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.