced musically... on a good system.

    Portrait In Jazz (and for that matter, anything Bill Evans) is sooo good that I just tune out the high pitched noise, but it is another favorite test.
     
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  20. Wfojas

    Wfojas Friend

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    This is so spot on. I find that you can tell a lot by how a component sounds using different mastering on different media, too. I was listening to an early issue Joni Mitchell 'Miles of Aisles' in vinyl yesterday, and was struck by how good it sounded, in comparison to the same early CD release which must be close to the worst I've heard.

    When I get new stuff in, i run the cd of, say Huey Lewis and the News 'Sports' or Basia's Time and Tide' (this one is bad in vinyl, and what the lowest depths of hell bad must be in CD) to see how it will deal with the nasty highs, congestion and lack of dynamic nuance inherent in the bad early CD mastering, and contrast it with the vinyl.

    The vinyl is barely okay, the CDs should be so bad you need to turn it off. If you match it against pieces that accentuate its flaws, God help you if you paid for the thing.
     
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