Dr. AIX's POSTS — 19 March 2015

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The Redbook specification for Compact Discs doesn’t allow for any additional improvements to fidelity through any of the hocus pocus mentioned below. This is a product page taken right from the Elusive Disc sales website. You’re buying a $40 CD.

Numbered, Limited Edition Ultra High Definition 32-Bit Mastering Import CDs Produced Using PureFlection Process! This Ultra HD 32-Bit Mastering CD will play on ALL CD players!

There is no such thing as an “Ultra High Definition” CD! Compact Discs are ALL standard definition.

“A Better CD Production Process – The Pure Reflection (PureFlection) Process:

FIM UHD CDs now sound undeniably better than ever! (Did they suck before?) FIM’s first priority is to locate a factory that offers the latest technologies throughout its entire production chain, from the best A-grade polycarbonate materials, to testing and accurate quality control tools. The factory must produce a detailed specification sheet which ensures the discs produced demonstrate the same quality as the original recording.”

UHD CDs sound better than what measure? Better than a standard CD…that’s impossible. If the original master is a high-resolution file then the UHD CD will, in fact, sound worse than the original. This sort of double speak is embarrassing.

“To assure us of the best results, FIM has enlisted the help of one of the most experienced mastering engineers in the industry to craft the glass disc for the final replication process. Winston Ma continually maintains close rapport with him, as well as the original recording engineers, the mastering engineers and the manufacturer to achieve consensus regarding musicality and the sound spectrum.”

The job of the mastering engineer at the replication facility is to make a glass master (which is verified by a machine as containing all of the right bits) and then replicate copies of the master. There are no additional fidelity issues happening at the plant. The discs either meet the specifications of a CD or they don’t. Fidelity is not a factor if the discs are correctly replicated.

“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.”

I promised to talk about this. Here’s the lowdown. I have a BD-R recorder in my shop as well. In fact, I have a few of them. And they do use a “thermal process technique” to burn the data bits into the surface of the media…but ALL optical disc burners do this. Nothing special to brag about here. The “track pitch” and “the distance between the spiral of the pits” are the same thing…how far apart are the data paths on the surface of the disc? On a CD they are farther apart than a Blu-ray disc. Wouldn’t this make the chances for the mythical “cross talk” on the BD-R higher than that on a CD? Remember, all we want to get is the correct digital information off of the disc. There is no impact from servo noise.

“To further ensure the best quality, FIM stipulates the most extensive test specification requirements. Pure Reflection (PureFlection) discs show in every CD booklet the full spectrum of specification of a given CD in the following categories:

BLER (17 items), BERL (9 items), Physical (6 items), Jitter (6 items), E22 Graph and BLER Graph

The concept of UHD 32-Bit PureFlection is the transformation of a superior sound into something truly exceptional, enhancing the experience without interfering in it. Sit back, relax and listen to the new sound of a UHD 32-Bit PureFlection CD!”

I’m sorry but I just don’t believe you! How is your 44.1 kHz 16/-bit standard CD “transformed” into something superior if we both rigidly meet the Redbook specification? Making up words and processes like Pureflection or E.S.E. or UHD CD doesn’t allow you to put more data on the disc or raise specs.

“Ultra High Definition 32-Bit Mastering!

Ultra High Definition 32-Bit Mastering is a proprietary ultra-high-quality mastering system. This leading-edge system has achieved unprecedented sonority and musicality, reproducing as closely as possible the sound of the original master tape! This format employs what is currently the highest attainable resolution bit depth (word length) in the professional audio field, i.e. 32-bit. 32-bit resolution makes possible maximized, undistorted dynamics, and the lowest noise floor, allowing even the quietest musical information to be heard more clearly. This breakthrough results from the development, through years of experience and application of advanced digital technology, of a sophisticated A/D and D/A processing system.”

Too bad that Sonny Rollins’ recording wasn’t made using 32-bits. In fact, 32-but ADCs are exceedingly rare in any studios. What happens when you place 10-12-bits dynamics into a 32-bit container? You don’t get 32-bit dynamics, that’s for sure. So all of those wonderful qualities in the previous paragraph are pure BS. Good sales and marketing but without impact to the fidelity.

“Ultra HD 32-Bit Mastering does not specify a sampling rate; this allows flexibility in meticulously choosing the appropriate bandwidth for a particular recording. The higher the sampling rate — for example, 192 kHz — the greater the bandwidth. However, merely employing the greatest bandwidth may not guarantee the ultimate sound. With some recordings, a lower sampling rate — 96 or 176 (sic 176.4) kHz — may offer better musicality and more homogeneous harmonics. This determination requires careful and discerning auditioning and professional judgment. In the end, the human being’s hearing and emotions should be the final arbiter, rather than the print-out of testing equipment or technical measurements.”

We’re getting back to “touchy, feely” descriptions. A digitally converted file does have a native sample rate and if you convert to something else, the sound quality can suffer. Choosing a sample rate based on “hearing and emotions” should never be the final arbiter. They’ve got this all backwards.

“Recognizing these variables, FIM nevertheless tries to use 32-bit depth and 192 kHz bandwidth whenever the original analog master is at hand. Alternatively, if the original recording is on 24/96, the 32/96 may eventually be used to maintain the integrity of the sonority particular to that recording. With this flexibility, First Impression Music believes that preeminent sound is only achievable when the chemistry of the recording, mastering, glass-stamper making, replication, and quality control is right. As always, listening is believing.”

A transfer of an analog master tape requires a state-of-the-art analog tape machine, careful engineering, and first rate analog to digital conversion. Using 192 kHz/24-bits is overkill but I wouldn’t argue too much against it. Hard drives are cheap.

“This recording has been mastered by the new Ultra High Definition 32-Bit Mastering process, which creates an unbelievable sound surpassing other formats!”

Wishful thinking, I think. What other formats are they talking about? Certainly not high-resolution formats. What would you rather have…the 192 kHz/24-bit original files right from the analog master (which will be about 10-12 bits of dynamics and stop at around 25 kHz) or an “Ultra HD 32-bit CD master”? There should be no question.

“The benefits of Ultra HD 32-Bit Mastering:
• Ambience of Analogue Sound [NOTE: Complete falsehood – marketing spin!!]
• Higher Resolution [NOTE: Higher than what? Not a standard Redbook CD…it is a Redbook CD!]
• Undistorted Dynamics [NOTE: Were they distorted before?!! Not true!]
• The Lowest Noise Floor, allowing even the quietest musical information to be heard more clearly! [NOTE: The noise floor was determined by the original analog tape…using 16-bits or twice that number makes no difference]
• Richer Sound Field [NOTE: BS – marketing spin!!]
• Master-Tape Quality Sound!!! [NOTE: I can endorse this statement…it does give you the master tape sound.]
• Delivers what musicians originally intended! [NOTE: If the musicians could have recorded to HD specs they would have preferred that.]

Features:
• Numbered, Limited Edition (Only 1000 Copies)
• Produced using PureFlection (Pure Reflection) Process
• Ultra HD Mastering
• Beautifully packaged
• Playable on ALL CD Players!”

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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.

(10) Readers Comments

  1. Hi Mark, it seems to me that the final conclusion can only sensibly be reached by an audition comparison of the ‘ultra’ CD and the standard issue item, with you as the listener.
    But just as the various agents of misperception are to be factored in to typical, uncontrolled comparisons, so is your staunch belief that based on the numbers, the discs must sound the same. I don’t care for voodoo-based claims either, and at this point I can state to be 100% free of placebo effect or any of the other cliches that are used to reduce the significance of what we hear as opposed to measure. In turn, I would hope that you could make a level-matched comparison and let your very experienced ears do the judging. If one does indeed sound better than the other…As an audio company principal and sage said to me recently,”When someone claims to have all the answers yet the ear reports differently, perhaps we are asking the wrong questions.” Thanks.

    • Craig, auditioning the sound of these “hyped Ultra HD CDs” is not necessary. I would hope that we can agree that a Redbook CD has a rigorous set of specifications…we all know them as 44.1 16-but linear PCM stereo. FIM and Winston Ma and his minions (including clever copywriters) can say anything they want about what they do prior to locking down a CD but they can’t do anything to advance the fidelity of a CD over what its spec says it can do. Right? The argument to let you ears do the judging can only happen after it is established that one is actually comparing two things that are different. I won’t waste my time or money buying a “PureFlexion” $40 CD and compare it to another CD containing the same data. No one else should either.

      • I’m sure you could get your hands on a so-called premium quality CD w/o paying for it. If the two do indeed sound identical, then the comparison will need to last no longer than 10 minutes max. I bet you have 10 minutes.

        OTH, if they sound noticeably different, not even getting to ‘better’ or ‘worse’, that too will be quickly audible.But if one does sound noticeably better, you won’t want to stop listening. Every time I audition something that causes me to listen to my oft-played demo/evaluation tracks as if I’ve never heard them, it is because something truly superior has just been inserted into my system. I know how to be clinical too, but when I listen for pleasure, about 70% of the clinical perspective is tossed aside; the other 30% never turns off from many years in this business. mark, we are opening a new stereo store in Santa Rosa; would you like to be the center of a Hi-Res event this Fall? Best, Craig

  2. Comparing the FIM HD with conventional CD, will reading error rates be lower on the FIM’s disk?
    Assuming a disk is exactly === original master (digital recording), the sound quality will depend on what happens after the data are retrieved. The question is then about the most efficient way to reproduce the original master in bit perfect manner. If that’s case, nothing bit direct download. Right. Forget all the intermediary medium.

    Just my thought.

    • Absolutely…so why do these BS products exist? And more importantly, how can a company like FIM stay in business?

  3. OUCH, Reading all that snake oil marketing made my brain hurt. 🙂

    • Sorry it was so long. I was amazed at the amount of crap being spewed on that page.

  4. Gee, I happened to look up the prices of these discs. $39.99. No wonder the claims made about the manufacturing process. You have to, somehow, justify the cost. Vinyl pricing! I’ll pass!

  5. Why are none of these scam artists being prosecuted for false advertising? Only in audio can people get away with such BS.

  6. Thanks again for helping us keep our feet on the ground.
    And for helping us saving a lot of money 😉

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