Dr. AIX's POSTS — 14 December 2013

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The marketing push for High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray is in top gear as I discovered the other day on Amazon. I wrote about the complete lack of integrity regarding these poor attempts to wrest more money from unsuspecting audiophiles by using overzealous and uninformed messaging. In addition to the normal enlargements of the front and back of the packaging at Amazon, they’ve included a promotional video all about “Blu ray Audio” (nice that Amazon can’t even get the name of the format correct…it’s Blu-ray WITH the hyphen).

You can check it out yourself by linking over to the video here Amazon Blu Ray Audio Promotional Video. As someone that has produced many of these short promotional video segments, I can attest to the quality of the production. But one of the first steps that every promo spot needs is an accurate script.

My sense is that the people behind the spot (probably some ad agency) have not clue what they’re talking about. Or perhaps they do and are well aware of the inaccuracies that they are spewing.

Here’s a blow-by-blow analysis of the spot:

I’ve transcribed the on screen animated text that drives the 1:17 piece.

Just imagine
Every music lover’s dream
To hear music as it sounded…at the moment of creation
Now it is possible with high fidelity pure audio
Straight from the studio to your home
A dynamic of 144 decibels
HD and non-compressed format
24 bit material
With a sampling rate between 96 and 192 kHz
All on a high capacity Blu-ray disc
Just play it through your Blu-ray player or PS3 and listen…really listen
No compression
No video
No compromise
High Fidelity Pure Audio

The segment has no narration…it’s a series of musical selections with videos fading in and fading out as the text above (in all caps) appears on screen. There’s classical music, solo guitar and a short piece featuring Stevie Wonder.

What they would have us believe is that an older album (regardless of genre or format) can be completely transformed into “Ultra High Quality Audio” by simply dumping that older master into a high-resolution bucket. If this transformative model of quality enhancement were imagined in a different medium such as video, all we’d have to do is transfer a standard definition video from 70 years ago into an Ultra HD-Video copy and the result would be just like having shot the scenes using a brand new 4K RED camera. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

hfpa_slide

Figure 1 – A screen grab from the promo video.

Here’s a little explanation and “myth busting” regards the script.

“Straight from the studio to your home” – Recording engineers and producers go through a lot of intervening steps to capture music and make it available to you. Even if I simply put a stereo pair of microphones and captured a live performance, “every music lover’s dream” would have to wait until it was edited, mastered and replicated until it was available for distribution.

“A dynamic of 144 decibels” – I’m not even sure what this means? Someone cracked open Wikipedia and did the calculation of 24-bits into the roughly equivalent potential dynamic of these longer words. But hold on a second. None, I mean absolutely none of the recordings available on Blu-ray (and I include my own albums…which have as much dynamic range as a live performance) come close to this potential number. I would guesstimate that the Rolling Stones or Derek and Dominoes High Fidelity Pure Audio releases have less than 10 dB SNR. This is another case of pushing large numbers at customers without explaining what they mean.

“24 bit material” – The source recordings used in the production of these new HFPA discs are decidedly NOT 24-bit material. See the explanation above…this number is the word length of the format NOT the sources!

To be continued…

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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.

(3) Readers Comments

  1. Amazon is hopeless when it comes to Bly-ray specs: the Elvis Costello series “Spectacle” is described like this:

    Format: AC-3, Blu-ray, Color, Dolby, Extra tracks, NTSC
    and
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

    If you believe Amazon, it was equivalent to a “fullscreen” 4:3 aspect ratio standard definition video DVD with a lossy soundtrack but burned to a Blu-ray disk.

    No it’s not – I’ve watched a few episodes and it’s a crystal-clear 1080 16:9 Blu-ray with an excellent 5.1 48 Khz DTS HD Maaster Audio soundtrack.

    About the only true words in the quote from Amazon above are “Blu-ray” “Color” and “Extra tracks.”

    Pay no attention to that salesman behind the curtain! If you want to know the specs of a Blu-ray, go to CinemaSquid.com, where the real specs – including video bitrates are posted, as tested – with a tool provided by the site – by hobbyists.

    • PS CinemaSquid posts the specifications of the data streams on the disk – but its tools can’t tell what the source was before being put into that container, so it won’t tell you whether the sound originated digitally or from analog,

      • Here’s what CinemaSquid says about that same disk:

        MPEG-4 AVC 1080i 29.97 fps 16:9 (1.78:1)
        DTS-HD Master 5.1 Surround 48Khz
        DTS 5.1 Surround Core
        Dolby Digital 2.0 48Khz

        So, yes, it does contain a lossy Dolby Digital stereo track for backward compatibility with very old receivers that can’t even handle legacy DTS tracks, but to only list that is insane.

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