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.

21 thoughts on “Playing Around With Surround

  • August 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm
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    Hi Mark. I’ve seen at you a few of the Salon de Image shows in Montreal and the new Toronto show. I have quite the Home Theatre setup (http://www.edoucet.com/hometheatre.htm) and read your post every day. Today though, I feel I have to comment.
    While I listen to multi-channel a lot, I still prefer to listen to good quality 2-channel music. The sound stage on good recordings is incredible as you know. The other problem is that myself and most people can only afford 2 really good amps (as you will see on my link I have Peter McAllister’s OTLs – the best sounding tube amps I’ve ever heard!) I could never afford to buy another 3 which I would need to balance out the sound in 5.1.
    The other issue is that I have converted all my good music to .FLAC format to play through my custom-built computer using JRiver. This sounds way better than playing any CD through the OPPO or many, many other CD players (even ones costing upwards of $3K, of which I have auditioned.) Your music comes on a disc. I have several of them, but I would want them in high-res digital form so I can use my computer system to play them and not my OPPO. Why not include the digital format of all the tracks I purchase? 2-ch and multi-ch? Then I can utilize JRiver and not have to keep switching over to my OPPO.
    Thanks for your time…..

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    • August 6, 2014 at 12:57 pm
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      Eldon, thanks for the comments. I understand and appreciate your affection and preference for 2-channel stereo. It’s for reasons that I explained in the piece. I also appreciate the need for file deliver…and that why I make the files available on iTrax. You can download AIX Records music in stereo 96 kHz/24-bit from there.

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  • August 6, 2014 at 1:07 pm
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    I know it’s available there, but why do I have to pay for it when I’ve already purchased the disc? I’m saying the disc should include the hi-rez files as well.

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    • August 6, 2014 at 1:38 pm
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      The problem is the tremendous additional cost of publisher’s royalty. Every version of every track costs a little more than a dime…if the tracks on on the disc 5-7 times the costs go up dramatically. The major labels spend about $1.00 on a CD for publishing…I pay $3-4 and with additional versions it could be as much as $7-9 each title. I’m looking into options.

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    • August 8, 2014 at 4:14 am
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      You can rip the Blu-rays or DVD-A, just as you would a CD, and convert to FLAC; there are lots of programms available to do this on the internet, some free, some not.

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      • August 8, 2014 at 9:34 am
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        And of course you can rip any disc with the right tools.

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  • August 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm
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    The easiest way to play hi-def downloads is with a player that can play them off a USB drive or – even better – over a home network using DLNA or UPnP (of which DLNA is a subset).

    I use a freeware UPnP/DLNA server for Windows called oShare that I got from SourceForge.net – it’s as simple (and tiny) as they come because it does no conversion between formats – it just lets you browse the folders on the server’s hard drive that you’ve told it to share, and lets your player stream the original files over your network.

    It works fine for 96/24 5.1 music as well as for stereo music (and even video). To save space on my server, and speed the network traffic, I buy the FLAC versions of high-def music, including iTrack’s stage mixes.

    To reduce frustration from scrolling through long lists, I’ve set up a heirarchy of folders: four top-level folders (“A-G” “H-M” “N-S” and “T-Z”) with individual letter folders inside each of them, musician’s name folders under those, and album folders within those. If I have several versions of an album, they’re in parallel folders inside the album folder, for stereo and 5.1 hi-def mixes, and a redbook version as well.

    My Oppo BDP-93 can browse those folders and display a track’s album cover thumbnail while playing it.

    To enable access to a selection under multiple musicians’ names, I use “junction folders” that are essentially aliases that all look at the same copy of the music files. This does, however, rule out using tag-based library organization, as that sees the aliased copies as additional copies and plays each track from an album multiple times before advancing to the next!

    I access the 44.1/16 folders in my library remotely over the internet using BubbleUPnP, a Windows and Android based client-server system that works with a Foobar2000 plug-in called fooUPnP. All of these are free except the Android module, which costs the princely sum of five dollars. (fooUPnP can act as a remote player as well as a server, and adds a nice library search function.) I skip over the tag-based folders in the Android’s interface, and go straight to the “Folder” choice at the bottom to get into my folder heirarchy.

    To save cellular bandwidth, I’ve instructed BubbleUPnP that when the Android client is on WiFi to send the Redbook CD WAV file, but when the client is using cellular data to transcode it to mp3.

    Like the Oppo, the Android BubbleUPnP also shows the embedded album cover, but unlike my Oppo it can play a concert gaplessly – for the Oppo I take the extra step of making a “single track” concatenated version of a concert.

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    • August 6, 2014 at 1:38 pm
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      Thanks for stealing my thunder for tomorrow.

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    • August 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm
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      Phil, I use minimserver (which is multiplatform: windows, mac, linux etc) as the media server. It is pretty efficient, at least on my mac, and it used tag for organization. I also have bubbleupnp to set up the access point. Bubbleupnp is also multiplatform. I use plugplayer app on my iphone mainly as a remote. In Bubbleupnp, I had my receiver as the media renderer as OpenHome, which allows for gapless playback, at least if I use the iphone app as a remote. See if bubbleupnp lets you create an OpenHome renderer of your Oppo so you can do gapless playback without having to create the single track version.

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  • August 6, 2014 at 1:38 pm
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    Mark, looking forward to tomorrow’s post about how to play surround from a PC downloaded file. I’ve struggled with this for some time as I have a Meridian system that only accepts a digital input and I do not seem to find a way to send the correct format from the PC. Please also tell us how to do this from a PC as well as Apple. Some of you earlier posts about software (Amarra) only applied to Apple. Thanks.

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  • August 6, 2014 at 6:10 pm
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    Mark, Thanks for your reference to Multi-channel music and your efforts in its production.
    In my opinion, it is “extremely” hard to go back to stereo after immersing yourself in surround music. Stereo is like a 2D wall hanging in comparison. So much so, that a friend of mine “synthesizes” his stereo recordings into 5.1. Of course, some stereo discs are friendlier to this treartment than others, but at the end of the day it is all about “entertainment”.

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    • August 7, 2014 at 9:57 am
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      I’m with you Warren.

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  • August 6, 2014 at 6:36 pm
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    The problem I have with multi channel is the typical mixes I hear. They take something from the original mix and highlight it in the back channels or they spin it around the room. I am supposed to be entertained by these effects. Problem is, I don’t need them. I am entertained by the music. Mark; your recordings are the exceptions to this issue. They are done right, and I like them. But I am also not too enthused about having to become a computer geek just to play my music. The terms and formats you and others talk about don’t mean anything to me and I really don’t want to deal with the complication just to play music on my system which I use for relaxation, not frustration through trying to make something just work.

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    • August 7, 2014 at 9:58 am
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      It’s true that there are lots of terrible surround mixes. However, you have to realize that there is no model established like there is for stereo. That’s part of the reason that I include multiple 5.1 surround mixes on my releases.

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  • August 8, 2014 at 5:19 am
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    As I was reading your article, it coincided with my investigation into the use of quality headphones for surround sound music. You may have already dealt with this elsewhere, but is it possible that headphones would give you a surround sound experience to match a 5:1 surround system? The headphones I have been studying are Audeze LCD-3. A review in What Hi-Fi Magazine said of these phones “It is worth considering that it would take tens of thousands of pounds to buy a pair of speakers that can even approach the Audeze LCD-3s level of sound quality”. I would greatly value your opinion on the above statement. Unfortunately, I cannot travel to a store that stocks these headphones to listen for myself.
    Regards
    Ron Nash

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    • August 8, 2014 at 9:39 am
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      I don’t agree with the statement that it would take tens of thousands of pounds to equal the fidelity of the LCD-3s. Headphones can do a really terrific job of reproducing music but it is a different experience than listening in a room with a pair (or even 5.1) of reasonably good speakers. A pair of the best speakers in the world (IMHO) are the M2 Reference monitors from JBL and they are only $20K for a pair including amplifiers! You could spend tens times that or one tenth of that amount for speakers and have great sound. You might want to check out the Smyth Realiser and the magic that it can perform…creating a virtual room of speakers in a set of headphones.

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  • August 10, 2014 at 4:04 pm
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    Mark, while we are on the subject of surround music, now that ATMOS is available at the consumer level, what are the chances for ATMOS music mixes as downloads or physical media? While I appreciate 5.1 and 7.1 surround and even 2.0 stereo, they all produce sound in a single flat plane. Any sound outside of that plane is a result of reflections, etc. caused by the room. ATMOS changes that, it adds the third dimension.

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    • August 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm
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      I’m not sure music mixers and labels will be interested in Atmos or Auro 3D. Heck, I’ve been trying to get music fans interested in more than 2-channels over the past 14 years.

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  • August 12, 2014 at 3:19 pm
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    I would like to point out that my MacMini/JRiver setup does indeed handle multichannel via the HDMI output of the Mac. That was something that I was very pleased to discover.

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    • August 12, 2014 at 4:36 pm
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      You’re right JRiver does do multichannel…my mistake.

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