Surprise and delight

July 1, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

We all have our benchmarks for what is best.

We're surprised and delighted when that benchmark is exceeded.

Octave Records has proven to be one of my more consistent bar raiser. Every time I think a track or a recording approach is the best I've ever heard, bam! something better comes around.

I don't get that thrill so often with equipment or new designs. Not that they don't still come my way, but with the amount of work designing new circuits and technology involves, those new benchmark moments are far and few between.

Recordings, on the other hand, are a constant delight. New techniques, room improvements, pushing the envelope at the touch of a fader.

I probably sound like a junkie looking for my next fix and at times it feels that way.

I love to be surprised and delighted.

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21 comments on “Surprise and delight”

  1. “I probably sound like a junkie looking for my next fix and at times it feels that way.”

    If you’re not careful that becomes the problem. You achieve the next level in fidelity and are delighted. But all too quickly that level becomes the norm so it’s on to the next…..

    Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel…..

  2. I found out a very long time ago that the quality of the recording is paramount in the home-
    audio fact it is THE most important ingredient, as far as SQ is concerned.
    It is my experience from many years in home-audio retail that a $10k rig with
    an extremely well recorded CD or record will always sound better than a $100k
    rig with a mediocre or poor recording, & I have expressed this view from day
    one of me being part of the PS Audio Hi-Fi family.
    Of course other Hi-Fi family member's opinion may vary.

    1. Personally I’d rather have a good recording of music I enjoy than a great recording of music that won’t make the playlist more than once.

      In typical audio fashion, statements like the “best I ever heard” are thrown around frequently. Very seldom is there any verbalization as to what makes it the best, or even what the criteria to be the “best” is. (I know…. I’ll know it when I hear it) ✌️ 😉

      1. Hi Mike,
        Yes, I mean that's 'a given' as far as I'm concerned.
        I ain't listening to Muzak no matter how well it's recorded 😉

        "best I ever heard" reminds me of listening to George Michael's - 'Older' album
        on my rig yesterday.
        I was suitably impressed with the music & very impressed with the SQ of the
        recording...just brilliant...the mixing of the instruments, the levels, clarity, air,
        dynamics...I kept looking up at the rig, I very rarely do that,
        it's an involuntary reaction.

    2. YES!
      Where I reside, our internet service is at best, horrible. There are always interruptions. I, unfortunately, partially due to access and partially due to laziness, rely on internet radio for my acoustic thrill of the day. When I have "good" internet service and a "good" recording , listening is great. Other times its awful.
      I have some old records that date back pre 1939 that sound so good and considering all we chat about ,a recording that ancient being excellent, is a shock.
      Also, if one looks at a graphic display of the power signal coming out of the wall ,it looks like an ugly saw tooth waveform. However, I do use a conditioner to process the signal before it reaches my gear.

      So if my signal enters "costly gear" or an old Realistic amplifier, it all sounds like a political discussion.

  3. Your enthusiasm is refreshing, contagious and great to witness!

    Here and there some comparative reference to the world that has always existed and continues to exist outside of PSAudio and Oktave would in some places give an even more realistic and believable picture, because it is actually difficult to surpass an entry statement like "this is the best I've ever heard" again several times worth mentioning in the course of a relatively short period of time. Otherwise, the conclusion could be that you either did not have a comprehensive picture of the competitors beforehand, or that you are presenting your own performance too rosy 😉

    1. You hit the nail on the head Jazznut.
      It would give an even deeper glimpse or understanding when proclamations are made to have the reason stated todays one is the best. After all the bar can only go so high.

  4. BTW I just ran across a book written by Robert Harley, "The Complete Guide to High End Audio."

    The book is very well written and addresses many of the topics that are brought up by the readers in this arena.

    Interestingly, this is the first publication in AUDIO I have read that addresses temporal masking, with a good understanding of what it represents.

    It is a very easy read, primarily due to the apparent competency of the author. A good instructor can explain anything to anyone-


  5. I love what you all are doing with Octave Records. I just saw Damien Jurado at a small converted church from 1936 in Fayetteville, AR. The acoustics were incredible. The wood stage, wall board, floors, pews all contributed to a lush, detailed and crisp sound. You could hear a pin drop. He and his best friend both played an acoustic guitar. The delicateness of their outstanding playing, incredible song writing and the way Damien projects his voice were special. I mention this because I would love to see Octave Records bring him in for an album. I know it would be a match made in heaven!

  6. I may be redundant here, however ever since becoming a subscriber I have purchased nearly every one of your releases from octave records. Whether it be the Audiophile Masters Series (of which I have them all) or the individual artists or groups, I have been wonderfully pleased. The progression in the quality itself has also been spectacular. Direct Streaming Digital recording is so transparent I feel as if I am sitting in the room with the musicians. Thank you for the gold CD at the very reasonable price point too! I utilize a Tascam RW900MKII as not only my player but for transposing my LP's (I also purchase from you) to CD then I can copy to my laptop for putting on a flash drive for playing in my car. I prefer that to streaming audio. The streaming services compression seem to take the life out of the music. I thought it might be the age of my vehicle, but the purchase of a 2022 did not change the quality, so all my travel music is copied CD to flash drive. TMI?

        1. I think DSD64 is a bit flawed in that some of the high frequency noise is in the actual audio area. It sounds way better than anything PVCM, but still....

          When we go to DSD128 that noise is now out of the analog area (just barely) and is perhaps the sweet spot.

          In listening to the differences between this 128 minimum and 256, the higher sample rate sounds more open and alive in ways I've not heard anything else come close to.

  7. "The best I have ever heard" ( TBTHEH ), been there, done that. In audio this usually means one of two things:

    First, the person saying it has moved up a notch in the gear that they are using and experiencing something new to them and it really is the best they have ever heard so far.

    Second, the person saying it cannot distinguish between "the best" and "different". Many people often think that something that sounds different is better.

    Some reviews use the term TBTHEH to really mean that something sounds really good. If this is the case you must go listen to it yourself to determine if you think it is the best you have ever heard.

    When it comes to recordings I find that for most people to be a really great recording it usually has to be music that the person really likes and then is also well recorded. Thus my great recordings may not be your great recordings. One of my great recordings is an SHM-SACD of the Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" album. Now, if I am comparing great recordings with someone who is a classical music buff it is going to be really hard to compare greatest recordings if all of mine are rock and the blues and all of theirs are symphonies and concertos.

  8. The “best I’ve heard” argument goes around and around in circles and isn’t productive when people question it. It does say this warrants a second look. Then maybe the next time around you feel like your tastes may align with that person. What matters is the listener is greatly enjoying the music and the setup is engaging for them and THEIR ears. The rest is a pissing match because every listening space and component mix (cables, interconnects, appliances, etc.) is going to be completely different. That said, the source audio content is all important because great hifi systems can only optimize the source material they are receiving. For this reason, great recording engineering is obviously hugely important. I’m grateful recording companies with high standards like Octave and ECM, for example, exist. Sample until you find artists on their label that float your boat. It’s that simple.

  9. Sadly most of us don't have faders, so our excitement has to come from hearing recordings of what other people decided sounds best. Wouldn't it be fun if in the future home audio recordings came multichannel and we could have mixing boards with faders so we could mix the music on the fly. If we wanted to hone in on the drums, we could elevate that channel. If we wanted to adjust one of the vocalists in volume or tamber, we could play with those sliders. In short, we could be our own mixing engineer. How cool would that be?

  10. Well Paul, you’re doing a great thing for audio enthusiasts. We agree on so much where by we both feel there is a ton of poorly recorded music out there. I for one know it has to do with music industry politics and of course substandard efforts With Relation to technical or technological conveniences.

    You sir? Are a blessing. Now I must admit I’ve bought only one Octave SACD from you, however it truly is damn good and I full on know you have a great understanding of what you are doing.
    I think I’d like to get the ‘Brazilian Beasts” gold CD next. The music very much interests me.

  11. DSD256? There you go again Paul, always teaching this old soldier new stuff. I will research what that is.
    Always a pleasure.

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