About 300 out of 2000.
19 responses Add your response
My interpertation of the term 'reference CD' would only encompass one that has outstanding sonic attributes AND and an outstanding performance. I would guess that I have a couple hundred at the most out of maybe 5000(+/-?).
Outstanding 'anything' is fairly uncommon I think. The rest, on balance, have more sonic issues than performance issues which doesn't deter me from thoroughly enjoying them.
Well, I have a somewhat different take on this than most people probably do. I am an analog aficionado first and foremost, and so if the CD does not sound at least as good as the LP version, than to me it can not qualify as a reference disk (whereas, the LP might). And since I much prefer the sound of analog versus digital, (even on most digital LP recordings to be honest), there are very few CDs that are duplicates of my LPs that would make this list. (So basically the only CDs that would have a chance to make my list are the ones that don't duplicate my LPs, and since I prefer the sound of analog anyway, those CD recordings are usually not my favorites, as I rarely listen to CDs because of my love of analog sound.) Therefore, out of the 1,000 or so CDs that I own, probably less than 2% would qualify.
So to answer your question .... maybe one or two dozen.
(But on a side note, I do like listening to the other 98% of CDs in the car!) :-)
This is actually a very good question. One of the goals for my system has been to get most CDs to sound good enough that I do not feel like I am missing anything.
After some recent system upgrades (tube pre and DAC), most of the CDs I play (I own a few hundred I suppose) sound at least very good, if not exceptional, in the same league as good vinyl. By this I mean I believe they sound the way that the producers intended them to sound and they play nice and clear and do not produce fatigue during long term listening, which is good, but they are not necessarily absolute top notch in all cases...only a smaller percentage can be that.
This is the case whether I rip them first to the music server and access them over the wireless connection from the Soundbridge or whether played on the Denon player.
Prior to moving to the Audio Research sp-16 tube pre-amp, I did have some reservations with many larger scale orchestral pieces, particularly in regards to the smoothness and unique character of different types of string instruments compared to some of the better systems I had heard. Now, these pass my listening tests with flying colors as well.
I've been a very happy camper in regards to my system of late.....
Clearly, there are good and bad recordings in all formats. Format may limit potential but does not guarantee quality of the content delivered.
I can not say that in my collection of hundreds of lps and hundreds of CDs that either format contains a higher percentage of either bad, good, great or magical recordings. Two different masterings of the same title will usually sound different though regardless of format of each, and that often dictates which format I chose for a particular recording.
I do think that the most complex classical recordings tend to sound better on vinyl than CD in the case of many systems in that most systems are more capable of delivering the microdynamics inherent in vinyl better than the microdynamics present in digital recordings.
I believe the microdynamics of vinyl are different than those in digital because mass inertia and related physics play a prime role where as this is not the case with digital playback, which is occurs exclusively in the electronic rather than physical domain.
I have found there are ways to address that issue cost effectively with digital as well. The answer I found was careful application of tubes at the line level. I suspect tubes are just inherently better at delivering the microdynamics associated with digital sources after conversion to the analog domain prior to playback compared to SS.
By the way, the % of recordings that sound good to me is a metric I use and would recommend to gauge system quality regardless of source. When almost everything at least sounds good, and some things sound great, I feel I am where I need to be.
I've played dozens of CDs recently with a variety of material originally recorded as far back as the 1920s since my latest system tweaks. There were only 2 I recall that, knowing their age and history, underwhelmed me, and these were clearly due to lackluster CD production, period. One was an old CD mastering of Carole King's Tapestry, which was just unnaturally flat sounding and another was a CD of old Dinah Wahington blues material from teh 1950's that apparently was just transfered to CD with no attention to remastering or sound quality. Almost everything else sounds very good to exceptional at present.
Frankly I'd much rather "...chase the quest..." of fine music. I've always been more pressed to find involving music, music that commands attention. Audio has always been, although at times it has not seemed so (as in the past 4 years or so), of secondary interest. An interest which pales quickly, as it presently has. I actually find that concerns over audio reproduction distracts from the listening (to the content of the music/performance) experience as much as anything.
FWIW neither great recordings, nor great audio systems, float my boat. Good recordings heard over good audio systems of great music does though...........I'm probably in the wrong forum:-)
Taking up tpsonic's point as to labels likely to produce reference quality recordings, that is a good way to go about finding top rtecordings.
My favourite at the moment, would be the german label Stockfisch. If I had to think of one CD, it would be SaraK's Waterfalls, on that label. I can't think of a better sounding CD in my collection.
Other top labels would include, Reference Recordings, DNM, FIM, Linn and Sheffield Labs. This is'nt complete, I am sure MofI is great too, but they are too expensive.
One gripe, is why do so many Top labels produce rubbish music. Naim comes to mind, with the exception of Forcione. Most XRCD's seem to be of forgettable Japanese jazz singers too.
"One gripe, is why do so many Top labels produce rubbish music"
Pretty easy. Marketing and economics. TOp artist cost money. These labels target audiophiles that buy a recording for the same reason they buy equipment...because it sounds good and is marketed to audiophiles.
There are many CDs on more common labels by artists who care about sound quality. Most care more about sales and profit though so the sound quality is a secondary consideration.