In the recent exchanges between Jonathan Valin and myself (which can be reviewed at their website…theabsolutesound.com), he pushed back on my assertion that Robert Harley’s categorization of analog tape as “high-resolution”. I wish I could find the article Robert authored years ago about the Music Giants high-resolution download site because I remember being impressed that he would share with his readers that the albums offered on the MG site were not actually “high-resolution” because they were sourced from the original analog masters.
I can remember meeting with the Music Giants principals (CEO Scott Bahnemann and COO John Williams) about 7 years ago and having a conversation about high-resolution music downloads. They positioned themselves as a high-quality music vendor and had almost 1M tunes available on their site. They billed themselves as the home of “High Definition Music Downloads”. But they opened up the whole conversation about what is and what insisted “high-resolution” in my mind. They believed and their engineer/consultant Elliot Mazer believed that analog tapes from the major labels were and are “high-resolution”.
When I asked them what my recordings would be labeled if I was to make them available on Music Giants, they suggested “Super HD”. In fact, they started marketing original high-definition recordings under that name just prior to exiting the business. Perhaps their business model was flawed or their timing wrong, but MG declared bankruptcy in June of 2009.
It was Robert Harley’s endorsement of my thoughts on what is and what isn’t HD, that made his article so memorable. But now, with the arrival of Pono and soon Ponomusic, Robert has changed his mind. Jonathan’s response included this quote from Robert:
“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 will have to wait and read his article to understand his revised thinking on this issue. It might be that with the success of HDtracks and the fall launch of Ponomusic AND the dearth of new recordings that are actually done at high-resolution audio specifications that Robert wants the more inclusive definition. He’s certainly entitled to his opinion. But his position as the editor of one of the mainstay audio magazines makes his opinions more relevant that those of others…including Dr. Olive from Harman and the current head of the Audio Engineering Society.
The various committees that I’ve been working with have at least gotten a rough sketch of a definition. The argument that analog tape is high-resolution is over. Analog tape is not HiRes…the committee’s deferred to the likes of Dr. Olive and myself. The definition includes language to the effect that high-resolution audio is audio that is “better than CDs”. So knowing that CDs can handle up to 96 dB of dynamic range and analog tape is limited (without noise reduction) to about 60 dB max…it would seem reasonable for Robert and the rest of the audio press to reflect on the impact of their articles. The worst thing that can happen is to have multiple parties pitching multiple incompatible definitions for the same thing.
This may sound strange coming from an ardent absolutist when it comes to this issue…but if we waffle on the definition of High-Resolution, then the whole market segment is in grave trouble.