How is it that one musician, Tom Waits, consistently has good recordings?

I have 13 Tom Waits recordings and they’re all superb. I’m not aware of any other band or performer that consistently puts up high quality recordings. Is he just lucky, or does he jdemand the best from his recording engineers? Wish more musicans would follow suit.

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It is because Bones Howe produced most of his records and this is the sound he wants.

Thanks. The “sound” he wants is very musical balanced, and highly resolving. Nothing sounds out of place, or offends. Dynamics also don’t sound restricted or compressed.

Wish more of my recordings achieved this level of perfection.

As I have mentioned before, it all depends on whether what you happen to like matches what the producer/musician likes. There are many good recordings which people do not identify as “good” as these recordings do not happen to correspond with their preferences.

Even audiophiles cannot agree on what recordings sound the best, or what version of a given recording has the best sound.

In my own work, I often find the client wants more bass than the orchestra, choir, or chamber group actually produces. They also often want more ambient sound mixed in than I would prefer. It is common they would like some compression, especially vocalists.

Both what I would produce on my own and what they want are “good,” but listeners will have their preferences.

I hear what you’re saying, but I do think there are certain parameters of good sound quality that everyone would agree on, that would not necessarily be up for debate. No likes their music compressed, shrill, and thin sounding, which unfortunately many recordings exhibit.

What you think is compressed, shrill, and thin is exactly what may have been intended and desired.

Compression is widely used and desirable in many circumstances (especially voice, drums, bass guitar). What you call shrill is to others high energy and clear, etc.

You certainly will find some who agree with you as to “good sound,” as well as others who disagree.

Which is as it should be.

I would think so, especially amongst audiophiles.
Probably less so if asking the general public.

I am not sure. If there was agreement as to what sounds good, even among just audiophiles, we would find recordings sounding more alike than we do.

As it is, we have substantial disagreements among audiophiles as to whether even specialty label recordings sound good. We do not even have agreement on this forum among our members as to whether Octave recordings sound good.

As with all other aesthetic judgments, there is no universal truth when it comes to producing a recording. I maintain this is good. Who wants everything to sound the same and like everyone else’s work?

Also Otis Taylor, who cares about sound so much he records his stuff in DSD. That why Octave Records released his Hey Joe Opus even though they didn’t record it.

A recording engineer is an artist who paints with his mics and his mixer and electronics. Some love Picasso, some Andrew Wyeth. They are both great artists, but I prefer Wyeth.

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It was because Otis Taylor was recording at Immersive Sounds in Colorado, who shortly before “Hey Joe Opus” started recording in DSD.

More importantly, Otis Taylor owned the US distribution rights, so I’m sure he was happy to get some money for nothing by allowing it to be remastered and resold.

I’m not sure why it had to be remastered. I have the original master on vinyl and it sounds excellent.

I’m convinced it has less to do with who engineers or produces a recording, within reason, and comes down ultimately to the standards of the artist. Waits isn’t the only artist with a track record of excellent recordings. Diana Krall and Patricia Barber are two artists I can think of with consistently good recordings. Even their live albums are top shelf.

Diana Krall’s recording are always among the best and that’s why they’re used so often at audio shows.


I design electrical systems for buildings and that can include audio/video. I know what I know and what I don’t so I’ve teamed up with a great designer of these systems. Several years ago, we worked on a small college auditorium. There were many physical constraints in the space and the new system “looked” similar to the old. Without really listening, the business manager called us to task for wasting his considerable amount of money on the same thing he already had. Me and my designer brought a Patrica Barber recording to play. The space had pretensions of being a high end jazz venue. 2 minutes in he said that sounds amazing! I can actually hear the bass player’s fingers on the strings. We all walked away happy!


I find this more of a function of her being a nice looking blonde alto, with albums replete with sultry glamour shots and close mic’ing so one can hear every breathy exhalation, lip smack, and consonant. Ear porn.

The Look of Love is particularly odd with its flown-in, muddy orchestral accompaniments. Strange stuff.


I’d agree with you but she can only be heard at audio shows, so those visuals aren’t present.

I’m right there with you though on The Look of Love, I don’t get that one either.

A valid point, but I strongly suspect her popularity is primarily because of her appearance and marketing.

She would be quite a draw if she showed to sign autographs.

Sorry, I just can’t agree with you. I think she’s a very accomplished vocalist and even if she weren’t, I could see her making it as jazz pianist alone.

I should have made clear I do not think she is marketing fluff alone; she has some ability certainly.

But she would not have become as popular as she has - especially in audiophile circles - without being pretty, coupled with well designed and executed marketing.

Audiophiles adore altos for showing off their systems, especially when they are nice looking.

But on topic, I do not care for how she is recorded with the hyper-close mic placement, lots of vocal compression. I do not want to know this much about her tonsils. As I mentioned above, even audiophiles are in disagreement as to which recordings sound good. It is tricky stuff.

And then there is the often steely and muddy orchestral parts which appear from time to time.


Really? Patricia Barbara is popular in audiophile circles, and she wasn’t marketed in the same manner. If manufacturers and audiophiles didn’t feel her recordings were above average, they wouldn’t be played at audio shows around the globe.