Dr. AIX's POSTS — 01 May 2013

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I just spent 40 minutes on the phone with a very nice gentleman that had left me a message earlier today regarding my iTrax.com HD-Audio music download site. I called him back thinking that he wanted to discuss the functionality of my website…it’s being redesigned and reworked as I write this…but instead he simply wanted a few questions answered.

First, I should let you know that this is a gentleman that has a high-end audio system including my favorite speakers: B&W 800Ds. He explained that he’s been purchasing tracks from HD Tracks for a few months and is confused because the “so-called HD” tracks that he’s acquired don’t sound any different than the CD rips that he’s loaded onto his server. In fact, he mentioned that he has three versions of a Nora Jones release. One if from HD Tracks, another from iTunes and his original CD. When he and his friends sat and listened to them and compared the sound, they were very hard pressed to tell any difference. His questions started with…

Question No. 1
If I’ve downloaded a 192 kHz/24-bit version of a track from HD Tracks for $27, why can’t I easily detect a dramatic improvement over the “standard definition” tracks that I already owned?

Answer
The reason is because there isn’t a dramatic different between the original CD version and the new and improved “HD” version. The specifications of the released digital file might be 192 kHz and 24-bits but the original recording might have been recorded in a format that doesn’t match those new, higher specifications. In other words, if I take my 8mm Waldrep home movies from 1959 and transfer them to the Ultra HD video format (the recently named 4K format which is 4 times the resolution of HD-Video), are they going to look Ultra HD or will they be as good as the original 8 mm movie? The answer is obvious. The potential fidelity of a piece of music is at its maximum at the time of the original session. By simply transferring it to a larger bit bucket and raising the price doesn’t elevate the sonic fidelity. What’s you’re hearing from your original CD is about as good as its going to get.

…if I take my 8mm Waldrep home movies from 1959 and transfer them to the Ultra HD video format (the recently named 4K format which is 4 times the resolution of HD-Video), are they going to look Ultra HD or will they be as good as the original 8 mm movie?

This gets back to the whole issue of musical provenance and the fidelity of the original recording AND the particular production path that was used on the tracks.

The caller emailed the providers of the file and according to him was given a “non-answer” in response. If he couldn’t tell the difference than either his system is deficient or his hearing is flawed. Not quite the reply he was hoping for, I think.

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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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