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.

22 thoughts on “PS Audio and Blue Coast Records Challenge…Huh?

  • February 12, 2015 at 5:20 pm
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    Would you happen to have recorded a 96/24 piece of music and, for the same take, have recorded that piece in 44/16 ? It seems to me, it is the only way to compare apples with apples.

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    • February 13, 2015 at 10:08 am
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      The “Mosaic” track is as close as I can come. The recording was made at 96 kHz/24-bits and the CD version is a derivative of that original high-res file. Recording two versions at the same time is problematic because it requires two ADCs calibrated to the same levels AND a split of the microphone feed. I think a properly done downconversion is as close as necessary.

      Reply
  • February 12, 2015 at 5:49 pm
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    Hi Mark,

    I was thinking since you’re embarked in the project of assembling a playback system that is really HRA capable for the coming AXPONA show, maybe you could set up and host a CD vs HRA challenge with your files and invite many more to do so. You could do the same with headphones and headamps.

    Violectric’s Headphone Amps – the V100, V181, V200 and V220 and V281 all have analogue specs that put most D/A converter’s digital specs to shame and clearly do HRA:

    Frequency response: 0 Hz … 60 kHz (-0,5 dB)
    SNR: > 128 dB (A-wtd)
    THD+N: < -110 dB @ 10V in 100 Ohms (1W)
    < -103 dB @ 4V in 32 Ohms (0,5W).

    Grab a couple of Sennheiser HD800s or Audeze LCD-Xs and you have transducers that can do the job none of the speakers you have mentioned so far is able to pull off. By the way, that's my headphone system (Violectric V281, Sennheiser HD800s/Audeze LCD-X & DAC 1) and with which I have taken the challenge and evaluated your files.

    Cheers!

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    • February 13, 2015 at 10:10 am
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      I think this is great idea…I’m going to start planning for a summer shoot out / challenge here at my place with the right gear. How did you fare with your gear and my files?

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    • February 14, 2015 at 2:45 am
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      A good idea to use headphones, although, as with electrostatic headphones, I’m not convinced planar magnetic headphones can capture the dynamic range of the music like a good pair of moving coils can.

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  • February 12, 2015 at 7:05 pm
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    Your offer makes the most sense, since the two versions of the music would be coming from the same master, and one actually recorded at “better than CD” resolution.

    I note that you grant that HDTrax’s transfers are probably better than a commercial CD – which I’ve found to be generally, but not universally, the case. One glaring exception was the HDTrax version of the original of Eric Clapton’s classic *Layla* – they offer it as an expanded version, with a transfer of additional tracks.

    The additional tracks sounded beautiful, but their version of basic album sounded harsh and much worse than the CD! I suspect in this instance they were given a remastered version that had been to the loudness wars.

    When I bought it a few years ago I complained to them and they gave me a refund.

    On the other hand, though, things David Chesky recorded himself, which are featured on the Wake Up Your Ears! sampler they put together for Audiogon, are wonderful. I bought both the 96/24 and 192/24 versions, since they were $5 for either collection. The difference between them was clear.

    Of course these were “stage perspective binaural” recordings, with the head placed among the musicians – and played through the DTS Neo:6 music setting on my 5.1 Yamaha they created a convincing soundfield.

    This the 192 did better than the 96.

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    • February 13, 2015 at 10:11 am
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      HDtracks is getting what they get from the major labels. The analog masters are usually remastered. However, there are problems because they don’t always have access to the real masters and not every mastering session produces “better” audio output.

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  • February 12, 2015 at 10:57 pm
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    Good idea using Mosaic but results would be meaningless since there are no controls over equipment used or unbiased oversight on the A-B proceedures used, not that anyone would cheat LOL.
    Tests like this should overseen by a trusted third party like the BAS

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    • February 13, 2015 at 10:11 am
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      It’s at least something they can listen to. I hope you’re joking about the BAS…right?

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      • February 13, 2015 at 12:33 pm
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        I thought at least they had some reasonable credibility, from the sounds of your reply guess I was wrong. 🙁
        I don’t think Jesus would be interested in getting involved. LOL

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  • February 13, 2015 at 5:40 am
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    Hello Mark.
    What’s your opinion on this.
    Onkyo today announced it is bringing its e-onkyo hi-resolution music download service to the U.S. The service, which has been operating in Japan since 2005, will operate under the “onkyo music” name and provide download access to hundreds of thousands of 24-bit/44.1kHz to 192kHz high-res tracks and millions of 16-bit CD-quality FLAC files, according to the company.
    Cheers
    Alphonso Soosay

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    • February 13, 2015 at 10:12 am
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      I saw that announcement and will write it up as a new item today. The hundreds of thousands of high-resolution tracks is a stretch.

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  • February 13, 2015 at 8:37 am
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    From the Goldmund white paper:

    ‘Audiophiles have cited various benefits of the extra amplitude resolution of high-resolution audio, including a greater sense of detail and dynamics, quieter backgrounds and a more natural sound overall.’

    These are the same that Oversampling already brings, meaning Impulse Response actually rules!

    The highly important note: recording at 44.1 kHz may imply, at least, 8-times analog Oversampling, so that it shouldn’t require any anti-alias filtering at all, including playback!!!

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    • February 13, 2015 at 1:53 pm
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      Hi Jay, your quote says “benefits of the extra amplitude resolution”, which has almost nothing to do with impulse response. From the quote, it appears that quiet backgrounds actually rule! 🙂

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  • February 13, 2015 at 10:01 am
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    I have to agree that some of your recordings are the best I have heard. Wish you would do more. I am using Blu-Ray for surround sound, but am using a 2 channel DAC, for most listening, as I am not finding much material out there for multi channel download, your label excepted. I have always enjoyed Rita Coolidge & have bought your DVD & downloaded in 2 channel, as a comparison. I find this recording very light for bass. Is this the intent?

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    • February 13, 2015 at 10:15 am
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      Thanks Barry…and I wish I could do more as well. I’m thinking about a couple of projects for the summer. The Rita could have a little more bass in the mix. I don’t usually push too hard and I don’t EQ anything. There is stuff in the LFE/Sub channel though.

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  • February 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm
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    Mark, for the record….

    My own Blue Coast Records records…
    90% direct to DSD
    10% to analog tape
    0% to PCM

    Hope that helps you in the future and thanks for the mention!
    Cookie
    Blue Coast Records

    Reply
    • February 13, 2015 at 1:56 pm
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      Thanks Cookie…regarding your challenge for David. What would you play and what equipment would you play it on to demonstration high-resolution audibility?

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  • February 13, 2015 at 1:29 pm
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    Hi Mark,

    I didn’t really do that good challenging my own audition. I could tell the HRA file from the mp3 version almost all the time, but only in specific passages that revealed the limits of mp3 (the percussion on Mosaic is a clear example). I could however not reliably tell the CD versions from the HRAs. This is certainly food for thought, because one would have to record instruments that can hit above the 20kHz mark, and with significant acoustic material. It sounds far fetched no matter how I look at it. I want to do the test on my wife who has better audition than I have, and see if it’s any easier for her.

    Regarding the use of various ADCs, the Benchmark ADC1 allows for three simultaneous output signals in three different resolutions. You could record something in Stereo with the Benchmark ADC1 and have the same source registered with 3 different sample rates and word lengths. And of course use a pair of mics and a PreAmp that are JAS complient (and they are few).

    Looking forward to you finally setting up the CD vs HRA test correctly, and putting an end if not to the ongoing debate, at least to the ton of inaccuracies and snake oil out there. Why not team up with John Siau and a maybe couple of other fellow and likeminded engineers?

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • February 13, 2015 at 1:57 pm
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      I’m in regular touch with John. I’m also pushing very hard to get a system together that will be able to run the test. I’ll keep you posted.

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      • February 13, 2015 at 8:50 pm
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        Hi again, Mark,

        There are others that are trying to push playback equipment to reproducing HRA, like Mola-Mola audio (http://www.mola-mola.nl/), Bruno Putseys’ audio company. He’s the same guy behind Hypex Electronics with the nCore Class D Amp modules, and behind the design of Grimm Audio’s LS1 active speakers.

        Mola-Mola’s Kaluga power Amps are the only ones out there that match the performance of Benchmark’s AHB2, and the Mola-Mola DAC has even more impressive specs than the Benchmark’s DAC2, but isn’t a finished component yet (I believe). The American distributor for Mola-Mola is “On a Higher Note” (http://www.onahighernote.com/) in California.

        I also think That John Siau and the people at Benchmark did sufficient research regarding speaker design to bring out the SMS1 monitors, and they should definitively have some insight and suggestions regarding speakers that can take advantage of the AHB2’s full potential.

        Many people have asked why Bechmark didn’t go for a pair of active speakers having such efficient and small Power Amps, etc., and I would hope that it is a thought Benchmark hasn’t completely discarded. That would certainly put the JBLs aside, lol.

        Cheers!

        Reply
        • February 14, 2015 at 9:52 am
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          Thanks for the information…I’ve heard of Mola-Mola but not yet looked into the company. I will do so. The Benchmark speakers sound really great but are not the right speaker for the AXPONA show.

          Reply

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