The Last Few Feet

Assuming the producer and engineers have delivered a master to you in the form of a disc or a sound file, each individual listener has the option of consuming that media in a variety of ways. I’ve been talking about the “standard operating procedure” used during the production stages over the past few days, but everyone…especially audiophiles…love to tweak the sound produced by their systems endlessly to modify the final fidelity. Notice that I said “modify” and not improve the sound of the ultimate playback. Everyone listening to a selection of music has his or her own individual tastes, listening hardware and software (their ears and brains) and prejudices.

Contrary to the well-known audiophile magazine, there is no “Absolute Sound”. Is listening to my recordings in my studio (where they were mixed and mastered) the ultimate statement regarding those recordings? I can assure you that it’s a wonderful experience and how I experience them, but that doesn’t exclude the experience that someone else has using another system or a great set of headphones. It’s all good.

I remember an early customer writing to me and stating that he was floored by the “fidelity” of our Latin Jazz recording with Luis Conte, David Garfield and the late David Carpenter…and he couldn’t wait to hear how the disc would sound when he got a chance to hear the losslessly compressed MLP DVD-Audio version of the tracks. He was listening to the Dolby Digital encoded format!

Whenever I hear a professional acoustician talk about including this or that level of room ambiance in their designs, I usually raise my hand and ask if they believe that adding additional reverberation or modifying the timbral characteristics of the masters is his or hers to judge? Why not trust the artist and the production team to deliver what they consider ideal sound.

This translates in to the last “few feet” of a sound reproduction system. Of course, the room is important. But what we really want is a room that is built to emulate the finest studios in the world. And that means understanding that the best studios in the world don’t have the esoteric speakers that make the cover of the audiophile magazines, they don’t have amplifiers and electronics that cost more than automobiles and they definitely do not wire them up with speaker cables and interconnects costing tens of thousands of dollars. And finally, they don’t place use ANY of the audiophile tweaks that add that special mojo to the sound emanating from their monitor systems.

If the “absolute sound” exists at all, it is the playback that is experienced in the best mixing and mastering rooms of the world. That’s why I encourage audio and music lovers to visit my studio and hear what I hear.


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 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.

One thought on “The Last Few Feet

  • January 17, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Thanks Mark,
    A few years ago when I was in my early teens, I’m now 55, my older brother whom I shared a bedroom, brought home a Marantz 4400 receiver and four JBL L100 speakers, We set them up in our 12×12 bedroom, that was the start of a long journey seeking sonic bliss. That road took me to a lot of memorial places, such as Siegfried Linkwitz’s site, witch suggested how one listens to sounds in a natural setting to train our ears to know when such thing sound as close “too” as they should when one attempts to recreate them in a listening room. then there’s AVS and Home theater shack and the infamous REW. And all that brings me to AIX, again thank you for allowing me into your studio, too be able to here what you and those artist were saying when you captured them helps me understand how my setup needed to be arranged, what a blessing. Anyone in or around the L.A. basin should take mark up on his offer.


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