After years of listening to classical music, I finally have to admit that I really don't enjoy "old" recordings. Even when the interpetation is "superior" and the playing inspired, the sound quality usually puts me off to such an extent that I prefer to stick to a more contemporary recording - even if it is inferior, from a performance point of view. I don't mean that I will dump a 1950s Wilhelm Kempff Beethoven recording for a recent Lang Lang - I think I'd rather listen to static than that - but I would take many others in his place, if only because the actual recording is so much better. A tinny sound in a shallow acoustic is alright from time to time, but generally speaking I like to hear a piano sound like a piano. That's half the pleasure, isn't it?
Old? Let's say anything before 1970. But that's really up to the individual listener.
I am tempted to say that this must be the same for everyone else, but when I read through critical recommendations I begin to wonder if it really is. For many critics, it clearly isn't. Not only do they have no problem in recommending old recordings over new ones, they also have an irritating habit of over-praising the sound quality of the recordings. The Gramophone Guide is full of comments about this or that transfer being given a wonderful bloom, or tremendous clarity and so on. And when you actually listen to these wonderful recordings, you think, yes, just as I thought: an old recording with all the usual deficiencies of an old recording. Is that, I wonder, because so many of these critics grew up with the "old" recordings and learned to love them before they became sonically obsolete? Some of these recommendations, by the way, are from the 1930s.........hiss, crackle, twang.
In addition, performance styles have changed so markedly over the years that it is often hard to really like something from a different era even if you discount the sound problems. (Think of Big Band Mozart, or the different kinds of voices you used to find in opera.......)
So my question is this: to what extent are you affected by the poor sound quality of "old" recordings? Does it really bother you or do you find it easy to overlook?