Audio quality as a deliberate part of the art

Springing from a great discussion we’re having about Melody Gardot, I’d like to start a thread listing artists who actually USE high-end audio as part of their creativity. Of course there are musicians who have always insisted on high-quality recordings - James Taylor, Steely Dan, Supertramp, Prince, etc. - but what I’m looking for here are artists who truly RELY on perfection in audiophile-level sound as an integral part of their artistic expression. I think Melody Gardot falls in that group - certainly her songs and singing skills and choice of instrumentalists are great, but I’m wondering if her recordings were of “standard” audio quality, whether I’d care half as much about her.

Here are some other musicians in my library where if I pulled the high audio quality out of their recordings, I would really be missing a lot in their overall expression:

• Amber Rubarth (just heard her at AXPONA)
• Anne Bison (also heard her at AXPONA, and would not have sought her out any further had I not been familiar with her recordings)
• The Blue Nile
• Arne Domnérus - Jazz at the Pawnshop series - music is OK, but quality is amazing
• Daft Punk
• Lyle Lovett
• Rebecca Pidgeon
• Diana Krall - she’s a good singer, but the audio quality of her recordings are what I collect her for
• Emily King
• Madeleine Peyroux
• Pink Floyd / Roger Waters
• Emilie-Claire Barlow
• Sara K.

Eva Cassidy was a perfectionist on many levels. She left us too early.


Michael Jackson was reportedly a stickler w/r/t recording engineering and music production.

I think many of his more popular recordings prove the point.

I’ll bet he drove Quincy Jones crazy at times*.


*(‘Thriller’: How Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones Made Bestselling Album – Rolling Stone)


None of the musicians that the OP lists (including Melody) are really my cup of tea, sound quality or not.

I’m a jazz nut, and a fan of Brazilian music. I’d say three women artists I collect are very conscious and focused on sound quality: Monday Michiru, Eliane Elias, and Maria Schneider. A vibraphonist that I really enjoy also seems to always have great sound quality in his leadership dates: Joel Ross.

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Thanks for the recommendations.

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I am jazz fan too, but I have to tip my hat to Dave Grohl.



Pretty much all of David Chesky’s The Audiophile Collective recordings.

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Jean Luc Ponty.


There’s a line between high end audio and effective use of sound effects and digital manipulation.

I may be missing something in your question.

If you listen to Steve Miller Band Fly Like an Eagle is that high end audio or fantastic use of instruments and synthesizers?

I didn’t mean to leave jazz out, but I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a jazz artist who lists: melody, harmony, rhythm, phrasing, improvisation ability, swing, audio quality - where if you pull out the intended audio quality, it would be like pulling out any of the other elements. For instance, I have a huge collection of 78 rpm records that I listen to pretty often. Because of the technological limitations, nobody at that point was deliberately using sound quality to express themselves. I don’t know enough Weather Report to rule one way or the other, but maybe. There was a group called Flim & the BB’s who fell under jazz that got a lot of notoriety in the early days of CDs because of sound quality. I wasn’t too impressed with their music, but I was impressed with the audio quality.

Thanks for the reply. It is a bit of a tricky question. If in the making of Fly Like an Eagle, someone said, that choice of instrument or mix of instruments is going to increase the level of sonic art and I’m using a focus on sonic stuff to express myself, that would qualify. Maybe another way to look at it is to ask, “Would this artist refuse to record because the quality of the recording would inhibit their ability to express?”

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I’ve heard some Monday Michiru and agree with you. Eliane Elias escapes me - time to investigate. I have two good friends who are big fans of Maria Schneider, but I haven’t been as impressed as I should be - do you have a recommendation of something she’s done that falls into the high-end audio category?

Personally, I greatly appreciate most everything on Manfred Eicher’s ECM label for its production values.

Also. Dead Can Dance and Bill Frisell (across all the labels he’s worked with) come to mind. I have several excellent recordings from the German SWR Jazz Haus label, very well recording live jazz.

Generally though, I find production/recording standards to be higher in the classical music genre than other types of music. I’m a bit of an outlier in the audiophile world in that I’m not super enthusiastic about all the “golden age” RCA recordings that get reissues ad nauseam from audiophile labels. In older classical recordings, I generally prefer Decca’s productions. While modern multi-mike recording may not recreate recreate the experience of listening to an orchestra from the audience as realistically as older two mike recordings, I appreciate the greater insight into the minutiae of the score multi-mike recordings offer.

In the genre of traditional/classical Chinese music the Hong Kong based Hugo Productions (24bit production with DCS equipment) label produced realistically recorded recordings.

One of my favorite “demo” tracks when evaluating cables or other gear is Kenny Rankin’s version of 'Round Midnight. Kenny is no longer with us, but his voice is still vibrant on this Chesky CD (called “Because of You”) from the early 90s.

On the CD notes, Kenny makes the following acknowledgement: "I have been ‘making’ records for many years…But, until I met up with David and Norman Chesky’s innovative recording techniques I’d never had my ‘aural’ photograph taken – Thanks guys!


It appears I don’t think of “sound quality” the way you do re: jazz, or in general. Which is fine. I’ll bow out.

If you weren’t that impressed with Ms Schneider it won’t matter what I recommend, so carry on elsewhere.

But but - I hate to see you go. I was looking for one of YOUR favorite Maria Schneider recordings to make a believer out of me. I am a HUGE fan of jazz large ensemble recordings. The friend I mentioned has been studying jazz since the 50s and if HE likes Maria Schneider, I can’t believe I haven’t been blown away.

That is a great quote! i guess that’s the kind of thing I’m looking for - where an artist discovers high-end audio and realizes how integral it is to his or her contribution. I was surprised when I heard that John Prine got further and further into audio quality as time went on, to the point where he was so impressed with his last album’s sound that he gifted the engineer with a vintage car.

Yes! A great rendition from an artist taken too soon.

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