Same Input Means the Same Output

I worked on both the new iTrax.com site AND the new High-Resolution Audio Database (HRADB.com) this weekend. I want to thank those of your who have been willing to contribute to the database with some of your downloaded “high-resolution audio” tracks. I’m pulling together the structure and functionality of the site and hope to have an initial version up within a few weeks. Right now my mind and body are occupied with the running of my fifth L.A. Marathon on March 9, 2014…only 18 days away. I’ve been training for six months and covering a lot of miles over these past few weeks in preparation…so excuse the lack of focus.

As I was working, I started thinking about the potential relationships that I would like to secure with the major labels. As I’ve mentioned, I want to get the flat analog masters and make them available via new transfers at 192 khz/24-bits. I’m going to offer the flat masters without mastering and with my own “reference” standard mastering process, which simply means avoid over processing and leave the music pretty much as it is. It remains to be seen whether the labels will go for this…but I’m optimistic.

But what happens if they say no. Is it a good idea to enter the high-resolution audio digital music download business knowing that my iTrax.com site will offer exactly the same files as HDTracks or HighResAudio or Qobuz? Right now, if you download the same track from these sites at the same specification and compare them…they are identical. The files are supplied by the mastering folks at the major labels and so why wouldn’t they be the same? The HRADB.com site will be the perfect place to compare before you shop for high-resolution versions of your favorite albums. I can imagine the same “Counting Crows” album listed in the database three or more times depending on the source.

In an age where things…including music delivery…can and should be getting more personalized, we’re back to the same “one size fits” all mentality.

I’ve had the good fortune to be able to listen to some really important recordings from the original multitrack masters. The Fleetwood Mac classic albums “Rumours” was part of an effort by Ken Caillat and others (including me) to get Warner Brothers Records interested in 5.1 surround music as the DVD-Audio format was being considered in 2000. We at a studio on the west side of Los Angeles called The Complex with Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham. The plan was to play some 5.1 surround mixes for the band members but more importantly for Jac Holzman, the legendary founder of Elektra Records and then head of new media technology at WB.

Hearing a few of the tracks from that multitrack master spread out in a full 5.1 array was a revelation. There were instrumental and vocal parts that I had never heard before. Why? Because they were buried in the traditional stereo mix. Additionally, the full measure of the dynamics and timbral variations came through the monitors in a way that was much richer and natural than the mastered commercial CD release. I want everyone to be able to experience this level of fidelity.

I’m working on it. When you hear “Sgt. Peppers” or” Rumours” or the Counting Crows’ “August and Everything After” before the mastering guys got busy with their tools, you’ll realize just how good music can be.

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.

6 thoughts on “Same Input Means the Same Output

  • February 19, 2014 at 3:43 am
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    I’m certainly keen to see the outcome of your request for the flat analog masters.

    Just to confirm, that is the studio master *before* any vinyl-oriented adjustments?

    Reply
    • February 19, 2014 at 9:58 am
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      Yes, a flat master is the output from the mixing session before the mastering for vinyl LP or CD.

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      • February 19, 2014 at 5:42 pm
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        Mark,

        I believe that this is what Neil Young wants to start with for his Pono project. I bought his Archives Blu-ray set and listened to some very old tapes made at Gold Star Studios (I think or possibly Elektra) that were very simple mono recordings but the clarity and depth of the sound astounded me.

        Blaine

        Reply
        • February 19, 2014 at 5:49 pm
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          Blaine…Neil has the clout and resources to get the right materials from his artist friends AND develop a closed system that will empower his hardware. I’m not convinced that a closed system is going to light people up. But then again, that might be what it takes to get the labels on board.

          Reply
  • February 23, 2014 at 3:56 pm
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    Thank you for your continued series of missives.

    This is a query peripherally related to this post.

    You mention listening to the master tapes of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album. I have always wondered about the beginning of “Second Hand News” where there is sound only in the left channel for the first few seconds. Is this a mixing error or an artistic choice?

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Reply
    • February 24, 2014 at 7:33 am
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      Paul…I can’t actually remember that particular tune but I’ll be happy write a note to Ken Caillat, who was one of the engineers on the project. He wrote a book called “Making Romours” that you might find interesting.

      Reply

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