HD-AUDIO — 09 January 2014

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So much to talk about and so little time…and where to start? Yesterday was a very full day here in Las Vegas at the CES show. My wife have a regular habit of having breakfast at the Blueberry Hill pancake place on Flamingo whenever we get to Vegas (which is not often) and yesterday started with way too much carbohydrates in the form of a “short stack” of their blueberry pancakes. It’s definitely worth a visit but split an order or you’ll be hauling around the pancakes most of the morning.

Then it was on to a meeting organized by the CEA and NARAS to talk about the next steps in getting more consumer companies on board with the HRA initiative and to discuss some of the basic issues surrounding this market. I’ll come back to this meeting but I felt it was productive and the at least appears to be going in the right direction. One of the most important items, the definition of what constitutes high-resolution audio was sketched out by Leslie Ann Jones of Lucas Film Post Production as being a delivery container of at least 88.2 kHz sampling rate and 24-bit words (for PCM encoded audio). Of course, I piped up about the whole provenance thing and that’s where things got more interesting…and challenging…but at least it was a start. More on this later.

Fast forward to the evening and the annual Monster CES party. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to attend this party pretty much every year that I’ve come to this big consumer electronics show. They take over a huge ballroom, set up a major stage show and book a major music act to come and perform for their dealers and friends. They’ve had Rod Stewart, Alicia Keys, CSN, George Benson and last night features Fleetwood Mac. I’m a fan and was very much looking forward to enjoying a set by the four-person group (Christie McVie doesn’t travel out of the UK, so she wasn’t there).

In the early days of DVD-Audio, I collaborated with Ken Callait and Leo Rossi on some mutual projects and had a chance to meet tow of the members of the band…Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham. I was in a studio on the west side of LA while we demoed surround versions of “The Chain” for some officials from WB. It had the chance to hear some of the multitracks and was amazed at how many subtle elements aren’t heard in the two-channel stereo mix. There’s a harmonium that we mixed to the rear speakers that you’ve never heard in one of the tracks.

Surround mixes have the potential to deliver so much more information to listeners because you have so many more places to pan the various parts of the song.

The concert was staged at the Paris Hotel. We were a group of five and got there after all of the sales awards had been presented by the head Monster, Noel Lee. We were fortunate to have “gold” tickets, which meant we could get right in but by the time we got there, it was standing room only. I like to be as close to the sound mixing (Front of House or FOH) position so that I can get the best audio. There weren’t any places left to sit so we decided to stand about 20 feet in front of the elevated mixing position.

The sound was horrendous. In spite of the huge stereo array of speakers and impressive amplification system, the sound was absolutely horrible. It was distorted. It was pumping out so much low end that the rest of the spectrum was almost inaudible. The mix had the backing vocals or Lindsey’s harmony parts covering up Stevie’s lead vocals. It was a harsh, assault on the entire audience. Unbelievably bad in every way you could imagine.

In no way would you want to capture this experience and “enjoy” it at home. Got to run my wife to the airport this morning and then it’s on the show.

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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.

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