Dr. AIX's POSTS — 22 April 2015

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Lest you think all of my eggs have been carefully placed in one proverbial basket, you should know that John Siau of Benchmark offered up an alternative path to the modified OPPO BDP-103 that I’ve discussed over the past couple of days. We’ve been chatting about how to achieve high-resolution, multichannel playback at the AXPONA room for months…the challenge was great. And John met it.

We will have another playback system in the Lakeshore B room at the Westin O’hare Hotel this weekend. You can read John’s excellent article on “Creating a High-Resolution 5.1 Music Server” by visiting the Benchmark site. The system is comprised of a reasonably capable PC, an HP Pro3500 PC with an Intel Core i5-3470 CPU operating at 3.20 GHz. The first conversations that John and I had after he tested a different PC resulted in dropouts in the playback stream. Getting a Blu-ray disc to playback HD-Video and real high-resolution, multichannel audio is not trivial. You need a fast PC.

In order to get the multichannel digital streams out of the HPTC, John installed a Lynx AES16e PCI card. I use the same card in my HTPC here at the AIX Studios. It’s an inexpensive card and software that can output the high-resolution audio…no modification involved. And it seems the RIAA and labels are cool with high-res signals escaping a PC.

The PC is running a new copy of Windows 7 Professional, which is a current 64-bit operating system. And the music is being played back using JRiver.

I’ve finished and burned a few copies of the latest AIX Records 2015 Sampler, which boasts 70 tracks from the catalog. Each selection has three mixesL the “stage”, “audience”, and stereo. However, the “audience” mix is encoded using Dolby Digital (AC-3) because of space limitations on the disc. I will be able to switch between the lossless 96/24 “stage” mix and the Dolby Digital “audience” mix on the fly. They are different mixes but I think it will be interesting to have attendees hear how surprisingly close they sound…in terms of actual fidelity. Yes, a lossy algorithm can sound very good…if the source recording is also good.

The AIX Records, Benchmark, Oppo, JVC, Dolby Labs, and DH Labs demonstration room at AXPONA will be a first. I’ve tried to get this level of fidelity on previous occasions…and created some amazing demo systems (one of my favorite systems used Boulder amplification and B&W 800D)…but I think this current room will eclipse them all. If you’re in Chicago or anywhere near by, you should make sure and stop by the Lakeshore B ballroom this weekend.

In the evening on both Friday and Saturday, I will be presenting the High-Resolution Audio Demystified seminar and playing longer version of some of my favorite tracks. Besides the Blu-ray sampler discs, I have a hard drive full of other recordings…including the “tracks that shall not be talked about”. Hope to see you there.

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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.

(16) Readers Comments

  1. Why and When did Listening to Music become complicated and expensive???

    • When you’re trying to get to the realities of high-resolution audio in multichannel, it can be challenging. In stereo, not so much.

      • Hi Mark,

        So if you were just designing a 2.0 system to meet the JAS standard, and wanted to stick with the music server option, would there be any benefit to the Lynx card, or would a simple USB output from the computer to a Benchmark DAC be sufficient to carry the digital signal?

        If you wanted to use physical medium delivery (Bluray), then would you still need your modified Oppo to get full resolution digital signal, even in stereo?

        -Todd

        • You would not need the lynx card. Just a Kanex Pro de-embedder to get the high-resolution 2.0 audio out of the HDMI stream,

  2. Hi Mark,

    Your and John’s effort are really great and should totally represent the spirit at these audio shows. Kudos to both for that and let’s hope for the best response from attendees.

    I made a couple of online searches, trying to understand where the restriction for Bluray players to access high resolution comes from, and couldn’t really find an answer. It is sad that there has to be a workaround for customers to fully enjoy the gear they dearly paid for, and even though there are simpler workarounds than yours and John’s, they are far from ideal, and also fail to deliver the top notch performance of Benchmark’s DAC2 series D/A converters. I recently upgraded my rig with a DAC2 DX, so I totally know what you mean, The difference is CLEARLY there.

    I’m not sure which posts I’ve missed, but I’m left outside the reference to those “tracks that should not be spoken of”, are they revelations for this version of Axpona?

    Benchmark has great A/D & D/A converters and a DAC8 would certainly be an awesome alternative if multichannel catches on, but what would it take for that to happen, and how would you promote it, especially when we’re talking more than duplicating your current budget for a stereo rig? You claim the advantages are there audibly, vs stereo recordings, and though I’m easier convinced by Binaural recordings than surround, I would be open to at least give 5.1 a fair chance. Besides the two hacks implemented by you and John, what are the perhaps lesser but nevertheless good options when considering a 5.1 or 7.1 setup, in your opinion? Yestreday I mentioned a Genelec setup, but you didn’t pick up on that, and maybe you haven’t checked it out, but I know of few other setups I would be willing to pay for and trust. Any thoughts, recommendations, orientations?

    Cheers!

    • Thanks. We’re reaching for the brass ring in this circumstance. But simply taking the outputs from an OPPO BDP-105 with its SABRE ESS DACs to a receiver can supply 90% of the experience. I’m headed to the hotel right now…more later.

  3. Got to like John’s “one box” approach a PC server BR reader, internal raid, and a direct Lynx out to quality DACs. With the same “last mile” and the Revells, looks like your system will be challenged Mark ! I like the 80hz bass “management” his new amps provide. How will that be out-putted in the 5/1 scenario ? I use Rythmic’s servo bass to approximate that effort, in addition to mitigating room affect. Not really a fan of JRs room management but great idea for a motel room. Good luck !

    • The subs will get the LFE channel and the mains will also get full range. The LFEs will be of minimal importance.

  4. I fear this whole business is more revealing of your personal and business relationships with Benchmark, John Siau, and Oppo, both major advertisers here, than any real audio weakness in the Bryston SP3 or any other compatible high end component combos that you could have used instead of custom modified units. The end result now tells the listeners nothing about the hardware they’re hearing since the chain has a nonstandard component at the very front end. 🙁

    • OPPO and Benchmark are not major advertisers on the site. I provide the ads without charge because I believe in their equipment. Getting to real HD-Audio is not trivial in a multichannel environment.

  5. It’s a shame you can not visit Axpona . I hope everything works perfectly and to convince many people. The authentic sound in high definition. Greetings from Spain.Send us pictures of the event, please.

    • I will send pictures.

  6. Mark,
    Im a bit confused. I have been reading your daily posts for awhile now and Im beginning to wonder if I am truly listening to the AIX , 2L, and other 5.1 DVD-A discs at the highest fidelity. I have an OPPO BDP-103 and I “funnel” everything through that device. I have a Denon Home Theatre Receiver (basically what I use to change the volume) which is always set to the BR (Oppo) output and a 7.1 Klipsch speaker system. I also have a Western Digital mycloud connected to my home network that is filled with multichannel .wav files that I have downloaded from 2L and others. The Oppo is connected to the home network via ethernet (I chose not to go the available wireless route). So am I optimized? You frequently talk about a DAC. Do I need that to improve my fidelity?

    Thanks

    • Joe, you’re probably getting a very good experience…and certainly better than most. But there is room for better…that’s what we’re trying to do at AXPONA. The DACs from Benchmark are among the very best in the world…maybe the best.

    • Joe, beware, I detect the onset of audiophile nervosa. You current system is very similar to mine and I’m sure it provides excellence sound. But the good is always endangered by the better. (Read more $). The Revel speaker system used in Marks demo system is in the area of $50,000 alone. Would inserting a Benchmark DAC in your system result in improved sound, possibly. But the same could be said about spending more $ everywhere else in your system, how deep are your pockets?
      I n racing we say “SPEED COSTS MONEY, HOW FAST DO YOU WANT TO GO?”

      • Sal – Thanks for your response. I think I’m good with what I have. It really does sound awesome as is.

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