It’s starting to make sense to me. After trying for over 10 years to elevate the fidelity of recorded music and establish a meaningful stratification of quality levels, someone finally explained it to me in a single sentence in an email this morning. Simply put, refusing to accept that compact discs are “high-resolution audio” is bad for enterprise. There it was in plain black and white. The message from this individual and lots of other providers of high-end audio components, cables, accessories, and software is that what matters most is not an accurate and meaningful definition of high-resolution audio. What actually matters most with regards to the HRA initiative…and in fact the entire high-end audio business…is how much money can be extracted from audio enthusiasts and music lovers in the quest for the “Absolute Sound” or the “Soul of Music”.
I reflect back to a conversation that I had with my father when I was only about 13 years ago (he died of cancer when I was 15). He told me that maintaining one’s integrity, being honest, and holding to your word were among the most important things an individual can aspire to. Now I’m not going to say that I’ve lived a perfect life and haven’t done things that he would have winced at…but overall, I think I’ve lived a life that he would be proud of. And it’s cost me. If I had been willing to work a little closer to the “enterprise above all” philosophy that many espouse, AIX Records and iTrax might be much larger and more successful. But I just couldn’t do it. I know I’d feel bad about it. My iTrax web site could have included all of the content in CD quality from the major labels…but I decided that iTrax would provide only high-resolution content. Not the best business decision but I’m comfortable with it.
The various organizations, artists, audio companies, and music industry executives involved in promoting and advancing high-resolution audio are doing it for one reason. Money. They are all looking to build their catalog business, or their download business, or sell more expensive accessories to unsuspecting music fans. I guess my motives have been misplaced when I try to educate potential HRA customers, produce recordings that demonstrate what can be achieved with modern high-resolution audio equipment and state-of-the-art procedures, and advocate for simple to understand levels of audio fidelity according to formats and specifications. But today I learned from a very high-end audio manufacturer that, “It’s bad for enterprise,” to be honest and transparent about the music that drives the high-end industry.
I can agree that telling the truth will slow the growth of the high-resolution audio marketplace. But I sincerely believe that if we don’t provide a dramatic and immediately perceptible improvement over the fidelity of past formats (including CDs) that customers will become jaded, discouraged, and frustrated about this new HRA opportunity. And they will tell their non-audio enthusiast friends and post messages on social media that will go “viral” and doom any chance that we might have had in advancing the sound fidelity of the music we consume. It will be a huge case of “the emperor’s new clothes”. It’s already happening…just look around the web.
Is the short-term gain worth the destruction of the long-term viability of high-resolution audio? It is if you listen to the audio companies, labels, organization, cable companies and those with a vested interest in selling millions of CD specification tracks to the masses as high-resolution.