Garbage In - Garbage Out


Been reading a tremendous amount of information and opinion on what makes up a great stereo system, and all the ways to improve the sound.  Seems we give little attention to the music going into the system.  There are certain tracks that just make my stereo come alive.  I think yeah, that's where the money went!  Other tracks are limp.  Since some music sounds terrific, the not so much stuff can't be the fault of my equipment, but must be the recording itself.  So many recordings suffer from poor engineering, mixing, pressing etc....  I would be interested to hear what your favorite tracks are when you really want to show what your system is capable off.  Limit of two selections?  Artist - Album - Track.  Like:
Miles Davis - In A Silent Way - Shhh/Peaceful  (Side One)
Grant Green - Idle Moments - Idle Moments (Title Track)
bigtwin
I like the music not the recording. All I am looking for in my system is to make the music enjoyable.
Music is personal, everyone likes different tumes. All else is just test tracks. The last thing I want to do is listen to my HiFi.
Well, that added nothing to the conversation.  ha ha 
The Weavers - Reunion at Carnegie Hall - Guantanamera
Grateful Dead - Dead Set - Candyman

It seems to me that one thing that defines a hi-fi enthusiast is that, mostly, we listen to music and sometimes we listen to the system. After adjusting speaker position or re-tweaking cartridge, etc, you have to pay attention to the system to determine if the change made a sonic improvement.
    I agree that recording quality is all over the map. Bags and Trane is a great record but does not sound near as good as most of the jazz on Columbia from the same era. Although I'm still amazed that considering how many steps and how much gear there is between the recording and the playback that it all works as well as it does - that it can create a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.
 
Since some music sounds terrific, the not so much stuff can't be the fault of my equipment, but must be the recording itself.

Not sure how you make that leap. Interesting though. I wonder if it also works with broken clocks? Since its right to the second  twice every day, I suppose its a good timepiece. Maybe its the time that's just not right. So the clock really isn't broken. So I'll be happy knowing my clock is as good as any.

Well, I've been there with that kind of equipment. On some pieces it really shines. But the rest stinks. Usually a source unit of some kind. mine was a CD player. Some try to say its exposing a bad mastering  or bad recording. Consider this. most of the time its the same guy who mixed or mastered that great sounding song that also did the piss poor one too. Do you think he lost his hearing between those 2 songs? Do you really believe artists and recording companies pay people to do such poor work? Nah. Get another source I've been there and its not the music that's all bad. As I have climbed up the ladder to better equipment the music sounds better. Sure, some sounds better than others. But overall, I don't have many real dogs...well except that Edgar Winter "White Trash". You too can cut down on the dogs but I suspect your source player is not pulling its weight. Just a thought

I think the point of my question has been misunderstood.  I am making the assumption that your system is set up the way you like it.  You listen to music only a daily basis.  You are open to a wide variety of music.  Zappa to Zubin Mehta.  Average White Band to Amadeus. There are certain tracks that just really shine and make "the music" coming out of your system sound better than most others.  Just asking people to share their experience.  It's how we expand our horizons? 
Hot Tuna's eponymous first disc. Great sound and music.
The point of the question is clear.

Looking for a Home - Keith Greeniger and Dayan Kai
Recat -- Max Lodebauer/Ricardo Villalobos

Special mention: Shelby Lynne, Little Bit of Lovin'

I listen both to my hifi and the music. Because I'm an audiophile, I love sound as well as music. There's no tension for me between these kinds of listening. (Also, I like many other arrangements of sounds and symbols: dramas and comedies, puzzles and poems, art and math.)


+1 Hot Tuna
Better Think Twice - Live Dan Fogelberg from the Something Old,Borrowed, New,and some Blues disc
Good Morning Mr Blues - Otis Spann 
I think the OP's point is perfectly valid and in no way a reflection of some lack of quality within his system.

I have never bought into the idea that a really great system will make anything sound good. It really is preposterous. In fact, across my 3 or 4 different systems of various levels, poorly recorded stuff often sounds worse on the best of the systems.


Nor do I think there is any validity to the suggestion that there are not different levels of production quality. That is not even historically supportable. If nothing else dynamic range is a perfect example. Most of the time you can hear compressed DR easily and in many cases you can see the measured DR. And when the DR is narrow, nothing in a playback system can get back what isn't there. And on my primary system DR deficiencies are glaring.


So to the OP, yes, having set up my system(s) the way I want them I now spend time looking for the best recordings and sources. It is tricky business and requires a bit of research but the rewards are there. And those rewards, in my opinion, beat a constant cycle of equipment upgrades and dissatisfaction.


I also agree with the idea that there is no de facto conflict between appreciation of music in general and appreciation of well produced music. I enjoy music in my truck, on crappy ear buds, on mediocre headphones, on my low end system down at my cabin and on my high end systems at home. And  a good song, at the right time and place can be enjoyable regardless of the system. But a well preformed, well recorded and well produced work on a good system is also a special joy.



I had started a thread a while back saying that my newly upgraded system made a lot of recordings sound worse, although well-recorded ones sounded better then ever. It even Made it hard to listen to a few old favs in fact. Another vote for the acoustic Hot Tuna album. For Jazz the live Modern Jazz Quartet. Can’t pick one song, sorry. 
OK, let me clarify my statements. The OP describes "tracks" as sounding great or sounding poor. I listen to albums. so to say one track sounds good and the next bad seems wrong to me. But I have been in exactly that situation and it changed with an upgrade to a belter CDP.
I also notice one poster who says its preposterous to say that a great system will make anything sound good. I agree. That's why I mentioned the White Trash album sounding bad. And I agree that there are different levels of production. I look for RL in the dead wax because Bob is very good at  mastering. And I understand good better best. 
But as I read the OP post it sounds as if half 0of the music he has sounds "limp". I take that as sounding bad. I have some bad sounding albums & CD's. But they are a vast minority. But it wasn't always that way. I have music that was unlistenable that I now listen regularly. What happened? I have been building this system for years. And as it has developed, more good sounding music has emerged. Is it all meet the TAS list of must haves? NO. But I love the music. And most a'phile music IE female vocals and a lot of jazz leave me wanting for something that moves me. 
It comes down to a matter of measure. If you don't mind having a system that only half the music sounds listenable or reasonably good then that is your choice. I won't have that system. I've had it before and moved on. But I had to satisfy me, not you, and vice versa.
BTW I am also a musician who has played for 50+ yrs so I have an understanding of what music should sound like.
Alums that sound good
"Will the Circle Be Unbroken" Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Guests
"The Wall" Pink Floyd
"Waiting For Columbus" Little Feat

Can't think of any particular songs. Depends on my mood
Let me take another run at this.  Never meant to suggest half my music sounds bad, it fact it in the small minority.  Here's a better example.  I own many LP's by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers.  Fabulous collection of musicians through the years.  However, like many recording made back then, you have Art's drum kit anchored in the right channel along with the sax, the trumpet (occasionally with trombone) in the left channel and the bass & piano in the center.  Quite often the piano sounds muted, as if someone had hung their jacket over the microphone. Blakey's drum solos never really shine as the sound stage is limited to the right channel only.  I love the recordings but still wish a bit more care and consideration had been used during recording and mixing.   

Jump forward to 1985.  The folks at Telarc wanted to see how good the Beach Boys could have sounded if they had access to modern recording technology.  The California Project brought into the studio a number of musicians, including Mike Love, Dean Torrance, and the members of Papa Doo Run Run.  Using full digital recording, and no limiting or compression, they produced an incredible sounding disc. When I want to hear some Beach Boys, I skip Pet Sounds and go directly to The California Project.  Telarc CD-70501

So when ask what really makes your system shine, that's what I'm talking about.  Some music simply sounds better.  
I guess under the scenario you lay out I'd have to agree with you about poor recordings. But I don't really expect mono records from the 50's to sound good anyway. It really has to get towards the late 60's before you start getting reasonable quality. But people then weren't audiophiles. They marveled that they could have a recording at all. They didn't have the equipment back then to make great sounding recordings. Remember, stereo didn't arrive until 1958 and it was in its infancy. There is a lot of back story there as well, ie great depression & WW2 had made technological shifts to survival. Music was a luxury item. 
Another is Phil Specter's "Wall of Sound" Don't listen to it on a good stereo. It was made for AM radio. So that takes care of a lot of the 60's music, at least most of the R&B. maybe its because I lived through this stuff that I don't have much expectations. The times have changed a lot
The way music was played live was different too. Nobody ran everything through the board with live music unless you had a large venue. Everyone played straight out of the amps and the singer had a mic. 1000 and 2000 watt PA's are not rare today. I was lucky if I had 150 watts to sing through back then. Spring Reverb were used  til later 60's. Sure, the recording co's ran through a big board...maybe 12 channels. But a lot of early stuff you listen too was recorded with 2 mics IIUC. 
I started not to reply but it was a good walk down memory lane (-:
As a "music first" audiophile, I put substantially more importance on the musical content, than the recording quality. But, it sure is nice when the two attributes align. 

Also, I must say, that even though the majority of my listening is done with my main focus on the music, there are times, maybe a few hours a couple of times a month, when I spend my time listening to "audiophile approved" recordings, and putting most of my attention on the gear. 

Both types of listening are enjoyable on different levels. 

At this point, I feel it is pertinent to post a quote by the very talented Alan Parsons (musician, producer, recording engineer), that I believe is wrong for the vast majority of audiophiles:

" Audiophiles don't use their equipment to listen to your music. Audiophiles use your music to listen to their equipment."




artemus_5  Down memory lane?  In the 50's my father built a killer mono system.  60 watt tube power amp, pre amp, turntable with sliding speed control from 45 - 78.  Three Warfedale speakers.  Played a lot of classical and show tunes.  My first "system" was a pocket crystal radio with ear plug.  On a clear night I could pull in signals from a long ways.  
It seems to me that one thing that defines a hi-fi enthusiast is that, mostly, we listen to music and sometimes we listen to the system. After adjusting speaker position or re-tweaking cartridge, etc, you have to pay attention to the system to determine if the change made a sonic improvement.

It seems to me that one thing that defines a hi-fi enthusiast is that, mostly, we listen to music and sometimes we listen to the system. After adjusting speaker position or re-tweaking cartridge, etc, you have to pay attention to the system to determine if the change made a sonic improvement.


I listen both to my hifi and the music. Because I’m an audiophile, I love sound as well as music. There’s no tension for me between these kinds of listening.


These 3 quotes spell out pretty much my feelings.

I constantly run into people on YouTube threads, and general audio forums that don’t seem to understand that there is joy in both types of listening; paying attention to the music, or paying attention to the gear.

The weird thing is, like the above quote from Alan Parsons, there seems to be some sort of derision aimed at audiophiles are into their gear. If those types of audiophiles put their gear above the music, why should that bother anyone?
I find the Alan Parsons quote odd, from my personal perspective. I listen to the music THROUGH my system because my system makes it so I hear everything as best it can be ( to the relative limits of my system. I don't have or have had the opportunity to hear a 6+ figure system ). As a result I greatly enjoy the listening experience on multiple levels, seamlessly shifting through emotional and physical, tangible and intangible, etc. etc. with a Buddha smile. 
Well, that added nothing to the conversation. ha ha

@bigtwin, what I think he is saying is that you don't want to go down that slippery slope where you are only listening to excellent recordings of not-so-great music. I think a lot of new comers to this hobby fall into that trap and lose sight of what's important. Sure, we would like for all of our recordings to be "audiophile grade". But it's just not going to be that way.

I would rather have recommendations about great music and let the chips fall where they may regarding the recording. 

But this is your thread, so carry on.......


Oz