Dr. AIX's POSTS — 29 April 2015

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If you want to sell a new product or service, one of the best ways is to get celebrity endorsements. We’ve all seen famous movie stars selling diet pills or an aging rock icon pitching a collection of “the best rock ballads of all time” on late night television. And the assembly of music personalities lining up with Jay-Z to promote the doomed TIDAL streaming service (the one that is supposed to stream high-resolution music but offers instead only CD resolution) is simply underwhelming. The super rich musicians don’t really need any more money. But is there an honest musician out there that really gets high-resolution?

As wrongheaded as Neil Young is with his PonoMusic site and the false elevation of CDs to high-resolution status”, at least he correctly believes that highly compressed music doesn’t properly reproduce the “soul of the music” that he and his rock star friends write, perform, and produce. The sentiment is well placed but the implementation comes back to personal financial gain. I continue to believe that there is a place for new high-resolution audio productions AND that they will propel the industry towards real fidelity. But we need a champion.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I recently learned that Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl was only interested in the money when Sony approached him about securing high-resolution transfers of his back catalog. Don’t ask me how I learned about this but it’s true. I had imagined that Dave Grohl would be one of the good guys and really believe in high fidelity. I keep thinking that all I need to find is a bona fide top tier musician to get behind high-resolution and the rest would be history. Who could be that person? It’s not Neil Young. Maybe James Taylor…I cherish his music, songs, and voice but he’s probably too old and not really relevant to the younger generation. Dave Matthews or John Mayer? Nope. Hearing that Dave Grohl had no interest in the capturing of his analog stereo masters into high-resolution PCM was surprising. All he did was show up for the check.

What’s next? Is there a technology play with a phone manufacturer or consumer electronics company? No. They are at the whim of the record companies when it comes to licensing so called, “high-resolution audio”. I’m currently in discussions with both a phone maker and audio equipment manufacturer about licensing a few tracks from my catalog. I’m very flattered. They’ve done their homework and found out about AIX Records. When the marketing people at these companies heard some of the tracks from the Sprint – iTrax.com UHD Sampler, they were astonished. One listen and we got you.

We need to identify a celebrity musician and get that individual behind the idea of real high-resolution audio. That person needs to be more interested in the art of music more than the size of the check. I believe there are artists out there that aren’t all about money and would understand what I’m all about. I’ve heard that Elton John is camped out at The Village (not far from my studio) working on a new record; maybe he’d be interested. But then again, maybe he’s too old. I am a fan though.

Who do you think would be the perfect poster celebrity for high-resolution 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.

(66) Readers Comments

  1. Give Todd Rundgren a call.

    • I know Todd Rundgren and actually have his number. He’s been here and sat in my sweet spot. I love his music but I thought he’d be too old and not relevant.

  2. Joe Bonamassa. I’ve always been very impressed with the audio quality of his recordings, even the live ones. He’s a true artist.

    • Joe is a great suggestion but I fear he’s no more known than Carl Verheyen (they are friends).

  3. Can’t help with the pop cult Mark but here’s a list.
    Chris Botti
    Diana Krall
    Katherine Jenkins
    George Winston
    John Pizzarelli
    Dierks Bentley

  4. Hi Mark,
    A bit out of left field, but I would suggest Chris Thile (Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek). He is a virtuoso musician with a very keen sense of how things should sound. On a visit to Melbourne’s Recital Centre (which is renowned for its lack of background noises), the band did their encores with the amplification turned off so that they could listen to the real sounds of their instruments. Here’s a track .

    • The Punch Brothers are great but Warner Records would stand in the way…just as they did when I discussed a Neil Youn project.

  5. While maybe not as high up on the A list as you would probably prefer, I would say that Steven Wilson would be your man. He has long been a champion for hi-res, and has shown a disdain towards the MP3 method of listening to music.

  6. I don’t think that anyone “big” today would fit that bill, because the vast majority of audiophiles (certainly the ones that I know) are all into niche artists, not the John Mayer and Taylor Swift’s of the world. I think the closest you’d be likely to get is Steven Wilson, who at least is enjoying more mainstream support these days.

    • Steve gets it…but his production method might not sync with mine.

  7. How about Trent Reznor?

    Thom Yorke?

    Jón Þór Birgisson?

    Adam Levine?

    Taylor Swift? (if you’re making $40m a year, there might be interest in an occasional non-money project)

    The main hook in the offer would be *multichannel* high resolution audio, one hopes.

    • I have met Trent Reznor and even have his phone number and email. I did reach out but he was too busy.

  8. Mark, I’d love to think that Andy Connell and Corinne Drewery of Swing Out Sister who are currently making a crowd sourced thing see this site for more information, would be a great band who I think would really get the difference between the turgid radio mixes of their tracks that are compress beyond the point of clipping. With their global appeal and fan base, if nothing else they’d be a great addition to the AIX catalog.

    I’ve made a note in my diary for next year’s AXPONA, looking forwards to sitting in the sweet spot!

  9. Sting

  10. Tom Petty, Jack White, Eric Clapton

  11. These guys probably aint HUGE enough:
    Steven Wilson – Steven Wilson \ Porcupine Tree
    Thom Yorke – Radiohead
    Trent Reznor – Nine Inch Nails

    A bit bigger:
    Tool
    Daft Punk
    Pearl Jam

    noone else that some to mind seems to care about the final product 🙁

    Metallica would be prime suspects for ‘high-resing’ their old stuff – although I imagine it would be all about the money!

    • I’ve worked with Tool on a video DVD and know Trent Reznor. Might be worth a reach out.

      • I’d kill for a multichannel album of Tool.

        • That’s a great idea…and I know these guys. I worked on a DVD years ago and my son hangs with Danny, the drummer. Worth looking into.

          • Oh man I just stumbled over this article on reddit:

            Tool in the studio

            Apparently Tool just started work on their next album. As a fan I’m kind of happy that 10 years of waiting are over, but on the other hand I’m kind of sad, because the chance of getting a multichannel mix is kind of slim.

  12. When it comes to making consistently wonderful sounding records, you’ll struggle to beat Swiss electronic duo Yello, and indeed anything involving Boris Blank, a true genius in my view. My long experience with this band is that virtually anyone, kids included, becomes an instant devotees on hearing Yello in a reasonably good hifi set up. This is one band that has always got its sonics right and there isn’t a track on any of their albums that doesn’t excel in the sound quality stakes. Interestingly they haven’t done any hi-res releases yet, but such is the quality of what they produce you don’t sit there waiting for it.

    OK, so the music is a bit quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously. What matters is that every recording presents their music in its very best light. Something I wish I could say about most of the grandee artists out there who, like Mr Grohl, don’t seem to have any conception of high end sound.

  13. Garth Brooks
    The Eagles
    George Strait
    Clint Black

  14. Hi Mark,

    A very interesting question. I am afraid we won’t find a suitable prophet. At least one with celebrity status. Hi-Res is too nebulous a concept for most folks. Has fidelity ever been something the mainstream is interest in? I think it is going to take something more than somebody waxing eloquent about the recording chain, sample rates or restoring the soul of music. In my opinion, when Hi-Res finally does crack the mainstream, it will be ushered in with little or no fanfare. Almost an afterthought. It will ride the coattails of something much more tangible to the end consumer. Digital needs to find a way to better engage the end listener beyond just sound quality alone. Maybe it is just me but I remember looking at the pictures of the artist and lyrics on the sleeves of my CD’s as i listened and really making an emotional connection with the song and the artist. As good as Jremote is a simple image of the album cover doesn’t conjure up much in my imagination. Once somebody figures out how to bridge that gap in the digital domain I think we will have a vehicle to press ahead. Hi-Res as a singular concept just insn’t compelling enough.

    If I had to pick a favorite in this horse race, my money is still on Apple. They have creative vision to take digital where it needs to go from an experiential and sound quality perspective. We have often wondered when Apple would go Hi-Res, that’s not enough for them. I predict they are building a new experience and Hi-Res will just be a part of it. Not the main headline.

  15. Have you considered trying to get in touch with Donald Fagen of Steely Dan? He’s been creating high-quality 5.1 stage-perspective mixes of his own and Steely Dan’s records, starting with Gaucho and The Nightfly. All of his own recordings except the most recent (Sunken Condos) have been issued this way. Except for his first, The Nightfly, they’ve all been in 96/24. Nightfly was 48/24 – but one marked 48/24 on its packaging was actually 96/24. He’s even released combo packages that include both a DVD-Audio disk and a CD!

    I don’t know how to get in touch with him, but he’s someone people would listen to.

    PS Listen to Monkey House’s CD *Headquarters* – the leader of that band, Don Breithaupt, is the second coming of Donald Fagen. (I got it through Amazon.) That’s a two year old CD that could be a big hit with some promotion behind it – and you’d be just the guy to make and release the surround version. The songs are all originals, mostly written by Breithaupt, with great instrumentals and lyrics that are witty and passionate.

  16. I thought I recently saw Tom Petty promoting High Definition music?

    • His albums have been remastered and transferred to PCM high-res. Not real high-resolution but a move up.

  17. Hi Mark

    Look forward to reading your daily email.
    Good Job. Keep it up.

    Its unfortunate we could not hear & experience your recent exhibition of your recordings here in Australia, it would have been something else. I am jealous, reading your experience and the reactions of the nonbelievers, who have an epiphany once they hear what you have been banging on about.

    My suggestion to a celebrity musician:

    Mark Knofler – from Dire Straits
    Neil Diamond
    Keith Urban
    Any member from the Eagles
    Chris Isaak

    George

  18. Patricia Barber, Jimmy Page, S.Wonder, Peter Gabriel, D. Fagen, Steve Howe. Those are my favorite , also like good sound , safe . Complicated …. And of course, my friend singer and composer David Torrico, recording would be happy for you.

  19. Dr AIX
    I am sure that the perfect poster celebrity for High-Resolution Music would be Michael Buble. As he loves to listen to quality acoustic musical instruments.
    Cheers
    Alphonsosoosay.com

  20. Does it have to be a rock/pop star?
    I guess real highres would make more sense in classical and jazz music.
    Any ‘celebs’ there?

  21. How about a country music artist? Country is big right now, Luke Brian, Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line?

  22. If I had to pick a “younger” artist that has a good following I would say someone like Diana Krall (who happens to be married to Elvis Costello), Micheal Buble or Gary Clark Jr. If I had to pick personal favorites; Steely Dan, Eric Clapton or Billy Joel. Don’t know if that helps but that’s my two cents.

    Best….Carlo.

  23. Wynton Marsalis

    • I like this suggestion a lot. I think I can get to him as well.

  24. Hi Mark,

    Yes, Sir Elton, hero that he may be, is too old.

    As are we all.

    As long as the public associates hi-res (and its cousin, hi-end audio) with old white men (who might be in it mainly for the gear) we are only assuring it’s demise.

    Trust me, we are not the future.

    So I nominate Taylor Swift.

    She has a brain, cares about artist rights and recorded music quality.

    And she is a woman.

    And we know that women have a real genetic advantage in hearing. Maybe it’s time to hand over this whole esoteric auditory perception and enjoyment thing to the people who might actually get it.

    Fred Thal

  25. How about a non-celebrity playing well-known music like this?

  26. Hello Mark, great topic.
    As someone who also played and recorded professionally for 30 years as a second career, I think one awareness needs to be added to your article. Put it this way: MUSIC is great, but the MUSIC BUSINESS sucks bigtime. From time eternal through today, many musicians have had horrendous financial experiences despite commercial popularity. In the ’60’s artists got fractions of a penny for huge sales of hit singles early in their careers, and even if they made lots of $ later, they don’t forget being screwed. I cannot speak for Mr. Grohl’s situation , because today the threat is simply that the music is given/stolen away for free which can have the same result: not getting paid.

    Incidentally, while dedicated musicians abound, it’s not a good bet that they all have nice stereos. In many cases, they hear music best ‘in their head’ or use some awful thing because they think that’s what most folks use; the very questionable concept of ‘translating’ continues to be part of the process. I sit in the camp that says,”If it sounds great on an honest, clean high-end system, it will sound great on anything.” My own’ live to the master tape’ recordings have certainly showed such a viability.
    There is a surprising disparity between “pro audio” and ‘audiophile sound quality values”, when you’d think that experienced parties on either side of the fence would recognize great sound when they hear it. This is simply not true, and has alot to do with decisions such as Mr. Grohl apparently made. RE: Tidal, how about a stance that is neither adoring or damning?
    The millions of folks w/ Sonos systems have just enough interest in better (I didn’t say great) sound that the strongly rumored Sonos sign-up may be the key to Tidal’s future. Please avoid the forecasts of doom though, because then you are preaching against your very own work, i.e., better sound. Yes, your level of better is far higher than Tidal’s, but their signal has a far greater likelihood of finding it’s way into many homes than does yours.Perfectionist sound and standards are wonderful, but not if they have a negative effect on a large number of folks who enjoy music and do notice better sound between 128 and 16/44. Again, better sound for the masses is more important than perfectionist sound for a few. I appreciate both.

  27. Roger Waters would be my first choice. He’s been passionate about sound quality since at least the “Dark Side of the Moon” days. He’s intelligent, well-known and has a fantastic ear.

  28. Although I suggested Pearl Jam, I failed to highlight their front-man Eddie Vedder, he’s done some incredible solo stuff and has huge iconic appeal. I can only imagine how amazing the ‘Into The Wild’ soundtrack woulda been in high-res 🙂

    • Eddie would be amazing…!

  29. I’ve given this some thought since listening to your speech at AudioCon in Chicago last Saturday. What I’ve come up with is someone you’ve never heard of before. That’s it. The name on that blank line, in my opinion, still needs to be written, and it’s up to the production company that discovers said artist or band to take the next Meghan Trainor or Sam Smith or In This Moment and make them sound spectacular regardless of their genre. Yes, having a current young, talented, big name artist would help. But having a brand new, young, talented artist that became so popular in part because of their hi def recordings would help even more. That’s my two cents, anyway.

    • There are a number of artists that I would love record but I don’t have the budget to get a promotional campaign going. It’s very expensive and risky.

  30. Keith Richards.

  31. I believe deadmau5, who is already a member of TIDAL, would be a perfect candidate.

    Joel has a LONG history of not caring about what people think (look at his twitter feed) but he also shares genuine interest in high quality music as well in his fan base. He was upset with the quality of soundcloud’s music streaming service so he made his own (live.deadmau5.com). He also uses analog synthesizers in nearly all his songs. He has an assortment of synths, some of which are modular that he built himself. Also, his ability to write music is fantastic (check out the series of songs called “Seven”. They are inspired by the 7 deadly sins. All piano. All original.) While his genre of music is not for everyone, he has an interest in high quality music and that’s why he joined TIDAL. A lot of his fan base accused him of selling out, his response was along the lines of, ” I saw an opportunity in something I liked. The PR BS wasn’t me.”

    He also has the technical know how to understand what high quality music is. In his past he was converting fully analogue studios to digital studios, which is where a lot of his original equipment came from.

    And while obviously he has a buttload of money he still cares about his music and others. He has his own label, but he also used to be part of ULTRA records. He disliked the way they were managing his music so he left. I think he’d be a strong candidate, even if is on board with the other side at the moment.

    • Interesting…thanks

  32. What about Boz Scaggs. He isn’t young, but may be the next Tony Bennett. He is still performing strong. David Foster is a miracle man, if you can interest him.

  33. Larry Carlton might also be a good candidate. He’s well known and respected as both a solo guitarist and a session player. Some of his recent gigs with Robbin Ford are just fantasic!

    • Larry Carlton was one of the first musicians I met when I came to California. I saw him in SF a few years ago…fantastic. I know Robben Ford as well. Good suggestions.

  34. Jim Messina—I bet he would be interested in recording your way…he might bring Kenny with him.
    Chip Davis—Mannheim Steamroller Christmas in high resolution with glorious extended high frequencies on the sleigh bells!
    The Piano Guys—Their YouTube videos are great fun…combine that with the sparkling high frequencies and it would be a winner.
    The artist who shall not be named—It’s already recorded!

    Seconding what others have said:
    Donald Fagen
    Jack White
    Wynton
    Boz Scaggs
    Patricia Barber
    Chris Isaak

  35. The more I think about it the more I like your suggestion of John Mayer. He has the chops to deliver the goods live, which suits your recordings. He generates interest. (His cover of “Free Fallin'” has nearly 33 million hits on YouTube.) He can play pop but has jazz cred. I would love to hear would you would do together.

    The other thought I had, Beck, is more of a stretch. His recent album just won the Grammy but it’s more “produced” than your recordings. However, Beck has done some interesting 5.1 things in the past, like “Guero”, which as decidedly not lazy 5.1 like “Hypnotic Eye”. Having done that he would no doubt have an opinion about doing more in 5.1 (either he felt that was worth doing…or not.)

  36. Adam Lambert

  37. David Bowie
    Peter Gabriel
    Brian Eno

  38. My dream list would be (in no order other than an enthusiastic YES!) ;
    Steely Dan
    David Gilmour
    Alan Parsons (am I forgetting something?)
    James Taylor
    Bonnie Raitt
    Bob James / David Sanborn

    Your attention to detail in a modern (digital) world could also resurrect some artists who’ve faded into the noise that is the recording industry & aren’t familiar with new marketing strategies that even the playing field for artists & engineers squashed by some labels.

  39. I’m a little late to the discussion (for some reason, I stopped getting the emails, so I resubscribed), and even though they may be geezers like me, how about Rick Wakeman, Jeff Wayne, Carlos Santana or Van Morrison?

  40. Peter Gabriel has always embraced new technology. Granted he’s getting on, but his records are always well recorded & mixed.

    • I would love to connect with Peter Gabriel…one of the best of the best.

  41. In terms of Neil Young’s Pono.

    From what I can tell much of what is on there is 44.1/16 and they are upgrading files as they can get them.

    Is this not the case?

    • It’s very easy to say we’ll re-post any of our “best resolution currently available” CD rips with new high-res spec version when they become available. But you have to look at the numbers. Pono brags about 1 million tracks…but less than 20% are actually standard definition recordings re-transferred to 192 kHz/24-bits. And the replacements are being generated at the rate of about 10 per week. It will be a lifetime until the 2 million are replaced…if they choose to continue.

      • But they aren’t claiming that the 44.1/16 tracks are High-Res.

        • They’ve waffled back and forth on the whole High-Res thing. Initially, they were marketing TIDAL as a high-res streaming service.

      • But, they are not claiming that the cd resolution files are hi-res are they?

        • Yes, they were.

          • I mean Neil Young and Pono are not saying that the CD quality tracks are hi res.

          • Yes, they are.

          • I think Neil has been very clear that the cd quality stuff, which is very clearly labeled, is far inferior to the 24/96.

            Are you saying the 24/96 and 24/192 that they are selling as such are in fact only 44.1/16?

          • Neil has toned down his discussions regarding CDs as high-res. But I was in the room when he said to the crowd, “CD are the lowest high-res standard we accept”. The site now talks about the “highest resolution available”…which avoids the issue entirely. They have 2 million tracks…99% are rips of CDs and the rest are standard definition transfers to bigger bit buckets.

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