HD-AUDIO — 30 March 2014

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It’s snowing once again in Montreal as I wake up this morning. Here it is the second to last day of March and there are several inches of the light fluffy stuff on the ground…unbelievable! I grew up in Detroit and remember what the weather is supposed to be like at this time of the year. It’s supposed to be cool, sunny and brown…not white. The visitors to the Salon Son & Image Show are surprised at the persistence of winter and ready for a change. It’s weather like this that makes me glad I moved from Michigan to the left coast 40 years ago.

I was able to get my AIX Records tables moved from the nether regions of the lower level of the Hilton to an area where the traffic is quite good. The result was immediate. I demonstrated my albums using a custom 41-track sampler via a Benchmark DAC2 and the Smyth Realizer from an Oppo BDP-83. I take the older Oppo on the road because it’s lighter…I don’t need the 3D capabilities of the newer 95 or 105. I show the videos and explain my recording philosophy and finish by trying to get potential customers to purchase the sampler to try in their own systems. I fully expect that some of the attendees that took the disc home on Friday or Saturday will be back today to get the full product of things they like. We’ll see.

I gave a presentation called “2014: The Year of High-Resolution Audio” to a reasonable crowd yesterday afternoon. I talked about what is and what isn’t high-resolution and went on with examples of how a lot of music that is called HiRes actually isn’t. The group was engaged and most followed me back to the table to get a sampler. I was pleased that there were at least 6 younger people there…we need more people under 30 to show up to audio trade shows.

Flanking the AIX table on both side were a couple of cable companies. These weren’t the well know brands that sell power cords, speaker wire and interconnects for ridiculous amounts of money. They were instead “mom and pop” operations that have made arrangements with Chinese-based manufacturers to “clone” the look and feel of the expensive stuff. Both companies also had bins full of used vinyl LPs that were being picked through by vinylphiles. For $10 each, you could get vinyl LPs that some collector relinquished in a garage sale for $.25 a piece. I get a little tweaked when I see someone walk off with $300 worth of used vinyl but they won’t invest $20 in our high-resolution sampler.

But I have the hardest time when I visit the table, review the price charts and the SSI “Show Specials” and listen to the sales pitch on the range of power cords and duplex wall outlets. Let’s not talk about power cords, that’s a pretty well know subject summarized by “Just Say No!”.

The show special on electrical outlets was the item that caught my eye. You could get the “top of the line” outlet for only $185…marked down from $249! We’re talking about outlets that you can buy from Home Depot or your local hardware store for $1.25 (splurge and get the heavy duty hospital “isolated power” version for less than $5). But here they were going for almost $200…on sale! And the guy running the table had dozens of them in stock behind his stand. From what I could see he was doing a good business selling power cords and outlets in addition to power conditioners and multiple outlet power strips.

The sales pitch was as expected. This type of cable with the rubber bushings and triple spun wire will “tighten up the sound of the extreme low end” or “using the gold-plated brass outlet has a dramatic effect of the inner musical details of your system”. It’s amazing that customers stood there fully engaged and ready to plunk down big bucks for even the least expensive cables ($100).

I recognize that some places have unregulated or irregular power. A simple power regular ($500 maybe) will smooth out the current and put things right at 120 volts and 60 Hz. In my studio, I use the power that comes from the DWP in Los Angeles along with hospital grade isolated power outlets. There are no $1000 power cords or expensive “gold plated” outlets because they’re unnecessary. I don’t believe they contribute any improvement to the sound of an electrical component. More snake oil. I have to temper my opinion in this regards because I haven’t purchased an expensive outlet or power cord and done an A|B test. I’d be glad to set up an evaluation but I haven’t been able to get any cords or outlets to try. And I’m certainly not going to spend my cash for this stuff.

Maybe I went in to the wrong end of this business. I’m sure I could walk away with more plastic cash (the Canadian money is very cool with the holograms and slick feel!) if I started sell AIX cables.

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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.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. Mark–Keep up the good work– this hobby is full of marketing-driven fake science. The audio industry needs guys like you and Gene DellaSala to educate the less technically savvy consumers about the false claims and half truths that are made about products being sold to audio enthusiasts.

  2. More Power:
    Mark,
    The most powerful word in the English language is “Why?” When that person walked off with $300 of vinyl you might of asked them what guided their purchase.
    As regards power cables etc., I have some ‘high-end’ power cables that I am willing to loan for you to make some comparisons. You have my e-mail address and it would be easy for me to drop them off at your business.
    Let me know.
    Victor

    • I understand vinyl lovers and their attachment to the format. And at $10 per copy, they were moving quite well. But getting a simple Blu-ray player and taking home my $20 HD-Audio sampler or even just downloading the free files on the FTP site would provide much great fidelity.

      I’ll be in touch regarding the power cords…it would be a great test to A|B the output of my Benchmark or my Oppo player using the different cords.

  3. I think one of the most over looked thing regards cable is good hygiene. Keeping contacts clean, good old Brasso (cheap metal polish we have in the UK) works great and tight well-fitting contacts.

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