We have seen a lot of CD Audio with “Audiophile Recording” logo. What does it mean? Well, this short article will explain it to you.

First, let’s check what does “Audiophile” term refer to.

Audiophile (literally, “one who loves sound”) is one who is concerned with achieving high-quality results in the recording and playback of music. Audiophile values may be applied at all stages of the chain: the initial audio recording, the production process, and the playback (usually in a home setting). The adjective “high-end” is commonly applied to audiophile vendors, products, and practices.

The Problem Behind Recording Process
It’s simply not easy to create a perfect recording. It takes too much processes.

  • The room/studio used for taking the music should be perfect.
  • The microphone used to pick up the sound should be perfect.
  • The cables and mixers used to connect between devices should be perfect.
  • The Analog-to-Device (A/D) device should be perfect.
  • The sound card or sound processor should be perfect.
  • The Digital-to-Analog (D/A) and speakers used for monitoring should be perfect.
  • The process to create the glass master CD should be perfect to.
  • Finally, the duplication process should be perfect to.

For the sake of simplicity, it’s very impossible to have such perfect things in recording.

Should We Care About “Audiophile” Logo?
Absolutely NOT. A good recording usually don’t put any logo on their CD. Good CD is a Good CD, with or without any logo.

Sadly, a lot of publisher put that “Audiophile” to increase their bargaining power (increase their price and to attract potential buyers). I believe not all of the buyers know what is a good recording. So, a lot of them use this “Audiophile” logo as a mark for good quality recording (and expect “audiophile wanna be” buyers to buy that CDs).

Another gimmick: 24 bit/192 kHz text/logo
Another logo that’s quite popular is the “24 bit 192 kHz” statement. I just want to tell you that there’s no CD is this world with 24 bit and 192 kHz capability. All the CD Audio in this world is encoded on 16 bit 44.1 kHz (exception is for HDCD which is 20 bit 44.1 kHz, but you need special HDCD player to read the full 20 bit, otherwise on typical CD Player, you will be able to listen 16 bit part only).

Actually, the publisher doesn’t fool you. Usually they type “24 bit/192 kHz mastering” (some of them remove the “mastering” word). Read carefully the bolded text. The 24 bit / 192 kHz is for mastering only, which is somehow doesn’t show actual performance on the final result. So, bigger isn’t always better. If treated carefully, lower bit/sample rate could perform better than higher bit/sample rate.

So, How to Pick Up a Good Reference CD?
Listening is believing. There’s no better option than this way. If you don’t understand how to pick/test a CD, then ask your friend (a well known “real” audiophile or the one that knows music well) to accompany you. Or perhaps you can join forum/mailing list and throw a discussion about good reference CD.

Be careful because not all seller uses good equipment to play the CD. So your result may vary. Take as many information as you can get from your colleagues, forum, mailing list, or everything before buying a CD.

From my experience, a good CD usually comes (but not always) from “old” and not too popular publisher (I will not discuss the name). And usually the music is not very common (some like folk song, classic, instruments, etc).

Hard to Find Popular Music with Excellent Recording :(. Why?
Very easy to answer it. Most of people prefer thump bass and crispy treble. This is very common taste, especially in Asia. So, if you create a flat “audiophile grade” recording, most people will not enjoy it. They will consider this type of recording is bad (to dull, etc). A sales person only cares about number (quantity) not quality. So he/she will do anything to increase the sales. Popular music should have popular character to (thump bass and crispy treble). So, they ask the engineer to boost the recording at low and high region. Most people enjoy it (both the music and the character). So the problem solved!

On the other side, a perfectionist will consider highest quality recording. They prefer quality over quantity. So everything should be treated perfectly. And a perfect recording may not suitable for common people. Only audiophile knows about this. This is very small and segmented market. So, it’s hard for us the find popular music with excellent recording. Because most popular artists will prefer their music to be encoded in common taste for most people, not for a small segmented audiophile.

Not all Audio CD with “Audiophile” or “24/192” logo is bad. But, I’ve bought a lot CD with this logo and sounds bad though the music itself is good (too many correction especially in low and high region, the idea is to give extra thump bass and crisp treble). But, some of them are not well corrected (maybe the sound engineer didn’t do it well or he/she was having problem to detect the clipping on the monitored track). Over-boosted is very common to be found and clipping is the result. Usually (in my country), you can’t return the CD once you have bought it. So, better check it well before you pay. I have bad experience with it. I bought a CD from a famous publisher and one of their track is clipping very hard (totally damage, no one could enjoy this track except a deaf).

Again, listening is believing. There’s no warranty to get a perfect CD, even if the CD is released from a famous publisher. Listen the CD carefully, especially on you favourite track or you shall regret it later.