Dr. AIX's POSTS — 13 December 2013

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When you visit a digital music retailer (DMR), you always have the ability to audition a short sample of the music. The reason is simple. The provider of the content wants you to be able to hear the tunes to make sure that you like the tracks. That’s certainly true for albums, arrangements or artists that you don’t know, but do you really need to audition “Layla” or Honky Tonk Women” again? Probably not. If you’re considering a high-resolution download of a classic album, what you’re really interested in is the sound quality, right?

The samples on iTunes and most other DMR sites are streamed in MP3 or org vorbis at a relatively low bitrate. As I mentioned above, they are not meant to be high fidelity.

But if your primary concern is whether the purchase under consideration is up to snuff sonically, you might prefer to get a small taste of the real deal. Imagine going to a culinary extravaganza or wine tasting event and being offered food and wine that isn’t the same quality as the item following your purchase. It’s kinda hard to detect the subtle tastes and aromas in the food or wine without getting the real thing. I’m not an expert on wine but I’ve been part of a wine tasting trip and they always give you a small taste of the actual type and vintage that they want you to purchase.

Why not do the same things with high-resolution audio? This is just one of the innovations that iTrax.com will be introducing in the coming year. Visitors to the site will be able to quickly audition tracks in the MP3 or Org Vorbis formats to get familiar with the tracks. But they will also be able to download short samples in real high-resolution. You can listen to those 96 kHz/24-bit files (that standard should be enough to hear the real sonics of the tracks) through your best DAC or music server. You might also be interested in doing a little analysis (perhaps a spectral analysis…although the new site will have that already done) on the files.

I want you to know everything that I know about the files that you will be purchasing. The goal is to have 100% satisfied customers. I get way to many emails and phone calls from customers of other high-resolution digital music sites lamenting the quality of the music they’ve purchased. Sometimes it’s because the sources were bad or wrong but sometimes it’s just a case of buyer beware. I’m thinking that if you get all of the information that you want including: which master source was transferred to digital, how and with what equipment the transfer was done, what the spectra looks like, the dynamic range of the tracks, any processing that was applied along the way and a chance to pre-taste the high-resolution before purchasing.

If someone then spends their money, gets the tunes on their system and then wants to complain about the product, I’m thinking they don’t have much of a case (unless there’s a technical problem).

I’m still working on the interface for the new iTrax.com. I’ll share it soon…

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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.

(2) Readers Comments

  1. It sounds like the new iTrax site will be the digital-download analog of what T-Mobile has done in the wireless phone business. When T-Mobile became the Uncarrier, offered it customers unparalleled transparency, anytime upgrades, global calling at domestic rates, and free data for life with the purchase of a tablet device. And T-Mobile exposed the truth behind the pricing and control to which other carriers subject their customers.

    iTrax will be wildly successful for the same reason the Uncarrier is successful: Give the customer what they want and be honest about it. It sounds like the new iTrax site will make it super easy to be sure you get your money’s worth and get the most out of your investment in an Oppo or other high-resolution-capable device.

    If the competition follows suite, it will be a huge win for the customer.

    Welcome to the Unretailer of hi-res downloads!

  2. Mark,
    I think that the idea of providing samples in the actual quality of the tracks is absolutely brilliant and very customer-friendly! This is in fact exactly what I’d like to find out about an album I already own in a supposedly inferior quality on CD before shelling out my hard-earned money for the same thing again. Usually, before I purchase some alleged HD download I try to find soemthing about it’s quality on the web (there are a few forums where things like this are discussed), but I don’t always find useful information there.

    I know that you don’t have to “fear” any loss of business for your own productions because I know the quality standards you have. I’m not sure, however, if the big music companies (like Sony, Warner, etc.) would really like to see a site reselling their “HD” remasters of catalog titles expose them as merely “old wine in new bottles”.

    I am very curious to see if your idea will get adopted by any other download site…

    Best regards,
    Oliver

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