Bureaucrats, spinmeisters, marketing geeks, and hardware manufacturers have taken the high-resolution audio initiative hostage. Despite the best efforts of a number of very smart and dedicated people, the prospects for HRA having any real meaning is realistically impossible at this point.
Just this morning, I read an article by Mark Fleischmann at Sound and Vision (Click here to read the entire article) entitled “High-Res All-Embracingly Defined”. He discusses the recent HRA Definition announcement by the DEG, CEA and NARAS. He talks about the good news and the bad news.
We’ve already discussed the degree to which the committee charged with developing a meaningful definition missed the mark…by a very wide margin. Mr. Fleischmann points out that there is a huge internal inconsistency in the definition…how can a definition that says, “better than CD-Quality” include “CD masters” as sources? He goes off on a tangent that’s a little hard to understand. He states, “Either MQ is better than CD quality or it’s not.” The focus of the statement is off the mark…MQ or master quality is the fidelity of the source recording…it might be terrific or it might be tremendous. If the CD specification is fully capable of enclosing the entire fidelity of the MQ item in terms of dynamic range and frequency response etc., then the whole thing is standard-resolution NOT high-resolution. He also says that CD Quality is Not High Res Audio. That one he got right.
First, CD Quality, as I’ve discussed previously, is not an absolute quality specification. It’s a marketing term used by advocates of MP3 or AAC compression to say that their encoders can fool you intro believing that lossy algorithms can deliver “CD-Quality”…not REAL CD spec…but equivalent sound fidelity.
The author falls recognize that analog recordings are not high-resolution when he says, “The remaining two categories don’t pose any particular problems. MQ-A, for analog sources, is a necessity, not only because so much of recorded history is analog, but also because the best analog recordings can be truly high-res. I’d like to know how he defines high-resolution audio because a technology with limited dynamic range fails by my measure. He’s right that the history of recording is all about analog and therefore the interested parties couldn’t exclude analog from the high-resolution definition. But I can.
Introducing Ultra HD-Audio!
Figure 1 – The new Ultra HD-Audio logo
Since it’s clear that I can’t win this battle (or seemingly impact it at all), I’m going to create a new category of recorded sound and call it Ultra HD-Audio. An Ultra HD-Audio recording is one that has been recorded at 88.2 kHz/24-bits or higher (typically 96 kHz/24…although DSD at 128 or DSD 256 could qualify. DSD 64 cannot!) at the time of the original sessions. The source recording cannot have been transcoded to DXD or analog tape for postproduction processing AND it has to be delivered in the same format as the source recording. I think we should avoid down conversions.
This is really the only way that we can get a rigorous definition for fidelity that has the potential to be better than existing recordings. We’re going to have to live with the confusion that has been approved and announced by the DEG, CEA and TRA.
I believe that Ultra HD-Audio can represent the highest possible level of sonic fidelity. There will be recordings that are made in Ultra HD-Audio specs that will succumb to the heavy processing and mastering that exists in commercial music…but at least the potential to get it right will exist.
Let me know what you think.