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.

16 thoughts on “Neil Young, Pono, HRA at CEA Marketplace

  • December 31, 2014 at 3:02 pm
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    I love Neil Young. I have since I first heard his music back all those many years ago. One thing about Neil, he is with you, then you are without him. He led the charge for DVD-Audio, saying that his music would never again be on CD. 6 DVD-A’s in, he then dumped DVD-A for DVD-V discs included with his CDs. He then went all in on BluRay, selling his ‘Archives One’ box at $300+ with promises of more to come, stating BluRay was the best format for his music and output. Time marched on and the “next” BluRay NY releases never came.

    And now Pono………………..,”next?”

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    • December 31, 2014 at 3:20 pm
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      I’m a huge fan of Neil Young as well. I’ve worked with him on one of the two Gold DVDs that I have on my wall. And I applaud him for striking out for better sound. But he’s involved in a business venture right now and scrambling to meet expectations and numbers. He’s compromising his own standards for audio quality to increase the available catalog of high-resolution audio on the site.

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  • December 31, 2014 at 3:11 pm
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    Neil has issued his “final” Kick starter update and in it he implores artists to give Pono their masters in order to have them redone in Pono High Resolution. It can be read at either the Kickstarter page or on the Pono site in the Pono Gazette. I would be interested in your take of the whole ordeal. Thanks and Happy New Year.

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    • December 31, 2014 at 3:16 pm
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      And then we can discuss Charles Hansen’s “burn-in” opinions…

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    • December 31, 2014 at 3:20 pm
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      I just read it as well. I’ll parse it carefully and let you know asap.

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  • December 31, 2014 at 3:29 pm
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    So – two giants will meet (or at least be at the same event).
    I am quite sure, who is the real giant….
    ….but I am also quite sure, who will steal the show – alas!

    Neil – please stick to making your music.

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    • December 31, 2014 at 4:08 pm
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      Thanks for the ego boost…but I know where I stand in the world of high res music.

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  • December 31, 2014 at 8:38 pm
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    The anticipation prior to the Pono launch was widespread in the high end audio community. But it soon became clear that it was something of a smoke and mirrors exercise, with some early sales success not doubt fueled by Neil Young’s long standing reputation as the nemesis of the corporate mindset. How could it fail! Surely if Neil was behind it all there would be a genuinely alternative approach and real salvation for the digital music age!

    Thus far, however, the project hasn’t yielded any ground breaking development whatsoever, so I’d say that much depends on Neil’s appearance at CES, hopefully making some sort of announcement that finally moves the game forward. If this fails to materialize then the temptation to dismiss the Pono as a busted flush may well become irresistible. Sadly, however, a public that generally has no idea about what high res audio actually is can be very easy to impress. I expected better from Neil – but maybe this story has a sting in its tail – MQA?

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    • January 1, 2015 at 10:21 am
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      In the final analysis, it comes down to business and money. Neil has done well as a “rock icon” but he’s not a crazy wealthy guy. I believe he was honest about his passion for the sound of music…although he (and most of his rock star friends haven’t every heard a true high-resolution audio track like those produced by myself and others). He’s loving the spotlight, the press, and the chance to be seen as the savior of better sound. But he’s bitten off a lot and has to churn dollars to keep his vision going. So he compromised, which isn’t necessarily all bad but he’s not being honest about what he’s doing…that’s the part I can’t swallow.

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      • January 4, 2015 at 9:06 am
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        I agree with so much of what you have said… until I saw this line: (and most of his rock star friends haven’t every heard a true high-resolution audio track like those produced by myself and others

        Now you sound condescending. He has heard it, that is why he started it. I am a huge fan of DVD-A/SACD/HiRes from back when I first read about Neal talking about DVD-A. I bought a player and discs and was thrilled when I found that you could finally download hires flac from sites a few years ago. I am also a musician and producer/engineer. At the time I reworked my entire studio to do Hi Res audio and started doing all of my recordings in hi-res. I know the benefits as both a listener and as an engineer.

        Please don’t ruin your good message with negative comments like these. It does not get us to the end that so many of us want… great sounding music.

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        • January 4, 2015 at 10:17 am
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          Scott, I got a nasty note from a musician/engineer the last time I said that I don’t believe the commercial artists even know what a high-resolution file sounds like…and I stick to that statement. Just because someone transfers an analog master to a large digital bit bucket doesn’t mean they’ve hear hi-res. Nor does operating your entire studio at 96 or 192 kHz. The world is full (in fact, most so-called “hig-Res” downloads and discs) of standard resolution music pretending to be high-resolution. I hope you’ve had a chance to download the free tracks on my FTP site. Take a listen and tell me if they sound like commercial tracks.

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  • December 31, 2014 at 10:44 pm
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    Don’t cut yourself down Mark. Go there and make a good presentation on provenance. The facts are the facts and you can’t make a silk purse from a sows ear..
    Ripped Red Book files can never be up sampled to HD and anyone with common sense will understand that.

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    • January 1, 2015 at 10:23 am
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      I’ll let those that listen hear my side of the story. But I can already tell you that the watered down version advocated by the DEG, CEA and Recording Academy will rule the day.

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  • January 2, 2015 at 9:30 pm
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    Hi Mark,

    You make some interesting and valid points, but as a reasonably satisfied Pono Kickstarter consumer/funder, I chose the Pono for the following reasons:

    1. Kickstarter price-point came out better than similarly priced products the Fiio X5 and Ibasso DX90, it also had a bigger capacity
    2. The product was backed and designed by a high-quality American audiophile company Ayre Studios.
    3. and of course the unenviable endorsement of a MUSICIAN who has made interstellar recordings and know what he wants his audience to hear, over say Apple corporation who have screwed the listening audience for way too long with their I-tunes compressed/crap music delivery model..and now Spotify…

    TO be honest, I was in the dark with the whole ‘loudness wars’ / ‘compression’ argument, it’s like Climate Change, it ‘seems’ far too complicated for people to understand or care about, unless they are shown the REAL issue in the correct circumstances, far too many people are happy for crap ‘conveniences’…

    There already is quite a large on-line community dedicated to ‘HiDef’ listening, and there are numerous affordable DAPs than can deliver what the Pono does, in all fairness the PONO sits above most of these products in terms of audio quality across formats (eg: via headphones, integrated amplifiers and even in car stereos via 3.5mm cable, which I can attest the Pono excels in spades!). The Pono does not match the Anstel and Kern products, mind you was are x3 the price.

    Ultimately I see what Neil Young is doing is similar to the Criterion Collection have done for home movie viewing, providing a music listening ‘standard’ that Apple Corporation and the music industry just don’t care about, and which many musicians have complained about for many years. Whilst Neil has the capital and industry clout to achieve this for his own works, compared to the struggling indie artist, it is still a profound and noble endeavour.

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    • January 3, 2015 at 9:50 am
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      Thanks Aaron. There are two different things going on here. The first is the hardware component. Sure, the Astell & Kern is a really great piece of engineering as is the Pono device. But they are only as good as a portable device can be (limited power etc). I think Charles Hans did a great job. I’ve heard some of my tracks on the Pono device and they sound amazing.

      The second part of the story is the provenance of the source files that you play in the device. It’s in this area that Neil and Pono are not living up to their commitments. Ripped CDs make up 99% of their catalog…this is disappointing.

      The Criterion Collection wasn’t about better DVD players…it was about presenting classic films in the best possible way. They researched, restored, and meticulously attended to every detail. And the films in their collection are the ultimate versions of those standard definition films…that’s what HDTracks offers. Criterion doesn’t shoot new HD or UHD-Video programming in high-resolution surround sound…but I do. That’s why one reviewer called AIX Records “the Criterion Collection” for audiophiles.

      I lament the continuing confusion over what is and what isn’t high-resolution audio. Neil’s effort hasn’t clarified that…in fact, PonoMusic has made it worse.

      Reply

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