AUDIO SHOWS Dr. AIX's POSTS — 25 May 2014

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This is Memorial Day weekend. It’s the official start of summer (sorry to my readers in Australia). While everyone is out at the beach or taking their kids to the latest summer blockbuster, I’ve been moving our label fulfillment room out of one space and into a bigger space in the front of the building. One of my tenants (a singer/songwriter AND movie set painter who’s going to Michigan and Illinois to work on the new Superman vs. Batman movie…for six months) moved out of the front office and my wife told me she’d love to have the space. It’s small but has windows and is away from the craziness associated with the studios. So while she paints, I’m dismantling a cluttered room and reassembling it in the big room in the front. It’s a chance to get organized…finally.

Next weekend Richard Beers and the Los Angeles and Orange County Audiophile Society holds T.H.E. Show Newport Beach. I didn’t attend this one for many years in spite of the fact that Newport Beach is only 50 miles away…I can come home at night and sleep in my own bed. But last year I changed my mind.

T.H.E. Show Newport Beach occupies two separate hotels. The main hotel is the Hilton but last year I was on the porch of the Atrium, which is next door. It was less than ideal because attendees have their wallets out in the “Marketplace” ballrooms at the Hilton. AIX Records will be set up in the Marketplace II Ballroom. Please come by.

I can only afford to do a big demonstration room once a year (and that was the AXPONA show). At T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, I’ll set up my sales table with a small but very impressive playback system. I’ll have my Oppo BDP-95. Unlike the BDP-83 that I usually travel with…the 95 has 2 HDMI outputs (remember this is the only way to get Real HD-Audio digitally out of the units). As a result, I’ll be able to get true 96 kHz/24-bit stereo audio out of my Benchmark DAC2 HGC AND the new Oppo HA-1 Headphone Amplifier. As far as I know, this will be the first public demonstration of the HA-1.

I’m going to use the Kanex Pro HDMI de-embedder to get past the downconversion that occurs from virtually all BD machine digital outputs. See the diagram below for the routing:

140525_newport_setup

Figure 1 – The AIX Records sales table equipment and signal routing. The Kanex Pro allows the 96 kHz/24-bit audio to play in the Oppo HA-1 and Benchmark DAC2. [Click to enlarge]

I would be willing to bet that the music played back at our table will rival anything happening in the Headphonium section of the ballroom. Come be and check it out.

I’ll have plenty of my HD-Audio 2013 samplers on special for $20 each OR FREE with any purchase at the T.H.E. Show Newport Beach. It’s the perfect disc to check out high-resolution music AND multiple mixes. And the disc has 41 tracks with HD-Video.

Please come by and pick up some discs, attend my seminar on Friday at 11:30 am and say hello.

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About Author

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.

(12) Readers Comments

  1. Here are some comments for your show setup.

    [1] I see you will be using Oppo PM-1 orthodynamic headphones.

    1.) PM-1’s treble is slightly recessed (or quite recessed depending on whom you ask) compared to other headphones in its price range. While PM-1 is excellent headphones by its own, it may not be ideal for showing high-res audio.

    2.) (It is not PM-1’s unique problem) Open-air headphones in general are really, really bad for demoing at trade shows and public demonstrations due to sheer outside noise ruining the sound. Nothing is more terrible than listening to Sennheiser HD800 during insanely packed audiophile meeting, for instance (Had I already owned HD800, I would had believed that HD800 is downright terrible headphones.)

    It is best to bring well-sealed closed-back full-size headphones demo purpose. Here are some quick recommendations I can think of:

    MrSpeakers : Alpha Dog (600 bucks)
    Focal : Spirit Professional (350 bucks)
    NAD : VISO HP50 (300 bucks)
    (maybe) Shure : SRH-1540 (500 bucks)

    I know it’s quite late for different sets of headphones and you probably got PM-1s for free/cheap, but this is something you can consider for next big meets.

    [2] I see you will be using BDP-95 for main source. Consider using a laptop computer instead; that way, you can skip the de-embedder altogether. Considering that both DAC2 and HA-1’s main focus is USB, the USB input is probably best-sounding digital input for both of devices anyway. Use one of them as DAC via USB, and use pre-amp out to use other as a pure headphone amplifier.

    Of course, problems would be that there is a chance the laptop may not work properly during the demo, and it won’t be able to use Blu-ray menus. However, using software music player in the laptop is far more convenient than the blu-ray player overall.

    • Won, thanks for your input. I can’t say that I’m a major headphone person but I don’t find any problem in the high end at least compared to a set of Stax that are occasionally here. I used them in Chicago with great results. I will bring a couple of other pairs.

      Since I sell Blu-ray discs complete with HD-Video, I want my customers to hear and experience the products as they will at home. I’m not sure why you would say that Benchmark and Oppo are focusing on the USB input. It’s true that most audiophiles use them for computer music, but the Benchmark is used in a great number of high-end mastering studios using AES/EBU digital in.

      • Yes, that’s true… but other than marginal improvements, the main differences between latest DAC1 and DAC2 are really USB and DSD. Quick reading through the manual clearly indicates enormous efforts have been spent on USB input and its related technology.

        It’s far more apparent at HA-1. It blatantly mentions that USB can take far greater bandwidth and more advanced technology than traditional digital inputs.

        Regardless of these DACs being used on professional works, there is a very big reason why everyone is so obsessed with putting ‘latest’ and ‘best’ technology on USB input.

        It’s DSD.

        More precisely, those so called double, quad-DSD which cannot be used with common AES3 standard due to both bandwidth and protocol issues as far as I know. Observe those expensive, DSD-capable DACs’ specifications… in 99% of the time (except some obscure Japanese audiophile makers which use non-standard stuffs), USB is a sole input for multi-DSD format.

        Since people are crazy with DSD, the money follows DSD, and the companies follow the money, by following DSD. In order to follow DSD, they have to support the best DSD-friendly digital input…. and it’s USB.

        It’s such a crazy, ridiculous irony: DSD was NEVER intended to be played on PC at all due to a stupid piracy concern. Sony was quite hostile toward DSD playback on PC, and never released needed license and information for SACD playback for CD drives. (They did released SACD-ROM at very last moment of SACD’s life, which nobody adopted since SACD was already dead format to electronics companies).

        Now DSD is completely dependent on USB, which inevitably brings PC into the audio chain. it is such insanity that blows my mind.

        • The DAC2 has better specs beyond just the DSD…it’s a completely new machine.

          The world of “computer audio” is a major part of the audiophile landscape now and yes, the USB inputs allow files beyond those associated with traditional digital audio to pass. They get higher sample rates and longer words…but it means nothing. These rates are not being used during production and do not affect the sound in any perceivable way.

          Don’t get me started on the DSD thing. It’s a complete fraud and I simply cannot understand why any engineer would produce a DSD recording…unless it’s to maximize profits or to jump on a bandwagon that gets them some additional press. You’re right it’s about money…not sound fidelity.

  2. Dear Mark, you forgot to say also sorry to your readers in South America. We are starting the Winter like our friends in Australia. Regards and keep up the good work!

    • Sorry, you’re right.

  3. You said the hi-rez track are only pass throw the HDMI cable from the oppo do you mean that if you use analog stereo XLR cable from the oppo 95 to the oppo HA-1 it will be downsample
    Thank you

    • I should have said in the digital domain. Of course, if you convert at the Oppo 95 output you can go anywhere you like.

  4. I’m a big fan of your music and I think that head phone demonstrations at trade shows make so much sense. But I do have some humble suggestions for you. It appears that you will not be demonstrating surround sound. If that is the case, you have no need to promote your blu ray discs (i know they have stereo tracks on them, but most people buy blu ray for multi channel use). This should be the time to promote your downloads since that’s how stereophiles get their digital music. To maximize your sound quality, I would suggest: mac laptop running ammara or pure music (something with integer mode) => toslink (since you won’t be playing dsd) => benchmark dac => sealed headphones (because it might be noisy in the room) like sennheiser momentum or the like.

    Just my two cents.

    • You and Won have got me thinking about this. The Blu-ray are the products on the table…and they do have HD-Video on them that I want people to see. I think I could/should set up a second system with my laptop running Amarra into an Benchmark DAC1 (I have one) into a set of sealed headphones. It would make it possible to load up a hard drive with everything that I have…including the pre Blu-ray products that aren’t on the BD Sampler. I usually load up another disc to demonstrate the older stuff (which sound just as good but doesn’t have HD-Video).

      I can manage that because I’m here and not bound by the baggage limitations associated with traveling to other shows. Thanks.

  5. What jumps out at me in your configuration is that the Benchmark DAC doesn’t have an HDMI input (most DACs don’t). I know that HDMI is associated with Video but obviously in a typical configuration you need to get at the audio from the HDMI output. Why aren’t the high end DAC manufacturers dealing with this?

    • Because it’s simply another license to pay for the HDMI compatibility and it’s a pain.

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