High Performance Audio - The End?

Steve Guttenberg recently posted on his audiophiliac channel what might be an iconoclastic video.

Steve attempts to crystallise the somewhat nebulous feeling that climbing the ladder to the high-end might be a counter productive endeavour. 

This will be seen in many high- end quarters as heretical talk, possibly even blasphemous.
Steve might even risk bring excommunicated. However, there can be no denying that the vast quantity of popular music that we listen to is not particularly well recorded.

Steve's point, and it's one I've seen mentioned many times previously at shows and demos, is that better more revealing systems will often only serve to make most recordings sound worse. 

There is no doubt that this does happen, but the exact point will depend upon the listeners preference. Let's say for example that it might happen a lot earlier for fans of punk, rap, techno and pop.

Does this call into question almost everything we are trying to ultimately attain?

Could this be audio's equivalent of Martin Luther's 1517 posting of The Ninety-Five theses at Wittenberg?


Can your Audio System be too Transparent?

Steve Guttenberg 19.08.20



’You are now hearing what was done to make it sound good on $10 earbuds and FM radio. They have to boost the bass, boost the treble, compress the crap out of it so its louder than other songs, all which sounds positively awful at high resolution.’

’I think this "awful recording" comment points out that that recording was intended for someone other than you.’

Great post, spelling it out as clearly as anyone could ask for.

There’s been some talk here about a recent Rolling Stones reissue being hopelessly compressed, and that’s just another example of what you’re saying.

The fact is the vast majority of major recording stars don’t overly care about sound quality. Mick Jagger’s interest is primarily in revenue from sales, and he’s far from being alone.

As with the Katy Perry example, greater resolution will only let you hear better whatever was done to the track to make it sound like that. Like most Pop music, that’s a far cry from how it was intended to be listened to.

I’m guessing that nowadays commuters are now the major part of their market, and compression works well with all but the very best closed back or in-ear headphones.

Audiophiles are not their intended market or their target. To think otherwise is to seriously misunderstand what the music industry is all about.

Actually it’s difficult to name many major artists that have shown any interest at all in recording quality.

Maybe Dire Straits, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Kate Bush and err... is that it?
music producers of course are commercially driven

they produce music carefully, with defined objectives targeting their intended audiences to drive sales

the issue or challenge for us who have our very high end gear is that much of that music is really not made to sound best played on our systems - we are simply not their target audience

mass market vs niche...
DACs should have switches (kind of like the equivalent of different RIAA curves) that compensate for different genres of music.
DACs should have switches (kind of like the equivalent of different RIAA curves) that compensate for different genres of music.
In a room which is sound acoustically and under controls this idea is without appeal at all...

Think room and forget the dac for some time.... Forget even your speakers....Think room....

Any audiophile who claims they can explain “the problem” for other audiophiles and tell you how to do it is being a goofball.

He is projecting his own experience, not diagnosing.

All this “you shouldn’t use coloured speakers because...” and “you shouldn’t use systems that are too resolving/accurate” and “X speaker is no good for Y music...”

It’s personal taste talking, not necessarily the reality for others.

Take any type of speaker, from the esl 57s to horns to dynamics, omnies, dipoles, bookshelf, full range, subs/no subs, coloured to accurate and you will find people happily living with those speakers for the majority of their audiophile life.

Some people change speakers or other gear a lot as is their want, others settle down for a long time with all sorts of different gear. The speaker or component that got “you” off the merrygoround likely isn’t the one for many other people and visa versa.

I have some gear that I know certain others used briefly in their system that I’ve loved in mine for 22 years. I’ve listened to speakers that others have settled down with very happily that I couldn’t live with for a day. And so it goes.

As much as some of us like to flatter ourselves as Super Experienced, the wisdom we have built over the years tends to be most relevant to ourselves and our tastes (and perhaps for those that share that taste). It’s not discovering The Secret Key Of Satisfaction for others.