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.

15 thoughts on “Gauging the Cost of Quality

  • Joe Whip

    $50.00 for a sampler? That is insane. HDTracks offers a sampler for free. I can see $10 but $40 or $50? Basically a sampler is designed to give new listeners a sample of a particular label’s content so that you will like what you hear and come back and order more. Hence they should be very competitively priced or as HDTracks does, be given out as free. $40? No way! I have a couple of Cookie’s albums that were offered for about $20 when they were first released, both being 24/192. Two very nice albums and I can live with $20 but would prefer them to be $15. Maybe she thinks that we all are on board with some of the vinyl pricing out there and hence, we will all pay that for high rez downloads. Not me.

  • Dave Griffin

    In my opinion Linn have got it right, and I’m glad that you’ve finally decided to follow their (and others) example to samplers. Over the last several years I’ve downloaded several of Linn’s samplers and have discovered some fabulous artist from them, including Claire Martin, who is, as you would categorise, a second tier artist, but who is almost (again in my opinion) peerless.

    • I’ve given a free sample away with any purchase for years…when it comes to sending physical BD discs, it can’t be free. Downloads need to be provided at low cost.

  • Camilo Rodriguez

    Hi Mark,

    I find the price of the BCR sampler simply ridiculous and frankly offensive. In my humble opinion, samplers should cost less than other recordings from a label and even be for free. Samplers are made with the interest to attract listeners to shop from a record label, and are really promotional material.

    I find the price for 2L’s sampler equally outrageous (https://shop.klicktrack.com/2l/35847), and although they record with different standards to those of BCR, and actually offer HRA, the difference in price between formats is equally misleading in their more bits = more dollars scale, and where DSD costs the double of PCM:

    2L – The Nordic Sound
    HIRES formats:

    Stereo 24bit 96kHz FLAC 2ch 96.0 kHz / 24bit 24.00 USD
    Stereo 24bit 192kHz FLAC 2ch 192.0 kHz / 24bit 28.00 USD
    Stereo DSD64 2ch 2.8 MHz / 1bit 30.00 USD
    Stereo DSD128 2ch 5.6 MHz / 1bit 38.00 USD
    Stereo DXD WAV 2ch 352.8 kHz / 24bit 42.00 USD
    MCH 24bit 96kHz FLAC 5.1ch 96.0 kHz / 24bit 28.00 USD
    MCH DSD64 5.1ch 2.8 MHz / 1bit 38.00 USD


    • I’m not charging enough for my titles.

  • She wants HOW much for a DSD sourced from a med rez analog master? NUTS.
    Think I’ll save my $ for one of dem deer $200,000 turntables, then I’ll really have something to show off to my rich friends.

    • It makes no sense to me at all. I have to admit her recordings do sound great…but she derives no benefit from high-resolution formats at all. These are the perfect 70s era analog releases.

  • Cookie Marenco

    Mark forgot to offer the link to the website in question. http://bluecoastrecords.com/store/various-artists/blue-coast-collection-2

    He also forgot to mention that we just ended a Buy One Get One Free program that was on for 6 weeks. We offer the program 2 times a year. The next one is in December. If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll find we offer our members discounts and rebates every week.

    We value our customers and they value us. If you are under particular financial hardship and would like any of our music, please write to us directly at support@bluecoastrecords.com. We’ve always managed to work it out for people who enjoy our work and can’t afford it.

    We also have free downloads and a half price store.

    For the record, as much as I enjoy analog tape recording only 25% of Blue Coast Records projects were recorded to tape. Most is recorded to DSD. On BCC2, only two pieces were recorded to tape and the rest to DSD.

    Mark, I hope you make it a point to post our next new music release in August. It will be a sampler. 🙂

    Thanks, everyone, for speaking up and feel free to write to me directly if you have questions. Support@bluecoastrecords.com

    Cookie Marenco

    • Cookie and Blue Coast Records do offer discounts and incentives just like every other label. The post was focused on the specifics of the BCC2 sampler and costs as offered on the the website. I recognize that Cookie believes that premium products should have premium prices…we’ve talked about that. And more power to her if she’s able to get premium prices for her tracks. But paying $5.00 for a single track still seems a bit of a reach to me.

      And given that DSD 64 equals about Redbook specifications, what possible benefit would there be to up converting to 96 kh/24-bit PCM file other than to capture all of the ultrasonic noise. Does anyone really want a PCM copy of a DSD track. Frankly, I’d rather have a high-resolution PCM transfer of the original analog tape…it would be more accurate in the frequency domain.

      Cookie and I have different approaches to production, believe in different formats and have different opinions on pricing…and I can’t get behind the inclusion of audiophile “accessories” on her site (and positive testimonials)…like the “Essence Disc Treatment”, the “Bybee/Curl Holographic Power Source” for $5495 and “PranaWire Photon USB Cables” at $1895 for 3.0 meters.

    • Camilo Rodriguez

      I’m sure the last thing anyone owning a business wants to be questioned about is pricing. We all take for granted that if we make a business we have the freedom to value and price our products autonomously. As much as this appears evident to our common sense, and as much as it appears fair to value our work according to our own autonomous criteria, there has to be a minimum of transparency regarding the real production costs that go into a given product, and regarding the standards and specifications that determine the quality of a product. This is when marketing becomes a central issue, and the scientific and technical accuracy of information and specs in marketing and advertising is an aspect where the autonomy of a business has clear limits, which also necessarily affect pricing.

      When it comes to the costs of recordings, we all know that no matter how high the resolution of a download, it can’t possibly have higher costs than a CD. There are no discs being sent off for copying, there are no jewel cases or digipacks involved, there are no booklets being printed with the inherent cost this implies, there are no transportation or shipping costs of physical CDs involved, there’s no plastic seal on each CD, and there are no costs and margins of brick and mortar stores with their own inherent costs either. A download can’t possibly cost more than a physical CD, and the price of a High-Resolution download should very obviously be less than that of a CD.

      When it comes to the quality derived from quantitative differences in resolution, we know that whatever significant acoustic reality is contained in 24 bits/176.4 kHz or 24 bits/192 kHz will also be fully contained in 24 bits/96 kHz. There is no acoustic reality for the limits of our human hearing that requires to be recorded at 176.4 or 192 kHz, and a digital audio file at 176.4 or 192 kHz will hence not be superior to one at 96 kHz. The logic of more bits = more dollars doesn’t apply here. Exactly the same goes for DXD and DSD. (We also know that DAC chips reach their peak performance at 88.2 and 96 kHz, and that they perform worse at 192 kHz.)

      There might be some significant acoustic material for our human hearing beyond CD standards, but it will be more than fully contained at 24 bits/96 kHz. Again, the same goes for DSD, which we all know has severe compromises for the fidelity of a recording, while implying higher costs and troubles that offer no benefit in terms of fidelity. There is really no debate to be had regarding the superiority or qualitative difference offered by DSD, the facts are the facts and they are available. The rest is just at the same level of denying climate change or evolution. It’s ultimately spin and reveals the interests of those who defend it with no accurate facts and false arguments.

      We also know that there is no benefit whatsoever to putting a CD quality recording, or analogue recordings of lesser resolution than CDs, in a 24 bits/96 kHz or 24 bits/192 kHz. This is equivalent to putting the engine of a Suzuki Swift under the hood of a Ferrari Testarossa and expect the Suzuki engine to go acheive higher speed. The resolution of the recording is definitively set by the conditions of the recording session, and it will not change no matter how many bits you throw at it. Obviously, no analogue recording or CD recording will ever constitute High-Resolution audio, and selling it as such because it is contained in a 24 bit High-Resolution format is simply no more and no less than fraud. The sad reality is that the industry wants to go precisely in this direction, as it has clearly shown with the recent definition of HRA that it has come up with, which manages to include any recording of any quality ever made to the HRA standard. How can this possibly benefit the consumer, recording and ultimately the music? It is however quite easy to see where the benefit actually goes.

      There is no need to buy additional equipment to record and provide 24 bits/96 KHz or 24 bits/192 kHz audio files (let alone the absurdity of 24 bits/352.8 kHz DXD) if you already have professional equipment for digital recording, and the less hours of work you put into processing, mixing, EQing and mastering, the more of the original fidelity of the recording will be preserved. This is also of key importance, because a recording could well be made with exemplary fidelity, but the subsequent processing, mixing and mastering can degrade it well below the fidelity that would actually require a digital container larger than that of CD standards. This clearly shows that we need more specs regarding the fidelity of recordings we buy than than those of bits and word length.

      To sell DSD for a higher price than PCM could perhaps be justified in terms of prodution costs regarding additional and expensive equipment, but as it doesn’t add any fidelity to the recording, it is questionable why the customer should pay more for it. The XL or XXL DXD 24 bit digital container is not a guarantee of the fidelity in itself, and there are inherent differences of quality between recordings that have been captured in 24 bits/176.4 kHz or 24 bits/192 kHz, which can well put them below standard CD quality.

      In conclusion, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to justify the higher costs of a HRA download, and the scale of pricing in which basically a larger digital container (more bits and word length) implies a higher price. There are no extra costs to justify the price difference, quite on the contrary, cost of production are radically lower. There is no extra fidelity obtained by 24/192 and 24/176.4 vs 24/88.2 or 24/96, as the higher word lengths don’t contain anything that isn’t already contained in 24/88.2 and 24/96, let alone any acoustic material significant to the limits of our human hearing. There is no extra or extravagant equipment that has to be financed beyond that which most professional record labels already own, and there are no extra hours of work required to render more fidelity, on the contrary, the less processing the more fidelity is preseved.

      By mere and simple logic, HRA downloads should cost significantly less than CDs. On the one hand, especially since most HRA downloads don’t actually meet HRA standards and can well and fully be contained in CD standard (this is why we require real and sufficient recording specs from labels and scientifically/technically accurate industry standards and definitions), and on the other, because the signifiantly better margin of HRA downloads per se, would already be significantly more profitable for albels at already available CD prices. Charging $40 USD + for a download is nothing but greed based on false advertisement and deliberately misleading and false facts. This doesn’t only hurt customers, it hurts the music industry itself.

      Pricing should be strongly reconsidered, and the information and facts available on label’s websites regarding recording practices and recordings should be significantly reviewed.

      • Thanks for the carefully composed comment. Right on.

  • An issue I have with download pricing is the way downloads of alternate mixes are priced compared to DVD-Audio, SACD and Blu-ray discs, and since AIX Records provides many alternate mixes on Blu-ray discs this is especially evident on the iTrax site. Using an example disc that I have purchased, The Old City String Quartet Blu-ray, AIX Records 86065, contains 4 different mixes: 5.1 Stage, 5.1 Audience, 2.0 Stereo and 2.0 Headphone. Depending on the circumstances at the time, I may choose to listen to any of these mixes. At $34.98 this disc is a good deal. For the same recording on iTrax, only 3 of the mixes are available, and the available mixes are individually priced, there is no discount for multiple mixes. While a single mix is priced at less than the Blu-ray disc, 2 mixes cost more than the Blu-ray disc, and 3 mixes at $60.97 cost 74% more than the 4 mixes on the Blu-ray disc. With this kind of download pricing I will buy discs.

    • Mark…you make a very valid point. As a matter of fact, I routinely tell potential customers that the discs are a much better deal than downloads. One factor is that each download is an individual sale and the royalties and mechanical costs have to be paid for each track. For Blu-ray disc each disc is a sale and I pay the royalties and mechanical costs (publishing etc) just once. While this doesn’t account for the entire differential, it does play a substantial role.

  • Stuart O'Malley

    Some of Cookie’s statements contradict other statements she made about how she records in other websites/interviews. I don’t think she’s intentionally lying – I simply think she is out of her depth in understanding or discussing technical aspects, merits, trade-offs and recording best practices encompassing analog, DSD or PCM.

    Just a small example: she now claims she records to DSD. How? Natively? That’s quite a needlessly expensive and complicated thing to do to prevent quality issues that would not affect recording to PCM. And if not recorded natively to DSD, then going back and forth with PCM conversion is also needlessly complex and expensive to prevent quality issues. But perhaps all that needless complication and cost explains the pricing.

    • I have nothing negative to say about Cookie’s abilities or knowledge on the technical aspects of being an audio professional. I have always found her to be very sincere and honest about her approach and philosophy of capturing a live ensemble or artist. I wasn’t aware that she’s changed from using an analog tape machine as her multitrack to a DSD rig of some kind. It would be interesting to hear from her about her current setup.

      I suspect that she routes the mic feeds through her analog console, does whatever EQing or processing (including artificial reverb) she needs, balances the levels and panning, and then captures the analog output of her console to a Korg DSD recorder. That way should could claim “native DSD” as the format of the files. If she’s upconverting to PCM 96/24 or 44.1/24 from the DSD 64 mixes, I would have a problem with that.

      A Korg DSD recorder is not expensive…and everything else she already has at her disposal. It simply removes the ability to do complex mixes since everything is done in real time.

      She’s a strong advocate for DSD and believes it’s a winning format. We disagree about this but remain friends. I just can’t justify the pricing model that she uses…that was the point of yesterday’s post.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *