Listening to music is, in a general sense, comprised of two elements. One is listening to the song’s melody or to the ensemble of the instruments. The second is experiencing the pleasure of quality sound.
No matter how good a song is, if the recording or the listening environment is subpar, it ruins the song.
This importance is underscored by the fact that an international authority on music such as the Grammys have a category dedicated to sound recording separate from best song or best album.
I would even go so far as to say that listening to good music at a good quality is one of the great joys in life.
On this installment of this series I’d like to talk about some quality sound recordings meant to be enjoyed on the kind of sound system I outlined in GEAR & BUSINESS #004.
As a rule, sound recordings from the 20th century sound better on vinyl than they did on CD. However, with recent advances in digital technology, this thesis seems to have been turned on its head.
One reason is that digital mastering is becoming refined in a way that removes a mechanical, inorganic feel that used to mar the sound. Instead, it now sounds more “raw", as if coming from a vinyl record.
Another reason for improved audio quality with CDs is advances in high quality sound pressings.
Up until now there have been a number of CD-sized disc formats like SACD, Blu-ray Audio, and DVD-Audio that were not compatible with standard CD players. These formats never really caught on.
But a number of other formats have also been developed that allow listeners to enjoy high quality sound on standard CD players.
These include SHM-CD, Blu-spec CD, HQCD, and MQA CD. These discs are made using higher-quality materials to allow for greater precision and fidelity in playback.
This time I’ve chosen compilations featuring Grammy award-winning tracks and tracks known as some of the best sound recordings of all time.
I’ve chosen either SHM-CD, Blu-spec CD, HQCD, or MQA CDs where possible, but in cases where a particularly good recording is only available on standard CD, I’ve listed that version.
2.Great Compilations to Start With
In order to understand what good music and/or good sound is, I recommend listening to music from a range of genres.
I’ve found that listening to music from a variety of musicians from different genres is a life-affirming and life-enriching experience.
And there’s nothing quite like the experience of discovering new music.
Often times that’s accompanied by a sense of “why hadn’t I heard of this music sooner?" and “I wonder what other great music is out there?"
Thankfully, record companies tend to release compilation albums featuring a variety of genres and musicians at low prices every time they develop a new format that they want to promote.
These compilation albums are a great place to start if you’re interested in checking out these high sound quality CDs.
3.Classical music compilations with high quality sound
This affordably-priced two-disc compilation features the same classical music standards on SHM-CD and standard CD to allow easy comparison of these formats.
This compilation features seven famous classical music pieces and performances. The high-resolution CD is compatible with a standard CD player, but keep in mind that the sound quality will remain CD-quality at (16 bit / 44.1kHz). In order to listen to the high-resolution audio (24 bit / 352.8 kHz), you’ll need a MQA-compatible CD player or an MQA compatible DAC (digital-analog converter)
This compilation series features classical music from a single master audio source on two formats: Blu-Spec CD2 and standard CD. Again, the Blu-Spec CD can be played on a standard CD player.
This is the 15th installment in a healing music compilation series that was launched in 2000. The CD features theme songs from NHK TV shows, tracks featured in commercials, and tracks from movie soundtracks—18 tracks in all on Blue-Spec CD2, which can be played on a standard CD player.
4.Jazz music compilations with high quality sound
This two-disc compilation features the same jazz standards on SHM-CD and standard CD to allow easy comparison of these formats. The selection and the balance are good, making this a great option for people just starting to get into jazz.
This two-disc compilation features jazz standards in high-resolution CD and standard CD formats.
14 jazz standards from Sony Music Entertainment’s Legacy Recordings label on Blu-Spec CD2 and standard CD.
This compilation features 100 jazz standards chosen from Universal Music Group labels across six HQCDs. Each disc has a theme: great standards, cinema, beautiful, modern, pop, and classical.
This compilation features 100 jazz piano standards across six HQCDs. Each disc has a theme: great standards, relax, cinema, romantic, midnight, and modern jazz.
5.Rock music compilations with high quality sound
This affordably-priced sampler series features classic rock tunes on both SHM-CD and standard CD. The first compilation features mostly songs from the 60s and 70s, while the second compilation features soul and blues music, and the third features a number of songs from the 80s. A great way to experience nostalgia with improved sound quality.
This two-disc set features 17 rock classics on both Blu-Spec CD2 and standard CD, ranging from 60s folk rock to 70s glam and 80s pop.
This two-disc set features rock and pop tunes on high-resolution CD and standard CD. The 10-track selection spans California pop, soul, and even new wave.
This two-disc compilation features 38 AOR tunes perfect for a summer drive and reliving memories of the surfing craze. One CD is themed “off shore", while the other is “on shore".
20 AOR classics from the 70s and 80s selected for how they evoke the Shonan coastal region. This is a great CD for a seaside drive.
In this article I wrote about a number of series of CD compilation albums—samplers that feature many classic recordings perfect for testing out your sound system. Next time, our columnist OCEAN will write about classical music and jazz music compilations.
GEAR & BUSINESS #005
Compilation Albums for Beginners - High-Fidelity CDs for Testing Audio Equipment (1)