Recording, editing, "mastering" and presenting a commercial recording to the public is not a linear process. It is far more political than you´d imagine. The critical component is what must seem like an entirely technical process is not really equipment related at all. It´s the vision that the producer (who found the funding to make the recording) has in mind. After all, just like a oil painter, he´s starting out with a completely blank canvass. He could splatter some sonic paint on it across the left-right sound stage that leaps out and grabs your attention. Or he could use some soft, pastel shades to render his vision of a beautiful, natural landscape, as for example Turner did.
You can imagine that there are as many schools of recording production as there are styles of painting. There are no absolutes. Producers range in age from their early 20s to late 70s and obviously what an old man may find natural and involving and worth ruminating over a young man may instinctively reject as too dull and lifeless. What you hear is ultimately the vision that the producer has in mind, not the recording engineer (or even artist) who are under contract to him and he can and will override.
Every respected and experienced recording engineer will, at one time or another, have accepted a job, done his best to position the microphones in what he considers the best place for the most natural sound, optimally adjusted the levels to balance the performers just right, only to be crushed under the ego of the producer who has a different sonic vision - and the muscle to demand it.
I`d guess that not one producer in a hundred considers himself to be an ´audiophile`. This explains why as noted earlier some older recordings made on what is now laughably obsolete museum pieces can sound wonderful, but many - perhaps most? - modern recordings churned-out by young inexperienced producers reflect the personality of youth, and not the wisdom of old age. He who pays the bills calls the shots and this is never more true than in the recording industry.
I´ve given some clips to such older Brittain recordings on another thread.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK