Dr. AIX's POSTS — 01 March 2015

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I don’t listen to enough music. I used to. But these days, life has become so busy that it’s actually difficult for me to find the time to do some quality listening. Sure, I listen to the radio in my car (a 2005 Acura TL with the ELS DVD-Audio surround sound system factory installed) on my way to the university and back but it’s rare for me to sit in the studio or at home for an extended listening session. But I did this morning. And it was wonderful.

In preparation for the “High-Resolution Audio Demystified” event on April 4, 2015 here at the AIX Studios (Click here for more information…I have only a couple of slots still available. Thanks for the support!), I decided to go through the High-Resolution Surround Music demonstration discs that I’ve collected over the years. I have most of them as well as a reasonable number of the DVD-Audio releases from around 10 years ago. Some of these discs have become collectors items and sell for premium prices on eBay…and I understand why after listening to a bunch of tracks this morning.

When I purchased my 2005 Acura TL, it came with a DVD-Audio sampler disc called the “ELS DVD-Audio Demonstration Disc”. I still have a copy. And AIX Records contributed a track from Zephyr: Voices Unbound to the collection. It sounds great in through the car system but the music reaches new heights when played in a proper surround music playback system…like my studio.

The folks at Warner Special Products assembled some really great tracks for this demonstration disc. And they put the very best track at the front of the disc. “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)” is also the first track on Donald Fagen’s 1982 solo album “Nightfly” and a very familiar tune to fans of Steely Dan (Fagen and Becker split ways in 1981). The 5.1 surround mixed by Elliot Scheiner (a prime mover in the ELS Acura system…ELS are his initials) is fabulous. Listening to the stereo version and then switching to the surround mix is a very dramatic way to show surround music doubters that 5.1 music rocks. There’s just no comparison. Everything is so easy to hear and place. The counterpoint of all of the parts and vocals is laid out aggressively through all of the speakers and simply envelopes you.

The next track was “Ventura Highway” by one of my favorite groups America. The very memorable opening guitar motive is split between the left and right surrounds while the main rhythm part and vocals occupy the center and front of the speaker array. Like the Fagen track this tune is also very familiar and makes a profound impression when presented in full 5.1 surround…at least for a guy that was pounding out pizza dough at the Ann Street Dominos pizza shop in 1971 when I first heard the band’s first hit “A Horse With No Name”).

My listening session included all of the other tracks on the Acura DVD-Audio demo disc. My favorites include “Long Train Runnin'” by the Doobie Brothers, “Your Precious Love” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (mixed by my friend Robert Margouleff), and “When I’m Gone” by 3 Doors Down.

I also listened to a JVC DVD-Audio demonstration disc that includes: “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young, “Lucky Man” by ELP, the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (which strangely lacks any sound in the LFE channel), “Love Her Madly” by the Doors and a great pop tune and 5.1 surround mix called “Breathless” by the Corrs.

My plan is to pull a number of these tracks from the discs, play a bunch of them and talk about the fidelity and mixes for the HRA Demystified event. Of course, I’ll be playing a bunch of my own tracks including some tracks from the album that shall not be mentioned.

This is what it is all about.

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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.

(14) Readers Comments

  1. Great column, Mark. Yes, those DVD-A tracks in the Acura are great, as are the Acura Demo Discs. There are actually 4 versions of Acura Demo discs. You can see them here (http://www.quadraphonicquad.com/QQWBRhinoGalleryP4.htm) along with a few other demo DVD-A’s from WB.

    As a footnote, those still interested in the “America Homecoming” DVD-A, that album is being released next month by Audio Fidelity as an SACD. Can’t play it in the Acura, but you can listen to it and with the right equipment, make your own DVD-A for the car.

    Keep up the great work on keeping us all informed on REAL High Resolution audio. Your columns are a wealth of knowledge

    • With The right equipment? Except he first generation P3 there is no medium out-there to rip a SACD. I have still 60 SACD’s I would love to rip. Please tell me the right equipment.

      Cheers

    • Thanks to Mark for the column mentioning the Accura demo disc. I managed to pick up one via eBay and am enjoying it. Thanks for the followup comment pointing out that there are several versions 🙂 I enjoy well crafted demo discs 🙂

  2. Try “Drive Home” by Steven Wilson in 5.1 on the bluray edition of his album, “The Raven That Refused to Sing”. Nice and loud-ish. Good use of deep bass, dynamics, musical emotion. Steven uses ‘stage mix’, is a surround sound fan and practitioner with some engineering skills.

    • Thanks for the recommend…I know Steve’s work and he’s one of the best.

  3. Is it posible to buy downloads of the 5.1 from your own recordings?

    • Yes, all of my albums/tracks are available at iTrax.com.

  4. What is “the album that shall not be mentioned???” 🙂

    • That’s why it’s called the “album that shall not be mentioned” because I can’t mention it.

  5. All I will say is that it is a good one!!

  6. Mark:

    Your column today struck a familiar chord and raised a question in my mind – I recently went back to digitize some of my old LP’s and I came across that old 1982 ‘Nightfly’ recording by Donald Fagen. (I am using an Apogee Duet-2 [@ 192/24bits, for extra data for ‘declicking’ etc.] and find that it yields results as good as many download sites.)

    The vinyl LP liner notes state: “Recorded and mixed entirely on 3M digital 32 track and 4 track machines at Soundworks Digital Audio/Video Recording Studios, N.Y., Village Recorders, L.A. and Automated Sound, N.Y.”

    Since this recording was chosen by Warner for the first track of the Acura demo disk and a 5.1 surround mix was created for the DVD-A, I was curious about the sample rate and bit depth of that recording given the date of the recording in 1982.

    I found in this article in the Spring 2008 ARSC Journal “The Dawn of Commercial Digital Recording” by Thomas Fine [page 10] that the 3M Digital recorder was “…a 32-track self-contained linear recorder that used special-formulation 1-inch tape moving at 45 inches per second. The 16-bit system featured a sampling rate of 50KHz and allowed for over-dubbing and editing.”

    http://www.aes.org/aeshc/pdf/fine_dawn-of-digital.pdf

    Thus, it would appear, that the ‘provenance’ of the recording [@ 50KHz/16-bit] cannot be considered High-Resolution by your definition if we apply that consistently — although I certainly enjoy the music and I’m sure most music fans wouldn’t care about this minor technical detail.

    Regards,

    Sergio Suarez

    • Sergio, thanks for the information. I think was vaguely aware that the album was recorded digitally. I’m certainly aware of the 3M machine and it’s legacy. I actually remember seeing one all those years ago. It was 50 kHz and 16-bits. The files on the DVD-Audio sampler were 48 kHz/24-bits…certainly not high-resolution by my definition…and the track sounded really amazing.

  7. Mark,

    I know you have already DF in your list of songs to play, but honestly without Babylon Sisters from the DVD-A your presentation is not complete. Also, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (re-recorded in 5.1) is a blast for demonstrating surround.
    Just saying.

    • Thanks.

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