Dr. AIX's POSTS — 25 September 2015

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Here’s the content of an email I received from a very well known mastering engineer and author of several very well know books on the subject. We’ve known each other for a long time and both serve on the AES high-resolution technical committee.

“Personally I think you are being too nice, too diplomatic in your reports I’ve seen on Computer Audiophile.

I think a null test between the analog outputs of the two Benchmark DACs would prove nothing. Because even if you bring those back in through sample matched ADCs and match the results to a sample in a DAW for a null — if there is even one one hundredth of a dB in difference in level they will not cancel.

I think this is one of those premises that you cannot prove either way. I’m with you and Dave Collins that this is snake oil. There is no jitter in a USB connection as it is not a clocked system.

As for your two companions who claim to have heard a difference, sadly no one can prove a negative or a positive. An ABX test on such potentially subtle differences would be very difficult to control and usually results in a statistical negative for differences we know exist. So if your friends fail the blind test it doesn’t prove anything either way in my opinion.

The best we can say is that experts think it’s snake oil, there’s nothing measurable besides. If there were something measurable then we could fairly argue if it’s audible but when it’s probably voodoo and immeasurable besides ‘let them come back with measurements and then we can talk. Case closed for the moment’.

You can quote me on that. Thanks.”

Everyone is entitled their opinion and knowledgeable people will disagree, but there are real challenges in trying to demonstrate the “benefits” of certain audiophile accessories.

Others like to hammer away on issues of personal taste. There’s a guy over at Computer Audiophile that posted this some time ago:

“I have several of Mark Waldrep’s Sampler DVDs, and I think that he is probably a competent and knowledgeable mastering engineer, but a lousy recording engineer. Most of his miking techniques are, to my tastes, completely incompetent. He tends to close-mike everything and he mikes pianos by putting stereo microphones inside the piano! This yields, on playback, pianos that are as wide as the room with the bass end of the keyboard on the left, Middle C in the center, and the treble-end of the keyboard on the far right! He does a similar thing with drum-kits. Part of the kit is on the left, part is in the center and another part on the right. There might be some people who like this sort of thing, and likely, most are probably indifferent to it to the point of not even noticing, but to me it completely destroys the illusion that I’m listening to music. When I first played his samplers, I was appalled! Waldrep asked me the next day at the show what I thought of the samplers, and I couldn’t even come up with the simplest platitude, so I lied and told him that I hadn’t had a chance to listen yet.”

This one is troubling for a few reasons. First, he admits that his tastes are different than mine…yet I’m incompetent because mine are at odds with his. Major reviewers and the artists that I record have lauded my recording approach. Christian Jacob, a supremely talented pianist and music director for Tierney Sutton, sought me out because of the reputation I have in making the instrument sound so real. He loved the work I did for him. So I’m pretty comfortable with George’s opinion being the odd one out. He might want to try switching from the 5.1 “stage mix to something more traditional like the 2.0 channel stereo one.

When the senior editor of TAS calls my recordings “simply the most realistic” he’s ever heard and that I know what I’m doing…it’s not hard to dismiss the comments from a reader over at CA. That he would lie to my face about his opinion yet spew all over the CA forum is pretty telling. If you don’t like my recording, then just say so. I can take it. If you’re given to lying, then you’ve lost me anyway.

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The Kickstarter campaign is going very well. We’ve topped 400 backers…next stop 500. I’ve added a stretch goal and a couple of new rewards. Stop by and check it out. Music and Audio Guide KS page

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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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