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.