I was shocked! I mean, as anyone who heard the Perlman/Ashkenazy Decca LP when it was first released has to agree, this recording set new standards at the time. When I first encountered it, it quite literally blew my socks off. A new era in recorded sound had arrived. At least, that’s how it seemed. It was so good, I immediately ordered a copy for the hi-fi shop to use as a demonstration disc.
Sonically, the Perlman/Ashkenazy Decca LPs of Beethoven’s violin sonatas were a revelation. Even after 30+ years they still sound amazingly vivid and vibrant. Yet the curious thing is, earlier technically ‘inferior’ recordings – even those made many years before like the 1961 DG Schneiderhan set – now no longer seem quite so far behind. How strange!
I could give you many other similar examples. By and large, the once-immense sonic gulf between different recordings now no longer seems nearly as massive. Of course the truly superior recordings still sound better than those of more average quality. But, they no longer blow them into the weeds – and that’s my point.
Before, if a recording fell below a certain level, technically, it became unlistenable. Now, it merely sounds less good – but still perfectly enjoyable. In the distant past, less than perfect sound quality was a barrier to enjoying music. Put simply, if the sound was less than ideal you’d not appreciate the music or performance. Now, the recording has to be really dire to get in the way. Even very old pre war recordings sound okay.