Dr. AIX's POSTS — 30 September 2014

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On first listen, I liked the tunes. Nothing really stood out as a single but these are solid rock tunes that should satisfy Tom Petty fans.

Sunday morning, Ryan stopped by the AIX Records table and we played the disc in my Oppo through the Smyth Realiser. Initially, I presented the internal musical loop provided by Symth. I soloed each of the “virtual” speakers and he immediately picked up on the “over the shoulder” presentation of the left and right speakers. Then I played the disc and let him cruise through a number of the tracks. The sound was definitely coming from out of his head but he commented, “It doesn’t sound that different than the stereo mix”.

I put the headphones on and listened for a few minutes and had to agree. The sound of his 5.1 mixes didn’t actually spread the sound of the individual instruments around the speaker array. I’m sure he worked the stereo mix before crafting the surround mix because it’s very similar in overall sound and localization of instruments. The drums are spread across the front as they traditionally are in the stereo mix…and they remain spread across the front of the surround mix. It seems as though they are pulled off the front wall but only by a small amount. The rest of the mix is likewise less aggressive in the use of space than I would done but there are no “traditional” surround mixing formulas in place, which means every mixing engineer is free to do whatever they want with the additional channels.

If you’re expecting to be immersed in a well defined, new presentation of the tracks in the 5.1 versions, you’ll be disappointed. I know I prefer aggressive surround mixes and felt let down by the 5.1 that heard through the phones. Again, I can’t wait until I crank up the project in my own room…although I don’t honestly think it will change that much.

The producer’s note doesn’t really satisfy my requirements for “full and accurate disclosure” with regards to the information about high-resolution audio. The mention of “256 times more resolution that a CD” is the first bump I ran into. Yes, moving from 16-bits to 24-bits offers 8-more bits or 256 times more amplitude values per sample but you only get the “full dynamic range, from the softest to the loudest sounds” if they are actually present in the music. The Tom Petty songs don’t have more than 16-bits worth of dynamic range…I doubt whether they exceed 4-bits.

This specification is already sticky enough without confusing the issue further with irrelevant numbers and comparison etc. I’m comfortable allowing artists, engineers, and producers to do anything they want within the high-resolution format…even ignore the benefits if they so choose. They can still call it high-resolution because the adopted the specifications but for creative reasons moved on.

The Tom Petty record was recorded at 48 kHz/24-bit on Ryan’s Pro Tools rig after it had digitally traversed from the “stage” area where they like to play to the control room according to Ryan. I asked him specifically about this because I wanted to know why he wouldn’t have chosen 96 kHz.

Welcome to confusing world of non-audiophile high-resolution audio recordings.

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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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