The Quality Revival

I follow a music industry pundit that spews forth volumes of text on a wide variety of topics on a daily basis. I’ve communicated with him a few times and invited him over to hear some of my work here at AIX Records on more than one occasion. He hasn’t shown up yet. But he’s beginning to discover that there is a growing, industry wide trend towards better quality. Today, he sent out a post that included the following, “Get the res high enough and it blows away vinyl”, and “we’re on the verge of a hi-res revolution”. This coming from a guy that has been extolling the virtues of vinyl since I started following him. But this time he’s right.

He attributes this shift to the genius of Jimmy Iovine and his ability to get young people to fork over hundreds of dollars on a set of fashionable headphones…Beats by Dr. Dre. Jimmy did a masterful job of marketing a rather poor sounding set of phones to a generation that seemed satisfied by their iPods and ear buds. In 2012, Beats accounted for over 60% of all headphones sales in excess of $100.

But the idea of  better audio fidelity wasn’t a component of his and Beats success. Artists, engineers, producers, NARAS (the Grammy folks) and equipment manufacturers are ready to move away from MP3 quality and embrace “better” quality, whatever that means. Unfortunately, it will probably take another generation to get back to the quality that I enjoyed when I was growing up in the 70s. I hope it doesn’t but it doesn’t look too good to me.

There is so much confusion about what is and what isn’t HD-Audio that we’ll be adrift for another few years. But at least there are efforts on a variety of levels to get the lo-fi community turned on to great sound. There are efforts at the Consumer Electronics Association, the Audio Engineering Society and NARAS (I’m involved in all three). Then there’s the new SLOEMusic Foundation that I wrote about the other day. We’ll have to wait and see what materializes from this work but I remain wary.

Just look at the efforts of Apple and their iTunes music store. They’re pushing all of their associated labels to resubmit their tracks to them at 96 kHz/24-bits so that they can create better sounding files. What they don’t realize is that the original files that the mastering houses output don’t have any dynamic range or extended frequency to take advantage of the new specs.

But the is increased attention being paid to the topic. There’s more press about higher fidelity music delivery formats…on discs and via the Internet. I’m trying to do my part. If you’d like to experience some real HD-Audio files, I

ll be happy to send you the credentials to log in to an FTP site where I’ve tucked some examples. Just join my mailing list for this blog and I’ll make sure you get them. You can read more about the samples by visiting the HD Samples page on this site.


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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