Dr. AIX's POSTS — 17 May 2013

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Listening to music is not about specifications. It’s about the emotional and intellectual stimulation that music triggers in our brains and our bodies. When a pulsing bass drum or an electrifying guitar solo comes out of your speakers or headphones, it’s hard not to be affected. When I’m in my studio auditioning a track with others, I usually notice whether they’re feet start moving in time to the music or whether they’ve had enough of a particular track after a couple of minutes. Some music makes a connection with and some doesn’t. Similarly, some people don’t connect with music and others do.

I love sitting in a comfortable chair and listening to music. It’s what got me involved in this profession in the first place and what has driven me to spend countless hours and way too much money in an attempt to elevate the experience. I’m burdened by the left half of my brain in that I need to know what’s behind the construction of the music AND what’s happening in its reproduction. That’s why I studied computer science, electronics and music composition. I’m thankful that both halves of my brain work in tandem. I have an analytical and creative balance that has served me very well.

Maybe that’s why I love Bach’s music so much, comfortable with computer code and have built three studios in my life.

So the frequent fallback position of audiophiles when confronted with information that doesn’t adhere to their established beliefs is to ignore technical specifications and rely solely on their ears. If it pleases them then is must be good. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment. And I certainly won’t try.

The fidelity of a particular recording through a particular playback system can be compromised at any number of stages. But if you get sufficient pleasure from even a bad recording played on a marginal system, then I say go with it.

I got an email from a reader the other day that asked, “Is it better to have a spectacular recording of a mediocre performance or a spectacular performance recorded badly?” Tough question. Obviously, the optimal situation is to have the best of both. But that doesn’t happen very often. I guess if I were forced to choose, I would have to go with a spectacular recording (assuming we’re not listening to amateurs). There is a visceral connection to quality sound that consumes me when I hear it.

I have a recording of a female vocalist, a favorite of audiophiles that is probably the finest recorded example of music that I’ve ever done or heard. The clarity of her voice, the musical arrangement, the sensitivity of the player and the nature of songs combine to utter perfection. I’m unable to release it for reasons that are hard to fathom, but for those that have heard it, it’s a game changer in terms of fidelity and emotion. And it was done without any EQ, compression or mastering.

There are hundreds of flavors out there to like and consume. Take your pick and revel in what music can do and keep listening. There are more choices available now than at any time in the past.

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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.

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