Does high end audio limit musical choices? Recent video from Paul

Paul answers an interesting question in this video. “Does high end audio limit musical choices?”
The jest of the video suggests that it does. So what if anything can be done to help off set the negative impact of a higher resolution system, that is too revealing of substandard or so so recording?

After recently upgrading to all new electronics…DMP, DSD, and BHK 250, I’ve been delighted at how magnificent my “good” recording sound, and even some that I previously thought weren’t all that great. On the other hand, there are some recording that I thought were pretty good, and that I enjoyed immensely, like Alan Parson’s Mobile Fidelity master recording of “The Allan Parsons Project”, along with Chicago Transit Authority", and Supertramp’s “Crime of the Century”, that now rub me the wrong way, because I’m now hearing some hotspots in the recordings, that apparently weren’t as noticeable before. So higher resolution components are either revealing the weaknesses in the recordings, or possibly other weak links in the system, such as cabling. Or another possibility is, the lack of tubes in the front end. Although I wasn’t using a preamp previously, my CD player had a tube output stage, which i believe helped add a degree of musicality to BOTH good and so so recordings.

Have others found that by adding a good tube preamp, or hybrid like the BHK, that the level of musicality increased in both good and bad recording? Or does it add to the problem that increased resolution can bring, by revealing the shortcomings of bad recordings?

Would be interested in hearing others thoughts on this topic, and what if anything you may have done to help offset the negative impact of a system that is “TOO” revealing of less than ideal recordings.


I agree with Paul that listening to really good music changes your expections/standards starting with live performances which stick with you(Rolling Stones live in their prime-current Chicago Symphony). I just watched The Green Book in the theater about Don Shirley the pianist-great a must not miss movie-however the sound was terrible. Like someone who just got a HUGE subwoofer and turned it up expecting a squadron of F-16s to over fly in seconds for the effect. The music played by Don and his trio was flat and without interest. I will now search on Qobuz/Tidal for some of his music at least one example of which I remember from my father’s LP collection of the late 50s-60s and was featured in the movie.

Just a thought.


A bottle or wine, 6-pack of beer, or your favorite whiskey.

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It really is a situation of compromise. A single system cannot be honest and revealing yet forgiving at the same time. Personally, I have a preamp that was designed to gussy up less than stellar recorded/engineered music that I can loop in as needed. The capacitors within this particular tube-based pre-amp were selected for this very purpose.

My Tortuga Audio external LDR attenuator is also my source switch (4 inputs). It has two sets of outputs. One output feeds my revealing, unforgiving system. The other output travels through the preamp I mentioned above which helps to tolerate less-than-stellar music when there is no better option for that particular track or album.

It really only adds one component to the chain, only when needed.

Interesting idea, looping in an additional component when needed, through the same system.

I’m hoping that if I add a preamp, like the BHK, running the DSD directly into the BHK 250 presently, it will increase the musicality of good, as well as bad recordings, without jeopardizing resolution.

I would also suggest finding the best sounding version of any CD you find lacking. After assembling my system I realized that many of the remasters I own don’t sound great. Luckily many of the original releases can be found at used stores for a few bucks.

Absolutely. I have some CD tracks (ripped to my hard drive) that are nearly unlistenable at a volume above a low background level, given the relative quality of my current system (vs. where it’s performance level was in the past.). I also have a few, really bad recordings that have always been pretty awful. (Not sure why I never though these out…)

Years ago I had a super high resolution system and found myself listening to about 10% of my collection. After about a year or so I sold everything. For me if I can’t enjoy music I like to listen to what’s the point.

Sure, but what if there is no other higher quality option? I’m sure the OP has considered this, but if the love for the music transcends the sound quality, and there is not a higher quality option, what is he to do? That is the question at hand.

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Anything like a tube somewhere helps all recordings but not the difference between good and bad.

Especially to get around tonality issues of (not only) bad recordings a music lover needs either partly or fully active speakers or speakers with other options of influence or some EQ‘ing options within the front end (@lonson has such). I guess he and I couldn’t live without such options, if only to match the setup to the room once.

Herb Reichert’s column in the latest issue Stereophile reports on the latest Burning Amp festival and Nelson Pass’ “H2 Generator” (a second harmonic distortion generator) that can be inserted in the signal path to dial in more or less second harmonics.

In response to a question as to why someone would want to add distortion, Pass replied “Because this is entertainment, not dialysis!”

Reichert reviews the effects of the device in his home system. Interesting stuff.


Have heard this effect, its the old balancing game of a super high fidelity system that only a few recordings sound good versus a more ordinary system that many recordings sound good. When auditioning gear I’d bring a wide assortment of my favorite CDs, including an audiophile “guilty pleasure”. Actually sent back gear that made 10% of my collection sound better, but 30% sound worse.

As an audiophile am fundamentally opposed to “sweetening” the sound with gizmos, tubes, etc. 3 more ‘honest’ options:

1.) Upgrade your library (or grit your teeth when listening to favorites);
2.) Downgrade your gear; or better yet…
3.) Look for different gear that enhances imaging (a “natural” way to improve resolution). Improved/tighter imaging improves focus. Don’t neglect the benefits from having a proper room/setup in achieving this.

Well as it turns out many of those unpleasantries that I thought were due to a high resolution system revealing less than ideal recordings, have disappeared, now that I have more hrs on the set of Belden ICONOCLAST ic’s I have been auditioning. Even with 500 hrs burn-in these cables hadn’t reached their maximum performance, because they continue to improve even after 500 hrs. Burn-in… it’s a Bear.