AUDIO SHOWS Dr. AIX's POSTS — 06 June 2016

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The Newport Show ended yesterday after four long days of pitching my wares, visiting with readers, checking out a few rooms, and lending my voice to Scott Wilkinson’s Home Theater Geek webcast on Thursday. There is so much to talk about; I’m not sure where to begin. I’ll develop several of these ideas over the next several posts but I wanted to share some highlights while the experience is fresh in my mind.

It was very gratifying that so many readers and backers of my book campaign came by to said hello. While sitting in at a table near the restaurant, Craig Allison introduced himself. Craig, as regular readers will know, is a frequent commentator on this site and usually pushes back on my observations…especially whenever I discuss Pono and Neil Young. It was nice to finally meet in person and have a very pleasant discussion. Despite our differences of opinion, it’s reassuring to know that we can chat about audio and issues without rants and impoliteness. There are other writers and audio professional that don’t seem to be able to separate professional perspectives from personal attacks.

I was asked what I think about MQA at least a dozen times over the weekend…probably more. I can report that I’ve written to Robert Stuart yet again without response. I also cornered a long time friend…Jeff Dean of MQA…and wanted to know if I was going to be able to get some of my files so that I could do a real evaluation of the process. I know that I can get an MQA enabled Mytek converter to do the tests but I have to hear from MQA. Jeff assured me that he would investigate and get back to me. I hope so. I was told by a member of the press that he experienced an A | B demo of MQA…but he didn’t relate his thoughts. It’s a small step but encouraging.

I visited with David Salz, founder and designer of Wireworld, on Thursday afternoon for a private, hour-long session. It was informative, polite, and worthy of a dedicated post. In short, he applauded my efforts to focus on the hyperbole issued by some other cable manufacturers. He recognized that many of the exaggerated claims actually do more damage to the fidelity of a system than good. He and his associate demonstrated the cable “polygraph” using one of my high-resolution tracks. The bottom line remains that same for me…I heard no audible differences between the wires he hooked up.

On a topic near and dear to myself—and many of you, a gentleman named Rick approached me on Sunday afternoon. He asked if I had been able to make it back to the Nordost demonstration. Unfortunately, I was tied up at my sales booth. Rick spent 18 years working as an electrical engineer at AT&T. This is a guy that knows much more than I do about electrical circuitry and audio signals. He did sit through the power demonstration in the Nordost room and told me that when the switched to the most expensive cable, they also switched the disc that they were playing. “They played the same piece of music, but from a different disc”, he said. He couldn’t imagine why they would do that.

Can anyone think of a reason why the presenter would swap out a disc for a different disc and play the same selection of music? Why not just start the track you just played over again after switching out the power cord…or whatever other cable was being compared? I find this very curious. It simply makes no sense…unless the second disc was not identical to the first.

My experience at the Newport Show wasn’t entirely negative. I enjoyed meeting Andrew Jones and listening to the ELAC room very much. It was great to see an acquaintance from decades ago in their room. I also enjoyed chatting with Scott Wilkinson on Thursday. I’ll get into more detail in a future post.

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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.

(14) Readers Comments

  1. Interesting that you mention Wireworld in your post. I was just going to write you and convey my recent experience with one of their USB cables.

    First, I am a “bits is bits” kind of guy. I have a computer background and a fair understanding of data transmission. I cannot understand how different digital cables could sound different. In the past I have experimented with USB cables of different lengths and constructions, all of the run-of-the-mill variety, and I have not been able to hear a difference. Beyond that, I have read all your writings on the subject and couldn’t agree more.

    But then… I recently read a review of the Wireworld Chroma 7 USB cable and was attracted by it’s price – “not much more than a standard-type cable”. So I ordered the 1.5ft length to replace my same-length Monoprice model, which I have been using for months. The cost was $27 – not that much in the scheme of things, although the Monoprice cost just $0.93 – and I was curious enough to risk it.

    So I connected the Chroma 7 and started listening, setting the volume to my normal levels. Pretty much what I expected – no discernible difference. After sampling a few different recordings I decided that I should go back to the Monoprice. At that point I was in the middle of a high-dynamic-range song by a female vocalist accompanied by piano. Once the cable was swapped I just restarted the song. No other changes were made.
    AND THERE IT WAS!
    Each time the singer or the piano hit high-volume notes there was an irritating “glare” to the sound, the piano especially took on a kind of splashy sound like a cymbal. Now obviously, in the past I have been experiencing and accepting this distortion, maybe thinking it was in the recording, but having it gone was certainly an improvement.

    I swapped cables a number of times with the same result so I know I was not imagining things. With the Wireworld cable the loud sounds were always smoother and more lifelike.

    So, now I’m a believer. Different (better?) USB cables CAN make an easily noticeable difference. I will say I still cannot hear improvements in soundstage, instrument placement, “air” between the instruments, or any of that other audiophile stuff – but those improvements may be there too. The lessened distortion is worth the $27 to me.

    Question – do you think the Wireworld “polygraph” you saw would show the differences I hear in these cables?

    • Thanks. I’m sure you hear what you hear…but as someone who has measured the data from a monoprice cable and a $350 USB cable and found no difference in the data, I remain skeptical of your claim. There may be something else going on…here has to be. USB and HDMI cables do not change the timbre or fidelity of a digital signal passing through them. An error may happen in some bits that won’t be corrected but that wouldn’t translate to a “glare” in the sound. It would at most be a dropout.

      The polygraph is a joke. It just places the shortest possible cable between the output of a device and the input of another.

    • Why not send both of those cables to Mark and let him do a test?

    • What was the track? Was if from CD or Download? If CD what is the particular pressing?

      Did you try another generic cable to rule out something wrong with the Mono Price cable?

      Additionally $27 isn’t much in the grand scheme of things but would like to compare it to a $7/8 Belkin Gold USB cable.

  2. Yeah, I know why they would change discs in the middle of a power cord demonstration. Because it’s all snake oil,
    That’s why!

  3. I’m 63 and thought way back then, when Digital started (and I sold all my albums), that we were at the beginning of a true audio revolution that would forever change recording music for the better. Then punk and grunge seemed to be the focal point of a new generation of youth that didn’t seem to care about purity. I also thought that when Monster Cable stopped selling various guages that the gig was up for snake oil. We suffered through Radio Shack’s Thor (a false rumor of the first $500 digital recorder), the failure of DAT, SACD, and DA to be mainstream viable, the Sony rootkit, a CD price fixing debacle, the fall of NAPSTER and the rise of Itunes. And still, on the whole, have not really realized the full potential of an honest to goodness improvement in source audio recording. Maybe in the next fifty years some new format will deliver true fidelity where digital mass delivery has failed to. Sorry I won’t be around if and when it does.

    • One of my major points is that the innovations in delivery systems and increased resolution formats don’t mean a thing if the engineers and producers don’t adopt procedures that improve the fidelity of their work.

      • That – in one short sentence – is exactly what I have learned from reading your posts.
        And thank you very much for that!

  4. Heard the webcast on national radio syndicate Mark. Believe Scott referred to you as a “no nonsense guy”. Enough said !

  5. Hi Mark,
    How gracious of you to mention our cordial meeting; it made all the difference in this world. Lesson #1: Real, in-person relationships beat the bleep out of those that are only internet based and never flower past virtual.

    Not only did I truly enjoy our discussion, but ultimately concluded that we share far more values re: music/audio than those where we differ. We both are saddened by the apparent deterioration of pop music recording, and the elimination of wide dynamic range in so many cases.

    Re: The future and MQA-it reminds me of something Dwight Eisenhower said:” It remains to be seen whether technology will save us first or kill us first.” I’m hopeful, but so much of the public is sick of buzzword hype, I couldn’t say what MQA will do for the big picture until a big picture emerges.

    Again, what a wonderful time we spent sharing and conversing. In our own ways, we are both continuing to wave the flag in the face of a storm. Love to get together and communicate anytime. Rest up from the show.

    • Thanks Craig…I enjoyed our conversation.

  6. What was the average age of the people there?

    • The reality is this is primarily populated by older guys…with some younger people engaging with portable and headphones.

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