HRA: CES Day III

I spent the entire day at my booth in the corner of the Bellini 2002-2003 room of the Venetian Hotel yesterday. And I enjoyed talking to everyone that came by…even the somewhat contentious encounters. This particular trade show has been different from all of the others that I attended last year (and as many of you know, I traveled to ALL of them in North America).

The difference is that exhibitors are not allowed to sell anything at the show. We used to do a rousing business when the show was at the Alexis Park Hotel, but since the move to the Venetian selling discs from the display doesn’t happen. That’s the main reason why I haven’t been back to CES.

When I don’t have the opportunity to offset the costs of coming to the show, the whole conversation changes. I found myself sitting for as much as 20-30 minutes chatting with visitors. The discussions covered a wide range of topics. However, I got asked my opinion of DSD more than a few times.

Attendees entered the room over on the DSD side of the Bellini Ballroom. Chad Kassem and his Super Hi Rez booth got the first shot to pitch their wares. If you know Chad, he’s a great salesman and pushes a whole range of audio products from vinyl LP (he owns and runs one of the countries highest quality pressing facilities) to DSD downloads.

The next two booths are Cookie Marenco’s Blue Coast Music and Jared Sack’s Chanel Classics. They’re also pitching the “alleged” superiority of DSD and their download sites.

The Mytek booth, manned by owner and designer Michal Jurewicz and his associated, are in the middle of the space and despite the fact that their equipment does both DSD and PCM, the conversations that I’ve overheard are clearly pushing the advantages of DSD (with a lot of marketing “spin” and fact omission).

Mytek’s website states, “Mytek supports DSD. After countless listening tests and having built DSD equipment we now believe that DSD is the digital format, which provides sound quality, which is subjectively closest to the traditional analog recordings.

DSD is meant for users seeking sonic perfection. The new Mytek 8X192 features an optional DSD firmware with built in native 64x and 128x DSD.”

So by the time people drift over to the other end of the room where HDtracks and AIX/iTrax (both companies are firmly entrenched in the PCM camp) are located, they have run the DSD gauntlet.

I introduce myself and my organization. Many people already know who I am and more than a few of those that have stopped by tell me they read every word of every post…which is encouraging and nice. The conversation then steers to the differentiation between my production process and that of virtually every other label. I talk about multiple microphones in stereo configurations, high-resolution PCM at 96 kHz/24-bits, live recording spaces and the lack of processing of any kind at every stage of my process.

Then I have them listen to several stereo samples from the catalog and watch for a reaction. The response is usually very positive, sometimes neutral but I have never had someone say to me, “this sucks”. Our recordings are described as having superior “clarity”, “openness” and “transparency”.

When Mytek states that DSD is the digital format, which provides sound quality, which is subjectively closest to tradition analog recording, they may be right! But I’m not looking to produce recordings with the fidelity of yesteryear…although I do understand the motivation. I’m trying to move beyond the shortcomings of analog recording and bring another aesthetic to the world of audio recordings. My vision focuses on tonal accuracy, timbral balance across the entire spectrum, extended frequency response beyond the “audio band” and immersive mixes.

When asked about DSD, I carefully explain the process of 1-bit encoding, the whole issue of noise shaping, the absence of production tools for professionals and the limitations of the frequency range. When open-minded visitors listen to the other side of the story, they temper their enthusiasm. I tell them to listen to a variety of recordings in all formats and judge for themselves….and I tell them to read the interview with John Siau, the chief designer at Benchmark Digital (if you haven’t read the interview, click here.

I’m enjoying the whole affair. I’m especially gratified to visit with young people and watch their reactions when they first get a chance to experience real high-resolution audio. One enthusiast (who turned out to be a runner and likes to listen to music while he cruises along at 7 minutes per mile. Argh!) was particularly impressed and required his “non audiophile” buddies to take a listen too. They were also suitably impressed. There’s hope for high quality audio and a younger demographic. All they have to do is hear it.

Today is the last day of the show. I’m planning on drifting upstairs to check out some of the other audio rooms before packing up the car and heading home. See you tomorrow.

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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