Dr. AIX's POSTS — 01 July 2015

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The final installment:

“I’ve noticed all the debate about this subject and try to offer consumers a more down to earth explanation they can understand in layman’s terms because the hi res audio listening experience is worth the effort.”

What is “down to earth” about reinforcing misinformation? It turns out that the “high-res listening” experience is not being delivered in most cases. I got a phone call from a very prominent member of the audio/video marketing community this morning. He came by last week with a new, very high-end portable, high-resolution audio player. The company gave him the device so that he could evaluate it for possible inclusion in his employer’s retail outlets. He listened to the “so-called” high-res content that they company included on the player. He was impressed but not over the moon.

He came by and asked if I would load a bunch of my tracks on the device. I gave him the iTrax/Sprint Sampler files and a couple Headphones[xi] versions. He flipped out the moment he heard real high-resolution audio tracks. And the virtualized surround selections impressed him even more. He’s assured me that he’s going to tell the supplier of the high-res device that they should include some AIX Records tracks on the player.

Today, he told me that he had paid $26 for a Linda Ronstadt album from a major online supplier of high-resolution music. He compared it with his CD version over and over again and concluded that he couldn’t tell the difference. So maybe Ryan is right about some of the catalog offered at PonoMusic. And maybe it does cast doubt on the whole high-resolution marketplace…and rightfully so. My definition may not be the answer but it does actually move the bar!

I suspect that the author of the comments doesn’t fully grasp the concept of “louder”. Maybe he means more dynamic or more engaging. His final paragraph mentions Robert Stuart’s MQA invention, which he describes as, “a very promising technology that also allows playback at higher levels to match the studio master dynamic range”. I got an email from Robert last weekend and will be getting answers to my questions about MQA directly from the source. Maybe I should ask him if MQA “allows playback at higher levels to match the studio master dynamic range”? It doesn’t. It is a very clever codec that guarantees that everything that was produced in the studio is delivered to the listener at home. There isn’t anything in any of the information I’ve read that says it allows for louder playback.

“Telling consumers that there are no differences between the formats is counter-productive and easily disproved, once a consumer hears ‘uncompressed content’, he’s usually hooked.”

If it’s so “easily disproved”, why hasn’t anyone been able to do it? I was involved in a study just last holiday season that came back with unconvincing results. It is a very subtle difference and then only when listening to a very carefully done transfer or an original recording at high-res.

And here we are back at the “uncompressed content” description. Are we talking about data compression or audio compression?

I’ve written way too many words in response to the comments on the AR article. I’ve spent the time – and no doubt alienated the gentleman behind the comments – because his “marketing oriented” terminology and explanation is so far from accurate. It’s no wonder that the casual audio enthusiast is confused when writers incorrectly claim that other people are wrong but fail terribly with the facts themselves. This is important. That’s why I write everyday.

I’m a recording engineer and an audiophile. But I don’t have state-of-the-art equipment at my house. I don’t have any products from Synergistic Research…including the High Definition ground wires. In fact, I don’t have any special cables or audiophile tweaks here at the studio or at home. I suspect that recording engineers are far better listeners than the average audiophile…even without exotic systems at home. But we do know great sound and how to achieve it.

Marketers will continue to spin things in their direction to entice you to buy whatever they’re trying to sell. I had hoped to avoid a big back and forth discussion about the AP article. But things got out of hand.

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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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