Dr. AIX's POSTS — 18 September 2014

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During the CEA Audio Board’s strategy retreat back in June, the issue of the JAS (Japan Audio Society) adoption of Sony’s Hi-Res Audio logo was discussed. The original logo was designed by Sony and has been widely used on their new products and website. It has gained some traction amongst Japanese audio manufacturers. I’ve noticed it on Onkyo’s website.

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Figure 1 – The JAS Hi-Res Audio logo.

According to Marc Finer of the DEG, Sony gifted the new logo to the JAS in the hopes that it would be widely adopted and help popularize high-resolution audio. Sony, as you may or may not know, is pushing high-res very aggressively with a line of new HD players, portable devices, and headphones. They’ve really taken the lead in the CE space.

Marc told the assembled group that the JAS was willing to make the logo available to the CEA to promote high-res audio in the states. Having a unifying logo couldn’t hurt the effort. We haven’t seen all of the details but it was a topic of discussion on today’s board call.

Back in June, I didn’t know any specifics about the logo or the associated “minimum specifications” that need to be satisfied in order to be able to license and use the logo. But I did know what was happening to the process of trying to define high-resolution audio in our CEA group. What should have been an open and meaningful debate and discussion was overrun by other parties and participants with the end result being a definition that is completely meaningless.

The DEG, CEA, NARAS and the major labels issued a press release back in late June defining “high-resolution audio as anything better than a compact disc”. And then they went on to accept any recording ever made as “high-resolution” just as long as it was converted to format better than a CD…including a CD to 192 kHz/24-bit transfer. It’s strange but true. I had off the record discussions with a number of the committee members about how flawed the existing definition was but nothing has been done to improve it. And now we’re being asked to consider a new hi-res audio logo.

But there’s hope. I received a single page PowerPoint deck that spells out what it takes to be able to use the Hi-Res Audio logo. Here’s it is:

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Figure 2 – The JAS high-resolution logo minimum specifications page. [Click to enlarge]

This document is very good news…not an ultimate solution, but it does avoid the pitfalls that the DEG and others fell into. This is the JAS laying out the minimum specifications that have to be “satisfied” in order for a company to use the hi-res audio logo.

The left hand column lists the various processes that happen in the production and playback of a music recording. This includes the quality of the microphones, the recorder, the digital interface (I/O to and from the recorder), the encoding format (which require FLAC and WAV), the specs for DSP processing, the conversion from digital to analog, and finally the amplification. Wow! This is a very comprehensive list. Our group never even touched on any of these items.

The minimums standard for the digital part of the signal path is 96 kHz/24-bit PCM (notice they don’t include DSD anywhere…I’m surprised since Sony was the source of the logo). The analog portion of the signal path is put at 40 kHz or roughly twice the traditional maximum frequency for human hearing. This standard sets a pretty high bar.

The JAS is on to something. I’m very impressed. The DEG, CEA, NARAS, and major labels should be paying attention. Here is a definition that has some meaning. It’s clear and accurate. It’s not mushy and willing to accommodate every analog recording, DSD tracks, and CD quality PCM.

What is doesn’t do is speak to the provenance issue that still looms large. But it’s a huge step. If the CEA adopts the JAS high-res audio logo, then anyone that wants to use this logo would have to up their game to meet it. At least the hardware folks will. The content providers…that’s an entirely different issue.

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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.

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