I’m still exploring speaker options for the AXPONA demo room that will happen in April (I just confirmed my payment for the space) and for a rigorous study of high-resolution audio here at the studio. The suggestions I’ve received are all in consideration but I’m still trying to get the attention of my friends at JBL and at least a pair of the M2 Studio Reference Monitors. It’s a slim chance but I’m convinced that the technologies that they’ve developed and incorporated into these speakers can deliver the frequency range, low distortion, dispersion, and accuracy that my recordings require. And that other options will come up short.
The M2s have to be mated to the Crown I-Tech amplifiers (I use Crown amplifiers to drive my THX certified JBL array in the studio). There is DSP processing required by the M2s that the Crowns accomplish and then the digital signals are converted to analog and forwarded to the speakers (the crossover happens in the digital domain). The A-weighted output of the Crowns is impressive at 108 dB but is there a way to increase that spec using other amplifiers…notably the Benchmark AHB2s that can deliver 130 dB? I’m certainly not saying that JBL has slighted the performance of the M2 when coupled with the Crown amps, quite the contrary. I’ve experienced my recordings on the M2s on several occasions (at JBL, at Sprint, and at the CE Week Jungle City event in NYC) and can attest to the quality of the sound. I’ve been lusting after the M2s since I first heard about them. They really deliver.
I’ve learned that it is possible to load the processing signature of the M2s into the BSS Blu-800 signal processor (Harman owned) and use that device to output digital 96 kHz/24-bit signals to a set of Benchmark DAC2 HGC converters and then use the AHB2 amplifiers to their full potential. It’s not a trivial setup but it would actually enhance the performance of the JBL M2 to full “high-resolution” quality. I’m not sure something like this has even been done before…and I want to be the first.
It’s time to put up or shut up when it comes to high-resolution audio. Articles like that from Brent Butterworth call into question the validity of high-resolution. An article forwarded by a reader from Goldmund continues his apprehension in white paper form. You can read the paper by clicking here. He pushes the same agenda and cites some of the research that’s been done over the past 10 years, but he still misses the critical factor of recording provenance. He…and David Pogue…are listening to standard definition recordings. My hope is that by actually assembling a system that really does meet the highest performance standards that these guys and attendees, reviewers, audio professionals, and skeptics that visit AXPONA will leave convinced that HRA has merit.
At the recent NAMM show, Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records told the audience that she could teach anyone in attendance to “hear” high-resolution audio. In a recent article she penned for Positive Feedback Online she challenged David Pogue to come to San Francisco…to her studio…and get a dose of high-resolution audio. I’m not sure what Cookie would play (new DSD tracks or transfers from older analog tapes) and the capabilities of her monitoring system, but I am somewhat dubious about her claim. Or others that claim that it’s “easy” to tell the difference. That has certainly not been my experience. HRA is a step up…but its not a huge leap.
I’ll keep you posted on my quest. We’re going to have one incredible room at AXPONA. This year will be less about the cost of system and more about the delivery of real high-resolution audio. Book your travel to Chicago now.