In search of truly audiophile recordings

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of doing most of the demos of the system below at Klangschloss 2023 for Neukomm and Stenheim. I have known the owners of both companies for a long time and I find their systems outstanding and have their equipment in my main system at home.

Source of image: MY-HiEND

Although I use a Rossini APEX with Clock as my main digital source at home, the system at Klangschloss used the Neukomm CDA126SE Preamp / DAC with a Melco frontend for digital playback. It is slightly more analytical than my Rossini, although with the APEX upgrade, the two DACs have moved closer. The speakers were Stenheim Alumine FIVE SE , Absolute Sound Product of the year winner 2022. Amping was biamped Neukomm P135S Monoblocks.
The acoustic panels for treatment of the room were installed by Igor Fiorini.

With a system of this quality, all of a sudden recording quality becomes the critical element. I was surprised that many recordings I had thought to be outstanding in the past, started showing their weaknesses. I has alway liked Francesco Piemontesi’s Mozart Piano concertos on Linn. On this system it became clear that the strings sound somewhat congested in the fortes and violins have a hard edge. The piano sounds beautiful.

Kertesz’ Dvorak ninth sounded great up to the entry of the tympani. The following fortes sounded compressed. I have yet to find a recording of a full orchestra where massed strings sound real and uncompressed. Obviously labels do not engineer their recordings for systems capable of very high dynamics. Average systems need to be able to reproduce is as well.

Prof. Johnson’s RR recordings with Eiji Oue fared better, but still showed some slight compression effects in forte passages. The best recordings to my ears were those by Jean-Claude Gaberel, a Lausanne based producer. Some of his recordings are issued by Claves. The Saint-Saens is available on Qobuz.

So I am looking for examples of outstanding recordings that are neither compressed nor distorted and I’d be grateful for some suggestions.
Thanks a lot


Arthur Haddy the great head of recording in Decca’s heyday instructed his engineers that the hierarchy of a good record are:

  1. Work
  2. Performance
  3. Recording

Nearly 60 years of record collecting has made me realise this is correct. Buy music ,not formats, not ( primarily) sound. To me a collection chosen only for great sound would be a collection played once on receipt and rarely after and then only to impress visitors ( though visitors are usually not audiophiles, will not be impressed and will not call again).

Unfortunately that means something is not what it should be, reminiscent of guys in the past saying " my turntable is so good it will only play Japanese pressings" :roll_eyes:


Thanks @PAR I completely agree with your quote by Arthur Haddy.
I should have explained better what I am after. I have absolutely no issue listening to “normal” recordings. I love historical recordings of great performances. This is the enjoyment side of the music hobby.
In my view, the best version of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ is Sviatoslav Richter’s 1958 at Sofia which is far removed from “high end”. Look to Sa Chen for an excellent recording. But the performance unfortunately remains uninvolving despite the virtuosity and the high dynamics.

However in my post I was talking about the reproduction dynamics side of things (sorry, English is not my mother tongue). Not every system is capable of reproducing a concert grand at live levels. The system I described is. Now I am looking for recordings that allow to demonstrate this capability. As most recordings are mastered with a view to give a “good” reproduction with an average system, they are likely to have reduced dynamics to accommodate average listening habits. If you are not listening at “live” levels, pianissimos will be drowned.

To put it differently, I am looking for showpieces to be used at live volume levels in a demo situation. Sa Chen would probably fit that purpose nicely, although it is by far not my preferred version of Pictures.

BTW here is a playlist I often use for demos and which I keep updating. Some of it is actually nice music too.

And who knows, there might be the rare unicorn that has both. That would be the one I am looking for.


Rudi, many of the original STS Digital discs are very very good. Also, Naim put out a CD transferred from analog recordings with apparently no compression or any other processing applied - “True Stereo” which is also quite good. In the early days of Sony/SACD they had some really brilliant discs, but I can’t recall any particular one what stood out.

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The new Stenheim will be announced in Munich these days, would love to put them on my speaker shortlist as well because they work great with Nagra It‘s impressive that they have a 90db/W efficiency!

IMHO Stenheim are an (almost) unknown jewel. I have moved from Piega Coax 90.2 to Stenheim Alumine THREE SE and not looked back. The clarity of the Stenheims is quite extraordinary. I am hoping the TWO.FIVEs will keep the sonic characteristics of the larger Alumine siblings.

Thanks, @Anupc
I will certainly look into STS. I see they have a Dvorak 9 (seems mixed with nature sounds) :thinking:
Any STS albums you would recommend for starters?

Definitely interesting but as this thread is all about recordings and not equipment perhaps someone may like to start a thread on what they see at Munich this weekend ( I think dCS may be majoring on Lina) ? Unfortunately I am no longer able ro attend.

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STS Digital had about 10 demonstration discs, mixed genre tracks on a combination of SACDs and normal redbook. IIRC, the First Edition (SACD) was pretty special, likewise the Second Edition (CD).

If you’re into Jazz, STS also had couple of live recordings; Carmen Gomez was excellent, likewise Lils Mackintosh (both SACDs), but both were, I believe, made specially to accompany new Kharma speakers, so you might have difficulty getting them.

You might also want to check out the demonstration discs from Opus3 Records - their Test discs were pretty good too.


Thanks for the suggestion @Anupc
I have written to STS to inquire about purchasing a few of their oeuvres.

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Ive been checking out your playlist on my system maybe 5-10 tracks a day. Ive found a few things that i think are quite good thanks.
Still Listening.


You should have a look to the SPIRIT OF TURTLE where you can find all types of music very well recorded. I am a little astonished that nobody here does not seem to know them.


Thanks, @PHC
I looked at the website and found that I indeed have the Schubert Symphonies 5, 6 and 9 by Jan-Willem de Vriend. Lovely Recordings.

thanks for sharing, some great discoveries!

Thanks again @PHC for the pointer to Spirit of Turtle. I have bought a few albums and they are indeed very good. I was not aware that these are Northstar Recordings by Bert van der Wolf. Great stuff

If I can help or share my very long experience. It still has many other sites for downloads and/or buying CD/SACD (or LP’s) like Octave Audiophile Masters from PS AUDIO, Linn Records, … and it would be interesting to have an exhaustive list (what you are looking for and I wonder if DSD Native does not hold one) but I find that for the classic and downloads, the Spirit of Turtle are more than well positioned : they combine technical and high artistic qualities especially when the download is all DSD (PCM is only FLAC in high dowloadings). For DSD downloads, if we use Mosaic we are limited to 128 and it’s a shame. If you use Roon and buy 256 in anticipation of possible evolutions of the Ring Dac, then Roon decimates it to 128k and it’s not terrible. Apart from the question of musical interpretation, the quality of audiophile listening depends so much on the recording itself and the signal-to-noise ratio.
When you bought a DCS product in France, you were given a demonstration cd/sacd of the spirit of turtle. It’s the reason why I know and appreciate them for a long time.

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The link provided by NATIVE DSD Database I talk about above, is as follows (you must have Excel) :

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