I’ve been working a lot on the Blu-ray demonstration disc, which will accompany the “Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Sound”. My current goal is complete everything for the book within the next couple of weeks so that I can get it proofed, indexed, and printed in time for the AXPONA 2017 in Chicago during April 21-23. It’s been a major effort to get everything written, illustrations produced, audio and video created, and everything assembled. The last few days, I’ve been focusing on the demonstration disc.
The Blu-ray disc has five main sections:
• 12 Real High-Resolution Audio Tracks of various genres
• Mastering Comparisons
• Format Comparison
• Mixing Comparison
• Test Tones
The high-resolution tracks are taken from the AIX Records catalog and span a wide range of musical genres and ensembles. I’ve included tracks with vocals, instrumental tracks, jazz, and classical pieces. Listeners will be able to hear them in two different surround POVs as well as traditional stereo. If you’ve never experienced a real high-resolution audiophile recording, you’re in for a sonic treat. In my highly biased opinion, there aren’t any better sounding recordings on the planet.
The “Format Comparison” section has been the subject of my attention over the past few days. It’s important for audio enthusiasts to have a way to quickly audition and compare a great recording in a variety of distribution formats. We’ve all read articles or comments that rave about the sound quality of a new DSD or MQA version of a classic album. The unfortunate thing about this type of report is that no one knows whether the two tracks being compared came from exactly the same master. It’s rare to be able to make an apples to apples comparison. So I decided to include a short segment of any award-winning track on the Blu-ray disc in 6 different formats.
The Laurence Juber track “Mosaic” won a major award back in 2002 from the CEA. They gave a “Demmy” award to that for “Best High-Resolution Track” and the entire album has come to be known as a reference standard not just for acoustic guitar recordings but in the world of audiophile albums in general. BTW Laurence Juber has a brand collection of new high-resolution recordings of Beatles’ arrangements. I had lunch with LJ a few weeks ago and agreed to make the new record available through iTrax. Stay tuned, I’ll write a blog post and review of the album shortly.
The multiple audio tracks feature of a Blu-ray disc makes it an ideal format to quickly switch between formats. In the Format Comparison section of the disc, you can instantly switch between the original 96 kHz/24-bit PCM master (there is no need or benefit to exceed this rate and word length!), a 44.1 kHz/16-bit CD-resolution version, a version captured through an analog tape machine, and various levels of MP3 encodes (320, 256, and 128 kbps). In order to make meet the specifications of the Blu-ray format, I have to have all of the versions at 96 kHz/24-bits so I converted the master to the different formats and then converted them to 96 kHz/24-bits. Admittedly, this is less than ideal but I believe the inherent sound of each format is maintained through the process.
I would have liked to include DSD as one of the file formats but moving between PCM and DSD and then back to PCM for the Blu-ray would have presented too many conversions. DSD advocates would have challenged the validity of the comparison.
It should prove interesting to learn whether listeners can appreciate the differences between the formats. It will take a good system and experienced ears to detect fidelity differences. But the source of this recording is as good as it gets.