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There are so many, where would I start. Lack of treble extension on the old Jefferson Airplane albums, a blanket over the speakers effect on the Derek and the Dominoes album, and it goes on. I still listen to these and enjoy them, but I lament how much better they would be if they sounded as good as Chris Isaak albums.
Many of the Deutsch Gramophone recordings from the mid 70s to the 90s were ruined by over-mic'ing the orchestra. The technique of close mic'ing and multi mic'd instruments ruined the sense of space between instruments, tonal qualities, and ambience. Very often brass instruments were overdriven causing harshness and altering their position in the soundstage. Brass are the loudest instruments located in the back of the stage, but with these mic'ing techniques they sound like they're sitting in front.
And when digital was introduced, DG was way behind other record labels in recording and mastering a quality product.
Many important and historic recordings were poorly mastered which resulted in CDs with inferior SQ. And all the remastering in the world couldn't fix these recordings.
Decca, EMI, and Phillips didn't have such problems producing quality digital.
As a result, fans of classical music have missed out on owning some important recordings by some of the great conductors such as Karajan, Giulini, Jochum, Bernstein, just to name a few.
U2 Joshua tree is a great album but very poorly recorded and compressed like crazzy.
This isn’t the only one just the most egregious example. The Stones of course are crap. Duh. But anyone hearing Joshua Tree anything less than dynamic, deep, layered, and with massive inner detail is either playing a crap pressing, a crap CD (but I repeat myself), a crap system or has crap ears. My copy is demo material. Don’t be so fast to blame the recording. Figure it out.
“Born to Run” at the top in terms of gap between greatness of music and anemic sound.Right. Bruce is the King of Great Music, Crap Recording.
I make exception for The Ghost of Tom Joad.
My personal disappointment is people.
I look and see the responses to the question of "What are your personal disappointments?" to the question of " GREAT MUSIC - SO POORLY RECORDED..."
The OP makes no mention as to what the material source is that is being lamented due to limited hertz or some such. Vinyl, tape, CD, digital, analog, among the most popular sources.
At the time, when most of the music was and is recorded, it was done by people in front of the microphone as well as behind it,their best effort.
Where I am going with this, is, it is what it is. We need to live with what is available and how it is presented. The OP moved some speakers around and didn't like the result.
Every song ever sung has its merits. Or it wouldn't be here to grouse about. 20hz to 20khz is a baseline, where music is the variance.
Elton John - such great music - such poor recordings. I have almost every vinyl reissues,180g, remastered etc etc looking for the holy grail -but always disappointed. Compare with Leonard Cohen and Joan Baez recordings (Vanguard outrageously good for the time) which are superb for their age, and still rank best .... such great EJ potential absolutely wasted - a crying shame.
I agree with the original poster - it is disappointing to hear great music that is poorly recorded. We spend huge amounts of money to hear music as close to live as possible. The artists are performing to the best of their ability, but it's a shame that because of ineptness in the recording side of the equation, we can't hear it the way it was intended. It seems odd that some of the biggest acts don't insist on only the best engineers to assure a quality final product for their listeners. I have many recordings by lesser known artists that sound superb.
Try to enjoy the music not the recording, but a great recording certainly helps.
Check out Linn SACD recordings of Claire Martin, I have changed my musical tastes to listen to better recordings.
They is some great stuff out there Steve Hoffman done a great job but his Discs are way over priced in my humble opinion.
Barry Diament is another great recording Engineer.
The disappointment is that we will spend small fortunes on equipment and purchase multiple versions of a recording (CD, SACD, Anniversary Issue, Remastered Issue, Original Vinyl, MoFi Vinyl, Blu Ray Disc, etc.) in the quest to get something that just sounds better than mediocre or worse.
Yeah, people were around the mics for Layla and Exile on Main Street (my two peeves), but either the mics were for crap or the engineer or artist had imbibed or smoked or whatever too much. Someone wasn't checking the meters.
It's just a shame. Nothing more, nothing less.
Try the "3 bats live" from Ontario.
Vocals a little edgy but a very good live recording. Bass and guitars fine. You might miss Ellen but Aspen Miller not bad at all. The original studio true crap.
To you all. Don't say "all". All artists made both bad and good recordings. Often the best are on vinyl. Not because vinyl is better but because they messed least with the vinyl mastering. R.E.M and Stones made some recordings with absolute reference quality. It might be your unbalanced system...Try Maxwell for always top quality. And lots lots of others.
And very very few recordings are actually bass heavy. The opposite is the "normal". The Dance is a little unnormal in that sence. They can have poorly recorded bass though. If you believe it's too much bass it's probably your room/system thats not in balance. Try some DSP or turn down the volume on the sub. Good luck!
Not sure anything can make Meatloaf sound good - just my personal, totally biased opinion.
Exile on Main Streets great treat is how sloppy and dirty it is. That is why I love it. Total excess in a time of total excess in the Rock Industry.
Some things are not made to be sonically perfect. Others are and should be. Beware of the Dog by Hound Dog Taylor is supposed to sound like you are in the club with him drinking Old Grand Dad.
I agree that Elton John recordings are disappointing,the piano is buried far under the other instruments.I haven't tried Meatloaf yet since I've spent the last year revamping my system,but will do so today since now I'm curious.The Blues Brothers soundtrack has been practically unlistenable until I tried a new R2R dac recently.Now it sounds fantastic.The Chain and Sticky Fingers sound great but the Stone's 40 Licks is still harsh.
I'm just saying a GREAT RECORDING is a great recording - nothing in comparison to listening live (examples like BLUE: JONI MITCHELL, TAKE FIVE: DAVE BRUBECK). EXCEPTION to THE BAND - when I heard them live, I would have sworn they were reading the rotes and rifts right off sheet music! - SOUNDED EXACTLY LIKE THE RECORDING!!
Regarding the recordings of Elton John: I've heard recording (both CD and Vinyl) of the live radio broadcast he gave here on LI in the early 70s - and it's pretty damn good! Find it, PLAY IT LOUD AND ENJOY IT!
For me Bruce’s The Wild The innocent The E Street Shuffle is of reference quality. Also his best... Also fine on cd/streaming even if unfortunately a little hissed (or compressed - not sure) in the mids.
Still looking for the best vinyl mastering of Supertramp Crime of the century. The cd transfers and remasterings no good at all. Bass light and screaming.
Have recently found the best so far sounding vinyl (Juno records) of Rock ’n Roll Animal and Dark side of the moon (for loud listening). The sharp edges on guitars and sax is taken down.
Older Doobie Brothers never disappoint. Takin' it to the streets - true perfection.
My limited experience with Buffalo Springfield has me posting here. Their lps sounded awful until I heard the "What’s That Sound" box. What a transformation!
I recently listened for the first time to an OP of Bruce Springsteen "The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle". I really enjoyed it but found it to be a little on the bright side, certainly not reference quality.
@slaw, I was very familiar with the three Buffalo Springfield albums (my High School garage band included their "Mr. Soul", "Bluebird", and "Hot Dusty Roads" in our "repertoire") by the time my teen combo opened for The New Buffalo (BS drummer Dewey Martin and three hired sidemen, one of the Bobby's brother Randy Fuller) in '69. Dewey had sounded somewhat "weak" on their recordings (their "producers" were amateurs), but not so live! I got a valuable drumming lesson watching and listening to him play my Ludwig drumset in that Monte Vista High School gymnasium. Turned my notion of what good drumming is on it's head, in fact. Bye bye Rock band drummers, hello studio musicians!
Historically, most recorded music was only listened to on consoles and record players. 99 percent of consumers (including recording artists and engineers) never cared about "high fidelity". I've talked to dozens of musicians none of whom own decent playback equipment. Ironically, the one format released to cater to connoisseurs was prerecorded open reel tape which actually sounded worse!( I sent Mason Williams an open reel deck so he could listen to some of his own tapes. He was kind enough to send me copies). It's almost a fluke that many records sound as good as they do.
shows how different sounding masterings can be of the same music. My UK version is actually little dark with beautiful vocals (lots of 3D). Reference to me because I can play it at any level without hearing fatigue. The same for a newly accuired vinyl of Lowell George Thank's, I'll eat it here. Superior to the cd transfer.
My minimally interesting reflections require many caveats that I believe explain some of the issues in recordings as time and media technology rolled forward.
Notably, Simon and Garfunkel, are just simply superb. Their music is simple, and the range and timbre of the 'instruments' are so distinct I would think it difficult to not achieve a great rendering...other than crowd noise on the live recordings.
For the commentary on Clapton and Layla, as this was in the vinyl era. In that time period the 'fuzz' sound was also popular which extremely boosts the mid on guitars washing out male vocals and leaving strange artifacts. Additionally, in order to record Layla in particular, a tiny, tiny amp, 5W was pushed to 11, put in a soundproof box and mic'ed. The prefered material for guitar amp speakers is paper due to the break-up. Additionally, tube breakup is dominant and then oversaturating the microphone all combines to get a tone. This is common and in practice, most guitar recordings are mic'ed directly from the main amplifier and the guitar tone is completely overdriven several times...though today there are direct analog and digital routes and 'recording only' amps, but Layla was really pushing a tiny box, in a studio setting and the only thing 'listening' was a period quality microphone with everything at 11. Beautiful playing though.
Before CD and tape, many masterings were sonicly titled toward a vinyl release, even with the RIAA curve in play, bass was made subtle and the shimmer of cymbals was cut-off. Alot of that has to do with dry rooms and separations of drummers from the players as well as mic'ing vocals and playing separately. In a live situation you get an intermix of all harmonics, like a piano, but that does not appear in studio albums. Listen to any Madonna album and you'll 'see' her head floating around in space, in a booth, separate from all instruments because it was recorded that way. Just scary. Although the requirement to 'thicken' singer voices and create harmony from the group itself yielded the need to combine tracks which eventually muddied them so they forcefully muddied all the other instruments as well.
I believe in the vinyl/CD co-existence era, the engineers still targeted vinyl and FM as the destination so treble was high and bass was muted. This translated into horrible CDs....Genesis "Invisible Touch" is a great example of over treble zero bass whereby Rush (not-remastered) Signals is an example of how they thought they would tame brightness of digital but its just a muddy mess...but sounded okay on FM (since they stations FURTHER process the sound). Yet for Genesis "Duke", it sounded fantastic...vinyl and CD. Additionally, the later Rush albums overly embraced the dynamic range and frequency response of CD's ("Presto" forward) and are now just too much. 2112, Moving pictures, Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows seem to hover in the 'acceptable' range. In concert, Geddy would play 'dry' and that was a treat.
In terms of 'good' recordings, I think Roxette 'She's got the look' is a good example of modern separation that is friendly to all media. I hate the song. Also, 'Good' by Ezra....but they produced that album themselves. These are just sonic examples of the distinctness, dynamics and range, seemingly put correctly on a final product. Not endorsing Roxette at all.
R.E.M., especially early, sounded best only on CrO2 tape for some reason. And you have to contend with the fact that Michael Stipe always though lyrics were 'trite' hence liner notes and lyrics only started appearing later...and why he mumbled most of everything until 'Document'.
U2 Joshua Tree MFSL CD is fine, but strangely that concert live in '88 or whenever sounded better than the CD. The bass extension was much better and was snappier renderings....although, "God's country" sounded great on CD when I was in my 20's....hmmm. Not so much today.
The Rolling Stones always needed that 'sound' and everything was mushed through their hearing. It always sounded like they recorded everything in the same room with one take. Charlie Watts is the best though no matter how poor the recording. So swingin'...always. And opposite to the Beatles, they are a road band and nearly have more compilations than actual albums. So, I don't think they gave everything much thought other than capturing the 'essence' and Mick Jagger I've been told did not like alternate takes floating around or being considered.
Maybe fourthly, Phil Spector was an example of a producer [and these guys MAKE the sound what it is] who always wanted a 'sound' so everything was squeezed through that...the wall of sound...the session musicians contributions... Other unrelated artists were subjected to the same 'filter'...the Beach Boys...the Who (prior to It's Hard album). For complete and domineering "producer control" Phil and others knew the sonic importance of separate rooms, loops of some details...e.g. sounds for cymbals, especially present on Ramones recordings....Blitzkrieg Pop is a perfect example. It's the sound of 30 seconds of actual performing set to loops/cuts for the backing.
Fifthly, food for thought, but there is other smaller points of interest, but the people making the 'recordings' of the artists are usually the top industry professionals, ALWAYS MEN, and as such they are usually 45+ in years...the sound engineers I've researched were 50+ in age...despite protestations that they still retain perfect hearing. Men after 45 can no longer hear the frequency dynamics that you would want in a recording. It's medical fact. Especially with regard to hearing protection was nil until around the 1990's...so reference level sessions blew out ears on a daily basis. Yes, older men can afford the best equipment [now], but the sound artifacts that made the music sparkle are gone....even those that were heard on a poor quality car stereo. If you ever take a hearing test, even the free computer hearing tests and have a 12-year old nearby you'll be horrified. You'll play with tones 13 khz, 14, 15, 16, and 17 khz (even though 19 khz) changing the volume, sliding the frequencies around and around, not hearing a thing and a twelve year old will ask you if you were trying to play a song that sounded horrible and can you stop. Even though you heard nothing. Then ask them to face away and do the same thing. They can hear all the detail you can't. It's just scary.
As a qualifier, I own many of the modern and vintage instruments involved in maybe 40% of the songs from the 80's to 90's, regarding keyboards and guitars, including the amps and processors. I guess a piano spans all time though. The Fenders, some Boogie's, the popular Yamaha and Roland synths and some of the drum machines. Having digitally recorded 'the real thing' at home and comparing to the recordings of the popular songs, especially with synths (many stock sounds were and still are used)...the recordings out there are all over the place once they have been processed and compressed to ensure only the studio has the best quality version. And, without all the malicious intervention in the songs how they were and when they were recorded, I don't think they would have been edgy, grungy or loud enough to become popular...which is how we heard them in the first place. They had to sound good on FM or else.
For Bruce Springteen, they just have too many 'stars' and too many instruments all competing the same space. Their simpler songs sound fine "I'm on Fire" and "Brilliant Disguise" for example...everything else is just too layered, too think and too synth.
As a side note to classical, the advent of digital ruined all recordings for DG in the mid 1980's and I haven't purchased anything non-vinyl classical except for Phillips or Sony label since. And there were all those $3 discs that were garbage. Such a waste but the recordings were just horrible and you'd get some trio or quartet that happened to be in the bar that day as well. It cheapened the recording process and got me stuck in a loop of classical for whatever I played myself or whatever vinyl I still had. Too many spit valves, audible mumurs, moving music stands around. It took a while for them to figure out that all that was being picked up. So Issac Stern live, again, was still better than anything recorded. Simple and pure.
BTW, I believe Weather Report, Heavy Weather is a solid rendition on CD due to some really great dynamic range.
I've been disappointed with some of the vinyl I've picked up and played, sure. But there have been some outstanding ones, and those are more memorable than the bad ones. So here are a few of my favorite great pressing that I enjoy:
I read the one post about Joshua Tree, I'll disagree with that one. I'm responding from work, so don't have the album in front of me, but my copy is stellar, and a joy to listen to.
Another GREAT copy IMO is Boston's First Album; my copy has an orange label, and I believe was engineered by Bob Ludwig. The sound quality is remarkable.
One more good one: Bad Company, the first / self titled album, so good.
Only source for me is digital, and I've often wondered if the music that sounds poorly recorded is actually a poor digital version, in other words, if I had an analog source (tt etc) and a pressing from the time it came out, would it sound much better? R.E.M., as mentioned above, would be one example, as I remember goosebumps hearing these tracks on my high school/college JBL/Yamaha/Kenwood low dollar set-up (might have been my younger ears?).
Other times I wonder if a really good recording even exists, one that does not have the sibilant characteristics and maybe compression I have always heard in some female voices regardless of the source - Tracey Thorn in Everything But the Girl and Shawn Colvin, for example. Aztec Camera's High Land, Hard Rain is another example - does a good recording of this album even exist? Is there a source or database that shows a "best" recording?
Which in turn makes me worry, is it my equipment? But then I queue up Chvrches or Lake Street Dive or Big Thief or Vampire Weekend's latest and they sound great, so maybe the SQ depends on the musicians+recording engineers+studio+producer, and these guys for example have figured out how to deliver good sound via digital? Meanwhile, Local Natives latest, who should also be able to figure out the same thing the others mentioned have, doesn't sound as good. What gives?
Finally, some of the recordings I enjoy the most are live - Cowboy Junkies Trinity Session, Big Head Todd's Midnight Radio, even First Aid Kit via youtube videos, hair raising to me in terms of feeling I am right there. How can they get it so right and others miss the mark by so much? Maybe it's me, maybe I prefer recordings with live acoustics?
And then geoffkaitt mentions the foam in my Poang chair is detrimental to good sound and a whole other set of neuroses infest my mind. So which comes first, hifi or audio nervosa?
Martha Argerich and Itzhak Perlman's 2016 recording, "Schumann, Bach, Brahms", has some disappointment. The performances are stellar and the violin sounds fantastic, but the piano is farther back in the mix, such as how a supporting player, rather than the lead, would be placed. The two parts should have equal standing in the mix, allowing the dialogue between the two players to fully be realized sonically. Instead the recording is mixed as if Perlman is the soloist and Argerich is the accompanist. The piano lacks brilliance and sounds muffled, and is at lower volume than the violin. The performances are stellar, but everytime I listen to it I'm distracted by the engineering.
I listen primarily to vinyl. One point not emphasized is the need for a clean first pressing, ideally from the country the recording was done in. Subsequent pressings almost never sound as good. As a general guide, I have found that reissues almost never sound as good as a good first pressing, unless completely remastered and plated. I agree with other posters that Layla sounds like it was recorded in a blanket no matter what pressing you listen to. Too bad because that musically is an awesome album.