Forget about the quality of the music—what percentage of your music collection sounds great?

Sometimes our favorite music sounds like crap, and sometimes the best-sounding work in our collection is an artistic failure, but we keep the thing anyway. Forget about the quality of the music, what percentage of your music collection sounds great?

Forget about the quality of the music—what percentage of your music collection sounds great?
11% (11 votes)
6% (6 votes)
8% (8 votes)
11% (11 votes)
4% (4 votes)
12% (12 votes)
9% (9 votes)
17% (17 votes)
13% (13 votes)
4% (4 votes)
Less than 10%
4% (4 votes)
Total votes: 99

djl's picture

A few of the older recordings were recorded well and still sound good by todays standards, but that's a very small percentage. Some is thin and they recorded it on a cassette deck instead of a studio deck. Then some are simply outstanding. I noticed some LP's don't sound well either depending on the recording budget or studio equipment quality. In my collection of CD's, LP's and a few cassettes, overall, the percentage of great sounding stuff is probably about 20%.

Macksman's picture

Almost all of my collection sounds fantastic. Who could possibly say that Clash, Siouxie and Jam singles, original UK pressings, sound otherwise? Like my respected co-respondant from Mtn. View, I never buy anything to show off the gear but I'm very often startled at how good-sounding are what I buy or glean from the stacks in the back room. My original Big Star albumns stand up to the re-issues, for instance and Sinead O'Connor's weird dub re-work of old reggae classics from 2005's Throw Down Your Arms is a surprisingly effective recording. Studio by definition but the music and emotion are available to the listener. That's what a good recording needs to do. Not everything should be recorded like The Lamentable Consort. Then there's always Hazy Fantazie which just sounds awful no matter who they tag "big leggie".

Tony P., Arlington, VA's picture

Stereophile is making a dangerous assumption here -- that we keep recordings that are artistic failures just because they sound good. No amount of great sound quality can make me listen to bad music. That said, at least a third of my collection sounds pretty darn good to my ears.

FJC's picture

100% - because I throw out anything that does not reach satisfy my ears/brain.

Colonel Tom Parker's picture

I only listen to CD's now, so about 80% of my collection sounds really good. Despite that I have a tubed power & preamp, some of the earlier CDS from the eighties are lean on bass and some are strident in the treble, but the performance is classic. I have noticed that the sound quality of CD's mastered after 1990 really start to come into their own. Some good news is that a great deal of the earlier CD pressings are being remastered, but sometimes these efforts seem to deviate enough from the original that the songs don't sound like the way we remember them. I appreciate good sound quality, but I think the performace supercedes the sound. I don't mean to be harsh, but there are a lot of well mastered, dynamic and transparent CDs that do not deliver a pleasing experience, simply because of a lack of truly good music.

DAB, Pacific Palisades, CA's picture

I think you "pollsters" have been stuck in neutral for the past few weeks. Could you please tap into a more meaningful and different subject area?

Mike Agee's picture

How great a given recording sounds on a system is a matter of synergy similar to component synergy. I have a few recordings which sound noticeably more musical on my mid-fi rig at work vs. the tweaked assemblage at home, fortunately just a few!'s picture

The real question, for me, is why are recordings getting worse? My guess is they're lazy.

tonyE's picture

Look. If I like the music, it sounds good coming even out of a Bose Stereo Nowhere System. Sure, you can make it sound better, but if I don't like the music then I don't play it and music that's on the shelves sounds worse than music that's being played. After all, when you're jumping up and down in your seat because Uncle Stanialo's Polish Polka Reunion is playing on the Linn... who cares about the sound. My answer then is 100% because if it makes me happy it sounds great. In fact, everytime I start to listen like an "audiophile" I stop enjoyin the music and start to imagine problems... Jeez.. pass the MaiTai and put that old Don Ho record....

craig's picture

Really well recorded CDs with the music I enjoy at least and at an affordable price is not always easy to find. Last week's vote results were pretty much spread all over the percentage range. For this vote I pegged my collection at 50%. I would think a lot of other readers will group closer to the middle percentage range also.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

I'd rather listen to great music that sounds okay that crap in perfect fidelity.

James's picture

If it sounds like crap, it's not in my collection. 80% sounds great. 20% sounds good.

Jim G.'s picture

I would rather listen to a poorly recorded Grateful Dead piece than a really well recorded Kiss piece. The same goes for equipment, bad music on a great system still sounds bad. When I first the Beatles White album on a crappy fold out record player, it blew Doris Day on my parents state of the art system out of the water. Bad music is bad. No matter the system or the recording quality.

Johannes Turunen, Sweden's picture

I tend to choose music from an musical aspect rather than from hifi qualities.

J Chisholm's picture

Truly great recordings are rare - the sort which grabs and keeps your attention rather than act as background.

Adrian Lebena's picture

It is very difficult to buy great sounding CD's. I don't know what it is buy my guess is musicians and recording engineers are just naive to the science of capturing great sound for reproduction use.

Diss Moed's picture

Recording engineers are mostley deaf ! ! !

Dennis's picture

Or, 100% of what I play!

Aden's picture

Less than 10% sounds really great, but about 30% sounds "good enough"

Beto's picture

There's great music and then there are also great sound recordings. Too bad more often than not you end up with one at the expense of the other. The very few times both seem to coincide is nothing short of a miracle as a planetary alignment may be. But if I were forced to choose, I'd rather have the bad recordings with good music - it's easier to survive listening to rough gemstones than to polished crap.

Donald N.'s picture

Mostly cdrs from eMusic downloads - not the best sound quality in the world but, I'm more of a music fan than an audiophile.

joey's picture

The only ones that sound quite bad, although the music in itself is great, are those that are dynamically compressed (Dream Theater, Without Temptation). Klaus (Netherlands)

Blue Mikey's picture

I wish more of it did. But I can't buy music for sound--if I don't like the performances, the best sound in the world doesn't matter to me.

Timbo in Oz's picture

Collection is 60% classical plus a mixture of popular forms, I was born in 1950! Pop forms is where multi-mike mono is the go. this can sound great but too often doesn't. For Classical and Jazz those labels whose engineering I came to trust tended to predominate as time went by. Having a system that lets you hear the seams and limiters, but lest the music through probably plays a part. 'Real stereo' recordings acan be surprisingly real and natural all at once!

Boots's picture

I like to listen to live concerts. Many of these are audience recordings where quality ranges from awful all the way up to very good. The stuff off of the soundboard often sounds fantastic. One of my best sounding concerts, and perhaps the best sounding music in my collection, is Tom Waits "Nighthawks at the Diner." I also have a lot of the early CDs and not too many of those sound right.

Andy Smith's picture

For some reason, CD's produced here locally in South Africa are of inferioir quality to imported examples. I have now resorted to only purchasing imported CD's at a premium price.

Tom Warren's picture

Good set of questions. I guess I’m pretty much floored every time I place an LP on the turntable. I’d guess about half of my LP’s really sound great, maybe more. I rarely listen to CD’s on my main system, yet they are passable and even good in the back room & studio(office). I’ve taken Fremer’s advice and I’m burning CD’s of LP’s. That’s a good way to go for when out of the listening room.

df's picture

That's even tougher to answer than last weeks quesiton. It seems some of the respondents last week answered THIS question. I can think of those albums that always stood out with exceptional sound quality — Steely Dan, Aja; Dire Straits, Brother in Arms; Kate Bush, the Hounds of Love; the Beatles, Abbey Road; and so on. And of course there's been all those remasters and HDCD, DVD Audio, and SACD re-releases of late, some of astounding quality. Realy impressed with Emmylou Harris, Producers Cut; the Beatles, Love; ELP, Brain Salad Surgery; Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, In a Silent Way and more; Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection; Roxy Music, Avalon; etc. Seems I've been purchasing more re-releases than new content the last couple of years. So, I'd say a respectable portion (30%) of my current collection is really well done.

Roy Johnson's picture

It's not the CDs which are bad, it's the lack of phase shift in the speakers that makes them sound worse than they are--speakers are the only place in the audio chain where time-relationships can be smeared, and most all speakers distort in the time domain.

Juan Maria Altgelt's picture

I own some SACDs right now, but while I upgraded my sound system, the less music I can play.