It’s not difficult for me to pack up suitcases full of equipment and AIX recordings and head to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver, Colorado. The well-attended annual event is the legacy of the late Al Stiefel, a local audiophile and original organizer of one of the biggest and best audio shows in North America. I knew Al and years ago he was very supportive of my efforts to move audio fidelity beyond the traditional audiophile formats of vinyl LPs and analog tape. In fact, after a lunch meeting he told me that the fidelity of my “Hi-Resolution Audio Experience” sampler disc took fidelity to a “whole new level.” He got it.
I’m on my way home after the 2016 edition of the RMAF. I don’t set up a demo room at this show. I had a couple of tables in the “Marketplace” and offered attendees a chance to come by and check out the AIX Records catalog. I brought several copies of almost everything in the catalog as well as the 2013 HD-Audio sampler. For three days, I stood by my table, introduced myself to new customers, and enjoyed conversations with old friends — and there were a lot of familiar faces. They wanted to ask about my things were going with my thyroid cancer (and I’m very happy to report that everything is great. I’m still not tasting much but that will eventually get back to normal) and how progress on the “Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Audio” is going. I’m very happy to report that progress is slow and steady. I’ve been working regularly on the illustrations — there are over 200 so far. I think the writing will be done by the end of the year. For all of you that have backed the campaign, thanks for your patience.
I’ll try to pull together some additional posts on the RMAF over the next week but I can tell that it’s more of the same. There were plenty of vendors showing off their wares. Of course, there were cable companies trying to convince unsuspecting audio enthusiasts that their $1200 3-foot USB cable was worth more than the hardware it would connect. The lady standing behind it offered to send me one to compare. I may take her up on it.
I had a very interesting conversation with Charles Zelig, the guy that has contributed a number of articles to TAS and HiFI Critic about WAV vs. FLAC files and whether Hard Drives can sound different. I must say he and I had a very pleasant conversation in spite of our differing positions on some of these issues. I promised to read his most recent article — the one that the editors of The Absolute Sound opted not to publish because “it was too technical”. Really?
Earlier this afternoon, I got the chance to drift around the show and check out some of the rooms. I made sure that I got to the MQA room to get an update how things are going with their initiative. I met my friend Jeff Dean and asked him whether I would ever get some of my files in the MQA format. He doubted that it would happen. Never mind that they told me to send them some files 20 months ago. I did learn that there are about 250 MQA titles currently available. They are primarily jazz and classical fare from 2L and other audiophile labels. Nothing from the mainstream companies yet.
I asked about the status and throughput of the encoding process — specifically the WB Records catalog that has been promised in the MQA format. When I first learned about WB getting behind the MQA format, I thought it meant that they would mine their catalog and create MQA versions of everything. That’s not the case. According to Jeff Dean, only the 3500 “high-resolution” albums that have already been transferred from analog masters to high-resolution PCM digital files are being targeted for MQAing. I imagined that WB mastering would have to redo all of the original transfers from the analog masters so that the details of the conversion could be included in the process. I was wrong. They took the exisitng PCM files and encoded them into MQA files.
The question is whether the standard resolution analog masters digitized to high-resolution bit buckets will benefit from the MQA process? There is little — if any — frequency information about 20 kHz and we know that the dynamic range is much less than the capabilities of a standard CD, so what could MQA possibly elevate the fidelity? There are no ultrasonics to tuck under the CD bandwidth. They claim it’s all about the “temporal blurring”. I remain unconvinced.
A number of people came by my table as asked my opinion on MQA. I could look through the ballroom door and see a poster of Bob Dylan next to the MQA logo in the hallway (they certainly have done a great job marketing their new format!). I told them that real high-resolution albums would only benefit from the process in the world of streaming but otherwise it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Until I can evaluate my own recording before and after the MQA process, I just don’t see how it can possibly matter to companies like mine — and Warner Brothers. I can understand what it means to hardware manufacturers, traditional record companies, and MQA — more money.