Dr. AIX's POSTS — 04 June 2014

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Tim Cook and the team at Apple are in the midst of their annual WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) in San Francisco. The opening address was streamed on Monday of this week and featured a number of announcements. Among them was the new Mac “Yosemite” operating system, the new iOS 8 system for all “i” devices and a new addition to the programmers toolkit called “Swift”.

Noticeably absent from the presentation was any mention of high-resolution music or any changes happening to the iTunes web site. They did make a phone call to Dr. Dre and the big announcement about Apple’s acquisition of Beats dominated tech news. Still the move up to HRA that some anticipated would coincide with the WWDC week didn’t occur.

The new “remastered” Led Zeppelin albums are available on HDtracks. I would be very interested in running the spectral analysis on a few of the tracks, although I just can’t justify purchasing anything from HDtracks. They’ve gotten enough of my money over the years. If someone does acquire those files and wouldn’t mind chopping a couple of 30” chunks out of them and sending them to me…I’d be happy to report my findings. Given the “provenance” of these albums, I would be surprised to find the fidelity improved over previous versions. They may sound somewhat different because of Jimmy Page’s involvement and new state of the art tools, but the actual sonics are locked at the time of the original recording.

The next opportunity for Apple to reveal any plans to support high-resolution audio will have to wait until their September event. There are already rumors about the iPhone 6 but I have yet to hear or read anything about support for 192 kHz/24-bit PCM audio. I wouldn’t be surprised given the current “buzz” and the moves that Samsung and HTC have made in that area.

As I write this, I’m at 35,000 feet winging my way to Boston for my son’s graduation and for a few days of relaxation on Cape Cod (Not to worry, I will still be posting everyday…it’s become part of my daily routine). I charged up the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon phone last evening and am enjoying Patrice Rushen playing from the AIX recording “Piano, Bass and Drums” from 2001. It sounds amazing…and I’m using the Harman Kardon ear buds that came with the phone! I feel like my audiophile credentials are fraying at the edges when I talk about listening to music using a cell phone and ear buds, but I can assure you that this experience bears not resemblance to the iPod and cheap hard ear buds of yesteryear. Kudos to HK, Sprint and HTC…this is impressive.

If a Smartphone costing $400 can produce fidelity that equals or even exceeds the likes of Astell & Kern, Colorfly, Fiio X5, Geek Wave and Pono AND provide all of the additional capabilities that a Smartphone provides, competition among these companies is going to be more challenging.

But I’m spoiled. I’ve got over 50 AIX Records tracks loaded on my HTC One phone…and these are the real deal. Of course, I’m biased but with strains of Laurence Juber playing “Strawberry Fields” in DADGAD guitar tuning playing in my head…I’m in sonic heaven.

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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.

(20) Readers Comments

  1. I guarantee you’re not going to like led zeps new tracks, but I would like to get my hands on Steve Wilsons remix of Close To The Edge

  2. Hi Mark,

    IMHO, the purpose of the Led Zeppelin and other remasters in HD form is not to dupe folks into thinking some form of sonics have magically appeared. The goal is to deliver the original recordings as clearly as possible. Who knows the path the audio took in getting to the CD mixes that we’ve been listening to since the 80s. No one is expecting these recordings to be the quality that someone such as yourself could produce today. We just hope to get one step closer to the original sound, assuming the CD mixes from the 80s might have been made in a less pure fashion and thus be masking some of that sound.

    I’ve listened to HD remasters of albums such as The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed. There’s no doubt that recording was made long ago. Purchasing the 176/24 version seems ridiculous but I have A/B compared the CD mix and the remastered 88/24 version and I can hear more clarity.

    The spectral analysis of these recordings is unlikely to reveal anything significant. Obviously there’s not going to be anything there above the capability of the original tapes. However, the audible sound is noticeably more clear and detailed in the remastered recordings I’ve critically listened to. I don’t know how you can demonstrate that using some form of analysis although it should be possible to do.

  3. That phone is intriguing. What’s the frequency response of the ear buds do you know?

    • I’ll find out.

    • Nice link. While it doesn’t look like a majority, there are more tracks that actually have frequencies greater than 22 kHz than I would have guessed.

      Mark, you have talked about analog tape having reduced dynamic range, but are there any differences compared to digital recording in terms of frequency range? I’m guessing these LZ tracks are all from tape and there are certainly some ultrasonics that “fill up” the 96kHz container.

      • I’m going to reserve judgement until I can get my hands on the tracks and do a rigorous evaluation. However, in short the spectra that I glanced at look reasonable.

        • I’m not familiar with this music, but the spectra for “What Is and What Should Never Be” above 29 kHz looks very strange and artificial to me.

          • I’ll be doing my own spectra and analysis very soon. I’m not completely convinced that they did it correctly. I got different results on a quick look at “Friends”.

  4. What’s the best way to get your hd tracks fron your new hsc phone to an amp and. Speakers
    Wifi , airplay, plug directly in?
    Mike

    • The best connection would be to connect directly.

  5. Mark
    It was great to see you at THE in Newport Beach last week.
    As mentioned, we did use several of your AIX recordings as demo material in our surround sound room.
    The videos and music were well received.
    Enjoy your son’s graduation.
    Mark

  6. Hi Mark
    I have the Galaxy Note 3 and I have some of your music amongst others loaded.
    I have been using Neutron to play the music and it all sounds very good.
    Would be interesting to know the difference in sound quality between the HTC and Galaxy also what the different DAC’s are.

    • I’m going to do a full review and hope to get my hands on a few of the high-resolution Smartphones.

  7. Hi Mark,

    You have been pretty enthusiastic about that phone for a couple of posts now, and it still baffles me that you of all audio geeks – owning an enviable room and playback system – would fall for a phone and a pair of earbuds, and perhaps more paradoxically, for an algorithm. Not the kind of tweak I would be the most optimistic about.
    I checked the M8 website and find no digital or analogue specs to make me think it’s not just another phone with an EQ gimmick. Nothing tells me it does a better job than an iPhone or iPod when it comes to HRA, and an algorithm doesn’t really cut it for me when it comes deciding to dish out $400 or more.
    I’m more inclined to believe you’re enjoying the benefits offfered by the provenance of your awesome recordings than the quality of DAC and Amp of your M8. You better write that article about that mysterious algorithm soon, cause this is getting kind of ackward, lol. I know the guys at Harman are very capable and have been doing the most serious research into headphones around, but a phone, a pair of earbuds and an algorith – and on a plane! -, seriously?

    Cheers

    • I am enthusiastic about the HTC phone and it has nothing to do about the ClariFi or Livestage algorithms. I will evaluate them when I get back to Los Angeles. I’ve been listening exclusively to the analog outputs of their device from the high-resolution 96 kHz/24-bit DAC…not the pumped up stuff. I’m impressed with the sound, comfort and fidelity of the ear buds (as compared any other personal listening that I’ve experienced) and the capabilities of the phone. I’m going to write a complete review very soon.

  8. Hi Mark
    Found this on a review of the phone.

    It also ships with Harman Kardon headset that is a huge step up in audio quality from the throw-away earbuds that come bundled with most smartphones.

    But earbuds aside, the Harman Kardon M8 is focused largely on softwere-based audio tweaks, which aim to improve compressed audio. The audio settings will have a limited appeal to audiophiles at best, as these algorithmic implementations are generally regarded as snake oil.

    • They are advertising the enhancement part of the phone…but I haven’t checked that out yet.

  9. Apple have lost the plot. They are SOOO way behind the curve in almost every way now.
    There are MANY other manufacturers providing better hardware with better software features.
    IMO iphones are style over content… and even their new style is based HEAVILY on the HTC M8.

    • I’ve said that I’m an Apple fan. There may be devices that have more technology and nice designs…but I had an Apple iPhone 6 Plus in my hands the other day AND I have the HTC M8…both very nice. But I would choose the iPhone because of the details…like the better interfacing with my laptop and system, the quality of the connector, and the integrated system.

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