It takes a lot of effort and substantial amounts of money to mount a big demo room at a trade show. The value of the audio gear is only one piece of the puzzle. The logistics of packing, shipping and filling out forms can be quite daunting AND extremely expensive as well. For example, shipping the German Physiks speakers from Germany to Chicago cost more than $10,000 and poor handling resulted in some puncture damage to the crates (thankfully the equipment inside was no damaged).
Then there are the hours of unpacking, positioning, connecting and testing the assembled system in the room. Hotel ballrooms and sleeping rooms are not ideal places to set up as critical listening spaces. It’s even worse when loud air handlers and a continuous flow of jet airplanes make doing critical calibrations virtually impossible.
Still, I think the demonstration room that AIX and our partners assembled in the Madison room of the O’Hare Westin Hotel was among the best at the show. And I’ve received a number of emails thanking me for an excellent presentation AND great sound room. However, my opinion and the opinions of a multitude of other attendees are not shared by some of the reviewers that attended the show.
A reader alerted me to a post over at The Absolute Sound website written by Jonathan Valin, one of their senior writers. After several screens of beautiful images and reasonable reviews, he tucked the following brief paragraph in near the end:
“Finally, in a show in which sonics were definitely a mixed bag, I want to note a particularly egregious presentation. After haranguing showgoers about “high-definition” audio (which, apparently, doesn’t include anything sourced from analog), AIX’s Mark Waldrep proceeded to turn a near-half-million-dollar German Physik loudspeaker system, the $475k Emperor II, into a laughing stock with one of his high-res multichannel tapes. The sound on female voice was incredibly big, ill focused, bright, and unpleasant.”
Now, I’ve received great reviews (some from the same publication) and some tepid reviews but I’ve never read a review filled with such overt nastiness and negativity. So I wrote a reasoned response on the site in an attempt to clarify the motivations behind Jonathan’s emotionally charged comments.
And after his response, I think I’m beginning to understand the reasons for his push back. Jonathan didn’t like my presentation. He labeled it “egregious” and said I was “haranguing” attendees because I spent time explaining what high-resolution PCM actually is and because I stated that analog format like tape and vinyl LPs are incapable of the same level of fidelity.
I understand that I’m pointedly uncompromising in my quest for better fidelity AND for advancing high-resolution PCM productions and consumer products. But I honestly believe that I acknowledge and respect that analog tape and vinyl LPs can produce high quality sound and should be enjoyed by those that prefer them. I’ve never referred to them as “low-resolution” as he wrote in his response. You want to talk about DSD? That’s another discussion.
Jonathan and his editor Robert Harley don’t accept the fact that analog tape is not high-resolution. Jonathan quotes Robert from an upcoming TAS article on HRA, “For the record, I consider analog tape a high-resolution medium, and high-bit-rate files made from those analog tapes are truly high-resolution.” I’ll have to wait until I read the entire article to understand his reasoning but this statement is a change from an article that he wrote years ago about the catalog available on Music Giants not being “high-resolution”. I wonder what has changed in the intervening years?
Personally, I agree with Dr. Sean Olive (Head of R&D at Harman and President of the AES) and other audio engineers that agree “analog tape and vinyl are examples that are not HD-Audio”. To see prominent and influential writers refuse to acknowledge scientifically reasoned information will only perpetuate the confusion in the high-resolution marketplace. That’s bad news for audiophiles.
I’ve said my piece here and responded at the TAS site. I’m done.