GOOD: What is a good recording and does ‘good’ = appropriate?

I recently received a private email asking me “what exactly is a good recording?

Great question and here’s what’s interesting: we all know a great or poor recording the moment we hear one.

At one of my recent demonstrations I was demonstrating a decent transport and DAC through the customer’s much loved and really rather good vast Yamaha 1970s receiver. The equipment – in the context of this post - really doesn’t matter. I don’t want us to be sidetracked. So anyway, I selected an unfamiliar Miles Davis track out of the many I have and … it … sounded … dreadful from the moment I turned it on. I'm talking here about the recording rather than the performance itself. Mind you, this obscure track was, how shall I best put this – err – ‘inaccessible’ and not for the casual listener. Anyway …

I looked at the customer and his face clearly reflected the same sentiment. I had chosen poorly and immediately went to a more familiar piece from Something Blue, an album I know to be a good recording and, it must be said, a tad more mainstream compared to some of his other compositions.

I don’t know enough to be able to analyze and pick apart what makes something sound good or bad but I can tell you within seconds its quality – so can you and every person that listens to it via a highly resolving system.

Instant … and significant

The fact any one of us can instantly identify good from bad is significant – I am just not sure what it means.

Up to this point, what I've said here refers to ‘good’ or ‘bad’. That’s the social side if you’ll let me describe this as such. However what about the word used in the subject heading here – ‘appropriate’? Clearly had I been a novice retailer and my customer a first-time buyer then this track was inappropriate in every sense of the word. Quite simply, that bad choice on my part might have returned the visitor back to mp3 reproduction where of course inadequate reproduction is the accepted norm or de rigueur if you prefer.

So what did I learn from this?

  1. For a start, when it comes to a demonstration, don’t deviate from recordings with are concurrently both well performed AND well-recorded.
  2. Don’t presume that the customer is a willing ‘guinea pig’ inasmuch as that he/she wants to be subjected to material that is only well performed and not well-recorded or vice-versa

What you can learn from this?

  1. Take material that your are familiar with. However …
  2. This does not mean you have to like / love the recording you take simply because …
  3. If the system can redirect you in a positive way to that previously unloved material then clearly that system is worthy of consideration.

Thank you

Howard Popeck