Sound quality vs enjoyment? Diminishing returns?

The music I love the most does not seem to correlate to being well recorded or requiring high fidelity.


Shrill recordings played on a clock radio won’t emotionally grab me, so I do need a “base” level of quality sound recording and reproduction. But, there are huge diminishing returns as I spend mega bucks. I am NOT talking about diminishing returns in equipment pricing, but just generally, once a system is “good enough”, it really is “good enough”.

I found that once a piece of music gets through to me, making it higher-rez or on better equipment won’t take it to a higher emotional level for me… I am there and done.

Bruce in Philly

If the music is good, reproduction on laptop speakers is enough to grab me. Music easily surpasses equipment.

But better equipment allows me to more fully appreciate what the musicians are doing. Thus, accurate timbre and micro-rodynamics are by far the most important characteristics of a system.


I completely agree with the first statement. I started listening to a lot of jazz and great DSD recordings. I think it made my brain sick so I had to do an intensive cleanse with Silverchair, Alice In Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, etc…

I know when I’m moving in the right direction when I get DR5 music to open up and sound alive. I don’t really care at all if some Jazz/Classical sounds amazing, I want my music to sound amazing. The questionable recordings are way more of a help to me. I can go in circles with good recordings because they never sound bad.

I can tell on my iPhone speakers whether I might like a song. I’m not actually analyzing the sound but if the timing works for me. I don’t need an audiophile home setup to tell me the latest rock band advertised on FB sounds like the other clone 4/4 time signature same-old song structure blah blah blah out there.

Bruce, I do find modern remasters actually reduce my emotional engagement due to the compression side effects.

This is where I’m not surprised with your comment on hi res.

Better master and 16 bit wins everyday vs any variation of compressed hi res.

All correct that was said…however I still very much enjoy the improvement of hires under same conditions of the recording/mastering.

But aside of the hires discussion, recording quality plays the major role after musical quality. I even often experience that I‘m fascinated by music I usually don’t really prefer top priority, if the sound quality is exceptional.

This SACD is an example, great Audioquest recording with fantastic dynamics, even if such pure blues is not my preference.

Play track 5!

1 Like

There is a reason in rock, Evil Joe Barresi is renowned.

Instead of going to the EQ knobs first thing, he moves the microphone around, or changes mic types.

Not all DR5 albums sound bad. The ones that had bad producers sound bad. There are some albums I’ve gotten where I love the sound and was surprised the dynamic range was lower. Typically it happens with really good producers/engineers at the drivers wheel.

I’m with Elk for sure…music can give me goosebumps on my $10 Logitech speakers at work. Happens all the time. However, when I’m listening to the big rig on a weekend, I crave that warm, dynamic, 3D sound.

The occasional DR 7 CD can thrill me but it’s rarer than it would be otherwise (music has to rise above). I play a lot of music, on the big rig, from a large playlist of my favorite songs (Elk cringes). I can tolerate a 5 to 1 well recorded to bad ratio. However, the well recorded stuff always has a better chance of getting me out of my seat and dancing (yes, I dance a lot…alone, in a group: at a party, it doesn’t matter).


I know polarity is not a big deal to everyone but I find the difference much greater among low DR recordings than high quality high DR recordings.

To my ears a decent DR recording that is in the wrong polarity still sounds pretty good, you know in the 8-11 range.

But when you start digging more modern in the DR4-6 land the difference is actually huge. One way sounds thin and compressed with a narrow sound stage, the other opens up nicely and is much better.

Cool suggestion…I honesty try not to fuss…I’ll give it a try.

The caveat is… do you have speakers that maintain polarity. The main place is the crossover where it gets swapped. If the polarity is swapped in the speakers then it’s up in the air if you can hear a difference.

Off topic but I always found emotional connection to music on a car radio, even if the system is a decent factory one. My theory is that because it’s battery powered is why it sounds so good.

There have been numerous times when I have listened to car systems,boomboxes,normal tv broadcast through proprietary tv speakers,and, for that matter,transistor radios when I was a kid,that I felt a connection to the music. Not as much as my mancave system,but,none the less, the fact remains.

With that being said, I think the reason that a lesser music source can be at times even more engaging than the big-boy system could be…with the big boy system, I, at times, put way to much mental effort into the listening experience,you know…expecting all of the audiophile fireworks with each listening session…instead of just relaxing…and enjoying the music at hand. After all,we are audiophiles and expect to get our money’s worth each and every time we sit down in the sweet spot.

Being out of the sweet spot can make less than spectacular sound from low end sourcing free the mind and body into just enjoying the musical moment without any armchair pretense. That’s why I love going to live concerts so much, just to take it all in…without audiophilia getting in the way.

But,I still love my man cave music system…pretense and all…:grin:

1 Like

If you don’t like the song, the artist performing it, etc. You simply won’t listen to it. If you like something but it wasn’t recorded/mastered well, higher resolution systems will only confirm the mastering / recording leaves a lot to be desired.

What gave me my first thrill and still does, was getting my first high end piece and listening to music I liked. I found with standard vinyl back in the day on my SOTA/Premier/Talisman combo through my PS Audio IVH passive preamp, the noise floor was low enough the nuances of the recordings would come through. Listening was a lot of fun. I’m enjoying that for the first time on digital playback. I got a new Shunyata Delta NR power cord for my NuWave DSD. A lot of nuances now flow through the playback and even my less than stellar recordings are more thrilling to enjoy.

I still enjoy listening to music ripped to mp3 on earbuds on my cell phone while busing to work, Lol! Has to do with liking the music first in order to enjoy it.

Food for thought
Do we agree?

I took a quick look at the youtube comments. Lots of endless debate about his points. The same as with every single issue discussed on the internet. It goes on and on. Anyone can come up with 20 debatable issues with this thesis. However, the truth is popular music is not better. The internet is great: the internet sucks.

Edit: I care deeply about the quality of music. It is the art form that has been most influential throughout my life. I want it to move forward and encourage young artists by buying their music. However, I could spend the rest of my life enjoying old music that’s new to me. There are 20 CD suggestions in the what are you spinning thread every week that look good enough to buy. Not going to run out of good/great, new to me, music soon.

amsco15, you hit it with the comment in you edit… +10 for me too. I really try to find modern music that moves me, but these “greasy kid-stuff” productions with autotune on the vocals just repulses me. Check out these two covers by Post Modern Jukebox, then compare with the originals. My point is the originals suck royally to me because of the production. When PMJ exposes the tune with natural human voices, I realize there are some talented songwriters out there.

Seriously, give these a listen, then listen to the originals… what do you think?

BTW, I heard Maroon 5 on a TV show playing live… I thought, “hey these guys are pretty good”… I purchased two of their CDs and barfed up an expensive dinner.

Bruce in Philly

Maroon 5 (listen to this PMJ all the way to the end… Ms James is classically trained)

Lady Gaga

Can’t disagree at all. The PMJ version is stunning (so is the blond BTW). The problem is “old men yelling at clouds.” At least I’m an old man: trying not to be though.

There has always been/is wonderful contemporary music as well as dreck.

One advantage to primarily listening to classical music is the junk tends to get filtered out by time, while the good survives.

I’d argue that it’s not just classical music that gets filtered by time, that happens with popular music as well. It’s just that the compositional timeline isn’t as long. The recorded timeline for all the music we love is relatively the same with the “modern” recording era beginning around 1927 with the manufacture of the Western Electric cutting lathe.