Dr. AIX's POSTS — 04 March 2016

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This morning I head about a new Kickstarter campaign that is offering a wireless transmitter and receiver (with amplifier option) that purports to go beyond the limitations of WiFi and Bluetooth. Their innovative approach is called Dual Uncompressed Audio Link technology and it “truly delivers lossless 384KHz/32bit audio quality to as many speakers as you can possibly imagine”. And once the signal is sent from one room to another, they needed an amplifier capable of “matching its muscle”. The associated amplifier delivers “true 5Hz ~ 200KHz sound quality that is absolutely perfect for vinyl”. These are real quotes from their project description. “Audiophiles everywhere rejoice! For the time has come for truly lossless high quality streaming audio”.

I understand the need to get people excited about your new crowdsourcing campaign, but throwing about ridiculously high numbers is reaching a bit. Does anyone really think that they need an amplifier that claims a 5 Hz to 200 kHz frequency range is “perfect for vinyl?” The hype is excessive and unnecessary. But it dominates their promotional video and every paragraph of their written materials.

The technical specifications include mention of the chips used which run up to 384 kHz and 32-bits. So I send along a question asking where I could find audio recordings made at that rate. To my surprise I received a KS message back from the company within a couple of hours directing me to the usual “high-resolution” digital music sites including HDtracks, PonoMusic, HighResAudio etc. When I pointed out that none of the tracks on these sites were recorded at 384 kHz/32-bit, they didn’t respond. No big surprise there.

Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words. Take a look at the following graphic that I pulled from their Kickstarter page:

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Figure 1 – AN illustration purporting to show the inherent benefits of 384 kHz/32-bit digital audio. Everything in this image is misleading or wrong.

How are we supposed to get behind their wireless strategy when they fail to understand the way PCM digital audio functions? The waveform at 384/32 is virtually the same as the original smooth analog waveform. What happened to the conversion to a digital data stream? And then they proceed to show the stair steps of a CD, which doesn’t happen either. But the frequency plot is beyond imaginable. If we were to believe their graphics, we’ve been missing out on all of that fidelity above 20 kHz.

“As you can see from this image, the difference of quality between CD and HRA is immense. Compression is to blame in the huge loss of detail.”

The image is completely wrong. They’re wrong about the “immense” difference between a CD and a high-res music file and mentioning “compression” has no relevance.

This company is trying to raise $200K over the next 43 days. 4 days into their campaign, they’ve managed to convince 20 people to back them…and 8 of them have pledged a dollar. It’s almost as if all you have to do is assemble a nice video, create some nice graphics, and spew a bunch of big numbers and then site back an watch the backers throw money at you.

The only good thing I can say about this campaign is that I like the industrial design. Otherwise, I hope people will see past the hyperbole and avoid this product. I have purposely not provided a link, I don’t want to encourage visitors.

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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.

(24) Readers Comments

  1. What is the deal with audio enthusiasts and snake oil sales people? Why is it so hard to be honest about the technical details and capabilities?

    Just explain accurately what your product does and maybe something about the hours to design, produce and market? You can sell a Swiss watch to few people and a Casio to many more. No need to lie.

    Crazy.

    • Exactly! Why does everyone feel the need to move beyond reasonable claims and accurate specifications? This type of hype is not limited to high-end audio but we seem to have the most ridiculous examples.

  2. I like your approach, always analysing and shooting down bogus claims.

    • I know I have turned a lot of people off by continuing to point out the craziness of our hobby but reading this type of stuff drives me crazy.

  3. “true 5Hz ~ 200KHz sound quality that is absolutely perfect for vinyl”.

    Dear Lord, the sillyness knows no bounds. It gets to a point you just don’t know what to say any more.

  4. Using the word “compression”, which is already slightly overused and misunderstood, with digital audio could be applicable where any process is applied that reduces the storage requirements. When it comes to storage compression, there is starting to be more of an awareness of the difference between lossy and lossless compression — and as such, using a term like compression without qualifying it with lossy or lossless, and without a baseline reference is certainly misleading. For example, If the recording master is at 24/192, applying word length reduction and sample rate conversion to produce a 16/44.1 CD PCM master could technically be considered a lossy storage compression — but it’s in a context that the general populous cannot relate to, so it is not generally articulated. That ad is trying to bring 16/44.1 into the negative crossfire of lossy MP3/AAC type storage compression. At least for now, 16/44.1 PCM (Redbook Audio) is the de-facto reference for when a qualifier of “compression” need not be used.

    • Compression is tough concept because it can be applied in a variety of areas and is therefore easily misrepresented and misused. Data compression—lossy or lossless— vs. dynamics compression are prime examples. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that downconverting a 192/24 file to 44.1/16 is a “lossy storage compression”…there is no attempt or need to return to the original fidelity of 192/24. But I get your point.

      • That’s another way of looking at it that I hadn’t thought about when I commented: the act of compressing implies the ability to decompress to its original form. That just further highlights the overuse of the term. As in DR compression, there is no way to return to the original form either.

        My initial reaction on a comment was in what’s the value of 32-bit samples in a delivery format other than using more disk space. Bigger must be better 😉

      • Not to thread-crap Mark, but an interesting read related to this exact subject (compression):

        http://www.metal-fi.com/compression-vs-compression/

        • Alex,

          This is a very very good article, thank you for the link. I also had felt that the “Distortion of Sound” film totally missed the mark, and had voiced my opinions in that regard in a letter to the editor in the most recent “Absolute Sound”. The author of the article of course defended his take on the film 100%, which I did not expect any less, but I still continue to believe that films like that really do not hit the target audience that needs to hear them.

          At the end of the day, for the majority of listeners, if we could get them to move to 256KB or higher mp3 or other file types I pretty exclusively I would consider that a total win for the industry. Once the kids started listening to the better files then they would be able to discern the differences in ear bud quality and playback quality, and would reach out over time for better gear.

          Admin, I would also be interested in your take on the article that Alex linked to.

          • Larry, sorry for the delayed response but thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!

            (hopefully by approving this response, Mark will answer you directly above)

  5. I would like to see this for transmission of files from a computer to a DAC via Bluetooth rather than this set up. The only DACs I know that accept Bluetooth are limited to 24/48.

    • Joe, Bluetooth doesn’t provide enough bandwidth to stream lossless 48 kHz/24-bit PCM audio from one place to another…that requires WiFi.

  6. How are they going to get past the fact that vinyl phonograph records are already compressed? How are they going to get past the fact that most pop music which is most of the market has a dynamic range of only about 10 to 15 db? How are they going to get past the fact that pop music is mastered in a way so that it will overload any recording system even if its range was a million db so that it will be the loudest thing on the radio? Pop music doesn’t care about distortion. The fuzz box was invented to deliberately distort the sound of electric guitars while Autotune is the solution for singers who can’t sing on key. For many pop singers, the one who can shriek the loudest and sound most irritating is the winner. Autotune, where were you when Barbara Streisand needed you?

    For those who are producing and listening to what I call “manufactured music” having no real relationship to what was actually heard live, there seems to be plenty of tools to sculpt sound already. To those looking for concert hall realism from recordings, what I call “documented music” further tweaking of a failed technology that can’t do the job is pointless. So if you can’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle. The Ad men on Madison Avenue are getting ready to burn the phone lines and show off their latest campaign presentations.

    • The production of an album or the capture of a live music event are different things. The goals are not the same. The Beatles didn’t go into Abbey Road to recreate their live performances…they played their finely crafted productions as best they could on stage. I’m ok with that. Some people want sonic documentaries and others want crafted pieces of sound art.

      • I could not agree more!
        You’ve hit the nail on the head!
        Indeed, I want both – the piece of art you call sonic documentaries and the crafted pieces of sound art too!
        Infact I know at what point I expect either kind of art.

        To return to the initial item of this task – I wonder where these people get all the chutzpah to write that kind of nonsense.

      • Do you mean to tell me that the Beatles concerts were even worse than their recordings? I never realized things got so bad so early. And to think it all started with The Ed Sullivan really big Shew.

        BTW, IMO the recording engineers at Abbey Road should be shot. They produced a lot of pop recordings where the sibilant parts of speech were reverbed and nothing else. I call it the Abbey Road disease. Where did they get that idea from, Dick Burwen or did they come to it on their own?

        • Ive heard a very early concert of the Beatles, not yet at the Hamburg Star Club, but in Essen, Germany in 1966 and the sound was really not good. That really did not matter because the girls were so loud crying one could hardly understand the music 😉

          • Very cool!

  7. Does anyone really believe that they can hear beyond 20K Hz?

    • I do.I hesitate to use the word “hear” because it may be that our ears aren’t contributing to our perception of ultrasonics but there may be other things going on.

      • Assuming for a moment (of incredulity) that you are right, how do you know that your process is extended far enough out? Why stop at 46 kHz, 92 kHz, or one megahertz? I’ve got these piezoelectric noise makers that are supposed to create a shrill noise at 100 kHz to keep field mice and other pests out of my garage because they can’t stand it while dogs and cats can’t hear it. It doesn’t work. Well a little red light goes on when I plug it in but of course I have no idea if any sound is coming out of it. It certainly has no effect on me. Do you think it might be defective?

  8. Apart from the utterly nonsense in this wannabe-project, which totally disqualifies the campain, there is no need for a ‘new’ technology for wireless transmission of HRA.
    We already have, what we need for that – the WiSA technology!

    • Thanks, you’re absolutely right.

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