Dr. AIX's POSTS — 30 December 2014

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We’ve almost reached the end of 2014. As we consider what the New Year might bring to our high-end musical lives, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at 2014 and the emergence of high-resolution audio. Honestly, I thought 2014 was going to be the year that high-resolution music was going to finally get its chance in the spotlight. I gave seminars/sessions at every trade show I attended about how 2014 was going to be the year. Well, it didn’t turn out to be true. There was lots of talk about high-resolution, we got a logo (sort of), and a definition (useless as it was), but at the end of the year…we didn’t really get much clarity. Here are 5 things that happened in the high-resolution audio world that make it to my end of year list.

1. High-Resolution Audio is still stuck in a quagmire. It’s not like high-definition video or ultra HD-Video because it’s hard to quantify and qualify…and even when we try with specifications and listening tests…we fail to make points and convince the skeptics. The masses just don’t care, they can’t hear it, and what they’ve got is simply good enough.

2. Pono and Neil Young had a chance but stumbled and lost their focus. What started as the right idea…that better audio fidelity could get people excited about music again…turned into a money grab and complete loss of integrity. Neil promised to provide high-resolution audio that would allow use to “rediscover the soul of music” and ended up supplying 2 million CD rips (on their way to 20 million) for his one trick pony device. And now they’re talking about putting his electronics in automobiles? We’ve had better sound in cars for over ten years…including the capability to play high-resolution surround!

3. The DEG, CEA, NARAS, and the major labels worked through the maze of competing opinions regarding what is and what isn’t high-resolution audio and announced via a press release in June that virtually every recording ever made qualifies as high-res audio. Big surprise there. If they had actually established a meaningful definition, it would have put an end to the high-resolution gravy train that WB, SONY, and Universal have been enjoying since they opened up their vaults and started giving us rehashes of old masters in big digital bit buckets. Not mention that the JAS logo that the CEA is going to be pushing has a set of qualifications that are at odds with their own definition. Talk about confused.

4. The unending parade of new and innovative hardware capable of delivering the “nuances” and all of the “low level details” continued. Hardware folks are stuck between a rock and hard place because there’s just nowhere else they can go with existing specifications. There are now DACs featuring 384 kHz/32-bits (never mind that no one is making and releasing things at this rate and that it doesn’t improve the fidelity even it they did…just wait for 768 or 1536 kHz!) and quad rate DSD. I read about a poll started over at CA that wants Benchmark to upgrade their DAC2 HGC to include new high-rate PCM and multiple rate DSD. Why would a manufacturer of one of the best sounding DACs on the planet retool/upgrade their converters when there would be no improvement? I guess they could take the road chosen by PS Audio and release a revolutionary high-end component that dictates that every source input be converted to DSD (as if the ultrasonic noise will get rid of the harshness of digital).

5. The year finished off with an interesting technology from Meridian…their MQA technology. And they’ve managed to get some traction with several equipment makers, labels, and streaming companies. I think that MQA just might allow streaming of my content, which would be a good thing since streaming is going to overrun downloads. But audio enthusiasts need to realize that MQA isn’t going to improve fidelity contrary to the observations of some of the high-end editors and writers. It’s going to preserve what we already have in less memory and bandwidth.

Tomorrow I’ll take a look into my HRA crystal ball and make some predictions for 2015.

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I’m still looking to raise the $3700 needed to fund a booth at the 2015 International CES. I’ve received some very generous contributions but still need to raise additional funds (I’ve received about $3500 so far). Please consider contributing any amount. I write these posts everyday in the hopes that readers will benefit from my network, knowledge and experience. I hope you consider them worth a few dollars. You can get additional information at my post of December 2, 2014. Thanks.

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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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