Is the system or the recording more important?

July 17, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

33 comments on “Is the system or the recording more important?”

    1. Nah; Paul gonna say you need every link in the chain to get hooked up, from the mics to the speakers. Other wise the boat won’t float . . . .

      I must launch out my boat.
      The languid hours pass by on the
      shore——Alas for me!

      The spring has done its flowering and taken leave.
      And now with the burden of faded futile flowers I wait and linger.

      The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady lane
      the yellow leaves flutter and fall.

      What emptiness do you gaze upon!

      Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air
      with the notes of the far—away song
      floating from the other shore?

      ~ rabindranath tagore

      1. Hi Mickey,
        Yeah, well you’d have to go back to my comment at 11:20 pm on July 13th,
        ‘Are preamps or power amps more important’ to get that answer 😉

    2. To qualify what I have typed above: I’ve heard some cheap home audio
      systems sound unbelievable when they are fed extremely well recorded
      music; say for example something engineered & mixed by Bob Ludwig.
      And I’ve heard some high-end gear sound very average
      when poor to average recordings are played on them.
      After 22 years in home audio retail you kinda know what’s what.

  1. I don’t know. I poor recording sounds terrible on any system. A good recording is going to sound as good as the system you have. I question the money I spent every time I listen to a track I like that was poorly recorded. Maybe my hobby should have started with tracking down quality recordings of the music I like. That would have been a much less expensive beginning!

  2. This is a question I’ve always wanted to ask, but didn’t dare until now.
    I haven’t gotten to the point to where and when I could do this yet.
    But I wonder, what if you had an all tube preamp, and an all tube power amp.
    In my case, the Mcintosh C22 preamp, and a pare of Mcintosh MC-275 power amps.
    But have the amps bridged so that they can each deliver 150 watts to the speakers.
    Hook that system up to a pare of Golden Ear Triton 1 Reference speakers.
    What would DSD audio files sound like going threw that system?

  3. I would have guessed you would have said that the recording was more important, because it’s effect is on ALL people that buy the recording not just you. I’m assuming that’s why you started Octave Records. It is awfully disappointing to spend hard earned cash and get a crappy recording. BTW, your analogy with prescription eye glasses was crystal clear! A true story I’ll never forget: Our 7 year old neighbor got glasses for the first time and when he looked up he said, “What are those?” His mom responded, “Clouds”. Can you imagine that? Thanks for doing what you do.

  4. I built my system in the early 2000’s…It was incredible. I was delighted to try all my older (mid 80s and some 90’s) CD’s as a trip down memory lane as well as to hear them as they should have been… I was terribly disapointed and sold all of those early CD’s off for pennies on the dollar. The recordings were awful and painful to listen to. However, that created another issue. I started doing research and soliciting advice on great recordings. I started buying ONLY CD’s that were recorded well, even though I didn’t necessarily care for the artist…. Good news is I was exposed to many artists I would never have tried… Bad news was TRYING to enjoy stuff that just wasn’t in my wheel house.

  5. Garbage in garbage out the saying goes, a bad recording gonna sound bad regardless of the system sadly a good system more clearly identifies these recording shortfalls.

  6. What’s better listening to a song that you love that is not the best recording or listening to a song you don’t care for but is recorded great? Personally I want to hear the music I love and however it’s recorded I have to live with. I prefer looking at a beautiful painting even if my glasses are not the greatest than looking at an ugly painting through great glasses. The song matters more than the recording or the system. Song, system, recording in that order. I have some great recorded material that’s great for showing off my system but I rarely listen to.

    1. Pink noise and test tones recorded properly can show the strengths and weaknesses of my system too but it’s not enjoyable to listen to. Quite frankly I prefer listening to pink noise and test tones over some of the garbage music out there no matter how well it was recorded.

      1. Paul is Octave Records going to try and get contracts to make better recordings of some of the classic music that we love similar to what Mobile Fidelity has done with vinyl analog and digital?

          1. Good afternoon Joe!
            For what it’s worth, that is an excellent idea man!
            But I’m afraid that Paul won’t do that.
            Because, in order to get those contracts, you will have to pay out a good deal of money.
            But if you can’t make any profits off of them to recover the money you had to pay out, that’s where the problem is for this kind of a thing.
            But just like you, I wish that someone would improve the classic stuff we all grew up listening to.
            Then and only then, those old songs would be suitable for listening to on our high end systems.

            1. Many of the old recordings we grew up with are excellent and worthy of listening to on our Hi Fi systems. Companies like Mobile Fidelity refine those recordings. I wouldn’t replace all of my music with them because that would cost too much and not everything is available, but certain recordings like Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon to use one of many as an example I would surely pay the extra money to squeeze that extra bit of fidelity out of the recording. Everyone has about 20 or 30 recordings they would pay more to upgrade. Like you said that might be getting deeper than Octave Records wants to go right now biting off more than they could chew but something that they could evolve into down the road. Every company starts out with baby steps and grows sometimes further than they ever imagined. You have to take a risk to be rewarded.

    1. So has Bob Ludwig, & he has consistently been doing it the best.
      As an example, listen to any ‘Rolling Stones’ CD album from the
      70’s that has been remastered by BL & be amazed!

    1. Steven Wilson gets commissioned to re-mix a lot of classic prog rock albums. He is sent 24/96 WAV transfers of the original tapes. Nothing is re-recorded. He is asked to do it because he is a brilliant musician and producer. He works with Apple Logic Pro. He’s explained that he did more of it to fill dead time when touring, as all he requires is a laptop.

      1. Good morning Steven not to be confused with Steven!
        FR, I want your take on this too as well.
        In this day and age, why mess around with 9624 PCM wave files?
        When they can be up cempled and converted in to DSD files which would make them sound better.
        Isn’t there a way that DSD files could be made out of those removing the harsh sound of the PCM files?

        1. In this day and age the vast majority of the recording industry has given up on DSD, they did ages ago. Gus Skinas has a few acolytes like Paul who persist with it and can only overcome it’s fatal flaw (you can’t edit it) by CONVERTING IT TO PCM for editing and then converting it back. Plus DRM, which is death to any format.

          Steven Wilson uses Logic Pro, that can’t even process DSD. His remixes are very successful – he’s been doing then for almost 25 years – and are issued on CD and vinyl. All the ones I have are on vinyl. That’s what people want as they are albums most people, me included, had on vinyl in the first place.

          It is amusing to suggest re-mixing albums with a format that died because you can’t mix it.

          1. Actually, you can mix and remix DSD files.
            But the ketch 22 is, you have to have the right tools to do it with.
            Perhaps a tool like the SONY Lanova multitrack recorder.
            I understand that both Paul and Gus have one.
            But for most people that want to do that, you have to have anywhere between $5000 and $15000 to pick up one of them.

            1. Well, you made the point – to adopt DSD the entire industry would have to buy Sony machines, because Sony has the digital rights – whereas they chose to use DRM-free codecs on software like Logic Pro with massive functionality. Steven Wilson mentions that he works quite closely with the Logic Pro team at Apple on their product development.

              Some of the Jethro Tull originals were quite poor and the purpose of the remasters is to provide better versions for a wide audience – it is not for the benefit of a very niche DSD-loving audiophile community. I can recommend much of the Porcupine Tree output and two of Wilson’s solo projects, Raven and Hand.Cannot.Erase. The latter is a masterpiece, I have the 24/96 download. Most of his output is released on the independent Kspace label. Hand.Cannot.Erase was recorded at Air Studios, down the road from here, which is one of the best recording and mastering facilities anywhere.

              1. Good afternoon Steven not to be confused with Steven!
                Do you know if:
                has a copy of that CD?
                I would love to hear it.
                But looking at Qobuz, a blind person could very easily get lost on that site.
                It does not work too well with screen reading software like JAWS.
                Perhaps one day, I’ll take the state of Florida to task, and make them give me a Mack system to work on instead of a Windows PC.

          2. You are limited by what was in the analog tape. Even 24/96 is much higher resolution than the master. The frequency response and noise level of the tape is much worse than 24/96. You will probably achieve the same sound with 24/44.
            I have some of the Wilson re-masters and I’m quite happy with them.

        2. Hi JP,
          I don’t ‘do’ DSD or SACD; I’m quite happy with my 44.1/16 Redbook CD collection & therefore I have virtually no interest in the ‘higher’ formats.
          Very good remasters in 44.1/16 is the only thing that interests me since most of the music that I love to listen to was recorded in the period 1965 – 2002.

          1. Good morning FR!
            I understand where you’re coming from with this.
            I guess it’s whatever floats your boat.
            In August of 1999, I picked up a copy of Sound And Vision at the time, I was getting books and magazines sent to me in the mail on NLS Talking Book cassettes.
            It was at that time, that SONY came out with their very first SACD player.
            About 2 years after that, I got to hear an SACD for the very first time.
            Long story short, I liked what I heard.
            At the time, it was said that, “the SACD will replace the standard audio CD.”
            I think you and I both know why that didn’t happen.
            But just in case you’re wondering, DSD to me, lets you hear deeper in to the recording what’s going on with it, and on it.
            But then again, perhaps maybe it’s my ears and the way I hear things.
            PS. You mite not believe this FR, I’m a blind man.
            I’ve been without eye sight for almost 30 years.
            I guess this is the reason why DSD sounds better to me, then PCM.

  7. If I had to sacrifice one part of the chain to be mediocre or insufficient I’d definitely choose the recording.
    If the the recording was so terrible I’d EQ it to death and find a way to make it more listenable.
    Just a 16 band EQ is all I need. 😉

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