Robert Brook Discusses His Evolving Understanding of Bass

More from Robert Brook

One of our good customers has a blog which he calls


Below you will find a link to Robert’s story about the famous Charlie Mingus record you see pictured.

He had a number of different pressings, each of which showed him some qualities that the others lacked. Ultimately you have to pick one to play, and he did.

“GETTING” BASS with Charles Mingus’ BLUES & ROOTS

Robert went from a $20,000 speaker with one eight inch woofer to the Legacy III’s, a speaker costing less than half as much, with three ten inch woofers, to the Legacy Focus, a speaker quite a bit less than $20k, with three twelve inch woofers.

Robert learned something about his Parsifals by playing a speaker that could do so much more down low:

But I’ve learned since that, for all their strengths, the Parsifal had at least one fatal flaw – they made just about every record sound good.


Making every record sound good is, it turns out, not a good quality to have in a speaker, nor in any other piece of equipment you use. At least it’s not if you want the best possible sound from your analog system.

And summing it all up this way:

The short explanation for why this is, is that if your speakers make nearly every record sound good, then they’ll likely make very few of them sound great and almost none of them sound incredible. The Parsifal were always a pleasure to listen to, but, as I was to discover, they sometimes relied too heavily on not showing me what I was missing. That is, they were rather a good pair of  speakers that were also rather good at hiding the flaws of the records they played.

We having been banging on a similar drum for a very long time, perhaps as many as forty years by now. Much of the equipment audiophiles own is good at making the average pressing they find on the shelf enjoyable to play. These systems allow their owners to keep their record collections intact no matter how many mediocre or substandard pressings they contain.

Good enough is the standard. Their stereos create a floor below which only the worst records can fall. But Robert now sees that these same systems create a ceiling that holds back their best records and keeps them from breaking through. If you want to be thrilled by your best records, you need a system very different from the ones many audiophiles own.

If you want to break through, you need big speakers, and you need to be able to turn them up.

Furthermore, you need playback accuracy to show you the faults of your bad records and the strengths of your better ones, strengths and faults you are not even aware of until your system becomes revealing enough to show them to you.

Unless you are very serious about collecting truly high quality pressings, you don’t want a stereo like ours or like Robert’s. The average record, on both or our systems, is more often than not a bore, and sometimes a positively painful one. Revealing just how good a good record can be, on the other hand, is often an absolutely glorious experience, one Robert himself has written about.

Robert and I (as well as many of my customers) have taken their systems in the direction of more revealing, because when you have exceptionally good records, more revealing is what you want. Good records want to show you just how amazing they can sound. If you want to experience an amazing recording, only the most revealing stereos will let you do that.

Judging Bass

We discussed how some audiophiles judge (or misjudge) bass in their systems in a commentary for Rickie Lee Jones’ first album.

Recently we created a game centered on Led Zeppelin II, in which contestants would compare the Robert Ludwig originals to the Jimmy Page-approved remaster (a record we give away for free with every early pressing we sell).

The bass on those two pressings could not be more different. If you want to compare them for yourself, we would love to know what you think the differences are.

There are a great many records we’ve auditioned over the years that are good for testing bass, and these are some of the best we’ve found:

If you would like to own some records with exceptionally good bass, we have those too:

More on Robert’s system here. You may notice that it has a lot in common with the one we use. This is definitely not an accident.

And it is also no accident that these two systems just happen to be very good at showing their owners the manifold shortcomings of the modern remastered LP, as well as the benefits to be gained by doing shootouts in order to find dramatically better sounding pressings to play.