I wrote the following to Wilson Rothman, the author of the Wall Street Journal article discussed over the past few days. I’d considered drafting a note in support of his article…at least this guy had the initiative to look further than most…but he still got mired in the source vs. delivery conundrum. I hope he takes a listen to the Sprint/iTrax collaboration project available at my download site. I’ll let you know if I hear back…
My name is Mark Waldrep and I own and operate AIX Records and iTrax.com. I’m a recording engineer, professor of audio engineering, producer of high-resolution audio and daily blogger at RealHD-Audio.com. I also sit on the audio board of the CEA and am a member of the Recording Academy and Audio Engineering Society. A close friend forwarded you post about high res audio and I wrote a number of posts of my own about your piece. I applaud you for an excellent article.
However, I would suggest that you really didn’t experience high-resolution audio in y our research. The central issue is the fidelity of the source recording (as defined by the technology and procedures used to produce it) and the fidelity of the delivery container…the 192/96 kHz/24-bit files you auditioned were limited by the recording technology upstream from the files you played. Norah Jones, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney et al., were made using analog tape, which is not a high-resolution format given its specifications (limited dynamic range of 10-12 bits equivalent and frequency response to around 25 kHz). The final fidelity is only as good as the source fidelity.
I’ve referred to this as the “provenance” of the audio file. The term refers to the fidelity of the original file and the subsequent mastering or processing that has occurred since its creation. As you correctly point out, not all recordings have the same fidelity just because they are provided in a 192 kHz/24-bit PCM digital bit bucket. In fact, commercial demands, changing tastes, and the personal aesthetics of the production team are very important factors in the ultimate sound of a recording.
What do you think might happen if a recording company and a roster of artists adopted and endorsed a difference philosophy? How might the fidelity of a recording improve, or at least change, if all subsequent processing was voided? The core question I set out to answer back in 2000 was whether it is possible to elevate the fidelity of audio recording and reproduction beyond…dramatically beyond…the confines of vinyl LPs, analog tape, and Compact Discs. I have recorded and released about 85 albums recorded using this new approach…and have won recognition by my peers, reviewers, and customers. The Absolute Sound magazine, one of the most respected audiophile magazines, said this about my albums, “…the multichannel audio, emanating from five B & W 801 loudspeakers, is quite simply the most realistic and involving instance of recorded sound I can recall, from any source format. Mark Waldrep knows what he’s doing”.
I would welcome the opportunity to share some real HD-Audio recordings with you and your friends and see if recordings made without commercial compromises are audibly different than the stuff you experienced while researching your piece at the WSJ. I created a sampler with Sprint last summer (prompted by the former CEO who reads my blog and contacted me…he’s an audiophile). You can go to the website below and use the following coupon code to download the Sprint/iTrax UHD-Audio sampler. It contains 18 tracks that are all bona fide HD audio.
Please play them through any system you like and compare them to your usual listening fare and I believe you’ll be able to hear the reason I’ve dedicated the last 15 years of my life to improving the fidelity of music recordings.
COUPON CODE: xxxxxxx