I attended a meeting on Tuesday morning of the Audio Board of the Consumer Electronics Association. Thanks to Ray Kimber of Kimber Cables, I’ve been part of this group for about 5 years or so. The board is made up of representatives from consumer electronics companies, chip manufacturers and a few others. I believe that I’m the only board member that produces content…the raw materials that the others process and playback. As a result sometimes I’m the outsider of the group and other times it makes me special. The board has regular conference calls and one or twice a year we manage to get together in person. Tuesday’s board meeting provided an opportunity to meet face to face during the CEA Industry Forum. I didn’t have time to do the whole three days, but I’m glad that the Forum was in Los Angeles and that I had the time on Tuesday to attend.
Of the major items on the agenda was a presentation and discussion of the High-Resolution Audio initiative that the DEG (Digital Entertainment Group) and the CEA are planning for the 2014 CES Show. Marc Finer, a veteran of the consumer electronics industry and a friend, displayed his power point deck all about HRA. Yep, HRA is the name for the next generation of audio fidelity chosen by the DEG and others. Visitors to this web site might properly assume that I prefer HD-Audio. In fact, I have written about the naming and branding issue previously ().
Do you think HRA is the right moniker for the next level of audio fidelity? I would have preferred to stick with HD but my vote doesn’t really count for much in the face of the CEA, SONY and others. But a quick look around the web and one quickly realizes that there are lots of technology companies and websites that haven’t really gotten the message.
HDTracks, the biggest provider of so-called “high-resolution” music downloads uses a tag line that states, “The Ultimate Site for High-Res Music Downloads”, so they’ve got both “HD” and “high-resolution” covered at least in their branding. There are several new sites that lean towards the HRA branding. The new ProStudioMasters.com site refers to “high-resolution” audio throughout the site’s pages but it seems most of the content is standard definition having been recorded on analog tape. Acoustic Sounds new site, SuperHiRez.com skews things in another direction. They’re pitching HiRez files that come from older analog masters…and they spell resolution with a “z”.
DTS’s codec for Blu-ray discs is called “DTS-HD”, which is described as a high-resolution audio format. Intel’s Azalia program refers to the specification released by the company over a decade ago for delivering High-Definition Audio (I provided Intel 30,000 DVD-Audio discs for that effort). I still vote for HD-Audio.
I’ve been trying for years to get a reasonable definition of what is and what isn’t a high-resolution or high-definition audio file and practically speaking don’t see any chance of that happening in the new DEG and CEA initiatives. Whatever it is that we’re trying to market it will fall under the HRA umbrella. Consumers will have no additional information on the provenance, which master was used in the transfer to digital, whether the master was equalized or not and whether the digital version of the product they purchase for $20-30 or more has been subjected to some fancy algorithm that “improves” the fidelity of the music.
The new iTrax.com site will include all of this information. I’m working very hard to secure new label relationships that will expand our catalog. My plan is to include standard definition recordings AND to clearly identify them for what they are. Stand by.
When the meeting was over, Leslie Ann Jones (a prominent audio engineer, leader in the NARAS Producers and Director of Music Recording and Scoring at Skywalker Sound) came over to me. It’s been a while since we’ve chatted but we had good conversation about some of these issues. We’ve been friends for a very long time and I look forward to pushing an agenda of my own that might…just might…result in some clarity in the messaging of HRA. Time will tell.