Listening Level By Level
Number one by far: Too many instruments jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression, or too much smear, there will be too many elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space in the upper area of the midrange, causing congestion and a noticeable loss of clarity.
With the more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich; above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments comfortably, without having them sound like they are all piled up on top of one another as is so often the case.
With more space and less compression and smear the upper midrange does not sound overstuffed and overwhelmed with musical information.
Listening for Edgy Vocals
Number Two: edgy vocals, which is related to Number One above.
Almost all of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s recordings seem to have some edge to his vocals — the man really belts it out on his albums, it’s what he does — but the best copies keep the edge under control, without sounding compressed, dark, dull or smeary.