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  1. #1
    Linear Guy
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    old cd's sound bad

    I couldn't wait until my favorite music from the late 60's and early 70's "came out " on CD in the late 80's. I loved the music but was never careful with the albums. Now that I have upgraded my stereo system, ( Van Alstein amp / pre amp, Cambridge CD, Gallo speakers) all of my CD's that are "re-isued" 60's and 70's music, which is a sizeable portion of my collection, sound like crap compared to the more carefully engineered modern day CD's. I have hundreds of these things. They just plain sound flat compared to modern stuff. I remeber the vinyl sounding better. This is a tough one but, is there anyting I can do to add some soundstage and spark to badly engineered early CD's? Is there some post processing I can use? My CD player is a Cambridge 640 and I think it sounds impresssive with modern CD's. Its the older ones that need to be enhanced and the DAC and Upsampling capabilities seem to have no power to make a badly transferred CD sound better.

    Going back to vinyl is not an option for me. there is just too much music to replace.
    Your opinions please. Thanks Daviethek

  2. #2
    Forum Regular paul_pci's Avatar
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    Get some really crappy speakers and you'll never notice the difference between new and old CD recordings.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular risabet's Avatar
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    Pure, perfect sound forever (ha)

    Is there a difference, try your favorite music on vinyl, as it was meant to be heard. JMO

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  4. #4
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daviethek
    I couldn't wait until my favorite music from the late 60's and early 70's "came out " on CD in the late 80's. I loved the music but was never careful with the albums. Now that I have upgraded my stereo system, ( Van Alstein amp / pre amp, Cambridge CD, Gallo speakers) all of my CD's that are "re-isued" 60's and 70's music, which is a sizeable portion of my collection, sound like crap compared to the more carefully engineered modern day CD's. I have hundreds of these things. They just plain sound flat compared to modern stuff. I remeber the vinyl sounding better. This is a tough one but, is there anyting I can do to add some soundstage and spark to badly engineered early CD's? Is there some post processing I can use? My CD player is a Cambridge 640 and I think it sounds impresssive with modern CD's. Its the older ones that need to be enhanced and the DAC and Upsampling capabilities seem to have no power to make a badly transferred CD sound better.

    Going back to vinyl is not an option for me. there is just too much music to replace.
    Your opinions please. Thanks Daviethek
    Unfortunately that's the way it goes. You've got a very revealing system, and it's intolerant of poor recordings. All of my poorly recorded CD's are relegated to the car. The high background noise really helps mask the poor engineering. (the CD, not the car!)
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  5. #5
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by risabet
    Is there a difference, try your favorite music on vinyl, as it was meant to be heard. JMO
    Great so you have CD's that have been recorded, mixed, and master with poorly designed D/A conversion complete with aliasing and filtering ringing.

    Then you have vinyl complete with wow and flutter, groove distortion, unable to track deep bass, and high maintainence.

    I'll take Geoff advice, relegate my poorly mastered CD's to the car where listening is uncritical, and background noise masks any insufficenties. Vinyl is just too high maintainece for me.
    Sir Terrence

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  6. #6
    Forum Regular gonefishin's Avatar
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    It's always seemed to me that some of the worst sounding CD's were made in the 80's. Even back when CD first came out I thought that there were very few exceptions of decent recordings on compact disk back then. But recording certainly have improved for redbook over the years.

    There were certainly improvements made over the years for redbook, which just goes to show you that you shouldn't judge a "book" by it's cover recordings. The media may be capable of more than you first think from the initial releases. Unfortunately, pop music is the driving force. Which isn't exactly focused on recording quality or technique.

    That aside...there are some nice recordings out of older music. Although I've found most of these remixes needed to be made in the mid to late 90's or later.

    This is from a consumers view. I would look towards individuals who are "in the Biz". Like Sir Terrance here at AR...and others you may find at other sites.

    take care,
    dan

    (Terrance...did you get a chance to see
    this thread ? I was curious if you've found a solution...and also how the TAD center turned out. That must be some amazingly clear dialogue. regards, dan)
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  7. #7
    Linear Guy
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    extreme bummer, hoping for magic pill

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    Great so you have CD's that have been recorded, mixed, and master with poorly designed D/A conversion complete with aliasing and filtering ringing.

    Then you have vinyl complete with wow and flutter, groove distortion, unable to track deep bass, and high maintainence.

    I'll take Geoff advice, relegate my poorly mastered CD's to the car where listening is uncritical, and background noise masks any insufficenties. Vinyl is just too high maintainece for me.
    Have any of you fellas heard of any D/D software for storing and manipulating digital music?
    I had some software once called Sound Forge and I used it to digitize some LP's. Not bad except I was too cheap to buy the static and pop eraser software for it. Anyway, I would be willing to experiment with something like that for the crap CD's.

  8. #8
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    The only other thing I know of is the Musical Fidelity tube buffer

    Quote Originally Posted by daviethek
    Have any of you fellas heard of any D/D software for storing and manipulating digital music?
    I had some software once called Sound Forge and I used it to digitize some LP's. Not bad except I was too cheap to buy the static and pop eraser software for it. Anyway, I would be willing to experiment with something like that for the crap CD's.
    Sir T will probably have a fit for me recommending it, but the darn thing does soften the "hard edge" of earlier glaring CD's. I don't use one, but I've heard one in action. It will do nothing for CDs recorded with less than stellar dynamic range, but it sure beats spending thousands on cables.
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  9. #9
    RGA
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    first I would not assume that older recordings are worse - not the case at all -- many form the 60s are vastly superior to the overproduced shmaltz of today.

    Going back to vinyl is a cheap option and your best bet. I don't believe one has to be in a vinyl versus CD camp -- but if you want a given album to sound good and it happens to sound better on vinyl then get it on vinyl. You can buy a basic turntable from Pro-Ject for a few hundred bucks and the vinyl itself for a buck at used stores. If you need a phono board Radio shack has the little Rat for $35US.

    The other suggestion is to get an Audio Note external DAC but they start at $1,500US. There is no gaurantee that this will soften up the recordings but it will take away the delta Sigman glare found on all cd players I have heard that are digital filtered...it is on my list of upgrades for my Cambridge Audio. Tough to find but if you can hear them someplace it will be an experience that might hook you.

    Really though, a turntable is your best bet -- wow and flutter today even on cheap tables is a non issue and inaudible as are most other noises save surface noise. The good news is much music is being reproduced on vinyl and many new artists are bringing out their releases on vinyl.

  10. #10
    nightflier
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    SoundForge

    Quote Originally Posted by daviethek
    Have any of you fellas heard of any D/D software for storing and manipulating digital music?
    I had some software once called Sound Forge and I used it to digitize some LP's. Not bad except I was too cheap to buy the static and pop eraser software for it. Anyway, I would be willing to experiment with something like that for the crap CD's.
    I've started recording LP's to CD's with mixed results. After asking some of the people here, it was recommended to purchase a cheap CD recorder (bought a Sony used on eBay). I've been burning the tracks to CD-RW's taking these to my computer and cleaning them up with CDArchitect from Sony (http://mediasoftware.sonypictures.co...orgefamily.asp). Sony bought out the whole SoundForge/Vagas line of software a couple of years ago. After I clean up the file I burn it to a CD on my computer.

    It's a tedious process and it doesn't really clean up all all the problems (I'm dealing with some very old records, many out of print and in marginal condition). I also have to believe that a lot of the musical data is lost in the process. Fortunately, this is for my mother who is not very particular about the quality as she'll be listening to them in the car, or on a mini-shelf system in her office.

    I guess this flies in the face of all the hi-fi talk on these forums and smacks of the MP3 quality debate, I think. Realistically though, the original 45's I'm recording haven't been heard in automobiles since they stopped playing them on AM radio decades ago and my mom is having a blast with them.

  11. #11
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gonefishin
    It's always seemed to me that some of the worst sounding CD's were made in the 80's. Even back when CD first came out I thought that there were very few exceptions of decent recordings on compact disk back then. But recording certainly have improved for redbook over the years.

    There were certainly improvements made over the years for redbook, which just goes to show you that you shouldn't judge a "book" by it's cover recordings. The media may be capable of more than you first think from the initial releases. Unfortunately, pop music is the driving force. Which isn't exactly focused on recording quality or technique.

    That aside...there are some nice recordings out of older music. Although I've found most of these remixes needed to be made in the mid to late 90's or later.

    This is from a consumers view. I would look towards individuals who are "in the Biz". Like Sir Terrance here at AR...and others you may find at other sites.

    take care,
    dan

    (Terrance...did you get a chance to see
    this thread ? I was curious if you've found a solution...and also how the TAD center turned out. That must be some amazingly clear dialogue. regards, dan)
    Hey Dan

    Mostly everything back in the early 80's digital was produced on Niagra digital recorders because they were basically the only ones producing machines fit for professional recording. These machines used brickwall filters during pre filtering that rang like crazy, not to mention did not roll everything off above the cutoff point of the 44.1khz sample. Aliasing was big problem as was the ringing of the filters which made everything in that period sound harsh, lack definition and soundstaging(flat sounding)

    However, there was a alternative to the Niagra, it was the Mitsubishi X-80 digital recorder with 16bit resolution and a 50.4khz sample rate. This recorder oversampled, used more gentle filters, worked and felt like a analog recorder. IMO it sounds as good as digital recorders made today. Almost all of Tom Jungs catalog at Mobile Fidelity was recorded on the machine in the 80's. His label was known for producing quality recordings of the period.

    You cannot get silk out of a sows ear, but a really good external D/A converter From Theta , Wadia, or Meridian can smoothen the harshness a bit, and open up the soundstaging a bit

    As far as my TAD based center channel, well I had to store it until I go front projection. I just could not get it to work in my current system. I was disappointed for about 10 seconds when my friend came to me with another realively large center speaker(28x12x15) that was also based around TAD drivers(2 8" and a horn mid/tweet). It is also phase and frequency correct, crosses over at the same frequency as my mains, flat to 35hz(-3) plays as loud as my mains, is tonally matched, has the same dispersion pattern and weights a whopping 85lbs. My croc tears dried up immediatly to say the least. In the next couple of years I will be moving into my new recording studio. At that point I will be purchasing a front projectors for both the studio, and my viewing room. I am will get some use out of my "monster" center then. For now, the center speaker I have is more than sufficient.

    Thanks much for your advice Dan, I did try what you mentioned. No avail though.
    Sir Terrence

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  12. #12
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoffcin
    Sir T will probably have a fit for me recommending it, but the darn thing does soften the "hard edge" of earlier glaring CD's. I don't use one, but I've heard one in action. It will do nothing for CDs recorded with less than stellar dynamic range, but it sure beats spending thousands on cables.
    Actually Geoff you advice is great. The only thing that will tame the harshness and brightness is a high quality, external DAC.
    Sir Terrence

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  13. #13
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    I wish they would just remaster some of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    Actually Geoff you advice is great. The only thing that will tame the harshness and brightness is a high quality, external DAC.
    I mean, the artist must know that CD sounds like crap, and the master tapes have to be in an archive somewhere right? What would be the big deal to sepd a few dollars and remaster some of these classics for CD with modern high quality equipment.

    I lot of my DVD-Audio disks are just that; Classics that I used to have on vinyl &/or early CD. They sound so much better now it's not funny!
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    I've started recording LP's to CD's with mixed results...It's a tedious process and it doesn't really clean up all all the problems (I'm dealing with some very old records, many out of print and in marginal condition). I also have to believe that a lot of the musical data is lost in the process.
    I've started taking LPs to DVD instead of CD and find I am retaining more of the musical information. You are right, it does not eliminate the wow and flutter. I'm using a soundcard capable of recording at 24-bits/96kHz and compatible software for cleaning up/filtering the music (Goldwave). After much trial and error, I get good results by applying the filters very lightly, and first cleaning the records thoroughly with a solution of distilled water, isopropyl alcohol and soap.

    To maintain high-resolution you will need DVD-authoring software capable of 24/96 and a player that does not downsample or convert 24-bits to 16. IMO, very satisfying results achieved have been achieved.

  15. #15
    Color me gone... Resident Loser's Avatar
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    Well, I know they made spray starch...

    ...even powdered stuff in boxes. I've been to the Falls and I've even eaten Shredded Wheat "The Niagra Falls cereal"...but I didn't know they made digital recorders! So maybe it was a typo...supposed to be Nagra perhaps? 'ceptin they didn't produce their first portable digital recorder...the Nagra-D until 1992...Well, maybe it's ViewCast Corp's Niagara line of recorders(always willing to give the benefit of the doubt)...but hey, they are video recorders and the company wasn't even in existence before 1995...hhmmm...well Horatio, more things than exist in my philosophy, eh? And I certainly wouldn't pretend to know everything about everything, especially since I'm not "...in the biz..." and it's pretty much been established that I know ab-so-lute-ly nothing about anything...yeah, right.

    Anywho, I digress...contrary to some opinion, there were many digital recorders available. After all, around '71-'72 Denon introduced PCM recorders...but they were pretty much used in classical sessions...as were Stockham's Soundstream units in '79. Which BTW had a higher sampling rate than the Philips/Sony compromise of 44.1kHz...Telarc used 'em and there was also Mitsubishi...why later on, you could even use a Sony U-Matic with an outboard processor.

    It was in 1979 Ry Cooder's "Bop Till You Drop" was recorded on a 3M 32-track digital recorder. It was the first pop album to be recorded digitally and it seems, at least as indicated in subsequent interviews, Cooder wasn't really enthused with the medium, charactereizing the sound as "...thin..." There were other complaints re: the 3M machine however...it had to do with error correction and rising error count due to tape handling...it would require manual track re-adjustments and re-recording on a second machine. No biggie, and after all it's only pop. Don't forget, all this is before the advent of the CD...And then there was Studer, Otari and Tascam.

    But enough history...now back to our question...

    Keep in mind, an old analog recording re-released on CD that proclaims "Digital Mastering" is something P.T. Barnum would be proud of...in order to transfer any analog source to digital it HAS to be digitally mastered, it's part and parcel of the process, there's no escaping it...the trick is how was it accomplished.

    Complaints comtemporary with the release of those CD re-issues were numerous. The explanation given, as I recall, was that the analog sources were EQd/processed/etc. to be mastered and played back on analog gear and apparently the same sort of anomolies that befell the transition from tube to solid state was once again coming to the fore...certain incompatiblities became obvious. Companies who cared, did something to clean things up...companies out to make a quick buck on their bought-and-paid-for cataloge did nothing...and, once again...it's only pop...the weasles...

    I wish I had some concrete solution for you, but other than what has already been suggested, I haven't a clue...you could try using a dedicated player into a receiver that has soundfield processing and then feeding that into your system OR you could get a nice TT/cart combo and a digital recorder to DIY it OR you can just grin and bear it...much like I do with my collection of 78s...

    And risabet, "...Is there a difference, try your favorite music on vinyl, as it was meant to be heard. JMO..." although it's probably preaching to the choir, this one's for you:

    http://www.anstendig.org/CD-tragedy.html

    jimHJJ(...good listening everyone...)
    Last edited by Resident Loser; 05-25-2005 at 10:03 AM.

  16. #16
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    I thought I was the only one with this problem but I guess not. Some of my old stuff even sounded better with my old cheap CD player. Now I have a fairly good player some of it is awfull. Some of it on the other hand is incredible.

    I guess I have to take the good with the bad.

  17. #17
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Systems

    Like most audiophiles, I tend to gage the equipment I buy on what sounds best, so I take a couple of my good sounding CDs and go listen. Seems pretty reasonable.

    Some systems seem to emphazise the crud and hash more than others. The better recordings have little of this stuff to emphazise so the system you are auditionong might be less than ideal for playing crappy CDs.

    It seems like there are systems to do a great job on good CDs and don't make bad CDs worse, conversely there also seem to be systems that do a good job on good CDs but make bad CDs sound worse. This is most difficult to detect in a quick listen but maybe next time bring a couple of stinkers as well as the good stuff for an audition.

    I recently upgraded my DAC, it not only made good CDs better but several stinkers moved into the listenable column and one improved remarkably.

  18. #18
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    I disagree, but only slighty...

    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    Like most audiophiles, I tend to gage the equipment I buy on what sounds best, so I take a couple of my good sounding CDs and go listen. Seems pretty reasonable.

    Some systems seem to emphazise the crud and hash more than others. The better recordings have little of this stuff to emphazise so the system you are auditionong might be less than ideal for playing crappy CDs.

    It seems like there are systems to do a great job on good CDs and don't make bad CDs worse, conversely there also seem to be systems that do a good job on good CDs but make bad CDs sound worse. This is most difficult to detect in a quick listen but maybe next time bring a couple of stinkers as well as the good stuff for an audition.

    I recently upgraded my DAC, it not only made good CDs better but several stinkers moved into the listenable column and one improved remarkably.
    I've always found that the more revealing the system, the more recording/engineering artifacts standout. Great recordings of course still sound great. While I've heards some good systems that don't make bad recordings worse, these have always been somewhat less revealing than the best systems.

    Congrats on getting a new DAC, I'm seriously looking at one myself. My CD player is getting a bit long in the tooth...
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  19. #19
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoffcin
    I've always found that the more revealing the system, the more recording/engineering artifacts standout. Great recordings of course still sound great. While I've heards some good systems that don't make bad recordings worse, these have always been somewhat less revealing than the best systems..
    I'm not in complete agreement. Yes the best systems do show off the recordings for what thet truly are, but I maintain I've heard systems at equal apparent resolution where one made bad worse and the other played it as merely bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoffcin
    Congrats on getting a new DAC, I'm seriously looking at one myself. My CD player is getting a bit long in the tooth...
    Now is the time. The outboard DAC is going the way of the Dodo bird (it's true, the new players are better).

    I keep wearing out my CD players and I find that with a first class DAC the quality of the player has no effect on sound (not everyone agrees with this). So I buy transports in the $150 range in order to avoid true junk. Wear 'em out throw them away. Not something I'd like to do with a $1K and up player (which probably uses the same mechanicals anyway).

    I paid $1,300 for a used Levinsion No.36 which is average for them. I'm highly impressed with the sound quality and my previous stuff was not cheap junk.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    I keep wearing out my CD players and I find that with a first class DAC the quality of the player has no effect on sound (not everyone agrees with this). So I buy transports in the $150 range in order to avoid true junk. Wear 'em out throw them away. Not something I'd like to do with a $1K and up player (which probably uses the same mechanicals anyway).

    .
    Totally agree. Since I got my new DAC, I've hooked up everything from a cheap Pioneer CDP to a very expensive transport only and haven't heard one iota of difference. The DAC is the Audio Note 3.1X and right now I'm using a Sony CDP as a transport. When it dies, I'm getting the cheapest player I can find with a coax digital out.

    Incidentally, this DAC is the most amazing piece of gear I've ever bought. Not only do stellar recordings sound awesome but some poorly mastered CD's now sound listenable. I've never had both happen with any audio component before. I was firmly in the vinyl camp until this DAC came along.

  21. #21
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by musicoverall
    ..................Incidentally, this DAC is the most amazing piece of gear I've ever bought. Not only do stellar recordings sound awesome but some poorly mastered CD's now sound listenable. I've never had both happen with any audio component before. I was firmly in the vinyl camp until this DAC came along.
    I took my DAC when I first bought it to a friends house who was trying to get his Oracle turntable fixed (motor problems) . He was blown away, didn't know CDs could sound that good. He bought the same model. Its now 2 years later and the turntable still isn't fixed, says he'll do it someday but the urgency is gone.

    As you might guess from my posts I am firmly in the external DAC camp. Mine has several inputs so I switch two CD players and my CDR through it and everything sounds the same. This reduced my tweaking and fiddle factor a lot - love it.

  22. #22
    Linear Guy
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    Last word in DAC's

    Can I assume that the Woolfson DAC in my Cambridge 640 is adequate or would it pay to experiment with externals.

  23. #23
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    adequate DAC

    I have never heard the DAC in any Cambridge player. Nor do I know anything about the rest of your system. The most common advice is; trust your ears.

    These decisions are very difficult and it would seem that using a forum to make them is quite dangerous. You need to find a store you trust or make contact with other local audiophiles and listen to their stuff. Once you have some exposure you can then make a reasonable decision about what kind of monetary investment vs. sound quality tradeoff makes sense to you.

    As I spend more years at this audiophile hobby I have learned an unfortunate lesson. You may not always get what you pay for but you never get what you don't pay for. Like many others in the hobby, I have replaced some parts of my equipment chain more than once, resulting in a considerably higher total outlay than it would have cost to buy very good equipment at the outset.

    I am now spoiled enough that the only equipment I hear that sounds good to me is quite expensive. Not everyone agrees that the sound quality continuously improves with price but my experience leads me to believe that mostly it does. Truly good sounding systems can seem quite exorbitant compared to a $350 receiver. For me he difference is worth it, it might not be to you.

  24. #24
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    With a Denon 3801 Receiver, Orb Speakers & HK DVD 31 They Sound Great!

    I have over 1000 CD's, 85% of which was recorded in the 60's & 70's. The majority of these CD's when issued in their best remastered form (this is another scam the record companies give us- first they give us a crappy CD reissue of a 4th generation tape, then they claim they've discovered the masters, then they remaster, then they said they did the remasters wrong get the latest remaster instead like they're proud of it & you've bought 4 or 5 different versions of the same CD to get the ultimate one- thank God for Ebay and Amazon.com!) have sounded great on my system I'd say 75% of the time like the group is playing live in my living room. I attribute this to my set up: Denon 3801 receiver, Orb Audio 5 speaker & Sub Mod 1 set & Harmon Kardon 31 DVD player connected to the receiver by optic cable. I usally listen to 5 speaker all natural sound on regular 2 channel CD's which gives the sound more depth for me. As for the 25% there enough to drive you mad- Cream absolutely sucks- their box set is so thin its ridiculous. Alot of stuff by Free sucks too. But I think it comes down to the equipment you have. You can have good equipment and still play pre 80's CD's fine provided their recordings are very good remasters. I'll give another example. Some of the Beatles CD's such as Revolver & Rubber Soul which still aren't that great a sound, were absolutely abysmal on my old JVC DVD/Receiver system. On this current system they're decent. I personally hate vinyl as I used to scratch my records to smithereens and sorry I don't miss those scratchy noises and wasn't charmed by them.

  25. #25
    Forum Regular
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    727

    Nice moniker!

    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardGein
    I have over 1000 CD's, 85% of which was recorded in the 60's & 70's. The majority of these CD's when issued in their best remastered form (this is another scam the record companies give us- first they give us a crappy CD reissue of a 4th generation tape, then they claim they've discovered the masters, then they remaster, then they said they did the remasters wrong get the latest remaster instead like they're proud of it & you've bought 4 or 5 different versions of the same CD to get the ultimate one- thank God for Ebay and Amazon.com!) have sounded great on my system I'd say 75% of the time like the group is playing live in my living room. I attribute this to my set up: Denon 3801 receiver, Orb Audio 5 speaker & Sub Mod 1 set & Harmon Kardon 31 DVD player connected to the receiver by optic cable. I usally listen to 5 speaker all natural sound on regular 2 channel CD's which gives the sound more depth for me. As for the 25% there enough to drive you mad- Cream absolutely sucks- their box set is so thin its ridiculous. Alot of stuff by Free sucks too. But I think it comes down to the equipment you have. You can have good equipment and still play pre 80's CD's fine provided their recordings are very good remasters. I'll give another example. Some of the Beatles CD's such as Revolver & Rubber Soul which still aren't that great a sound, were absolutely abysmal on my old JVC DVD/Receiver system. On this current system they're decent. I personally hate vinyl as I used to scratch my records to smithereens and sorry I don't miss those scratchy noises and wasn't charmed by them.
    ...and NO! I will NOT try placing a human skull on my CD player to reduce resonances!

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