T.H.E. Show Newport Beach

I drove to the Hilton Hotel yesterday to check out my space and get a first view of the setup. As I entered the hotel, there were lots of fancy exotic cars parked under canopies. I had a hard time imaging how high-end audio plays any role when you’re racing around in an open wheel machine designed for speed and maximum “engine whine”. My studio happens to be across the street from the Ferrari repair shop and I hear a lot of very impressive engine revs all day. Is it really important to have a great sound system in one of these vehicles?

It’s a guy’s thing…I get it. The Newport Show is much more than a high-end audio show. They’ll be cigars, wine, live music, expensive cars, food trucks and of course, high-end audio systems too. But I have to wonder whether the focus on music reproduction is lost with all of the other distractions happening. I hope the traffic is good and people find us in the Marketplace II room in the Hilton…and bring that they bring lots of cash.

At 11:30 in the morning, I’m giving the first seminar of the event called “2014: Is This the Year of High Resolution Audio?” I’ve given this presentation at a number of shows this past year and it goes over very well. Readers of this site can pretty imagine what I’ll talk about…Pono, content vs. hardware, defining HD-Audio and provenance etc. It’s fun and most attendees will have their eyes opened a little…or they’ll walk out and wait for a seminar of panel more to their liking.

There are bunch of other presentations that I hope to be able to attend. Of course, Michael Fremer is going to explain (again) how to set up a turntable and get the most fidelity out of your vinyl LPs.

Cookie Marenco is moderating a panel called, “Understanding Recording Provenance: From first recording to the listener’s home playback system” with Bruce Brown of Puget Sound Studios (a mastering facility) and Andreas Koch of Playback Designs (a maker of high-end DSD equipment). I would like to attend her seminar as well. As the person who first used the word “provenance” in the context of audio recording and an engineer of the largest catalog of real high-resolution audio, it might seem she would want to involve me. However, since I’m not a fan of DSD…I was not included in the two person panel.

In the description of her session, Cookie writes, “When you buy a download or disc, do you wonder how the audio was originally recorded? There several places a conversion or transfer can occur in the recording to delivery process. We’ve called these “The Six Degrees of Degradation”. I find it ironic that the only audio engineer involved in this session is Cookie…and she records her “super high-resolution audio productions” on analog tape, mixes through an analog mixing desk with PCM reverberation and then transfers them to DSD.

There are other seminars on headphones, room tuning, amplifier design and computer audio. There will be a session for every taste and format devotee. I’m looking forward to it.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Southern California this weekend, please stop by the show and say hello. Although, I get stuck behind my table, I’ll try to give daily reports for the next three days.


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.

13 thoughts on “T.H.E. Show Newport Beach

  • Wes Baker

    Sounds as if Cookie doesn’t quite yet understand “degradation”!

    • Cookie is a wonderful engineer and has a track record of producing wonderful recordings…however her approach is definitely old school.

  • Dave Griffin

    At 11:30 in the morning, I’m giving the first seminar of the event called “2104: Is This the Year of High Resolution Audio?

    That’s looking forward a bit isn’t it;-)

    • That’s what writing the daily post at 5:30 in the morning will do. I’ll fix it.

  • Phil Malter

    FWIW, the volume on my OEM Carver/Carver system in my BMW Z4, increases automatically with increased ambient sound. Hence, up to the pain threshold, dynamic range is maintained.

    • Dave Griffin

      I’ve got a Z4 and yes, it does. However, I wouldn’t say the sound system is audiophile, at least mine isn’t.

  • Hi Mark,
    As we know, to some people, high end audio is more about prestige than listening enjoyment. It’s a shame because it can send entirely the wrong message. It reminds me of Opera. Originally, it was the music of the people, performed in the street for free. These days the real fans can’t afford to get in, but it’s a great place to “be seen”.
    As for Michael Fremer’s presentation…..perhaps he could demonstrate the improved “dynamic range” of the turntable by dropping it off the roof of the Hilton?

  • Camilo Rodriguez

    Hi Mark,

    Have you had a chance to try out the Benchmark AHB2 Power Amp? Would be interesting to hear your impressions on this Amp, since it can deliver the DAC2’s signal intact to the speakers and thus represents another big step towards real HD- audio. Would love to read your impressions about it and Benchmark’s SMS1 monitors.


    • I’ll certainly be trying to get my hands on the other products from Benchmark…stay tuned.

      • Camilo Rodriguez

        Awesome! Will definitely stay tuned.

        I was looking forward to purchasing Benchmark’s MPA-1 mic-PreAmp, but they have apparently discontinued it, so I assume it’s undergoing some sort of upgrade. I would love a MPA-1 – or 2 – in a single box together with their ADC1 A/D converter, and a 120V option for a pair DPA 4003s.


    • A DAC from ESSTech supports up to 1.536 MHz / 32 bits .

  • Beside, actually, the 24-bit float/1.536MHz, there are another two big steps toward real HD-audio :

    * Valvet E1r with single-electron transistor {the lowest possible shot/flicker noise levels}

    * Reinforced carbyne fibre full-range speaker diaphragm {the highest physically possible sound resolution}

    >> analog tape

    even though with 13 bits of resolution ?

    • You won’t find these piece in true high-resolution.


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