Thanks Dave, … and thanks as usual for articulating our shared thoughts better than I did. This forum is going to be a whole lot of fun.
Surely, the breakthrough thinking we both made about system building (not limited to turntables) was that any system improvement will make you want to listen to your hi-fi more rather than less - that a true increase in resolution doesn't accomplish this by sugarcoating the playback.
You and I know that this is not a trivial concept. How long have we been messing with our hi-fis and been conflicted when considering a component that made our best recordings sound great and our lesser ones unlistenable? Of course, we now know that these are false choices. In a logic class, it might be termed to be a "category error" … any philosophy majors out there? It's been quite a few years.
I think my problem with my classical collection is one of having acquired a fair proportion (40% ?) based on bad advice. Some 90% of my pressings from a certain company with the word "Classic" in its name are dreadful. Run of the mill labels generally sound from o.k. to wonderful. The major bone I have to pick is with this re-issue company, and perhaps I over generalized about my collection.
After the audiofest, I may box up some of my worst offenders and ship them to you for your commentary ... as if you have the time to listen to bad records. I'd be curious to hear your comments. Maybe we can circulate them to Dan, Richard, and Doug while we're at it.
Surely with the reissues, this comes from bad mastering technique and choice of equipment (cutting amps, mastering deck, etc.). The kind of things I'm hearing can't be due to the degeneration of the master tape (etched highs, for example).
Now, whenever you're talking quality, you have to consider the pressing plant. I've heard varying results from the RTI pressing plant for example. Some companies seem to get better results from RTI. This topic merits its own thread.
I'd love to hear Mothra's and/or Nick Doshi's comments on this when he joins the forum. I'll point him to this thread.
I'm not at home at the moment, and would rather play these records before commenting, but in addition to just about every Philips record I own, I have some wonderful EMI's (Kathleen Battle, Nadja Solerno Sonnenberg come to mind) as well as a host of others. My RCA Red Seals are generally quite good. A copy of Carmen (with Jan Pierce) comes to mind. My Angels and Londons are in general quite nice.
In the "audiophile world", I have a few Harmonia Mundi records recorded by Peter McGrath. The Corelli "Concerto Grosso" is absolutely wonderful. I've loved this record throughout the evolution of my hi-fi. Some other Harmonia Mundi's are quite forgettable - not so bad as to remember the title ... more in the mediocre category.
Over the coming months, I'm going to work my way through this part of my collection to see if I'm overstating the above.
I'm sympathetic to the fact that large, classical works present the greatest challenge to the engineers, but when a record company brags about its quality, and then falls short of a mainstream company like Philips, I have a major bone to pick due to expectations being set too high.
There are some tortured 'philes out there who obsess over surface noise. While a quiet surface is ideal (and Galibiers sure do make records sound as quiet as I've ever heard them), a noisy surface or an errant tick or pop doesn't disqualify a record from consideration for me.
As far as enjoable, noisy, mainstream records, I have a favorite which I frequently pull out - my $0.50 copy of the first Hot Tuna (acoustic) album. This has Jorma and Jack wailing away on their own tunes as well as a few traditional ones from Reverend Gary Davis and others. Throughout my system's evolution, I've longed for a good version of this Dynagroove recording from 1971. Well, I long no more, and I sit back and enjoy one of my favorite records of all time immensely.
I've never entered into the game that many play - acquiring all of the guide books to the great Deccas, RCA's etc. because frankly I won't enter the sweepstakes for $300 records on eBay. Audio doesn't make me rich enough to do so.
I am interested in diamonds in the rough - those little known companies with unknown artists who put out a product that delivers the goods. A buddy who recently resumed learning the cello has stumbled on a few small Russian labels. I'll ask him to post some of his findings on this forum.
... crafting technology in service of music
Once in a while, you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right
... Robert Hunter