Listening impressions: Ascend Sierra 2-EX vs. Revel F206 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 272 Old 02-05-2020, 08:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Listening impressions: Ascend Sierra 2-EX vs. Revel F206

Just got a good deal on used Revel F206's and decided to get them for my bedroom. I've just had 1 day with them so my initial impressions may eventually change. Decided to compare them to my Sierra 2-EX's. Please note the test wasn't blind. I did my best to level match by ear, but obviously didn't have an instrumentation to make that accurate. So yeah, it definitely lacks scientific rigor, but maybe it could still be useful.

To start off with, both speakers sounded wonderful and both aim for a neutral response. Any negatives described are really just nit-picking and I could easily live with either speaker (and I plan on that since I own both). I was using a Pioneer SC receiver that's 4 ohm stable run in direct mode. Source was Google Play Music Premium streaming from a Chromecast.

The first thing that surprised me is that it seemed like Sierra 2-EX actually had punchier bass - I really couldn't believe it. This was obvious on the track "Fall Underneath" by Snakadactal (the Kilter remix). This could totally be a room issue, I admit, but still surprising nonetheless. Bass extension seemed similar between the 2 as well.

The F206's dedicated midrange driver added a little bit more layering on some tracks than the 2-way Sierra 2-EX. It wasn't a big difference, but you could tell on tracks like Roberto Menescal's "Voce E Eu." There's a lot going on in this short piece and the F206's midrange is a little bit more distinct.

The Sierra 2-EX has wider horizontal dispersion/soundstage but the F206 has a taller one. The soundstage width difference was evident on most songs. For vertical sound stage, Paquito D'Rivera's version of the "I Love Lucy" theme song has the saxophone playing up higher on the F206 than the Sierra 2-EX. Soundstage depth was similar between the 2 and both very good.

I think the biggest difference in sound was the treble. The F206's treble can be a little lean/brittle at times, even bordering on harsh, especially when turned up. The RAAL tweeter in the S2-EX's never got harsh and just had this open, airy quality that the Revels never quite obtained. String instruments, especially, bring out these differences. The beginning violin intro in Jill Barber's "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" sounds more natural on the Sierra 2-EX's.

All in all, they're both great speakers and these are just initial impressions. I'll keep on listening and post back if there's anything that needs to be updated.

UPDATE: added updated impressions here: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/89-sp...l#post59221084
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post #2 of 272 Old 02-05-2020, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by goldark View Post
The F206's treble can be a little lean/brittle at times, even bordering on harsh, especially when turned up.
This would be a dealbreaker for me, personally. That's why I enjoy ribbons so much. Haven't heard a harsh one yet.
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post #3 of 272 Old 02-06-2020, 03:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goldark View Post
I think the biggest difference in sound was the treble. The F206's treble can be a little lean/brittle at times, even bordering on harsh, especially when turned up. The RAAL tweeter in the S2-EX's never got harsh and just had this open, airy quality that the Revels never quite obtained
any chance you could measure their response in your room with rew?



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post #4 of 272 Old 02-06-2020, 04:32 AM
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the brittle tweeter in revel could be and most likely is caused by avr running out of gas. revels need strong amps.
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post #5 of 272 Old 02-06-2020, 04:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by vavan View Post
any chance you could measure their response in your room with rew?
I don't have anything set up to measure right now unfortunately, but that's a good idea. Will have to look into it soon.
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post #6 of 272 Old 02-06-2020, 04:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by torii View Post
the brittle tweeter in revel could be and most likely is caused by avr running out of gas. revels need strong amps.
It's certainly possible that was the case at higher volumes. But even at lower listening volumes, it seemed to exhibit a little more "leanness" than the Sierra 2-EX. It still sounded great however, and it was only relative to the RAAL that it seemed this way.
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post #7 of 272 Old 02-06-2020, 05:03 AM
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Doubt the harshness/thinness is an amp issue, as the F206 only needs half the amp power that the Sierra does. If you enjoy them about the same at equal volumes, then the Revel should be the overall better speaker, given it can play ~3db louder, and most people prefer louder(hence the need to level match).
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post #8 of 272 Old 02-06-2020, 05:22 AM
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so many prefer the raal tweeter...it really makes sense when people ask for speaker recs to give them an example of all tweeter types and just say get a sub.


I feel the midrange and up is most important sound since I have subs.
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post #9 of 272 Old 02-08-2020, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by richard12511 View Post
Doubt the harshness/thinness is an amp issue, as the F206 only needs half the amp power that the Sierra does. If you enjoy them about the same at equal volumes, then the Revel should be the overall better speaker, given it can play ~3db louder, and most people prefer louder(hence the need to level match).
If the user is already accustom to the soft, airy touch of the ribbons extended high ends, then I wouldn’t doubt he’s experiencing some harshness of a dome tweeter. Each tweeter has a different sound signature. I have had experience with a few different ribbons and domes. Domes just can’t complete at the top end of the spectrum. Domes can also play much nicer at a lower crossover point around 2khz which leads to them being said to have more dynamics and easier to use with different mid ranges. This is why most ribbons are preferred over domes for 2-channel, and most domes for HT. Not saying either one can’t do both roles, because there are plenty of quality domes.

It’s even kinda cool to see some companies experiment with 4-way designs: having a ribbon super tweeter, a 1-3in dome midrange, and then onto the larger woofers. It just makes the crossover quite complex.

I just quoted your response, but it applies to a few others as well. My personal favorite is a true ribbon tweeter with a midrange crossed over about 3-4khz, 3-way design. Makes a nice blend, and keeps the speaker slightly neutral/warm/soft and great for HT as well.
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I need to update my impressions as I discovered "Direct Mode" on my receiver still somehow had MCACC room EQ engaged. I switched to "Pure Direct" and that disengaged all room EQ entirely. I was looking at the EQ settings and for some reason MCACC was adding like a 7.5 dB boost at around 7 kHz - which contributed to the harshness on the Revels.

After listening again, this was indeed the case. The Revel's treble became less harsh and more smooth, but at the expense of some perceived detail on the F206. The differences between tweeters somehow became even more pronounced - the RAAL's clarity, and openness was rather stark in comparison. With the EQ disengaged, the overall neutral tonality is similar in both and a lot of recordings sounded similar but for better recorded acoustic tracks, the Sierra 2-EX just comes out as the higher fidelity speaker.
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post #11 of 272 Old 02-09-2020, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by goldark View Post
I need to update my impressions as I discovered "Direct Mode" on my receiver still somehow had MCACC room EQ engaged. I switched to "Pure Direct" and that disengaged all room EQ entirely. I was looking at the EQ settings and for some reason MCACC was adding like a 7.5 dB boost at around 7 kHz - which contributed to the harshness on the Revels.

After listening again, this was indeed the case. The Revel's treble became less harsh and more smooth, but at the expense of some perceived detail on the F206. The differences between tweeters somehow became even more pronounced - the RAAL's clarity, and openness was rather stark in comparison. With the EQ disengaged, the overall neutral tonality is similar in both and a lot of recordings sounded similar but for better recorded acoustic tracks, the Sierra 2-EX just comes out as the higher fidelity speaker.
i've had the same thoughts with my emotiva b1's and the amt tweeter (of course on a lesser level).. the amt is a more resolving tweeter than other "entry level" tweeters , the only tweeter in the price range that i have liked long term is the soft dome in the ascend 170se's.. and the amt is a bit better than those .. note: the emo b1's were modded by Dennis Murphy , who has a very successful history with the raal, before the mod the ascends were the better speaker to my ears..
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The Revel's treble became less harsh and more smooth, but at the expense of some perceived detail on the F206.
This has been my experience with domes too...smoothness and detail seem to be locked in an inverse relationship.
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Any Sierra 2-EX owners near the Pittsburgh PA area? Would be interesting to do a 2-Ex to Revel F36 comparison with subs in the mix.
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I kind of want to hear them too if anyone is in the Cincinnati area with them, I might just have to buy a pair and try them out.
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post #15 of 272 Old 02-09-2020, 05:59 PM
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This has been my experience with domes too...smoothness and detail seem to be locked in an inverse relationship.
Agreed.. The entry level types i have heard all share those traits ..i would assume as you get to the mid fi levels the trade off diminishes .. I would think the amt in the emo's are good enough to sound as good as many of the more expensive domes, i'd like to know what Dennis thinks about the aa+ he built in comparison to the emo b1 (his mod).. I would think those aa+'s would be comparable to many of the next level speakers...

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Agreed.. The entry level types i have heard all share those traits ..i would assume as you get to the mid fi levels the trade off diminishes ...
Well, I thought the F206 are mid-fi.

I'd love to hear the Wharfedale Lintons some day...
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Any Sierra 2-EX owners near the Pittsburgh PA area? Would be interesting to do a 2-Ex to Revel F36 comparison with subs in the mix.
How about in Squirrel Hill? (We used to live there a long time ago. Brings back wonderful memories!)
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Well, I thought the F206 are mid-fi.

I'd love to hear the Wharfedale Lintons some day...
Could you please explain what you meant earlier by "there is more to music enjoyment than transparency and detail"? After 8 months of reading AVS everyday I've drunk the Koolaid that transparency is the only thing that defines good. Hence, I wanted the Dynaudio for my desktop and Ascends for my HT (though we enjoy the Polk signature for HT very much). I have the money and so not only wanted the best but also wanted to have the psychological satisfaction that i have the best. Else, I'll keep wondering whether I should have gotten that speaker that everyone else is touting. But I don't like my Xeo 10 compared to my Sonos! So what did you mean by "there is more to music enjoyment than transparency and detail"? You keep recommending Wharfedales, so do you mean an exaggerated midrange may be more enjoyable for me? Appreciate your thoughts.
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Well, I thought the F206 are mid-fi.

I'd love to hear the Wharfedale Lintons some day...
f206 probably are mid fi .. my thought was the detail / smooth tradeoff is probably diminished (but still present )as you go up the food chain..edit: i would love to hear those lintons as well .. my guess is they are probably pretty great..

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f206 probably are mid fi .. my thought was the detail / smooth tradeoff is probably diminished (but still present )as you go up the food chain..
Mid-fi is a pretty useless term. Every speaker is mid-fi to someone that has a lot of money to spend on much more expensive speakers.
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Mid-fi is a pretty useless term. Every speaker is mid-fi to someone that has a lot of money to spend on much more expensive speakers.
i would agree, but i needed some sort of descriptive term for the next step up from entry level , which is an overly used term and can range up to the $1000 bookshelf level (that i consider "mid fi")...

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Could you please explain what you meant earlier by "there is more to music enjoyment than transparency and detail"? After 8 months of reading AVS everyday I've drunk the Koolaid that transparency is the only thing that defines good. Hence, I wanted the Dynaudio for my desktop and Ascends for my HT (though we enjoy the Polk signature for HT very much). I have the money and so not only wanted the best but also wanted to have the psychological satisfaction that i have the best. Else, I'll keep wondering whether I should have gotten that speaker that everyone else is touting. But I don't like my Xeo 10 compared to my Sonos! So what did you mean by "there is more to music enjoyment than transparency and detail"? You keep recommending Wharfedales, so do you mean an exaggerated midrange may be more enjoyable for me? Appreciate your thoughts.
Vikram,

The question you've asked about Zorba922's post is one that doesn't get as much discussion as perhaps it should. Here's my $0.02.

There's a correlation between the quality of source material audio and how enjoyable a transparent and detailed system will be. As recording quality goes up, transparency and detail can be a good thing. As recording quality goes down, those same characteristics can make source material unlistenable.

Content quality today isn't very good. A search on the Loudness Wars shows part of the problem. There are oceans of compressed and lossy content available that, when played on a transparent and detailed system, are an ice pick in the ear. While there are also audiophile kinds of recordings that are stunningly good on these transparent and detailed systems, most of us listen to more than just audiophile recordings. For example, that kind of recording is less than 1% of what's in my collection.

What does that mean in terms of product selection? There's an argument that says less transparency and detail (to some degree) will result in more music that's listenable, and that means the gear gets used more. And at the end of the day it's supposed to be about the music rather than the tools that deliver it.


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Vikram,

The question you've asked about Zorba922's post is one that doesn't get as much discussion as perhaps it should. Here's my $0.02.

There's a correlation between the quality of source material audio and how enjoyable a transparent and detailed system will be. As recording quality goes up, transparency and detail can be a good thing. As recording quality goes down, those same characteristics can make source material unlistenable.

Content quality today isn't very good. A search on the Loudness Wars shows part of the problem. There are oceans of compressed and lossy content available that, when played on a transparent and detailed system, are an ice pick in the ear. While there are also audiophile kinds of recordings that are stunningly good on these transparent and detailed systems, most of us listen to more than just audiophile recordings. For example, that kind of recording is less than 1% of what's in my collection.

What does that mean in terms of product selection? There's an argument that says less transparency and detail (to some degree) will result in more music that's listenable, and that means the gear gets used more. And at the end of the day it's supposed to be about the music rather than the tools that deliver it.
i agree 100%.. i noted upon "upgrading" to hd thru amazon music that many more recordings became enjoyable .. there are , of course, many songs/records that still suck because they were recorded for dynamics rather than sq or just plain suck, but it was very apparent..having speakers that are a bit forgiving is nice in the digital age..
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i would agree, but i needed some sort of descriptive term for the next step up from entry level , which is an overly used term and can range up to the $1000 bookshelf level (that i consider "mid fi")...
I find it easier just to talk about price range instead.
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post #25 of 272 Old 02-10-2020, 10:05 AM
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Vikram,

The question you've asked about Zorba922's post is one that doesn't get as much discussion as perhaps it should. Here's my $0.02.

There's a correlation between the quality of source material audio and how enjoyable a transparent and detailed system will be. As recording quality goes up, transparency and detail can be a good thing. As recording quality goes down, those same characteristics can make source material unlistenable.
Thank you, @Bill-99 and @Lp85253 . Here's my thoughts on my experience with the transparent and detailed Dynaudio Xeo 10.

Looks cheap like a $100 speaker off the shelf at Walmart. Hate the white plastic, silver baffle, and dirty grey grill. The black will look MUCH better.

I'm not happy with the tweeter. Had very high hopes due to the $1500 pricetag. Speaker is neutral and detailed but to me, too rolled off or laid back. I'd like more high end bite like my Sonos One. Could be my high freq hearing loss. Guess I'll audition the Luna after all. Strange that after my audition I concluded the Bose in my wife's Mazda and my little crappy Sonos One sounds better on 70s rock and roll, blues than the Xeo 10!

I tried two test tracks on the Xeo 10 recommended by whathifi (Radiohead, The chemical Brothers) -- both sound amazing but it's not the typical music i listen to so those tracks may sound great anywhere else too, i don't know.

The DAC arrives today and hopefully this will help.

Hate to admit but at the end of the evening, I ended up listening using @gajCA 's $15.99 Monoprice headphones. For TV through my PC, these kill the Xeo 10. I wonder if high-end headphones is the way to go for me for my PC? Never considered that.

FULL disclosure, I have hearing aids that I need mainly when speaking to women in a quiet setting. I don't really need/wear them at other times and prefer music without them on since they heavily color and process sound (emphasize voice, reduce soundstage, reduce spatial cues, all to make conversation better). With them on, the Xeo 10 killed the Sonos/Bose/Polk. With the aids off, the Sonos/Bose is better. Too bad since I'm not going to sit in my home office alone working for 6 hrs wearing hearing aids just for the Xeo 10 (physically uncomfortable on ears).

Last edited by Vikram Iyengar; 02-10-2020 at 10:11 AM.
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post #26 of 272 Old 02-10-2020, 10:24 AM
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i agree 100%.. i noted upon "upgrading" to hd thru amazon music that many more recordings became enjoyable .. there are , of course, many songs/records that still suck because they were recorded for dynamics rather than sq or just plain suck, but it was very apparent..having speakers that are a bit forgiving is nice in the digital age..
Been meaning to give hd via Amazon Music a try. Thanks for the nudge.

It's such a crazy thing that recording quality is so poor. It's not like high quality recordings are a new concept. For example, there's an audiophile recording by Dave Brubeck, "Time Out" (HDTracks). On transparent and detailed gear, it an amazing recording, a good demonstration of what's possible. It was recorded in 1959. Then in the early years of CDs, the marketers called it "Perfect audio forever!" but with too many disks it has instead been "Perfectly awful forever!"

There are things consumers can do, such as leveraging the DR Database and Discogs to selectively replace media. After my last speaker upgrade, I did that and also purged really awful content. The collection is now perhaps 20% smaller but all of it is listenable.
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post #27 of 272 Old 02-10-2020, 10:27 AM
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Thank you, @Bill-99 and @Lp85253 . Here's my thoughts on my experience with the transparent and detailed Dynaudio Xeo 10.

Looks cheap like a $100 speaker off the shelf at Walmart. Hate the white plastic, silver baffle, and dirty grey grill. The black will look MUCH better.

I'm not happy with the tweeter. Had very high hopes due to the $1500 pricetag. Speaker is neutral and detailed but to me, too rolled off or laid back. I'd like more high end bite like my Sonos One. Could be my high freq hearing loss. Guess I'll audition the Luna after all. Strange that after my audition I concluded the Bose in my wife's Mazda and my little crappy Sonos One sounds better on 70s rock and roll, blues than the Xeo 10!

I tried two test tracks on the Xeo 10 recommended by whathifi (Radiohead, The chemical Brothers) -- both sound amazing but it's not the typical music i listen to so those tracks may sound great anywhere else too, i don't know.

The DAC arrives today and hopefully this will help.

Hate to admit but at the end of the evening, I ended up listening using @gajCA 's $15.99 Monoprice headphones. For TV through my PC, these kill the Xeo 10. I wonder if high-end headphones is the way to go for me for my PC? Never considered that.

FULL disclosure, I have hearing aids that I need mainly when speaking to women in a quiet setting. I don't really need/wear them at other times and prefer music without them on since they heavily color and process sound (emphasize voice, reduce soundstage, reduce spatial cues, all to make conversation better). With them on, the Xeo 10 killed the Sonos/Bose/Polk. With the aids off, the Sonos/Bose is better. Too bad since I'm not going to sit in my home office alone working for 6 hrs wearing hearing aids just for the Xeo 10 (physically uncomfortable on ears).
just a thought , talk to Dave at ascend and see if he thinks the sierra 1 with the nrt upgrade might work.. you'll need an amp of course(you knew that)...
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post #28 of 272 Old 02-10-2020, 10:29 AM
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Could you please explain what you meant earlier by "there is more to music enjoyment than transparency and detail"?
In addition to Bill's comments about recording quality, there is also the larger question about whether one is an "analytical" music listener or an "emotional involvement" listener.

The first type, which seems to be more common on AVS, is someone who likes to listen as if standing on the OUTSIDE looking in, who enjoys noticing every small detail, imaging characteristics, soundstage height/width, etc.

The second values the more intangible, unmeasurable experience of the speaker making the music "real" even if it's not 100% "accurate" or "what the artist (presumably) intended" yadda yadda---they want to be drawn INTO the music and completely bypass all such sterile, analytical mental activity during listening.

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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post #29 of 272 Old 02-10-2020, 10:32 AM
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Been meaning to give hd via Amazon Music a try. Thanks for the nudge.

It's such a crazy thing that recording quality is so poor. It's not like high quality recordings are a new concept. For example, there's an audiophile recording by Dave Brubeck, "Time Out" (HDTracks). On transparent and detailed gear, it an amazing recording, a good demonstration of what's possible. It was recorded in 1959. Then in the early years of CDs, the marketers called it "Perfect audio forever!" but with too many disks it has instead been "Perfectly awful forever!"

There are things consumers can do, such as leveraging the DR Database and Discogs to selectively replace media. After my last speaker upgrade, I did that and also purged really awful content. The collection is now perhaps 20% smaller but all of it is listenable.
when cd's first cam out i remember most being pretty darn good , fast forward 30 years and all those "remastered" cd's seem to lack quality.. now there are exceptions (led zep comes to mind ) that did the remasters correctly (imo).. as for amazon hd , if you have prime or already listen to amazon music it's a decent deal imo.. after pricing other sources (i have prime) their hd is a good deal .. and it does sound much better on lots of stuff..
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post #30 of 272 Old 02-10-2020, 10:35 AM
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Been meaning to give hd via Amazon Music a try. Thanks for the nudge.

It's such a crazy thing that recording quality is so poor. It's not like high quality recordings are a new concept. For example, there's an audiophile recording by Dave Brubeck, "Time Out" (HDTracks). On transparent and detailed gear, it an amazing recording, a good demonstration of what's possible. It was recorded in 1959. Then in the early years of CDs, the marketers called it "Perfect audio forever!" but with too many disks it has instead been "Perfectly awful forever!"

There are things consumers can do, such as leveraging the DR Database and Discogs to selectively replace media. After my last speaker upgrade, I did that and also purged really awful content. The collection is now perhaps 20% smaller but all of it is listenable.
Is Amazon HD same quality as Idal HiFi, which I have?
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