The curse of the Demo Disc…

If, on the other hand, you want a system that is going to dig music out of the grooves and pits etched on the surface of as many discs as possible, irrespective of their recording quality, then your approach and very likely your ultimate equipment choices will be different. For the listener who demands maximum musical access from their system, that’s where the curse of the demo disc really bites hard. There’s no point in selecting equipment on the basis of ‘Tears In Heaven’ (from the Clapton Unplugged album) if what you really get off on is the Buzzcocks – played LOUD. It’s not that you shouldn’t base your system choices on two or three records: the more records or discs you use, the more confusing it risks becoming. It’s just that those three records should be YOUR three records. I can show you what different pieces of equipment contribute to a system. But it’s your records, the ones you have chosen or arrived at over the years, the ones that matter to you, that will tell you whether those differences push your musical buttons. And, just like those records, that’s what really matters.

You might think that the curse of the Demo Disc only applies to people working in audio stores or those visiting audio shows who hear the same track repeated in room after room… after room… Now think of that salesman in a busy store. Like I said, he gets to hear the same thirty seconds to a minute of the same track off the same album, ten or twenty times a day, week in week out. Believe me – it happens, or at least it used to! But the curse of the Demo Disc can afflict customers too – just in a different and more insidious way.

Having said that, this cloud does have a silver lining. The other day, I actually played the first Tracy Chapman album. It’s probably the first time I’ve listened to it since the year of its release (1988) – when ‘Fast Car’ got forced down my ear canals with almost metronomic regularity. That’s how long it takes for the scars to fade. But you know what, it really is a great album. Great music, beautifully and sensitively recorded. If you don’t have it already, you probably should. And that goes for all those other demo discs too. As long as the music appeals, they’re nearly all records worth having, capable of delivering real  musical pleasure. You just need to remember that great sound doesn’t equate to the most revealing recording – or the one that’s most representative of your listening or your wider collection. So don’t build them up into something they aren’t, simply because a bunch of other people made that mistake. Personally I’d definitely draw the line at Nils Lofgren, Eric Clapton and the Eagles, but that’s me. Hell Freezes Over – they got that right!