Dr. AIX's POSTS — 26 January 2015

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Everyone interested in high-resolution audio needs to have a set of tools in order to qualify individual tracks as high-res or not. I’ve already introduced you to Adobe Audition. It’s the audio program that I use extensively to show spectrograms, amplitude vs. frequency plots, and analyze dynamic range for tracks and albums. It’s a very useful tool…but it’s only one among many. You can download and use Audacity to do many of the same functions…and it’s available free.

Recently, I became aware of a new audio analysis tool called MusicScope, which is collection of audio analysis tools specifically targeted to those of us seeking additional information on high-resolution audio tracks. I purchased the program for $30 and immediately had problems. It wouldn’t run on my Mac Pro because I’m still running Mac OS 10.6.8. I have no real need to update the OS on this machine because all of the software that I use runs fine and if I upgrade some of them won’t run anymore. MusicScope required one of the newer operating systems. I wrote back to the developers and asked them about this problem. They responded very quickly and within a couple of days had modified their program so that it now runs on my laptop, which is running 10.7.5. It would be better if I could run it on my main machine, but I was impressed that they made some changes based on my comments. It does say that is will run under Mac OS X.

After playing with the updated version, I wrote back again and provided some input on the user friendliness of the software. It was pretty clunky. There was no file open with search, which I use a lot. They allowed drag and drop but sometimes I simply want to search for .wav files and run some tests. Once again, they responded and updated the program again.

The company that developed this audio analysis tool is call xivero. They MusicScope manual explains their reasons for creating the application. They praise our human hearing system as the best way to decide the fidelity of a HiFi system, but believe that having some analytical tools and visualizations of audio tracks can complement our ears. Their software is an “audio microscope”. The program is “easy to use without deep expert knowledge” according to the manual. However, I’m not so sure casual users will understand the different measurements that MusicScope provides.

I have to applaud their breakdown of an audio system and the importance of each stage in the overall reproduction of a track. “It is our belief that the music record is the most important quality determining factor of the whole HiFi chain. I absolutely agree. If the source recording lacks fidelity, there is nothing great cables, amplifiers, converters or players can do to magically transform crap into sonic bliss.

I was also heartened to read the following: In comparison to a standard CD-Track (16 Bit / 44.1 kHz) a High Resolution Studio Master should at least provide a resolution of 24 Bit with a sampling rate between 88.2 kHz – 384 kHz. They seem to agree that a CD-specification recording is not a high-resolution track.

So here’s the list of things that the MusicScope can provide:

1. Loudness – Crest Factor/Momentary, Short Term, Integrated and Loudness Range (I’ll be providing detailed definitions and examples of these items in subsequent posts)

2. Recording Errors – Inter Sample Peaks / Periodic Signals / Stereo Imaging

The program can run under Windows and Mac OS X, It handles all of the major file formats including: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, DSF, DFF, and MP3. MusicScope accepts bit depths from 1-bit to 24-bits and sampling rates between 44.1 and 384 kHz as well as DSD 64 and Double DSD at 128.

We’ll continue tomorrow.

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About Author

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.

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