Can a great system make a mediocre recording sound good?

I spend a lot of time searching for well produced recordings as they (of course) sound so good on my system (Hegel 160 + Linn Majik 140 speakers).  I can't tolerate poor sounding recordings - regardless of the quality of the performance itself.   I was at a high end audio store yesterday and the sales person took the position that a really high-end system can make even mediocre recordings sound good.  Agree?


I'll go out on a limb and say I prefer some reconding on a much lesser system.  A lot of Led Zep comes to mind.  I find my very good system tends to highlight just how poor a lot of these recording were.  I save them for my car.  



 Otherwise we would only be listening to test records and severely limited in our choices. 

I have found that as my system improved, excellent recordings/masterings sounded better, and the inadequacies of less-than-stellar recordings/masterings became more pronounced.

In general… a better system sounds better. The caveat is that there are two ways of pursuing a great system… really detailed or natural. If you pursue ultra detailed, you quickly makes bad recording sound terrible. If you take the approach to have a relaxed natural sounding system, then most recording sound much better… the better your system is the better the recording sounds.

My perspective on this topic has somewhat changed over the past few months.  I think all of us have recordings that we consider to be stellar, others that we consider to be poor, and others that that don't warrant a strong opinion either way.

If I want to show friend what a truly poor recording is I pull out a couple of my Josh Groban CDs that I simply cannot listen to anymore.  Ironically, one of them was actually one of my test CDs that I used when making my first "audiophile" type of purchase.  I know cringe at the pain that I must have caused the salesman that sat on the couch and listened with me.

In any case, I have a several other CDs that I very much enjoyed with my original gear which was an Integra receiver that I still have along with my current Focal speakers.  They were some of my go to recording for enjoyment.  Every time I made upgrades to my system these recordings always seemed to become a little less enjoyable.  I figured that it was just that they were poor recordings any my system was becoming resolving enough to expose them.

Then with my most recent upgrades that include rolling tubes, upgraded power cables, and upgraded interconnects my system really went to the next level.  What surprised me is that the recordings that seemed to always suffer from upgrades became wonderful to listen to again and are now back to being some of my favorites.  My Josh Groban recordings still sound like junk.

I think my Integra receiver has the edge when it comes to making poor recordings sound good because it has the digital processing capability that really seems to benefit poor recordings.

To summarize, I have had several recordings sound worse and worse as I upgraded and then unexpectedly the magic returned.

I think we all have recordings that we use for testing purposes and I'm thinking that these particular records might be an indicator of system synergy.