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  1. #1
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    I'm going crazy over inconsistant sound quality of my CDs?

    Is this due to the Integrated Receiver or the Univeral DVD player that I have or possibility the speaker? I'm getting pretty decent sound when I play Nora Jones or Charlotte Church CDs but almost any Rock/R&B CDs sounded like crap. I can play the same Rock/R&B CDs a lot better thru my Car stereo or even my JVC bookshelf system. Do I need a dedicated CD player or what? What's the deal with this? This is not what I was looking for when I upgrade my Amp and Speaker last summer in search for better SQ satisfaction. Its nothing but $$$ and upgrade after upgrade after that.

    My Current setup:
    Pioneer Universal Player - DV-380s
    NAD C352 Integrated Receiver
    MB Quartz S830 Speaker
    Velodyne 10" Subwoofer

  2. #2
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Heeheehee !!!

    Quote Originally Posted by m500
    Is this due to the Integrated Receiver or the Univeral DVD player that I have or possibility the speaker? I'm getting pretty decent sound when I play Nora Jones or Charlotte Church CDs but almost any Rock/R&B CDs sounded like crap. I can play the same Rock/R&B CDs a lot better thru my Car stereo or even my JVC bookshelf system. Do I need a dedicated CD player or what? What's the deal with this? This is not what I was looking for when I upgrade my Amp and Speaker last summer in search for better SQ satisfaction. Its nothing but $$$ and upgrade after upgrade after that.

    My Current setup:
    Pioneer Universal Player - DV-380s
    NAD C352 Integrated Receiver
    MB Quartz S830 Speaker
    Velodyne 10" Subwoofer
    Inconsistent sound quality from different recordings???

    This is one of those paramount facts of audio life. No, it's not your equipment that's the cause. No, replacing your equipment won't get rid of the inconsistency. To generalize, 90+% of sound quality is determined by the record producer and recording engineer before it is recorded onto the medium, (LP, CD, whatever), and long before it gets to your system.

    I don't listen to a lot of pop recordings, but by all reports the typical recording quality is mediocre at best; the more so with recent recordings is anything.

  3. #3
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    yup, indeed, and pop records are generally considered as 'bad recorded' simply because the people listening to them don't care too much about the quality, since the first thing they do when they buy the cd (if they buy it at all) is ripping them onto their mp3 player, and this mostly happens at a low bitrate, like 128kbps, which like we all know, suck.
    and, probably your system is "revealing", which means that when a record is recorded good, it can be heard, but when it is recorded bad, it will sound bad too.

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  4. #4
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m500
    Is this due to the Integrated Receiver or the Univeral DVD player that I have or possibility the speaker? I'm getting pretty decent sound when I play Nora Jones or Charlotte Church CDs but almost any Rock/R&B CDs sounded like crap. I can play the same Rock/R&B CDs a lot better thru my Car stereo or even my JVC bookshelf system. Do I need a dedicated CD player or what? What's the deal with this? This is not what I was looking for when I upgrade my Amp and Speaker last summer in search for better SQ satisfaction. Its nothing but $$$ and upgrade after upgrade after that.

    My Current setup:
    Pioneer Universal Player - DV-380s
    NAD C352 Integrated Receiver
    MB Quartz S830 Speaker
    Velodyne 10" Subwoofer
    I doubt that it's the Integrated Amp.... it is most likely as the other posters mentioned simply that your CD collection is of varying recording quality.... The fact that much of current mainstream music does not sound significantly better and sometimes sounds much worse on higher end equipment is part of why Audiophilia is slowly fading away....

    I do find it a bit strange though that all your rock and pop CDs sound aweful... since I have the same NAD Amp and was really happy with the way most of my pop and Rock CDs sounded.... Though the difference with my setup (apart from using Mission Volare 63 speakers) is that I have a NAD CD Player as well.... and even when I stopped using the CD Player and switched to just using my MAC Mini to play my music in AA3 Format with Rotel Seperates, the music still sounds good..... honestly the only time I've really disliked the sound of my music is when I tried playing it through my dvd player...

    So one "possible" (though not all that likely) reason for your disappointment might be the dvd player... but DO NOT rush out and buy a dedicated CD player... instead, try and borrow one and see if it makes a difference first.... cuz if it doesn't then it really is most likely just the quality of your CD collection that is bad....

  5. #5
    Color me gone... Resident Loser's Avatar
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    There are those...

    ...who say that if everything sounds good, something must be wrong...as in: your system isn't accurate...I agree to a point...

    If your complaints are with older rock/pop that first appeared as vinyl...well, sorry, it's a fact of life...much older stuff did not fare well in the analog to digital transition...and, as has been said, even with the newer stuff, pop is a poor step-child for a market in constant flux...

    jimHJJ(...and IMNSHO, most contemporary material isn't all that good to begin with...)
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  6. #6
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Two things could be going on here:

    #1 -- your system is perfect, and what you're hearing is inferior recordings;
    #2 -- your system has faults, and certain kinds of music bring up those faults.

    Personally (you should see this coming, since I phrased my answers so loadedly), I think it's the second. What exactly is it you're hearing that's wrong? Give us more details on the symptoms.

    Here, I'll get you started with an example: I listen to a lot of "busy music" (rock, pop, etc.). Some of it is extremely well recorded (Nine Inch Nails, Stabbing Westward, Garbage), but not all of my systems handle it well. When I listened on Spendor S3/5's, I had to keep the volume way down -- they don't handle busy music well, at least, not at high volumes. If I tried to listen to the music at loud volumes, things got "congested" -- loss of dynamics, diffuse soundstage, etc.

    So help us out -- what are your symptoms? You may just need more headroom.

    And tubes. I have found that tubes make even unlistenable music at least tolerable.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dusty Chalk
    Two things could be going on here:

    #1 -- your system is perfect, and what you're hearing is inferior recordings;
    #2 -- your system has faults, and certain kinds of music bring up those faults.

    Personally (you should see this coming, since I phrased my answers so loadedly), I think it's the second. What exactly is it you're hearing that's wrong? Give us more details on the symptoms.

    Here, I'll get you started with an example: I listen to a lot of "busy music" (rock, pop, etc.). Some of it is extremely well recorded (Nine Inch Nails, Stabbing Westward, Garbage), but not all of my systems handle it well. When I listened on Spendor S3/5's, I had to keep the volume way down -- they don't handle busy music well, at least, not at high volumes. If I tried to listen to the music at loud volumes, things got "congested" -- loss of dynamics, diffuse soundstage, etc.

    So help us out -- what are your symptoms? You may just need more headroom.

    And tubes. I have found that tubes make even unlistenable music at least tolerable.

    This is how my system is connected:
    Source: DVD RCA-out L/R -> NAD CD RCA in L/R
    Sound: Since NAD C352 is for stereo application there is not Sub out so speaker is connected :
    NAD Speaker out L/R -> Velodyne Speaker Level In
    --> Velodyne Speaker Level Out --> MB_Q Speakers

    The problem with listening to Rock/R&B is that sound clarity is bad and when it gets busy its get distorted even further. I guess I just noticed the trend by reading these reply the any music that is too busy, its get distorted quickly. Is there a cure for this?

  8. #8
    Forum Regular paul_pci's Avatar
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    I apologize in advance for this lame reply but: There is no cure for bad recordings. There is a cure for bad speakersóbetter speakers, or ones that perform better along the particular frequency range you're most concerned with, which sound like mid-bass to me. However, I lean toward the diagnosis that it's the recordings and not the speakers since your original complaint was inconsistency. Sounds like you popped your audio cherry, as it were. Familiar with the saying: ignorance is bliss? That's what poor quality audio equipment produces. With better speakers, what we call revealing speakers, in that they reveal more of the exact quality of the recording, there is no more ignorance and no more unfettered bliss. You will now spend the rest of your life, as we do, not looking for the "one ring" but the "one recording, my precious recording, that will reinstate your bliss, formerly known as ignorance.

  9. #9
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m500
    This is how my system is connected:
    Source: DVD RCA-out L/R -> NAD CD RCA in L/R
    Sound: Since NAD C352 is for stereo application there is not Sub out so speaker is connected :
    NAD Speaker out L/R -> Velodyne Speaker Level In
    --> Velodyne Speaker Level Out --> MB_Q Speakers

    The problem with listening to Rock/R&B is that sound clarity is bad and when it gets busy its get distorted even further. I guess I just noticed the trend by reading these reply the any music that is too busy, its get distorted quickly. Is there a cure for this?
    Well, one is, you could listen at quieter levels. The other is, you could get better speakers. MB Quart aren't shabby, but I had to invest several thousand dollars to get really good speakers. Start listening around, and take your worst recordings with you to some high end shops. Take a lot of them, because as has been mentioned -- they really might be bad recordings. In which case, as has been said, nothing can be done, but to look to other recordings. But there are "busy" recordings which have been recorded well (I've already mentioned a couple, feel free to post yours, and we may be able to tell you whether they're recorded well or not), once you hear those on a couple good systems, you'll know what to look for. B&W, Dynaudio, etc. -- all these speakers can handle loud and busy music pretty well. I have a fondness for Musical Fidelity electronics (especially amplification) -- they, too, should be able to handle loud and busy music well.

    By the way, NAD, Velodyne, MB Quart -- all aren't bad. You may seriously be running into the bad recording problem. But as has also been mentioned, you may also have achieved the next level of listening, where all of a sudden, everything sounds bad.
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  10. #10
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Can't add to what was already so well put by Dusty, Jim and the gang, but just curious...give us a few examples of some of the recordings that are sounding bad..

    As mentioned, an aweful lot of modern rock stuff is recorded so loud that there's no room for the really loud peaks of the music to go. Not your sytems fault. A few really, really bad examples I've heard:

    U2- How To Dismantle an A-Bomb
    Chili Peppers last few albums
    Foo Fighters
    Pretty much anything that could be called "Nu Metal"
    And a lot of US based hard rock/ Metal bands
    Rush's last album, Vapor Trails.

    I've noticed a lot of my discs from European labels and acts haven't fallen victim to this yet.

    This is one area where that DualDisc format offered some benefit to consumers. The DVD music tracks aren't quite as loud, and have more dynamic range anyway. Though the fact remains a lot of CD's should sound better than they do.

    Some of it is extremely well recorded (Nine Inch Nails, Stabbing Westward, Garbage)
    Stabbing Westward - man those guys were great - until they went soft pop and died. You're right, good recordings from them and Nine Inch Nails. Seems to me groups did the studio work themselves?

  11. #11
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    I know Nine Inch Nails and Garbage did, don't know about Stabbing Westward.

    I don't know about "soft pop". Yeah, their last album had a couple of softer poppier numbers, but I still dug it.
    Eschew fascism.
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  12. #12
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m500
    Is this due to the Integrated Receiver or the Univeral DVD player that I have or possibility the speaker? I'm getting pretty decent sound when I play Nora Jones or Charlotte Church CDs but almost any Rock/R&B CDs sounded like crap. I can play the same Rock/R&B CDs a lot better thru my Car stereo or even my JVC bookshelf system. Do I need a dedicated CD player or what? What's the deal with this? This is not what I was looking for when I upgrade my Amp and Speaker last summer in search for better SQ satisfaction. Its nothing but $$$ and upgrade after upgrade after that.
    As others have said, it's not your equipment, it's the recordings. But, this is nothing new. Simply put, recordings are usually optimized for the type of playback system that will most likely be used. In the case of pop recordings, most consumers do not use high end two-channel systems, so why should the CDs be mixed and monitored to sound optimal on those types of systems? If some pop recording sounds decent on a high resolution and/or more neutral sounding system, that might be more accidental than intentional.

    Nowadays, most pop recordings are monitored for how they would sound when played through a mini-system or car audio setup. This doesn't mean that they will sound awful on a higher resolution system, but they are not the focus of attention. Optimizing for better sound through a smaller system inevitably compromises how the recording sounds on a higher resolution system. Since the early-90s, many engineers have used the Yamaha NS-10 monitor as their studio reference, not because it has flat response (it doesn't) or great accuracy (again, not the case), but because it provides an excellent reference for how a recording will sound in a car, on a computer, or on a mini-system. That's why so many recordings sound fine in your car or through a mini-system -- because they were optimized for that type of playback.

    This is no different than the mid-70s when most classic rock albums were mixed using JBL 43xx studio monitors, and sounded great when played through "west coast" speakers like JBL and Cerwin Vega with their exaggerated bass and treble. It's also why so many of those albums sounded like crap when played through more neutral speakers.

    More recently, more neutral monitors like the ones from Mackie have become more popular in studios, so things might change yet again.

    I think a bigger issue with CDs nowadays is the obsession with high levels. For whatever reason, record companies have been demanding that CDs use higher levels, and in order to use a higher level and avoid distortion, the recording has to have dynamic range compression applied. Compressing the recording basically blunts the details and makes it sound muddier.
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  13. #13
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    I think this is my first time on this forum. Welcome to my world. We all have that problem & it drives me mad! I mainly listen to 60/70/mid 70's blues & rock remastered CD's & the way I have things set up, most of them sound pretty good (though there are some exceptions- like some early Jethro Tull stuff for example). Having said that, I find it extremely difficult for me to listen to more modern recordings because the bass level is too pumped up and the music was recorded more in your face, si I generally tend to avoid that stuff & if I do buy an album, I do so with my fingers crossed as I absolutely will not change any of my system settings for any recordings.

    As mentioned, there are some CD players that will reveal all a recordings faults & others that will cover them up. I find & I don't think its a coincidence, that my more vintage decade+ older Pioneer CD players give me a better sound on my pre 1990 recordings then current CD players.I definately think a receiver affects sound quality as does a CD player including optical connection. You
    might also want to add an external DAC & try out the Musical Fidelity X-10 V3 Tube Buffer (the earlier models I heard wwere pretty good too & 1/2 the price). Lastly, try an optical connection too.

  14. #14
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    CD Quality

    What you're going through like has already pretty much been said is simply the frustration of listening to poorly recorded and/or mastered cd's that sound harsh on anything even decent in quality.That being said there are definitely speakers and components that will accentuate this problem while there are others that make it more tolerable.I'm not even sure it about more expensive either because some truly high grade equipment(especially speakers)can be brutally revealing.I had a great pair of Proac stand speakers that were simply magical in that they were very accurate yet somehow still made most of my CD collection very listenable.I made the mistake of upgrading(I thought) to a pair of B&W 703's.In the same room hooked up to the same components the 703's were brutally harsh and bright and my CD collection became useless.I finally swapped them out for Quad 22L's and all of a sudden I'm back to enjoying my CD collection again.I listen to mostly pop and rock and know exactly what you're talking about.My next step is to upgrade my Arcam73T to the Arcam 192 upsampling player which will definitely help take some of the edge off of those old CD's I listen too.While all the components and how they integrate matter a lot your speakers will have the greatest individual effect on the final sound.Good luck with your decision and I like the idea of that return policy on those speakers You're considering.There's no safer way than that to purchase equipment because very often things sound very different at home hooked up to your exact equipment configuration in your room acoustics.Enjoy

  15. #15
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Agree: equipment choice

    Quote Originally Posted by BillyB
    What you're going through like has already pretty much been said is simply the frustration of listening to poorly recorded and/or mastered cd's that sound harsh on anything even decent in quality.That being said there are definitely speakers and components that will accentuate this problem while there are others that make it more tolerable.
    ...
    Enjoy
    Your choice of equipment can mitigate disagreable recordings -- CDs, and vinyl for that matter. I recently sold my Bel Canto amp and bought a pair of Monarchy SM-70 Pro's. The latter are smoother sounding than the Bel Canto and about as well resolving; they make many almost unlistenable classical CDs tolerable. (The Bel Canto had the transparency edge, but that was only evident on a tiny minority of the best recordings.)

  16. #16
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    I guess I never should of upgraded, . I wish I still have my 20 years old Onkyo with 12" Sub that I throw out due to the HIGH went out and I couldn't find a replacement for 2 years.

  17. #17
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m500
    I guess I never should of upgraded, . I wish I still have my 20 years old Onkyo with 12" Sub that I throw out due to the HIGH went out and I couldn't find a replacement for 2 years.
    Well that is a major risk of upgrading.... it doesn't alway make things sound better.... but you still have a few options... (apart from downgrading... which I really don't recommend)....

    I'd suggesting checking out other speakers or even digital sources to work with your NAD integrated.... hopefully used stuff that you could buy for around the price you'd be able to sell your current speakers/gear at....

    Simply switching to different components/speakers may solve your problems....

    From personal experience... I'd suggest checking out some Mission Speakers like the Volare line (discontinued) or the M line.... I found the Volares to be very neutral with NAD and it wasn't the kind of ultra-analytical sound that makes bad recordings sound like total crap....

  18. #18
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    Revealing equipment

    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    Your choice of equipment can mitigate disagreable recordings -- CDs, and vinyl for that matter. I recently sold my Bel Canto amp and bought a pair of Monarchy SM-70 Pro's. The latter are smoother sounding than the Bel Canto and about as well resolving; they make many almost unlistenable classical CDs tolerable. (The Bel Canto had the transparency edge, but that was only evident on a tiny minority of the best recordings.)
    Completely understand your point.The 703's only shined when I was playing back the finest recordings I owned and if thats only about 5% of your collection than is that truly a worthy speaker.A speaker that is revealing to a fault is not a plus in my mind because regardless of how good your equipment is you're still at the mercy of the quality of the recording and mastering of your CD collection and if you listen to a lot of old pop and rock then listener fatigue becomes a huge issue with overly bright or revealing speakers.Lesson learned.

  19. #19
    Audiophile Wireworm5's Avatar
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    Have you tried optical cables instead of RCA jacks from dvd player. I find on my system if I have the input digital, it sounds better than analog.
    I'm not familiar with your speakers but I think your speakers are being under powered by your Nad which is why you're getting bad sound with demanding music. I had this problem with my previous Sony av/receiver. I upgraded to a Yamaha RX -V2200 and speakers came to life. (power amps improved the sound even more).
    One more thing that made all my cds sound better is a power conditioner.
    Unfortunately this means further upgrades, but hey this is how I learned, and I wasted money too when I first started out.

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