Dr. AIX's POSTS — 30 January 2015

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I received an email from my friend Alan Kanter that was published in LA Weekly about the relative merits of Vinyl LPs and digital recordings…specifically CD standard stuff. The article was written by Chris Kornelis and published on Tuesday January 27, 2015. Here’s a link to the lengthy article. It may be long but it is well worth the read.

It’s especially relevant because Michael Fremer ranted without mercy about an article by Mario Aguilar over at Gizmodo and a response that he wanted published. Michael Fremer, for those of you who aren’t familiar with his passion and his writing, is a reviewer for Stereophile and a staunch vinylophile. You can read his rant yourself here but basically he lashes into Mario because he criticizes the Pono device and Neil Young for selling snake oil. I read the article and have actually been in touch with Mario (he wrote to me after my comments and article on the same topic) and I agree with a lot of what he said…however, he based his negative assessment on totally incorrect reasoning. It’s on thing to deliver a critical review but it’s another to do so on erroneous information and dubious facts. But I’ve already posted about that. Today is about the silliness of Michael’s retort.

The article in the LA Weekly contains a lot of quotes from intelligent, working professional audio engineers…including Grammy winners, educators, and inventors. The essential message is pretty much the same line that I’ve been saying for years. Michael and all of his vinylophile friends…and recognize that there are a lot of them…need to understand the facts about their vaulted format. It is an absolute fact that a PCM digital recording, even at CD specifications, can outperform a vinyl LP in every aspect of sound, accuracy of reproduction, dynamic range, and stereo imaging.

Michael referenced my recordings and the comparison of high-resolution files vs. CD down conversions. He bragged about being able to pick the high-resolution file 75% of the time. These were recordings that have extended frequency response, not mastering, and lots of dynamic range. Mr. Fremer wrote the follow about an epiphany moment in the Meridian demo room at CES.

“We were played Bob Dylan singing “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” transferred using this technology directly front the analog master tape and FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER I heard a digital file that challenged the resolution and spaciousness of an LP (which has a frequency response from 16 Hz well into the 40 kHz range). Here’s a link to the lengthy article.

[NOTE: Vinyl LP masters are usually cut from second or third generation analog tape…it’s a very rare vinyl LP that delivers appropriate levels at 16 Hz up to 40 kHz]

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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.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. I will always respect Michael Fremer’s views. In the end he just prefers how vinyl sounds and that is quite fair enough.

    I won’t deny that there’s something deeply special about a well preserved original pressing on a high end rig. I also happen to think that vinyl is a format with high levels of sound coloration which, undeniably, a lot of people simply favor over digital, regardless of its accuracy. Again, perfectly fair opinions in a free society,

    As you rightly observe Mark, digital technically trounces vinyl in all departments, but rather like a modern car will significantly outperform its older versions of the same model, personal taste dictates that some will still prefer what the vintage set of wheels brings to the party.

    My own view is that recent developments in DAC technology are rapidly moving digital to an unquestionably superior level and, what’s even better for the consumer is that said technology can provide incredible sound quality at a fraction of the price of a top of the range turntable, arm and cartridge combination – and all without the constant and time consuming set up rituals that record playing inevitably entails to consistently give of its best.

    Digital files do not suffer from stylus wear, turntable speed variations, accidental damage or environmental contamination. The CD’s I bought in 1983/4 sound identical to what I heard then, albeit that better mastering of re-releases has consigned them to the shelves.

  2. Mark, no link to the original article to be found.

  3. Mark, have you read the Levitin study on the ability to discriminate high-resolution audio mentioned in the article?

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