I can only assume that the DEG, CEA, The Recording Academy and major labels are going to “voluntarily” start using the new Master Quality “descriptors” that they outlined in their recent press release. The labels and the engineering staff working at their master facilities are going to begin requesting additional “provenance” information from their suppliers (the labels inside of their label groups) AND passing that information along to the licensors that make “high-resolution” audio available. This is definitely a step in the right direction. The more information we can get regarding the production process for an album/track the better, right?
It all depends. I’ve already pointed out the problems with trying to lock down the production process. The four descriptors (you can review them in the previous post by clicking here) encompass every recording made from the dawn of audio recording without any segmentation or qualification prior to being lumped together under the high-resolution umbrella. The definition contributes nothing to our knowledge base if the only thing we’re going to be told is whether a track is MQ-P, MQ-A, MQ-C or MQ-D. Once again the decision makers are focused on the end of the production pipeline and not on the original steps that happened during the tracking, mixing and mastering sessions.
But leaving that behind, let’s accept that anything new that is made available by the major labels includes one of the four descriptors. This is a new piece of metadata that has to be added to the standard information that we get about an album or track. Things like the title, the artist, the year, the label, the cover art etc. HDtracks and the other licensors are going to have to beef up their databases to include the “provenance” information and that information will have to come from the labels. How hard do you think the labels are going to work at getting us accurate information? Remember the confusion surrounding the tracks that I downloaded from Qobuz.com?
The samples that they so proudly offered as examples of high-resolution audio and extended frequency response were nothing of the kind. And the email that I received from the head people there talked about how they were just the delivery end of the process and couldn’t really speak to the quality of the files that they were offering. But, they bragged about the team of quality assurance audio engineers that they have on staff to make sure that everything is as the suppliers say it is. Baloney! That they missed the boat on the very first files that new customers are likely to encounter says a lot about how tight their QA process is.
So we’re in for a rough ride. The labels will make some attempts to provide the descriptor information about the albums that they deliver…but I seriously doubt that it will really help. We’re going to remain in the dark. The labels are going to continue to claim that everything they issue is high-resolution even if it isn’t and the retailers are going to claim the higher ground by passing the buck back to their supplier if the provenance of a track is challenged.
The bottom line is that the future of music delivery is slowly moving back to the fidelity of CDs, which can be tremendous if the labels want them to be. Sadly they don’t. New releases are still prepared, marketed and sold just like they have been for decades.
The world of real high-resolution audio will continue to be a niche market for the truly dedicated audio enthusiast. And even those of us that want the best of the best, are continually being mislead by spin, marketing babble and even fraudulent claims.
What we need is metadata about the metadata…would that be metametadata?