AUDIO SHOWS Dr. AIX's POSTS — 28 July 2014

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Things were very slow on Sunday at the Madison Ballroom. Bob of Bob’s devices and Chris, a local gentleman selling bargain and collectible vinyl LPs, and I lamented the lack of traffic. In fact, we suggested a small wager on who might get the first customer. I don’t know what it was but things were noticeably slower this year than last. Traveling from Los Angeles with two suitcases, a computer bag and a roller bag, renting a car, and booking a room (for me this was via AirBnb) is a major effort and expense, which makes it all the more disappointing that high-end digital recordings seem to be values less than a $150 USB cable.

Gary told me that the number of attendees was actually up over last year. He said that there were a lot more young people and that they were gathered in the CanMania area of the show checking out the latest headphones, portable DACs, and personal amplifiers. But with very few exceptions these folks weren’t buying physical media…vinyl LPs or DVD-A/V or Blu-ray discs. Bob had a disappointing show and even though Chris cut his prices in half, he still noticed a clear drop in sales.

My seminar “Definitions, Digital Delivery, Devices and A New Direction” scheduled for 11 am (which was only decided earlier that morning) had to be canceled because no one knew about it. I ended up chatting with Gary and one other local audio engineer about the new construction that Gary was doing. It was disappointing. I figured if sales of my discs were down at the table, at least I could engage some new people to the issues surrounding high-resolution audio.

However, it wasn’t all bad. There were plenty of people that made it worth the trip. One young man paid $20 on Friday afternoon for the HD-Audio 2013 Sampler. He listened to the whole thing (he wasn’t the only one) and returned on Saturday to purchase a few discs…and then came back again on Sunday for a few more. Some products that I didn’t bring to the show, I’m planning on sending him once I get back to Los Angeles.

And there was Larry and his friend on Saturday. Larry is a decidedly analog audiophile and his friend is a digital advocate. So we got into a conversation about vinyl and bits and DACs until I finally stopped talking and dragged Larry over to my listening setup. I asked him to put on a pair of the Oppo PM-1 headphones (which were connected to my Benchmark DAC2 HGC (sourced from the Kanex Pro and Oppo BDP-83 player) and listen. The proof, I told him, was in the listening. I selected “Primavera” by Destani Wolf and The Banda Brothers and hit play. Within two minutes, Larry pulled off the phones reached across the table and firmly shook my hand. He congratulated me and said that he had never heard sound that clear, expressive, dynamic and emotional before. His friend thanked me as well.

It doesn’t always go well. Audiophiles are a stubborn bunch (myself included) and giving ground is hard to do. I spend a few moments with a young gentleman late Saturday afternoon that was not going to have anything to do with digital of any resolution. He told me that the sound was great but his favorite music is “classic rock”. He kept asking where he could get his favorite music in the kind of fidelity that he heard from my sampler. I told him he couldn’t. The best he could do was to get some high sample rate/long word length transfers of those albums at HDtracks but that it would be hit or miss if he got a good master and transfer.

So as I sit here on the first leg of my trip back to Los Angeles, I’m debating whether I’ll make the trip next year to the Capitol Audiofest in 2015. There’s some talk about moving the show to a different time of year and perhaps another venue, but the bottom line is getting more people through the door.

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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. It was great to see you at the show Mark. I recommend your Blu-rays to anyone I meet interested in audio and in our audio group in Philly. In fact, at our meeting yesterday, one of the members indicated that he will be downloading the Lawrence Juber Guitar Noir from itrax. I have no doubt that he will love it. I was really surprised at how few people were in attendance at the show on Friday. One of the positives of that was that we were able to see all the rooms and spend more time in the ones we liked, which I must admit, were few. Hopefully you will be able to attend the show in Brooklyn at the end of September.

    • Good to finally meet you as well…and thanks for the continuing support. I’m safely back in my office and working on a new downloadable sampler that will be released with some fanfare soon with a major partner. Don’t know about Brooklyn, that show is very close to the RMAF.

  2. Hi, Mark!

    It seems things have already turned completely “cloudy” for most people, and we have to live with it. The mere idea of buying physical media doesn’t seem to lure the audiences as it did before. A block away from my place is the “mother of all music stores”. It’s a huge place, with different areas for different kinds of music. The pop area covers 75% of real estate. What hits me is that you may see a group of youngsters only when a long expected release reaches the store, if at all. As for the rest of the time, most sales are of video games and iTunes and Google cards! Practicality, size, and immediacy are the real assets in which all music-delivery systems should be based on.

    • The realities of physical goods are pretty clear…it’s not a growing business.

  3. Good on Larry. It’s nice when people acknowledge the efforts you put into a great recording and leaves his\her ego at the door.
    Here in Australia, a very prominent HiFi mag used to do their reviews of various equipment at a city hotel (courtesy of the manufacturer.) After several bottles of wine ( we make the best wine on the planet, by the way) everything sounded great.
    Perhaps that’s the answer Mark…get ’em all blind drunk, tell them they have golden ears because they can “hear” the benefits of HiRes music? They will be in AA by the time we convince them of the phenominal benefits of surround sound.

    • Yes, I was very impressed as well. Most hard core analog/vinyl LP guys aren’t willing to admit the merits of digital even when they hear it.

  4. Dear Mark,

    its been over a year that I am reading with great interest your daily blog. I am totaly convinced of the quality of your true high resolution recordings and I love them. But…I still listen more my LP’s and CD’s! Why? Because I am a jazz lover and for me it is important to know who is playing the bass, the piano, the second solo, the …
    I can find this in the booklet or on the cover but never in the methadata of downloaded music! This is very frustrating! Maybe this is because most people dont need this kind of information because they listen to the music of the ‘hitparade’ and the only thing they have to know is the name of the group or the singer and they are not interested in who was playing the instruments.
    The technology is far better than ever before, I hope the information technology will be set to the same level soon!
    Kindest regards,
    Manu
    (Belgium)

    • That data can and is included in most FLAC or metadata tagged files. And the plan is to have downloadable PDF booklets for all releases.

      • While there is some metadata in downloaded FLAC files and CD ripping software can download metadata from online sources, this metadata almost never contains the level of detailed information required for jazz and classical music. When adding music recordings to my media server, I always edit the metadata to include the information that is missing and correct the data that is incorrect. For jazz recordings this includes all the artists, the work, the composer(s) and the genre(s) for each track. For classical recordings this includes all the principal artists, the work, the movement, the composer(s), the conductor and the genre(s) for each track. By capturing this metadata not only can I see who the artists are on the track that is playing, but with a simple query, I can find and play all the tracks on my server for any artist I am interested in. For example, I can quickly determine that I have 26 tracks for the jazz trumpeter Bernie Glow and 207 tracks for the classical pianist Stephen Hough on my media server. I use MediaMonkey to manage my music media library since it had the best support for classical music when I selected it.

        • You’re right…we need a thorough inclusion of metadata that spans the players and much more. I’m pushing for adding the provenance information, full engineering credits etc.

  5. Hi Mark,
    Only one fact to insert: Of the 6 major music-consuming countries in the world, the U.S.A. is the only one wherein downloads outpace physical media sales. In Japan, where they are known to take their music and hi-fi quite seriously, the ratio is the other way around-6 to1 for physical media sales. It all points to the prize called convenience imposing itself over the desire for quality, a specialty of this country not so widely beloved in Europe and Japan . All I can say is,” You don’t miss your water ’til your well runs dry.”

  6. Craig, the downloads I have purchased are of the highest quality. I have no need to purchase CDs when I can get downloads that at at least as good and even better with 24/96 and 24/192. MP3 vs. CD yes but not with high rez.

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