Recordings that only sound good on resolving systems

We’ve all had pieces of music we love, only to play them on a good system and realize how poor their sound quality is. Lately I’ve noticed some releases I’ve owned for a while, which I’d classified as ’crappy’ recordings, actually sound amazing on a good system. I’d given most of these a few listens after purchase, only to decide I didn’t like the sound.. usually because of some type of distortion I found unpleasant. Yet playback on a resolving system reveals details and not distortion.

Recently, I purchased an album by Shabazz Palaces and found it lacking in sound quality when played in mp3 format from my phone on my car stereo. I just couldn’t get into it, the sound was too messy. Yesterday I put the vinyl on my home system to give it another chance and it sounded incredibly good. This reminded me of other albums this has happened to me with. Anna Von Hausswolf’s ’Ceremony’ was unenjoyable on an earlier iteration of my system, before I built better cables, tweaked my turntable and got new amps. Now it sounds amazing. Same thing with Diane Cluck’s ’Macy’s Day Bird’ and some tracks from Aphex Twin’s ’SAW II’.

It seems there are recordings out there that have a certain sound that requires a system resolving enough to bring out all the details. Without that resolution, the sound is just a mess. Has anyone else noticed this with any of their recordings?
Totally Agree.

Steely Dan sounds overproduced, clinical and very artificial on a resolving system.

Led Zeppelin just sounds awesome.

It is a case of less monkeying around with overproduction is more / even if you can hear that squeaky foot pedal. 

I very much prefer and enjoy live recordings on my setup!
I have an original RCA LIVING STEREO from the late 1950's called "Music For Bang, baaROOM AND HARP" by Dick Schory's New Percussion Ensemble.  It has been on HP's Super-Disk List for decades.  I have learned that audiophile approved entry-level decks lose all dignity when trying to play this record.
Ooh, yeah. Totally forgot about live recordings. I think the ambience just sounds like noise on less resolving systems.

Musiclover - what a name for an album!
Steely Dan sounds overproduced, clinical and very artificial on a resolving system.
Total BS.  Becker and Fagen have given us some of the best recorded and produced albums.  
Since I recently completed building an Ultrasonic RCM ( a design by BBtx on DIY Audio), I have noticed all my LP's, even ones which I considered unplayable, to sound a great deal better than I ever thought they could. It doesn't seem to matter, old, new, as long as they are not damaged with anything more than surface scratches, all play and sound uniformly, and in many cases, unexpectedly, much better.

Very much recommended, and inexpensive (around $200, including the ultrasonic bath).


You obviously have never heard a highly resolving system - a system where you can actually hear what has been done to manipulate said recording. It is like a higher resolution screen image that makes CGI more obvious because reality has imperfections and you don’t see any imperfections in the detail.

I agree Steely Dan has given us some of the best recorded and produced albums. Just saying that you can easily identify manipulation or conditioning and shaping of the sound simply from the perfection (which is detected as being artificially precise compared to reality.)
@shadorne...I have heard numerous resolving systems.  I guarantee that I have heard many, many more systems than you ever will.  I've been in a variety of recording studios and have quite a bit of experience and knowledge in the subject.

I understand what you are saying, but a highly resolving system, based on your interpretation,  would make almost all recordings sound this way, (or worse), wouldn't it?


Well I guess it depends on whether you appreciate all those details captured on a less clinical recording (such as a live session) that has captured what I would call more musical feeling.

For example, a lot of Led Zeppelin drifts in tempo quite a bit and so do many of The Police recordings. I like these imperfections especially as they are actually deliberate musical expression. I believe Steely Dan used a click track and I also hear so much consistency in the playing that there is no doubt they used both great session musicians (who were asked to play precisely) but they did a few tricks and went through countless takes and overdubs to get the desired consistency which has a hypnotic robotic effect but lacks some musical expression or energy - kind of restrained.

My experience, at least on the classical recordings which comprise most of my listening, has been that more often than not increased resolution of fine detail tends to make poor recordings less objectionable. For example, on an overly bright orchestral recording the sound of massed strings will often tend to be much more listenable when it is resolved into an approximation of the sound of massed strings, albeit with some added brightness, rather than being reproduced as a homogenized blob of sound.

Also, my experience with a DEQX HDP-5 preamp/signal processor I introduced into my system about two years ago has convinced me that if everything else is close to being equal improvements in time coherence can help to provide just that sort of increased resolution. A DEQX when properly adjusted can bring any speaker that is not truly time coherent (meaning almost all speakers other than Vandersteen, Thiel, Green Mountain Audio, and some full range electrostatics and other single-driver speakers) closer to being time coherent. Another member having extensive experience with time coherent speakers (Bombaywalla) has made similar comments in past threads here about that potential benefit of time coherence.

Best regards,
-- Al

I definitely hear the difference between Steely Dan and live recordings.. and get what you're saying shadorne. Sometimes I love ambience and the raw energy of a live take. But I can appreciate the perfection of a band like Steely Dan or Fleetwood Mac. For me, though, it's the live type recordings that sound like rubbish on less resolving systems, probably because the ambience is just noise. Perfection sounds even better on a good system, but it's usually quite nice even on a less resolving system.

Al, I'm going to pretend you didn't just introduce another factor for me to sort out in my system. I though I was happy. Damn you. 😁