Which do you prefer: A system that always creates beauty or one that can reveal the ugly truth?

Which do you prefer: A system that always creates beauty or one that can reveal the ugly truth?
I go for constant beauty
42% (122 votes)
I go for unvarnished truth
58% (167 votes)
Total votes: 289

Reader "dr.d" asks: "Is it better to have a decent system that allows all recordings to sound good, or to have a system that might make some not-so-hot recordings no fun to listen to?" What's your preference, a system that always creates beauty or one that can reveal the ugly truth?

-j-'s picture

There can be great beauty (and fun) within the ugly, and a great system can bring it out no matter the recording. Blues field recordings, Sam Cooke at the Harlem Square, Dylan '66, old NBC Orchestra performances with Arturo Toscanini at the helm, some sound good, some bad, but a system that can plumb the depths and pull out the emotion from the munged details is where it's at for me.

bcat's picture

I'm pretty sure that once you pass a certain level in your set-up the most likely weakest link in the chain is the recording itself. Good recordings will continue to sound better when your system goes up, bad recordings will be bad recordings.

Geoffrey S.'s picture

For the limited time devoted to listening, not just hearing, beauty wins.

MIke Agee's picture

My answer lies somewhere between, leaning toward the beautiful. That is the constant battle, isn't it? Warmth in the upper bass and sweetness in the upper mids, but how much? Especially an issue, I imagine, for those of us who listen to a wide variety of music.

Nik from Chicago's picture

I wish there were an option to vote both. I think I prefer a balance between beauty and truth. I want to hear the perfection that can be created through recordings yet still be reminded of the fact that these performers are still human

E.  Wood's picture

The reader’s question "Is it better to have a decent system that allows all recordings to sound good, or to have a system that might make some not-so-hot recordings no fun to listen to?" and the one posed here “Which do you prefer: A system that always creates beauty or one that can reveal the ugly truth?” are entirely different. Both questions are biased in favor of low-resolution forgiving systems. I would change the question to: Which do you prefer, a warm forgiving system that allows all recordings to sound good, or a high resolution system that allows great recording to sound great but will also highlight how bad most recording are? A system that is only “decent” is hardly capable of always creating beauty, whereas a great revealing system will allow the beauty to shine thru (when present) and will also show that less than great recording are exactly that. This is exactly why I have several systems. My (as Corey use to say) He-Man rig is big and expensive and on great recordings is truly breathtaking, but my bedroom and office systems are much more modest and forgiving.

Euphonius Jenkins's picture

The ideal is obviously somewhere in the middle, but if I had to pick one I'd go with the one that makes average recordings sound the best. It's supposed to be about the music, right?

Hoser Rob's picture

Actually, I really want a compromise. I don't listen to audiophile recordings all that much. They're almost universally boring. What's the point in having a hi-fi that's too good for 98% of recordings? Bottom line: Those "not-so-hot" recordings represent the vast majority of them.

mark bliss's picture

Beauty for CD replay only. The sole reasoning being due to the appalling quality of both new and remastered discs. For records then I'd vote for the untarnished truth. Role on a "magical" auto filter which can detect poor quality and act accordingly.

DocHamm's picture

It is all about the music. Leave the revealing eauipment to the sound engineers.

EH's picture

How could a recording sound good if there is an ugly truth in it?

WalkerTM's picture

To me the beauty lies within accuracy, warts and all.

KJ's picture

Hopefully I'm not abusing the term, I betcha there will be a strong Bradley Effect in this poll. What card-carrying audiophile is going to publicly admit that s/he isn't interested in "the absolute sound" but is rather chasing the backwards goal of restoring realness to unsatisfactory recordings via a "musical" system? It's one thing to reproduce a recording according to your tastes, but it's quite another to hear it the way it was created to begin with. You aren't an audiophile if you subscribe to the former point of view, IMHO.

Geoffrey S.'s picture

I bought my gear when "accuracy', "detail," and "neutrality' were all that seemed to matter. Well I tell you, I'm totally over it—the digital/solid state sound—it's tiresome. I'm heading for the "musical,euphonic" sound, yes probably vinyl and valves(!), so I can actually enjoy my music.

BILL CRANE's picture

Although most reproduced studio recordings are an artist’s illusion and not akin to live music, I prefer to get as close to the artists intentions as possible. I do not believe in adding more distortion even if it hides flaws. And, yes many recordings suck, even the new ones as someone: the musician(s), the produce(s) and/or the engineer(s), have burned out hearing aids. Albeit, these discs will still sound more real on an unvarnished truth system.

shaggy's picture

I want clarity when listening to a system. If I can hear every good and bad thing that a recording can offer I like it all the better.

Bruce Hazen's picture

Hmmm...my vote'd really be for somewhere in between; but given the choice here, the truth. Because while the ugly will stand revealed, the beautiful will take your breath away. "Constant beauty" implies a sort of Xanax purgatory.

Need to stay anonymous's picture

If Lyra cartridges typify unvarnished truth, then that would be like a spectacular girlfriend. She's really hot, just you don't want to see her without makeup or her done up.

Chris Kenney's picture

The satisfaction you gain from an honest system on great sounding recordings makes up for the shortcomings of less than stellar ones.

Dennis's picture

I need to hear every bit of info that was recorded - no matter how good, or how bad. I need to hear the fingers running up and down the neck of the instrument. The keys springing up on a sax. Ray Brown counting to himself.

Greg Edwards's picture

Would you buy a pair of glasses that make the blues more vivid at the expense of making the reds more toned down? Of course not. You want to see the world as it is. The same applies to audio equipment. Always strive for an audio system that is as accurate as your budget will permit. You want to hear exactly what is recorded.

Brady's picture

It is the job of the composer/artist to make the beauty.

Anonymous's picture

The art is in the recording and music. Reproduction of the art should be accurate truthful as the artist intended. If you don't like the art throw out the recording -- not your common sense.

icRlfgXmhcbROP's picture
Mark L.'s picture

The "truth" will set you free (to spend more and upgrade). I want nothing touching how the recording was produced as it will help me to decide which producers or studios do a better job than others.