Dr. AIX's POSTS — 01 July 2013

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I’m feeling somewhat vindicated today…or actually I felt vindicated a couple of weeks ago when I read a daily post by Paul McGowan, the CEO of PS Audio entitled, “Vinyl on the big system”. I think the title of today’s post gives away the punch line, but I wanted to go back a little and provide a little background.

The August 2008 issue of The Absolute Sound (TAS 183) had an interview with Paul as the “Back Page” feature. Each month, writer Neil Gader selects a prominent person in the audio area and asks that person 10 questions about their background, thoughts on analog, digital, vinyl etc. (I was recently the subject of Neil’s Back Page questioning).

In issue 183, near the end of the interview Neil asked if vinyl was still the reference for audio fidelity. Paul answered, “Absolutely, I think digital struggles to come up to the standards that are easily attained by vinyl.” As you might expect, I disagreed with that statement then and I still do. Vinyl LPs might sound terrific but they cannot provide the same level of actual fidelity of a newer HD-Audio PCM digital recording…by a long shot. Apparently, Paul now agrees.

Absolutely, I think digital struggles to come up to the standards that are easily attained by vinyl.

Here’s a generous quote from his post of June 19, 2013:

On the other side I also have a Patricia Barber vinyl pressing of Modern Cool and have acquired a high resolution copy of the same (don’t ask me where). Now the tables are turned. The vinyl sounds great, full and round, great presence, but when compared to the high-resolution copy played through the PWT and PWD combination there’s just no comparison. The high-resolution version clearly demonstrates the restricted dynamics, frequency response of the vinyl – and now, for the first time, I can clearly hear just how superior the high rez copy is. No one would miss this hearing it on the big system. No one.

My favorite track so far is from Reference Recordings HRX series. The Tempest, track 8, where obviously the waves are getting pretty wild. Mastered directly off the master digital recording at 176kHz/24 bits and played on the PWT Memory Player, the sound is breathtaking beyond words. It leaves anything I’ve heard on vinyl in the dirt. Wall to wall imaging – no, actually the sound field goes beyond the walls of the music room – and the depth goes out into the parking lot. You’re enveloped in the music in a way that is just uncanny and just when you think it can’t get any louder, the dynamics wash over you and you have to just grin. Imagine a system without any dynamic restrictions whatsoever, finally showing off what’s truly in the music.

Sorry, I don’t mean to squash any cherished emotional ties to vinyl – and please don’t shoot the messenger I am just reporting what I hear – but there’s no question in my mind that on the right recordings with the right equipment, high-resolution digital just stomps anything on vinyl.

…there’s no question in my mind that on the right recordings with the right equipment, high-resolution digital just stomps anything on vinyl.

Wow! That was my reaction after reading this. How does a seasoned professional with many years of experience go from the position expressed in the 2008 TAS interview to the post from two weeks ago? This is quite a change of opinion and my hat is off to Paul for having the fortitude to express in such strong words his change of heart.

It’s not like “high-resolution” digital suddenly just emerged a few weeks back. My company AIX Records, 2L and others have been doing this since 2000! Maybe he simply hadn’t been exposed to the right recordings? Or perhaps there were other factors involved. I should write him and see if I can learn more about his conversion.

I’ve always maintained that once you hear the real deal, you’ll know. The epiphany moment happened for Paul just recently but I believe it will happen for everyone sooner or later. I’m not asking anyone to abandon his or her valued LPs or analog tapes in favor of an inexpensive Oppo universal player. What I would like to see is an acknowledgement that there is “audio” life beyond the “analog” world and it is capable of “showing off what’s truly in the music”. Thanks Paul and welcome to the high-definition future!

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About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. It didn’t take HD digital to put vinyl to bed. CD audio has always been superior. To claim in 2008 that vinyl was still the reference standard was not the wisest thing Paul ever said.

    Here is a better informed opinion: http://repforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,35453.msg526060.html#msg526060

    cheers

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