Should a good system sound bad with bad recording?

A friend of mine came home with a few CDs burnt out of "official" bootleg recordings of Pearl Jam NorAm tour...the sound was so crappy that he looked at me a bit embarrassed, thinking "very loud" that my system was really not great despite the money I spent. I checked the site he downloaded from...full concerts are about 200 MB on average. I guess I am dealing with a case of ultra-compressed files. Should I be proud that the sound was really crappy on my set up?!!!!
Sure, one could argue that your system accurately reproduced the source material. Would you prefer a system that lied to you by making everything sound sweet, if that was even at all possible?! Happy listening!
IMHO, a system shold reflect what the recording has to offer. Not under or over emphasize what is bad or good.
A bad recording should sound bad on a really good system. I have a led zepplin CD that sounds ok in my car but is so compressed that It makes my system sound like a transister radio.

If a bad recording sounds good on a good system, wouldnt that indicate the system is somehow coloring the music to make it less offence?

I'd say crap in, crap out.

Imagine Crap in, T-bone steak out.
That would make the whole digestive process a little less appetizing.
"Here, eat this piece of shit. Very good. Yeah thats right, the peanut too. Now, come back later and crap a t-bone on my plate."
I agree on the garbage in/garbage out factor. If you have a revealing system it will reveal the garbage or reveal the quality of what's being played.
Slappy, my friend is actually a Chef in a respected restaurant in Montreal so I will pass your comment to him, I am sure this will wipe the residual smile he may have thinking my system is mediocre!!!
I've heard (and had) gear that made bad recordings unlistenable. Playing bad recordings through my current set up is more than tolerable. I actually have a fairly large collection of recordings that are recorded very poorly- and while my system never fools me into thinking these are gems, they are still listenable and never harsh or fatiguing.

I can't disagree with a good system being more revealing, but on the other hand one of the traps of this hobby is having a system that pushes you into "audiophile" recordings, or otherwise limits your enjoyment of the huge catalogue of great music available. A really musical system will of course sound great with good recordings, but should also allow you to relish music in whatever form available. If you find yourself listening to "Famous Blue Raincoat" and 10 other Lp's/CD's in your collection over and over again, something is very wrong.
The problem with "a good system" is "What actually makes a system good"
And that is different in different folks minds.
So I would say the average 'Audiophile' wants a "true to life system" which will just allow whatever is in the recording to come out, irreguardless of the bad sound.
Others want a system which allows the greatness to show on good recordings, AND creates a euphonic "improvement" in poor recordings.
This is certainly achievable.. and would be preferrable to "absolute fidelity" to the recorded material.
So you can actually listen to stuff... and not just those 50 or so "audiophile" recordings.
Yes. Case in point...Robin Trowers' Bridge of Sighs, one of the greatest rock albums known to man, IMO, is absolutely un-F'ing listenable on a high-rez rig.
one solution is to have some sort of euphonic sounding component in the tape loop. click it in when to sound is terrible, and off for the great recurdings.
(And I wonder if this original post is showing why some folks rave about how great some cheap, junk system.. sounds better than their $80,000. rig.)
Is Euphonic sound for bad recordings more important than truth in sound.
if your speaking of the legal so-called bootleg, commercially released, live pearl jam recordings, the answer is THE BETTER THE SYSTEM, THE BETTER THEY SOUND. they were intentionally left ruff around the edges, but were indeed made for quality hi fi playback. aside from female voclas and small chamber recordings, most hi end systems are put through a reality check with large orchestra, and live rock and roll. most fail........are they audiophile quality...of course not....but are they worth owning and betcha
I am not sure the issue breaks down as simply as "realistic and accurate" versus "euphonic." I think your system has to do PRAT well to be consistently enjoyable across the musical and recording quality spectrums. There are a lot of other factors, including the voicing of the speakers. But I am still trying to figure out all the issues and the right balance between them.
First of all, welcome back Slappy! Of course their is one option that is taboo in many minds, equalization.
Jaybo: interesting point. Is the issue of resolution one that we should care about then? if the complete concert is about 200MB (thus about 120MB per 1 hour CD), how can this be an "audiophile" recording? I think I am missing sthg here. I like your perspective though as it goes against the "grain"!
I think it would help greatly if you had bass and treble control......i am finding out that high end means only playing a few recordings and not being able to play what is the point of paying alot of $$$$$ to not be able to tolerate most recordings???

I have Krell gear and i hear from a relative,"you need a mixer", "not enough bass" and it pisses me off.

Spend the big bucks and then everything sounds like crap.
If it's a professionally done recording and you're playing it from at least a 16/44 source (or some loseless equivalent) then something is wrong with your system and/or your setup if you're finding a significant percentage of new recordings are "unlistenable". A good system will show the flaws of commercially oriented recordings, but it shouldn't make them sound like crap.

EQ and tone controls can correct for tonal imbalances, but nothing can undo excessive compression.
Bad CD's sound worse on good equipment. For example, I made the mistake of buying a few Laserlight releases on sale from Tower Records. They sounded bad in my car, but really attrocious in my music room. I ended up throwing them in the garbage.
A bad recording is a bad recording.
All a good system does is make a bad recording sound even worse.
Go by a boom box and the thing will sound silky smooth.
beheme-it isn't a so called 'audiophile recording'. like most modern recordings, it is however meant to be enjoyed on a quality playback system. the 'notion' that 'the better a system is-the worse most cd's and lp's sound' is about all any consumer has left to hang their hat on, when they find themselves with tens of thousands of dollars in equipment that they can't enjoy anything on. accurately reproducing the recording and enjoying the music are not different goals. no recording engineer sets out to make peoples ears bleed. unfortunately most high end speaker designs are not made to be listened to for hours on end. they are built specifically to impress a potential buyer using an audiophile quality recording. one that does not really 'test' the speakers at all. loudspeakers that do not favor one frequency over another, and maintain that balance with any ss or tube amp make just about any commercial recording listenable. ar, allison,hales,avalon,ohm,gradient,shahinian,castle,harmonic precision,harbeth,snell(the originals)chapman,enigma,totem,duntech,etc. are just a sample of speakers that are well engineered at all pricepoints. if you can't enjoy the history of recorded music from the dawn of high fidelity until today, you've got a problem that no amount of tweeking and component changing(other than speakers) can solve. those pearl jam recordings are not only historically significent-they rock. giving up the history of rock music alone based on a demo with a patricia barber or jennifer warnes cd(which don't sound bad even on a boombox)is nothing short of a bad purchase.
if you buy junk out of the bargain bin thinking it is real music, you are apt to buy awful speakers thinking they are well engineered. more thing, the origin of prat is from a marketing dept. you can't argue with an intangible_marketing 101
Gargage in, garbage out...
It all starts with the recording process and no amount of money you throw at a system can change the original recording.
perfectionist is right. your stereo should accurately capture the performance and the recording itself. most recordings are meant to sound 'like recordings'. does anyone really think bernstein or the beatles and thousands of relavent recording artists were/are even concerned about 'air' and 'warmth' and all the other bs terms that equipment mongers use. a good stereo system makes you want to own the world's largest music collection. if you spend all your time worrying about each recording being a sonic wonder, you need a doctor, not an upgrade. to paraphrase woody guthie...'some men rob you with a gun, others with interconnects'.......for the most part neither man winds up being a scientist,an engineer, or even a music lover.
I agree with most of you guys even if you are saying opposite things! I for one do not give much about PRAT and other marketing buzz words and I want my system to show what's in the recording yet still make it enjoyable - overall.

HOWEVER, the Pearl jam bootleg recording I was exposed to last week was really inaudible, or should I say, very hard to appreciate as it did not sound like live recording to me, totally muffled and cacophonous. Without knowing about its resolution or else at the time, I immediately thought this was a case of highly compressed files. Jaybo: how could a decent system make these files "good" if they are, by definition, of lesser quality than the average definition that our systems were designed for? think of it like cars and roads. The average car is designed for average road qualities. If you take that car and take it in serious off-roads condition, it ain't good at all. It does not mean the car is poorly designed, it is simply out of the range of application it was designed for.

Is it possible there is a compression range that manufacturers use when designing audio gear? Is it possible that those bootleg recordings sit outside that range?
This appears to be a classic case of finger pointing. On one hand it's the recording engineers fault, on the other hand it's the home audio manufacturers fault, on the other hands it's the consumers fault, on the other hand it's the reviewers fault. I can't help but wonder if they are intertwined. The recording engineer gears the sound to the lowest common denominator such as boom boxes, walkmans and car audio to make his recodings more appealing to a greater audience to encourage more sales. The high end audio manufacturer gears their sound to be accurate reproducers of the recording to make his products more appealing to a narrower audience willing to pay extra for greater fidelity. The consumer gets frustrated that their expensive gear makes for some unpleasent sounds and blames the manufacturer to whom they gave the most money. On the other, other hand perhaps the consumer should be blamed for poor judgment in purchasing power and buying both compromised equipment that initiates this diabolical cycle and buying compromised recordings that maintains this diabolical cycle? On the other, other, other, hand perhaps record reviwers (I mean the ones that don't just cater to high end equipment publications) are to blame for not giving enough credence to the intrinsic quality of the very vehicle that transports the subject matter? Just don't blame me, it's his fault!
Some excellent comments about speakers (I own one of the offending kind at present).

The following I also agree with heartily:

"your stereo should accurately capture the performance and the recording itself. most recordings are meant to sound 'like recordings'. does anyone really think bernstein or the beatles and thousands of relavent recording artists were/are even concerned about 'air' and 'warmth' and all the other bs terms that equipment mongers use. a good stereo system makes you want to own the world's largest music collection."

But dismissing pace and timing?! You loose me entirely. The redundant (but now widely used) acronym "PRAT" may have originally been coined in someone's marketing department, but the phenomenon it attempts to describe is not only tangible, it is at the backbone of ALL good music production AND reproduction. In music production, timing is largely what differentiates great musicians from the lesser (just ask yourself what makes for great blues guitar, and youÂ’ll see what I mean). In a hi-fi, good timing is essential to, as you put it, "accurately capture the performance and the recording itself." This is an area expensive, audiophile systems fall short frequently, especially, but not exclusively, tube based ones. No, this is much more than "intangible marketing 101." Given your otherwise sensible comments, I find your position on this quite puzzling.
'prat' is like an audio 'farfegnugen'. it is a marketing idea that is beyond debate. its a clever way of expressing a 'faith-based' feeling. mac has always used "pride of ownnership"......its pretty hard to quantify or argue. your mindset determines prat. it also determines what is 'cool'. a case in point is an LS3/5a of any origin. even though this design is legendary from any brand , the rogers version is 'beyond' legendary.
200 MB for a two hour concert simply must have some audio compression to compromise the music. The most common compression schemes for full WAV files (SHN and FLAC) can sometimes get over 50 per cent reduction in size, but that is generally when the music is sparse enough to allow for it. And Pearl Jam is not exactly known for a lot of air between the music. Since a one hour CD generally contains about 600 MB of music, I'd expect a two hour rock concert compressed with a "lossless" compression scheme to be more like 600 MB.

I'd say that Pearl Jam compromized the audio quality so the download time was a reasonable size for the average downloader. If the same concert were available as a CD, which Pearl Jam has done in the past, I'd expect it to have better sound quality.
i thought we were talking about the version on a commercially available cd, not the internet download.
"I checked the site he downloaded from"...

I was talking download.
"your mindset determines prat". Nope, my feet do. What speakers do you have?
"your mindset" does not determine a musician's timing, nor does it determine your system's ability to convey that timing accurately. If you think timing in music = "farfegnugen", you and I are indeed way beyond the point of debate. I know from personal experience what I mean by good timing in music. AND, I know when an audio system faithfully reproduces good timing and when it does not. If you have yet to experience these things, I hope you soon get the opportunity. As I said earlier, you made sense in other things you said.
Absolutely. A good system by definition reproduces what is on the source material. If the material is crappy, sound should come out crappy, otherwise it is not a 'good' system. Take, Bose system for example, it will make everything sound okay. In your car.

Sometimes I don't realize this fact and when I put on a recording that isn't very well recorded, I begin to doubt my system and start to worry about what could be wrong. My home system is Classe/Dunlavy. But then my boxster OEM system does not fall in this category. It sounds good sometime and bad most of time :) regardless of source.
does a kid hear prat from his favorite boombox? does a drunken dancer here it from a 'way-loud' pa in a disco? do i hear it in my favorite recordings? are there good eric clapton records with no prat? are there bad ones with it? is it put into the recording by the musicians or the engineers? prat is not created by a playback device. its an emotional reaction 'you feel' when you are enjoying music with your-own-bad-self. 'crossroads' by cream on any playback device has prat if your enjoying it.
IMHO. A 'good system' won't make 'bad recordings' sound bad. A 'good system' will make 'bad recordings' sound good. Its all to easy to blame the least expensive item in ones' set-up ie a 'Cd/Lp' as being the culprit for the pain on the ears. No one will ever admit that their expensive piece of kit is really an expensive piece/s of sh....doggie doos.
These are just my own personal views from personal experience in the past.
Crank it up.........
a stereo system is as strong as its weakest link. most stereo systems sound pretty good with good to very good recordings.

it is the better stereo system which can sound good with bad recordings.
Yes. The better the system the better ALL recordings will be.
the better the recordings, the better the system will sound. it all starts with the source.

however, some so called bad recordings are not that bad. it is the stereo system that is flawed.
If good is taken as accurate then absolutely yes, of course it should sound bad

If good is taken as a nice sounding system with plenty of forgiveness, warmth and oodles of extra harmonic distortion in the bass and lower mid then NO.

A system that colors sound in a pleasing way can invariably make a bad recording sound passable. ( a good recording, however, will never shine as much )

Since the majority of recordings are mediocre or mastered for mediocre systems...selection of a system is a matter of opinion/choice and even a very accurate system has its limitations/drawbacks.

Many mastering engineers in studios with $100,000+ systems/facilities will still use something like Yamaha NS10's, just to see how their master will translate to a mediocre system. (the majority of systems can't properly handle the dynamics of lifelike music and lose balance)

Fortunately the odd one slips where the mastering engineer has not been heavy handed with a soft limiter. Some genre's fair better than others.
Maybe this is a trick question and I'm not getting it but shouldn't a "bad" recording sound bad on the best of systems and worse on lesser equipment?

'Splain it to me Lucy.
the best recording with the worst system will sound better than the worst recording with the best system.

if a system is forgiving, i.e., subtractively colored, aan excellent recording will still present the cues to indicate its recording quality.

what may be lost is some extension and clarity.
the best recording with the worst system will sound better than the worst recording with the best system.

as Confucious might say....

BTW: I agree Mrtennis with least to a certain point....An excellent recording however will NOT sound as good as a "judiciously compressed" recording on a mediocre system....this is why we have so much badly compressed recordings out there today and the so called "CD loudness wars". Producers & Mastering engineers know all to well what they are doing when they compress stuff for radio stations and car stereos. (They are deliberately producing something that sounds optimum on an average system. Often perceived loudness is a key criteria in defining a "good" recording for Producers who have a target market in mind; a target market dominated by owners of mediocre systems)

So what I am saying is that it is quite complex.

Those with high quality accurate systems suffer the most when listening to this badly compressed music as it is no longer optimum for their system and the music is notably compressed when compared to a good recording.

Those with poor quality systems suffer the most when listening to high quality recordings with large dynamic range, as it is no longer optimum for their system; as the listener turns up the volume to hear the "softer" sounds or detail then distortion and compression affects louder sounds and often the the balance is lost, resulting in less clarity.

In my experience, these effects are most obvious on your average movie DVD, which typically has much better dynamic range than most pop music; on mediocre systems most people will struggle to hear the dialogue until the volume is turned up rather too loud and at which point the loud parts are often distorted (this is often because the speaker cannot properly produce low level sounds accurately; these speakers that tend to have an optimum but limited sound level range or sweet spot)
Went to the Denver Hi-fi show yesterday, took my favourite test cd. Oasis-'D'ya know what I mean'. It is a brutal sounding cd that gives systems a hard time due to the harsh/jangly/feedbacky sounds emitted from said cd. I played it today through my pc setup and actually preferred the sound over mega expensive sound systems! Pc speakers that cost $60! One system I played it through at the show the speakers alone were $55000 and sounded well and truely awful (I am being polite). If quality costs money, why can't 'proper' systems do it?. My cheapo pc speakers can!

One system I played it through at the show the speakers alone were $55000 and sounded well and truely awful (I am being polite). If quality costs money, why can't 'proper' systems do it?. My cheapo pc speakers can!

Read my previous post for a possible explanation why you have observed that cheapo speakers actually sound better than a $55,000 system on certain recordings. (Of course not all extremely expensive systems are extremely that level most are at least very good.....although some at that level look extremely exotic and weird, a visual statement that sounds awful but looks impressive....a shrine to oogle and gloat over, which fits what some people are looking cars with "go faster" aerofoils and "go faster" wheel hubs, more often cosmetic rather than functional in design.)
even on a mediocre stereo system, one can recognize an excellent recording.

stereo systems are bad for a variety of reasons.

i have not experienced a problem with overly dynamic material played on bad stereo systems. i am referring to music only recordings, not movies.

since i generally listen at 75 to 80 db, i would not encounter the problem you mention. in addition, many recordings do not have much dynamic range, especially, non-complex material, such as small ensemble acoustic music.

your example would apply to some cases but there are many instances where dynamic range is not an issue, especially classical, non orchestra music.
your example would apply to some cases but there are many instances where dynamic range is not an issue, especially classical, non orchestra music.
Mrtennis (Threads | Answers)

Most live music has abundant dynamic range ...much more than an average from 75 to 80 db. An unamplified grand piano goes up to around 110 db on peaks or crescendos. Drums, tympany, brass all can go from extremely loud to soft. So while you may listen quietly to stereo or from a distance at a concert is the lack of dynamics that often distinguish stereo system playback from live real music....real instruments.
i value my ears too much to listen beyond 85 db.

besides some small ensemble chamber music is not very loud.

a harpsichord does not play loud and baroque and renaissance music sounds better at lower sound pressure levels.

one of the best speakers of all time, the quad esl was not known for its dynamic range. i will take that speaker any day over any speaker made today.

what i am trying to say is it depends upon preference and your choice of music.
I agree with the majority of responses, a bad recording is bad no matter what it is played throuh. This is why I have not minded spending extra $$ for remastered cd's of my favorite albums.
A bad recording can sound good through a well balanced hi-fi system. If one has to resort to buying 'remastered' or.. ageing groups/recording companies wanting to make a bit more cash, by fooling punters that this latest 'souped up' (more eq on the mid) version is better than the old version so one can accomplish a better/acceptable sound from ones system, does that not tell one that something is fundamentally amiss? It does to me.
Rock on.....