It all starts at the source, the music. Why your stuff sounds good or bad

I simply want to get this topic started, it’s much talked about and highly debated across the internet, commercial market and every corner of the globe. Your source and source material.

I have read countless topics over the years and have been guilty of it myself many times over blaming the equipment for sounding like crap before i have verified the source and source material i am using to test the equipment. Many thousands of incorrect assumptions are made about the downstream equipments ability to reproduce the MUSIC when the source and the material are of questionable quality and unvetted. I read posts all the time on this very website about folks talking about how bad HP X or DAC Y or AMP Z is And i laugh to myself knowing the source is likely some pirated copy of a song that’s been floating around on their hard-drive for years or another internet sourced copy of a song with equally dubious heritage or even better yet a modern common recording which has been mastered to sell best NOT Necessarily sound “best”.

What say you oh wise or dubious ones, have at it and let everyone know your opinions. I was taught a long time ago that if you feed badly produced/recorded/mastered source material in, you will get equally poor results out. There is a reason audiophiles tend to stick to particular songs to test out expensive equipment and they just don’t dial in a local radio station when using very high end gear.

Feel free to share your knowledge with the folks who want to learn. Sorry if this post is not in the correct category i was not sure where else it belonged best. Just looking to make an important topic of conversation relative with so many people lately upgrading and spending good money to maximize their enjoyment of the MUSIC.


And the better your equipment the easier it is to run across stuff you’ve listened to before that just sounds bad. The other day I was listening to a track that I’d heard many times before in my car, but when I played it on my crack with the HD600 all of the sudden I head an electrical hum that I’d never heard in the track before. Granted, I’d never critically listened to it and the car can mask so many things wrong with a track especially in the low end.

Well as it turns out, the issue was with the recording, it was a live recording and you can clearly hear some type of amp hum. I spent a couple of minutes on the first 20 seconds of the track going back and forth swearing something was wrong somewhere in my chain. It was the first song I’d played and I’m thinking… the tubes need to warm up? Cable loose? I’m picking noise up somewhere?


Garbage in = garbage out.


I’m only happy when it rains.


Might i suggest going to the steve hoffman forum and read through mutiple pages if the click sound is from the toggle switch of johns guitar on a beatles album.

know one thing, jamiroqui’s greatest high-times cd is a loudness database hot mess.

Going to hijack this thread for personal gain. What are some good examples of great recordings cd quality or better ?

1 Like

The album Time Out, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, recorded in 1959 sounds insane. Recorded over 60 years ago it blew my mind.


Hahaha, i just pulled this up on Roon, within 4 seconds the GF sys, “Take Five, my favorite album…”, “Did i tell you i used to date a professional Jazz musician…:face_with_raised_eyebrow::rofl:
Great pick @db_Cooper


Is cd good enough or get the download hi-res above 44/16 for the must have stuff ?

You’d be amazed at how much quality 16/44 can present. It’s the original recording that has the biggest impact IMO.


Hence multiple web pages on whether the the click in a beatles song came from the toggle switch of johns guitar. I know hi-fi is niche but its depressing in general the artist and money people dont offer more quality product to the consumer.

Bit-rot is technically a concern, I doubt single bits among megabytes will even make a measureable difference.
So “the copy of a copy of a copy” should still be good.

Different problem with encoding. That is basically the digital equivalent of copying a tape to a tape to a tape… you get the idea. Encoding will alter the material no matter what you do.

CDs last for a while (is plastic with plastic coated metal, after all), so those should “remember” the original master for at least 30 years.

No idea about the durability of records.

↑ this


You’re following in the “footsteps” of greatness!

1 Like

Good, I’ll bother you with my stupid questions about servers and roon cores and remotes and zones next…Btw, the Border Patrol really helps make some sweet music!:star_struck:

Also, i think I’m gonna get my hands on a record player And some vinyl, if nothing else just to compare digital to analog for myself at home. (Maybe) Although all records seem to have too much “HISS” for my ears…

1 Like

Source content is huge, and so is the signal chain getting it to your dac. I didn’t fully appreciate this until I tried Roon. I was using the Tidal app on a windows machine. It was surprisingly hard to get simple audio passthrough to the USB output. There was always yet another windows setting in the way. With Roon I was able to clean up my signal chain and cleanup the sound. After this, my appreciation for simple network streaming devices that completely avoid PCs has gone way up. But even those can get tricky. Streaming through a Chromecast Audio without the right app can still be a mess. Getting good source content to a good dac is not trivial!

I would also pay for a super hi-rez digital hard copy in some form. Suspect theres music lovers out there that cant get their hands on a pristine recording just like they cant get audio gear from venders that dont do sales in parts of the world.

The music business by in large forgot people like collecting memorabilia. Mean shit look at bluraycom.

1 Like

The debate of what’s most important (the source, the output) is kind of meaningless. Garbage in = garbage out is correct. So is the fact that the transducer (headphone or speaker) has magnitudes greater distortion than any source or DAC or preamp or amp. So both arguments are correct. That’s why people spend ungodly amounts of money on gear and seek out the absolute best recordings. Because it all matters.


That question been rolling around my coconut, will “hi-fi” media-dac-amp expose a 100.00 speaker ? In the end suspect the only way to find out is to order more stuff.:slightly_smiling_face:

Sorry, but that’s a ginormous oversimplification, only people with infinite amounts of cash can afford to talk like that. Not all components are equally important, even if they’re necessary for the reproduction chain to be whole and to perform its function. There are known performance specifications where each component becomes “good enough”, and there’s data from listening tests about what digital formats and bitrates might be “good enough”. For example it’s been known for quite some time that the transducer at the end (and its enclosure, which means also the listening room for speakers) makes the most difference on the hardware side:

Of course the source files can ruin everything, but that’s not an argument to go into debt buying the largest fanciest most marketed files in the universe. You could be perfectly fine with 320 kbps CD-res MP3s, only a serious blind listening test can tell you if it’s worth spending money on anything beyond that. And if there are defects in the original recording or mastering process, all you can do is look for another master, you can’t directly fix it much at that point.

1 Like

Did I make an argument for anyone to go into debt? I don’t remember doing that. I stated that people spend tons of money. Which is true.

As for the “performance specs”, I think THOSE are what’s oversimplified. A simple example: THD gets measured at a single frequency. Music is not a single frequency therefore the test and its accompanying specs are garbage. Ever seen what a “clean” component’s THD looks like with music?

You missed the entire point of my post. Which was this: the title of the thread implies that the source is the most important piece. My argument is that the entire system matters and making generalizations about which part matters most is a bit silly. Although if I HAD to choose where the biggest problem is, I would say it’s the transducer.