Showcasing HRA at CES 2014

It’s coming…again. The folks at the Consumer Electronics Association [CEA] announced “the Hi-Res Audio Experience, a new TechZone featured at the upcoming 2014 International CES. I can’t help but be amused that the name of the new initiative is exactly the same as the sampler that I produced in conjunction with Intel about 10 years ago. We made 35,000 of these samplers and I still take a few to the trade shows that I attend and I still sell them for basically the cost of shipping and handling. If you haven’t got one, feel free to get in touch…it’s worth it. (see Figure 1 below)


Figure 1 – The front and back covers of the High Resolution Audio Experience DVD-Audio/Video that AIX Records produced with Intel. [Click to enlarge]

The CEA issued a press release and had an event in New York last week to promote this High-Resolution Audio campaign. The headline read:

CEA Brings Hi-Res Audio to the 2014 International CES
New TechZone and Conference Sessions Highlight
Next Generation High-Resolution Audio Technology

It’s a encouraging sign that the CEA and many other manufacturers are featuring HRA at the largest consumer electronics event in the world. As the founder of the first website to actually offer high-resolution audio downloads, I’m reaching out to potential partners to defray the hefty cost of the booth space. iTrax.com should be there…especially as we anticipate growing the site and expanding the catalog with major label releases next year. If there are any readers interested in contributing to this effort, please let me know.

The press release continues, “Market trends indicate that consumers are poised to embrace high-resolution audio, creating tremendous new opportunities for CE manufacturers and the music industry,” said Karen Chupka, senior vice president, International CES and corporate business strategy, CEA. “With recent HRA announcements from a number of music labels, digital retailers and CE companies, we’ve created this new TechZone to help drive category growth and give our attendees the opportunity to explore the game-changing quality of high-resolution audio. Visitors also will meet leading creatives from across the industry.”

There will also be a number of sessions associated with the Hi-Res Audio Experience conference track. These include:

• Welcome to the Hi-Res Music World, 1-2 p.m., Tuesday, January 7
Featuring top executives from both major and independent labels who will discuss, along with their digital retail partners, the challenges and opportunities associated with licensing and distributing hi-res music.

• Meet the Hi-Res Music Creators, 3-4 p.m., Tuesday, January 7
Exploring topics including the key advantages to working in hi-res formats; the availability of recording tools; and the importance of meta data in enhancing the overall listening experience.

• Hi-Res Audio for Every Lifestyle, 1-2 p.m., Wednesday, January 8
Examining the variety of hi-res devices that are available today and the challenges related to marketing and promoting them.

I’m pretty sure that most of the companies and participants in the HRA TechZone haven’t ever heard a real high-resolution audio track but it is important to bring awareness of “better quality audio” to a larger audience.

The truth is that the industry…both content creators and hardware companies…see an opportunity to provide uncompressed versions of their back catalogs at premium prices. This is what should have happened years ago instead of MP3s and iTunes, but the technology wasn’t there yet. So what we’re really being offered is standard definition downloads without any oppressive data compression techniques.

What I want to talk about and demonstrate is the difference between the usual fare offered by the major labels through sites like HD Tracks and the others and what a bona fide high-resolution track can deliver. I think a couple reader’s reactions to hearing the free HD-Audio sample tracks from the FTP site sums it up pretty well.

“If you get nothing else from these daily posts…I hope you do remember that the only real high-resolution track is one that was created at the time of the original session using equipment that is capable of high-resolution recording.

Can I quote you on one of the Linked In audiophile blogs? If it seems like if HD audio is starting to get big (Ref. next CES), then unless everyone understands your quote (above), there will be a lot of mis-information and confusion.
I have an audiophile friend who has a killer high-end system, but still only uses a CD player for a source. He just recently got a Wadia DAC which could handle all of the sampling frequencies at 24 bits, but still just uses his CD player. I offered to go to his place and do a BD demo with one of your disks. He got interested, did some research and downloaded some HD(?) audio, so he said he didn’t need my Blu-ray player. Anyway, I went over and first listened to a regular CD on his new DAC. Then he demo-ed the download for me. Pretty much the same sound as the CD. Maybe slightly better, but it was a different recording so hard to say. Then I played Moonlight Acoustica on my BD player. Both of our jaws dropped about the same time and we commenced to hear the entire disk.” Gerald Pratt

“Thanks so much for the samples. I think they might be the closest (but way better) thing to the Mobile Fidelity OMR LP’s that I used to buy in the 70’s and 80’s. I’ve come to realize that most modern recordings, and low-bitrate mp3’s especially, hurt these 50 year old ears! The chimes in Mosaic were actually a bit above my hearing range, so at first I couldn’t figure out what I had just heard. I played it again at higher volume and wow! Supremely crisp!

I’d like to buy the Goldberg Variations soon, but I want to know I’m getting the best sound through to my speakers. It occurred to me that when I use optical cables to connect my macbook or my blueray deck to my receiver, I’m bypassing the DAC capabilities of the Macbook and blueray player, and handing that duty off to the A/V receiver (or is it double-decoding the bitstream?). Do you think that matters? In the absence of a dedicated DAC unit, what’s best? And should I buy the Blueray disk or download the WAV file? (I’m not very interested in the video content). Thanks again!” Craig Messerman


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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