Passion, or ..... Precision?

Hi Guys, 

In the last 2 years I have finally built what I consider to be a fairly decent System. Namely, DCS Bartok, BHK 300 mono's and KEF Ref 5 Speakers. With the introduction of Qobuz, which is all I listen to now, I find myself searching out artists or tracks that sound amazing on my rig. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and find something I really like that also sounds amazing. Streaming is brilliant for this. However, when I revert back to the music that evokes the passion in me I find that it tends to be of poorer recording quality. I'm 58 now and grew up with the 70's/80's Heavy Rock scene with bands like Sabbath, Ozzy, Rainbow, Lizzy and my beloved Status Quo etc. Their early material just doesn't 'cut it' on a high end system (IMO) and I find it more fatiguing to listen to. Modern technology and attention to detail in the recording studio has really dated some of my favourite bands to the point I find it harder to listen to them.

Does anybody else share this experience?

cheers, Mark


I’m the same age, but my tastes are a bit different -- more classic rock, jazz, and classical. Still, there are many things which are not that well recorded or were compressed for playback on commercial audio such as car stereos, beach radios, etc.

The bright spot in this for me has been finding more and more recordings which were remastered with some care. (Not all remasterings are done this way; many are mere marketing gimmicks.)

I’m not sure whether Heavy Rock (as you call it) has had the benefit of such remastering efforts as other bands such as Yes, Jethro Tull, etc. Maybe that’s worth some internet research.

One question for you -- why do you have a DAC that is so many times more expensive than your speakers? I'm wondering if you might be a candidate for some changes, there. Just a thought.

You simply have to develop the ability to drop the habit of listening for the wonder of your system, just go for the content and the related memories.

Before CD's, we developed the ability to 'not hear' static, ticks, pops when playing LPs.

CD's come along, perfect for life, hey, no ticks and pops.

Next: return to LP's. I/we had to re-acquire the ability to 'not hear' ....

So, you need the ability not to hear your system.

All my gear is on a par with regards cost. In 'over-priced' England the Kef Reference 5 is now £17,500, the DCS 15.5k and BHK 16.5k. I bought it all used at just over half price so I'm happy with that.

As for training you ears to NOT listen to stuff that you don't want to hear, that's easier said than done. I think my point on that is that early recorded  rock music had very little to hear in the 1st place which is why I can find it a bit flat I suppose.

... when I revert back to the music that evokes the passion in me I find that it tends to be of poorer recording quality. I’m 58 now and grew up with the 70’s/80’s Heavy Rock scene with bands like Sabbath, Ozzy, Rainbow, Lizzy ..

Much heavy metal music is by nature compressed and with very limited dynamic range. There are certainly exceptions, but as a genre it’s loud; subtlety and nuance aren’t characteristic. Those qualities are the opposite of what many audiophiles choose for demo music.

Just listened through different recordings of Themes for an imaginary western (Bruce, Mountain, Colusseum etc.) and there are certainly no sonic faults with them. You probably need to integrate your system better with your room. Make use of the eq in Roon. Of course there are always bad recordings.

Save the heavy rock music for when you are in your car, it may sound better to you (without the level of definition at the frequency extremes that your home system provides).

+1 @hilde45 I think the DAC far outclasses the amps and speakers.  I was just where you are @markprice.  I actually owned the BHK monos with the BHK pre and the DS DAC.  I first upgraded my DAC, which gave much more resolution.

But upgrading my other electronics ( I have moved through the Audionet chain) and speakers  (I had BW N802s) to YG Haileys made a huge difference.  The speakers were icing but the electronics made the leap.

Sure some recordings are just not as good, no doubt.  But it can get much better!

mitch2 - 100% agree on listening in the car, best place to exercise the tonsils. I also play rock via 'Alexa' when I'm in the kitchen washing the dishes!!

@hilde45   KEF Reference 5 is the the flagship of the KEF Reference series made in the UK. The R5 is the smallest floorstander of the R series and is unfortunately made in the PRC.

As you mentioned most of the music during that period was recorded poorly. Hard to do anything about that. Another part of the problem is we had speakers with no real bass, just a mid bass bump that stimulated the room. As you buy better speakers that actually play bass and get rid of the mid bass bump, the mid is cleared up, but the recordings sound flat and empty in the mids.

If it were a big problem for me, I would get an equalizer and bump up the mid bass for 70’s/80’s music.

Doesn't really bother me that much; sound quality doesn't get my 'toes tapping', as it were - music does. My toes did plenty of tapping when I was 16 and listening on a little transistor radio. I certainly prefer better sounding music, but I'd rather hear music I like that's not so well reproduced than not at all.... 

Sorry but You blame the recordings much too much. If you can’t fix it hire a sound engineer.

This is the reason I'm a fan of vacuum tubed components. Takes the edge off of harsh recordings. I've spent a lot of effort tweaking and matching components and am very happy with how the compressed harsh recordings are sounding nowadays. Not perfect, but but very listenable.

I use Decca cartridges and everything sounds great! One trick with older rock on vinyl is just turn it up until you don't care.


Reading your post makes me grateful to not have to make this choice (most of the time, at least).  

However, the fact that you value passion more highly enables you to still enjoy listening. That is something worthy of gratitude as well, no?







bands like Sabbath, Ozzy, Rainbow, Lizzy and my beloved Status Quo etc. Their early material just doesn’t ’cut it’ on a high end system (IMObands like Sabbath, Ozzy, Rainbow, Lizzy and my beloved Status Quo etc. Their early material just doesn’t ’cut it’ on a high end system (IMO

And the problem isn’t in the recording, the problem is what most members here consider "high end". Did you ever notice when you go to an audio show with $$$$ gear that they play the lamest acoustic and vocal recordings? There is an excellent reason for that, you will NEVER be able to get HIGH dynamics pushed from an amp through speaker cables to a PAIR of speakers (well, JBL might be an exception😀)

The problem is:

A) Head room- you need a precise match of am amp and a speaker to get phenomenal headroom with passive speakers. That is why you gotta spend the big bucks on a pair of towers and then point them at your head. Replace the passive speakers with even mid fi active speakers and BOOM, instant headroom. Now raise the budget and go high end active and we are talking Ferrari level head room.

B) Metal and hard rock is not designed for pipsqueak two channel systems, it is designed for stacks of Marshall amps. Take Jimi Hendrix guitar, the lighter fluid he lights them with and then take the lighter fluid, flic your Bic, and burn down your two channel system to the ground and bury it next to Jimi’s guitar.
Next, get yourself 11 active speakers, a decent surround processor from marantz, yamaha, trinnov, etc. Put that puppy in upmix mode a’la atmos or auro-3d and tell your neighbors to get in their basements and hide while you have an actual concert type event in your MLP, yowza.

C) Finally you need a way to address the crappy recording equipment from the eighties with the technology available today. I have a Sony Signature DAC which remasters anything its fed into DSD, problem solved.

I take pity on the lost souls dumping high dollars into two channel "high end" systems that will never, ever, be able to reproduce HIGH dynamic rock and roll at gut punching levels with no distortion.

Rant finished, hope that helps.

I dunno... although I can tell the difference between recordings quality, I have speakers that sound great with just about anything: Epi 100, and Klipsch Heresy IV. Just have to have the attitude: well, it’s Hank Williams, of course the recording isn’t audiophile-pristine... but the music’s great. Likewise, Black Sabbath and whatnot.  I wouldn’t even want speakers that need pristine recordings to enjoy the music; in fact, I had some and tried to like ’em, but they just weren’t worth the restrictions on music and on listening position, so out the door they went... I like non-picky practical all-arounders.

Also note that some music of yore was actually mastered to sound good in a car, on a typical cheap car radio/stereo playing FM over the air... or even AM. Plus with the ambient noise of a car, I do agree that crankin it up in the car is cool and why I insist on having a cd player in the car... I hear a lot of oldies but goodies that way, and can test out cd "new finds" from thriftstore without much commitment of time nor money.

Bass and treble controls are a wonderful thing, and it’s one reason why I like gear with actual knobs to make it easy just to reach out and adjust at whim. It’s one fault of my Marantz Ruby amp: no knobs.

OP, You appear to have gone down the familiar audiophile rabbit hole of using music to listen to your system rather than vice-versa. Of those who enter this vast labyrinthine network very few are able to return….


I find myself in the same boat. Pretty much exactly. Qobuz 90% of the time, opportunity to find music that I like and that SOUNDS great on my system. Then playing my vast collection of LPs and CDs makes it much harder to find that great SOUND to go with the music I love. Still some jewels in there, but not more than 20% at best. We are definitely entering a different era in the music experience. I only feel bad for the many folks who haven't jumped into the streaming world yet. I never thought I would, look at me now!


Yeah, this has happened to me.  
I previewed a NM ‘13 “blood red” vinyl re-issue of Reign in Blood by Slayer (considered by many to be the next-best-thing, vinyl-wise, to an OG pressing) on the record store’s lo-mid fi TT-headphone listening station (can’t remember the headphones, but nothing fancy, pretty sure the TT was a Technics SL-1200).
It sounded warm, clear, dynamic, and powerful.  
I had $50 in store credit at the time. My sister’s boyfriend had just gifted me some great records for my b-day. I asked my sister, “I want to get him something. What does he like?” When she said, “Slayer,” I knew I had a winner. I had them x-out my store credit, handed the Slayer LP to him and said, “merry Christmas.”  

We both were excited to listen on my fancier system (at the time a Pioneer SX-3700 driving Usher CP-6311s, a Clearaudio Concept Wood with CA Concerto V2 Wood MC and Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+)  

When we listened to it on my system, I noticed immediately how it sounded less cohesive, less “warm,” more shrill, just not at all like it sounded on their record store listening station.

Obviously kind of a bummer.  
Hip-Hop, Metal, Punk, etc. does not shine in my system.  
Well-recorded, well-mastered stuff sounds fantastic (particularly jazz) but this is something I’ve experienced that aligns with the OP.

Ozzy, Rainbow, Lizzy and my beloved Status Quo etc. Their early material just doesn’t ’cut it’ on a high end system (IMO) and I find it more fatiguing to listen to. Modern technology and attention to detail in the recording studio has really dated some of my favourite bands to the point I find it harder to listen to them.

Get yourself a pair of 70s speakers for a couple hundred dollars and listen to Ozzy and his brethren through those speakers. They should be sufficiently non-audiophile for you to enjoy your music. If that doesn’t do it, try buying a 70s receiver next.

I am 59 and grew up on the same music the OP did. My solution was to build an "out of the box system" that can still play my old favorites to a higher standard than most, but also can send shivers down the spine with the newer recordings. There is plenty of newer rock being recorded today that most rock lovers can really get behind. Nothing but Thieves / Broken Machine is one example.

I agree that much old rock, particularly hard rock/metal isn't recorded well and often sounds thin and compressed. The way you have your gear set upight be making it worse though. Even though you're running all very high end stuff, running your DAC directly into your amps might not be aggravating your experience. Yes, you'll get incredible details but very often , despite having a monster DAC, that approach can produce fatiguing sound. I've read that many people elect to put a preamp in their system for just that reason, to bring some warmth and soul to the sound. Might be something worth considering. 

This is a great post. @markprice I too sometimes find myself analyzing rather than hearing. Hard to get out of that behavior as @pesky_wabbit said…I remember I read something on here posted by @millercarbon. I forget the musician who said it but it goes “Musicians use their systems to listen to our music. Audiophiles use our music to listen to their systems”.

So true in some cases huh? But I will say that even when I drift down that rabbit hole of listening to my system, I am ear to ear smiling at how incredible it sounds🤷🏼‍♂️…

You know what I do find is after a glass of wine or 2 I float right back up that rabbit hole as I’m listening to Rush or early U2, Yes, Iron Maiden (which really allows me to appreciate that unique mesmerizing sound Steve Harris gets out of that bass guitar on my system) and all of a sudden I’m 15 again and transported back in time in the way that only music can provide

some great comments on here, thank you all for your replies. I echo what Kingbr says above, it maybe a rabbit hole but its pretty cavernous inside. My somewhat limited CD collection of Rock music does not allow me to explore the potential of my system. Listening to Electronic, Reggae, Dance/House music or ElectroSwing does and I'm really grateful for Qobuz and the like for these opportunities. I have never been more obsessed with listening to music now, it's like being a kid again as Kingbr says above.

Got to go, system is calling .....

I have no problem listening to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, or whatever on my main system.  Most of them are pretty well recorded.  The Steven Wilson re-mix of Tull is pretty darn good.

Just listened to some Black Sabbath and found the mixing and recording more than sufficient to enjoy both the music and the system.

I've only found one recording (Glass Harp) that sounded so bad I had to turn it off.

Maybe my stuff isn't "good enough" by audiophile standards for it to bother me.

FWIW, I have eclectic taste in music.  I listen to a lot more than 60's/70's hard rock.

Hey @markprice

Nice speakers, I have the same😁. You said you are using Qobuz. Listen to the first couple of tracks of, Diana Krall, The Girl In The Other Room at about 75-85 dbs. It’s a simple three piece band with a female singer. Poke around for Chesky Records. They are usually well recorded.
Speaking of the Ref 5’s, what port tubes are you using? How far from the front and side walls are they? How far are you from them? I can’t use points on mine because they muck up the wood floor below, so I got a couple of pieces of granite from a kitchen store.They made a difference .  I also bucked up for some Gaia 1’s and they made a surprising big difference!

All the best.

This just reinforces to me that The Absolute Sound was right in that the true measure of a good system is to replicate the sound of unamplified music, but that puts it somewhat at odds with almost all current music production.  Something put together in a studio on a 128 channel mixer or mic'ed off a live Marshall stack may be interesting but it's an artificial reality. We listened to 70s rock for its visceral nature and not for its sound quality. Ozzie didn't care either when he put out the record.I have never once pulled out an Old Stones or Zep LP to test how a new component sounds but I have plenty of 70s jazz or vocals on LP or CD that work fine, because that is what i value more. If i want to rock i just crank it up and dance the room, not sit in the sweet spot. If you mostly listen to loud pop or rock or heavy metal your system is going to be tuned different than mine. No judgements as to who's system is "best". Fretting about imaging or sound quality on an old recording WILL remove you from listening to the music.

+1 on this subject. The thing to remember back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s the sound engineers were producing albums cassettes and 8 tracks so they would sound good over the vast majority of systems (bad car stereos, boom boxes, and Walkman bud headphones). If they produced the sound for a high end system it was bad over the radio. They tried to find a middle ground for this. Unfortunately now when you play this on your reference system and I will say the exact same it is just bad. Good part is with Qobuz I can discover new music that moves me. White me I find myself listening to the older bad produced music in my car as it is acceptable there. There is still old music that sounds great on reference system you just have to find it. Pink Floyd for example all sound great on my main rig.

Yes a good system can be very revealing and rewarding at the same time. Perhaps there’s a synergy problem somewhere in your system but more than likely it’s the recordings. I’ve had the same problem but either I move on or find another recording of the same music that sounds better ie: digital is a great format for that. I have found vinyl can be very inconsistent in sound quality. I previously found that with cds until I started ripping them. The only advice I can offer is to keep trying, and I think we’ve all been in that same boat a time or two. I can tell you your system really makes a difference, as I’ve improved mine over time with better components and ones that pair together better things sound more consistent. Good luck. 

I’ve the same issue but find I’ve an entire collection of great sounding music I can now listen to!  The trick may be to find some current recordings with a similar rock content to that which we grew up with.  Evanescence has some decent studio recordings (there are certainly better) and a high rock quality!  Also try TOOL’s Pneuma and Ployphia “playing god” those are favorites for me when I want to Rock!

@kingbr - agree about Steve Harris, and a wonderful songwriter as well. Those early Maiden albums sounded awful on CD when they first came out in the 80's (though I still enjoyed the music), but the redone ones are great! 👍

As for somebody quoting somebody saying 'audiophiles use their music to listen to their systems', well, in some cases, sure, as they say, but it's sure never been true for me. Anybody can say anything. 

The pre-apex Bartok is rather analytical sounding - probably not the best match for the choice of listening material.

The idea of having a second set of speakers does make sense.

I really enjoy Chicago Blues Music and there is no better encounter that when I hear the sound produced from a Cheap Tannoy Speaker.

On the ESL Speakers it sounds great, but does not have the perception of the atmosphere, that adds to the attraction.

When I extend the experience using the Tannoy Speakers to Live Rock, the same levels of enjoyment are created.

Would I demonstrate using the Tannoy, no, that is for the likes of the ESL.

The Tannoy just delivers a flavour that evokes embedded memories of past experiences.

I too have found many rock recordings to be grating and fatiguing.  It all depends upon the recording quality. 

Re. the DCS Bartok comment:  After owning a DCS Rossini, I’m sure that the Bartok isn't a problem, except for someone who prefers something else.

Most stacked Marshall rock concerts were too loud and distorted to sound good.  But man -- including the audience and the experience -- did they ROCK!!

I've found that a symphonic orchestra is more difficult to reproduce than most any other music.  The soft to loud dynamic ranges provide the difficulty.  Undestorted/uncongested crescendos with instrument separation and differentiation, divide the wannabes from the capable. 

As far as recording age is concerned, there obviously is a correlation, but there doesn’t necessarily need to be.  For example, of the several 1812 Overture recordings I own, this late 1950’s one is the best:  Tchaikovsky: 1812 Festival Overture; Capriccio Italien; Beethoven: Wellington's Victory Antal Doráti / Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra  Also, many Jazz recordings from the 50’s and 60’s still hold up well.

As far as rock and hard rock go, non-fatiguing listenability all has to do with the recording quality.

Off the top of my head, a few rock recordings I find well done are Emerson Lake and Palmer’s:  Lucky Man and In the Beginning; Sabbath's Iron Man; YES: Roundabout; Pink Floyd: DSOM et al.; Chicago; Blood Sweet and Tears; America’s: Sandman; Edgar Winter’s: Frankenstein; some of The Who’s tracks, especially those recorded at the New York Plant Sessions etc…

Some of You might enjoy the British all-star band

Crippled Black Phoenix.


Probably very fine on KEF Ref. 5 :)

They generally recorded that stuff to be played loud, otherwise it sounds like crap mostly. I own all those old rock records, I hardly listen to them now. I'm more into jazz and classical, also old hill Billy music, acoustic...

Hello,I am just a little older but i do like it loud sometimes! I started with through home theater and i kept my 2 channel separate'.Then i connected my dac /streamer to my home theater/11 channel,2subs.It was putting air in the tires of a bicycle i,d been riding! Now if i want to shake the house,let her GO!! And my 2 channel is protected from my stupid mistakes.LET IT FLOW.JEFF

I am a musician/music lover first and audiophile second.  Now with 48,500 LPs/CDs/78s/R2R and a selection from classical/opera/jazz-Dixieland to post bop/fusion/pop of all ages until about 1990s/rock from 50's to 90', no rap, no hip hop.  As one can view my set-up, it is tube based electronics.  A 70 watt class A amp driving 96.4 db large multi-driver dynamic speakers in a custom built listening room with built-in bass traps (activated carbon/16" thick walls/no openings.  

I used to think that Led Zeppelin CDs were crap until I upgraded my equipment/cabling/fuses/footers/etc.  My wife is a very critical listener and enjoys heavy metal and 60's to 90' rock.  I can swing adequate dynamics for her to enjoy all types of music, including metal.  I don't particularly like metal music (not adequately sophisticated for my taste) but it is listenable to me.  Sure, on CD and LP, great rock recordings sound great whereas compressed and artificial/distortion laden rock won't sound as open, colorful or exhibit as great dynamic swings.  We have only 500+ rock recordings but they are 90% of the time, quite good to listen to (for me).  

I dislike audio show exhibitors who use obscure and often very limited dynamic range recordings to demonstrate equipment.  I bring my own heavy percussion, orchestral and complex jazz recordings on LP, thumbdrive and CD.  Only a handful of times do systems sound as good or better than mine (show conditions are a limitation as well).  

It took decades to learn how to assemble a synergistic system which permits great latitude in musical genres and recordings to sound excellent to great.  I listen to acoustic and electric 78 recordings with just as much enjoyment as the best modern recordings for their musical content.  Mono LPs and CDs just as much as stereo for audiophile sound (particularly jazz, simple classical and vocals).  

May I suggest that you hear other systems which can convey better sound to your rock recordings.  A better system will not just provide greater resolution (your DAC) but also other attributes in rhythm, tonal balance, body and ambience retrieval.  They all play a part in maximizing your listening pleasure (Bryston amps and the Kef 5 would appear to be too sterile sounding for me/flat/uninvolving but with tweaks could be made better-cabling/power supply/room treatment, etc).