Dr. AIX's POSTS — 15 January 2015

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I’ve got pneumonia. The doctor took a look at my chest x-ray and told me I’ve got a full-blown case of pneumonia. If I had gone to an emergency room they would have admitted me. Luckily, that didn’t happen. I got a shot, picked up some antibiotics, an inhaler, a steamer, and some mucinex from the local CVS and hunkered down for another evening of coughing. This is not pleasant. The doctor called this morning to find out how I was feeling. Nothing much has changed. Another doctor, a radiologist, confirmed that I have lost a lot of my lung capacity and may have to be admitted to the hospital. Let’s hope the drugs kick in and I have a better night. My trip to Montana is in jeopardy.

Thus the reason for the brief rant.

One of my tenants, a young musician, engineer, remixer, and producer returned from Bogota today. We talked about what he’s got planned for the early part of the year. He does remixing for big name artists…Maroon 5 and others…for Interscope Records. And according to him, so do about 30-60 other remixers. He told me how it works. The label people enlist the services of dozens of wanna be remixers and give each one of them a copy of the “stems” for a particular hit song. The stems are the individual multitrack music elements that the band recorded in the studio. Sometimes they are grouped into “submixes” but generally speaking we’re talking about all of the instrumental and vocal elements. The job of a remixer is to reassemble the tune into a dance or alternative version with heavy beats, new parts, tempo changes etc. Big time remixers can get as much as $25,000 per mix. But the 60 or so young wanna be remixers do it for free in the hopes that the label will select their version to release. And so that someday they will be famous and highly paid.

That’s right. The labels let all of these struggling engineer/producers spent countless hours in front of their laptops or small home studios as a sort of competition. Only one “lucky” remixer is selected…the rest are told, “thanks very much but your stuff didn’t make it”.

Can the young wanna be engineers insist that they won’t work for free? Of course not! The path to fame and fortune is through these trenches. But it seems like a yank to me. It’s a system of supply and demand…and the supply far outweighs the demand. Everyone wants to be a star. I know I did when I can to LA to be part of the industry. But I can tell you that I rarely worked for free.

And how are the various mixes evaluated and judged. The label guys have small computer speakers on the desks and they listen through MP3s of the remixes that were emailed to them. They give each a brief listen and then move on to the next try. Guess which one’s grab the attention of the label gurus? The loudest ones…the ones with the biggest bass or the most distortion. The same thing happens when label executives compare masters for the original Maroon 5 tracks. The loudest one wins.

So why do we need devices like Pono or expensive power cables? To hear the great fidelity coming from the majors? No way.

Bye.

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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.

(30) Readers Comments

  1. Sorry to hear of your illness, and I mean that. As my old boss used to say,”When you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything,” and as we age (I’m almost 63,) and frailties and friends come and go, this becomes a paramount consideration.
    The best, effective non-pharma remedy I know for bronchial and chest congestion is genuine hot lemonade made only with real lemons , honey and yes, hot water. It won’t kill the bug but almost always gives immediate symptomatic improvement, and citric acid is also anti-bacterial. Given that breath is the essence of life and the core of all meditative practices, I do truly hope your condition improves dramatically asap.

    But hey, I still get to make a bad joke, don’t I? Did I hear you say you have “Ponomonia”?
    Do get better Mark; fine sound needs all the allies it can get, including both you and Neil Young.Best, Craig

    • It only makes it harder to breath when I laugh…”Ponomonia” is a good one. I’ll try the lemonade. I actually feeling a little better today. Nothing miraculous but I did buy a warm steamer to breath in warm moist air…it felt good.

  2. Hey Mark, Sorry that you’re under the weather, way under the weather. I live in Big Sky full time, allow me to offer a couple of thoughts-
    > If you’re not 100% by the 28th you really shouldn’t come up this way, not only are we a bit colder than SoCal but the altitude (7,400 here at the house, 11,000 at the top of the mountain) will really knock you out.
    > Hopefully you will recover and you will be able to make the trip, I’d really like to be able to buy you and your party lunch or a drink at the end of the day.

    Get better, another CUSN grad
    Norm

    • I thought I was a lifer at CSUN…I started in 1975 and was there as a student or teacher until 1992. I’m sort of getting used to the idea that my trip is probably toast…such a drag as I dearly love to ski. What do you do in Big Sky…sounds like you’ve found heaven.

  3. I’ve had pneumonia twice now, once during a family move when I was 18, and again( barely) when I had swine flu and doc noticed some rattles when I was breathing. She knocked it out before it ever took hold that time. I still have scars on my lungs and the first time was nasty. By the time I told my mom I was getting better but we went to the docs and he said I had walking pneumonia. Mom says how can that be? Did says well he has pneumonia and he’s walking isn’t he?
    Anyways be careful and do what the doc says, it can be very nasty and we don’t heal like we did at 18.
    As far as the track game why not? They get all the work for free and get to make money on the winner and can keep doing it as long as there’s a slight chance one of the winners actually gets a job from it and becomes famous and rich one day. Might not make it right but that’s how the games played.
    I won’t be getting a Pono anytime soon, I know what a real HD track sounds like and won’t buy into their bogus sorta HD tracks and spendy player.

    • Are we sure the 192/24 resolution tracks on Pono are as fraud?

      • –as– s/b a Tablets should not be used for text!

      • Thanks Joe….it’s impossible for me to stay in bed. I can rest with the best of them but sitting around doing nothing is not in my vocabulary. I’m feeling a little better today.

      • Patrick, I’ve never said they were fraudulent…bit I believe the the 192 kHz files are the same transfers from the mastered analog tapes available at the labels. These are not going to benefit from being transferred at 192 kHz/24-bits very much if at all over a standard CD…all other things being equal. And 96/24 bit absolutely more than enough. They are the same tracks that HDtracks and other have available.

  4. I hope you feel better soon

  5. Mark: Sorry you are so ill. I wish you a speedy recovery!
    I trust that this story about the young engineers working for free didn’t surprise you.
    It is the new norm in the business world: Get a “job” as an unpaid intern; work like a dog in the name of gaining valuable experience; and hopefully this leads to a job. The problem is that the employers are supposed to be teaching and mentoring the interns, as if it was another semester in school. Sadly, this is not always the case. Companies are taking advantage of young people. A recruiter who helps college students find internships asked me if I had heard of the “Hershey case”. No, I didn’t know what that was.
    Apparently, Hershey chocolates had brought in a number of interns from overseas and instead of teaching them they ended up sweeping floors, etc. I can’t confirm that this is true since I was hearing this story from someone else, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true.

    • It’s truly unfortunate that businesses and individuals want to take advantage of smart motivated young people. We all did some crap jobs along the way. I finally left a job as a second engineer when after being enlisted as a dry wall hanger for their studio expansion.

  6. Another, spot-on, excellent rant. Truth be told and told well.

    PLEASE get well very soon! Coincidentally, I had a chest X-ray today, as well. It is for my upcoming double hernia surgery. Your situation sounds WAY worse. Don’t worry about Montana, as great as that trip sounds. Your good health is paramount. At least until I have a chance to have an extended conversation with you.

    T R Black

  7. Sorry you are sick, and hope things improve so you can avoid hospital time.

    But you aren’t as sick as the recording industry are you?

    Did some recording for a friend’s music group. Sent my mix, and guess what, all of them also listened on little computer desktop speakers or their not very good car systems. After some back and forth sent them some slightly compressed louder versions. All said yeah, give us more of that. Finally got them together to hear it over some good speakers. The louder one wasn’t preferred. They were actually surprised how good it sounded.

    But that is a quandry. Should you mix for what most potential music buyers will listen on or not? I am all for best quality which can of course only truly be heard over best quality playback. Naturally something even approaching best quality status is going to be rarity for any recording.

    I haven’t fully decided how I feel about that, but I am not really in the music biz. I can say hear is the best and that is it. If that lost me customers in my profession, then not a viable approach.

    Just some thoughts on your rant. And yeah, the guys getting this done for free are working a game on folks. I imagine you might manage to do that almost forever in the current climate. Never paying for mixing. Tough time in the music biz right now.

    A related topic might be the automated mixing software like LANDR. You send it tracks and it mixes. Isn’t terrible, but isn’t very good either. However, I believe in time, with some style choices it might get to be good. Then no mixing jobs are available. Interesting times we live in.

  8. Get well soon.

  9. Hope you feel better, Mark. I had what they called “walking pneumonia” once and have never felt so weak for so long in my life. I must’ve missed three weeks of work all told, and even when I went back to work, I could only work for part of the day for another week! At the time I was only about 35 years old. I hate to think what it would do to me today at my advanced age!

  10. Mark, Don’t mess around and take care of yourself. Your health is the most precious thing you possess, and your family needs you.

    Sad what the music industry has come to From the earliest days of recording most everyone in the industry were looking for ways to deliver a higher fidelity product to the consumer. Unfortunately in the last 20 years or so things have changed dramatically. Manufacturers of equipment have become a bunch of snake oil peddlers and the recording side people are concerned about everything but true high fi. As for the popular “music” being made today I’ll politely pass on any comment.

    The only good news here is that I can go on eBay and purchase the best of the 1930s-1990s on CD.for just a couple bucks, rip em to my server and then pass them on to someone else. The golden days for collectors. 🙂

  11. Hey Mark,

    I hope you feel better soon! But even pneumonia can’t dampen your ardor to blog for the best quality audio achievable whatever they eventually call it. Too bad that this self perpetuating, endless feed back loop, of loud mixes will continue to dominate as the benchmark for ‘quality’ sound.

  12. Hi Mark,

    First of all, Pneumonia is not to be trifled with, something I can unfotunately tell you from experience. Montana will be there tomorrow and next year too; I believe you should take care of those lungs and think about Montana and cold mountain air for a later occassion. I wanna keep reading those rants without imagining how you reach for the inhaler or make a pause to recover from coughing. Be good and do as the doc orders, Mark. Not wanting to be sick and just keep doing what your doing is the right attitude, but playing your luck with altitude, cold aur and exercise sounds like the wrong deal to me. Take it from an experienced asthmatic who knows what the cold air of the andes and driving over mountain passes at 5200m of altitude is, in my current home, Peru.

    As for todays rant, totally support you, we just have fight bad taste, trash and disposable music and something as doing remixes for fame amd only the promise of fortune. It’s not just about despicable industry practices but also about the kind of musical outcome and consumption culture, as well as the kind of acquired tastes that they foster. Music, just like any other artform, is also and largely about the values that come with it, the aesthetic exploration it invites to, and the production process and spirit it comes from. If we want good musicians and industry professionals we have to teach them the real value of their work, which certainly isn’t fame and fortune. I wold send those aspirations straight to business school or Wall Street, they have nothing to seek in the arts.

    Please ta ke care and keep the good and educational writing happening… although I’m still waiting for your take on Edgar Choueiri’s work; you referred to the legitimate merit of his Bacch filter, and it can be built in to a A/D & D/A converters used for recording, rendering surround obsolete (?)

    Cheers!

    • I’m going to write about 3D sound aka “binaural” sound today.

  13. A.S. The Fetească Neagră red wine is the sole substance to fight & protect from even poliomyelitis and chickenpox, its berry skin contains a highly effective antibiotic. Pneumonia is typically caused by a strongest stress, so try meditation, this is the most important thing, as can cure almost instantly!

    Now, it may be seen quite clearly that the higher the sampling rate the less quantizing error is across the audible range, hence the more “HD” becomes the audio. Higher bandwidth gives more headroom for noise-shaped dither & also provides less audible filtering {at both ends, unlike upsampling that always applies after the event} and better reproduction of high frequencies.

    Thus, Fujitsu ADC ‘s 8 bits at 65 GHz sampling rate will deliver an incomparably higher resolution & dynamic range than 24 bits at, say, 384 kHz. Notice the device nearly solves every problem associated with current audio formats.

    Finally, current state-of-the-art in audio reproduction: heavily PAQ’ed OptimFROG properly noise-shape dithered 44.1/16 + TacT Audio T-2 + true point source {i.e. without mechanical crossover} paper diaphragm speakers .

    Especially for the highly advanced digital audio format I proposed a Single-Electron Transistor based single-ended Purest Class A analog amplifier must be created .

    • Jay, having read pretty much all of your posts I’m convinced you’re from another planet.

  14. Pneumonia is serious business. Stay in bed, rest, relax and stop thinking about high res audio for a few days. Get well soon.

    • Thanks Joe….it’s impossible for me to stay in bed. I can rest with the best of them but sitting around doing nothing is not in my vocabulary. I’m feeling a little better today.

  15. Get well soon, Dr. Mark. I’ve had pneumonia and it’s no vacation.

  16. Your health is your wealth. I’d take it easy now ’till you recover, it’s not worth risking over a vacation.

  17. OptimFROG is the solely lossless compression technique to fully preserve the 1411 kbps CD format bit rate while allowing highest possible compression ratios, meaning MQA, FLAC, APE, etc., are all rather lossy !!!

  18. Hi Mark,

    take care – and do get well soon!

  19. Get well soon my friend. Hope you’ll be okay for NAMM. In the meantime, chicken soup, juice, tea and lots of fluids. Take whatever the doc gives and call me in the afternoon,…. morning is too early for both of us. 🙂

    • That’s…I’m already feeling better.

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