Dr. AIX's POSTS — 16 July 2016

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It’s been a week of travel, a memorial service, too much food, 36 holes of golf, and some guitar playing. My wife and I returned Thursday from a trip to Madison, Wisconsin and a few days in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. We left Charlie (the family border collie) in the hands of my son’s girlfriend and headed to the Midwest in support of a close family member that lost his wife to cancer over the holiday weekend. It’s always sad to say goodbye to a loved one but in this case the doctors were never able to diagnose the type of cancer that invaded her body and therefore weren’t able to suggest a course of treatment. My sister-in-law left behind two beautiful daughters, two grandchildren, and a loving husband. Very sad.

I was supposed to be at the Capital Audio Fest over the weekend but for obvious reasons, I didn’t make it. Gary Gill’s show is always a great time and I enjoy the smaller scale and familiar faces that come by to say hello every year. This year Gary was kind enough to distribute a copy of our most recent Blu-ray demo disc to all attendees. If they actually take the time to listen to the tracks, I’m confident that they’ll be happily surprised at the fidelity.

Mona and I flew to Washington DC on Sunday evening and then drove through rural West Virginia to spend a few days with my good friend Steve Davis, the founder of the AXPONA show, all around audiophile, and musician. His lovely wife Carmen and my wife Mona have become good friends over the years and during a trip to Mexico for the CEA several years ago. What a pleasure it was to relax, chase a small white ball around a golf course, play music, eat delicious home cooked food, and experience Ultra High Definition television.

Steve and I disagree on the merits of cables and we spent a few extended conversations discussing the objective vs. subjective approaches to the topic. Steve is a musician in addition to being a very seasoned audio system expert. He has a number of very nice instruments (especially a great 1976 special edition Martin D-35) that found their way into my hands. He made a compelling argument for craftsman “designer” cables by comparing them to the process of building a fine acoustic guitar. Guitar builders carefully select the finest woods to assemble a great instrument. They use their experience to shape and adjust the bracing inside the instrument to refine the sound of each individual guitar. The result is that no two instruments sound precisely the same…even if the same luthier made them.

I couldn’t agree more about the art and craft of building a musical instrument. I have played guitar for over 50 years and I appreciate the subtle sonic differences that each individual instrument possesses. But cables…especially power cords and digital interconnects…are governed by a rigid set of electrical principals and data specifications that separate them from the world of instrument building. We simply have to agree to disagree. If the electrical characteristics and/or data remain the same between two cables, the sound will be identical as well. I’ll take the objective side of that argument every time. It’s not the same as saying two guitars have Adirondack spruce tops, ebony necks, and mahogany bodies so they must sound the same.

So I’m back from a brief trip and ready to get on with my summer. The new studios are almost complete, the Music and Audio Guide is progressing nicely, and I’m busy authoring the demonstration Blu-ray disc.

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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.

(7) Readers Comments

  1. I agree with your stance on cables, but I would enlarge the comments you made to include interconnects and for MOST speakers, speaker cables. Engineers and physicists have been studying the characteristics of wire for more than 150 years. Bell Labs, in the 1930’s (the folks who INVENTED stereo, did extensive tests on wire vs frequency for use in long range communication. Wire and cable have only a few germane characteristics that affect the signal being carried by them and none of these characteristics mean very much over the audio passband in any line-level application and in speaker cables only in those speakers in which even a few tenths of an ohm difference between the amp and the speaker itself will alter some characteristic of the speaker. There are a few speakers that are very reactive and will be affected by the cable used but not very many, not in this day and age anyway, Just because many people believe that they hear differences in cables, does;t mean that they actually do. The human mind is really good at tricking us, of taking an experience and altering that experience based upon what we humans EXPECT such an experience to be. IOW, we just bought a $2000 pair of one-meter interconnects, they had BETTER give a sonic improvement over the $10 Radio Shack cables that we are replacing! And guess what? They do – every time!

    • Thanks George. I limited my assessment to digital and power because there simply should be no argument here. But I’m with you on the rest of the lot as well.

  2. Missed you!
    Re cables and interconnects, if most of the ones we read about are designed or “auteured” to be used with most gear isn’t it logical to presume there have been sonic/electrical design compromises along the way? Since interconnects and cables are really part of the system, we should be using those designed to interface without compromise with the specific components we are using. Since we don’t hardwire amps right to the speaker inputs, the cable should function as the last section of the amp and not be any we choose because of how they sound in combination with a particular amp and speaker. If we are in a high-resolution age, we should be paying this much attention to interfacing on a system-wide approach. Unfortunately there are too few companies pursuing this so that much of what is called high-end is really luxury mid fi!

    • In my world, I’m looking to connect two pieces of equipment together with minimal loss and no sonic change. Those who believe that you should select the cables in your system to compensate for fidelity shortcomings are part of the problem and not part of the real world.

  3. As engineers we understand the concept of transfer function. Audiophiles do not. We’ve done the calculations, sweated the calculus, solved the problems, made the measurements. Audiophiles have not. They have a naïve view that if each element is somehow perfected they will get ideal results. They’ll spend no end of money trying in an effort we know is ill conceived and futile. There is no arguing with them. They simply don’t have the knowledge we do and they are convinced that the tools available to them that can give better results if they knew how to use them are superior to the route they take. So the first job of those who wanted to create this cottage industry was to convince audiophiles they had to give those tools up and that was easy enough because they are powerful enough to wreak havoc in the wrong hands, tyros who don’t have the ear for it or the patience to learn to use such tools. So they buy thousands of dollars of audio cables swapping them again and again when a $100 equalizer can get them the same results. Don’t confuse them with the facts, their minds are made up. The only question I have is whether those who should know better are merely ignorant spouting off about something they don’t understand or just flat out lying to make money?

  4. Cables – what is cables?
    A piece of wire to connect components!
    What is cables in the “audiophile business”?
    It’s big business and even those who should know better again and again are praying on the altars of audiophile cable manufacturers.
    Holy Sh..!

  5. I live with my sister who is a sucker for everything advertised in infomercials. There’s no talking her out of them. She’s also a sucker for all the junk advertised by Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil. Of all the junk she bought or wanted to buy my favorite scam was a diet concoction called Sensa. What’s in it? Mostly silica gel, the stuff that they pack in a lot of things that keep them dry. I’ve known since high school chemistry that silica gel is hydrophilic, that is it attracts water increasing its volume. So you sprinkle one of two packets, one containing some salt, one containing some maltose on your food, you eat it, and it bulks up in your stomach making you feel full. Price at the time was about $60. Actual worth, probably under 50 cents. There’s one born every minute and there’s a ton of people out there preying off of them. But it doesn’t stop at infomercials and audio cables. It’s out there on an industrial scale, many of them energy savings schemes which don’t work or are sold on money savings for which there is no payback. Those run into the hundreds of thousands, even millions. And ooooh do they ever sound so sweet…..to managers who don’t know the first thing about either the technological flaws or capital accounting. Expensive stereo wires are just one of countless examples.

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