Dr. AIX's POSTS NEWS — 27 June 2014

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This is the third installment in the series of reports on the CE Week event held at Jungle City Studios on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. You can read the other posts by clicking Part I or Part II.

Next up was Frank Filipetti, another multiple Grammy winning engineer. He was closely associated with the late Phil Ramone and has worked with James Taylor, Barbara Streisand and recently recorded Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels” with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Frank Gehry designed Disney Hall.

During the afternoon sound check Frank played a few of his tracks including one by one of my favorite artists James Taylor. It sounded absolutely amazing…one of the best productions I’ve ever experienced. Each pluck of his acoustic guitar, his voice and the rest of the band were relaxed, detailed and existed as little pearls of sound immersed in a whisper of reverberation. I was thoroughly impressed! The sound was polished and refined but sounded quite natural almost hyper-real…a trait I like to think exists in my own recordings.

Frank is a major fan of high-resolution digital and was quite open about his distain for vinyl LPs and analog tape. It was refreshing to hear someone else state what most of us know is obvious but still hangs on in the minds of audiophiles.

He played a few pop/rock tracks that didn’t do much for me. There was a track featuring a female vocal that started a cappella and sounded raw, gated and was full of noise…very strange, I guess it’s a style. Then the rest of the accompaniment kicked, which consisted of an all MIDI band. The low frequencies were huge and the percussion just plain sterile sounding…a perfect combination. I sure it will be a hit.

A large portion of Frank’s twenty minutes was spent playing the overture and another section from the Zappa composition. He’s right that Frank Zappa was the unusual double threat in both rock and 20th century composition. Pierre Boulez was a strong champion for his music and performed many of his works at IRCAM in Paris.

The Zappa work is no doubt a terrific work but I’m not sure that the assembled group needed to hear over 10 minutes of it. It’s not the style of music that most people appreciate and the opening section went on just a little too long. Franks explained that the recording required 160 separate tracks on a Pro Tools rig…and therefore necessarily mandated the use of 48 kHz rather than his preferred 96 kHz sampling rate. According to Frank, PT wouldn’t have been able to keep up. I would love to have seen the setup for that recording…I thought I used a lot of tracks! Getting 160 channels of pristine mic preamps, and first-rate analog to digital converters would be almost impossible to get together. I fear the equipment was not audiophile quality and my have compromised the fidelity of the project.

Frank closed his remarks with a rousing endorsement of high-resolution audio and his preference for HD PCM recording. Then it was time for another break and Bob Ludwig, one of the prime mastering engineers of the past 30 years.

See you tomorrow.

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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.

(12) Readers Comments

  1. First,, thanks very much for not only working your butt off this week, but also taking the time to share with others via your website. No doubt the greatest value for you was building relationships this week and adding to the network of rationalists fighting the good fight for higher quality audio, but I am fascinated at the 160 track comments above. May you have the opportunity to ask your new friends many questions in the coming months and years…

    …including: does that mean 160 tracks were recorded simultaneously? (I doubt it). If not, how many simultaneously? The comment about PT tools not being able to handle 96k for 160 tracks doesn’t make sense to me as stated. Is there a software limitation that just won’t allow 96k for 160 tracks in PT, or since PT is really an app, was he really limited by his current PC hardware capabilities? And was he really trying to simultaneously process 160 tracks at once from beginning to end, or did he break it up first into something like 80 track batches and then combine for additional processing?

    As you know better than me, Zappa was one of the smartest, creative and talented artists of the 20th century (even if I don’t find his music in my favorites list), so learning a bit more about what Zappa had in mind in this recording would be very interesting. But Zappa died in 1993, and I’m pretty sure Pro Tools at that time only offered 4 track processing, so why demonstrate 20+year audio mixing/mastering at a 2014 HRA confab? So my puzzlement grows…

  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your efforts and reporting.

    If you may say anything further, what was that James Taylor title presented by Mr. Filipetti that sounded so good?

    Regards,

    Joel

    • He played his Grammy-winning (Best Engineered Pop Album) “Hourglass”. The tune was “Line ‘Em Up”…absolutely beautiful.

      • Ah yes, as another poster mentioned, I too have that title on SACD. It’s got a great 5.1 mix, and I don’t think I’ve bothered to listen to the stereo mix much that I remember.

        Joel

        • I didn’t realize that they had mixed it in 5.1 surround. That would take it to the next level.

  3. God bless Frank Filipetti. Someone besides yourself who cares about quality. Quick, let’s have him stuffed and mounted.

    • Frank does stunning work…there are lots of others but his work on the James Taylor album (using 20 bit PCM on a Yamaha O2) was exceptional.

  4. The performance of Zappa’s composition “200 Motels – the Suites” was on October 23, 2013.

    This blog review of the concert mentions that there were 164 performers, and that “Each string player had an individual microphone”.

    http://mixedmeters.com/2013/10/frank-zappas-200-motels-suites.html

    • Great write up by David Ocker, a musician friend from a long time ago. They recorded 160 tracks in a single pass. I can’t imagine the mixing chore.

  5. Mark what was the James Taylor track?

    • James Taylor’s “Line ‘Em Up” from 1997 “Hourglass”.

  6. Yes that one does sound great. I have it on SACD.

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