Dr. AIX's POSTS — 09 January 2015


There is a lot happening in the world of HRA…and even being a member of the committees doesn’t mean that I get all of the most current information. For example, I didn’t realize that the CEA and MusizBiz organizations were developing a new info graphic to “clarify” the issues surrounding the high-resolution audio definition and marketing initiatives. During one of the two panels yesterday, a representative from the DEG said something that caught my attention. During a discussion about the JAS high-res audio logo, he talked about the “three categories” (back in June there were four “descriptors”). Somewhere along the way, we lost one. It was news to me. Either I missed that phone call or email or was deliberately cut out of the loop, I’m not certain. But things have changed as it concerns the logo. And the removal of one of the “descriptors” is a move in the right direction…it doesn’t get us to where we need to be, but it is a step. And it’s not good news for Pono.

Here’s the new info graphic:


Figure 1 – The CEA/MuscBiz info graphic that gives the current definition of HRA.

Maybe this change is reflective of the blow back that happened back in June when many audio writers and related websites (including me), pointed out the glaring inconsistency in saying the HRA is “lossless audio that is better than a CD” and then include compact discs as sources. Many of us came away from that process disappointed. The DEG, CEA, NARAS, and the labels must have gone back and revised the definition to “solve” this problem. Unfortunately, they didn’t.

The remaining three categories are still aren’t going to elevate the fidelity of the files you and I purchase at the various download stores. From the graphic:

“In order to indicate when a file has been made from the best available source, three Master Quality Recording categories have been designated to indicate the file’s provenance:

MQ-P – From a PCM master source 48 kHz/20 bit or higher (typically 96/24 or 192/24)
MQ-A – From an analog master source
MQ-D – From a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8 or 5.6 MHz content)

Therefore, a 96 kHz/24-bit master file subjected to lossless compression would have an MQ-P designator.

A lossless file made from a CD rip of the same recording would not have any MQ designator, because the file is not made from the best source available.”

However, what if the “best source available is a 44.1 kHz/16-bit master? What then?

According to this breakdown, my native 96 kHZ/24-bit recordings when encoded to Dolby True HD, for example, would be real high-res audio with a an MQ-P indication as to the source.

It also means that the analog transfers that WB Records is doing at a rate of about 100 per month to new files that are 48 kHz/20-bits or better would also be HRA with an MQ-A designation. These are the 5000 files that HDtracks and PonoMusic have available as “high-resolution”.

A transfer of any recording made prior to the digital era, analog sources, put into a 48/20 or better bit bucket would also qualify…even an 1893 Edison cylinder of my great, great, grandmother made at the Chicago World Exhibition (does anybody else see this as a problem?).

Finally, any of the roughly 2.1 million CD rips now available on the PonoMusic website would not be considered HRA…or would they? The wording above is a little sketchy. “A lossless file made from a CD rip of the same recording would not have any MQ designator, because the file is not made from the best source available.” This simply says that, they couldn’t use the any of the MQ designators…it specifically doesn’t say that it’s not an HRA file. Although, virtually everything in the info graphic and that I know about this whole logo and definition effort says that PonoMusic catalog is NOT high-resolution audio in spite of Neil’s statement’s to the contrary.

And my perspective was affirmed when the same DEG representative stated, “compact discs are not high-res”. This coming from the movers and shakers in the world of HRA.

Now all they have to do is go back and take analog sources out of the HRA “categories” and things might really start to have some meaning.

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About Author


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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