High quality sound albums

Discussion in 'GENERAL AV Discussions' started by PENG, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    According my own experience the album (CD, SACD, DVDA, vinyl, Flac, HDCD) itself has most impact on the final sound quality perceived by the listener, but I do believe this may only be true if the listener is using speakers in the $3,000 (just the main L/R) and up list price range by a reputable (in terms of sound quality, not ability to play loud) manufacturer, a $1,000 and up media player, $2,000 and up AVR, $600 and up record player. I know list price does not always relate to sound quality but it is difficult not to generalize in this case as we all have our favourite brands, some believe in published specs, reviews by others and some believe only what they hear, subjective or not.

    So much for my preamble, the fact is, I have CDs that offer great sound quality to me and SACDs or HD flacs that don't. I would like to know if others have similar experience and wouldn’t mind sharing album titles that offer excellent sound quality regardless of the format. It would be great if you can provide sufficient information for online purchase of those titles. I listen to all kinds of music but do prefer classical and modern jazz.

    Thanks in advance
    PENG,
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  2. MinusTheBear Audioholic Ninja

    MinusTheBear
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  3. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    A very topical post Peng.

    A good recording starts with top of the line microphones. These microphones have to be placed with intelligence. Then you need a really high quality mix desk coupled with the smarts and intelligence to know how to use it. The next step is really good mastering.

    If those basics are not there and done properly, it does not matter what format you use, how many bits or the sampling rate it will be a dog.

    In the main most of my recordings are excellent, whether LP, tape, CD, SACD, high res. FLAC, or BD. DVD is a weak a weak brethren, at least in multichannel.

    However there is a pecking order. The best SACD win out over CD. However the biggest improvement comes from multichannel BD, with the best recordings.

    This BD, I recently got, recorded on a label I have never heard of before, is stunning. I would say absolutely as good as live, and probably better then other than the best seats in the hall. I actually just can't believe it. It has told me my rig is better than most media, which is interesting.

    Apart from everything being correct, it is the first recording that actually captures a hard crash of big cymbals, just like you hear live. The body of the crash is full and powerful as well as the HF, just like live. I think the reason for this is the huge dynamic range. The energy and spl, in a massive crash of symbols is enormous. BD can deliver the goods, if you have enough fire power in your speaks and amps. There is no part of the frequency spectrum that is not spot on in this recording. It is stunning and the best recording I have heard to date anywhere any time. The performance is wonderful also.

    I think the main reason BD is better than SACD, and I believe it is, is because of the ability to set delay correctly.

    The next issue is bass management, that on classical SACDs in not catered for.

    Now this latter is interesting. You can not mike an LFE channel, it has to be derived at least by crossover.

    Now on some BDs they sound better not using the LFE channel and some are improved. Now on this BD using the LFE channel is a big improvement. I strongly suspect, that zero time and phase shift digital crossovers were used and very likely some additional processing.

    The bottom end of this recording is also stunning on the drums and bass strings.

    The other huge advantage over SACD is that you have a picture as well!

    I think engineers are just getting used to multichannel recordings and how to master for 5.1 and 7.1. I think we are still in the learning stage phase.

    The other issue is money. In times past the quality of recordings and artist roster of the major labels was fabulous, especially EMI, Decca, Philips and DGG.

    Most of these labels are now in this Vivendi/Universal meat up. Another classic French mess. They claim poverty and do not record major scores.
    There quality is now below, not only what it was during the analog era, but below the small independents, which tend to be run by struggling enthusiast. Many come a go, which is a problem.

    Hopefully, as the economy improves some of these enthusiasts will develop the resources to become major and influential players.

    I don't think we will have the bandwidth on the Internet for some time to make download sales of the type of disc I featured above feasible. So I think BD will sustain profitable physical media sales fro some time to come.

    Downloading and poor quality compressed downloads are taking the profitability out of the music business. This is particularly true in the classical area, were it was the thinking that a classical recording would return a modest return of many decades. On that basis the classical divisions were actually very profitable. Under the current set up and eyes on short term profits, the whole square has changed.

    To illustrate what I'm talking about, conductors are now having to raise money form donations to record a major work.

    Here is just what I'm talking about.

    Now these forces performed this at the 2011 Proms. I heard it on the BBC iplayer. Now this performance was in the revelatory category.

    In times of old the majors such as EMI and Decca would be falling over themselves to record and issue this performance.

    So the world has turned on its axis.
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  4. HexOmega Audioholic

    HexOmega
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    Quick post from my phone:

    Anesthetize by Porcupine Tree on Blu-ray.

    So far the best multichannel recording I've ever heard. Their lead, Steven Wilson, has won a few Grammies for his engineering work (of his own performances as well as re-mastering others' e.g. King Crimson).
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  5. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    I forgot to list some of my own favourite albums for testing sound quality purposes, the following are a few examples.

    CD (All sound as good or better than some of my SACDs)

    Carmina Burana, Telarc CD-80056
    Symphonie Fantastique, Reference Recordings RR-11CD
    1812, Telarc CD-80041 (I bought the SACD version last year for much less:D)

    SACD

    Silk Road Journeys, Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble, Sony SS89782
    Tchaikovsky: Korngold, Deutsche Grammophon
    Dancing in the Dark, Telarc SACD-63592 or any of the Tierney Sutton SACD you can find on Amazon.com
    PENG,
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  6. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    I don't doubt that at all, but it also tells me not all SACD/BDs titles are created equal because some (though few) of my SACD, BD, HD flacs are in fact, like you said, "dogs" regardless of their format.
    PENG,
  7. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    I was going to watch my just arrived Les Miserables in blu-ray but thanks to your guys, now I have better things to do, i.e. research titles posted, read the links, digest TLSG's informative post etc. I hope more will be coming, to keep me busy, and give me the incentive to save up for a few more nice sounding albums.

    Thank you all again!
    PENG,
  8. Adam Audioholic Jedi

    Adam
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    A couple come to my mind:

    Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms
    Depeche Mode - Violator

    I have both on CD and SACD. The SACD multichannel mixes are very good. You can get the DR SACD on Amazon for under $25. The Depeche Mode is harder to find - I grabbed it in 2009, and it was tough to find even then.
    Adam,
  9. Irvrobinson Audioholic Ninja

    Irvrobinson
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    I don't understand vinyl at all. I have some friends that think they "get to the soul of the music". Not me, I hear distortion, noise, and lack of deep bass. I have heard vinyl playback systems that sound "warmer" than I hear from digital, but that has to be a frequency response anomaly from the vinyl playback system, not a failing of digital.

    I'm not convinced SACDs sound inherently better than CDs. I can't tell the difference the best CDs and the best SACDs. I don't even use an SACD player anymore. PENG lists a bunch of Telarc albums (my favorite label), and I can't hear a difference on the same Telarc recordings.

    I can't hear the difference between SACDs and CDs on my other favorite label, Mobile Fidelity, either. The latest Linda Ronstadt releases on MF are amazing, and sound the same to me on the SACD layer or the CD layer, when I hook back up an SACD player. The funny thing is, they sound awesome and they were recorded on analog back when I was better looking and had a full head of hair.

    HDCDs don't sound better on DACs that support HDCD (like the Levensons) than on those that don't (like the Benchmarks).

    The funny thing is, I'm one of those weird people that have preferences about solid state amplifiers and CD players, but recordings do seem to vary more by the recording procedure than by the differences between CD and SACD process.
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  10. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    bb
    What is your equipment list? These improvements over CD will only be discernible on very good systems.
  11. MinusTheBear Audioholic Ninja

    MinusTheBear
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    You touched on a lot of issues that the engineer first talks about in the link above. Are you familiar with any of these mics or equipment?

    Microphones:

    Kick - 47fet blended with an ATM25
    Snare Top- SM57
    Snare Btm - Neumann U64A
    Mono Kit - Coles 4038
    OH's - AKG C12s
    Rack Tom - C12A
    Floor Tom - C12A (top) 47fet (btm)
    Room mics - U87s
    Mono Rm - 47tube (mostly to enhance kick sound)

    The mics pres were Neve 1081s. I had a rack of 10 that I brought with me where ever we were recording. I rented these somewhat ridiculous Audiophile mic cables made by Wire World Gold. I would always put the mic pres right next to the drummer so most of the mic cable runs were about 10' or less to the pres. Things like that are just little drops in the bucket that start to add up through the whole process and help give the sound a musicality and immediacy that tend to slip away when using lower quality electronics and long cable runs. The drums, bass and 1st Ryth Gtr were recorded to an Ampex MM-1200 16 track 2". All the overdubs were done on a Studer A800 mkIII. Both at 30ips no noise reduction on 996 tape.

    That record in general was an exercise in trying every theoretical trick in the book to get the best possible sounds. We had a healthy budget and I did everything I could think of to try and make the whole record sound as big and expansive as possible.

    Semi-Charmed was mixed at The Site in Marin, CA on a large vintage Neve 8078. The change in the ambiance on the drums is mostly automation of the room mics. There is also a Fairchild spring reverb on the snare mic. That is the explosive reverb sound that gets turned up on the last hit of the song. There is a drum loop that runs through the whole song.

    "i could be wrong, but i think that they had room mics that were literally submersed in water ( fishbowls) and those are automated up at the end of the song."

    The microphones in the water was done for the song The Background. The drums for that song were recorded at Skywalker Ranch along with (God Of Wine, Good For You, London and Jumper). I actually used Large plastic Garbage cans. put SM57s inside condoms and lowered them about 6" into the water. I definitely used the under water mics in the final drum mix.
  12. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    I'm familiar with all the mics, except the Mono RM 47 tube. I'm familiar with the Neve consoles, the Studer tape deck and the Ampex tape. That was the tape I used and I have quite a bit left in stock.

    I think digital recording is now better than the best analog tape.b
  13. Irvrobinson Audioholic Ninja

    Irvrobinson
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    Speakers: Revel Salon 2
    Sub: Velodyne DD18 Plus
    Amps: one Mark Levinson 334 for each Salon 2, active bi-amp using the Velodyne high-pass filter for the woofers
    Pre-Amp / DAC: Benchmark DAC1 HDR
    CD Transport (not that it matters): Emotiva ERC-2
    I'm also experimenting with using a computer as a music server via USB, and I've downloaded a few high-res files. (And, no, the best of them aren't any better than the best CDs I have, IMHO.)

    BTW, my hearing is still pretty good. I can still hear an 18KHz test tone (the highest I've tried).
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  14. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    I would have thought with your rig you would have heard the difference on your rig.

    In general what you say is true. However a few disc come my way, that CD will not match. These discs have performances that have very wide dynamic range.
  15. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    I don't believe in those inherently undefinable "warm" and "bright" descriptions. To me, quite often (not always) such claims get spread around mostly due to preconceptions for whatever reasons, some can probably be explained scientifically others just by the effects of hearsays/placebo but of course that’s just my opinion, not facts. Anyway I am beginning to replace some of my very old vinyl albums gradually but very slowly as they are costly. I am listening to Dark Side of The Moon 30th Anniversary Edition right now and am not disappointed. It is relatively noise free and it really does sound more hi-fi than the DVD version yet with no artificial "warmth (hate to use the term)", not to me anyway and I just forced myself to guess my own definition of “warm”. I certainly have not heard the "distortion and lack of deep bass so far". So I suggest you try some of the newer vinyl albums. I am sure you won't be disappointed either by some but not all of them that may end up owning. The main thing I don't like about vinyl albums is having to clean and flip them so often. That's only because I have been spoiled with the digital format for too long. By the way if you enjoy classical, I can also recommend Paganini*Wieniawski*Violin Concertos*Rabin E.M.I. Records Limited SP 8534 Assign from a few static pops most of time there is no noise to remind me of the format unless I ignore the music and focus on the format only.:D I prefer it slightly because the violin sounds a touch more believable.

    I have my doubt too. As I said, my best CDs do better than some of my SACDs. One example I can immediately think of is the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, Telarc SACD 60650. It does sound nice and transparent but it also sounds like layers of low frequencies are missing to the point I consider it not listenable. I do feel that most of my SACDs do better than most of my CDs though, just that like you said the best CDs seem like unbeatable by anything.

    Same here and I only buy them for the music, with no expectation for the theoretically better sound quality.

    That's what I am saying too.:) That's one reason why I couldn't resist to react when I see people exaggerate things to the nth degree about the day and night difference they hear between amps and formats such as how much 24/192 flacs sound better. This is also the reason why I am hoping to hear about other's favourite titles by sound quality, not by format and/or the music itself.
    PENG,
  16. Irvrobinson Audioholic Ninja

    Irvrobinson
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    I probably should qualify my statements that my perception of lack deep bass is only on material with deep bass and on a system capable of strong sub-40Hz response. Deep bass is the toughest test for an LP, and I'm a bassaholic, I admit. I was also putting clicks, pops into the distortion category.

    I suppose I'm biased against vinyl because over the course of say 20min I have never been unable to tell the difference between an LP and a CD of the same recording. (The last versions I compared - on a friend's system, I don't have LP playback capabilities on mine - was the Mobile Fidelity version of one of Marc Cohn's albums. MF does such a nice job.)

    I also agree that if one has invested a lot in LPs tossing them is dumb - get a turntable and enjoy them.
  17. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    With my new speakers, what sounded good before still sound good but what sounded bad before seemed worse. Anyway, I listed one nice sounding vinyl album earlier and now I can tell you a terrible sounding one, it is:

    Brahms violin concerto, RCA Victor LSC-1903 Red Seal

    And another nice sounding SACD, $14.7 from Amazon.com:

    Elgar violin concerto, Grammophon 474 8732

    The SACD sounded more like how people would describe vinyls, warm, sweet etc., and the vinyl one sounded more like how people would describe MP3. Talk about myths!!
    PENG,
  18. 3db Audioholic Overlord

    3db
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    I don't and will not own SACD or DVD-A. I'm strictly a two channel man when it comes to music reproduction and I like both CD and vinyl formats depending on the recording engineer. Adam mention "brother in arms". I own this in vinyl and I can't get over the resolution and immediacy of the presentation. Its all there. The group CAKE and their album "Fashion Nugget" has to be one of the best recorded CDs I've heard bar none.
    3db,
  19. walter duque Audioholic Samurai

    walter duque
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    Not that Janis Ian is my type of music, but this recording is awesome. The title song "Breaking Silence" is one of my demo tracks. Also I like the quality of "Brothers in Arms" and for some good bass I use Primus "Pork Soda".

    [​IMG]
  20. Rickster71 Audioholic Spartan

    Rickster71
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    I've always heard that the Steely Dan, Aja CD with the MCA label, Catalog # MCAD-37214 from 1984 Mastered by Steve Hoffman was an excellent recording.
    I had that disk for 15 years before I realized it was the coveted version.

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