Why Spend More On Hifi When Some Music Is Poorly Recorded?

True - so the answer to the original question is “because the good stuff sounds even better, and the bad stuff sounds no worse - and may sound better”.

That is a decent summary of where I have arrived at, and I have already stated I’ve no regrets getting the 500DR, but going from 250DR to 500DR is a big leap.

I suspect however future upgrades are going to work their magic on a smaller and smaller proportion of my music, due to the limitation on reproduction quality due to variable recording rigour, although I have had no in-home demonstrations (yet!) to support that, just the experience of the 500DR’s arrival.

Future upgrades I would consider are DRing and servicing my 552, new speakers and a second PS555DR on the ND555.

1 Like

I mostly agree with Nigel. I only listen to classical music, but I think there are many that are truly awful. Some of the best are Decca in the 60s, and then the recordings started to be over-miked with terrible results. Digital brought on another bad trend. If you want to hear consistently excellent recordings, try the Naim records recorded by Ken Christianson in Chicago’s Pro Musica. But, I haven’t found in general that lower end hi fi makes the bad recordings more listenable. Just my .02, but there you are.


I am sat here listening to a few demo/previously unreleased tracks from the ACR:Box compilation (look, I do listen to other stuff, lots of it, but I’m catching up on this one since buying it a few months ago and never getting round to listening to it all the way through, all 7 discs!) The mixing & production on some is most definitely not the same as a studio album, “even” my XS3 tells me that, but it’s great music, and the track’s relationships to the studio album versions is really fun to listen to. And my feet are tapping.

I suspect I’m close to the point of diminishing returns for my chosen level of investment in HiFi gear, and it’s a great place to be 8)

I reckon that says more about the listener than the audio. I think I’m as close to audio nirvana as I’m going to get within what I’m prepared to spend. Am I bored? Of course not, just spending too much time enjoying music for that.


1 Like

That’s great.

Anyone who is happy and just enjoys the music has nailed it.

I was like that with my first Naim system that I bought new in 2004 - until I stupidly came onto the old forum.

Up to that point, I had decided not to research either hifi or music because I found that a thirst for knowledge (e.g. categories of jazz, how amps work, etc.) ends up getting in the way of just listening to music.

And, to be honest, I’ve just reached the limit of what my wife will let me spend on hifi, and I’m on an audio contentment plateau that will keep my foot tapping for years to come.


Since joining this forum, I have upgraded my system twice.

A revelatory moment for me was when I was listening to the Tord Gustavsen Trio album Being There.

I played this album several times in a week, just loving the sound of the instruments and the music as a whole.

At some point I felt the urge to find out who the producer was, because the production was crystalline.

It was Manfred Eicher.

I’d never heard of him, or his label, ECM.

Until then I hadn’t realised that some labels have a unique house sound because of their approach to music and production.

That led me to listen to many ECM artists - especially Keith Jarrett, but also dozens of others.

And to pay much more attention to labels - e.g. Steeplechase and Blue Note - and to recording quality.

I also read the reviews of Thom Jurek, whose taste in music is very similar to mine, and who is brilliant at helping me tune into what’s occurring in some of the greatest jazz recordings.

At that time I also started reading up on how Miles Davis worked with Teo Macero on editing and production of the Miles albums I most like - the ones from 1968-1975.

In short, my taste in music has taken a quantum leap.

Part of that is a definitive move towards much higher quality recordings of mainly acoustic instruments, with minimal overdubbing, and a lot of live recordings.

I am very happy about this change.

Somehow this process has also alienated me from some of the music I used to listen to, including stuff that was badly recorded, heavily compressed, etc.

But I’m happy with that too.

These changes were influenced by hearing more because my system was revealing more of the recordings - but in the end is mainly about discovering whole new fields of music that I hoped were there but hadn’t yet found.


A highly-resolved system, is usually always a double-edged sword.

I came to the realisation, we can’t have the best of both worlds in everything in life. We could strive for it, but more often than not, it’s usually a compromise.

I just make do and be happy and contented with my music and enjoy the system-building process as it comes, when it comes. Before that next upgrade, I enjoy tweaking the set-up till I have maxed all I could do. It’s fun.

But it is also true, some recordings are just awful … despite being great music - a pity as I find some unlistenable but it is what it is.

I love remasters. Always looking for them.


Phil P



Or even dancing occasionally!

1 Like

Hell yeah… when the system just compels me to get up off the listening chair and try and do some head-banging contortions to some good rock, Wacko Jacko… James Brown… the list just goes on… sometimes a wash of Debussy’s Clair de Lune just puts me into a trance-like state… because the Naim just gets me there so emotively, whenever.

Phil P

1 Like

I too have expanded the repertoire of music I enjoy, expanding into genres and sub-genres I hadn’t previously considered.

But this change was mostly due to the availability of good quality streaming services (Tidal, and thereafter Qobuz in my case), and, to a lesser degree, to hifi upgrades, allowing me to fully appreciate new (to me) music.

Streaming services allowed me to listen to unfamiliar genres and better resolving kit allowed me to listen into unfamiliar genres, if that makes any sense.


Perhaps there is an answer to the original question in a response to a letter by the editor of Stereophile in the latest (March 2022) issue?

A letter from (JE) notes that ‘while some current releases on CD are very good, many do not sound better than those made in the early days of CD’, to which the editor of Stereophile writes:

“…I respect and share your rejection of the conventional wisdom about early digital. Yes, many early digital recordings were bad, even if many of us (not all, Mikey!) at first enjoyed the novelty of that pristine sound. Subsequent remasters took bad (and good) early digital and , in an effort to alter the sound, made it worse. An underappreciated fact about this hi-rez Golden Age we are living through is that many of those hi-rez files we enjoy are better not due to higher resolution but because they’re “flat,” unprocessed masters. As much as I appreciate the art of skilled mastering engineers, sometimes they’re paid just to make recordings sound different and often louder.”- Jim Austin


My own opinion on whether one should spend more money on HiFi when music is poorly recorded is as follows:

It depends upon the whether or not your HiFi equipment is playing back analogue recordings ( LP) or digital recordings.

Unless one of those horrific abortions of digital to vinyl, analogue recordings have all the music information present in the recording. When one hears a fantastic LP recording at a HiFi show, but not from that same recording at home on one’s own HiFi, it is because one’s own HiFi is not as adept at revealing all the detail present on the record as the one at the HiFi show. Each LP copy, if same pressing batch, has the same information on it. In the case of analogue, one spends more on HiFi in that format in order to extract more from the grooves (of all one’s analogue LPs).

Digital recordings are not of actual music, but of measurements that are taken quickly of music moments. Those measurements are recorded in a byte, each of which representing a moment, or still photograph of an actual acoustic event . Those pictures, when converted from digital to analogue rapidly enough, can give an impression of the original music event (not the whole of actual sound, just what was measured). That would be what Jim Austin was referring to as “flat” unprocessed masters.

In addition, music companies had their mastering engineers compress the music to the louder end of the scale so that it plays louder on the radio to get peoples attention. They wanted to sell more, not because of the quality of the music they were selling, but by bombarding you with it on the radio. The sound one gets from those CDs is always bad, no matter the quality of CD player it is played through.

Whereas in analogue, the software has all the information needed for great sound providing the HiFi is of sufficient quality to be able to extract it, in digital the software by design does not have all the information so spending more on the HiFi can not add more information to the software (it can however improve on some of the nasties associated with that format such as jitter and UHF distortion).

Unfortunately, the days of analogue recording are over and the only new analogue recordings one can get today are re-cuts of old master tapes done by a few boutique/specialist outlets, at great cost. Unless you are older and remember that music, it will probably hold little interest for you, and the music you grew up with was all pretty much recorded digitally, with digital instruments, mics, and onto digital masters. Sometimes a musician records his bit of music in one place, the singer in another, and both sent over the internet to the recording studio in a third. No wonder to me why there seems to be an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in the many responses to this thread.


This simply isn’t true. I and many others own recent analogue recordings.

1 Like

Phil, what is your current system?

Recent, by who? On what label? Absolutely certain not digital to analogue?

I’m completely systemless and have been the past 20 years, Dave.

I’m back just recently and in the midst of planning for a new Naim set-up in a new place.
Not in a rush.

Having fun in the journey, especially with like-minded friends here.


Phil P

No system for 20 years?
What are u waiting for? :thinking:

Yes… I often asked myself then.

It’s interesting how I relegated my listening to a blue tooth speaker and my Apple earpods - and actually enjoyed my music even more, without having to go into set-up and the usual challenges with hi fi.

The children are more or less grown now - they are my excuse for my absence… ha ha

Time to get back to my hobby and music a little more … fervently.