Why Does My Current Music Sound So Much Better than It Did in the 80’s?

I’ve got to ask…maybe someone here knows…is my current system more realistic sounding than what I used to listen to in the 80’s? I’m just impressed by the sound I have now, I just don’t remember it sounding in the 80’s so real, present and full range.

Then I had a Marantz 2245, JBL L166 tower speakers, usually vinyl on a Dual turntable with a Shure V15 Type 2 or 3.  This was decent stuff at that time.

Now I listen to internet radio on my iPad, usually radio.garden jazz, through an Apple AirPort Express router, to B&O BeoLab8000 speakers, a Hsu ULS 15 Mk II and a Paradigm Series 7 12in Monitor sub.  I set up In a big 20ft by 40ft room now with lots of hard surfaces.  I’ve invested very little in this system, yet I’m amazed at the sound.

it’s unlikely that my ears are better…anyone care to rake a stab at why things sound so better to me now?  It would be interesting to understand the evolution of sound.


It’s the big room and the subwoofers. Also, ‘80s music and ‘80s digital were terrible.

Ha, fuzztone!

actually my speakers in the 80’s were JBL L222’s, with 14in woofers and even bigger passive radiators.  My current subs do sound great, but also the highs and mids sound very realistic.  Fairly often I’m even startled a bit by how real they sound.

Synths and drum machines that sound cheesy today were popular in the 80s. Some people thought they sounded cool back then. Maybe the jazz you listen to today is made on musical instruments?

In the 80’s I listened to classical, including piano and Spanish guitar, and vocals like Joan Baez.  So there were instruments.  Later I added a CD player, listening to the same type of music.

it seems that the quality of what I hear now on radio.garden isn’t always the same high quality though, but when it’s good it’s really good.

Science becomes increasingly more sensitive & skilled at dancing with art, Makers with ears some up with new ways to skin the cat.

In the 80’s I listened to classical, including piano and Spanish guitar, and vocals like Joan Baez. So there were instruments. Later I added a CD player, listening to the same type of music.

1980s classical on CD was not very good. The music biz was in transition from analogue to digital recording and mastering. A few record labels got it right, some didn’t. It took DG years to get up to speed with digital. And electronic pop/rock/new wave sounded harsh.

After a short honeymoon with CD played on a decent Teac, I went back to playing records.

Over time CDP technology improved, so many of these early CDs sound very good today.

Yep, mostly digital recording and playback  innovations, 80's digital was atrocious.

Because you were younger and having too much of a good time to care about what your hifi sounded like. 

I've had a very "good" sounding system for over twenty years. In the recent few months, it has become to my ears, a "great" sounding system merely by replacing one component-my preamp.

It cost more than I usually allow myself to spend on any particular component, though wow, what a difference it's made.

Audio is an interesting hobby, so many variables. For many of us, it takes a bit of good luck to finally get to the goal, so I wish good luck to those of who may need it.



I don’t remember in the 80’s or 90’s hearing an instrument note - such as from a piano, drum or other percussion instrument - sound so real that I have to look around to be sure it was from the recording.  Now that happens more than occasionally, but not most of the time.  Maybe 20-30 years ago the sounds were muddied a bit.  Of course vinyl recordings had turntable rumble.  You could take it off with a rumble  filter, but then maybe some bass was lost too.  From the comments so far it sounds like the major reason is digital recording/playback.

Don’t underestimate the effects of the room. You might be in an acoustically great room. Enjoy it while your ears are still good 😊. 

I don’t know what it is, but the effect is a whole different level of experiencing music.  Fun!  Since not everything I listen to has the same clarity, I wondered if the quality of the source varies on radio.garden.  Or, maybe my room and speaker placement is ideal for certain sounds.  From what I know, my room is not great for music.  It’s large - 20ft x 40ft, 8ft ceiling - concrete floor, no carpet, Sheetrock ceiling, 6 double patio doors, and the rest is 50% glass.  No curtains, the only upholstery is a couch, and I’ve added about a half dozen 3ft x 4ft utility door mats to soften things.  My listening triangle is in a corner with about 9ft sides.  The subs are turned down to a level where I don’t hear the bass as a separate source.  I’m hearing deficient in high frequencies. Amazing what I get from an iPad.

Agree about the re-pressings from the 80's and 90's - they were terrible. Whenever I would find a new title back then - something that in original form would go for hundreds of dollars - I would get really excited until I listened to it. Record companies were in the market of selling vinyl, and latter plastic. They didn't need to worry as much about public scrutiny of their repressing's since there were no forums like this where people got together and criticized the actual sound. Compare any original 78 or 33 against any 80's repressing and you'll see what I mean. There are a few exceptions - Edsel and Charley come to mind. Over the years I have found that some stylus shapes deal with these better than others. The denon 103 is my go to cart for bad pressings. 

I have a pretty good stash of 80's and 90's vinyl and previously owned many cd's from same era. While much of the vinyl is pretty bad, overly compressed and electronic haze, the cd's are absolutely atrocious, have all the vinyl liabilities, then add crap analog/digital converters then is use, hopeless!


Now with streaming I can hear these same recordings, re-mastered, most sound nothing like the original releases, either on vinyl or digital. If done well, these recordings become very listenable, even on my main system.



Ha, twoleftears!

of course it would take an exceptional circumstance to remember what a stereo sounded like 40 years ago, likely requiring the exact same music.  My system at that time did sound good.  But what I’m sure I did not hear the was notes that sounded real and present, like they were live just a few feet from me.  I never experienced that until I started listening to my present system. I started with an AirPort Express, then Apple did a software upgrade and my music started cutting out.  I found out that Apple had made an Airport Express with a higher kbps, so I bought one for $20.  That did the trick, no more cutoffs and the music sounded even better.  There’s an analysis of them by Ken Rockwell who concludes that they have “fantastic audio quality.”

One of the big differences from 40 years ago and now is a dramatic drop in the noice floor and increasing differentiation of discrete sounds within the music. There are lots of other changes. But I think those are the two main ones.


I have followed the cutting edge (distantly at first… with a very low budget… but increasing over time) for the last fifty years. What is possible now at a relatively modest budget… and even more at a less modest budget is incredible. 

If you were to upgrade to even a Bluesound streamer or better, inexpensive integrated amp, and some contemporary floor standing HiFi speakers (B&W, Dynaudio, Sonus Faber… etc), you would just fall over in awe of what audio can be today.