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Can Bad Recordings sound Good?

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28 minutes ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

Can bad recordings sound good?

 

This seems to be a recurrent theme across some threads eg

  

 

 

 

 

My view is that over 90% of "Hi-Fi" is in the quality of the recording. GIGO.

 

The better the reproducing system the more transparently it will reveal what sounds like real (unamplified) sounds in a real acoustic space.

 

The better the reproduction system the more it will reveal good and bad bits of a recording.Good bits of bad recordings can make the presentation sound less unpleasant, indeed pleasant if one is able to mentally tune out the bad bits.One can rediscover many old recordings in this way. The bad bits however are still revealed and no amount of system tweaking will overcome this if transparency is maintained.

 

Tweaking a HiFi system to make the bad bits of recordings sound "good" (less bad) = coloration. All recordings start to sound of the signature of the color chosen and one may gravitate to certain recordings that suit the color. In essence you convert a HiFi system into a mid or more likely Lo-Fi system. Radios and car stereos can sound 'good' with bad recordings because of the information discarded - you end up with a truncated, compressed, music-in-a-tin sound. This is fine to get the gist of the melody and rhythm especially for familiar tunes.

 

The other biggy with tweaking of course is the possibility of confirmation bias. But the emperor has no clothes if nobody else perceives it.

When you go beyond making a consumer system as technically accurate as possible, then you get into the realm of re-working and re-mastering.  A little shelving to correct a recording, or more serious stuff to correct the speakers -- that is still in the realm of proper reproduction.  Some recordings also have a repeatable kind of damage that can be at least partially corrected.  However, when a consumer does things with tools that are normally available to the audiophile, using a locally corrected system -- then coloration is about all that can be done.   A consumer who does more than EQ for a recording, and perhaps a small amount of 5BX-type expansion, then we are talking about correction and remastering.  Without proper tools, the correction and remastering is futile.

 

In my project, I have found that 'rework' can be harder than hell, because of the extreme variability of recordings.  Almost the only thing that you can generally rely on -- a given album TENDS to be similarly damaged.  Series of albums from a given artist tends to be more similarly damaged than between different artists.  However, sometimes you do find cases where individual selections have also been tweaked.

 

I have respect for those who clean up a recording, that might be beautiful, but dependent on ancient technology - there will be very-difficult-to-correct damage, but mostly well correct.  Small defects in media, transducers,etc can hide a lot of these sins. 

 

A consumer without specialized hardware and software cannot undo the major kind of damage on pop recordings, however there is LOTS of properly mastered material also -- but the label won't be 'Atlantic' or whatever major labels that are available today.  The label would more likely be a specialty one, and some super picky person will do the mastering, and not allow the distributors to put the bad-touch on their recordings.

 

Unless using very speciality software, correcting a damaged recording might be fun to try, but the results will not be as good as possible.  Speciality software of various kinds CAN do a lot to fix old recordings.  Trying to fix the recordings without specialty HW or SW - just coloration & tweaking.

 

John

 

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1 hour ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

My view is that over 90% of "Hi-Fi" is in the quality of the recording. GIGO.

 

My view is that the 90% lies with the integrity of the playback chain.

 

Quote

 

The better the reproducing system the more transparently it will reveal what sounds like real (unamplified) sounds in a real acoustic space.

 

Correct. But the acoustic space may be completely artificial, being that of say synthesizer instruments, but it still completely works as a listening experience ... I would suggest Jarre here as a good example.

 

Quote

The better the reproduction system the more it will reveal good and bad bits of a recording.Good bits of bad recordings can make the presentation sound less unpleasant, indeed pleasant if one is able to mentally tune out the bad bits.One can rediscover many old recordings in this way. The bad bits however are still revealed and no amount of system tweaking will overcome this if transparency is maintained.

 

The bad bits are discarded, unconsciously, by the listening brain - this has been repeated for me endless times; I have technically very poor recordings, where the dumbness of the mastering screams at me when the SQ is below par - but a bit of magic occurs when that level is improved; the flaws that I know are there essentially vanish like a mirage ... if I choose to really, really focus on the defects that I know are there, I can certainly hear them happening - but as soon as I relax that concentration, the music comes back; it supersedes the otherwise clear issues.

 

This won't occur for everyone - but I don't know anyone personally who is not "tricked" by their brain in this manner.

 

Quote

 

Tweaking a HiFi system to make the bad bits of recordings sound "good" (less bad) = coloration. All recordings start to sound of the signature of the color chosen and one may gravitate to certain recordings that suit the color. In essence you convert a HiFi system into a mid or more likely Lo-Fi system. Radios and car stereos can sound 'good' with bad recordings because of the information discarded - you end up with a truncated, compressed, music-in-a-tin sound. This is fine to get the gist of the melody and rhythm especially for familiar tunes.

 

Nope. The latest active speakers I'm using are a perfect example of what happens: so far, I have done zero internally to these units; I've stabilised them physically, tidied up and organised all the cables that they use, and added some mains filtering - what they now present from recordings I have heard myriads of times, on multiple rigs, is close to, or the very same presentation as they have always given at their best ...they are an excellent shortcut to getting to what the recordings contains. Could they be better? Of course ... they still don't disappear, and the finest detail is still not forthcoming - but they do a damn fine job of it, so far!

 

Quote

 

The other biggy with tweaking of course is the possibility of confirmation bias. But the emperor has no clothes if nobody else perceives it.

 

The trick with tweaking is to cycle through every one of one's difficult recordings if you feel good progress has been made - don't leave a single one out! If one has merely altered the signature of the distortion rather than "fix things", then there will be at least one that shows that "you are not there yet", 🙂.


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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40 minutes ago, John Dyson said:

When you go beyond making a consumer system as technically accurate as possible, then you get into the realm of re-working and re-mastering.  A little shelving to correct a recording, or more serious stuff to correct the speakers -- that is still in the realm of proper reproduction.  Some recordings also have a repeatable kind of damage that can be at least partially corrected.  However, when a consumer does things with tools that are normally available to the audiophile, using a locally corrected system -- then coloration is about all that can be done.   A consumer who does more than EQ for a recording, and perhaps a small amount of 5BX-type expansion, then we are talking about correction and remastering.  Without proper tools, the correction and remastering is futile.

 

In my project, I have found that 'rework' can be harder than hell, because of the extreme variability of recordings.  Almost the only thing that you can generally rely on -- a given album TENDS to be similarly damaged.  Series of albums from a given artist tends to be more similarly damaged than between different artists.  However, sometimes you do find cases where individual selections have also been tweaked.

 

I have respect for those who clean up a recording, that might be beautiful, but dependent on ancient technology - there will be very-difficult-to-correct damage, but mostly well correct.  Small defects in media, transducers,etc can hide a lot of these sins. 

 

A consumer without specialized hardware and software cannot undo the major kind of damage on pop recordings, however there is LOTS of properly mastered material also -- but the label won't be 'Atlantic' or whatever major labels that are available today.  The label would more likely be a specialty one, and some super picky person will do the mastering, and not allow the distributors to put the bad-touch on their recordings.

 

Unless using very speciality software, correcting a damaged recording might be fun to try, but the results will not be as good as possible.  Speciality software of various kinds CAN do a lot to fix old recordings.  Trying to fix the recordings without specialty HW or SW - just coloration & tweaking.

 

John

 

I agree John. So, in a nutshell, forgive me if an oversimplification, some bad recordings can be improved by fixing aspects of the recording itself. This is difficult and not for the inexperienced working with poor tools.

 

The only thing i don't get is " or more serious stuff to correct the speakers". Do you mean DRC?


Sound Minds Mind Sound

 

 

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3 minutes ago, fas42 said:
Quote

 

The better the reproducing system the more transparently it will reveal what sounds like real (unamplified) sounds in a real acoustic space.

 

Correct. But the acoustic space may be completely artificial, being that of say synthesizer instruments, but it still completely works as a listening experience ... I would suggest Jarre here as a good example.

 

From your post, this is about the only thing I agree with Frank . If the sound is totally artificial we have no reference point other than it sounds good or bad to you in an absolute sense. We still do know what  a 'live' amplified guitar sounds like


Sound Minds Mind Sound

 

 

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Can bad recordings sound good? I think they can and it is also true for good recordings can sound bad.  It depends on 1. the system itself whether it can honestly and accurately replay the recordings without adding color and favorites; and 2. the subjective preference of the listener's of what is good or bad, such as louder is good, deeper bass is good, soft and muddled channels, instruments separation is good.😀


MetalNuts

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1 hour ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

 

From your post, this is about the only thing I agree with Frank . If the sound is totally artificial we have no reference point other than it sounds good or bad to you in an absolute sense. We still do know what  a 'live' amplified guitar sounds like

 

Many recordings are mixes of real, and synthetic sounds - an easy test is whether those sounds within it that are the genuine acoustic article come across realistically...some favourites here are vocals layered across a complex pop/rock soundscape, and the inclusion of a small string section, as backing, in some pop tracks - the latter should be as authentic as would be conveyed in a 'proper' classical recording.


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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2 hours ago, Allan F said:

 

I don't see how can it be otherwise, absent disagreement as to what a "bad" recording is.

 

That's the tricky bit ... we need a list a "bad" tracks, or albums, which "most" people agree upon - I submit:

 

Adele 21

ABBA's Ring Ring

 

😜


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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3 hours ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

If the system " honestly and accurately replays the [bad] recordings without adding color and favorites" won't a bad recording then sound bad?

(we know your answer Frank)

what about the 2nd condition of what is bad/good subjectively in the mind of the listener and why on earth people like 300B amplifier.  The particular coloration is considered good by the listener.  Recording being mastered to boost certain frequency may be considered by some not balanced and not natural but some may consider it very hi-fi.  The good for you may be the bad for the others and vice versa.  No point arguing when it involved the subjective preference of individual.


MetalNuts

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25 minutes ago, MetalNuts said:

what about the 2nd condition of what is bad/good subjectively in the mind of the listener and why on earth people like 300B amplifier.  The particular coloration is considered good by the listener.  Recording being mastered to boost certain frequency may be considered by some not balanced and not natural but some may consider it very hi-fi.  The good for you may be the bad for the others and vice versa.  No point arguing when it involved the subjective preference of individual.

 

okay, no need to dance around with your clever answer...oh, already see you're doing that🤣 - BUT if someone subjectively considers a recording bad, to be internally consistent, they would also consider the same qualities subjectively bad on playback.

 

This condition holds only if transparency is the goal and it presupposes that you know what the recording sounded like in the first place.

 

If transparency is not the goal then all bets are off.

 

If transparency is the goal you cannot know what each and every recording sounded like live but the clues would be how real it sounds on playback and that all playbacks on a system don't have a signature, albeit euphonic sound.


Sound Minds Mind Sound

 

 

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1 hour ago, fas42 said:

 

That's the tricky bit ... we need a list a "bad" tracks, or albums, which "most" people agree upon - I submit:

 

Adele 21

ABBA's Ring Ring

 

😜

Couldn't agree more here Frank.


Sound Minds Mind Sound

 

 

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45 minutes ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

okay, no need to dance around with your clever answer...oh, already see you're doing that🤣 - BUT if someone subjectively considers a recording bad, to be internally consistent, they would also consider the same qualities subjectively bad on playback

If before listening, some already formed the opinion of it being a bad recording, what is the point of listening?  It is my experience that the quality of the recordings (same ripped files in my NAS) changes with the changing of gears.  Some may become better, some may become worse and some may remain the same.  That's the reason I go through my whole or most of my collection when I change gear.  Despite preference is subjective, one must have an open attitude in the valuation.


MetalNuts

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47 minutes ago, MetalNuts said:

If before listening, some already formed the opinion of it being a bad recording, what is the point of listening? 

 

Agreed but that's not the question

 

47 minutes ago, MetalNuts said:

It is my experience that the quality of the recordings (same ripped files in my NAS) changes with the changing of gears.  Some may become better, some may become worse and some may remain the same. 

perhaps this is due to swapping one coloration with another or perhaps just as likely moving towards greater transparency hindering and helping differently. hard to know


Sound Minds Mind Sound

 

 

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12 hours ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

I agree John. So, in a nutshell, forgive me if an oversimplification, some bad recordings can be improved by fixing aspects of the recording itself. This is difficult and not for the inexperienced working with poor tools.

 

The only thing i don't get is " or more serious stuff to correct the speakers". Do you mean DRC?

What I meant about speakers is serious kinds of dsp EQ.  Also, a super serious hobbyist might design his/her own speakers with negative feedback schemes/etc.   All of these aggressive schemes are intended to reproduce the electrical/digital signal accurately, but not MODIFYING the signal.

 

Modifying the signal other than simple EQ starts becoming mega complex.   It is like my project -- few EE/DSP people could even start it without a lot of mistakes.  (Like me, I made LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of mistakes at the beginning. I am *still* correcting my mistakes, and it is NOT a financially rewarding thing to do.)  'Correcting' the recording is infinitely more difficult and specialized than making a reproduction system work super well.

 

John

 

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15 hours ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

Can bad recordings sound good?

 

This seems to be a recurrent theme across some threads eg

  

 

 

 

 

My view is that over 90% of "Hi-Fi" is in the quality of the recording. GIGO.

 

The better the reproducing system the more transparently it will reveal what sounds like real (unamplified) sounds in a real acoustic space.

 

The better the reproduction system the more it will reveal good and bad bits of a recording.Good bits of bad recordings can make the presentation sound less unpleasant, indeed pleasant if one is able to mentally tune out the bad bits.One can rediscover many old recordings in this way. The bad bits however are still revealed and no amount of system tweaking will overcome this if transparency is maintained.

 

Tweaking a HiFi system to make the bad bits of recordings sound "good" (less bad) = coloration. All recordings start to sound of the signature of the color chosen and one may gravitate to certain recordings that suit the color. In essence you convert a HiFi system into a mid or more likely Lo-Fi system. Radios and car stereos can sound 'good' with bad recordings because of the information discarded - you end up with a truncated, compressed, music-in-a-tin sound. This is fine to get the gist of the melody and rhythm especially for familiar tunes.

 

The other biggy with tweaking of course is the possibility of confirmation bias. But the emperor has no clothes if nobody else perceives it.

 

I have never said that a bad recording can sound good. I have stated the opposite many times. The question was can we evaluate which records that are good or bad in a lousy audio system? My answer is no.

 

I absolutely disagree that 90% of "Hi-Fi" is in the quality of the recording. If you really believe that, it would also mean that a superb recording would sound much much better true a boombox system than a standard recording would on a high end system. All things (record, room, placement, mains power, audio system) has to be good to get great SQ.

 

Everything has to be optimal for ultimate sound. A good system is not only about transparency. It’s about tonality, speed, transients, harmonics, dynamism, authority, control, linearity, refinement, sound stage, air and many other SQ aspects.

 

Many records that doesn’t sound very good doesn’t sound good because:

 

1. The record is heavily compressed. A good system is faster, airier, more open and more dynamic and have much better transient response than a bad system. All those aspects improves the better the system.

 

2. The record lack bass and sound thin. A good audio system has a real density and fullness that a bad audio system is lacking. All those aspects improves the better the system.

 

3. The record has a harsh treble. A good audio system has natural sound that is smooth without smoothing over or loss of details and transparency. All those aspects improves the better the system.

 

4. The recording sound bad because of artifacts and noise. A good audio system will revile those flaws more than a bad one. Those aspect is masked by the bad system so you can’t hear them as well.

 

Out of those 4 general aspects that I believe describes most bad records, 3 will improve with a better audio system. Only one aspect IME can be perceived as sounding “better” in a lesser audio system.

 

To illustrate this boombox will never sound good even if the recording is great. 

image.png.776e615b1a74770dbc207c7f6200c3b5.png

This system can make even modest recordings sound really good. 

 

image.png.6c745530f3a8b2f822e06573389251a4.png

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I had no intention of being insulting to others' musical preferences re. the nose-flute comment.  It was in the context of his lament that he believed the quality of the recording was often inversely proportional to the quality of the music.  I wouldn't want to go down the slippery slope of quality music being determined in an absolute v relative way.  We are all different and thats cool.

 

Bill


Labels assigned by CA members: "Cogley's ML sock-puppet," "weaponizer of psychology," "ethically-challenged," "professionally dubious," "machismo," "lover of old westerns," "shill," "expert on ducks and imposters," "Janitor in Chief," "expert in Karate," "ML fanboi or employee," "Alabama Trump supporter with an NRA decal on the windshield of his car," sycophant

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57 minutes ago, Allan F said:

"the sound of actual acoustic instruments playing in a real space"

But the critical question is whether it presents the sound of the actual acoustic instruments playing in the actual space in which they were recorded.  If my regular gigging archtop acoustic guitar sounds in a recording like a fine old DeAngelico with a carved solid spruce top, it’s a bad recording because that guitar is a garden variety Ibanez with a laminated top.  

 

Many recordings are juiced to make things sound bigger than they are, just as many performers process or augment their sound live.  Listen to Martin Taylor’s early recordings. He used to play a big archtop (a Yamaha as I recall) with both a standard magnetic pickup and piezo sensors in the bridge. He played this live through a stereo rig with sound reinforcement in large venues, and I think he recorded it both miked and direct.  It sure sounds great, and he’s one of my favorite players.  But when playing the recordings, it sounds somehow artificial as though the guitar were 15 feet across.  Yet these are technically excellent recordings because that’s how he sounded in concert.

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Does not a better system emphasize the bad parts of a bad recording badder?

 

.....Anyway, this discussion demonstrates that the serious hobbyist can enjoy "home remastering" to his heart's content.

This is a good example of the endless joy audio-heads can find.  As the great American composer Sly Stone said, so eloquently, "Different Strokes for Different Folks"


In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake ~ Sayre's Law

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