2013: The Year in Review

We’ve made through another year. It’s December 31, 2013…New Years Eve. It’s the end of the first year of this website and my daily posts. When I started RealHD-Audio.com back in April, I had faint hope that it would attract a regular (an increasing group) of interested readers AND that I could dedicate the time to assemble 500 words everyday. Never mind that I have to have something to write about everyday (I’m guessing by now that you’ve figured out that I’m not often at a loss for words). If you’ve enjoyed the posts these past months, please consider sharing your enthusiasm with others.

I’m actually quite pleased at the progress of the site over these past 8 months. We’ve had almost 40,000 visits from 25,000 unique visitors and built up a readership approaching 2000. My thanks go out to all of you for your support and for sticking with me through this initial period. It’s the right time for an open and honest discussion of issues of interest to high quality music lovers. I hope you find this site and my posts interesting, occasionally insightful and instructive. I don’t claim to know everything about audio production…but it turns out after 40 plus years being a professional audio engineer, professor of music and recording and owner of a high-end audio label that I have a few things to.

The end of the year is always a convenient time to reflect on the important developments of the past year. So let me offer up a couple of highlights that I think were important and why.

High-End Audio Goes Mobile
– It goes without saying that you can’t build a market without expanding the potential customer base. And it’s seems pretty obvious that the younger demographic is increasingly engaged by higher quality music. While I’m not a fan of vinyl LPs, they have found a place (a very small place) among the listening formats embraced by young people. It’s probably because vinyl LPs are retro, cool or contrary to the norm rather than better sounding but anything that demonstrates interest in better quality playback is OK with me.

So it’s exciting to hear about new handheld devices that include high-resolution audio specifications. The Astell & Kern devices and Samsung Galaxy 4 smart phones come to mind. As costs drop AND more content is available in real high-resolution audio, we might be seeing the start of a trend. The current iPhones sport DACs that can be clocked at high-resolution but Apple chooses not to activate that capability because of battery life issues. I don’t think it will be too long until Apple finally gets on board. It will be a watershed moment (and I’m certain that it won’t include DSD BTW) but the iTunes content will remain standard definition. I can imagine a specialty area of iTunes for the likes of 2L and AIX Records in the near future…but I’m not holding my breath.

Surround Music – The movies industry has been a market leader in the expansion of surround or immersive sound experiences for moviegoers. I saw second installment of the “The Hobbit” trilogy in a theater with Dolby’s latest sound delivery system and it was amazing. It’s called Atmos and includes a complete set of speakers mounted directly over the audience’s heads. It demonstrates that people do appreciate surround sound. Now it’s just about getting music producers and artists to get on board.

The past year saw the introduction of a couple of systems for getting 5.1 surround music mixes in a standard set of headphones. My own Headphones[xi]™ immersive mixes can be downloaded from iTunes and soon I will make them available through iTrax.com. Others have entered this marketplace as well…there’s Astound Sound, Headphones X from DTS, an app for new iPhones and Darin Fong’s apps.

I find the experience of “outside the head” surround music to be a major improvement on traditional stereo…but I’ve been recording and mixing surround music for well over a decade. Trust me on this…you’ll get there eventually.

So have a great New Year celebration tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow in 2014. I usually don’t have the staying power to see 12:01 am roll in…but then again I ran 6 miles this morning after getting up at 5:00 am. My clock runs better in the morning. Cheers.


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.

3 thoughts on “2013: The Year in Review

  • Frank L

    Thanks a lot for all the interesting articles.

    A Happy 2014 to all!

  • Thanks for a great website overall. Looking forward to 2014, I see you’re on at least one discussion panel for CES 2014, so here’s to a few New Year’s wishes:

    – That “HD Audio” be defined by a pursuit of the understanding and implementation of practices and tech that make the biggest differences in cost-effective high quality audio (e.g., abandon Loudness War compression practices, 24/96 PCM DAW workflow, use of double blind audibility studies and scientific method practices in general)

    – That “HD Audio” not be defined exclusively or primarily by playback bit depth or sampling rate above 16 bit and 44.1k without rigorous peer-reviewed published studies to back up the need for more than that. The Sony push to confuse quality with playback format to increase DSD license fees (as exemplfied in the NPR article with Cookie Mareno and Cookie’s embarrassing website http://edu.bluecoastrecords.com funded by Sony) (wav sounds better than flac, really?). CEA’s push to focus on playback format instead of recording and production practices is similary disappointing.

    I think “HD Audio” has a pormising future, but only if it’s based on solid science instead of slick snake oil marketing. I wish you the best of good fortune in 2014 in fighting the good fight for the former.

    • Thanks for the comment. As you know, I’m working towards the things that you mentioned above.

      I do want to point out that Cookie is a fine engineer, record producer and I consider her a friend in the pursuit of higher quality audio. Her website is not funded by Sony. It’s true that she has gotten some support from them for various trade shows…and there’s no conflict in that anymore than when Dolby Labs contributes to an AIX Records demo room at AXPONA.

      2014 looks promising for audio and real high-resolution.


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