I’d never heard of an audio website called Australian HiFi (click here) or the editor Greg Borrowman but after getting a link from a friend today, I’m happy to have read his Editor’s blog. It’s titled, “When is ‘Hi-Res” not ‘Hi-Res’?” And guess what, it reads like one of my posts. Greg must have some engineering experience because he correctly describes how the marketing types and others are so wrong about what is and what isn’t high-resolution.
From my viewpoint, any recorded piece of music can be classified as high-resolution AND be true to the definitions that have emerged from the DEG, CEA, NARAS, and the labels. But there are actually real facts…technical reasons…why their fantasy can’t hold. Yes, they’re going to continue to blow smoke our way, but in the long run the business of selling hype over substance will fail. Just read how Greg tells it.
His opening statements pretty much sum it up:
“I hate to break it to you fans, but Johnnie Ray is dead, and most so-called ‘hi-res’ tracks are not ‘hi-res’ at all, but rather a complete waste of your money and Internet bandwidth. First you have to define ‘hi-res’ and the problem is that none of the definitions I’ve seen is up to the job. They all fail to recognise that in order to be classified as a ‘high-res’ file the music performed by the musicians that is contained in that file MUST have been originally recorded digitally with a machine generating a 24-bit word every 48-thousandth of a second. That rules out every analogue recording ever made, and every multi-track digital recording made before 1996. So if the supposedly ‘hi-res’ music track you’re listening to was recorded prior to 1996 (and was recorded multi-track) it’s not hi-res. End of story.”
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I pump the specs up to 96 kHz but the essential point is clear. You cannot elevate a previously recorded standard definition track or album to high-res. They have to be new recordings.
Why is this simple concept so hard for the powers that be to accept? It doesn’t diminish the amazing productions that were done on analog tape or standard resolution digital. It simply means that the specifications of the delivery container have little or nothing to do with the source fidelity. Greg used an analogy that made me smile.
“One analogy of why upsampling is a complete waste of money involves food. Imagine you have just been served a large steak on a rather small plate. If you slide that steak onto a larger plate in order to make it easier to eat, do you really think it’s going to taste any different? But that’s exactly what upsampling does. It takes a piece of music and slides it onto a larger plate.”
So be prepared to ignore the marketing messages that will undoubtedly be spewing forth this fall as we approach the holiday season. There’s going to be a whole bunch of great sounding new “hi-res audio” hardware but virtually no “hi-res music” to play in it. Thanks Greg…you made my day.