Dr. AIX's POSTS — 16 February 2015

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Yesterday’s post talked about the use of standard definition tracks as demo material for new “high-resolution” devices. I’ve found many bundled tracks that sound really good…when we need really incredible sound! If the move from standard definition to high-resolution audio is “very subtle” and “hard to hear”, then perhaps we’re chasing rainbows with all this talk about high-resolution. It’s real easy to slap a logo on a piece of hardware. But it’s not so easy to convince people that the “new and improved” is actually sonically “new and improved”…especially if you playing the same “old and the same” music tracks.

A few of you asked me to provide some additional information on the spectra that I described as lacking. For those of you that are not familiar with the spectrograms that I post from time to time, you should read the sequence of four posts I wrote a while back. Here’s the link to the first one.

150215_spectra_sony_portable

Figure 1 – The four demo tracks included with the Sony NWZ-A17 portable high-resolution player. [Click to enlarge]

The reason that had commented on the spectra of the four “high-resolution” tunes bundled with the Sony NWZ-A17 (they actually have a high-res indicator associated with the files on the device) is because none of the examples has any signal present above 22 kHz. Look at the orange line. This is the one from the Dave Brubeck selection. There’s a telltale “bias” frequency from the analog tape machine at around 29 kHz and a gentle upward rising curve of increasing amplitude past 30 kHz. One might hope that this might be ultrasonic partials present in the music. It’s not. It’s pure noise.

The other tunes exhibit similar compromises. However, the red line (the spectra from “Watermelon Man”) has been run through a low pass filter to remove the ultrasonic noise. These are very good recording…they sound great…but they don’t measure up to the status of stellar demo tracks. And they are decidedly not high-res tracks.

I’ve included the plots of the two tunes that I mentioned yesterday. Take a look at the spectra of two Real HD-Audio tracks:

150216_aix_spectra

Figure 2 – Spectra of “Let Them In” by John Gorka and “Mosiac” by Laurence Juber.

In these plots, you don’t see any reversal of the frequency vs. amplitude plot. There’s just a continuous slope from the higher energy present in the lower portion of the audio band and a continuing gradual amplitude loss as the frequency increases. This is the way all recordings should look…if you want high-resolution frequency response. Tracks like these work great for demos. In fact, I’ve shared these tracks are numerous events and they both blow people away. Doesn’t it make sense to include some tracks of this quality as “first experiences” when auditioning a new “high-res” player. I certainly think so.

While if unlikely that anyone will know who John Gorka or Laurence Juber are…they will experience incredible music making without any of the sonic compromises that virtually all commercial releases suffer from.

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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.

(9) Readers Comments

  1. “While if unlikely that anyone will know who John Gorka or Laurence Juber are…they will experience incredible music making without any of the sonic compromises that virtually all commercial releases suffer from.”????

    That was exactly the point of my post yesterday. When you have world class HD recordings of someone like Mark Chesnutt with 8 #1 singles, RIAA platinum albums, etc, etc, etc. Why would you consider using Gorka/Juber/who? cuts for demo releases on new HD devices like the Sonys.

    Now a couple of the best cuts from Your Room will be very familiar songs to huge numbers of demo listeners and THAT would “blow them away”.

    • It’s funny…whenever I play the Mark Chesnutt tracks on my sampler, the room empties. Twangy country is not everyone’s cup of tea.

  2. Be carefull, Mark – it will be difficult to convince ‘highres-hardliners’ to listen to anything, that they haven’t already approved.

  3. Mark; why do you refer to specific recordings ie: Juber and not any of your other H.D. recordings when you want to demonstrate what real H.D. sound, sounds like?

    • I have my favorites. The reason that “Mosaic” gets a push is because I love the project, I’m a guitar player, it won a major award and it’s among our biggest sellers. When people ask my what is a great tune to use as a demo track, I say LJ’s Mosaic”. All of my tracks are worthy but there are some favorites.

  4. Mark, sometimes I feel like we are both jousting at windmills with swords. We are just trying to get folks to care more about good sound and to understand that you can enjoy music much more when the sound is clean.

    Making an analogy, you are saying that the view from the top of the mountain is the only view that can legitimately be called “peak,” and are upset that some folks are using the word ‘peak’ to describe a view, that while still quite nice, cannot accurately be described as ‘peak.’ That is a 100% valid point when aimed at the offending parties.
    But it should not be used to overshadow or denigrate the fact that one way or the other, the publicly available median of sound quality is coming up, and the single most influential figure here is Neil Young. No one else of comparable stature has made emphatically clear on a large scale that MP-3 sucks, and that you can do something about it..

    It is the quality and marketing of your product that will most affect your software business; not what he is doing, right, wrong or indifferent, and in the larger scenario his Pono move can and should be seen as very positive-going simply because of the core message, which is definitely not an inferrence that 16/44= Hi-Res. His core message is that EVERYONE deserves better-sounding music.

    I still fail to see how that message in any way subverts what you are doing. And with Tidal soon offering hi-res streaming, as a record label and software vendor, I’d be a lot more concerned about that than whether or not it’s fair to call the view from 100 feat down from the mountain peak ‘peak’ or just ‘beautiful.’

    Improving everyone’s view to ‘beautiful’ is alot more important than exactly who is getting the ‘hi-res’ view from the peak just a short distance away.Thanks and best.

    • Craig, good sound for everyone is a laudable goal but as I’ve said previously…we need to get there without misleading anyone. Neil Young has been misleading customers, investors, the press, and even himself. The mainstream press have come down hard on Pono (probably too hard). I report on the fallacies of his offering….that’s all.

      Just be truthful and I have no complaints.

  5. Contrary to what you see at the shows from the tastes of niche audiophile attendees, The “Twangy” sound of Mark Chesnutt sells by the many of millions. How many #1 singles, or RIAA platinum albums does Juber or Gorga have? If you were to get the opportunity to include a couple of your cuts on something like the new Sony I would think you’d want to include something the greater public actually wants to listen to and I think the comparative sales numbers would tell the larger story.
    If you want people to switch away from your tracks as fast possible searching for something they know and like it’s your nickel but will be AIX’s loss due to your musical prejudice which you’ve made very clear here.
    I by no means want to attack or insult you here, quite the contrary, I fight for your success.
    You were lucky enough to be able to record a world class successful talent, don’t let it got to waste trying to hype a couple of total unknowns.

    • The reality is that Mark’s fans didn’t buy the Blu-ray disc…they didn’t have Blu-rays players. I kind of with Dr. Bose about demo tracks…the celebrity of the artist isn’t a big factor for me.

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