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pablolie's picture
Last seen: 4 days 14 hours ago
Joined: Oct 24 2013 - 11:58am
reference recordings... daft punk... really?

i see "random access memory" keeps popping up in reviews as a reference recording...

i like the music and it is catchy and all... but *reference*...? REALLY?

it is so *ELECTRONIC*... vocoder voices galore. the instruments mixed together in a sterile vacuum. it sounds extremely clean alright. but it is such an artifical mix - staging is utterly artificial.

i will admit it tests the dynamics of a system, it is clean. but i would NEVER EVER use it as a reference recording to go to a store an audition a piece of equipment. there is so much bettter stuff out there.

and please don't say miles davis "kind of blue"... brilliant as it is artistically, the hdtracks hd version has the piano so statically frozen on the right that you have to truly focus on the performance and snap out of trying to distill details, because they are underwhelming when it comes to many things.

it kinda annoys me these two recordings have become such clichees in stereophile reviews, because neither of them are really memorable audio engineering examples.

so i ask fellow readers... what do you take to auditions?

i love Kevin Mahogany recordings, they are truly awesome. i take "Pride and Joy" every time i want to audition a system. *great* recording, everything is there - a pristinely recorded and amazing human voice, a fantastic a capella choir, and acoustic instruments galore. listen to the percussion and everything in "never can say goodbye"... now THAT is a reference recording. another reference i have is an old Karl Munchinger recording of Pachelbel's omnipresent "canon"... it is flawed but staging and dynamics and the performance are amazing, and the slight analog hiss in this case adds to it. and because i love and worship the music, i will always use the Coltrane and Hartman album as a reference, it is as natural as it gets. as is Bill Evans "waltz for debby" which i think is my fav live recording.

while i LOVE keith jarrett, i find in many recordings the piano dominates, it's covered by so many microphones it doesn't seem to be cleanly placed anywhere in the room. again, great sound often - indistinct spatial resolution.

curious about what fellow members think? daft punk a reference, really, other than for sheer dynamics (which you can prolly test out with almost any decently recorded 256-VBR MP3?

gainphile's picture
Last seen: 11 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: Feb 4 2014 - 3:03am
The album is really dynamic

The album is really dynamic and sounding great. Yes I think they deserve to be used as reference recording.

John Atkinson
John Atkinson's picture
Last seen: 7 hours 12 min ago
Joined: Nov 7 2010 - 3:31pm
Re: Daft Punk's Random Access Memories

pablolie wrote:

i see "random access memory" keeps popping up in reviews as a reference recording...

i like the music and it is catchy and all... but *reference*...? REALLY?

You should read the article on the making of this album in the July 2013 issue of Sound on Sound magazine - . Everyone involved in the making of the album took extraordinary care over the sound quality, and there is no heavyhanded compression used.

I included Random Access Memories in a presentation I gave at the October 2013 AES Convention as an example of how dynamic range doesn't have to be sacrificed to produce a commercially successful recording. (Sitting next to me at the presentation was Bob Ludwig, who mastered this album for the LP release and who agreed about the intrinsic sound quality.)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

pablolie's picture
Last seen: 4 days 14 hours ago
Joined: Oct 24 2013 - 11:58am
thanks for the replies - i do

thanks for the replies - i do not disagree, the dynamics are awesome.

my only issue is the staging is so arbitrary as to be non-existent. the instruments sound clean, but the mix is a bit sterile.

any album with a vocoder gives away a *huge* audiophile weapon - the ability to truly hear a human voice.

i am not saying i hate the album or that it is not full of pristine dynamics. but if i have to pick a reference recording i will always pick a true stage and stay away from electronic screening.

which reminds me, 2cellos, "in2ition" is a great recording too.

in case a sounded too negative - strereophile throws in real gems in there. Gavriel Lipkind...!? what can you say. thank you!

my only point is i personally would not take daft punk to listen to a piece of equipment in my fav store, it is mixed and engineered great but it "cheats" because of all the embelishment. it is a tad too canned for my taste. i prefer real acoustics - real instruments, voices and a real room, that is my preference for my own reference material.

sorry if i came across as know-it-all-ish. i love stereophile and shall remain a subscriber for life. i learn from every issue.


Regadude's picture
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Oct 17 2012 - 12:08pm
Who cares about!

Who gives a flying fluck about sound quality when the MUSIC SUCKS?!?!?!?! Geez, audiophiles wack it to good recordings. What about the darn music????

Daft punk is a 5 cent gimmick. 2 gay looking robots. Big effin deal! 3 years from now, no one will remember this album. It will go in the trash bin with Milli Vanilli and that "Streak" song from 1974. 

Catch22's picture
Last seen: 1 week 6 days ago
Joined: Nov 21 2010 - 1:58pm
Pretty much anything that I'm familiar with works for me

I've come to the conclusion that just about any recording that you are intimately familiar with can be useful as a reference. And, electric and synthesized tunes are mandatory for me in evaluating a component or system. I always run Robert Palmer's, "You are in my System" through a gear change at some point. Those synthesizers can sound quite different through different gear.

geoffkait's picture
Last seen: 5 hours 36 min ago
Joined: Apr 29 2008 - 5:10am
Reference recording

I used the steam locomotive recording, Steel Rails and Thundering Skies, as a reference recording for a number of years.  Was that wrong?


geoff kait

machina dynamica

commsysman's picture
Last seen: 8 hours 46 min ago
Joined: Apr 4 2006 - 11:33am

One of the best "test" recordings I have run across is the "Engineer's Choice" on Delos. The dynamics are huge and the fidelity is amazing.

This is a sampler of recordings by noted Delos engineer John Eargle. Ther are actually two CDs, I and II.

Another recording I like to use is the "JAZZ" album by Ry Cooder. It has a wide range of instruments and vocals that will test the limits of a system very well.

For some really well-engineered acoustic recordings, it is hard to beat any of the excellent recordings on the OPUS 3 label. The stereo imaging is superb. I use their Test CDs 1, 2, and 5 a lot. May Audio is their US distributor.

The Reference Recordings label also has many excellent CDs.

As far as Miles Davis is concerned, the SACD (or CD) of "Sketches of Spain" is far better as a system test. The unusual sonorities are hard to reproduce well.

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