Are You Happy?

On another currently running post a number of people have commented that the majority of their digital music collection is unlistenable. One person said 90% falls into this category. I don't get it! Have these people purposely assembled systems to make their favorite albums sound bad? Do they sit and audition equipment while thinking to themselves "hey, this is great, I won't be able to listen any of my Rolling Stones, but wow does it sound good." Why would someone do this to themselves?

As audiophile we are all a little crazy, but these people, IMHO, have gone one step beyond. Please help me to understand what's going on?
It's pretty simple. Most digital sounds "soul-less", is bright and glaring and lacks what many claim is not real or quantifiable: PRaT. As such, you might initally like the music on the recording, it's just that the reproduction of it isn't "musical". Who wants to listen to something that isn't enjoyable over and over again ?

This is the reason why even a basic vinyl system can seem "so good" for many people. Even though they've dumped hundreds ( sometimes thousands ) of dollars into a digital source, it still can't compete with the "antique" yet "musical" recordings preserved on vinyl. As one gets a better digital system, the differences begin to shrivel but are still there. Sean
I've always spent more on my vinyl setup than on digital (including SACD) but have to admit that digital is sounding pretty good these days. I don't find it "soulless" or bright and glaring but maybe my tube amp and preamp are compensating. To me, solid state is the real culprit (but if I were totally honest, that's probably because I haven't heard the right solid state). In any event, vinyl still rules, but not by much. Anyone who can't find some satisfaction with CDs hasn't tried hard enough, IMHO.
I'm pretty happy. Yes I have some cd's that are untolerable but this is a minimal amount. Most of these are classic rock and some blues. I'm planning on adding a sub which will hopefully add a little bottom end and help smooth out some of the brightness of these offenders. I can't imagine anyone having 90% of their cd's being unlistenable. That system is unacceptable.
Just enjoy the music. Live music is better than any recording, but having said that, I have to say that I have never been in a concert hall, etc., that has been free of accoustic problems. Amazingly, many of the problems have to do with bass response the same as audio. So nothing is perfect.
Extremely happy! Use a high sample rate CDP like an Audiomecca Mephisto and well recorded CDs like XRCD or DCC/MFSL and you are in Nirvana!
How many CDs can you take for auditioning from your collection? Maybe it will be only 10%? and them you've heard good and bought the system. But after realized that the rest of your CDs don't sound as good as they used to.

I believe that the question isn't only about CDs but the music collection in general. Same thing can happen with analogue as well.

I riched the point where 50% of my records sound great to me and the rest isn't so. I also know that some records that sound great on my turntable will not sound as great on the other even much more expencive one. I'm also aware that some of my records will sound on my friend's Thorens TD125/ better than on my Michell GyroDeck AND at the same time I'm not going crazy and continue to listen sometimes 5 hours per day.

The very main and important point that you never judge the music by its recording quality and your musical collection will serve you well.
If you feel that you won't need to listen anymore to one, several or bunch of particular CDs -- sell them and buy some other CDs to listen.
Somehow I manage to keep myself happy with acquiring new albums or CDs and selling whatever I'm not listening anymore.
I am quite happy. The recent adition of the Audio Aero Capitole has seen to that. It is an exceptional player that has brought to life CD's, that were previously dismissed to CD purgatory. This fact coupled with the (small, but) growing awareness by records labels that, well recorded music is a good thing, has brought some very good CD's to the market. I love my system, as it currently makes me very happy.
Hi '61; I am totally happy with my all digital system. I Don't want to turn this into a digital versus Analog thread, but I've got to disagree strongly with Sean's characterization of CDs as being "soul-less"-- that observation may be true when the CDs are played on cheap, low-fi systems. See my thread on the Jacintha XRCD2-- that CD is breathtaking, and yes this may be an exception, but there are still many very good CDs available.

Years ago, the same was true with 45s/LPs and cheap TTs and electronics. Of course there are a billion cheap CD players out there, just as there were TTs and records.

'61 is right on in asking "why would people do that to themselves". Every component, wire, and tweak I've kept in my all digital system has been chosen for it's MUSICALITY, and not for prestige, a great review, or other non-musical reason. To answer the question, I don't think many have developed good listening skills and are thus short-term impressed but long-term disappointed (in digital); are swayed by reviews of others; like certain prestige brands, and don't spend the necessary time and thought to put together and tweak for a really satisfying system.

I've sometimes considered starting a thread and asking "Do you consider high resolution the same as high quality music". I think some do, but I don't-- it's only one aspect of really good music, IMO.

GOOD DIGITAL SYSTEMS CAN BE PUT TOGETHER with a lot of care in selecting components, wires, tweaks-- and A LOT OF LISTENING. I've probably said this a hundred times on this forum, when done well, digital can be excellent-- just as when done well analog can be excellent. Please note that Albert Porter does not have a $259. TT including arm and cartridge-- and I don't use a $179. CD player either.

I'd say easily less than 10% of my CDs fall below the "poor-fair" category. Many, while not great, are still very enjoyable to listen to in MY SYSTEM. I'm too damned old to settle for something "soul-less" or unmusical. I'd just add that ZZ Top, George Thorogood, the latest CCR releases sound great on my system-- along with hundres of other CDs. I don't even like most "audiophile" CDs. Cheers. Craig.
Well, since I am one of the ones that thinks 90% of my collection is un-enjoyable I should probably say something...

For one, I have a lot of CDs - at least 3000. About 200 - 300 are audiophile quality. Some of these are duplicates (upgrades) of ordinary CDs (for exmaple, MFSL Moody Blues Threshold of a Dream - talk about a bad original pressing...).

My current system actually plays CDs pretty well now - it is very lacking in bass (which we are addressing by upgrading to the Acapella Campanile speakers) - but I expect the midrange and highs to not ever get much better than this (Levinson 39->Burmester 877 mkII->Levinson 20.6 monoblocks->Extremas through Nordost Quattro fil and SPM speaker).

I think the main problem I personally have now, and maybe others can relate, is that I have heard the CD 'anti-sound' for so long it is hard to listen to any CD anywhere and NOT hear its harshness and glare. I can finally understand why some people over-compensate and go deep into tube territory.

Oh, and why did we buy systems that did not play all of our CDs nicely? Each upgrade played the CDs better, in one or more ways, but our ears got better at hearing the problems the same time! It is a never ending up-hill climb to buy equipment that is better than our ears and quick, enjoy it, before our ears hear all the problems! :-)))
I'm one of the ones with 90% "unlistenable" CDs. But let me qualify the statement. My system is not at fault beyond the fact that it reveals what was probably not meant to be revealed on typical low fi stuff it was recorded for. Imaging, soundstage, depth, proportion, etc., are not a priority in many modern recordings. Since I am sensitive to these things, it bugs me when it's all out of whack. If I am not paying close attention, or playing background music, it is ok. Of course, unrealistic recordings are bad on vinyl too, and SACD, and they bug me too.Maybe I'm nuts, but when I hear a coherent, properly miked, mixed and recorded album I really appreciate it. And my system presents it as it should be. The others are then glaringly deficient. I can't help it. Maybe I should take Valium or something.
sit on my hands to keep from waving at everybody!
Not trying to be critical, but how do you amass 3000 CDs and find 90% of them unenjoyable? I'd think you'd stop after a few hundred.

I have about 1000 CDs. I like the vast majority, though I'd only call some of the them excellent. Still, I attribute that to the recording, not the medium. I'll admit that it's been many years since I listend to LPs, so maybe I've forgotten more than I realize and I'm sure I'd enjoy the experience, but, yes, I'm happy. -Kirk

To repeat '61s question in another way, 'why would anyone buy 2000-3000 CDs most of whose sound/music they can't stand'? I only have 1000-1200 CDs and 90% or more sound good or better (I cull the junk, BTW). I have a lot more money in gear than music-- maybe that's needed to achieve good digital sound? But money alone won't solve digital woes-- it takes a lot of listening and looking for synergy. If analog is your "bliss" why not stay with it and enjoy? Craig
Kirk; we were posting at the same time. Well said. Craig
Don't get me wrong folks, i definitely DO think that digital red book CAN sound pretty darn good. Whether or not MOST digital based systems sound that way is another matter. I wouldn't have known the difference if i hadn't experienced the difference.

I do agree that tubes and / or upsampling can make a WORLD of difference compared to the standard "sterile" sounding digital reproduction that we have all experienced.

Personally, i gained a LOT of insight as to what a "musical" digital system could do when i went to a tube based DAC. I then learned that a system could be both musical AND detailed when i switched over to an upsampling SS DAC. It gave me what i consider to be the best of both worlds. G & W will be releasing an upsampling tube based DAC shortly, so that may be something that is REALLY worth checking out. Sean
I think onhwy61 question has been answered-some people have descended or ascended onto searching out a level of perfection that may make the likes of me wonder if they haven't totally lost perspective or maybe even more importantly any kind of enjoyment out of their hobby.
Some of the replies above and the equally bewildering thread on Did CD Kill Audio shows a rather eltist element amongst "Audiophiles"-Garfish summed up my feelings totally on the other thread on what frankly is a banal and pointless excercise which could be compared to a lot of people in the same room talking at the same time about different things.
Personally yes I'm happy with my system but sure I'd like to win the lottery so I could get nearer the "ultimate" and buy a good analogue rig to go with my digital system,in the meantime I'll go on pursuing this hobby and enjoying myself without wondering what all those trees are doing in the forest.
As for some others,they might be happy but they sure don't sound it.
Sean is right, I think. Though I also find about 80% of my CD collection "unlistenable", "dry", "lifeless" or "dead", especially big orchestral music, upsampling has helped considerably and has brought some of that elusive quality called musicality back into my tinned music. Cheers,
Maybe it's musical genres that make the difference too - I went to see Tool in concert a couple months ago and it was awesome. I play Tool on my home system (their CDs are exceptionally well recorded) and it raises (almost) the same level of goosebump (nothing's like the wall of sound when you're actually there). I'm sure many wouldn't consider Tool "musical" at all, but call it what you like, played over my system from a CD source, I love it.

I listen to plenty of other styles as well, though little to no classical. I find Tori Amos, Patricia Barber, Mighty Sam McClain, Luther Allison all to be very compelling played from CD. Possibly I'm just not as particular as some, which I'm saying neither as a compliment or a put-down to either point of view.

I know my daughter (16) listens to everything from hard rock to classical on her $100 boom box system and is an avid (and budding) cellist. She has more music appreciation in her than I will ever have, so there must be something in the music itself that represents "soul" regardless of format or source. -Kirk

About 90% of my CD's sound pretty good on the system i've put togeather and the bad ones stay because the music outweighs the flaws in production. That said there is always a special magic when i put on vinyl and i have a really crappy analog set-up at the moment relative to my CD player. I guess that means i'm happy but wishing i had the cash to upgrade the analog side....then i'd have to find room for more records and the wife would be the unhappy one.... which has a trickle down effect.....yes i'm happy
Same old story, folks. Are you listening to the sound or are you listening to the music? The days when I find lots of my collection "unlistenable" is when I'm listening to the sound. When I'm listening to the music, I'm a lot more satisfied with my software. My own particular bugaboo is bad playing. I'm a lot more tolerant of poor engineering than of poor playing. That's poor old Chesky's problem. He makes wonderfully engineered recordings but (sometimes) can't spring for really good talent. THAT, to me, makes a recording unlistenable.

As to CDs versus LPs and tubes versus solid state devices, that's an easy call. A great many people enjoy the euphonious distortion introduced by analog reproduction techniques and vacuum tube amplification. More and more "audiophile" labels are mixing their digital releases to produce that sound.

(Ducking and running for cover.....)

Ben, if you ever do hit the lottery, and get that dream system you spoke about, then you'll know what we're talking about. Many people may think that 1975 Chateau Latour is great, but when your have become accustomed to '82 Petrus, the Latour suddenly pales in comparison.

How about the comparison between '61 Chateau Latour (the before-death dream wine along with '61 Latour a Pomerol Robert Parker claimed) and '82 Petrus?

Happy listening and enjoy the Bordeaux as well.

Otto, I hoped someone would pick up on the Bordeaux comparison. I haven't tasted the '61 Latour. The '82 Petrus is monumental. Also recently had '82 Margaux(pure silk) and '82 Cheval Blanc(massive in cabernet franc). I recently lost out on winebid on a '61 Latour a Pomerol, but I have a 1927 Chateau d'Yquem on the way. Maybe we should start a thread,"What wine do you like to enjoy while listening?" BTW, I highly recommend Dow's 1977 vintage Port - exquisite! Just to rub it in a bit, I am currently cellaring an entire '82 bordeaux 1st growth horizontal collection. Also including Cos,Ducru, and Pichon. Cheers!
No system, regardless of the cost, is really going to produce any long-term happiness. Perhaps the exception,
though, are those times of worship and praise where a good
system can seem to ignite a passion that otherwise might
be more difficult to appreciate.
Speaking of wine, My system sounds much better after a bottle of that MD 20-20. Sorry, I couldn't resist
(Also ducking and running for cover)
Art, tongue in cheek, I hope. Cheers!
Artemus - my condolences to you for your tastes in wine, "sorry couldn't resist". Speaking of wine or any alcoholic beverage for that matter can't improve on a really compressed bright digital recording. I don't know of any recording studio that did it worse than Motown. Sound quality certainly wasn't a criteria, but I sure do love a lot of this music, part of my formulative teen years.

Just got a CD of the Four Tops recently and really in truly will not listen to it again on my system. It just makes my ears ring. It is without a doubt the lousiest recording in my collection. Ah I might listen again but the volume will be very low. Usually a bad recording doesn't bother me too much if I love the music.
I have about $3000 in hardware and a similar amount in software. I'd say 80% sounds good, 10% sounds amazing and 5% not so good and 5% unlistenable.

For once I'm glad I don't have more money. Sounds like it makes people really unhappy with their systems. This seems to spill over into the threads on Agon.
What got me started on this thread were comments elsewhere by Twl and Justacoder. I appreciate the fact that they chose to respond. I hope they didn't take my comments as personal attacks, since that was not my intent. I was merely trying to learn and encourage civil conversation.

I am an equipment junkie (yes, the first step is to admit you have a problem) and I get pleasure from configuring and endlessly reconfiguring my music system. However, the enjoyment of music trumps any equipment related considerations. In the past there have been times when I probably lost sight of this truth, but an incident two years ago got me back on track. I heard a 1931 recording of "Stardust" by Louis Armstrong. It's the most amazing piece of music I ever heard, yet it has absolutely zero audiophile content. It's bandwidth limited, filled with crackles, mono, numerous crackles etc. I've come to the conclusion that great music makes everything else irrelevant.

BTW, for those recordings that are overly bright I use a digital equalizer. There's really nothing you can do about over compression.
Seandtaylor99 - I agree with your percentages - that's exactly how I'd break down my CD collection. There are definitely CD's I'll never put on again, but it's a small %.

I disagree that alcohol can't improve a bright, overly-compressed recording. If it changes your mood, lightens you up, and gets you to take the focus off the recording and put it back onto the music, it has "improved" the recording. Drink enough, you might get out of the sweet spot and dance around the room :-)

Twl & Tube> Definitly tongue in cheek. Just remembrances of a misspent youth. Concerning poor recordings, I was truely let down the other day when a friend brought over a cd of The Righteous Bros. Best Of. I love Unchained Melody but this was terribly bright. Quite a let down
I find 90% of my CDs to be listenable from 11pm to 5am. The figure drops down to 10% from 11am to 7pm.