Yesterday, I started a discussion about the specifics of a statement made by an admitted non-engineer and non-computer geek who happens to be the founder and head of Montana-based Baetis audio, John Mingo. I wanted to follow up on his comments and expand on the notion of empiricism over science as it relates to digital audio and our audiophile passions.
First, I should emphasis that entrepreneurs that start companies don’t have to be engineers or computer scientists to be successful. But they should know and recognize the limits of their knowledge and get the geeks in their organizations to speak during interviews when it comes to issues of technology or specifications. We all know that there is way too much pseudo-science in the audio marketplace. I think it should be challenged at every turn lest inaccurate and just plain wrong concepts get elevated to facts. There are opinions and then there are facts…the audiophile world oscillates between these poles.
Here’s what John said that got me rolling on this topic, “the very best quality audio can only be found on blu-ray discs — in the form of 48/32, 96/32, and 96/24 concerts. Furthermore, the ear and the eye work together — the sound is improved by listening to the music while watching the players. This is NOT just psychological but a natural part of the body’s functions. Essentially, the sound of a concert, especially that of a small ensemble, SOUNDS far better when you can watch the players play. And listening to the sound on a truly good 2-channel setup is far better than on even a very good 5.1 channel setup. Unfortunately, you simply CANNOT get 48/32 files or 96/24 files unless you either download them from a website, rip them from a blu-ray disc, or play the blu-ray on a player.”
I wrote yesterday about the fact that Blu-ray discs cannot accommodate audio digital words 32-bits long. Where did this misinformation come from and why didn’t the interviewers check the statement prior to publication? John then goes on to claim that “sound is improved by listening to the music while watching the players”. I should be all over this idea since I’m the only record producer and label that includes HD-Video of the performers playing and singing with my Blu-ray releases. But it’s just an opinion and not a fact. People may prefer one way of listening over another…that’s why I include the videos AND multiple mixes. It’s true that music can be a visual art as well but it’s not in all cases. Just talk to the EDM community. How exciting is it to watch a person sit at a computer and trigger samples? And there are plenty of audiophiles that insist that music with the video “distraction” is a much better experience. Who cares? You can have it either way on my discs.
But John really gets my goat when he emphatically states, “And listening to the sound on a truly good 2-channel setup is far better than on even a very good 5.1 channel setup.” You may agree with this claim…but I hope you also agree that this is a matter of opinion not a fact. I find those that come to my studio or demos express a preference for the 5.1 surround mixes. When I switch to a straight stereo presentation after listening to an aggressive mix, most listeners feel the life has been drained out the tunes. My favorite email to this point came from a member of the now defunct Bay Area Audio Society. You can read the comments from a member of their organization after listening to my aggressive 5.1 surround music mixes.
To be continued…