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.

31 thoughts on “Introducing Ultra HD-Audio

  • July 10, 2014 at 2:33 pm
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    I have previously commented on the idea that hearing original master tape quality audio is the true meaning of hi-res, old recordings or new .At this time I would also like to point out that the Ampex ATR-100 running 1/2 ” tape at 30ips used over the years for my live to two track recordings is flat to 50khz when properly aligned, and levels could be run at +10 without any audible overload or saturation effects. No noise either at that speed. If this doesn’t qualify as a hi-res recorder, what does? Mark, you’re fabulous, but no axe-grinding please. If hamsters running the wheel made the best sound, I’d be a hamster guy.

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    • July 10, 2014 at 5:16 pm
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      Craig…I’m a believer in analog and the super analog machine that you talk about. But no one hears those recordings but you or the person operating them Bob Ludwig has two 1″ 2-track machines…I get it. But the run of the mill analog masters from yesterday are not the same thing.

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  • July 10, 2014 at 2:50 pm
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    Isn’t DXD an upconversion for DSD? If so, it should be allowed. Also, all mastering must be done in the original recording resolution or higher.

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    • July 10, 2014 at 5:17 pm
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      DXD has nothing to do with DSD. It is a very high sample rate PCM (352.8 kHz) that is used as recording medium or DSD editing environment.

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      • July 11, 2014 at 3:34 am
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        What is the problem with DXD transcoding?

        Since DXD has much higher resolution (24-bit 352.8kHz) than 24-88.2 or 24-96, mixing or postprocessing in DXD before coming back to 24-88.2 or 24-96 PCM should not reduce quality, should it?

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        • July 11, 2014 at 3:07 pm
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          Theoretically no… it shouldn’t but I’ve seem some pretty questionable ultrasonic noise in some native DXD recordings. Since it’s just an environment for getting to DSD with editing and other post processing…I say why bother. 96 kHz/24-bits is more than enough.

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  • July 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm
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    Mark, I agree 100%, go for it, Ultra HD-Audio is the right term in view what DEG, CEA and TRA have done, which is good for them but not necesserely for users.

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  • July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm
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    Your efforts to get a meaningful HD audio standard defined and accepted are appreciated and important to audiophiles. Some questions (which you have likely been thinking about) are:

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  • July 10, 2014 at 3:22 pm
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    Your efforts to establish a meaningful HD audio definition are much appreciated by many audiophiles, such as myself. This has been no easy task! Questions that I’m thinking about (which you have also probably been considering) are:
    1) Is it worthwhile to introduce another HD audio definition – what is the likely response from whom, to what end? Is there more to gain or lose by suggesting/pushing a new definition.
    2) If the answer to #1 above is yes, then what is the right time to introduce the new definition — let the dust settle a bit on the new Hi-Res definition then move the new definition for consideration, or do so now, or when?
    3) How much support from whom should be garnered before attempting to establish a new definition.

    Best wishes,
    Bob Fernbach
    Pasadena, CA

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  • July 10, 2014 at 3:35 pm
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    I think the only way to do this is to have a ‘Provenance Disclosure’ statement for a recording, something like this:

    “Original recording to Studer 824 24 track Analogue Multitrack recorder, mixed via Neve 8078 Analogue Console to 2 Track Ampex ATR-102 Analogue master tape. Digital Transfer via Universal Audio 2192 digital to analogue converter at 24bit/96kHz.”

    Simple statement of fact that allows us to determine if we think it is high end or not, by our own set of values.

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    • July 11, 2014 at 8:01 pm
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      Hi Steve, I totally agree. I have been suggesting provenance disclosures in the comments section of some of Mark’s earlier posts. Your suggested example, however, points out the risk that it will become a name-dropping exercise — “Neve, Ampex, Neumann, etc” — and as such an opportunity for elitist bragging and bull. Who knows if that equipment is in optimum condition and tune, on the day of the recording? Hmm, maybe I am going to have to modify my own previous opinion.

      In fact, we don’t even need the names and labels like Ultra HD — Mark has seen and reported what happens when that path is taken. The ONLY THING we really need is a truthful and *outcome-based* disclosure statement with every product.

      By which I mean, it should be trivially easy for the studio engineer to analyse his or her final master file for distribution, and ascertain its ACTUAL signal-to-noise peak ratio, and its ACTUAL maximum frequency of musical information. Publish those two outcomes as numbers: Real SNR, and Real Musical Frequency Range.

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      • July 12, 2014 at 10:01 am
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        The disclosure of engineering and production particulars…the provenance…associated with a track will go a long way towards making quality downloads happen. However, it turns out that it is NOT at all trivial to get to the bottom of the production steps, the equipment or even the specifications of any given track. I’ve seen different specs inside the same tune! And the goal of most releases is not to maximize fidelity but to maximize impact.

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  • July 10, 2014 at 4:10 pm
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    Bingo! Just as 720 line video was termed High Definition – it’s certainly better than 480 line television was – back before 1080 line video became standard on Blu-ray disks, and streaming services have taken to calling 1080 “HDX”, I see nothing to prevent you from one-upping the HRA consortium.

    Just make sure you trademark the term and logo. You can then grant a free license to anyone who complies with your definition! I’m pleased that you put the “TM” claim of trademark on – you don’t want to lose this to the public domain without the ability to control its meaning. Read up on the CopyLeft and the GPL – which use copyright law to make sure that something you put out for others to use isn’t turned to a use you don’t want.

    If you’re going to say “No analog masters” there’s no need for an equivalent to the old “ADD” multi-stage code. Just say something like “From recording – through mixing – to this disk or download, a sample rate of at least X times per second and a bit depth of at least Y was used at every step in the process.”

    For extra credit, you can also add that your own recordings preserve the original dynamic range by not artificially reducing it in mastering, and that your 5.1 surround versions are designed for home theater systems, and give the listener the choice of “audience” or “on-stage” mixes, with the musicians in front of you or all around you, and you include a 2 channel mix as well, for listening on the go.

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  • July 10, 2014 at 5:52 pm
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    I’d rather see some mark as a guarantee that a recording features wide bandwidth and wide dynamic range. If you’re only specifying the recording and editing formats, I can make no assumptions of sound quality. A 24/96 recording made with inferior microphones that gets heavily compressed in mastering does not rise to the same sonic performance of a well-done analog recording from the 60s, let alone what I want to hear from a modern production.

    Such a plan would never be adopted across the industry, but a form of quality labeling on your website could help steal market share from HDTracks.

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  • July 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm
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    So is this how it all ends…or is it where it all begins? If I didn’t know any better, and knew nothing of your quest, I would have read your posts from the beginning to now and claimed it’s a “Diary Of A Madman”. But it’s passion that drives the artist. It’s perseverance that drives the entrepreneur. It’s science and truth that drives the facts. It’s the technical knowledge and experience that drives the final product. So where do you go from here? What ultimately do you want to achieve with all this work and effort?
    From my perspective, you have all the skill sets mentioned above, but have exhausted yourself in achieving technical dominance over a market that quiet simply, does not get it.
    Your mission ( should you choose to accept it), should be to champion the genre of “Ultra HD-Audio”, trademark it, and pursue the necessary capital investment needed to make this the niche market that it really is! If I were you, I would market this effort, this format that compares to nothing else out there, to artists willing to join and support your effort. They may not have anything to financially gain from the outset, but there effort to prove to their fan base that there is an advantage to purchasing their music in this new format, just may set the wheels in motion. The right artists, with a significant following, that understand the “artistic” provenance of the format, may become your greatest advocates and stand to gain financially from the effort. Those artists who have made there greatest achievements through their song writing, may finally see that the next level of musical nirvana is to express themselves in an art form that takes the interpretation and expression of their music to a whole new level.
    Build it…and they will come.

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  • July 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm
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    Mark,

    You have all my support for the new category ULTRA HD-AUDIO. That is the right direction you will have to take and it doesn’t matter what the other parties are saying. Please check this interesting article at Residential Systems by Lindsey M. Adler – http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=825. Good luck on the new endeavor.

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  • July 10, 2014 at 6:05 pm
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    Congratulation Mark; Ultra HD-Audio is what we need:

    • Improvement 1: Better frequency response than CD or analog;
    • Improvement 2: Better dynamics than CD or analog (this includes signal to noise ratio);
    • Improvement 3: Better deal because contrary to previous audio, the consumer knows the provenance of the music.
    • Extra improvement: For the same price the consumer gets an immersive 5.1 version of the purchased track.

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  • July 10, 2014 at 8:26 pm
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    Hi Mark,

    I like your resolve and I am certainly one more to support your initiative with an accurate and true – not “alternative” – definition of HRA.

    I like the fact that this post attracted so many and really interesting responses, it shows that your work is valued and certainly not in vain. I also subscribe many of the above considerations, which refer to the necessary strategy to consider in pushing an accurate definition of HRA, as well as taking it seriously as TM to protect it from reappropriation by those who wish to distort it.

    Much as the other readers, I believe it is important to consider what the next step is, as your resolve is now definitive and as you have given up on trying to influence the final outcome of the deliberately fraudulent definition of HRA. Certainly the main strategy involves gathering partners who endorse this definition and are consequently ready to back it through good and transparent recording and business practices. Record labels, musicians, engineers – and of course ultimately consumers – who support accurate quality standards, respect their profession and are ready to support the both scientific/technical and ethical aspects of your definition.

    Nevertheless, there has to be a kickstart somehow, and I can’t but think of the documentary format. Why not make a documentary about your work in pushing for an accurate and honest definition of HRA, as well as of the necessary scientific, historic and technical facts that would be necessary to fully explain these matter to the general public, audio professionals, musicians, etc.? What better way to illustrate HRA than through a movie with clear examples of audiovisual material in real HRA? I know you’re planning on releasing a book on HRA, and that is certainly another interesting yet perhaps less universal channel of communication.

    Anyhow, I’m probably just as excited about your initiative as the others who made great comments on this post, and want to see your work materialized and winning the battle for true HRA. I think what’s so inspiring is that your fight has come to a culmination where the real battle is finally inevitable, where all diplomatic resources have been spent, and you have decided to take on the battle from your own side no matter what.

    We are all pretty much expectant to your thought and next move, and we will certainly be the first ones to support it.

    Cheers!

    Camilo

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  • July 11, 2014 at 2:02 am
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    I like it Mark. I think it speaks in a language that the layman understands, but whether the “industry” will embrace it or not is another matter. I’m very greatful to you for these posts, I have learnt so much. It is one thing to hear a big difference in a recording, but another to understand “why” it’s better. For instance: SACD has always sounded inferior to LPCM to me, but I didn’t know why.
    Forgive my ignorance, but does an SACD file vary in “size” to the equivalent in LPCM?

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  • July 11, 2014 at 3:37 am
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    PS: by the way, I strongly support your efforts to uphold true high-res audio as opposed to applying this label to any transformation of any material into any format superior to redbook. I also strongly support your efforts to demystify high-end audio by providing your authoritative views about the sonic improvements alledgedly provided by $20k DACs, cables, power cords etc.

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  • July 11, 2014 at 10:04 am
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    Mark, I am with you all the way. I have been reading your newsletters for a year or so now and they have been truly fascinating.

    I applaud your effort to define what seems so hard to define given the politics of the audio world. I know that you only want to work with original uncompressed masters to provide the music available on your website. I hope that the ones you can confirm as meeting your standards are marked Ultra HD-Audio, even if no one else wants to adopt the standard.

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  • July 11, 2014 at 12:27 pm
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    Just one little problem I see: if you succeed, your reward will instant lawsuits from one or all of similar trademarks:)

    They’ll sue not because they think they have a case and can win, they’ll sue in the hope you’ll settle to avoid the nuisance. Note the presence of Monster, a well-known IP troll and master of the nuisance suit. If sued, the best response ever to a Monster shakedown was by the owner of Blue Jeans Cable per http://www.bluejeanscable.com/legal/mcp/

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  • July 11, 2014 at 8:07 pm
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    Hi Mark ,thanks for your thoughts on this issue, but IMHO it doesn’t help us buyers if you define and promise Ultra HD, while your competitors define and use Mega HD, Multi HD, etc.

    More thoughts in my other comment.

    cheers
    Grant

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    • July 12, 2014 at 10:02 am
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      All that’s clear to me right now is that the HRA label means nothing. This is a way to segregate recordings that strive for the highest fidelity possible.

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  • July 12, 2014 at 6:56 pm
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    First my bias, engineer and consumer.

    Let’s keep this simple.

    1 Tell me how recoding was made, 2 tell me how it compares to today’s state of art, 3 and how it is stored.

    Let’s use letter grades.

    For 3 above:

    A is 96/24
    B is CD
    C is vinyl
    D is mp3

    Do the same for 1 and 2.

    Then I can compare old vs new and how I want to spend my money.

    Thanks

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    • July 13, 2014 at 8:31 am
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      If only if were as simple as that. There are so many internal steps that impact these straightforward questions that it’s virtually impossible to nail it down to letter grades. However, you’re right that we need to know “how the recording was made” and how it is stored or delivered.

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  • July 13, 2014 at 4:49 pm
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    I like Andrea’s comment regarding “a guarantee that a recording features wide bandwidth and wide dynamic range”. I would like to see that on albums.

    If an album was released as Ultra HD, would there be any reason to compress it ?

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    • July 14, 2014 at 8:18 am
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      He’s right. It is possible to make a lousy recording even in UHD specs…and perhaps having additional considerations will be needed. But knowing that a recording started from this place is a first step.

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  • July 16, 2014 at 6:01 pm
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    Now you’re talkin’ Mark! I like it! Somebody that knows what they’re doing and knows what’s going on needs to qualify what is and what isn’t Hi Res. You’re elected!! How soon can we get some recordings to download from you that qualify? BTW, I have several of your blue-ray recordings. I have sent you positive comments about them before. They are the best recordings I’ve heard. They are just truly realistic, not over-produced or mixed goofy, but just exactly as they should be.

    Steve
    from C D Exchange in Mohnton

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    • July 17, 2014 at 12:08 pm
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      The files are available on iTrax.com or you can request the FTP credentials and get some files for evaluation. I’m moving forward…or at least trying.

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  • July 26, 2014 at 3:10 pm
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    As a recovering audiophile I enjoy the debate. I hope audiophiles do not kill hires.

    Let’s start by enjoying the music as we / I do pictures..

    I like 100 year old pictures. I like some photoshop pictures.

    If I was given a 100 year hold picture I would use best scanner available to store.

    My point is let’s not go crazy on source.

    The market will set the price for quality if us early adopters do not kill the market before it takes root.

    Regards tjc

    Reply

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