It gets even better. Yesterday, I wrote about the JAS Hi-Res Audio logo program that the CEA is considering adopting. If they do, it seems to me that it will require a complete reexamination of the “definition” of high-resolution audio that was issued back in June by the a collective consisting of the DEG (Digital Entertainment Group), the CEA, NARAS, and the major labels. The minimum specifications laid down in the JAS document (which originated with Sony) conflict with the collective’s version on almost every point. How is it possible that the CEA can adopt a logo that conflicts with a previously agreed upon document.
For those that need a quick recap of the collective definition, here are the main points:
High Resolution Audio is defined as “lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD quality music sources.”
It is accompanied by 4 Master Quality Recording Categories:
From a PCM master source 48 kHz/20 bit or higher; (typically 96/24 or 192/24 content)
From an analog master source
From a CD master source (44.1 kHz/16 bit content)
From a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8 or 5.6 MHz content)
Now look again at the table assembled by Sony and which accompanies the JAS Hi-Res Logo offer:
Figure 1 – The UK version of the JAS minimum specification chart for using the high-resolution audio logo. [Click to enlarge]
Thanks to a reader for bringing this UK version to my attention. It differs from the one I posted yesterday by the addition of the Transducer (the Speakers/Headphones) row, which states that the minimum performance specification is 40 kHz.
The collective version tries to be all-inclusive and even a CD or a very old and very bad analog tape can be elevated to “high-resolution audio” status with a simple transfer (why say that we need to be better than a CD and then include CDs as a source?). Clearly, the collective version is seriously flawed and makes the Hi-Res Audio logo unobtainable for most of the content that the labels are making available to the various HRA download sites.
This is as it should be. An upward move in the fidelity of recorded music should be a real move…not an “everybody feels good” approach like the one produced by the CEA committee. High-Resolution Audio should be hard to accomplish, dramatic upon first hearing, and accept nothing less than the real thing. The record business has been selling standard definition music for many decades and should be offering “master quality” audio of their older masters. There’s a real market there. Who doesn’t want the very best that available of their favorite hits? But it’s another thing when you reach for the uncompromised quality of new recordings in real high-resolution.
Several comments made the point that a lot of professional equipment is going to fall below the minimums demanded by the JAS chart. That’s true…some equipment is going to have to upgraded. Although, microphones do extend into the ultrasonic range, they produce less output the higher the source frequency. The intervening equipment (analog or digital) already meets the standard but the “transducers (speakers and headphones)” are going to have a bit of hill to climb. Most speakers don’t get much past 20 kHz. To get the Hi-Res Audio logo, they’re going to have to include super tweeters or use innovative designs like the JBL M2 Studio Reference monitors. Again, this is all good.
Obviously, the focus of the JAS logo initiative is directed at the hardware manufacturers. Sony’s new hardware has the logo but you don’t see the logo on the Sony music site. Why not? Because the majority of the items in their catalog don’t qualify as high-resolution. Let’s look forward and convince the artists, engineers, and labels to strive for the same quality as the hardware companies. That would set us on the right path. We can have master quality files now in full resolution and look forward to real high-resolution audio in the future.