mono/stereo, digital/analogue, vinyl, shellac … is the audio ‘carrier’ important to you, or is the music, and only the music, the thing?

Some would argue that ‘vintage’ sound is a turn-off, others that the fire of great music-making burns through it, makes the passage of years seem non-existant (I do!). If you’re listening to Schnabel, Toscanini, Furtwängler, Mengelberg, Ponselle, Callas, Melchior, Flagstad, Friedman, Horowitz, etc, are you honestly aware that the technology that’s bringing them to you isn’t ‘state-of-the art’? Go on, disappoint me!

8 thoughts on “mono/stereo, digital/analogue, vinyl, shellac … is the audio ‘carrier’ important to you, or is the music, and only the music, the thing?

  1. Robert Roy

    I always feel a degree of sadness when one hears obviously GREAT performances that have limited sound quality (such as Toscanini’s notorious Studio H recordings). Yes, there’s no doubt that if a performance is outstanding then the limited sound quality is soon forgotten but imagine some of those experiences heard in up to the minute sound!

    Mind you, I pleaded for re-issues of the wonderful Henri Temianka both as chamber player (Beethoven violin sonatas) and as leader of the Paganini Quartet and was thrilled when this wish was granted. The limited sound quay made little or no difference.

    While we’re on the subject, is it better to play ‘limited’ quality discs on lesser equipment? I find my big Quad system almost seems to highlight the poor quality.


  2. Interesting Robert. Regarding it being ‘better to play ‘limited’ quality discs on lesser equipment’, one solution – a solution that I’ve sometimes found effective – is to play them through a single speaker.


  3. No contest if owning the very top end of hi-fi equipment. Analogue, and even monaural recordings pre the 1954 hi-fi era, so long as it’s an electrical recording, can come through like no digital platform ever can; and I’m not talking a £5k system but something that will cost a whole lot more. I have used a very wide variety of gear over the decades and can truthfully say that the pro-digital camp always bang-on about accuracy yet the medium falls way short of what is actually contained within a record’s grooves when played on the best turntable/arm/cartridge. Subtleties that are either glossed-over or simply missing altogether. With the finest pick-up arm, phono stage and amplifier feeding the most revealing horn-loaded loudspeakers, (not ideal for modern digital recordings), one is blessed with something that borders on pure time-travel magic! Unless one has heard such a system, (and not at one of those ill-devised hotel-based shows, but in a purpose designed private music room), then nobody can claim otherwise. Even Tony Faulkner once remarked about the sound being better from his Studer-Revox A80 open-reel machine for authenticity of sound but went on to say that he couldn’t explain what it was that made it so.


    1. Interesting isn’t it Carl …. not being able to explain why. There’s a verbal challenge for someone there. ‘Subtleties’ I think is the issue that could be further explored.


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