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?


IMHO, the answer to this question depends on what you think sounds good. If you are a purist, who strives for a neutral system that reproduces honestly the source material, then a lousy recording will sound lousy. Lousy recordings can be compressed dynamics, mediocre soundstage , poor frequency response, etc…no neutral system will change any of these things. However, some systems, either knowingly or innocently to the  owner may modify some of these things, perhaps subjectively to the better , to the owners delight. As always, the hobby is about the owners pleasure, so different stokes for different folks…

I listen to all of my music on hand (vinyl collection).  There are definitely some better sounding records than others.  There are incredible sounding records, too.  And there are a few that are just terrible sounding.  I still listen to all of it.  However, those lesser sounding records just sound better to my ears when the volume is adjusted accordingly.  That is to say, for lesser quality recordings I listen with the volume lower than I do for the high-quality recordings.  It seems to work better for my ears and allows me to have a more enjoyable listening session.

My system is quite good and is revealing, and my room is fairly well treated.  I get from the records what they have to offer.  Again, I adjust the volume accordingly and enjoy my record collection in its entirety.

I have a big investment in my front end. But the most significant improvement came when I added another $10K to my $3K cartridge. (Analog only system-Lyra Atlas SL) Granted, the rest of my system was up to the level of the Lyra.

It pulled so much more information out of the groves that almost every LP now, at least, sounded interesting and listenable. Now, only the rate exceptional LP sounded “bad”.

IME, there is no question that the better the system, the better the sound.

However, I also believe that a system must be at a certain level to reap these rewards.


very good choise playing some young Ry Cooder. Not bad, not mediocre, just very fine recordings and music. Classics.