For this installment of 360°Sound’s CD Junkies series, we caught up with CD collector and progressive rock enthusiast Everett Painter. The 49-year-old resides in Erie, Pennsylvania with his wife and three children. An assistant professor of counseling at Edinboro University, Painter has been collecting CDs for more than 30 years and has about 4,300 titles in his collection.
What do you love about CDs?
Three main things. First is the form factor. I am primarily interested in physical media. There is something therapeutic about curating a large collection. The compact disc allows for this in a fraction of the space compared to vinyl, while still retaining valuable attributes such as artwork and liner notes and the overall tactile experience of interacting with the music. Second is sound quality. A good digital recording on the right equipment can exceed the sonic quality of vinyl. And third is durability.
I was in high school in the late ‘80s, at the height of the hair bands. I loved that stuff and still do. But the hard edge of the music is what set the stage for what I enjoy. In college, I discovered a band called Dream Theater. Their music, along with the album Images and Words, became a real game-changer. The heaviness of Metallica mixed with the 1970s prog of Rush, Kansas and Yes, technical ability, shifting time and key signatures, long-form compositions, and soaring vocal delivery and melodies formed a brand of prog that has been emulated and built upon for 30 years now.
Steven Wilson is my other favorite and one of the prolific artists of our time. His music has been delivered to us through multiple vehicles, my personal favorite being Porcupine Tree. The thing I love about Wilson is his range. He never stands still, following his own purpose, while constantly defying expectations.
Outside of those big two, it’s hard to pick as I listen to so much music. I’m definitely into heavier stuff and progressive rock and metal are clearly my favorites. But listening to that music has led to the discovery of multiple artists across multiple genres. I used to be stuck on genre. Now, my entire collection is intentionally cataloged alphabetically by artist. At this point, I guess you would say I’m a music fan, not a genre fan. If I had to pick, some other favorites include Rush, Pink Floyd, Hans Zimmer, Periphery, and Marillion.
Many of our readers are likely familiar with the prog classics, such as King Crimson’s In The Court of the Crimson King and Yes’s Fragile. What are some great lesser-known prog albums you’d recommend grabbing on CD?
Wow. The possibilities here are endless.
Änglagård – Hybris
Dead Letter Circus – This is the Warning
Enchant – Blueprint of the World
Evergrey – In Search of Truth
Frost* – Milliontown
The Gathering – Mandylion
Gazpacho – Demon
Karnivool – Sound Awake
Leprous – Coal
Long Distance Calling – Trips
Poverty’s No Crime – Slave to the Mind
Pure Reason Revolution – The Dark Third
Redemption – The Fullness of Time
Superior – Younique
Thank You Scientist – Stranger Heads Prevail
Wobbler – Hinterland
Do you collect the Steven Wilson remasters? If so, what are your thoughts on the sonics of those?
Yes! They are excellent. I have all of the 40th anniversary King Crimson albums. They are among the first he did, but I think they remain the crowning achievement relative to his remixing work. The Yes albums are also great. His remaster of Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4 was just released. The thing I appreciate about his remixes is the emphasis on remaining faithful to the original work. He focuses primarily on cleaning up the sound. The albums are as you remember; they just simply sound better. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a good deal of remixing/remastering efforts.
You describe yourself as a “hi-fi enthusiast.” What’s your setup like? And what’s some gear you recommend for someone new to hi-fi and not looking to spend a fortune?
I guess I like that term more than audiophile. The word “audiophile” conjures up all sorts of associations, many of them negative. Being an audio enthusiast shouldn’t be about throwing money at equipment. At the end of the day, it should define someone who loves music and cares about pursuing the best sound reproduction in order to increase their enjoyment of it.
My listening setup is actually headphone-based. This started out of necessity (space) many years ago but has become my preferred way to listen. While they obviously don’t move air like large speakers, good headphones can sound fantastic and allow for system “tuning.” I don’t use a graphic equalizer. But I can use different headphones in order to deal with various recording issues or overall tone preferences.
My stereo rack consists of a Rotel RCD-1572 cd player, Oppo UDP-203 universal disc player, Oppo HA-1 headphone amp, and Woo Audio WA6-SE tube headphone amp (two very different amps for different listening purposes). This is all connected to a Furman power conditioner.
It is not necessary to spend a fortune to get good sound. If you are just getting started, use your computer as a source, grab a pair of entry-level Grado headphones, get a desktop amp from Schiit, and pick up a decent DAC. For under $500, you will get sound that will blow you away.
You also collect digital-only high-res downloads. Did you get those because they are not available on CD? Or is there an added benefit of owning those instead of the CD, such as superior sound?
Yes. You could say I have a hybrid collection. It started in part from convenience. I rip all my CDs to a lossless format and store them on a 6tb hard drive. This is connected to the Oppo player that also has network capabilities. This setup led to checking out hi-res formats. The reasons depend. It may be because it is no longer available on a physical format. Maybe it is exclusive content. Or maybe it’s just simple curiosity.
The question of superior sound is a very debatable one. The reality is some of the frequencies provided by hi-res files lie outside the range of human hearing. Frequency range benefit is even more questionable for those in my age range. Yet, there are some hi-res recordings that I find clearly better compared to the CD. I do think in many cases this has to do with different mastering rather than higher bitrate, however. A well-produced digital recording with dynamics (not brick-walled) trumps higher bitrate. Make no mistake though, physical formats will always be my preference.
Are you continuing to add to the CD collection? What’s at the top of your want list?
Absolutely. I’m not interested in music as background. I am a very active listener and am always interested in exploring new music and finding recordings that produce goosebumps. I don’t add just anything to the collection. It has to be of interest in some way.
I’m always looking for Dream Theater promotional and Japanese-version discs I don’t have. I’m a big fan of the Steven Wilson deluxe editions. I’m also a fan of the newer artbook format. These are vinyl-size packages that include extended book content and multiple discs. At the top of the want list currently – the James Newton Howard score for the film Falling Down and The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations 5CD version.
Stay tuned to 360°Sound for more CD Junkies from around the world.