I suggest you ask A-Gon Member Hooper (who may chime in here) as he has the EMM Labs gear and, by his own admission, owns some discs that are not the best pressings. In my experience, when Hooper has been at my home with his poorly recorded stuff and listening to my EMM Labs gear, it will not make badly recorded CDs sound good - which is what I would expect from a truly world class player like the EMM (ir any other).
Just my $.02
PS - Just so you know, Hooper has many fine CDs as well.
Nothing, IMO, can make those bad, crappy redbook discs from the 80's and early 90's sound like vinyl.
my experience has been that the better the digital source (and accompanying system), the worse those discs sound.
Agreed. You are better off buying a secondary, mass market $200 player with rolled-off treble to play those early CD's, and use your high-end CDP for the better recordings.
A dissenting view from the above posts. I don't have the Meitner CDP, but I think that an excellent CDP will make poor recordings sound better than a poor CDP. I listen to some classical music recorded in the 30's through the 70's, and it all sounds better on my current system than my previous, lesser system. Some of these are wretched mono recordings with hiss, alot of audience noise, and tape splices - it is all less noticable with a fuller more rounder sound.
Again, I cannot comment on Meitner and I cannot comment on rock CDs made in the early 80's. Most of the record companies are remastering those, anyway, because they realize the inferiority of the technology when it was new.
Despite the obvious flaws in many older analog tape recordings (SN ratio, audience noise, splices, etc.), they may in fact capture the musical information of the event, and therefore be quite enjoyable.
A poorly made digital recording, despite its superior specifications, may have left a lot (most?) of the music in the studio, and captured nothing but a hollow shell of the event.
The manner in which these recordings are mastered plays an equalling important role in the final product/sound. I have piles of CDs that I just can't listen to anymore as my system has improved. They just sound worse with every improvement. Of course the good recordings/masterings just sound better with every improvement.
Don't know how well the Meitner does, but I can say that it is not a truism that the better a system gets the worse badly recorded CDs sound. Though I also had this misconception, over the years we have found that, like everything else in this hobby, blanket statements of fact are rarely true more than, oh, say, 50% of the time.
This concern of how to build a system that allows us to play (yes, and even listen to) older CDs is one which we share - as we were young(er) and no smarter then than we are now at the time of the early 80s and so foolishly bought up new CDs as if they actually had the music on them that was displayed in the pciture on those tiny little pieces of paper showing through their often cracked and chipped plastic containers; this picture (and, as we came to discover, the music on the CD itself) often resembling in some lilliputian way the covers (and music) of LPs that we knew and loved. ;-)
Luckily, some tube digital seem to have a way of creating music out of too-few-bits and somehow do it in a way that is able to communicate the original feeling and instensity of the music. Luckily, it also helps that in a lot of the badly recorded music of the early to mid 80s, not a heckuva lot was really going on in terms of the complexity of the music (though, of course, there is also stuff like King Crimson, Frank Zappa, etc. are just plain hard to render on any system - no matter how good the recording is).
For example, we have found the Audio Aero Capitole to be excellent and making bad recordings sound decent, the Audio Note DAC 3.1x Balanced and 4.1x Balanced also, though slightly less so. It would seem that other tube CD players (like the Cary) and DACs (like the Zanden) might also do a good job (I have no extended experience with these regarding this matter of The Infamously Awful Sounding CDs).
This is not to say that solidstate digital is unable to render a bad CD in a listenable fashion - just that it seems that many do not (Levinson, Krell, Wadia, etc.) and do infact do as badly or worse than cheaper CD players.
-Mike (Audio Aero and Audio Note dealer with lots of bad - and, yes, quite a few good, as well - sounding CDs)
Mike of Audio Federation,
You had me till the end of paragraph 3. Paragraphs 4 and 5 could have been condensed to:
If we don't sell it, it must be crap.
Congratulations, you have succesfully proven your initial deduction about blanket statements.
VVrinc, VVrinc, VVrinc, ...
If we don't sell it, it must be crap.
This "blanket statement" would perhaps be a truism, regarding digital, if we ever add the Burmester, Meitner, Ensemble, MBL, Zanden, Weiss, and perhaps the Northstar and Audio Synthesis lines and mods of various others and who knows what else.
Many people *do* try to optimize the sound of good recordings and do not give a care about how bad those bad old recordings sound.
But, oh yes, the topic was whether high-end digital sounded worse than low-end digital playing horrible recordings. I said nay and provided examples and counter-examples. Sorry this offended you.
The Infamously Awful Sounding CD
I wouldn't mind if you could list a couple of seriously bad sounding CDs you have. It would be fun to try some of those nasties in my system - I'm sure I could find a copy at the used CD store. Unless, of course, I already own them. ;-)
It's true that the EMM Labs won't make a bad recording sound good. But it can open up the dynamics on recordings that sound compressed, just as a good cartridge can do the same for what appears to be a sonically constricted LP.
Well, there are a number of categories:
1. Plain bad sounding CDs (beatles, early pressings of led zepplin, etc.).
2. There are a number of bad sounding CDs whose remastering made them sound better which indicates that it was the orignial pressing/manufacturing that was at fault (Verve early stuff versus their stuff on 20bit, Miles' Sketches of Spain versus the same on DSD, etc.)
3. There is stuff that sounds so much better on vinyl that one must only conclude that the CD must have been badly mastered (led zepplin, dire straits 'brothers in arms' (even the $$$ XRCD pales before the quality of the analog))
4. Then there is stuff that sounds bad on both vinyl and CD that makes one question the quality of the original recording itself (al green, dean martin (yes I like dean martin :-))
AS per the above topic, however, one need but play a CD on, say, our Levinson 390S and then, say, the Audio Aero Capitole - and if it sounds nasty on the first and decent on the second we have a member of the set of bad sounding CDs that can be made to sound better by chosing one's CD player carefully [though, I would personally argue, as I do not beleive all CD players sound the same, that depending on the choice of the first CD player, in this case the levinson, that ALL CDs might possibly be members of the set :-)].
Unfortunately we are updating our house from the 70s and when we moved out the few hundred CDs we took with us did not include bad sounding CDs, strangely enough :-) nor our Levinson 390S. So the last in-home test bad CD, an old Buffalo Springfield, is in a box in a stack of boxes somewhere :-(
At shows, we have used Miles' Porgy and Bess as a test 'bad CD' which was close enough to the accepted fair that we did not get thrown out of rooms for playing it.
And as far as 'infamously', that has to be reserved for the Beatles, does it not? - some of the best music ever produced that a whole generation got to listen to on really awful sounding CDs.
P.S. It was great to see you at CES. I have been wondering for awhile what you thought about those BIG Wavacs on the ESP speakers...
VVrinc: I have never purchased anything or spoken with Mike from Audio Federation. However, I have read many of his comments and have always found them very articulate, helpful, and sincere. I have noticed that when someone asks for a comp. between two products Mike will do a fine job of describing the attributes of both. In my opinion, Mike has written some of the most descriptive posts on the Audio Aero Capitole, the Audio Note 3.1 and 4.1 DACs, the Tenor Hybrids, and the Lamm M1.1s. I don't know how you could have gleaned that Mike implied that products other than those he sells are "Crap." I don't see it. Given the peevish and uptight tone of your post and your choice of words, my recommendation to you is a little extra fiber in your diet.
It annoys me to no end when a guy takes his time to offer some of his experience (from which many of us benefit) then is treated to a churlish post as thanks. VVinc, I am sure your heart is in the right place. However, the issue you address isn't in Mike's post. So your comment is more than incorrect - it's irrelavent. Brooks
i agree on Mike from Audiofederation.....he is as even-handed with his comments as they come.....whether he sells it or not. there have been times in the past when he has disagreed with my opinions but over time i came to pretty much see his viewpoint....and yet he was never 'over the top' defending his position (even if i may have been).
i do own the Meitner combo and before that the Linn CD-12. both are in that 'top class' of redbook players. i have plenty of mid to late 80's cd's that did almost peel the paint off my walls when i owned my Levinson #37 and #360S. with the CD-12 and even more the Meitner.....a certain refinement is extracted from those brittle bits......somehow this latest generation of top redbook performers has somewhat broken thru the prior ceiling of performance on redbook. why? possibly the transports and jitter handling approaches of these machines overcomes the sloppy mastering and pressing of early cd's.
i put the Audio Note and Audio Aero cdp's in a different catagory.....they do some things to simply avoid the resolution and frequency extention that allows that 'digititus' to happen.....at least that is my perception from listening. that is possibly not totally fair.....it may be better to say that those two cdp's don't have a digital edge.....but also don't quite have the resolution or frequency extention of the very best current cdp's and dac's that also don't sound 'digital'.