AUDIO SHOWS Dr. AIX's POSTS — 01 June 2014

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There’s definitely a different type of attendee that comes to an audio trade show on a weekday than the Saturday type. It might have something to do with the fact the Friday’s attendees either take the day off of work or are retired. But I found myself doing a lot more talking on Friday about high-resolution audio than selling. I talked to other vendors, press folks, advocates for this format or that format and one of the biggest names in analog tape. It’s nice to talk but some folks occupy a little bit too much table time.

However, yesterday was different. First, there were a lot more women. And I don’t just mean ladies that are there because their husbands or boyfriends are audiophiles. They were there to explore new equipment, hear high-resolution audio recordings and get information on all things audiophile. A few women that came by and asked very direct questions particularly impressed me. They were very well informed but still looking to learn more.

From the opening bell until close, the Irvine II room was buzzing with attendees. It’s really hard to find time to get a break because you feel like you might miss a sale or a good moment with a press person. My friend Todd of MA Recordings never leaves his booth. He eats his meals while selling and demoing. He also has a couple of bottles of wine tucked away in his booth…and they weren’t there for later.

Early yesterday morning, I transferred a couple high-resolution tracks from 60 of my older recordings to my new HTC One M8 Harman Kardon edition Smartphone. I’ve been playing with the amazing piece of equipment for a couple of weeks but have only recently gotten serious about it. I’ve seen the ad campaign for the new device and heard the radio spot for the “Clarify” technology on my drive home from the show last night (which went great for 50 miles…and then I got caught on PCH for an hour inching around an accident…oh well).

This new phone is amazing…and not for the Clarify lossy compression restoration algorithm, which I will investigate later. It’s amazing because it sounds so good. I pulled the HTC HK edition phone out all day yesterday, fired it up and let people listen to any tracks they wanted from any album. They just stood there holding this small phone in their hand and listened…and their jaws dropped!

One the other end of the table I have the Oppo BDP-95, the new HA-1, a Benchmark DAC2 HGC and a couple of pairs of PM-1 headphones but the HTC phone and a set of Sennheiser phones certainly held it own. Once I got my tracks loaded onto the M8, things took a definite turn for the better. The files that were pre-loaded on the M8 lacked dynamics, were somewhat distant sounding and had excessive amounts of high-frequency noise. They were PCM conversions from DSD files…not a great way to demonstrate a new Smartphone technology.

But when I played well-recorded PCM tracks that actually have real world dynamic range and clean spectra, are produced with wide stereo imaging and have a consistent tune to tune levels, the sound was dramatically improved.

So the question is…do we really need dedicated devices made by audiophile companies that play “high-resolution” files? Or will every future phone move up to the standards that HTC and Harman Kardon have set. Stay tuned. This is going to get interesting.

Following the show yesterday, I visited the Atrium Hotel pool area to have a drink with Scott Wilkinson and a dozen of his AVS Forum friends. It was very enjoyable to exchange questions and answers with these enthusiastic music lovers. Then there was the drive home…argh.

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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.

(9) Readers Comments

  1. Sounds like the show is going well, hope you get a little time to check out the floor for yourself.

    What kind of file sizes are we looking at, and how many tracks can these little portable devices hold at HRA?

    Thanks for keeping us so well informed Mark.

    Be well,

    John

    • I’m going to write about the HTC phone shortly. Stay tuned.

  2. Great event and it was great to meet you Dr Aix. It was my first audiophile show I was surprised to see how little focus there was on HD audio. Lots of LPs, CDs and CD rips. I just assumed most audiophiles were aiming for the highest resolution available, and surprised to see that AIX was one of the few beacons of HD promoting the topic. Still had a great time!

  3. Mark, don’t let be fooled by “experts”, just look…

    Remember that, say, 20-bit versus 16-bit resolution presents the two basic opportunities: either higher signal amplitude and/or a bigger, but, nevertheless, finite amount of values to represent an amplitude, and, thus, is ever done solely APPROXIMATELY !

    The same is for sampling frequency (some Grant, by writing about timing accuracy, apparently meant the necessary anti-jitter clock timing, which for CD must strictly equal to no more than 110 picoseconds): the higher it is the higher becomes the “sound quality density” within the same frequency response spectrum, which in the end gives a better sound on any sort of audio equipment, with any SNR figures, etc., be it even the most inexpensive chinese loudspeakers !!

    So, these are the real timing transients, as to remind the words of Keith O. Johnson, saying that upsampled CDs, amongst several other things, however, had killed the DVD-Audio, but how could this be possible since the apparent difference in sampling frequency was considerable, just in favour the DVD-A??? Well, the answer is obvious: better timing transients being allowed by heavily oversampled CD tracks! So, the summary appears the following: any CD track can be upsampled (dithered, noise-shaped) by a such degree when it will have sound quality astronomically better than the current high-definition audio!!! And don’t marvel at the state-of-the-art filtering techniques!

    The only possibility to record sound accurately without quantization error {i.e. with analog precision} is the decimal ADC (the first digital computers just were so) consisting of single-electron transistors coupled with a wire of material with the lowest superconducting transition critical temperature, to completely avoid internal wiring’s thermal noise, while the device would be functioning at an extremely low temperature during sound recording. ADC’s resistors, hence, must be quantum dot ones, successfully benefitting from, say, liquid helium cooling, then, having their lowest possible thermal noise figures !!

    An already possible sampling frequency on the order of petahertz will aid enormously .

    Valvet E1r with single-electron transistor = the lowest possible shot / flicker noise figures

    Reinforced Carbyne Fibre full-range speaker diaphragm = the highest physically possible sound resolution {no mechanical crossover is needed provided the notorious intermodulation distortion occurs due to material’s poor toughness, which is not yet the case}

    • I’ll have to ask Keith about his opinion on upsampled CD. I’ve never heard an upsampled CD that sounded as good as my DVD-Audio discs…not even close. I’m not with you on this rush to ultra high sample rates and longer word lengths. My current focus on 96 kHz/24-bits with state-of-the-art gear provides me with recordings that meet or exceed my human hearing…it’s working. But I’m open to further investigation.

      • Obviously, the filter tap length was too short. But, even so, the such CD’s soundstage already is, at least, on par with that of DVD-A… Though, upsampling wasn’t all that must have been accomplished right before listening.

        Well, then I shall still be rooting for Upsampled CD, but if 96 kHz/24-bits is enough for you, you should seem to be considering 24-bit Minifloat, but you strangely aren’t…

        Yet if you disbelieve in upsampling, simply take a close look at Philips’ TrimensionDNM.

        Even MP3 benefits from upsampling .

        > I’ll have to ask Keith

        ~ Frankly recognized that Upsampled CD directly ousted the DVD-A due to the former’s superb sound quality.

        > that meet or exceed my human hearing

        ~ That’s not the point, which actually lies in the magnitude of sound.

        > it’s working.

        ~ But poorly.

        • Ramon…we’re not on the same page here.

  4. I don’t think you are even on the same Planet.

  5. Hi, Mark –

    I thought you might appreciate an objective analysis of the One M8’s audio performance. AnandTech performed just such an evaluation, comparing the audio quality of the One M8 and the Galaxy S5. (The author concluded that the M8 is superior.) You’ll find the article here: http://www.anandtech.com/show/8078/smartphone-audio-testing-htc-one-m8-and-samsung-galaxy-s5

    Best regards,
    Brian

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