Could I be listening to the wrong music?

I have a collection of a few hundred CD’s (and some newly acquired SACDs) and I’m steadily accumulating them as I go. We know that regardless of how much we might love a song it may or may not be recorded that well, but we listen anyway. I’m officially a consumer of all things “audiophile,” be it the Forum or various other places on the Web. While on YouTube, I often come across system demos that play what could easily be called ear candy (mostly Jazz, Classical and some Acoustic) for high end listening - dynamics, soundstage, production quality, etc.

What I’m increasingly finding is that in these videos, some of the music just makes my system sound great. I ran across something last night that had a piano filling my room as if I was in the middle of a concert (and like a fool I didn’t note what song). Now the most confusing thing about this is first, it’s being played from YouTube and through Toslink into my DAC, purely to watch TV. The second thing is, why doesn’t more of what I play from my collection replicate such ambience? It just has me wondering. Am I listening to the wrong music?

No such thing as the wrong music.
However I know what you mean, a lot of CDs don’t sound great…
I recommend some sort of equaliser to play with, maybe even one that can store different settings.
Audiophile anathema maybe, but that’s never stopped me, it’s supposed to be about enjoyment after all.
Equalizers are easy to abuse, but regular ear washing by turning it off, and maybe restrict yourself to small amounts of boost and cut and all should be well.
Graphic eqs are eye candy and easy to use, parametric eqs, once sussed out, are sometimes more useful :slight_smile:

I try to assemble my system so that the music I love sounds great, rather than find music that sounds great on my stereo.

I got into this stuff because I love the music, so I try to remember to get gear that serves my music taste, rather than the other way around.


That makes perfect sense. I suppose we all have our own motivation. While I do enjoy what I grew up on and those things I have made emotional connections with, the actual enjoyment of sound excites me. So not only do I like what is familiar, but I also am moved by new sound and how it is delivered.

And perhaps my question of asking if I’m listening to the wrong thing was misstated. Perhaps I should have asked if I was looking in the wrong places to find music that had a similar effect/dynamic as what I stumbled upon last night? As such, a sound or song doesn’t have to be familiar for me to fall in love with it.

Learning more about mastering has helped me find a ton of great CDs and SACDs of great albums that sound great on my stereo. I avoid all modern remasters that are not by audiophile companies, as they compress the dynamics and/or use noise reduction that ruins the sound.

I’ve had my own share of disappointment in having purchased on cd, what I grew up listening to on vinyl. I have much fonder memories of vinyl, as everything was very new to me and the sound was phenomenal in my opinion.Those childhood memories formed my love and appreciation for music and great sound. As I got older CDs became convenient and at the time, my listening habits didn’t pair with spinning wax or storing it.

I’m not sure how far back your tastes go, but I’d love to know what methods you use in finding expertly done remasters and re-pressings. I’ve essentially resigned myself to locating what I want to hear in whatever form I can find it. It’s been so-so, but this is a journey not likely to end.

It did occur to me that much of what I like about some recordings is more about effects than actual musicianship or skill in mixing and recording. I don’t mind expanding my palette, but there are somethings we all hold sacred, right?

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My taste, in popular music, goes back to the 60s, though I prefer 70s-80s and some early 90s.

My methods have been to join Steve Hoffman music forums, where there are tons of people who care as much as I do about mastering/music/sound. There I learned about great mastering engineers, great CD/SACD labels (like Mobile Fidelity, DCC, Analogue Productions) and just started buying as much as I could afford. You can search that forum too, to find recommendations of great masterings of albums/artists that you are interested in.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot. Many of the early CDs (pre-1994 or so) sound great and cost very little in used shops. The early Led Zeppelin CDs, for example, all sound excellent, are cheap and easy to find.

I understand. I find sound in and of itself fascinating.


I’ve been to that site. It is a pretty good resource. I just sometimes got lost in some of their technical jargon. Unfortunately for me, what I listen to most has been released on CD but wasn’t popular enough to be continually pressed over the decades. My preferences are Contemporary Jazz and R&B from the 70s-80s, but unless it’s Earth, Wind & Fire, it can be downright impossible to find for less than premium prices. My search never ends.

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It’s all about the masterings. If the CD (or SACD or hires download or vinyl) has a crappy mastering it is never going to sound good. The best thing I ever did was join the Steve Hoffman forum. I was able to find the best masterings available for just about every album I am interested. Doing so made a huge difference in the quality of my music collection and dramatically improved my listening experience.

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Have you considered that in the videos you are also listening to recorded sound of that room interacting to that system–and not just the sound of the recording on the source format?

That was one of my first considerations when listening to the system demos. It also occurred that posters would play what sounded best for the presentation. I’ve recorded my own space to compare and my room needs some work.

In other posts there is music for the sake of listening enjoyment and system testing. We’ve all probably heard names like Diana Krall or Nora Jones. That’s not to undermine either, or what is mainstream, but I find these random, 1-2 hour collections of music that just makes my system pop. That causes me to wonder if I need to broaden the music I listen to and/or expand my searches for how that music was recorded and mastered.

Well like George above I set up my system to make the music I listen to sound really good and not to make audiophile recordings sound really good. I listen to music, by a wide margin mainly jazz, recorded from 1917 to today and a lot of what I listen to I find sounds really good when others wouldn’t spend a minute with it. It’s for the music with me more than the sound.

I admit I have concentrated on the sound more in the last decade or so but in many ways that is because I have been able to improve the playback of mediocre of worse recordings and masterings during that time. (One key component for me was an adjustable tubed EQ preamp from Decware, the ZROCK2, another key method is “riding the gain” between components). Over the four plus decades I’ve been collecting recordings and playing them back I have learned to appreciate early recordings and have realistic expectations of how they should sound, and I’ve been able to really enjoy them without obsessing over “ultimate sound quality.” My budget can only allow me to go so far with equipment, and I’d rather spend as much as I can on music itself.

So . . . I guess my possibly anti-audiophile advice would be to relax into the sound that you have and not obsess over mastering and getting as fantastic a sound as is possible.


I often “listen” to YouTube channels - Kenrick sound and the first take (both from Japan). They sound pretty well to my listening on my definitely not highend two-channel system in my 8Hx12Wx19L ft study room. As for my CD collection (classical in majority), I start to listen to them more often after acquiring PST year ago. To my ear, PST + DSDAC seems bring these CDs to new life. Maybe my ears just in favor of expensive playback gears. :slight_smile:

I’m 100% with @lonson on this. I listen mainly to jazz so my system is built around that and my ear for it. My adult son, however, listens to a lot of extreme metal and “difficult listening”. His system is built around that and his ear for it.

All of this said, I think most of us here own or have owned an audiophile LP or CD of absolute rubbish because it sounds great on a decent hi-if rig. I own a few and rarely ever listen to them. Conversely, I own some audiophile CDs of great jazz music that sound amazing. However, I mostly listen to my “regular” jazz CDs because it’s the music I like.

My advice is listen to what you like, and build and tweak your hi-if rig accordingly to it and your ear. No one has to enjoy your rig more than you.

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Great advice. And, I would add, it has been my experience that musicianship and the recording quality (i.e., the love, care and attention to detail in capturing the musicianship on a recording) - not the resolution of a recording - are what make a great record, along with one’s enjoyment of the particular music/artists.


I don’t want to send the message that I would in any way abandon my core collection in favor of what sounds like a thunderous bass kick, or worse, something to impress someone else. My mind processes listening enjoyment into components. I can appreciate composition more than a recording or a mix/master. I have quite a few recordings of less than stellar vocals, but the instrumentation, arrangement and overall presentation put them on the playlists.

If you are a person who listens to older, less refined recordings, I would imagine that is very much the same? When he was alive, my grandfather would listen to music from the ’20s. He most certainly wasn’t focused on the sound of a high hat. In my case, I’ve just come across sounds that make me enjoy listening to them, and not because they sound “high end” or hi res. They don’t fall into a category necessarily, though they all have qualities that for one reason or another, I embrace.

Does it confuse anyone if I state that I can separate the sound from the genre, or recording from artists intent? I don’t absolutely need everything to fit into a neat little package. Music and hearing it just seem very open and beyond labeling at times. I’m laughing to myself while thinking. Doesn’t everyone listen the same way? I’m guessing not. I just want to have and listen to what sounds good to me.

I admit that I refrain from posting some of what I like and listen to on “What Are You Spinning?” as it often seems unrelatable. That probably comes off as judgmental of others, but that couldn’t be further from my intention. Maybe it’s just my thinking way too much about it either way. As for my system, it’s nice. I enjoy it. My timing and method of putting it together could have been better, but the experience has been great.

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In the end, it’s the music that matters, whatever you are listening to, in whatever format, that make you nod, make you feel something emotionally, that is what this hobby all about. Don’t hold back from exploring and sharing what you enjoy, I bet there is learning curve for pretty much everyone here, myself included. Welcome aboard!

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No one listens to something they don’t want to hear. This is all for the love of it.