The day started early. I had scheduled an appointment with the HVAC service guy at 7 am, had yet to pack up all of the equipment and software that I needed for the show, author yesterday’s post and modify my power point presentation…and then drive 50 miles to Newport Beach and get everything set up.
I wheeled my cart of boxes and stuff through the courtyard, past the breakfast area and into the Marketplace II Irvine II room. My neighbor Darin Fong Audio had rearranged his tables making it impossible for me to get behind my area…we solved that with a little nudging and then I got all the gear out and plugged up. I had the BDP-95, HA-1, 2 Benchmark DACs, the Smyth Room Realiser and multiple sets of headphones going playing back in the corner of the table and my Mac laptop running Amarra off to the side. I rolled out my two banners and was good to go.
Traffic was pretty good at the Hilton. It was certainly much better than last year when I was on the porch at the Atrium Hotel next door. I met a bunch of readers in person and talked to a lot of interested audiophiles. The main attractions were the PM-1 headphones and the HA-1 headphone amplifier from Oppo.
At 11:30 I headed over to the seminar room and gave the keynote address for the Newport Show. The room was about half full and the session a mix between information and Q&A. The whole high-resolution audio space is still a confusing mess as far as I can tell from the questions that I answered during the session. My message was that high-resolution audio has morphed into a marketing term and has almost nothing to do with actual high-resolution recordings. The focus is still on the delivery side of music consumption and the source or “provenance” is secondary or is being completely misrepresented…and deliberately
The definition has been watered down such that virtually everything can…and will be…included under the high-resolution tent. Anything that is “better” than CD-quality qualifies according the most recent draft document. That means that 48 kHz/16-bit PCM files are high-res. And analog tape transfers of older third generation tapes when transferred to 44.1-24 bits are high-res. Although I haven’t heard anyone talking about doing it, I image a vinyl LP converted to digital at 192 kHz/25-bits will be high-resolution as well.
The labels seem to be willing to provide all of the information that they have with regards to production stages…but I honestly don’t think they know what they are. Does anyone thing that the majors are going to deploy teams of people to research this stuff? Are they going to employ engineers like Qobuz.com does as “Quality Assurance Engineers” to analyze and report on the quality of the files that are being sent to their licensees (we know how well that works for Qobuz…read this)? I don’t think so.
I also warned that virtually everything that attendees would be hearing about the DSD format would be spin from parties with vested interests…and I showed a few spectra of DSD files with the huge amount of ultrasonic noise present. I try.
A gentleman came up to the table and pulled out a Colorfly Pocket HiFi C4 16G Pro Media Player 24bit 192kHz MP3 AMP Hi-Fi DAC player. This is one of the rash of new dedicated, high-resolution capable players on the market (think Astell & Kern, Fiio X5 and even Pono). I hadn’t seen one of these previously.
He loaded up a Steely Dan track and handed me the device. I plugged in a set of the Oppo PM-1 phones and listened. The sound quality was impressive. The low end was especially good. I only wish I could have checked out some of my own material because this is another case of standard definition content played in a much more capable machine. Honestly, if I had compared a CD rip to the HDtracks download at 192 kHz/24-bits, there wouldn’t be any audible difference. Sad.
I was less impressed by the industrial design, build quality and user interface…really terrible. The thing felt like it came together in a 7th grade shop class. And for $700…I would opt for the HTC One 48 Harman Kardon Smartphone or a Pono player.
The first day was a success…full of conversation and meeting friends around the show. Go to run to day 2. More tomorrow.