Dr. AIX's POSTS — 18 March 2015

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I started this daily blog back in 2013 after reading many of the daily posts by my friend Paul McGown at PS Audio. I’ve known Paul and read with interest his daily thoughts. I don’t always agree with his sentiments and we strenuously disagree on the value of DSD but I like Paul and have even owned some of equipment back in the day. I figured if Paul can carve out a chunk of time to compose a few hundred words, I could do the same thing. That was over 770 posts ago…I have missed a day since April of 2013.

But I’m beginning to feel like I’m residing in the bizarro world of Superman lately. A reader pointed me to some recent posts by Paul (they are in the comments from a day ago) that bear on the same “bits as bits” debate. Paul’s position is summed up below:

“The point I was hoping to make is that the mediums and what it takes to retrieve the data from those mediums causes different sound from each, even though the bits are coming out in the same number and order,” came from one of his recent comments. I have no reason to doubt his beliefs but it still comes as a surprise that he would try to pull the proverbial curtain on his readers and customers. Let me reiterate what I’ve been writing about recently, if a stream of raw PCM digital data is delivered by a replicated disc, CD-R, RAM buffer, hard drive, punched paper tape, Exabtye cartridge, USB stick or flashlight beams, there is absolutely no way that there will be any sonic differences when identical data streams are presented to a high-end DAC with proper clocking. There are no sonic differences for the reasons of storage media.

He’s been making the case that identical data isn’t actually identical data (either it is or it isn’t…clocking is separate). Error correction is also a factor, but given accurate extraction of digital data from any storage media, the game is over.

I guess I should do yet another data comparison similar to the ones that I’ve done in the past when this debate raged. The last time I ventured into this mess, I took a new DVD-Audio disc and captured the “Mosaic” track onto my hard drive. Then I treated the surface of the disc with “special” goo ioncluded in an audiophile accessory called the “Auric Illuminator”, carefully following the instructions. I did a polarity reversal AND a data compare and was not surprised to learn that the data from each source were absolutely identical. When played through the same system and DAC using the same clock, the sound was identical. The “Auric Illuminator”, which was highly recommended by numerous online publications and printed magazines, was a bust. No change. Perhaps if you leave your catalog of CDs out in the sun on the dashboard of your car, the special goo might help restore their playability, but for normal discs…nada.

How do we get past the continued fiction spewed by high-end makers of hardware, cables, and even software? Yes, software companies do it too. Record companies want sales just as much as the hardware snake oil vendors. This is a quote I found on the Elusive Disc site referring to an FIM production on CD (remember a CD is a CD is a CD at 44.1 kHz/16-bits…no amount of voodoo is going to alter the stream of ones and zeros and the resultant fidelity).

“FIM’s glass mastering-disc engineer maintains expertise in the latest technologies: he currently uses a special blu-ray recordable mastering thermal process technique to create small smooth grooves which result in precision fidelity. He is meticulous in ensuring the best track pitch and the distance between the spiral of the pits, to reduce the amount of noise the tracking servo in the drive picks up from adjacent tracks, thus ensuring the best parameters on Cross Talk (XT) by minimizing the servo noise of the Drive during playback of the replica results.”

This paragraph is so nuts that I’ll parse it tomorrow and let you know exactly what it means.

Just give me the 44.1 kHz / 16-bits samples so that my high-end DAC can convert the digital stream back to analog music.

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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.

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