How Many Of Us Are Compensating

No matter how elaborate, expensive or tweaked our systems get we are ultimately at the mercy of the sound quality of the music we purchase. The record producer, recording/mastering/duplicating engineers have set a hard limit on what can be retrieved from the recording media. Fortunately, the best recordings have a very high threshold as repeated equipment/set-up upgrades continue to discover additional levels of high fidelity sound. On the other hand, the average commercial recording can be quite pedestrian as far as sound quality goes. Over compressed, heavily EQ'd, non-existent soundstaging, etc... To what degree have you assembled your system and/or set it up in a way to compensate for the less than stellar sound quality of typical recordings? If you have "compensated", do you think what you did compromised the sound of the better made recordings?

As an example I have adjusted the toe-in of my speakers slightly more outward to avoid some objectionable upper midrange/lower treble hardness present on many modern recordings. Secondly, within the last year I've switched to a preamp with 7-band tone controls to deal with the really bad recordings.

BTW, I don't see compensating as a good or bad thing. I think it's far preferable to limiting what we listening to because it might not sound that good on our expensive toys.
Your comment about making compromises in our systems rather than limiting what we listen to is one that resonates very much with me. A year ago, I had a very analytical sounding system. On a select number of recordings, it sounded terrific. On a lot of recordings that mattered to me a great deal, it sounded painfully shrill (to my ear, which many systems sound painfully shrill).

Today, there is nothing left of the system I had a year ago, although there sure were a lot of experiments and difficult choices in between (which others may have read about in some of my posts). I'm now sacrificing some air and detail in the highs, but I have a really nice mid-range to make up for it...I'm using Harbeth M30 speakers now, and all tube gear...and I can say that I'm getting more sensual pleasure now out of my system than any other time in the last roughly 7 years.
I have a second (and even a third) system to deal with bad recordings of good performances. These are set up to deal with specific types of recordings.
I gave up and tolerate bad recordings understanding that you cant fight a ghost...I think my system is pretty nuetral and will shine as bright as its material allows it.
My goals of last year where many more recordings, did that, a Record Cleaing Machine, check....and a dedicated room that looks like I will have by years end (house hunting as we speak).
I used to worry about tubes, wires and various tweaks that were really just tone controls and its silly to me now so I just go with the flow and am a pretty happy man.
i believe in the law of the golden mean, namely, leveling life's experiences whenever possible to an average of pleasantness.

this means, as far as audio is concerned, that i want to achieve plesantness to the sound of all of my recordings, even if it means missing "greatness".

i select cables and other accessories to achive this objective.
I do this rarely -- and the end of the chain: my current spkrs have some control features on them.

I've found two difficulties with equalisers: the losses (distortion) and the lack of ultimate precision (the freq bands seem to shift).
I do remember an equaliser by FM acoustics that was impressive ; curiously enough it was connected before the pre -- if I remember correctly.
This worked extremely well for the purpose: i believe the idea was to slightly attenuate unwanted/unnatural freq peaks... could be wrong, though.
I am fortunate in that, by and large, classical recordings, which constitute the bulk of my listening, are far better recorded than pop material. As a result, I have not had to make the compensation that you describe. However, I do agree with you that compensation is not a bad thing--music matters more than sound. In the cases where I listen to poorly recorded material, I guess I do most of my compensation in my mind, perhaps turn the volume down and concentrate on the music, not the sound.
the recordings are what they are. the tunes and performances are always the real draw. if the goal is to amass a huge collection of music and enjoy it all, we've really gotta make 'audiophile concerns' less important.
I don't compensate.

I find big budget movies are generally very reliable.

I find music is all over the map (depending on mix/master).

Correcting is too much work and I listen to so much music...I can't imagine playing each track once...then making EQ adjustments and then playing it again. I just have to live with it. I suppose this may be a possibility one day with a hard drive system and pro tools.....much like photo software you could store the original raw data and also an "enhanced" version...may be we should patent the idea and call iSound or Soundshop (as opposed to iPhoto or Photoshop)

Note that hypercompressed music is beyond repair there is nothing one can do when the source data has been clipped, compressed and squashed into "noise with a beat."
I have been compensating for years because I have a very, very, uh, well member. This is why I always purchase 12" tonearms.
I now run a biamped system using a remote controlled PS Audio GCC amp for the woofers (below 60 hz) just so I can dial in how much bass I need per recording and my listening level at the time.

I find bass is the most variable factor in a recording since it seems most mix systems/rooms have differents bass characteristics.

I am probably giving up some coherence in the bass by not have my MA-1s play full range, but the adjustability has brought a new level of satisfaction to my system (hey just like normal people's systems who have a bass tone control)

On my Harmony remote I have one rocker set for main volume, the other set for my H-cat's WTC control, while the inner small 4 way button has bass amp volume up/down, mute (just to hear it without the woofers) and phase of the woofer amp.

Very quickly per song I can dial in the perfect overall volume and just the right amount of bass to give it a nice foundation without muddying up the midrange.

Since I use Cerious liquid cables in most of the system, they are extremely natural and laid back. Who knows, I may in fact be giving up some ultimate air and extension, but everything sounds wonderful, with just the occasional trumpet being too piercing. WHen my system settles down I may experiment with different cables just to see.
Emailiist and I do the same thing, tho my bass amp has no remote but I will tweak it from recording to recording and its a great option all the same that only takes a recording so far but I dont sweat the small stuff.
I can compensate by moving speakersÂ… Magnepan 1.6's. That would be hard to do for most. Way out in the room for acoustical or small ensemble. Push them back (almost 3') to up the upper base & mid range output for rock, wall of sound, etc. Also have a second player (Pioneer Elite carousel) that is less edgy and have fitted it with mid happy Straight Wire Rhapsody IC's.

I really like getting the best out of the special (to me) performances and recordings. And sometimes you just want good loud rock.

Jim S.
I wish it was easy to move speakers but it probably is best to leave them be for my situation, plus at over 300lbs each they made that an easy choice :)
Viridian -- LOL!
Quite the opposite, I find that most audiophiles have systems tailored to play the four or five perfect albums ever recorded.

There is nothing wrong with EQ or tone controls if you need them.

A lot of great music is found on recordings with less than stellar recording qualities. If a person is of the music-first type, they don't even bother with the equipment that much.

The one thing I would love is a vacuum SOTA table with a light arm and high compliance cartridge to play all the records with edge warp, slight or radical, that I have.

I find that many records have sibilance issues and I have put up absorptive panels on the ceiling at the points of first reflection.
IMHO the better the hi-fi gear the better ALL recordings will sound and that includes the supposedly 'duff' recordings. To say ones' system only makes a few cd's 100% listenable is plain daft. And to start moving speakers around is even dafter!What next? Move house?!My only compromise is how many cd's my better half allows me to buy!
Thanks for the insightful responses. What got me thinking about the question was several recent posts regarding sonic deficiencies in what I consider fairly high-end systems. One audiophile complained that he wasn't getting a good violin sound. Another wanted to be front row at a jazz club. Both are wonderful goals, but if the recording was recorded in that manner I don't see how any amount of audiophile twiddling can change that. You can only compensate for so much.
I dunno, a good system will convey the shortcomings of a bad recording period. You cant seem to have it both ways.
A quote from a well respected Hi-fi reviewer in the UK, doesn't really matter what speaker he is talking about as long as its worth Its salt, although he is talking about his very own Impulse H1's horn speakers that he still has and has had for many years. I have heard them with my own ears and I must say I am in total agreement with him. I used to be of the school that thought that It was the poorly engineered cd's that made my system sound very average. I have since seen the light (heard the music) and am now on the opposite side of the fence (coz it is greener although I think I am in a serious minority) In that Its the serious fault of the hi-fi gear If the cd's sound bad.

"Above all, their qualities directly serve music itself, making listening more immediate and involving experience. This applies even with recordings of mediocre technical quality. Listening to H1's properly partnered will cause you to evaluate many of the recordings you once thought of as sounding duff.At the same time they will make your best discs sound even better.I always believe a good system should work this way; revealing fine nuances in the best recordings while still making those of less well engineered sound convincing and musically involving"

I have a cd with Albert Ammons dueting with Pete Johnson, I was totally gobsmacked how easily it was to follow the four hands of the pianists and how musical it sounded pops an all. Now I know the cd must've been copied from a disc (tape?) from around the 1930's?
I dunno, a good system will convey the shortcomings of a bad recording period.
And, while doing so, will also reveal the musical content better than the average system -- no?
yup it will, thats why I dont fuss with it and deal with the poor sounding recordings, knowing in 45-60 minutes I can play something else that perhaps will sound much better.