hardware or software: which is more imprtant ?
the best sound is achieved with the best source, regardless of the stereo system.
a master analogue tape recorded on a tube ampex tape deck is an excellent source. if you listen through a mediocre stereo system, the sound will be more satisfying than a poor recording played through todays high quality stereo systems. the flaws of the recording will be obvious and the result will be unpleasant.
unfortunately there is only one master tape. so, one tries to configure a stereo system and look for "good" recordings and hope for the best.
perhaps, we should be focusing more on the software and less on the equipment.
i notice there are two threads dealing with recordings.
i have a suggestion:
each of us should think about his/her 5 "best" sounding lps and 5 "best" sounding cds and list them, with a brief comment as to the particular characteristics of the sound.
it's not easy finding recordings which recreate the timbral accuracy of instruments.
i will think about my own collection of lps and cds and indicate my top 10. if someone else wants to initiate a thread, requesting such information, that's fine.
i think the criterion for quality of sound should be the rendering of instruments as realistically as possible, rather than issues of dynamics, soundstage, pace, rhythm or timing, resolution or frequency response.